Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mt. LeConte reflections

Upon arrival at the lodge, we checked in at the office where we met employee Gabe. He gave us a quick tour: Here is the cold water tap from the spring, there are the flush toilets. Here is the dining hall where you can get hot chocolate or coffee most any time, and where you will come at 6 p.m. for supper and 8 a.m. for breakfast (after the bell has sounded). In the office he showed us the covered metal receptacles (a.k.a. trash cans with lids) in which to put any food we may have brought with us - for safekeeping until we left, as "the mice will chew right through your backpack for food." He showed us to our cabin, giving us our bucket, washbasin, and soap, explaining that the bucket (not to be used for a bathroom) was to fetch hot water in from the spigot outside the kitchen. He told us to pick out a bunk and pointed out the propane gas heater.

Shortly after our arrival, we heard that the llamas had also arrived. They make the trek up on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to bring supplies up and to take trash and dirty laundry down. We went over to the llama area, and saw the 6 pack animals, all looking pretty tuckered out except for one who was posing for the camera (it must have been his turn to entertain the tourists).


The lodge is open from March through November. The initial bulk of supplies are brought up in the spring via helicopter, and after that the llamas bring up what is needed, coming up 3 times a week.


After visiting the llamas, we went exploring up to nearby High Tops and Cliff Tops. It was heartbreaking to come upon the skeletons of the majestic Fraser fir trees, dying from the attack of the balsam woolly adelgid. There are three virtual geocaches on the mountain, and we took advantage of our time to locate what was necessary to log these finds.

There is no electricity here, but there is propane gas. The propane is also brought up via helicopter, and is used for heat in all the buildings, cooking, heating water in the kitchen, and probably for the refrigerator. The only light at night is via kerosene lanterns or flashlights.


The lack of electricity has not hindered the young employees. There are a couple of solar panels, not sure what they are supposed to be used for, but they have been claimed as great ways to charge up IPods for music. Our guide, Gabe, said he hoped the sun would hurry and come out, because he was trying to charge a car battery so he could watch a movie later that night.

The food was just as we expected, had read about and heard about. In fact, exactly - as it seems they have the same supper and breakfast menu every day. I guess that makes it easy for ordering supplies and for preparation, but I imagine it would get very boring for the employees. Maybe they have some other options, but this is what we had - Supper: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, fried apples, cookies, peach half. Breakfast: Pancakes, ham, eggs, grits, biscuits. It was all very tasty, especially after all that exercise!

Many folks seem to make this an annual event, coming back to the mountaintop time and again over the years, bringing their kids and eventually their grandkids for the tradition. We met lots of nice folks, several who had been there multiple times before. We noticed a common thread in those who kept returning - they lived away from the mountains, making this trip very special, very different from their usual surroundings.

Since this was our first visit, we were asked if we would be back. I don't know if we just didn't get it - the draw of the place - or maybe it was because we already live in the mountains and get to enjoy their beauty on a daily basis. We both agreed that no, we will probably not be back. We are of the mindset - been there, done that, got the t-shirt, take it off the TO DO list. There are so many other things to see and places to go in this country that are still on the list. Or it could have been just our sore muscles talking...




So many trails, so little time…

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the "been there done that" thought, but I'd like to revisit Europe with adult eyes. Not those of a 19.20 year old thinking - "Hey I can have beer & I'm not 21 & my dad isn't here to grumble about it. Where's the beer?" Oh & I'm ready to go back to Australia!

KCQuilter said...

Wow, what an experience you are having!! Enjoy. How are you able to get internet access?

Motherkitty said...

Susan, thanks for this edition of your fabulous mountain adventure. I guess that's why they invented cities -- so we could enjoy all the comforts of home. I really pity those poor workers at the lodge having to endure roast beef, mashed potatoes, and green beans every single day. Maybe they had their own stash of pizza and just didn't tell you about it.

I love your pictures and can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

jellyhead said...

This was great - I got to travel to Mt LeConte without even leaving my chair!

I'm also not a 'go back again & again' person. The one exception is our holiday at the beach we take each spring - same beach, with the same other family (this year will be our 4th). This particular beach is just addictive!

Finn said...

What a beautiful, breathtaking way to spend a few days. I can't even imagine the hike to get in there, but it sounds like a lot of fun for a few days. Don't think I would care to have a lifetime of that. So wonderful that you got to do it. Hugs, Finn

liz said...

Congratulations on making it to the top. I know from experience how hard the trek is, and I did it in my early 30s. Since it's now nearly 30 years later, I don't expect to do it again, although at the time I wanted to go back over and over. I think I made it twice (although never as a guest).
But yes, there are so many beautiful places around here to go, once can be enough.
Thanks for the lovely photos.

colleen said...

A wonderful telling. I'm intrigued now to find out more about the place.

Judith said...

I once hiked with a llama--it was a wonderful experience. Fortunately, my hiking llama pal liked me--it hummed the whole time we walked together. Mt. LeConte sounds beautiful and isolated, too. Too bad about the Fraser fir tree damage. Nice to explore something and move on to another something in the future. Yes, stated perfectly, "So many trails, so little time..."! I'll be curious as to where you head next.