Wednesday proved a pretty nice day at the top of Tennessee with a high of 69, low of 58 and no rain. Wednesday marked the first day without rain on Mt. LeConte since July 5. To date, only July 1, 3, 5 and 25 have been completely rain-free this month. Unofficially, we've accumulated 12.75 inches of rain so far in July. I'd like to fly some of it to some other folks across the country who need rain so desperately. However, I don't expect I can tote it in my carry-on bag. Around mid-morning on Thursday the clouds broke, and we've enjoyed plenty of sunshine since.
The Walker Stone is an interesting piece of Mt. LeConte history. William J. McCoy Jr. wrote a fine story about the early history of LeConte camp and lodge and the discovery of the Walker Stone, titled "The Walker Stone and Mt. LeConte." His story is available in the LeConte Lodge dining room in a spiral-bound book alongside a replica of the Walker Stone. It's an easy read over a cup of hot chocolate.
I'll give you the highlights of the story. About a week ago I wrote about the importance of the LeConte spring in the lodge's location. In the 1940s, while clearing out the LeConte spring area, a rock was found with some words and a drawing etched upon it. The date July 27, 1880 was carved into the top of the rock, followed by the names J.N. Walker, L.L. Houser and T.F. Walker. Underneath the names, a rough carving of a man with a rifle to his shoulder, a deer and part of a hunting dog can be seen.
Perhaps deer traversing LeConte used the spring for water and that's why that location was used for the hunt. While no historical record of early visits to the mountain exists (during that time period) and 1880 was a little before my time, I can tell you that we have a healthy deer population on top of LeConte at present. Climbing LeConte to hunt deer (and especially hauling the meat down) seems like a tough meal, but East Tennessee following the Civil War and Reconstruction was no picnic. I guess you fed your family any way you could manage.
To our knowledge, no other such event in LeConte's history was similarly chronicled. In 1990 the Walker Stone was brought to the University of Tennessee for cleaning, photography and to make a cast. Who knows how long the Walker Stone had been on LeConte before the hunters picked it up and made their carving? At any rate, it surely hadn't moved much since 1880 before its big trip to Knoxville (and I get anxious if I am on the mountain longer than a month without a break). In addition, park archivists studied and documented the Walker Stone. The original Walker Stone is locked up for safe keeping.
One final note, I don't know how many years it takes for something to be viewed as an historical artifact and not defacement. We have plenty of documentation about the current uses for Mt. LeConte, so please don't carve your name on anything in the park as the fine will lighten your wallet considerably.