My First Trek Up Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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If you live in this area then climbing Mount LeConte is probably on your ‘bucket list.’ In addition, an overnight stay at LeConte Lodge is ‘the dream’ because it is so difficult to get a reservation—not to mention getting there. I am not a hiker, nor outdoorsy; however, the possibility of going up the famous mountain with friends was something that I couldn’t pass up. It was finally time. Here is our story from last month: my first trek up Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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We ascended the mountain via the Alum Cave Bluff trail. Many will be glad to see bathrooms at the beginning of the trail. I know that I was!

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A quick glance showed mountain visitors from several states.

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The Alum Cave Bluff trail starts out gently.

IMG_1127The trail becomes steeper as you approach the cave. Melinda said, “the hike is tough, but what a payoff! The views from Alum Cave take my breath away.”

IMG_3587Mountain ridge lines become visible above Alum Cave.

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You gain amazing views as you proceed up the mountain.

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The path is rough, but you can do it with a good fitness level. I had been working toward this goal at National Fitness Center in Sevierville since the spring. In fact, I highly recommend their high intensity fitness classes and the stair climber to prepare for this vigorous hike.

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Take frequent rest breaks if you need them. We did.

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My good friends, Millie Derrick McFalls and Melinda Derrick, were some of the best companions for this first trek up Mount LeConte. Millie worked at the lodge for several summers and Melinda has made the ascent before so they knew what to pack and what to do.

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The trail presents some exciting moments—and photos!

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Nice drop off! Hang on to the ropes. You have plenty of room, but the ropes increase the safety and feeling of security.

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My climbing companions were (pictured left to right) Lisa Stone, Melinda Derrick, and Millie Derrick McFalls. Lisa Stone has served in the Teacher in the Parks program and the Teacher Ranger (TRP) program. Her knowledge of the mountains, plants, animals, and hiking made it so much more interesting and fun. She also carried an alarm in case we came into contact with wild animals.

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Melinda said that there are about 28 places on the trail with these security ropes.

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When you feel like your legs will not go much farther then you may reach what is called the ‘Hallelujah’ trail. This flat section is the last quarter mile to LeConte Lodge, your final destination.

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Our first contact with the lodge was this privy that any hiker can use. There are more bathrooms for lodge guests as well.

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We had just enough time to check into our cabin before dinner was served in the lodge dining room.

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There is no electricity in the dining hall, but the skylights and windows allow natural light. The dining room is cozy in the cool air at the top of the mountain. Temperatures that June night dropped into the 40’s up on LeConte.

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This will be the best corn bread that you have ever had in your life. In fact, the whole meal will taste amazing!

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Dinner at 6,593 feet will be the best one of the year. Delicious!

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You will need to carb load for all the hiking you will do, even while  on the top of the mountain. These Toll House cookies were as good as they look! Feel free to take another!

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After dinner, Lisa and I trekked to the ‘Clifftops.’ This is the best spot to watch the sunset. It was kind of tricky for me with all the rocks and slick spots, but I was glad that I went there. Does it look like you can reach up and touch the clouds?

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Upon arrival back at our cabin, we could look over the tree line and see the lights from Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Lisa said that she said the big wheel at the Island. The lights extending to the right are from Dolly Parton Parkway. The lights north of that show Highway 66 to the Interstate.

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Some cabins have double sized bunk beds. They may be queen sized! Two people can share each bed of this type.

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Lisa and I got up at 5:30 a.m. in order to see this sunrise from Myrtle Point. It was the most amazing sight of the entire trip! Make sure that you do this. Take flashlights and a walking stick because the path is a little tricky in the rocky areas.

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Even with the clouds, the sunrise will impress you.

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Lisa walking back to the cabin from the sunrise at Myrtle Point. You can see how the paths look like creek beds.

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The ‘office’ has morning coffee so bring the cup from your room for caffeine. See the sign- in book to the right of the coffee? Make sure that you register your name, hometown, and how many times you have made the climb to the lodge. Look at old pictures on the wall and some of the ‘hall of fame’ climbers who have made a name with frequent treks to the top of the mountain.

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This was a good way to wake up and prepare for the descent back down the mountain.

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I love this photo of my friends enjoying a chat and coffee on Mount LeConte.

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Breakfast at the lodge is perfect. This is just half of it. There were biscuits and gravy and more.

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For some new views, Lisa and I chose to descend the mountain via the Boulevard Trail. It is longer than Alum Cave trail, but I wanted to see the wonderful views—and they were stunning.

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We began the descent and took our time.

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The Boulevard trail contained one of my favorite spots (and pictures) on the whole trail.

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We were walking among the clouds during the first part of the hike down LeConte.

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We got caught in a thunderstorm about halfway down the mountain. Make sure that you have a poncho. And now, I can say that I have done part of the AT, the Appalachian Trail.

Truly, I am a novice so check with seasoned hikers before you begin any hike in the Smokies. Thanks to my friends, I was prepared and had a great time. After my legs recovered for a couple of days, I can say that I would consider going back up the mountain next year. After all, I didn’t get to see the llama pack train that goes up the mountain with supplies three times a week. Next year!

There are so many good pictures from this trip. So many good times. The Derrick sisters summarize it well. “Experiencing the walk, the lodge, and time with my sister and friends is priceless. We made memories.” Millie agrees, ” I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

 

 

5 thoughts on “My First Trek Up Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  1. Melinda Derrick July 5, 2018 / 10:03 pm

    Awesome! Makes me want to go back sooner rather than later!

    Like

  2. Matt & Bailey July 6, 2018 / 7:23 am

    Glad you made it! This hike should be on every hiker’s bucket list. Awesome photos! Didn’t happen to see any goats during your trip, did you? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • Matt & Bailey July 6, 2018 / 8:14 am

        We have yet to tackle Mount LeConte, but we have it on our list! We have heard the tales about goats and llamas, though! 😀

        Like

      • outandaboutinsevierville July 6, 2018 / 8:16 am

        Yes, we missed the llama train. Millie has told us some good stories about them from the days when she worked at the lodge.

        Liked by 1 person

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