The weather has been just plain hot for this time of year. We reached 69 degrees Tuesday, which places us within 10 degrees of the all-time high temperature on LeConte. The overnight low was 52 degrees. The clouds seem thicker and darker this afternoon, but I wouldn't yet call them ominous.
I was pleased to meet Jerry Luth of Ohio this morning while working office duty after breakfast. Jerry has climbed LeConte nine times in the last 19 days. His routes included five trips using the Alum Cave Bluff Trail, twice up Bullhead and once using Rainbow Falls and Trillium. Jerry counts 78 trips to LeConte under his belt and didn't start hiking our fine mountain until his 60s.
I introduced you to Smokies backcountry ranger Dave Worth a few days ago. The National Park Service does fine work, but there are plenty of other folks who work hard to take care of all of us while we're experiencing the beauty of our national parks. As the thermometer and calendar remind us, summer is gaining on us, which means peak visitation season in most of our national parks. All of us on LeConte want to wish everyone working hard to support our enjoyment of the national parks -- America's best idea -- a wonderful, fulfilling and safe summer.
In that vein, I was honored last week to welcome two of my fellow horse wranglers from the 2011 Canyon Corral in Yellowstone on their first visit to LeConte. Maegan (from Texas) and Josh (from Georgia) came up to soak up the best of the Smokies. Both are professionals, who leave their jobs each summer to work hard days taking care of guests from all over the world on horseback in the tough country of Yellowstone (we had two grizzly fatalities within six miles of our corral last year). I rode with them all last summer, entrusting my life to their judgment daily and they never let me down. I wish them and all my fellow wranglers a summer full of uninterested grizzlies, pacifist bison and horses you're proud to call a friend.
Speaking of other people I'm proud to call friends, I'm incredibly proud of my 2012 LeConte Lodge crew and want to use my last post for a while to brag on them. Yesterday (as I had just finished the web update) I was called out on a solo trail rescue. I left immediately and spent until past supper helping a guest get to the lodge with help from her good friends. I ended up carrying the guest on my back the last 3/4 of a mile up the Trillium Gap Trail, but we got to the lodge and the outlook happily improved. The guest seems to be a fine person, and I hope she had a good trip down. Even though I missed most of supper service, I had complete faith that the LeConte crew was more than up to the task, even though we were short on help. Our crew, though shorthanded, took excellent care of our guests and sent many people home happy. I'm proud of them.
Finally, I was glad to hear Willie Nelson celebrated his 79th birthday Monday. He's a great American who's helped plenty of people others have forgotten. I've met Willie three times and found him most gracious (especially to my little brother who was celebrating his birthday). I celebrated Willie's birthday listening to the Redheaded Stranger sing "I'll Fly Away" while fixing breakfast and sneaking a peak at a sunrise full of promise--a highly recommended way to start the day.
Come on up and see us Willie (that would be an after supper guitar picking for the ages), anytime from March through November. That goes for the rest of you, too. All the best and happy trails.