At 6,593 ft., Mt LeConte is the third highest peak in the national park, behind Clingman's Dome and Mount Guyot. Sheree' is a great trip planner, very methodical, precise and creative. That is one of many reasons it was so difficult to leave her at home and go off on an awesome 3-day trip she had planned for months in advance. Riley was struggling with some last-minute health issues and needed 24-hour care for at least a few days. So as to not lose a lot of non-refundable cash, I would go alone. The plan involved driving to Asheville N.C., stay at a B&B, and the following morning drive into Great Smoky Mountain National Park, take the Alum Trail up to the summit of Mt. LeConte, and stay two nights at LeConte Lodge. Not in the plan was 12+ inches of snow falling on LeConte Saturday night. Mt. LeConte is one of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Who knew? Not I. So, first, here are a few pictures from the Bent Creek Lodge B&B, located a few minutes south of Asheville along the French Broad River. The inn is a cross between a B&B and a motel, very nice, cozy and rustic.
Next, images from the climb up, which takes me just shy of 5 hours to reach LeConte Lodge. Driving the car through a crunching snow pile into a parking space, my mind wandered off, imagining what it would be like 6000 feet up. Snow and ice covered the trail from the parking lot to the summit, five miles of icy log crossings over roaring creeks, slippery cliff trails and waterfalls flowing down and across the trail, almost taking me along for the ride. Certainly one of the most challenging hikes I have ever attempted, and if not for the hiking poles grabbed at the last-minute leaving home I don't think the hike would have had a successful ending. Quite a few hikers had crampons on their boots. Spiked feet might have increased my confidence edging along icy cliff trails while hanging on to the safety cables .
Here is a short video clip to give you a feel for what it was like about halfway up. At the time I was on a sunny slope, the north slopes were much icier.
Next are some shots in and around LeConte Lodge. The lodge, owned by the National Park Service, is managed by a private concessionaire. A nights accommodation includes a private room in a 4 room cabin, with family style dinner and breakfast , all for about $145 per person. The cabins, constructed in the early 1900's, have no water or electricity and use small gas burners for heat, not to mention the gaps in the walls, and the sweet smell of an oil lamp, I loved it!
"High atop Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, LeConte Lodge® is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. It is situated on an open glade just below the summit of Mt. LeConte at an elevation of about 6400 feet. The Lodge serves as a grandstand for the entire Park and commands spectacular views of the Smokies.
It is accessible only by hiking and is the only place in the Smoky Mountains where a visitor can sleep overnight in a snug permanent structure. There are no roads that lead to the Lodge. There are five hiking trails that lead to the Lodge ranging in length from 5.5 miles up to 8 miles.
The Lodge offers an atmosphere of quiet simplicity where people find relaxation and renewed energy in the cool, majestic solitude at the top of the Smokies. Guests are housed in hand-built rough-hewn log cabins with propane heat, kerosene lanterns, clean linens and warm Hudson Bay wool blankets. Hearty meals are served family style in the dining room."
Finally, here are a few pictures taken on the way back down. Easier, yes, until the next morning, my bones hurt!