Mt LeConte Hikes
April 2001: The weather had been fine for several days, except for some rain. We didn't expect or plan for any snow. However, that morning the forecast was for some light snow at high elevations during the morning. After breakfast we heard that the road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee was closed due to snow. This limited our hiking options. We prepared a bit better for cold conditions and then drove to the trailhead at Rainbow Falls Trail. The road was closed beyond here, so we knew everyone staying on the mountaintop would be going up this trail.
Heading up the trail, we started to see patches of snow. Snow was falling lightly. As time and trail passed, the snow was heavier and eventually covered the ground. About halfway we stopped for a break with hot tea and hot chocolate. Taking off our gloves, left our hands numb for most of the rest of the hike. Rainbow Falls was deserted. We've never seen it without at least a few folks hanging about. The snow got deeper as we neared the top. At the junction with Bullhead Trail, about 1/2 mile from LeConte Lodge, Pam hiked on ahead of us and arrived well before the rest of us. Visibility was quite limited and it was snowing hard when we all gathered at the lodge. We watched a number of folks struggling with the last few yards of hiking. Everyone was quite tired that evening. I think almost all guests hung around the lodge until bedtime. There was chess tournament for the teens, bridge for others and several other board games going on.
During the night, the wind howled loudly at times. We had a kerosene heater in the cabin. Sleeping on the top bunk was warm - no covers needed but the lower bunk was quite cold and water froze on the floor.
After breakfast, we hiked down the Bullhead Trail. It was a gorgeous morning. The views were spectacular and due to the snow, it was eerily quiet. Hiking downhill in the snow was a nice a hiking experience as I can remember.
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