Monday, December 8, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Mount LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail

I've had a bit of cold lately. However, when I awoke this morning I was feeling a bit better and decided it would be okay to go for a hike today. I headed over to the Smokies so that I could add over 100 miles of new trail miles hiked in the park for 2014. Before today's hike I was just under 100 miles at 99.2 for the year. I drove to the Cherokee Orchard Trailhead where I found my car was the first to be parked in the lot for the day. I hit the trail hiking on the lower reaches of the Trillium Gap Trail
which very closely parallel the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Eventually the trail stops paralleling the road and becomes a wide, well-trodden path that hundreds of hikers use every day in the spring, summer, and fall to reach Grotto Falls. On this particular day, I had the trail all to myself though. I soon found myself approaching Grotto Falls.
approaching Grotto Falls
Grotto from front
The trail actually goes behind the falls and is a pretty little cascade.
Eric near Grotto
I decided not to stop near the cold spray of the falls and continued on my ascent up Mount LeConte. I saw some sign of bear in the form of a huge pile of scat.
bear poop
No bears would be seen on this day, however.

As I ascended higher, limited views opened up through the leafless trees.
I started to see icicles along the trail
icicles on log
and there were even a few areas where water that had run across the trail had frozen.
icy section
Still, there was no need for traction devices. I knew I was near the lodge area when I saw a "No Horses" sign.
no horses
Sure enough I was soon in the lodge complex. LeConte Lodge is mostly abandoned right now. The only person up there is the winter caretaker, the lodge is not open to guests in the winter. The dining hall was boarded up and the date sign did not show today's date.
closed lodge
I stopped to use the one unlocked restroom, took a last look back
vacant lodge
and then began my descent on the Rainbow Falls Trail which I had ascended a few weeks ago.

 It was a  fast descent. I saw one other hiker high up on the mountain. He was wearing a running singlet and running shorts while I was bundled up with my fleece and mittens. He told me he had seen a large bear a mile down the trail, but the bear never did show himself to me. I stopped briefly at Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls
before making the rest of the trip down to the car. Altogether, the hike was about 14.5 miles with 8 miles of new trail to add to make a total of 107.2 for the year.               

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