The temperature range yesterday was 51-29. However, the official overnight low of 29 came Saturday morning about 7 a.m. The actual low Sunday morning was about 40 degrees, as the temperature only fell about one degree from midnight to 4:45 a.m. It's every bit as pretty and even a bit warmer today.
We were lucky to have former crew members from nearly 40 years apart stop by on day hikes to the mountain today. Dick Ketelle and Ann Farrar (from the 1970s LeConte Lodge crews) and John and Bonnie Northrup (from the 2010-12 LeConte crews) stopped by to say hello. It's a treat to share stories about living and working on the mountain with people who still care deeply about it.
Speaking of former crew members, Dick's and Ann's contemporary, Al Bedinger, reminded me of a fine story about the genesis of LeConte Lodge syrup making. I know that sounds like a stretch, but Al tells the story in a delightful way. If not for the monumental (fake) news that occurred yesterday I would share Al's tale. Alas, I'll try to pass it along another day, as it's a good story.
Now for the fake news, Orson Welles style. Yesterday very nearly marked a devastating turning point in our very way of life up on top of the mountain at LeConte Lodge. The afternoon started peacefully enough as crowds of people surged up Alum Cave Bluff Trail, enjoying a beautiful May Saturday. However, events were about to take a dramatic turn for the worse as our very liberty hung in the balance.
I was typing up yesterday's High on LeConte update, sequestered in an office atop the Smokies, unaware that invaders in hiking clothes had skillfully blended in with our normal dayhikers. When I signed off and walked into camp to begin my next chores, I was stunned to see what had befallen our beloved mountain. Hordes of mercenaries had taken over our mountain without so much as firing a single shot. I was unaware that wily invaders disguised in hiking clothes had skillfully blended in with our normal dayhikers. However, these battle-hardened soldiers were picketed throughout the lodge grounds, and I hate to tell you things looked bad for the LeConte Lodge crew.
I looked center, left and right and the army had driven three foreign flags into the soil of the people's national park--a not-so-subtle reminder that life would be different from now on. I'm a student of geography and current events, but I had never heard of this fearsome foe besieging our mountain. They came from a land called "ROTC" or at least that's what was written on their flags. They were ferocious--eating MREs to prepare for the upcoming clash and walking barefoot across a landscape imbedded with 89 years of broken kerosene lamp globes and rusty nails just to display their bravery.
As acting manager it was all my fault. Like Gen. Robert E. Lee prior to Gettysburg, I made the critical mistake of not knowing the true position and strength of my enemy. Like JEB Stuart, my cavalry was being occupied with the routine--happily checking in guests and selling sack lunches. Now, these Vandals march up in plain daylight and are about to sack LeConte on my watch. Maybe they had plans for an eight-lane road to be built up the mountain, or, even worse, a roller coaster from top to bottom.
Surely, they would offer some quarter, and I began to contemplate surrender. They would probably take as loot the ancient spoon we use to stir the LeConte hot chocolate, the oldest and most revered utensil on the mountain. A whole way of life fertilized 89 years by the sweat of LeConte patriots Adams, Huffs, Browns and Lines was about to be torn asunder.
But that's when the winds of fate shifted. Perhaps, the soldiers from the land of ROTC (wherever it may be) didn't want to fight in the thin air. Perhaps, they didn't like the look of the billy-goat terrain the LeConte crew would defend to the last thin breath. Perhaps, they knew that although the LeConte crew was outnumbered, they were in Tennessee and we don't even bat an eye at being outmanned 10-1. Or, unlikely but possible, the soldiers from ROTC finished their MREs and couldn't find good cell phone reception. Whatever the reason, the siege ended as quickly as it began and the mercenaries slipped down into the valley without the forces of LeConte and ROTC clashing in epic fashion above the clouds.
Pax LeConte returned to full bloom.
Back to reality, I think bringing a group of young ROTC members up LeConte as a team-building adventure is a fine idea. I hope all the group had a safe hike down LeConte and good trip home.