Sunday, September 25, 2016

Anniversary Trip 2016 - Day Three (Mount LeConte)

We were so excited for this day to come, since we had planned it almost a year ago!  

I read about LeConte Lodge on a blog a couple years ago and it sounded so magical and beautiful!   The hike in access only, no electricity, no showers, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, tiny cozy cabins and communal dining room just sounded so unique and awesome, that I knew I wanted to go sometime!

Check it out for yourself at:  LeConte Lodge

At about 7:40 on Monday morning, we arrived at the Rainbow Falls trail head.    Since the most popular trail (Allum Cave) was under construction, we decided to go up Rainbow Falls and down Bullhead (each about 6.5 miles long).

Ready to go!!

The trail was so pretty

Just looking up through the leaves on one of our breaks (from a lying down position)

Another break (we stopped after every 100 vertical yards of climb, so the horizontal distance varied quite a bit)

We loved these bridges made out of a tree cut in half, with a railing on top!

We borrowed this (awesome) hiking backpack from our friends, Sam and Jess, and it was a lifesaver!

In front of a tiny waterfall (that we were Hoping wasn't Rainbow Falls!)

This was the real falls (although there wasn't a ton of water since they hadn't had rain for five weeks)

Resting on another bridge


Philip with the falls

I took a turn with the pack, (although Philip only let me carry it for 200 vertical feet and he did ALL the rest!!)

Fortunately, Philip noticed when we had crossed the stream for the last time, so we stopped and he climbed down to the stream a couple times to retrieve water for the rest of our trip...

With our cool water filtration system

The trail was almost entirely shaded and the temperature couldn't have been better... perfect climbing conditions!

We're getting there!!

Another pretty spot and a handsome guy

Looking down over Gatlinburg

Super sweaty selfie (my hair is drenched!)

The terrain changed drastically for part of the trail!

I was thrilled to find these fruit/veggie bars (no other ingredients or sugar) to bring along.    I admit, this particular flavor was not my favorite, but the others I had were pretty awesome!

It's hard to read this sign, but this is where the Bullhead trail met up with ours and it says .6 miles to the lodge!

Can't get over the beauty up here!

Woohoo!!!   Almost there!!

All of a sudden we took a short trail into a clearing and boom!   We were there!    

We made it!!!!

It was soo quiet and peaceful and old, and just... different.. I loved it immediately.

We checked in at the office and then got a tour of the place to show us where the bathrooms (some of them actually have flush toilets!!), the dining hall, and where to fill our bucket with warm water for washing.

Then we were shown to our cabin, number 7.  (Coincidentally, the same cabin that the people stayed in who wrote the blog post I read two years ago!!)

The cozy beds (complete with warm Hudson Bay blankets!)

Our bucket, kerosene lamp, and wash basin

The rocking chairs on our porch immediately called our names!


This is the life

Another cabin

The lack of cell phone reception and a schedule was so new and different...and refreshing

Famous shot in front of the dining hall with the elevation and date

More views around the compound

Doesn't it look like we stepped back in time??

"Main street", the dining hall is behind us and our cabin is up to top of the second stairs and to the left

After lunch, we headed to the office and bought the 2016 LeConte shirts and also postcards for mom and the kids (we put the one for the kids in the mail up there, so it would be carried down by the llamas a couple days later!)   It started raining so we headed back to our cabin.  It was sooo cozy and warm (the little propane heater did a wonderful job!)

In the afternoon, it started to get foggy (and cool) as the clouds closed in and we decided to go for a short hike.

We got caught in the rain, but fortunately we were really close to the backpacker's shelter, so we ducked in there!

It's actually a rather impressive structure, much more substantial than I had envisioned.

Pouring down!

This "bunk bed" has 12 sections (about 6 feet by 2 feet, divided by a thin wood strip) that people reserve to sleep in.   Wow, not for me!

While we were there, a bunch of people (that were working for the week on the trail reconstruction crew) arrived to set up camp at the shelter.  They were pretty amazing.  Totally unperturbed by the pouring rain, they got out supplies, set up tarps, got their stove set up and ran electric bear fence around the perimeter.   They kindly let us hang out until the rain let up.

The clouds billowing in over the peaks

Us at the official highest point on Mount LeConte

Selfie at Clifftops

Philip was not impressed that I climbed down here

Being goofy and pretending to fall while the timer was taking shots

He humored me and climbed down to take one with me =)

Nothing specific to say about these other than it was very easy to see why they are called the "Smokies"

Love this shot

This is where we would view the sunset from on our second night

Red berries covered in raindrops

More random photos around the lodge

Meals:    The food was not the best we had ever eaten (most of it came from cans, naturally), but it was surprisingly good and the best part was that we got Hot meals three times a day, the food was filling and there was plenty of it!

Cream of broccoli soup and homemade cornbread to start dinner of with
(we had chicken and dumplings, corn, carrots and peas, pears and stewed apples the first night)

Ready to wash up
(Thankfully, since it was cool the whole time we were up there, we didn't ever get feeling super gross, so that was really nice!)

Reading (The Giver) by candlelight

Before going to bed (as per instructions), we packed up all our snacks, toothpaste, deodorant, etc (anything that has an odor) and took it and left it for the night in metal bins in the office.   This helps keep mice and bears away.

Since it got dark early, we were pretty tired, and it's not Super easy to read by lamp light, we went to bed at about 8:30, but were "serenaded" by a bunch of guys playing guitar and singing until 10!

So ended our first day on LeConte...

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