Saturday's high reached 44 with an overnight low of 28. Occasionally yesterday a light mist floated around the lodge, but it only accounted for 0.03 inches of rain. However, some of it did freeze on the trees of LeConte's summit, making for some spectacular scenery when the sun rose.
Most days LeConte isn't exactly the world epicenter of news, but there are a few things to mention today. First of all, we've had reports of the Rainbow Falls Trail washing down to a narrow strip with a dropoff. I'm sure last week's heavy rains exacerbated that trail issue. The Park Service is aware of that washout and a large tree across the trail.
Secondly, there's been increased bear activity on Bullhead Trail. Please make sure you use good bear etiquette on all the trails.
The next note should remind all about the importance of preparation, especially as the days get shorter and colder. A family of six, including four small children, ended up spending a cold, windy night out on the Bullhead Trail last night. They weren't expected at the lodge, and the Park Service didn't learn about the situation until the middle of the night. They intended to do the Bullhead/Rainbow Falls loop yesterday in a dayhike (which would be an awfully tough 13.5 miles for youngsters anyway), but started way too late in the day to accomplish that feat safely. They didn't have lights or cold weather gear and spent the night out in the elements, looking pretty miserable when they reached our care.
After making a 911 call last night, during which their cell phone battery died without mentioning their exact location, Park Rangers were dispatched from their beds to trace the two most likely routes. When they were located about 7:15 a.m. about a mile from the lodge, the rangers asked us if they could hike the entire group up to the lodge for stabilization and evaluation.
We warmed them, fed them, pumped some hot chocolate into them and let them borrow some of the crew's dry clothes. Later, the family was able to hike down in the company of the rangers. This tale had a happy ending, but with even slightly worse weather conditions could have been a recovery rather than a rescue. LeConte can be a tough place anytime, but winter weather is especially hard on little ones and the elderly.
I'd also like to thank the Park Service for doing a fine job with the rescue. We have different bosses (LeConte Lodge crew members are not federal employees), but we pride ourselves on working well together to take care of people in the middle of a hard day (or night). A job well done to the responding rangers.