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.

[divider]
Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg

It was time for our yearly anniversary trip to Gatlinburg. The drive to Gatlinburg on Friday was difficult. It was 27 degrees when we left our house with freezing rain. It drizzled freezing rain the entire way. Thankfully, Interstate 40 had been pre-treated so the icy spots were minimal. We had good light all the way there.

Saturday is always hiking day if the weather permits. We woke to a brightening sky. The temperature was the low to mid 30’s. We decided on a hike that began at The Sinks on Little River Road. This was our first time out this road. The trailhead parking lot was nice with an overlook at the section of the river that is called The Sinks. It is a narrow raging section with drowning warnings for anyone that may think they would like to kayak through the hydrofoil.

The trail began with a gradual, but continuous grade. There weren’t many rocks on the trail like we were used to. About 1/4 mile in we ran into ice. The ice was solid and about 1 inch thick covering the entire trail and several feet on either side of the trail. It was impassable. Phil got off the trail and had to stomp really hard to break enough ice to get a foothold. It took 35 minutes to go 200 yards. The ice was just so unyielding that we were exhausted by the time we got through that section.

When we reached the nose of that first knob, we were on the sunnier side of the mountain so the temperature was about 8 degrees higher and thankfully, the ice had already melted. It ended up being a really nice trail. We reached the creek and could not cross because of high water so we had to turn back. We will hike this trail again in better weather.

Our second hike of the day was a 1.2 mile paved trail to Laurel Falls. It was a gentle and quick walk out to the falls, but because of the ease of access, it was crowded. So, been there, done that, it was nice, but we probably won’t go back there.

We finished our Saturday with a nice meal at the Cherokee Grill with pork chops and prime rib. We didn’t walk down the strip to shop. If you’ve seen one cheap trinket from Taiwan, you’ve seen ’em all.