I spoke to hikers who arrived early via the Alum Cave Bluff and Boulevard trails. On Alum, the guests first started seeing snow falling around the Bluffs and reported a few slick spots in the last mile to the lodge. Similarly, the Boulevard hiker said he encountered some tricky slick spots on his last mile to the lodge.
Monday's weather was wonderfully sunny with bluebird skies. Indeed, most of the overnight was clear with a waxing moon working overtime to illuminate the lodge grounds, so bright you may have been surprised to look up and not see a full moon. However, this morning before breakfast you could look down in the valley and see an odd "layer cake" of cloud levels. I guess the only dessert these clouds deposited was the chief ingredient for snow cream.
Monday's high reached 51 degrees with an overnight low of 30. However, the temperature has been falling all day and rests at 22 degrees as of 1:30 p.m. The forecast doesn't call for much accumulation as the system is supposed to be a quick mover. However, the wind is expected to howl as the front moves through, which will make hiking in the higher elevations unpleasant. Additionally, we're expecting bitterly cold temperatures for two or three days. I hope the sun makes a quick return. A sunny 15-degree day beats a cloudy one.
I spoke with the Park Service before beginning this entry. They said that all park roads were open as of 1:15 p.m. They gave me a phone number which may be of some help to those planning on visiting the Smokies this winter. There is a recorded information line at 865-436-1200. When you hear the voice prompt, you should enter 631 to directly access the road report or 630 for a shortcut to the National Weather Service's five-day forecast.
We've also been seeing a bear occasionally the last week. By LeConte standards, he's a pretty big critter, probably the second-biggest bear I've seen up at the lodge. I chased him about 30 yards out of camp the other afternoon and was plenty glad he didn't turn around and chase me. He's up top feasting on the ample crop of red mountain ash berries. We want to make sure that's all he's eating and not on the prowl for human food. If you're hiking up, please help us keep that bear "wild" by being careful about food, beverage and pack storage.
If you're coming up to see us, we're wide open for business and we welcome you. Just be careful and prepared for a winter hike at the top of Tennessee. Happy trails.