Good afternoon from the top of the Smokies. We've enjoyed an unexpected date with the sun since mid-morning, which continues to melt away the snow. Crew member Pat pointed out some patches of cumulus clouds floating west to east, casting their shadows across the hills below like a slow-moving train. If you got really quiet and listened to the wind blow up from that train of clouds sauntering up the Tennessee Valley you could almost hear Hank Williams serenading us on the crest of LeConte.
The 24-hour high and low resided within the tight range of 42 to 39. We received 0.42 inches of rain overnight. The forecast calls for a chance of rain and snow showers this evening through Friday morning. It doesn't sound like this is supposed to be any sort of big event like our last bout with the 22 inches of snow. The temperature is supposed to drop some, probably refreezing some of the water on the trails funneling off the top of the mountain. The forecast calls for partly sunny conditions by late Friday afternoon. We hope this system will be a quick mover with little or no snow accumulation.
For the second consecutive night, all of the guests we were expecting arrived at LeConte Lodge. After speaking with folks who've taken the Rainbow Falls and Alum Cave Bluff Trails yesterday and today, I'm comfortable recommending either for your hike up to LeConte. Keep in mind there is a lot of water and slush piling up in puddles all along the trail. However, the snow itself doesn't seem to be presenting hikers any problems on Rainbow Falls and Alum Cave Bluff Trails.
Although we've been recommending against taking it, we had a nice couple hike Bullhead to the lodge last night. They said they wished they had followed our advice because they spent nine hours on the trail and waded through waist-deep snow drifts on the crest of that trail. Therefore, we're still asking people to stay off Bullhead, Boulevard and Trillium Gap Trails to access LeConte Lodge.
With all of the official business out of the way, I'm going to write about one of the most famous animals in LeConte Lodge history. Cumberland Jack was an extraordinary German Shepherd, weighing in at 90 pounds with a keen intellect. Cumberland Jack belonged to Paul Adams, the first person to build a shelter on Mt. LeConte in 1925. During his time building the forerunner to LeConte Lodge, Cumberland Jack was Adams' partner, protector and friend.
All of the following information comes from Paul Adams' 1966 book Mt. LeConte. Adams bought Cumberland Jack, who had been trained as a police dog before his previous owner was killed in a gun fight, in Knoxville for the princely sum of $250 in 1925.
Most famously, Adams taught Cumberland Jack to hike the mountain between LeConte and Gatlinburg to retrieve supplies for the camp. Adams fashioned heavy leather saddlebags, originally designed for cavalry officers, and added a breaststrap and bellyband to keep Cumberland Jack's rig secure. He would put his store list in the saddlebags and off down the mountain Cumberland Jack ran to Ogle's Store in Gatlinburg. Only Adams, his helpers and a couple of store employees could touch him when he wore the saddlebags. "The dog felt his responsibility," Adams said. "No one else could so much as pet his head. But when he wasn't wearing the bags, he was friendly with most people." After getting loaded with 20-30 pounds of supplies, Cumberland Jack would race back up to LeConte.
It wasn't easy work, but Cumberland Jack was no ordinary critter. He broke his leg once, and a Knoxville vet set it, splinted it and Cumberland Jack took two weeks off before getting back to work. Once Cumberland Jack got in a fight with a mink, which gave him a split ear and scarred nose for the rest of his life. "Cumberland Jack respected the mink, but he didn't fear it," Adams wrote. "The only animal he feared was a big, grey wolf." Adams last saw the fierce antagonist in January 1929. That may have been the last grey wolf in the Smokies.
Cumberland Jack saved Adams' life at least once. After helping noted Smokies' photographer Jim Thompson take photos of a frozen over Rainbow Falls on Dec. 29, 1925, Adams slipped on some ice and broke his flashlight. In frigid conditions and unable to see the trail in the black of night, Adams debated whether to shuffle continually and hope to avoid freezing to death before daylight or scrounge around and try to build a fire with wet wood and only a couple of matches.
Instead, he entrusted Cumberland Jack with his life, fashioned a leash out of his belt and followed his partner up one of the highest mountains in the Appalachian chain. Adams fell several times, but Cumberland Jack waited for him, took none of his regular shortcuts and slowed his pace to accommodate Adams. The dog understood the gravity of the situation and brought a hurting, freezing Adams to the camp on top of LeConte about 90 minutes later, where the thermometer read -25 degrees.
Cumberland Jack lived large for 14 years, 5 months. He is buried in Crab Orchard, Tenn., on the Cumberland Plateau.
Welcome to the official blog of LeConte Lodge. We hope you find the information provided here both helpful and enjoyable. Thank you for visiting the site, and we hope to see you on the mountain!