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!
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.
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!
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.
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.