Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Preparing for Mt. LeConte--3 Days and Counting!

Trying to actually work instead of thinking about Mt. LeConte has become a real challenge.  I would much rather be planning the hike instead of doing what I probably should be doing right now, which is grading papers.  So, I'm taking a few minutes break to make my paper grading more productive later, right?

It is time to call the Lodge at Mt. LeConte to order our lunches for the hike.  I know $9.00 sounds like a lot for lunch, but when you think about everything it takes to get the food up to the summit of LeConte, at over 6500 feet elevation, I'm not the least bit worried about it.  In fact, the idea that our lunch supplies will have been carried by llama up the mountain is a bit intriguing.  The weather is predicted to cooperate, so I will make that call in a few minutes.

Our group continues to grow.  We are up to approximately 10 people at the moment, and I won't be surprised if others decide to join us last minute.  We are pretty excited and folks are definitely talking about the trip, so that may entice others to come with us.  The more the merrier!

Chota GVX 2 Ultralight Pullover
I do look at this hike a little differently than some earlier hikes at lower, more predictable elevations.  Although the weather in Gatlinburg, TN is predicted to be clear with a high of 77 on Saturday, the high on LeConte typically runs about 10 degrees cooler than that of Gatlinburg.  That puts our predicted high at around 67.  Because of the extreme elevation changes and how early we must start, this hike will probably begin in temps that are quite cold and require either layers or a jacket.  I will be hiking in no cotton, as usual, just in case showers blow up and get us wet, which is always possible when you hike in the Smokies!  I've just bought a new lightweight windbreaker that is also waterproof, made by Chota primarily for the fly-fishing market, that I will definitely take with me on this hike.  It weighs only 6 ounces and will serve as a nice light jacket and also excellent protection in the event of rain.  I purchased it a few weeks ago at Little River Outfitters in Townsend, and it has already kept me totally dry in a downpour on one fishing outing.  If, however, we do get wet, as long as you are wearing the great new dri-fit fabrics, you dry out very quickly and rain shouldn't be a problem.  I'm just so very glad there are no storms forecast for Saturday. One thing that I'm not crazy about is hiking at high elevations in storms.  I don't mind it if you are above the storm clouds, but being caught in a thunderstorm with no shelter is probably my least favorite thing about hiking.  Hopefully the forecast will hold and the weather will stay clear.

Gear that I will use on this hike includes my trusty Keen Targhee II boots which provide enough ankle support for me that I don't worry about turning my ankle if the trail gets rocky.  I absolutely love these boots!  I also paid the extra money to buy Keen socks and find that the built in arch support works great for me.  This built in arch support requires the socks to be fitted for left and right feet which some hikers find annoying, but I love them! I will hike in zippered hiking pants and will probably start off with the legs on, but I bet I shed then before reaching the top.  I'm not sure which of my dri-fit shirts I will don on this day, perhaps the I Hiked LeConte in 2011 shirt I bought at the top last year.  I will carry a simple day pack that I purchased at Walmart a couple years ago.  It has served me well, and I saved a little money there.  It does have nicely padded straps which I think are very important and the waist belt has padding and supply pockets.

For food, I will take a couple of Clif Bars with me.  I really like the Blueberry Crisp and the Macadamia Nut flavors, personally.  I usually also carry some beef jerky with me on long hikes.  I don't know if it's the protein or the salt, but it does a good job reinvigorating me when I have a "sinking spell" as my grandmother would say.  My day pack has a water bladder, and I will also carry my MSR Miniworks water pump.  I doubt I will need it because there is fresh water at the top of the mountain with which I can refill my water container, but I've wished for it on the last two hikes and it doesn't weigh all that much, so it's going with me.  I will also make sure I take a flashlight with me on this hike because of the distance.  I think we will have plenty of time to hike up and back before dark, but just in case of an emergency or if someone needs more time coming down, I'll have one with me. Then, of course, we will take the normal supplies with us--first aid kit, snake bite kit, Benadryl, etc.  One of the most important things we will carry with us though is the Ibuprofen!  At our age, a hike of this length makes us SORE!  We will take a couple of these somewhere on the way down, so that after we have sat in the car an hour or so we will actually be able to get OUT of the car! Last spring, after our first LeConte hike, the hardest thing we did all day was pour ourselves out of the truck when we got home. So, as I look forward to the weekend, I'm so excited. I can hardly stand the wait until Saturday. But in the meantime, guess I'd better get back to grading those papers.  :)

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