Journal describing my 50 mile hike fest up, down, and all around Mt. LeConte in one day coming soon!
Ever wonder what The Jumpoff looks like at night? Here ya go!
Arriving at Myrtle Point around 7:30 to catch the sunrise.
The grassy Helipad located near the Lodge.
Catching some early morning light from Cliff Tops, though famous for its sunsets.
One of three trips to the Horse Gate along Alum Cave Trail, the midway point of each lap between there and the Alum - Rainbow junction.
Stack of boards near location of former Horse Barn just up from Trillium Gap Trail.
View from Brushy Mountain towards Pigeon Forge at trail's terminus.
Arrival in Greenbrier at 11:30, excited about how little time it took getting down.
Looking down on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, just reopened that morning, from the Trillium Gap Trail.
A late afternoon pass by a decently flowing Rainbow Falls.
View of Mount LeConte from the Rocky Spur after sunset.
Crossing the finish line in 16 hours and 48 minutes...what a day!
I wasn't about to let a cloudy and rainy morning keep me from getting in a good afternoon hike. I was struck with an itch to take The Boulevard all the way to the AT. The majority of the hike out was in the clouds, but the temperature felt just right. I never broke a sweat the entire way, even after the ascents of Anakeesta Knob and Mount Kephart. In fact, I couldn't help but notice how considerably easier this day's hike was compared to when I last came out in all the snow and ice. Plus the park service had cleared all the blowdowns, so it became more of a stroll in the park rather than a workout. Before reaching the AT, there was a passing shower and I was close to regretting my decision not to bring rain gear, but it was very brief. Still in the clouds, I made my way to the Icewater Spring Shelter to see how it looked and if any thru-hikers had shacked up for the day. The shelter had two residents when I went by, and I passed several backpackers on my way back to the junction. What surprised me was how the clouds had risen and broken up, offering blue skies in just a matter of fifteen minutes. Unsure of how long it would last, I hurried out to The Jumpoff for a chance at some good views. I wouldn't be disappointed.
The view overlooking Charlies Bunion had to be the clearest I had ever seen. You could pick out at least a dozen shirts of brave hikers making their way around the rocky outcrops. As I looked toward Mount LeConte, you could see the very last cloud rise up from the summit and drift away. I look forward to returning here some time in June to see the cliffs adorned with blooming dwarf rhododendron. The sun's coming out party that afternoon made for an interesting journey back to the Lodge. Many of the spring beauties that were closed on the cloudy hike out had now opened, right on cue. The Boulevard is notorious for its length and difficulty that it poses for unsuspecting hikers, but I was able to come away with a greater appreciation for the trail. The smooth hiking surface, the mild spring temps, and the surrounding views made for an enjoyable afternoon.
It pays to do your research. Think The Boulevard is the easiest way to and from LeConte? Oh, but it was the least elevation gain! Yeah, sure, add snow into the mix and it instantly becomes the worst way. Exhibit A - section of trail that navigates around Myrtle Point. It was a clear day, making for great views over the valley and into North Carolina. But the trail conditions here were a bit unnerving. The majority of the way was like walking a tight rope, but unlike what I had experienced on Bull Head, these stretches were on cliff edges with little or no vegetation to hold on to. Whatever cables existed were completely buried and little foot traffic meant a narrow pathway around hazardous ledges. It would take several minutes just to move a couple feet because it was important to establish a good foothold and secure pole placement. It was nice to finally reach the south side of the mountain where the snow had melted away. Normally, that big landslide is the scary part. This time, it was a welcome relief! I chose to go as far out as Anakeesta Knob and back. The snow along the spine that connected the knob to LeConte was void of snow but had several blowdowns yet to be cleared. I ran into a family of four that had spent the previous night at the Lodge. I couldn't believe that they made it around the mountain unscathed, but was glad to see they had. They were in the clear while I had to make my way back through that mess. I made it back without a fuss, and even managed to sun myself at Myrtle Point for a bit.