Smoky Mountain Hike, 1989

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Mt. LeConte, August, 1989

The highest resort east of the Mississippi is located atop Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains. LeConte Lodge consists of five or six single cabins and a couple of three bedroom cabins that will accommodate about 50 people. The Resort is very rustic with no electricity and no running water. The only way to get there is to walk. The mountain is 6593 feet above sea level. Ray and Nancy had just retired and we all thought that to hike up to this resort sounded fun and different. The trail would be 6.5 miles long with a climb of 3300 feet. Could we do it? None of us had ever done anything like this before. We decided it would be a great adventure.

Mt. LeConte Lodge is a popular place so it took about five months to get reservations. We took advantage of the package plan that the Burning Bush Townhouse in Gatlinburg has with LeConte Lodge and stayed there the night before and the night after the hike. We had some questions. What do we do if we see a bear? What do we do if it storms? We found out in both cases.

Can we do it?
Ready to go.
Needed ponchos.

It was a fairly easy pleasant trail at first. We followed Roaring Fork Creek, one of the steepest streams in the park, and came to pretty Grotto Falls at mile 1.5. We were enjoying this.

The weather turned bad and it started raining, then storming. We trudged along in fear, hoping the lightning wouldn't strike us. The trail was becoming a stream to wade and there were small waterfalls we needed to cross. We had been told that because bears can't smell you in the rain, you are more likely to see one at that time. We stopped to rest and, sure enough, about 30 feet down the trail a big black bear came up over the hill. We made all kind of noises. He looked our way, but thankfully went on down the trail as we went hurrying up the trail. Scary but exciting!

Crossing the falls.

Mt. LeConte Resort.

Llamas used as pack-animals.

Finally we arrived. There was a much appreciated cozy fire going in the main lodge. We took off our wet shoes and looked for a spot near the fire to dry them. We exchanged stories with several people who were already here and they all looked as bedraggled as we did. Finally, when warmed, we located our small cabin. It was just big enough to hold a double-decker bed that sleeps four and a stand that held a wash bowl and pitcher of water. Very rustic. That evening in the dining room we had a delicious meal of roast, mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, and dessert and marveled at how the cooks were able to prepare this with no electricity. Since there was no electricity, we went to bed early.

The next morning we had a wonderful big breakfast in the dining room before we left. The weather cleared and we were able to enjoy the trip down except for Nancy who was having trouble with her knee. A little over half way down, a guy reading a book and leading four llamas carrying supplies up to the lodge passed us. (Llamas are used because they aren't as destructive to the trails as horses.) He makes this trip twice a week and is a strong hiker. Just as we finished the hike he and the llamas were returning with the trash and dirty clothes from the top.

It was a great adventure and kindled our love of hiking and the confidence to do even more strenuous hikes. Our next hike would be down to the bottom of Grand Canyon.