Hello. I have lots of good news to share this afternoon, which is always preferred. First of all, I'll dispense with some regular weather business. We saw a high of 68 with a low of 54 Sunday and accumulated 0.4 inches of rain. We've been living under a mixture of sun and clouds thus far today with the tiniest sprinkle once in a while.
Also, as today is Sept. 1, it would be a good idea to give the folks in the LeConte Lodge Sevierville office a call this month to inquire about reservations procedure. They begin assigning next year's spots on Oct. 1, but the phone will likely be tied up most of that week. If you have questions about reservations, feel free to give the nice folks in the office a call at 865-429-5704 (they're taking Labor Day off). Often people hike up and ask us for a secret to secure a reservation, but the mountain staff is not involved in that process at all.
We'd all like to congratulate Bethany Houghton, a 2013 LeConte Lodge crew member, for finishing the Appalachian Trail. Bethany completed her journey in Maine on Friday. She finished with her father, who hiked the last 120 miles to Mt. Katahdin with her, and two friends she'd been hiking with since Virginia. We last saw her in the spring when she dropped by LeConte on her swing through the Smokies.
Many people say they're going to hike the Appalachian Trail. Not a great many actually do it. I hear some people with questionable grit tell me how they plan to through-hike the trail from Georgia to Maine, and I think to myself, "You can't even find your car in the Kroger parking lot." Not Bethany, however. I knew if she stayed healthy, she would complete her task. She did a fine job on the LeConte crew last year and is a tough nut to crack. We're all happy for her.
I'd like to announce another bit of good news the LeConte crew is celebrating. One of our favorite mountain critters, a junco with only one functioning leg, has made its return to the lodge. Several years ago, the crew started calling all the many juncos we see "Jerry." Similarly, all the ravens become "Edgar," as I think the Marylander Chris came up with that nod to Poe.
At any rate, we noticed late this spring that one of the juncos that liked to hang around the outside of the dining room and kitchen hopped on only one leg. At first, we thought the bird had lost its leg in a nasty Gatlinburg bar fight, but we came to see that the leg was tucked up against its body--folded and twisted in an unusable fashion. Life on LeConte is tough for any critter with only one leg, so we all took a liking and respect to this particular "Hopalong Jerry."
Although, Hopalong Jerry makes him sound like he's a clever sidekick in a John Wayne black-and-white Western movie. Someone else said that "Jerry" may make a good pirate. However, I'm not certain if a pirate junco would have to carry a much larger parrot on its shoulder or not.
All of the sudden, Hopalong Jerry turns up missing, and no one's seen him around the lodge grounds for all of August. One crew member said he saw him up the trail near the backcountry shelter. On one hand, that kind of sounds like a rumor of an Elvis sighting. On the other hand, Hopalong Jerry must still be alive and strong if he's up at the shelter. However, two days ago and again yesterday, we had a confirmed sighting of Hopalong Jerry outside the dining room. He stopped by our Sunday crew picnic out on the deck and looks fit as a fiddle, much to the delight of the lodge staff. Perhaps, Hopalong Jerry is no Western sidekick at all, but European and just took August off on "holiday."
Always good to share happy news. Happy trails to Bethany and Hopalong Jerry.
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