Thursday, May 3, 2012

Planning for Mt. LeConte

View from Mt. LeConte Summit Store

In less than two weeks a group of friends and co-workers is going to hike to the top of Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Three of us went last year and you can find a blog about that hike earlier in the entries on this site.  This year, we want a little more challenge so we are taking a longer route.  Last year's hike was 10 miles round trip.  This year we will begin on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap and hike up to the Boulevard Trail and take it to the summit of LeConte.  That is about 8.1 miles on the first leg of our journey.  A few of us will also add another 1.4 miles by taking two spurs--the first is the Jumpoff that leaves Boulevard trail to go to a rock outcropping that overlooks Charlie's Bunion, and the second is the short jaunt off the trail to Myrtle's Point on Mt. LeConte.  This is one of the popular overlooks from near the summit.

While at the top of LeConte, we plan on eating lunch at LeConte Lodge.  If you pre-order you can get lunch here for $9.00 which includes soup, sandwich, cookies, and hot chocolate.  We didn't do this last year, but wished we had, so some of us plan on ordering the lunch this time.  I will wait to closer to hike date to order it and will definitely check the predicted weather conditions first.  Other neat opportunities await you at the summit of LeConte too.  Mail is carried down the mountain by llama (the same llamas that bring food to the folks that work up there all summer and to provide meals for the hikers that make reservations the year in advance that it takes to get to stay in the cabins at the top).  Last year, I sent a postcard to my parents from the top of this mountain, and they still have it on their refrigerator!  They loved it!  Also, there are t-shirts available for sale at the top, verifying that you made it all the way to the top.  They change the design each year, and it always give the year in which you made the trek to the top.  I will definitely buy one of those again this year!

2011 "I hiked Mt. LeConte" T-shirt

After spending some time resting and visiting the overlooks at the top of LeConte, we plan on coming down the Alum Cave Bluff trail which will lead us back to a vehicle we will leave at that parking area on our way to Newfound Gap that morning.  The hike down is 5.0 miles, which will give us total mileage of from 13.1 to 14.6 depending on which spurs each of us chooses to do.

I'm so excited about this hike.  The views were spectacular last year, so I am hoping for clear weather again.  Several of my hiking group have never been to LeConte even though they are more experienced than I am.  I really hope they get the experience of those spectacular views on that day!

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