Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Mt. LeConte Hike
Alum Cave….5 Miles
Day Four:Maddron Bald…..4.5
After getting off shift I headed home to pick up Lora. We headed to my folks house in Maryville and had a wonderful lunch at the ponderosa. After lunch we headed out to drop off our car at the Old Settlers trailhead in Greenbrier. After that we headed to the Newfound Gap Road to start our hike at the Alum Cave trailhead. We didn’t get on the trail until 4pm.
The Alum Cave trail is a beautiful trail with many wonderful sights, not to mention all the wild flowers this time of year. You hike along the Alum branch of the Little Pigeon River.
The first land formation that you come across is the Arch Rock which there are stairs going through. After that you get to inspiration point where there is a beautiful overlook of the mountains all around you. There was lots of Sand Myrtle growing in this area. As we were enjoying the view, Chong and his girlfriend came hiking up the trail. The guy looked like Chong of Cheech and Chong. He had the long hair and the white wide bandana thing going. They were wearing flip-flops carrying a bottle of water and their car keys. They hiked right behind us up to Alum Cave Bluffs where they dumped the water out and headed back down the trail. While we were standing at the bluffs a Falcon flew up to a nest over the bluffs.
After enjoying the view at the Bluffs we hiked on up to Mount LeConte lodge and on to the shelter where there were six others already gathered. It was 7:20pm so we claimed our bunks ,ate a snack, and headed to the Cliff tops to watch the sunset. There were a lot of people from the lodge there and more were gathering. After a while it got so noisy that we hiked back to another lookout to get some peace. The skies were overcast and the sunset into the clouds instead of over the mountains.
We hiked back to the shelter and started dinner. The others had already eaten and were settling into their bunks for the night. After dinner we were ready for bed. I woke up in the night for a bathroom break and the stars were shining so bright that I didn’t need a light. It looked like they were on the tree tops and you could see billions of them. It was so cool.
We got up the next morning and got everyone else in the shelter going. You can’t really sneak out of a shelter. We ate our breakfast and hiked to the lodge to fill up our water bladders. First thing in the morning everyone that stayed at the lodge was hiking to Myrtle Point to watch the sunrise.
We packed up and head out on the Boulevard Trail. We took the side trail to Myrtle Point because it was there. You get some wonderful views from the point. The Boulevard and AT are fun trails to hike in this area because you can look back and see where you have hiked. It’s like a large bowl that you hike around and has the most rugged sections in the Smokey Mountains. We stopped on the side of the trail for a snack on the ridge and took in the sights.
After lunch we encountered the bird. The bird came down from the high side of the trail and walked in front of us. I brought it to Lora’s attention and we watched it walk until it left the trail. We went through the list of birds in the mountains and all we could come up with is “Chicken”. It looked like a chicken, it walked like a chicken, and it didn’t match any bird that we knew were in the Smokies. Not very impressive to tell people about, but that is what we saw.
The next side trail that we added on was to the Jump Off. This is a tough trail, but worth the hike for the views. The Jump Off is a rock that drops straight off the mountain. You can see the Appalachian Trail, Charlies Bunion, Sawteeth and Mt. Guyot from here.
We hiked on to the Appalachian Trail and made a stop at Icewater Shelter. Hiking along Mt. Kephart you get some good views of Charlies Bunion before you get to it. Once there we did the photo shoots and took turns taking pictures of others that were there. We climbed on the Bunion and ate lunch with the spectacular view. While we were eating a large rock fell from the knob above the Bunion and just missed a young couple that was eating lunch below. I almost had to go to work.
Parts of the trail over Sawteeth according to the bible are only ten yards wide. The measurement that Lora and I got was about ten foot wide. We also saw a grass hopper that was about five inches long. From here we hiked on to the shelter at Pecks Corner. This was our stopping place for the night and we were greeted by our four new friends that were already there. Two of these guys were from England and two from Indiana. They had a fire going in the fire place for some unknown reason. It was 80 degrees.
Once at the shelter, we headed down to the spring for a bath and then some drinking water. We visited while we made and ate dinner. The English guys had hiked for 8 hours without eating. Why? They arrived famished and worn out. Surprise! Lora was asking them if they saw all the wild flowers. What flowers? She told them about the Spring Beauties, the Bead Lilies, the Trilliums both white and painted, and the Violets. She told them about our hike from LeConte and they said that it took them two days to hike that.
At dark everyone settled in for the night. The stars were shinning that night and the owls were talking. The only noise we heard that night were when I kicked the shoes off the top bunk and they hit the bottom bunk.
The next morning we got everyone up and ate breakfast. We were the first to head out. We stopped for a snack before climbing Mt. Sequoyah. The two English men caught up to us and stopped to eat as we got up and left. They caught up to us at Tricorner Knob shelter where we stopped for lunch. There was a bear warning sign up there. We talked about the privy there that faced the shelter like being on a stage. We filled our water bladders and continued on.
After climbing Mt. Guyot we had completed our top three highest mountains out of the four highest in the Smokies. Clingmans Dome was not on this hike. The second highest is Mt. Guyot followed by Mt. LeConte, and Mt. Chapman.
When we got to the Deer Gap Creek Helipad we met the trail runner, Scott. He asked about our hike and told us about his job, which included hiking back and fourth along the AT helping people out and reporting trail conditions. He felt like he was a glorified trash collector. He told us that a large male black bear had taken a hikers backpack at Tricorner Knob a month ago and that is why it is still posted. He also told us the correct pronunciation of Guyot that neither Lora nor I can remember.
From there, we hiked on to Snake Den Ridge trail. We took a break at the trailhead and the guys caught up with us again. We talked for a little while and then headed out. As we hiked down Maddron Bald trail, we had a little blue bird jump up next to us. As we looked down where it had flown up from we found a nest with four little eggs in it. This happened another time as well. As we neared campsite #29 we came across Lady Slippers, Foam Flower, and Toothwart.
We were the only people at campsite #29. That didn’t last long. As we set up our tent a couple of guys hiked in and picked the far campsite. Shortly thereafter, a group of four girls and a guy came hiking in. We had the creek there to clean up and fetch some water. After dinner it started to rain lightly. We got in the tent and it quit shortly after. We got out and did the bathroom break thing. It was dark by then and we called it a night. Then the rain came. It poured down so hard that it was splashing back up high enough to mist in the tent under the rain fly. It didn’t last very long and later that night the stars were shining.
The next morning one of the girls, Mandy, came over and wanted a picture of us. They were beginning hikers and she was pregnant. They were from Cincinnati and the guy was the only experienced hiker. She wanted the picture for her scrap book.
We ate breakfast, packed up, and headed up the trail. We saw Rhododendron, Mountain Loral, and Magnolia blooming.
When we got to the Old Settlers Trail, a couple of guys told us that they had seen a bear when they came in that morning. This was the last people we saw on our hike. The Old Settlers Trail has a lot of history on it as we came across many rock walls and chimneys. We took a lunch break by the creek where we came across the first rock wall. The humidity was extremely high and we really appreciated it every time the wind blew.
After lunch we had a Baird Owl fly through the woods and landed on a branch in a tree next to the trail. We walked up slowly with the camera in hand to catch it on film. It was expecting us to be walking a little faster as it crapped on the trail in front of us, then flew off before we got the picture. We also got to see a humming bird, a small dark blue bird with a yellow spot on it, and a salamander.
According to the trail description, after you walked through a rock wall and saw signs of a settlement on the other side of the river, there was suppose to be a side trail to a barn that was still standing. We crossed over the river and searched the area over. Then we backtracked on the trail and read the description about four different times. Finally we just hiked on. Down the trial was a big trail sign that said “BARN” and had an arrow pointing down the trail. OK, we found it. It was a cool old barn that they had kept in good shape.
After that we started coming across a lot of bear sign. There was scat, turned over rocks, trees tore to pieces, and tracks at the creek crossings. The trail is overgrown in some areas and we started to get some light rain. We covered our packs, but the humidity was too much to put the ponchos on. Even though we heard a lot of thunder, it never did rain hard.
We finally crossed the creek into campsite #33. One site actually has an old rock chimney in the campsite. There are three sites there, but only one had bear bag holders. With all the sign we saw that day, we wanted to use them for sure. We listened to the woodpeckers and laughing bird until it got late enough to watch the fireflies. We got a good nights sleep that night with peace in the woods and no other campers.
The next morning we got up and headed down the trail. There were a lot more rock walls and chimneys to see that day. At one point Lora started talking in a foreign tong and backed up four feet into me. I grabbed the hiking stick and was ready for what ever was coming down the trail. It turned out to be a copperhead snake laying in the trail. It was not interested in us or anything else. After trying to get it to move, we decided that we would just hike around it.
Another fifty yards and Lora started with the “bla….bla…..bla….” I looked around her and saw a five foot black snake on the trail. I helped her out with pronunciation of “Black Snake”.
So now that Lora was studying the trail that we were hiking, she didn’t see anything else on the trail including the extremely large black bear that jumped over the rock wall in front of us and ran across the trail down to the creek. I got her attention and tried to get the camera ready. The bear started up the mountain on the other side of the creek. He stopped and looked back at us then head up the mountain.
We stopped back by the Ponderosa and had dinner with Mom and Dad and some family friends from Ohio that had stopped by.
Another great hike!