Smoky Bear Turkey Chase 5K 2019

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It was a frosty morning that turned out to be perfect for the SCHS Foundation Smoky Bear Turkey Chase 5K. Although I dreaded the cold, I bundled up (since only walking the race this year) and it was not that bad at all. Here are some pictures from the race today.

Runner’s were filing into the stadium bright and early Thanksgiving morning.

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On-site registration table signed up about 50 walk in runners.

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This is my favorite races in regard to swag bags and door prizes.

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Early registrants got their bibs quickly.

Some colleagues preparing for the race. Guess which two are walkers and which two are runners?

The sun rises on the stadium. Countdown…10 minutes.

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You may run into many friends at this race. My friend Anita, pictured center, participated in this race for the first time and placed third in her age group. So inspired by her!

Mascots ready to cheer on the runners.

Soon, the start gun sounded and everyone began to move.

This is my favorite part of the course. The fall foliage is lovely.

A view of the track and crowd gathered at the finish line near the stands.

This cool sign summarizes our thoughts after the 5K today. Finish well.

 

 

I love my souvenir race shirt. Long sleeved tees are the best in these colder temps.

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The best part is reaching 90% of your daily activity requirements by 9:00 a.m!

Check the results on the SCHS Foundation link https://knoxvilleyouthathletics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/2019-Smoky-Bear-Turkey-Chase-5K-Age-Group-Results.pdf

In conclusion, the SCHS Foundation Smoky Bear Turkey Chase 5K is one of the best little races in Tennessee. My friends and I enjoyed participating among 250 racers from over 20 states to benefit the STEM Scholarship at Sevier County High School. Bravo to Nancy Trundle Hewitt and her volunteers for putting on one of the best races in Tennessee on Thanksgiving morning. I think that it is my favorite.

See you next year at the finish line!

Best Thrills Around at Rocky Top Mountain Coaster

One of the best thrills in Sevier County is located across from Dollywood. I finally got a chance to try Rocky Top Mountain Coaster last night and it was so much fun. In fact, I rode it twice! This place is really special, especially in October. Come and take a ride down the mountain with me (as they say) at the speed of fright.

Rocky Top Mountain Coaster has a Halloween themed experience right now, but don’t be worried if you don’t like that kind of thing. It was very family friendly.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I could see the lights and hear the sound effects from above. I have always wanted to take a coaster ride in the evening for an enhanced experience.

It is easy to find the ticket booth and the facilities.

There is a spacious area for people to relax and observe if they want to just wait and watch loved ones ride the coaster.

Good information here.

I highly recommend the ‘re-ride’ option because you will want to ride again. I rode twice and could have gone one more time. You notice new things each time that you ride and experiment with your speed. So much to see and enjoy!

Let the attendant know if you want ‘the scares’ or not. I opted for the non-scary ride and relaxed knowing that I didn’t have to be so nervous. Also, I enjoyed hearing other riders get the ‘scares.’ I found it amusing and laughed out loud on several occasions. They do a wonderful job!

This is the boarding area. It is pretty straightforward. You get in, put on the seatbelt, and get instructions on braking and how to push levers forward at the top of hills. There were over 52 people in line in front of me; yet, I was on my coaster in under 15 minutes. Don’t worry if there seems to be long line because it will move quickly.

The attendants are in costume, but are nice and put everyone at ease…for the moment.

The couple in front were riding at night for the first time.

If you don’t want to be scared then you wear a glow necklace so the actors see you coming and leave you alone. It was chilly so I hoped that they could see it over my neck wrap.

The first hill gives you a nice look over the property. It is a relaxing pace and not too fast.

Here is a Time Lapse video of the first part of the mountain coaster ride.

https://tinyurl.com/yxdf8ukf

There are October sound effects and scenes that glow in the dark.

I like the lighting on the track and ominously humorous signs. It is very dark, but you zoom right along following the track lighting.

It is fun to see scenes in the distance and wonder what you will see there.

At this point, you want the coaster to go a little faster until you see what is ahead.

The lights add to the thrilling experience. I just noticed that my sled reflects the lighting as well.

https://tinyurl.com/y5ar2qfg

I usually ‘granny it’ down a hill on rides like this, using the brake with a heavy hand; yet, I found myself going full speed at certain points and using one hand on the brake and one for photos. I felt very safe and in control. I wanted to feel the full speed of it at times. Then, I realized that it is actually a roller coaster without the big drops. Great fun!

It was fun to ride through a barn. On your first ride, you will wonder what awaits you there.

It reminded me of Disney’s Haunted Mansion scenes—Smoky Mountain style.

Nine minutes later, I was off and in the gift shop. There is a place during the ride that takes your picture. I saw the sign, but didn’t notice a flash.

Because I didn’t know there was a camera taking my photo, this is my real facial expression as I took off downhill.

In summary, Rocky Top Mountain Coaster will be great fun for all ages and family members. Night rides will offer a special experience enhanced by lights and darkness. The ride lasts over 9 minutes and utilizes 4 hills and descents. This was a long ride, in my opinion, but it will leave you wanting more so consider doing the ‘ride again’ option.

To see up to date information on the schedule and special events, go to the Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/rockytopcoaster/

There is a website as well. http://rockytopcoaster.com

I can’t wait to ride this coaster again. In fact, I think that I could ride it frequently and not get tired of it. Let me know when you go because I may want to tag along.

Tiny Houses, RVs, and ‘Glamping’ at Ridge Outdoor Resort

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There is a new place to stay overnight in Sevierville with ‘tiny houses’ and RV sites. Soon, there will be ‘glamping’ Safari tents too. Come along and take a quick look at the Ridge Outdoor Resort on Middle Creek Rd, across the street from Sweet Frog Yogurt and Smoky Mountain Espresso.

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This property once was a church, then it belonged to the Holston Methodist Conference.

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You may recognize the building from those previous incarnations. It has since been purchased and quickly becoming a camping destination in Sevierville. The main building can be used for weddings, events, and fundraisers. Inside, one can also find a coffee shop and internet cafe. They are also planning a camping store and a fitness center.

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Each RV spot has a nice set-up. I especially like the round fire bowls. Each RV site will have a picnic table, fire bowl, water, sewer, electric, cable and Ethernet.

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The RV area is spacious and has a nice view of the mountains. It is only a small walk to the main building. A resort style swimming pool should be open by June 1st. It will be 116 feet long and will also have a swim shelf.

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There is a playground for children to enjoy during their stay. A pickle ball area and a basketball court are also in the plans.

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I was especially interested in the ‘tiny houses’ on the property.  I have seen them on HGTV and wanted to see one.

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There was an ‘Open House’ on a Sunday so I was able to look around and take several photos. I can see how campers would enjoy sitting on the deck with such a view and a fire bowl.

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Doors open wide to a mountain view. The owners’ dog was enjoying the afternoon sun.

 

 

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Love the view!

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The dog is posing pretty in the kitchen area.

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This will be a nice view from the kitchen sink.

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The bathroom is bright and convenient.

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The bedroom did not feel tiny; rather, it felt compact and comfortable.

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A flat screen TV is located at the end of the bed.

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As I strolled back toward the front door, I noticed the nice little table for dining. I think that these tiny houses are manufactured by Clayton Homes. They are extremely nice!

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You can see that the campground is located conveniently across the street from Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt and Smoky Mountain Espresso Coffee. It is also in view of Middle Creek Road and the larger Veterans Boulevard, very close to Dollywood properties.

I can’t wait to visit again when they put up the ‘glamping’ (glamorous camping) tents soon. The ‘safari tents’ may be ready by July. They are waiting for the orders to arrive from Norway. That is going to be fun!

It is getting even more fun to camp in Sevierville.

 

Pick Your Own Flowers at Rivers and Roots in Sevierville

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A new page popped up on Facebook this week and I was intrigued. There is a new ‘pick your own flowers’ place on the river, just off Robert Henderson Road. I talked three friends into going with me today and we discovered the most charming little place on the  river.  Put on your garden shoes and come along with us to Rivers and Roots in Sevierville.

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I went onto the Rivers and Roots Facebook page to find a map and hours. The navegation starts at National Fitness Center because that is where I was when I thought to look it up online.  I had never noticed this road along the river before. Turn right before the bridge.  https://www.facebook.com/riversandroots/  

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It was fun to explore to little River Road!

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Keep driving down River Road until you see this sign. Park in a dry area and walk on the wood chips avenue to the flowers. Or you could drive on the woods chips up to the main area.

IMG_4441Walk up to the green house area. There are flowers inside, and outside, beyond view.

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We were met by the owners, Sydney and Titus. They welcomed us and explained how things work. It has only been open 2 days!

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Prices are really good and you can cut a lot to fit a small bucket. My friends got to work while I took pictures. We all love flowers so excitement was in the air!

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We started outside the greenhouse because the flowers were beckoning us.

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Janice looks beautiful amidst the daffodils.

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Anita stands by the greenhouse area for the flowers. I need to find out what that is called!

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It was just too beautiful for words!

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It was a feast for the eyes under the canopy.

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Music was playing from the small building. As I was standing there, a song resonated with me and that exact moment. Good one! Click the link for a live shot—and to hear the song. My new favorite song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7rO6MDicvM&list=UUZ6cmtdU5I9jm7TPRaqgpbA

http://tinyurl.com/y528rufq

An attraction to Rivers and Roots is not just found in the lovely flowers; it is also the highly photographable things on the property. I found them to be irresistible and was drawn to several areas.

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But in the end, the flowers are the main attraction to Rivers and Roots. Amazing!

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Pick your own flowers and pay at the little stand.

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Elaine created the perfect nosegay. Bet you haven’t heard that word in a while! But it came to mind for this picture.

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So beautiful!

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Sydney and Titus bid us farewell. We will see them again soon!

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We headed back to the car.  Good friends, a good place, and a good day.

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Anita had to head out ahead of us. Follow the River Road back to Robert Henderson Road and you are back in town. It is only a hop, skip, and a jump away when you are out and about in Sevierville. 

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This is truly a special place. Wear old shoes or garden shoes and plan to stay a while. Come by and see the beauty at Rivers and Roots in Sevierville. So far, it is my favorite place of the year. You will like it too!

 

American Eagle Foundation: A National Treasure in Our Midst

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There are several things/ people that I would consider ‘national treasures’ in this area. We would probably name the same things. However, I discovered a place doing special work with a special resident that would also qualify as a national treasure. Follow along as Paula and I visited the American Eagle Foundation last week.

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I was very excited about the possibility of this story and had planned it since August so when Paula and arrived at the American Eagle Foundation last week, I knew that it was going to be a great morning. We took Veterans Drive past Dollywood then used the GPS to find our way this location. We had made our appointment with Spencer, Chief Operations Officer for the organization, and arrived promptly at 10:00 a.m. This is the time for tours so plan ahead for a day when you can visit in the morning. Here is a link to the webpage:

https://www.eagles.org

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Paula and I were given a tour of the building that houses raptors, birds of prey, that have been injured and unable to live in the wild for now—or ever. The picture above shows the a long, open ended hallway that can be opened in warm weather or closed during cooler times. You can see the rooms where each bird has individual space and a nice perch. They are able to fly and exercise in the long hallway when the doors are closed during bad weather.

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We got a nice tour inside the main building. The picture above shows a list of names of each bird.

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Please read the highlighted sentence above! We were amazed by the story of this vulture named Cujo. He somehow got separated from the nest and mother when he was young. Children found him, but did not recognize him as a vulture because he was so little so they played with him and spent time with him. Later, he came to live here at the American Eagle Foundation due to the human ‘imprint.’ We learned from Spencer that vultures are quite social and interesting creatures—quite surprising to us.

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There was one bird that we waited to see with great anticipation: Challenger the Eagle.

You may know of Challenger already from TV or may have seen videos on social media due to his flights in stadiums and special events. Go to this link to see a stirring example of his work and background. https://www.facebook.com/ChallengerTheEagle/videos/1657535654512538/

There are even more videos and all will make you feel inspired. https://www.facebook.com/ChallengerTheEagle/videos/1643971809202256/

Here is the Facebook page for the organization. https://www.facebook.com/AmericanEagleFoundation

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It was time to exercise Challenger so we stood still and quiet, waiting in anticipation. Whistles and a treat are used to help with training.

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It was breathtaking to see an American Bald Eagle in flight from such a close proximity.

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Here is a video of the flight.

   https://bit.ly/2J71mFd

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The glove on which the birds land is impressive with all of the wear and tear.

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He is a handsome bird.

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A second tour was going on with a family from Indiana.

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This picture is here because the volunteers often see free flying eagles, hawks, and other raptors flying above the trees just watching and listening to their fellow species living below at the foundation. They just ‘hang out’ a while then go on their way.

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Next, we walked through a gated, protective outdoor area for the birds. I don’t know very much about raptors so the information was fascinating. Spencer explained about food, life spans, habits, and habitats. Most interesting were the personalities of particular birds and how they interact with humans and the volunteers now. We were spellbound.

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My friend Danyelle will want to see the owls. So pretty.

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Our other favorite bird turned out to be a vulture. Yes, I said a vulture. We met Cujo, who was found playing with some children in Sevierville. He was active and animated. We heard him make a noise like a puppy. A little  ‘ruff’ sound. Who knew that vultures could be so social and interesting?

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Our excitement lasted the duration of the tour. We truly enjoyed all the stories and history of the birds and appreciated the efforts of the American Eagle Foundation to preserve them. Their mission is conservation, rehabilitation, and protection. Some day, they hope to reach out to schools and other groups with live streaming lessons and activities.

The American Bald Eagle is iconic in American symbolism and patriotism. The bird is also referenced several times in the Bible so it will elicit deep feelings within when you witness one up close. To see an eagle fly can be a moving experience.

As we drove home, Paula and I were excited and thinking of when we could visit again in the future. We were well impressed with the facility, the birds, and the work of the foundation. In addition, we could not stop talking about seeing the flight of the eagle. It was an unforgettable tour. With the American Eagle Foundation, and Challenger the Eagle, it is clear that we have a two national treasures in our midst.

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With that, we leave you with a last video of Challenger flying high.

A Morning Ride at Cades Cove Stables: Our Favorite Horseback Riding Place in the Smokies

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We are lucky to have a selection of horseback riding stables in this area. When you want to saddle up and ride, there is a stable that is particularly worth the drive to the mountains. We had a wonderful morning ride at Cades Cove Stables. Here is a summary of our trip.

Lisa and I wanted a final, fun activity before work resumed last month so we drove up to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to try the stables located at the entrance. We had tried to ride a week earlier, but a fast moving storm cancelled rides for several hours so we decided to try again a week later. As it turned out, we had the perfect morning and an idyllic ride on our last day of summer vacation.

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We wanted to be in the first group (if possible) so we met at 7:30 and drove through Wears Valley in order to arrive by opening at 9:00 a.m. There are no reservations. First come, first serve. There seemed to be about 30 horses in the stables ready to ride. That was a lot more than I was expecting so they can handle different group sizes.

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Enter the office, sign a waiver, pay, and choose a riding helmet, if you like. I think that they were optional for adults, but we tried them to ‘get the whole experience.’ We like wearing cool hats too.

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You will get a quick lesson from your guide and then saddle up. You can see how easy it is to get up in the saddle with this platform. Lisa’s horse was named Puddin.’

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My horse was very gentle and nice. Her name was Noble. She reminded me of a Palomino.

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Everyone gets a safety check of bridles, straps, and stirrups. They were very thorough.

And away we go!

The trail is about 3 miles so the ride lasts about an hour. It is mainly flat and woodsy.

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About a mile into the ride, the guide will stop and do another quick safety check.

On the way out and back, you get to cross a shallow creek. So relaxing!

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We mainly walked, but there were some sections on the trail that we got to trot. I wasn’t expecting that for a trail ride and really enjoyed it!

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One thing we really appreciated was the fact that our guide stopped at the halfway point and took pictures with everyone’s cameras so we could remember the moment. It is not recommended to use a camera during a ride because it could scare the horse and you need both hands ready–just in case. I took pictures and video for this blog. If I did it again, I would use my clear camera sports bag and just wear it around my neck. It is not easy juggling a camera and riding so the guides will help you with photography. We really needed help with the picture above so it was a nice service. We left a nice tip to show our appreciation for everything.

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At the end of the ride, dismounting is just as easy. You use a platform to get off the horse so all ages can ride.

Dismounting is as easy as pie!

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Our guide, Debbie, was the best. I was impressed that she could ride backwards in the saddle while talking to us. Get a picture at the end of hour so you can remember them and your ride in the mountains.

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There are children’s rides and carriage rides available as well.

Here is a link:      http://www.cadescovestable.com/index.html

In summary, here are the things that we liked the most about this riding stable.

  1. The horses and healthy and well treated. They get every other day ‘off’ in the pasture.
  2. These are knowledgable ‘horse people.’ They know what they are doing. They are friendly too.
  3. The trail is easy so you can relax and enjoy the ride.
  4. The are times that you may trot, if you like.
  5. The waiting area is good. We saw a bear on our first trip.
  6. There is a bathroom next to the office.
  7. The horses are well tempered and gentle.

Here are some good ideas.

  1. Wear old shoes or boots.
  2. Bring a snack and have a picnic in Cades Cove after your ride. Keep it safe from bears in your car.
  3. Wear a sports camera carrier bag around your neck if you want to take photos.
  4. I hate a horsefly and there was one that bedeviled our horses during the ride. Be watchful and gently swat at them if they land near the top of the tail where the horse cannot reach as well.
  5. Maybe wear a hat or a visor.
  6. Crowds are smaller during local rod run weekends and other big events.
  7. Tip your wonderful guide!

 

This was a wonderful way to end our summer vacation. We highly recommend Cades Cove Stables. It is our favorite horseback riding place in the Smoky Mountains!

 

 

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.”