Our weather hasn't been much to brag about thus far. We ended up with a high of 62, low of 53 and 0.08 inches of rain Wednesday under mostly cloudy skies. Thursday morning has been quite wet with heavy showers dominating the weather. It hasn't rained much during the afternoon thus far, but the clouds are hemming us in tight.
I mentioned the rescue yesterday, which reminded me of a few autumn hiking safety tips to consider if you're hiking up to see us. First of all, the hiker we tended to yesterday didn't do anything wrong--just took a bad step.
One thing to keep in mind is that the days are getting shorter. I know, prior to this weather front moving through, the weather in the valley still feels like summer. However, we're in autumn mode on top of LeConte. That means that you need be aware of sunset time and how much daylight you have left to descend on a day hike.
We've seen too many dayhikers without flashlights show up at the lodge recently around supper, telling us that it took them four to six hours to ascend Alum. From this time of year forward that means you'll certainly be hiking down part of the trail in the dark. Also keep in mind that the leaf canopy is still thick on the lower sections of the the trails. That canopy means that darkness descends there sooner than it does on top of LeConte. While the dropoffs may not be as severe as you near within a couple of miles of the trailhead on your return, keep in mind all the roots and rocks can easily trip you up, especially if you can't see them.
Also, know that if you do get hurt and are hiking down too late, there will likely not be anyone else on the trail until morning to pass along word to us at the lodge or the rangers at the Park Service you need help. While we've been seeing seasonal temperatures up top for September, keep in mind that the mercury will soon be dropping. On July 30, our morning low dropped to 34 degrees (which is a rarity in July). That will become the norm soon. Do you really want to spend a cold, wet night injured and alone out on the trail without proper lights and gear? If you get a late start dayhiking, it's safer to turn around and prudently hike down in the light.
Enough of the serious business. I'm going to close with a little levity. A while back, one crew member up here was trying to remember which day of the week it was and couldn't recall. They finally said, "Every day on LeConte is Groundhog Day." They were referring to the movie in 1990s in which the main character is stuck in the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again and is powerless to escape it.
We all got a laugh out of every day being Groundhog Day on LeConte. There's a lot of truth to that--same schedule for the most part, nice guests, beautiful surroundings just about every day.
However, once in a great while we see something wildly different. At the end of July, I was astonished to see someone at LeConte Lodge walking around in a Bigfoot costume. I talked to this person, who wore regular clothes hiking up and changed into the costume when he arrived at the lodge on a day hike. He seemed friendly and remarkably normal for a person who had just hiked a Bigfoot costume five miles up LeConte. He did walk around with his nephew nearby to prevent a cheap shot from what would have been the most disgusted big-game poacher ever. He told me he was headed for Cades Cove next. And you thought a bear sighting caused a traffic jam on Cades Cove.
Sometimes it takes a Bigfoot sighting to realize that not every day is Groundhog Day on LeConte. Happy trails.