Road Trip 2012: Smokey Mountains and Mt LeConte
One reason we headed to Gatlinburg was because of the Great Smokey Mountains. One day of our trip we reserved for an expedition in the national park. We decided to hike to the summit of Mt LeConte via the Alum Cave Trail which is the shortest route at 5.5 miles one way, but it also happens to be the most extreme with a net climb of over 2,500 feet. Man, did I just sound like I knew what I was talking about or what? Really the trail and destination was chosen the day before at a visitor's center because it was the highest summit that had an open trail. The 2nd tallest peak in the park was closed to hikers when we were there, Mt LeConte I believe is the 3rd tallest. So we set out on our adventure and I do think it was my favorite day of our trip. The trail was crazy with straight drop offs over the rocks of the trail, goat paths around curves with only a rope for a hand rail and tree bridges. At the top of the mountain we were gifted with a less than wonderful "smokey" view of nothing. All that work for no visa at all. We did discover that Mt LeConte is actually home to a lodge with tiny little cabins that fill the area. Upon later research you can stay in these miniature places for the night after hiking up to the area. Reservations are set a year in advance and the only way to make it up to the lodge is to hike up. All supplies to the lodge are carried up by llamas and the llamas have a little barn up there when they aren't working! We talked about trying to come back one day and staying in the cabins. On our way back down the clouds finally lifted and the rain stopped a little so we had a small vista point and could see the mountains around us. I'm extremely proud of myself after dominating that hike. 11 miles in one day is by far the longest hike I have ever done let alone the intensity of the trail.