Mt. LeConte, 2017

Trail:  Alum Cave

Trip # 27 – November 9 – 22, 2017

  • Trail: Alum Cave Trail
  • Hiking Time Going Up: 3 hours 7 minutes
  • Hiking Time Coming Down: 2 hours 15 minutes

This year we decided to hike up and down Alum Cave Trail. Due to trail closures, we haven’t gotten to hike this trail many times in the past few years. We got on the trail a little later than usual (around 11 am). It was very foggy with a heavy mist — just enough to get soaked.

Hurricane Irma had come through the Smokys a few weeks earlier and we found a lot of damage. There were lots of trees that had been blown over and these trees snapped other trees as they fell. Just from what we could see from the trail, there must have been over 30 downed trees. Crews had done a great job, however, on getting the trees cut away and the trail reopened.

Our hike up was a steady slog through the mist. There were no views through the fog.

At the top, our cabin was warm from the lp heater and we quickly changed into dry clothes and went to the dinning hall to get coffee and hot chocolate.

Friday was a beautiful day. We had breakfast and then walked out to Myrtle Point. It was warm on the rocks and a bit out of the wind. We also walked down Rainbow Falls trail to the Bullhead Junction. Our goal was to see if we could get part of the way down the Bullhead to see the fire damage from last year but we couldn’t get past the trail junction. Then, we hiked the loop to Chimney Tops.  It was beginning to get crowded on the rock face so we didn’t stay for the sunset.

We got on the trail early Saturday. It was game day after all. We made it home in plenty of time before the 3:30 kickoff of the Clemson game.

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Mt. LeConte Lodge

Alum Cave Trail

Taking advantage of the good weather and lower temperatures, we decided to do a day hike up and down Alum Cave Trail on Mt. LeConte. We left early enough to get a parking space in what is usually a very crowded parking lot at the trailhead. We lucked up and there were still a few spaces available.

The trail has been closed on weekdays all summer. Crews from the “Trails Forever Program” has been hard at work building stairs, water bars, and erosion control. The work completed so far was impressive. The first mile of the trail had been leveled and smoothed out with several water bars to divert rain water away from the trail. The picture to the right shows one of two rocked ditches. Of course, all of the rock used was harvested with hand tools from the site. I think they rigged pulleys to actually move the rocks that are too big for one person to pick up.

A bolder pile was replaced by rock stairs. Between the water bars and new stairs, the vegetation had been cut way back off the trail. Rocks and boulders had been smashed to make a gravel like substance that covered where they had scraped and smoothed the trail.

 

 

 

The biggest change was Arch Rock. The workers had smoothed and leveled the rocks at the bottom of the stairs. The staircase itself had been re-routed giving more headroom. They actually put more steps into the same space that made it a little easier to climb. At the top of staircase, the zagged rocks had been chiseled away to make a smooth walking path. Previously, this spot had been slippery and dangerous even in the best of weather. The work is still in progress, but what has been done so far at Arch Rock is a welcome change.

Below are some pictures we took along the way.  Of course, I rarely post without adding a few pictures of wildflowers …

Trails Forever Program … at work on Alum Cave Trail.

Mt LeConte 2014

It was time for our official 2014 trek up Mt. LeConte. Phil’s brother-in-law was our guest this year. We chose to hike Alum Cave Trail. It was reportedly in the best shape and we hoped that it had minimal icy spots.

The Thursday hike up was great. It was a warm sunny day in the low 40’s. Our hike time was 2 hours and 53 minutes. We reached the top around noon long before most of the other guests arrived. There were only 29 guests on Thursday, but over 50 guests were there for Friday night.

It was interesting that on Thursday night, we were served Salmon Casserole for our meal. That has never been on the menu. Our guess was that their food stores were running low as the llamas had not been up the mountain for 2 weeks due to ice on the trails.

It was a frigid 8 degrees when we woke up on Friday.

Friday, Phil and I walked out to Myrtle Point. The trail runs the ridge of the mountain and you can see Newfound Gap and the ridges of the Boulevard Trail. The sun had already burned off the frost up high, but down in the folds, the Rhine Ice covered all of the trees. Clouds were hanging low in the valleys. We got a few good pictures of the views.

Friday night, we ate the usual beef stew, green beans and mashed potatoes. We were glad. It was a lot better than the dry salmon.

The crew looked tired. They had performed several midnight rescues in the past 4 weeks and a few of them were life and death situations. I think they were looking forward to the end of the season in “11 days, 4 hours, and 15 minutes.”

The hike down was a little slow because of all of the ice, but nothing we couldn’t manage if taken slow. We passed 10 or 12 British Airborne servicemen on our way down. Nice guys … they hadn’t even broken a sweat and were skipping right up the steep trail. After the drama of our Halloween trip, it was nice to have a quiet, restful, uneventful trip this time.

 

Mt. LeConte, TN

Alum Cave

 

20131020-112510.jpgMy ankle has improved so much, that we decided to put it to the test by day hiking Alum Cave Trail all the way to LeConte Lodge and back. The total distance hiked was 11 miles. Total elevation gain is approximately 2560′. It gets a little steep in places. I would rate this trail moderate to strenuous.

We thoroughly enjoyed the hike up, stopping at the bluffs for about 10 minutes. I logged a ” personal best” hiking time to the lodge of exactly 2 1/2 hours! We weren’t very winded either.

The Crew

Mt. LeConte

Alum Cave Trail

Our guests were my brother and two of his sons. The weather was crisp and sunny. The two youngsters enjoyed the dining hall the best, I think.  They drank buckets of hot chocolate!

Mt. LeConte Via Alum Cave

LeConte Trip with friends that had never been there!

The weather was awesome. We hiked Alum Cave in and out. We also spent a lot of time with the Llamas. They are so soft but don’t care much for attention.  And … they bite!

Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave

We hiked Alum Cave in and out.  My brother and his wife went with us and it was the first time we have ever taken a trip together. Phil had to sit on an inverted bucket the whole time, and he didn’t like that. I thought it was funny. Anyway.  It was totally awesome.