I hiked for the first time to Leconte Lodge Monday March 24. It was the first day they were open for the 08 season.
I went with my son and his new wife. They are young and fit and do some hiking. I am not so young and not so fit and do NO HIKING, but I was proud of myself for keeping up !
We took the Rainbow Falls trail up. Left at 9:30 and arrived 6.9 miles and 5 ½ hours later. It started snowing as soon as we started up and snowed all day. There was about 4 inches on the ground when we reached the lodge.
The snow made the hike a challenge but the winter wonderland was worth it.
We were welcomed with hot chocolate and coffee when we arrived. The staff was great. The got us into our cabin right away. We were one of the first groups to arrive. I had seen photos of the lodge and cabins, so I knew what to expect. One room cabin, full size bunk beds plus a twin size, no electricity, no running water, kerosene lamp, kerosene heater. The staff warned us to not leave any food in the cabin as they had a problem with mice. But we did not see any.
It was a short walk to the “restroom”. They have flush toilets…..but it was too cold for them to function. We had to use the “outhouse”. It got down to about 14 degrees overnight.
The dinner bell rang promptly at 6pm. You have assigned seating and we sat with a very nice family from OH. Dinner consisted of potato soup, roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn bread, cinnamon apples, peach halves, water, coffee and hot chocolate. After the long hike, it tasted great.
We spent a little time around the large kerosene heater in the office talking with the other hikers and looking at all the interesting photos and articles on the walls about the history of the lodge before turning in.
We were told at dinner that amazing sunsets can be seen from Cliff Tops which is a short hike from the lodge although the snowy weather made for very poor visibility so no one made the hike. They also said that sunrises could be seen at Myrtle Point, a .6 mile hike from the lodge, sunrise was to be at 7:35am. I assumed that the weather would cancel that out also.
I woke up about 2am for a trip to the little boys room. Walking down the snowy path with my flashlight, as I turned the corner I saw the sparkling lights of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The skies had cleared. So I set my alarm on my cell phone for 6am to get up and allow time for the 30 minute hike to Myrtle Point. My bunkmates opted to sleep in…..Their Loss.
It took a lot to crawl out of the warm bed. I started up the hiking path with my flashlight. I must say it was quite eerie hiking up the narrow snow covered trail in the moonlight. I followed some type of animal tracks up the trail, I am guessing it was possibly a bobcat? I really have no idea, but it looked like the tracks a house cat leaves, only a little larger. The trail up reminded me somewhat of the movie “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson. Anyway, I digress. There were some great views as I made my way to the point as the morning light got brighter.
I reached Myrtle Point at about 7:15am. It was windy and cold, but an amazing feeling as I stood all alone overlooking the beautiful mountains. I was the only one out of the 48 guests that made the hike (wimps,LOL). I waited and took in the complete silence. I watched as the sun peaked in the distance over the mountains. It was a beautiful sight. I took some photos with my digital camera, I so wish I had a better camera with me to get quality shots.
On my way back down to the lodge I heard the Breakfast Bell. You can cut across to Cliff Tops without going all the way back to the lodge. Since we did not go to see the sunset there last evening, I went over to see what the view was like. It was also spectacular.
I reached the dining hall in time to still have some breakfast. Scrambled eggs, grits, Canadian bacon, biscuits and apple butter, water, tang, coffee and hot chocolate.
We started the hike down about 9am. The sky was blue, sun shining, and snow still on the trees and ground. Rainbow Falls and Bullhead were the only 2 trails not closed. We were told that Bullhead is much steeper so since there was snow on the ground we opted to go back down the same way we came up on Rainbow.
It took us 3 ½ hours to get back to the trailhead. It was a beautiful day and we passed probably 100 hikers coming up. Most were just headed to Rainbow falls.
All in all it was a great trip and I recommend it and will definitely do it again.