Hike 1280 9/29/03 with my son Bob. I had tentatively planned several times to do the September hike. My first date was for September 1st to celebrate my 78th birthday but the weather did not cooperate. I then planned to hike on September 15th to honor the late Paul Dinwiddie’s 88th birthday but thunderstorms were also on tap for that date. Next came a plan to hike on the 23rd to celebrate Betty Jane Barnett’s 80th birthday but a doctor’s appointment interfered. My son Bob suggested that he could hike with me on Monday, September 29th and I was glad to have his company and his help sharing the long drive. That did knock me out of hiking with Tom Pinner, a fireman from Northern Illinois, on Saturday the 27th. Sorry Tom, perhaps next time.
The drive up was nice and relatively uneventful. We left Stuart, FL at about 6:00 a.m. Sunday the 28th and arrived at the Best Western Motel in Cherokee at about 6:30 p.m. We would have arrived a bit sooner but Bob had to stop and listen to the finish of the NASCAR race before dropping down into the Cherokee bowl and out or radio range in the mountains.
After a good night’s rest we hit Hardee's for breakfast and bought a sandwich for our lunch at the lodge. For two Floridians, the 38-degree temperature in Cherokee was a bit nippy but we dressed in shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts for the hike. It was 34 F degrees at the trailhead when we started hiking at 7:20 a.m. There was enough daylight to see the trail safely. I took a short rest at Arch Rock before climbing those 47 steps through the rock arch. I was able to get a picture of Bob emerging from the Arch. Before reaching Inspiration Point, we met a man from Central Mississippi returning from his hike to the bluff. We invited him to hike to the lodge with us but he said that his wife was ill and awaiting his return.
We took a short break at Inspiration Point. Bob was trying to get a signal to make a cellular telephone call, but no luck until he was nearly to the lodge. I paused to take a picture of the Eye Of The Needle. I have literally taken hundreds of photos of this landmark but all of the pictures are different. We took another short break at the bluff.
Big Duck Hawk Ridge was clearly visible this morning along with Sugarland Mountain in the background. It was too windy and cold to take a break at Gracie’s Pulpit but I did stop long enough to photograph the clouds covering the four peaks of LeConte. We paused at the three-mile point for a snack break. Shortly after we resumed hiking, we started meeting overnight guests from the lodge. We first met a 14-year-old boy from Charlotte, NC. He was followed by his 17-year-old brother. The 22 others in the party from Charlotte were strung out along the trail back to Shirley’s Rock. One guy was an Orthopedic Surgeon. He thought that he recognized me but he was not sure because of my straight legs. He said "You have had two total knee replacements!" A group of 17 folks from Knoxville, TN was intermingled in with the folks from Charlotte. Dave Scanlon from Knoxville, TN overtook us before we reached the double steps.
We met Dave and Peggy Jones at the top of the double steps. They are from Decatur, AL. I asked Peggy to give my sister, Mary, a call and tell her that she had met Bob and me on the mountain. I have been trying to get sister Mary to hike the mountain with me but so far I have had no luck. Perhaps she will come back up with Peggy Jones and five of her lady friends for a three-night stay at the lodge during the last week of October. As we continued our climb, I was grateful to the Trail Maintenance Crew for all of the good work that they had done. The old dangerous rocks, at Bust @ss Rocks have been smoothed out and is now an easy passage.
Clingmans Dome was beautiful but showed some residual rime clinging to the trees near the peak. Clouds were moving in and out but all of the views were interesting. I snapped a picture of Bob at West Point View and he took a photo of Paul’s Face. I took a shot of Bob standing at Betty Jane Barnett’s Stairways To Heaven. The views of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville were great but I never found the perfect spot to take a picture of any of them. The view of Knoxville was not the best but it was visible at the end of Chilhowee Ridge.
The lodge varied from clear to fast-moving clouds. They had an overnight low of 24 degrees F last night and a very heavy frost. The trees were covered with rime and it was falling as we walked beneath them. Some frost remained in shaded areas as we arrived. It was 42 degrees in the sun on the porch of the lodge as we ate our sandwiches. Some rime remained on the trees but most of it had succumbed to the bright sunshine. Bob bought LeConte Lodge caps for his sons Austin (5) and Charlie (3). Austin was broken hearted that he could not make this hike so Bob promised him a souvenir. He wears his LeConte Lodge T-shirts with pride. Austin has made three round trips to the lodge and intends to break my hiking mark.
The weather for the trip down was nice. We met couples from Bedford, IN and Illinois before reaching the site of the Old Horse Gate. Bob took a couple of pictures of me at Margaret’s place. This is Margaret Stevenson’s favorite view spot on LeConte. It is also my favorite. I had Bob pose under some Witch Hobble to capture the color change of the foliage. I was surprised that all of the flowers at Grassy Slide had been killed by the cold weather. We saw lots of icicles underneath Cliff Top. We met couples from Tallahassee, Cape Coral and Jacksonville, FL before reaching the double steps.
At the top of the double steps we met Erik and Vesna Plakenis of A Walk In The Woods. They were escorting 53 members of the Bergsteigerchor (Choir) from Dresden, Germany. They gave me a brochure of their organization and I copied a picture from it. They were not dressed like that during this hike but they did perform a beautiful song for Bob and me. I was overjoyed at the beautiful music from these fine voices. The song was about "If you have friends in the mountains you are never alone." Their web site is www.bergsteigerchor.de I hope that you can read German! We hated to leave these fine folks but we had to continue downward.
Bellow the double steps, we met two men from Cheshire, England and a young couple from Ottawa, TN. The trail had lots of hikers but I neither counted them nor greeted all of them. Below the bluff, we met two ladies from Australia and a man and his wife from Georgia. Bob paused to take a picture of the Eye of the Needle. In the meantime, I took a picture of Bob taking the picture. Bob also photographed a lady from Knoxville, TN sunning herself at Inspiration Point. We met a father and son heading for the LeConte Shelter and a group from Townsend, TN. Bob also photographed two ladies from Nashville. He took a picture of me crossing the first footlog and descending through Arch Rock. We met Henry Neel before reaching the trailhead. I gave him the copy of the USA Today that I had carried to the top for the crew but I didn’t see any of them so I brought it back down. Glad that Henry got it. Bobs took a picture of the cool, clear water flowing in Alum Creek.
It was a great hike. We did it in exactly eight hours. The meeting of the Choir from Dresden, Germany and being serenaded by them was a special treat. I appreciated Bob’s company and missed his son Austin's. We drove to the Best Western Motel near Columbia, SC and spent the night before returning home the following day.
I hope to hike again during the last week of October.
[Home] [Trail History] [Trail Map] [Selected Log Excerpts] [Photos] [People] [Order the Book] [Links] [E-Mail Ed Wright]