Chrissy was not created by an act of Congress. Being a good Southern boy, I'll not reveal Chrissy's age, but will tell you she's a powerful long way from 78 years old. Chrissy serves as our assistant cook, who takes over lunch and dinner preparation duties, a huge chore, when Allyson (our head cook and site manager) is off the mountain. We eat like kings thanks to Allyson and Chrissy.
Since you're reading you get the exclusive--revealed here even before Chrissy finds out at dinner. Through various acts of secrecy and subterfuge, we've made a group effort to make a birthday mixed berry cobbler without Chrissy finding out. Keep in mind that Chrissy spends a powerful lot of time in the kitchen during the day taking good care of us and our guests. So it's tough to construct any surprise in the kitchen.
After finding out what desserts she likes through some vague and odd questioning, we had crew member Walt (who was down on off days) pick up our ingredients in town and pack them up. After a group consultation on how to go about it, we had Alan take Chrissy out for an afternoon birthday hike to keep the secret alive. That's when we made the cobbler. One of her favorite animals is a dolphin, so I cut one out of the pastry and added it jumping over some waves on top of the lattice. I added a chocolate chip for the dolphin's eye. I like the way it looks (but I haven't tasted it yet). I've included a photo of the cobbler before baking below.
Our beloved Mt. LeConte got some good publicity in a couple of news stories in the Knoxville News Sentinel the last week. I think you can read both stories for free at www.knoxnews.com.
Morgan Simmons, who writes a hiking column for the News Sentinel, wrote about the classic ascent of Boulevard Trail and descent of Alum Cave Bluff Trail as a day hike in his story "Smoky Mountain High: Mount LeConte Hike Is a Cool Way to Avoid Mid-Summer Temps." Morgan hikes up to visit us from time to time. I was fortunate to meet him in March during our airlift. He's an awfully friendly and knowledgeable person about our mountains.
I recommend his article, though I do caution that you should be in good shape to attempt the Boulevard-Alum day trip. On a pretty day, the scenery will astound you (if you still have enough energy to pick up your head--don't undertake the hike on a whim). Pay particular attention to Morgan's line that the "Boulevard is by no means flat." Although you begin at Newfound Gap, the highest starting point for any LeConte trail, there's a lot of up and down during the strenuous eight miles. Write this down: you wouldn't believe how often one of our guests drags into supper late because they chose the "easy" Boulevard Trail. It's a wonderful trail, but it can test you if you're not prepared. If you're hiking it the first time, start earlier than you think you need to. One last thing about Morgan's story, our new llama wrangler Mitch tends to arrive at the lodge about 10:30 a.m. and depart about noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday--a little earlier than in past years and the time reported in the story (that's a recent change and not Morgan's fault).
If you're a fan of athletics, then you might also want to read John Adams' article "Mount LeConte Could Be Step Up for Vols." The article concerns the group hike some members of the University of Tennessee football team and head coach Derek Dooley took up LeConte last weekend (also profiled on this website on Sunday).
As for the weather, we've not enjoyed a clear day since last Friday--a pretty long gray stretch even for LeConte. Yesterday about eight minutes after I wrote on the update that at least it hadn't rained Thursday, it began raining. We received a short bout of pea-sized hail about 5 p.m. Thursday, but nothing too bad outside of a little thunder. We ended up with a high of 63 and low of 50 Thursday. We accumulated 0.15 of an inch of rain. Friday has been mostly cloudy and, dare I say it, dry. It's not been a great clothes-drying day on the clothesline, but nothing yet like the second rinse from Thursday's showers.
I'm planning on writing a few words about tomorrow's wedding for crew members John and Bonnie in Saturday's High on LeConte update. Also, I had a good visit a couple of days ago with one of our day hikers who is older than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I'll include a few of his insights Saturday unless plans change. So please visit again and read on Saturday.