In the midst of all this beautiful October weather, I'm going to flip back the calendar two years and recount what I recall from our bout with Superstorm Sandy in 2012. October is our regular month for our first taste of flurries, though one year we saw some in September according to our weather chart in the office. This year we've already seen a few lonely flurries flitting around the evening sky more than two weeks ago now. Sometimes October snows accumulate but usually don't present too much of a problem for those prepared for the conditions.
In late October 2012, Superstorm Sandy proved a whole different breed of cat. In my gut, I thought we'd get between eight inches and a foot of snow. We ended up getting about three feet of snow piled on us. It snowed for three days straight. We always preach how different the weather can be in Gatlinburg versus LeConte. Superstorm Sandy provided a textbook case. The vertical mile of elevation between the summit of LeConte and Gatlinburg made all the difference, as the folks at the base of the mountain didn't even get flurries while we were buried in three feet of snow.
It's a rarity to hold on to guests for extra nights because of weather conditions. Our policy is that if any trail to LeConte Lodge is open, we are open, during our regular operating season. However, we did have a few guests stay an extra couple of nights until Rainbow Falls Trail became passable.
As crew, we still had work to do--guests to feed, dishes to wash, beds to make, bathrooms to clean, food to stock, etc. I well remember the futility of shoveling snow to keep the walkways between the cabins, restrooms, office and dining room open. We would shovel like crazy before breakfast and come out midmorning to find all the work we'd done erased by a white carpet. The more we shoveled, the more the snow taunted us. In the end, it looked like a World War I reenactment (without the mustard gas) with bundled-up people darting through the trenches between the cabins with snowdrifts piled up high.
I also remember the snow drifts building between the bottom of the stairs and the dining room. The snow collected in that corner so high that Chris could walk on snowshoes directly from the ground to the roof of the dining room. The weather finally broke on Oct. 31, Halloween. When the gray veil finally lifted, the skies exulted in a shade of blue no word does justice to describe. The sun was blinding. Looking up the steps from the dining room, the contrast between the blanket of white, the blue sky and what remained of the vibrant red mountain ash berries was stunning.
The snow completely covered the railings down the stairs to the dining room. One of my favorite non-scenery photos from that season on LeConte was the jack-o-lanterns on display on snow steps we made above the buried railings. The candles wouldn't stay lit long because the wind still howled, but the orange light flickering on the snow was memorable.
That's certainly not the case today with our nice weather, but it's nice to go back and recall nearly the two-year anniversary of the biggest October snow on LeConte in decades. It's even nicer that I don't have to carry 12 dozen eggs across a sheet of ice today.