Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Spring Break

Actually, I'm back in school now; spring break was last week, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it...

I stayed home for the first half of the week, but on Thursday one of my friends, Barry Bigham, and I drove up to the Great Smoky Mountains to do some backpacking. We spent Thursday night with some friends who were staying at a Pigeon Forge condo. Not too bad: we got to sleep in real beds, take a shower, and partake of the hot-tub and indoor swimming pool. We don't have such luxuries on most of our backpacking trips, so it was quite enjoyable before heading off into the woods. On Friday morning we awoke early and headed off to the trailhead for the Alum Cave Bluff Trail, which leads to the top of Mount LeConte (website with pictures here). LeConte is a magnificent mountain, my favorite in the Appalachians. It is situated within an area of Anakeesta slate, a dark gray stone that tends to erode into sharp points and jagged bluffs. The ridges and side peaks of LeConte and the immediately surronding mountains are thus much sharper and pronounced than much of the rest of the range in the park.

Of course, trails in the mountains tend to be steep at times, and our trail bore us up to the mountain's 6500 foot summit. Now, in Mississippi a hill is never so high that its crest cannot be reached after ten or twelve minutes. You get to the top and it ends. We had not been backpacking in the mountains for several months- since the previous summer- so we endured a period of adjustment, in which our lungs and legs reproved us sharply. I had been up LeConte only a few months before, but as a day hiker, not with a heavy pack. However, we pretty quickly got used to it, and trudged our way up. The weather was beautiful, as fine as one could ask for. It was a bit warm on sunny west and south facing slopes, but on the sheltered slopes and under cliff faces there was still some ice and snow lingering. Here and there on the upper crags we had to make use of the cables on the side, propelling ourselves along the ice. On the summit there were some nasty patches of frozen snow under the fir trees, but otherwise most of the trail was quite snow free, and the temperature was mild.

We made it to the top between twelve and one, and trundled into the shelter. After resting for a bit and hoisting our packs on the provided cable system (to keep it safe from bears) we walked up over the crest and to a magnificent overlook on the east end of the mountain, where we stayed for some time. Incredible views, almost 360 degrees. We then hiked to the western end, where Barry clambered on the rocks, much to my consternation (only a couple hundred feet to drop- instant death and all- nothing to be worried about). A little later we came back to camp and gathered fire wood, and met some local folks who would be sharing the shelter with us. We loitered about camp until sunset, at which time we all headed the quarter mile or so back to the western end to watch the sun go down. Beautiful, beautiful show!

Later in the evening Barry and I cooked our dinner (noodles and crackers), and not long after went to bed. The shelter wasn't to terrible of a place to sleep; the bunks were hard of course, but once I got to sleep they slept well enough (had a nasty ache in my back for a minute after waking though). In the morning Barry and I woke, not quite in time for the sunrise, but early enough to still get an incredible view of the sun coming up above the mountains. It had grown cloudy during the night, and the wind was ferocious, but the elements combined for just the right conditions, and gave a spectacular view. We had to drag ourselves back.

Almost immediately after we decided to head back down, as the sky was threatening bad weather. It actually began to rain on us a little ways down the mountain, persuading us to stop and put on our rain gear. Of course, it almost immediately stopped raining, and after a few hours the sky was almost clear and the sun shining... Back at the trailhead, we drove into Gatlinburg and, after navigating the insane traffic, ate at a pancake house. Having refilled our stomachs, we drove over to the Tremont section of the park and hiked to an excellent four-step waterfall, and admired a few early spring bloomers along the trail.

We spent a few hours there, then opted to head back home. We had originally intended to spend the night and come back on Sunday, but instead decided to come back that afternoon. A good decision, as it stormed that night, and we were planning on sleeping in tents: not the most comfortable or enjoyable venture. The trip back was uneventful, and we arrived safely home at ten thirty.

While hiking down, we met a fellow who was writing an article for the above website. He took our picture and told us he planned to incorporate it on the website. I'll be sure to post a link once it is available.


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