Monday, July 15, 2013

A Wet Day on Mount LeConte

Up early and out the door I arrived at the trail head to Mount Le Conte at 6 AM. Mount Le Conte W4T/SU-003 is a mountain in Sevier County, Tennessee located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At 6,593 ft (2,010 m) it is the third highest peak in the national park.  Mount Le Conte has several trails to the summit and I picked the Alum Cave Trail.  Although the shortest access to the summit Alum Cave Trail is one of the steepest gaining 2763 feet in 5.5 miles. 

As you can see it was dark at the trail head.  I thought I would need a flashlight but with sunrise at 6:30 there was just enough light to see the trail.  The trail starts off easy and follows Alum Cave Creek. 

The trail crosses over the creek several times.  The crossings are facilitated by neat little log bridges.  Yea I said neat.... because they are.  The trail was damp from all the rain we have had lately so I crossed all the bridges and rocks with care, I didn't want to fall and bust my butt. 

The first prominent landmark on the trail is Arch Rock.  Arch Rock is a tunnel running thru the bluff sloping upward.  Cut into the rock floor are some steep rock steps.  The rocks were real slick today from the rain but I made it.  The steps are made easier by the steel cables acting as handrails which are placed at numerous points along the footpath. 

Continuing up the trail at about 2 miles you will hit Inspiration Point.  The views here are awesome.  From here you can see  Little Duck Hawk Ridge and the Eye of the Needle (a round, see-through hole cut into the side of Little Duck Hawk Ridge)  During my research I read that on clear days one can see Peregrine falcons swooping in and around the ridge line here.

 Just a little further up the trail I reached Alum Cave Bluff.  The only dry spot on the trail today I decided to stop and grab a bite to eat.  While not an actual cave the bluff is pretty impressive. 
Alum Cave has some interesting history behind it. The Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company was established at Alum Cave in 1838. Until it was sold in 1854, the company mined epsom salt, which was used by mountain folk to dye homespun clothing a reddish brown.
During the Civil War the Confederate Army mined saltpeter out of the cave, which they used to manufacture gunpowder.

 I left the protection of the bluffs and continued on to 
Gracie's Pulpit.  This is the halfway point on the trail and is named for the matron of the mountain, Gracie McNichol, who famously hiked the trail on her 92nd birthday (and also over 200 times!)  This site clicky has some cool info on her as well as
Paul DinwiddiePaul has climbed Le Conte over 1000 times.

Onward and upward the trail gets a bit more difficult.  On the way up there are several areas that have some pretty steep drops right at the trail edge.  Again steel cable handrails are in place to assist you.

After a long wet hike I finally made it to the lodge.  I didn't have reservations for the lodge, they are booked several months in advance, so I knew I wouldn't be staying long.  But I did poke my head in to check it out.  I will have to return and spend the night at the lodge.  The lodge website has great info if you are interested in spending a night on the mountain.

I took the close up picture of the lodge on the way to High Top.  I took the lower on the way back.  As you can see things got a bit wetter while I was on the summit.  I setup on the trail near High Top and set up my Buddy-pole in a vertical configuration. As you can see below I was real close to the edge but the mist had moved in and the visibility dropped to about 50 yards. 

I started off on 17m and tuned around the band for a bit.  I made contacts with VE3AXW, K5SL, and GD6IA.  GD6IA is located on the Isle of Man in the British Isles.  Distance 3853.2 miles!!!!  That was a cool contact for my KX3 on 10 watts!!!

I then proceded to 20m and made contacts with AD5A, W0MNA, N4KV, VE2JCW, ND0C, NS7P, W7RV, W0ERI, WA0AFD, and my buddy Larry W6UB.

Here is a great picture of Larry on Max Patch!  This man knows how to activate!

While on the summit it started to rain.  I packed up and began my trek down.  The rain persisted most of the way down and really picked up as I got closer to the trail-head.  I threw on my pack cover and poncho and slogged my way back down the mountain.  There were a few times the rain stopped and the sun tried to peak thru.  So I took a few shots.  All in all it was an excellent day despite the rain and lack of beautiful views on the summit. 

I tried APRS today on my Yaesu VX-8GR.  I had thought I had the settings correct and everything was working.  The radio was showing that I was making contacts with the relays, but when I got home I was unable to track my progress.  I guess I will reread the manual and see what I missed.  Hopefully next time I can get it figured out.\
A big thank you to all the chasers today!! I got the chance to speak with operators I have worked in the past which is great.  I look forward to speaking with everyone again!

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