Mt. LeConte Trip

Last year around this time I wrote a post highlighting my trip to Mt. LeConte.  This year instead of me making the trip with my sweet Momma, I took my friend Meagan up the mountain.  This week has been uncharacteristically cold for East Tennessee and the weather forecast was not optimal prior to our hike.  We knew it was going to be freezing so we dressed accordingly.  This is the first time in 12 hikes to LeConte that I’ve ever had to dress warmly.

5 miles to the top!

5 miles to the top!

The hike was just like I remember it being and I let Meagan lead the way.  She is faster than me and although I didn’t feel pressured to keep up, it did help having someone in front to sort of set the pace.   We met a lot of nice fellow hikers who told us it sure was cold up at the top.  As we got closer to the summit, the temperature drop was more than evident and once we rounded the final curve to the lodge all the trees were completely white from a combo of frost and snow.  Brrr.   Turns out it was a hearty 28 degrees.  We were fortunate that the dining hall had hot chocolate for purchase and a wooden fire burning.  I have never been so grateful for hot chocolate in my entire life.    1025leconte2

We signed the book, bought a shirt for my Momma, and just put our feet up for a bit while talking to some really nice hiker women who were from our area.  After resting about an hour or so we headed back down colder than ever but warmed up a little once we got moving.  My knees and quads hurt pretty bad coming down the mountain but nothing unbearable.  Right as we were about to make it back to the car some women in front of us stopped to point out two bears in a tree.  They must not be cold enough to go into hibernation yet.

doesn't count if you don't prove it with the picture!

doesn’t count if you don’t prove it with the picture!

Even though it was frigid, I was so thankful to get 10 miles of hiking in and I’m glad I got to sign the book for my 12th consecutive year.  Can’t wait to do it again (hopefully with Momma) and feel the burn all over again.

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Hiking: Abrams Falls

When I go home from school on weekends, they are usually jam packed.  Saturday is my day to get any and all errands in as well as try to squeeze in some fun.  Usually my boyfriend and I do an outing on Saturdays.  Each week is different but this past weekend we chose to go on a hike.  In the past, we have usually done the same hike to Spruce Flats Falls but since the weather was in the mid 60s, we decided to venture out a little further and try a trail that we have both done in the past, just never together.

After filling up with gas and loading up our Camelbaks with water, we hit the road to drive to Abrams Falls, located directly in the heart of Cades Cove.  The trailhead was littered with cars so we knew we would be seeing quite a few people on the hike.  The trail is rolling and you go up and down consistently.  This was a relatively shorter hike, only 2.5 miles in one direction, making it 5 miles for the day.  We got to the waterfall in a little under an hour which was great timing since we stopped a lot for other hikers, to catch our breath, etc.

We made it to the falls and took some pictures, stuck our fingers in the cold river, and I watched as TJ climbed to the top.  It was great to see so many people out hiking and enjoying the strangely perfect weather.  I barely broke a sweat on this hike thanks to low humidity and perfect temps, but I still got in a workout.  It was a great time to just enjoy time with each other, enjoy the weather, and manage to do a fitness related activity as a couple.

Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls

Hiking: Spruce Flats Falls

When it comes to cross training, I have a hard time just doing the elliptical or something similar.  I’d rather be out continually moving and maybe even doing something challenging.  Hiking can be a great option for those who have access to trails and want to mix up their routine.

Since a lot of trails are inaccessible right now due to snow and ice, our options for a good and small hike were limited.  There is a small trail close to my home called Spruce Flats Falls that is only 2 miles round-trip   Short, but just long enough to get your heart rate up and get a good cross training workout in.  The best part is that it ends at a waterfall.

what a beauty (the falls, not me)

what a beauty (the falls, not me)

TJ and I bundled up really good and hit the trail to get our hearts pumping.  Surprisingly there were no other people on the trail and we didn’t spot any wildlife.  The waterfall was flowing a little heavier than usual due to recent rain so it was great to sit on some rocks and just enjoy the view.  My boyfriend has a sense of adventure and ended up climbing up the falls which raised my blood pressure, but I guess that could be considered his strength training for the day.  I took a small risk and tried to do some yoga pose on a small rock in front of the falls.  I’m definitely not a yogi, but I kept my balance pretty well.

oh hai!

oh hai!

We took some good nature pics before heading back down the mountain. It was a great day for a hike and I’m so thankful that I have so many trails at my fingertips to use anytime I please. Hikes make a great cross-training workout and I would recommend them to anyone!

High on the mountain: Hiking Mt. LeConte

I’ve mentioned before that I live directly next door to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and literally have hundreds of miles of hiking trails at my toenail tips.  Every year for the past ten years, Momma and I have made the 10 mile hike to Mt. LeConte-the infamous highest peak in the National Park.  Most hiking trails here just give you pretty views and lasting pictures but the interesting thing about LeConte is that the top has a lodge and multiple cabins that visitors can stay at if they are lucky enough to get selected in the lottery.  For the high price of $100/per person per night someone can stay in a cabin with no running water, no electricity, and no heating/air.  A little village awaits for those on top.   

We have never chosen to stay the night and have always gone up and back in the same day.  This year was no different.  Originally the plan had been to go with a lovely group of women, but conflicting obligations and illnesses nipped that in the bud.  After rescheduling the trip more than three times, Momma and I finally made the drive and hit the trail.  We could not have asked for more perfect weather-a light chill but the bright sun keeping us warm as we made the ascent.  LeConte is five miles up but you hit a huge cave in the mountain about 1 mile into it.  After hiking about 2.5 miles you run into the Bluffs- a huge overhang above you with alum dust under your feet.  The best part about hitting the Bluffs is it is the halfway point.

Not going to lie when I say that Mt. LeConte is a rigorous hike.  Lots of portions of the trail have metal cables attached to the mountain for extra support when climbing.  Momma and I just took our time and enjoyed the day.  We ran into lots of different people and had some good conversations with fellow hikers.  After making it to the top we purchased the “I hiked it 2012 t-shirt” which is usually the main purpose for hiking the trail in the first place.  We snacked on a light lunch that we had packed and just propped our feet up and enjoyed the view.  

A few pictures later and we were on our way down.  Going down is actually harder than a lot of people think.  My quads were trashed and I could feel my knees starting to hurt.  But once we heard the faint sounds of vehicles we knew we were almost done.  I’ve never been so happy to see a Toyota in my life.  We finished our day with an early dinner in Gatlinburg and headed home to get some rest.  I’m so thankful that we make this hike every year and that I have a Momma who loves to exercise and be outdoors.  I am already looking forward to next year.