May 3, 2014
I'm proud to say we're enjoying another wonderful day on top of the Smokies. We paid our dues with the wind, rain and gray early in the week and are bookending the week with three consecutive lovely days at LeConte Lodge.
Friday's high reached 47 with a low of 28, not bad at all for early May in the highest reaches of Appalachia. I've noticed lots of local folks up today. Perhaps they already have their tomatoes and okra in the ground and are getting in some weekend fun in the Smokies.
I'm increasingly convinced that transportation advances continue to make the world smaller all the time. Last night at the lodge we were proud to host some folks from around my hometown of Rockwood, Tenn., who are doubly lucky to be able to return to such a fine place when they hike down from LeConte.
At the other end of the dining room we were honored to have a guest from Kenya (hard to get a direct flight from Rockwood to Nairobi). He asked if he was the first Kenyan to climb LeConte. I don't have an ironclad answer, though crew member Matt went to high school in Kenya. It is fair to say that the Kenya to LeConte pipeline is a mere trickle.
The gentleman from Kenya bought our last windbreaker in stock. I made sure he tried the windbreaker on because our return policy is fair, but I figured he'd not want to haul it back from Kenya if it didn't fit. As you might imagine, we don't get a great many returns up here.
Also on the international front, I visited with a dayhiker the other day who had climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan. Mt. Fuji almost doubles the elevation on Mt. LeConte (but our cornbread is twice as good). This gentleman told me that there are people posted at stations as you progress up Mt. Fuji, and they'll use a hot iron to brand your hiking stick at checkpoints moving up the mountain. He told me he was hiking in the Smokies with his decorated hiking stick and ran across some Japanese tourists who recognized the Fuji branding instantly and were quite impressed.
I can also count a first for me, as I saw a dayhiker eating Ramen noodles with chopsticks at the picnic table above the kitchen. There's no shortage of Ramen noodle sightings on the mountain, but chopsticks are almost as rare as white tiger sightings.
I also met some nice local folks this morning. A daughter from Alcoa, Tenn., woke up about 5 a.m. and decided out of the blue to call her dad and scale LeConte today. I can testify that these friendly people accomplished their mission. They told me they'd hiked LeConte twice and had beautiful weather each time. I told them they needed to come up and see us more often if such fine weather accompanied them. Another nice lady from Knoxville, Tenn., told me that this is her fourth hike up LeConte, and it's the first time she's been able to see any view at all. She was every bit as impressed as she should be.
I hope to see you all, too. Have a fine weekend. Happy trails.
5/3/2014 09:24:25 am
I love how you interwove the theme of this story, today. It is very interesting to see where people come from that hike in the park, namely to LeConte. Wonderfully written, thank you!
5/3/2014 11:59:09 am
great writing; what's the story on the flowers??
Melissa C. From Alcoa Tennessee
5/3/2014 02:32:31 pm
Nathan, it was a pleasure to chat with you today and also a pleasure to chat with Tim on the trail! My way of "spur of the moment hiking," paid off with an absolutely gorgeous clear day up top! I feel in love with this mountain last year and knew for certain that I'd be back! We were blessed with great weather and clear beautiful sky's. I knew when I called my dad at 5am, I'd either get yelled at or he'd be on board with my idea. Thankfully he was on board for another trip up the mountain of LeConte. Spur of the moment hiking I find it just the way to go! Till next time, see you guys again!!
My friend Chris and I came up today via Alum Cave Creek and No Name Ridge. We rested on the Boulevard trail after we finally made it up there from this lower stream valley, a climb that involved steep Anakeesta slabs, blowdowns, thick brush and the occasional thicket of greenbrier. Several people passed us when we finally got up to the trail. It was obvious they thought we were weak hikers, as we appeared to have stopped on the Boulevard trail midway through. We continued on to the Lodge, and a man instructed me on how to operate the pump. Fairly funny considering how many times I've been up to LeConte. We continued on down Alum Cave trail to close the circle from where we started. It's a simple thing, off-trail approaches to LeConte vs. trail approaches. No way ever of explaining the difference.
5/3/2014 03:33:07 pm
Jenny, that is AMAZING! How do you find these bushwacking type of approaches? I would get lost. Is there a starting point to follow the creek or somewhere online that we could get general bushwacking directions? Id love to try it sometime!
Thanks very much for your interest, Elisabeth. You have to study the USGS topographic maps like a religion. Even so the maps have some error and there is no way of proceeding without trial and error. My big thing (I hope it doesn't come across as boasting) is that I last year finally completed a project to climb LeConte off-trail via the 12 streams that drain its slopes: Styx, Trout Branch, Bear Pen Hollow, Cole Creek, LeConte Creek, Roaring Fork, Surry Fork, Cannon Creek, Lowes Creek, Boulevard Prong, Shutts Prong, Alum Cave Creek. Each one is an adventure of pool and cascade. I have written a book about it that will be out in a month or so if you visit my website. You have to be willing to work terribly hard, climbing over slimy blowdowns, jumping over deep pools, pulling yourself up vertical rock slopes by hanging onto myrtle branches. In my opinion, that is what LeConte is all about.
5/3/2014 04:36:40 pm
Hats off to you Jenny. You're the kind of hiker/explorer I aspire to be.
tomk in SC
5/4/2014 05:35:47 am
I believe this is the time of year when the path between Trillium Gap and Brushy Mountain is absolutely exploding in color. Like a wedding is planned or something. Any reports?
Looking so forward to a Memorial Day hike. Any suggestions on what trails we should hike up?
5/4/2014 05:53:53 am
5/4/2014 03:53:10 pm
The gentleman from Kenya, Patrick Mungai Njeru, was with our group. This was his first trip to the US and actually his first trip out of Africa. Needless to say, he was amazed by all he saw, including the beauty of Mt. LeConte. As Nathan said, it is a small world.... Staying at LeConte at the same time as our group was another church group from Kingston who supported a mission project in Kenya very near where Patrick resides. That group is planning to start an orphanage as part of their mission. Just so happens that Patrick is the director of Limuru Children's Center, which includes an orphanage, pre-school and feeding center. Patrick was able to exchange contact information with someone from their group and will undoubtedly be a huge help in getting their new orphanage started. A God thing I think...........
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