Thursday, September 26, 2013

Soaked to the Bone - Le Conte 2013

On Friday after taking Finn to school I came home and started getting ready for our big trip to Le Conte.  I already knew that it was going to rain so I packed rain gear, extra dry clothes and lots of zip lock bags full of dry socks and under, wear - just in case a change was in order at the top.   After Michael got home we put the boys in the car and dropped them off at Dad's house.  Then we picked up Em and Zac and headed to Laura and Johnny's house to spend the night.  We got to their house about 9:00 p.m.  We sat around and ate chips and cheese dips and chatted until bedtime.  I'm not sure about Laura and Johnny, but I had a great time.

My alarm went off at 3:00 the next morning.  By 3:45 I was drinking coffee and talking to Uncle Johnny about the forecast - it was grim prediction.  At 4:00 Dema (spelling?) and was quickly sent back to Mark's to get his boots. Mom and Greg came a little after 4:00.  It was already raining, but not too much.  We stopped in Harriman to eat breakfast - the rain was still coming down.

We arrived at Sugarlands a little before 8:00 a.m.  The sky was dark, but the rain had stopped - or so we thought - we later learned that had just gotten in front of it and it was coming up behind us.

When we got to Alum Cave parking lot we put our rain gear on and readied ourselves for the group photo.



Then we ran over to see Bruce.  Kara, Nathan and Bruce met us there.  They were going to hike the flat part of the trail with us.

Despite the sprinkles that started the moment our feet hit the trail - we decided to head for the top.  Zac, Em, Me, Michael and Dema made a mad dash up the mountain.  Within minutes we didn't anyone behind us.  We made it Arch Rock (the only dry area the entire day) pretty quickly.  We decided to stop there and check the status of our hiking party.

A bit later we see two wet people heading our direction - Mom and Greg.  We lost Kara, Nathan and Bruce (which was to be expected as Arch Rock really ushers in the climbing part of the trail) - but we had also lost Laura, Johnny and Megan (we was also to be expected as pancakes with Bruce was a no brainer).

Since it was raining we didn't stop for snacks at my favorite part - Heaths Bald - which was informed is know called "Inspiration Pointe."  We powered on up to Alum Cave to get some shield from the rain.






After a quick break we hit the trail hard for Le Conte lodge.  It started to rain hard after leaving Alum Cave.  Em asked me if I wanted to set the pace - I accepted and never looked back.  The warmth of the lodge was calling my name.  By the time I turned the last corner on to flat land I was drenched.  My shoes had water pouring out of them.  We were literally walking in ankle deep puddles for the last quarter of a mile.

When we made it to the top I went directly to the bathroom - stripped down and rung the water out of my clothes.  I wore my running pants which turned out to be good decision.  Then we went to lodge for lunch.  There were at least 12 other people all sitting around the stove trying to warm up.  I grabbed a rocking chair, took my shoes and socks off and enjoyed my lunch.  Mom and Greg came a few minutes later.  The first question mom asked was "does anybody have a comb?"  I would've given my whole baggie of Kashi for a comb at that moment.  Before leaving the top we bought t-shirts and took a quick group picture.

Then it was time to head down.  The temperature must have have fallen while we were eating lunch because it was really cold on the way down.  I never warmed up.  My hands and fingers were numb the entire time - which made holding on to the cable really difficult.  You may ask, why did we need cables . . .


 . . . because that is what the trail looked like.  There were several place where the water cascaded over the trail and right off the mountain.  If I were ever nervous of falling off the side (which I never am) this would have been the time. 

In addition to waterfalls - we had water running down the mountain.  This caused some slips.  I hid the ground pretty hard on one occasion and Greg fell too - luckily his pants caught him or it could have been pretty bad. 

Made it from the lodge to Alum Cave in 40 minutes - even with having to watch every step we took. Our next stop was at Heath's Bald where Zac said he was "inspired" to make it to the parking lot so we kept truckin'.  During the last mile of the hike we got a welcomed surprise.  I looked up to see Johnny, Laura and Megan hiking our direction.  It was so exciting to see them.  They had been to the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg with Kara, Nathan and Bruce.  Megan took a picture so for us. Then they continued up the mountain to find Mom and Greg.  We headed on to the car.


We made it to the parking lot around 3:00.  We changed out of our wet clothes in Laura's car.  At 3:45 we pulled out of the parking lot.

If I am being totally honest, the rain was awful.  But, even with the rain - the trip was great fun.  I will always remember the time we hiked to Le Conte in the rain.  I am glad that we decided to ignore our better judgment and power through.

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