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The Metcalfe’s Hike to the Lodge on June 17, 2008

On June 17, 2008, Abby and Jackson Metcalfe made their 6th and 4th hikes and overnight stays at LeConte Lodge accompanied by their dad, Ron, of course. When we hit the trail at 8:30 AM, it was a very pleasant 58°. There was some cloud over Mt. LeConte as we started, but most of our hike was in bright sunshine and brilliant blue skies, especially for mid-June.

Between Inspiration Point and Alum Cave Bluff, we had a great view of the Eyes of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge, and could hear a Peregrine Falcon. Abby spotted something atop the ridge that looked out of place, and upon closer inspection we were thrilled to see two falcons perched atop the jagged rock, one above the other. They were so big in size, we thought at first that maybe they were just rocks we hadn’t noticed before. But then we saw one of them move, and we noted on our descent that they were no longer there.

The low humidity and breezy conditions made for very clear views, more like you would expect from late autumn rather than late June. Passing Lu’s Pulpit, we began one of the most scenic parts of the hike, with unbelievable views. Despite some recent showers, there was virtually no water running down the upper parts of Trout Branch, and very little water at the Mossy Drips. We reached the Grassy Slide, 1 mile from the lodge, at 11:53 AM. The West Point peak of Mt. LeConte came into view as we neared the parts of the trail which are carved out of rock. At almost exactly 12:30 PM, we arrived at LeConte Lodge, signed the guestbook, bought our shirts, and went to our cabin to relax.

After supper and around 8:00 PM, we began our short 2/10 mile hike up to Cliff Top to watch the sunset. There were already several people there, but by the time the sun set, it seemed that everyone in camp (and some of those from the shelter) was sitting on the rocks of Cliff Top. We found our spot and watched as the sun set, casting different shadows and glows on the valley below. It seemed that every few minutes, you were looking at a whole different place. The sun got lower and lower, and finally disappeared. And almost in unison, everyone gave a slight gasp, and then applauded.

We started the hike back down the next morning around 9:00. We didn’t walk in full sunlight until we reached the turn at Lu’s Pulpit on the Alum Cave Bluff trail. The temperature on the top of the mountain that morning was 35° and had warmed to 47° by the time we started our descent. We had hidden some drinks under a rock in the cool waters of Alum Cave Creek on the ascent the day before, so we found our drinks and enjoyed them in the trail before arriving to the trail head. This was Abby’s 6th hike, Jackson’s 4th hike and my 13th hike to Mt. LeConte.

Ron P. Metcalfe
Mosheim, Tennessee

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