Monday, April 20, 2015
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Today Tim and I departed our sweet hideaway at Little Bear located in Cherry Log, Georgia. We loved this area. Now we make our last leg of this journey back home today . . . in bad weather!
In short we can't wait to return to LeConte Lodge. The challenge of the mountain, both on our ascent and decent, was a very rewarding experience. Tim and I had an amazing time on the mountain. The rain and fog added to the magical experience. I can't even come close to explaining just how magical and beautiful this majestic landscape is. Eight years ago we took a short hike on the Appalachian Trail nearby and we haven't looked back.
The mountain ranges are spectacular here and hopefully will stay that way. It's sad to see the over-commercialization of the surrounding towns that in my eyes have no true purpose. I can't wait to return home to begin planning the next outing to this most peaceful and tranquil landscape.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
April 18, 2015
The pain continues! Is this what fun is? Today with the clearer weather I was able to hobble outside about the cabin property and take a couple more pictures of the cabin. And instead of sitting at Little Bear Cabin most of the day like we did yesterday not moving we decided to take off earlier. A long walk will do us good to stretch these leg muscles out.
Instead of going north back to Blue Ridge like we did yesterday Tim and I decided to head south to Ellijay. Since a large festival was happening today in Blue Ridge. We just didn't think we could handle the large push'n crowds in Blue Ridge with our crippled selves. Good choice!
Ellijay turned out to be just what we were looking for. A small local town that wasn't too busy for a weekend stroll. Ellijay has many good quality antique and deco stores to visit along with the cute town square. Plus by walking through this all American town we were able to get ourselves physically moving again.
The 1907 Restaurant and Bar was the perfect choice for a late lunch. A few porter beers, smoked fish trout spread, buttermilk chicken, a burger with fried green tomatoes and applewood bacon, fresh cut green beans and greens slaw with carrots hit the spot. Oh yeah!!!
I won't bore you all with all the details but will just leave you with a few more photos from around town. So if anyone is in the area please drive off the beaten path and pay this little home town a visit. You will find out it's worth the effort.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015
Phase three begins! Tim and I are at Little Bear Cabin in Cherry Log, Georgia. We absolutely love this place. It's the perfect location to rest and recoup from the last three days. Nestled up here in the mountains between Blue Ridge and Elijay this place in a secret hideaway that I'm glad I found.
Damaged ourselves we have. The day after our ascent up LeConte Mountain barely a sore muscle to be had. Now we are in pain. If I was crossing a road and a garbage truck came, he would have to make a choice because I would not be able to do anything. I'm guessing we did what equates to 14,000 steps/lunges on a downhill incline yesterday. This is what fun feels like!
I just read a LeConte Lodge blog post from The Hip Guy . . . Eric. He is ok. Turned out to be just a dislocated hip. Sigh of relief.
So glad that we have a few nights here to recover. This morning we slept in. Had breakfast at lunch and then drove into Blue Ridge for an early dinner.
We landed at the Blue Ridge Brewery. Seems to be about a block off Main Street in the historic downtown area and mostly a local hangout. The food was fabulous. Tim had a mushroom ravioli and I had the lightly sautéed trout with almond butter. Scrumptious!!!
Tim and I wanted to return to Little Bear early to enjoy the outside wood fireplace. Then we had a surprise visitor, Leo. At best guess he lives up the mountain a bit. Leo hung outside with us until almost 10 pm. Hopefully he will return tomorrow for a visit. I don't think this was his first time visiting guests up here at Little Bear!
Thursday, April 16, 2015
This morning came with a heavy heart not wanting to depart. The LeConte Lodge made us feel at home in this most beautiful, majestic and so peaceful of a place that was started back in the mid 1920's. We will one day return. On a happy note the morning began with a mostly clear sky!
Breakfast came just a couple minutes late. The few of us who were outside saw The Hip Guy being carried up to the trail on a backboard. Once cleared up on the trail the diner bell rang. As we were seated we heard the Air Medivac helicopter over us. It landed on Myrtle Point, a sigh of relief passed over all of us who knew what was happening.
Breakfast was set out the same as the day prior. So we knew what to expect and informed the newbies at our table not to over do it on the pancakes. They so didn't listen. Oh well . . . at least we won't be doing the hike down on a extra full belly.
Our hike down Bullhead Trail began with some sun and a partly clear sky! Tim and I could see Gatlinburg below and Pigeon Forge off in the distance.
For the most part our hike down was uneventful. We took our time and absorbed all that Mother Nature could give us. Including more rain. Just after the halfway point it began to rain and continued for about an hour.
Near the Bullhead vista two massive work horses met us. The best we could tell is that the riders were doing trail maintenance as they made their ascent. They carried some sort of satellite radios, tools and massive chain saws. Tim and I had a short conversation with them as they passed. I was in awe of the size of the horses and a bit thrown off not expecting to see them.
Not long after passing the horses we came upon a sharp and very steep switch back at which point a massive tree had recently fallen. With the fresh saw dust it appeared that our horse trail maintenance guys had just cut a path through this tree so that us hikers could safely pass. Slip Slidin' Away as Paul Simon says. Because that's exactly what I did trying to maneuver this newly laid obstacle. All I remember is sliding face first, down hill in the mud on my knees and me throwing my left hand up in front of my face just prior to sliding into the end of the newly cut tree trunk.
Next Tim had to maneuver over me and the obstacle to get ahead of me. I was unable to get up being face down and my feet higher than my head. In a way I really wish he had taken a picture. To get me up he had to grab the upper straps on my backpack to lift me to my feet. So now I am laughing (Tim too) and grateful I was not hurt. That little fall could have been really bad had I not stopped myself.
The trail head parking lot was a very welcome oasis. My SUV was still safely parked just where we left it and after a quick change of clothes, because there was no way that now muddy Alice was getting into my SUV, we were out of there.
Tim and I then drove off heading south on 441 from Gatlinburg. The road took us through constant rain and fog. The magnificent views continued even in these conditions as we finished our drive over the Great Smoky Mountain Range. It really reinforces why it's called the Great Smoky Mountains. After a three hour drive we've now landed in the mountains of north Georgia with just the basic necessities for the evening. Phase Three begins . . .
TRAIL LEADING TO SUMMIT
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
LeConte Lodge sits up at about 6,400 feet and is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. Morning comes early here at the lodge. At about 7:45 am one of the staff members goes around to each cabin and knocks with a friendly reminder for the 8:00 am breakfast in the dining hall. At 8:00 am the bell rings calling everyone down for a scrumptious breakfast. And surprisingly we felt really good, considering our hike up yesterday.
Tim and I were seated with the same folks as we had for dinner the night previous. Already at the table was a very large platter stacked high with pancakes. Everyone dug in. Then right when we were about done with the pancakes here came large platters of scrambled eggs and ham and a basket of biscuits. Oh gzzzz . . . Wish I had known. Kinda full now. Yum!
After breakfast was polished off and since it was still raining Tim and I spent the morning in the office at the lodge. The office check-in cabin also has a large lobby area with a few tables, games, books, chairs and numerous rocking chairs surrounding a large heater in the center. It's a great place to hang out, socialize and read. We spent our time reading and learning local history of LeConte Lodge and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
After we ate our lunch and since it was now a light rain Tim and I decided to go on another hike. I didn't come this far and not make it to the summit. The lodge is not at the very top, to reach the summit you need to hike almost another half mile up. High Tops is considered the true summit. You know you've reached it when you arrive at the very large cairn. The largest we have ever seen. At 6,593 feet this summit on Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies. It can be considered the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States if measured from its immediate base in Gatlinburg to its highest point.
While out on this hike we took a gander at the hiking shelter located up here, wandered a little bit past the summit and on our return to the lodge we took a side trip out to Cliff Tops. This is the best place to view the sunsets . . . not today. The best place for a sunrise is Myrtle Point which is located a little ways past the summit.
The medic arrived this morning around 1 am. He was able to administer morphine and monitor the gentleman with the blown hip replacement. The weather still has not cleared for a fly out and does not look good for the remainder of the day.
A dinner of beef tips and mashed potatoes was delicious. Tim and I were seated with a different group of people this evening. So much fun listening to everyone. We had a professor of physics and astronomy, several physiologists, a teacher and an attorney and banker from New Zealand. Again great and interesting conversations. Of course we all talked about the Hillbillies who wandered through camp early this morning. Loved hearing the New Zealander attorney mimicking them. LOL!
After finishing late in the dinner hall due to the great dinner company Tim and I returned to Cabin 4 for the last time. We needed to get our backpacks ready for the journey down tomorrow.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Our plan is to hike up to LeConte Lodge today by way of Rainbow Falls Trail. On our decent we will take a different route - by taking Bullhead Trail down arriving back in the same parking lot that we departed from.
The hike up was incredible. But I must say one of our most strenuous hikes ever. Not that the trail was crazy steep but we have never carried heavily loaded back packs on a hike before. We took our time, stopped to take many pictures, breaks, had our frozen PBJ Sandwiches for lunch and Big Al's Famous 'Trailer' Mix for a snack.
Rainbow is 6.6 miles one way up to LeConte lodge. The elevation gain is 3,993 feet and the average elevation gain per mile is 579 feet. The highest elevation on LeConte Mountain is 6,593 feet with this hike being rated as strenuous.
For the most part we were socked in clouds on our ascent up. It drizzled most of the day with one brief shower. The weather was cool but with our exertion of energy, we wish it had been colder and see no way in wanting to do this hike in the summer. Some may think the conditions we were in would be horrible but for us it was Mother Nature at her best.
The scenery of the trail was spectacular with the light mist in the fog. At a few points we were able to see peaks through the clouds to the valley below. We crossed numerous LeConte Creek foot bridges, bolder-strewn pathways and of course the waterfall.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by the friendly staff, given a short tour of the property and a bucket. That's all we get . . . a bucket. Tim and I stayed in cute little cabin number 4. The contents included a double bunk bed, a chair, a lantern, a mirror and a propane heater. On property is one cold water spigot and one hot water tap and you use your bucket to bring water to your cabin. No Bell Hop here! No electricity. No running water in the cabins.
The dinner bell rings at 6PM. The staff pre-seats all guests in the dinning hall and our food is served family style. After the hike up the hearty lantern lite dinner consisting of hot soup, chicken dumplings, corn, carrots, corn bread and hot cooked apples was very welcoming. It was a meal of good conversations and getting to know our six other fellow hikers at our table. The lodge accommodates fifty people per night.
As dinner ended one gentleman stood up and blew his hip replacement out. Come to find out he has had double hip replacements and made the tough journey up. Since it is now dark and we are fogged in he will need to wait for the weather to clear in order to be lifted out by helicopter. He is in good hands, medics are on the way up by foot and his wife is by his side. Better for this to happen here at the lodge than on a trail somewhere on the way up.
Since we were still in the clouds at sunset there was about a thirty second moment just after sunset that I was able to catch just a spot of color in the sky. Our cabin was nice and cozy after dark and we were so ready for a good nights rest.