Climbing Mt. LeConte!

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
~ John Muir

photo of alum cvae bluff


C
limb a mountain we did, this past week! Mt. LeConte to be exact, which is a pretty good haul hiking up the Alum Cave Bluff trail to get there. It was a delightfully cool morning as we drove to the trailhead of Alum Cave, and a gorgeous drive there as well! The Bay Rhododendrons were in full splendor, covered with what is being hailed as a hundred-year bloom, causing the woods to be filled with white flowers throughout! In just one small section there was what seemed to be a thousand blooms present! After driving for sometime, we arrived at the trailhead, where we promptly donned our waist packs, grabbed our walking sticks and were off, and were quickly surrounded in the tunnels of rhododendrons. Although, at this elevation, these were not yet blooming, it was a gorgeous beginning to our daylong hike, whilst walking along the stream beside as we headed for the first point of interest,  Arch Rock. Climbing across the newly patched footbridge, we started our climb up about fifty stairs created out of rocks, as we made our way up and through Arch Rock. Walking briskly along, we admired the lush plants and piles of green moss lining the path as we looked forward to arriving at Alum Cave Bluff. Before rounding the last main curve in the path leading to the Bluff, we were greeted with Mountain Laurels still in bloom and loads of Catawba Rhododendrons that were also showing off with their numerous pink flowers.

photo on alum cave bluff trail

Standing by a beautiful Mountain Laurel blooming

photo of eye of the needle

Eye of the Needle can be seen in the background

Before reaching the bluff however, you come to what is called Maggie’s Pulpit, consisting of a beautiful rock ledge that affords one a perfect and glorious view of Eye of the Needle, which is a hole in the rock mountain ledge behind. The Peregrine Falcons sometimes nest here, so it is always a treat to see this natural formation, especially when the Peregrines can be seen soaring above! The Mountain Laurel being covered in pink blossoms added a sense of wonder to this already amazing site! From there we continued our assent through a tunnel created by the old laurels, which had by that point dropped enough pink petals to cover the ground below in areas, creating a fairytale setting indeed! Walking around a few more curves and climbing over different rocky areas we knew we were almost there, as we could see the bluff just ahead through the trees. Once there, we climbed up the bluff, found a nice spot to sit on a rock, and enjoyed a bite to eat. When we arrived, there were about fifty teenagers, obviously a youth group, scattered about the area, sitting quietly reading their Bibles. I was reminded of John Muir, and how he told of the numerous times he would climb a mountain and while sitting on the top, admiring the spectacular scenery, would quote Bible verses from memory. Feeling refreshed after our munchies and some liquid refreshment, we continued our journey upward.

photo of alum cave bluff The view from Alum Cave Bluff

photo of trail to LeConte

On the way to LeConte

The trail really gets interesting from that point, as there are many rock ledges following the curves of the mountain, which you walk along. Most of them have cables attached to the rock face for you to hold on to as you go along. It’s amazing how much better holding onto a little cable can make one feel at certain precarious ledges perched along the trail. However, I must admit that I love these various locations, and love to look over the edge, while holding onto the cable of course! Up . . . up . . . and up some more, we went until we finally had reached the top of Mt. LeConte! Ah, there it was, the grouping of various sized cabins dotted throughout what feels like a very small village. There’s a main dining room, as well as outdoor privies, a little store and a small gathering room. It feels somewhat like going home after having been there a few times before and getting to spend the night one time several years ago, thanks to the invite of one of our dear collector friends.

photo on mt. leconte

Really living on the edge, although holding on while doing so!

photo of trail to mt. leconte

This is the view from the above ledge I’m standing on!

photo of trail to mt. leconte

Not quite sure how close to this edge I want to get

I refilled a water bottle and we climbed another bit before reaching the big rock ledge that makes you feel as if you’re perched on top of the world when standing or sitting on it! Of course that was the place where we wanted to have our lunch, so we sat down, made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed the spectacular view as we ate our lunch. There was a group of several young teenage and college age guys there too, and they proved to be quite entertaining, and very funny, making lunch even more enjoyable. While we sat there, a couple of Slate Colored Juncos kept coming right up to us, bringing the baby along with them, and were quite friendly and so pretty to watch, as they jumped around searching for insects in the bloom laden Sand Myrtles surrounding us. That has to be one of the absolute best “restaurants” in the world to me, sitting there looking out across the mountain ranges that seem to go on forever. At the close of our enjoyable lunch, the clouds started settling on the mountain in areas, and by the time we started our descent, it was almost impossible to tell what time of day it was, whether morning or afternoon. It was almost as if time was standing still, and proved to supply a very interesting sensation.

photo of mt. leconte lodge

Standing at the main entrance to the LeConte lodge areas, with the dining room behind me

photo on mt. leconte

The perfect restaurant view and atmosphere on what feels like the top of the world!

It’s amazing how different the trail looks in areas when going down, and you see many things that you missed on the way up. After going through a section of the trail that almost appears to be an enchanted forest, we kept walking and in an hour or so, found ourselves back at Alum Cave, where we stopped for a drink and some dark chocolate, having it entirely to ourselves mostly, this time. Feeling rejuvenated, we continued our descent, with me having to stop countless times along the way to pet the incredible amounts of lush green moss, and to hug some of the wonderful old huge trees. Back down the ledges we went enjoying the amazing views from this new perspective. Coming around another curve in the trail, we came up upon an area of the rock mountainside, which was covered in moss, where little uncountable drops of water seemed to be seeping from everywhere and gracefully falling to the puddle below. I stood there listening to this peaceful concerto of nature, and decided to call it “Falls of a Thousand Drips”, since that was exactly what it sounded like. Another interesting sight along the way, was where a great big tree had fallen and lifted it’s amazing root structure exposing it to the passerby. Before long we found ourselves climbing the stone stairs leading back down through Arch Rock, and soon found ourselves walking through the tunnels of Rhododendrons lining the path, while listening to the peaceful sounds of the stream flowing alongside. Soon we were back to the van, and headed on our way to a nice Mexican restaurant right of the river in Gatlinburg, where we enjoyed a delicious supper. The drive through the park was serving up visual treats until the very end with the rhododendrons pulling out all of the stops with their numerous blooms! It was another great day, making for lots of wonderful memories! I believe one can never go wrong, spending a day walking in the woods!

photo on alum cave bluff trail

The “Falls of a Thousand Drips”, as I called it

photo on alum cave bluff trail

Wes stands under a major root system!

photo on alum cave bluff trail

One of the longest set of stair carved out of one tree that we’ve seen

photo on alum cave bluff trail

A section of what appears to be an enchanted forest along the trail

Fresh Off the Easel: I finished my miniature painting of the lady at the spinning wheel this past week, as well as a commission I had been working on. Wes finished his miniature of the nearby woods in autumn. After the heat this past week, I must admit that I think we will greatly enjoy the cool crisp air of this coming autumn!

portrait miniature painting

“At the Spinning Wheel” by Rachelle is 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches

miniature landscape painting

“The Autumn Woods” by Wes is 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches

~ Events and Exhibitions of Our Paintings This Week ~

EXQUISITE MINIATURES BY WES AND RACHELLE SIEGRIST at the Nevada State Museum, Carson City, NV (Fifty of our miniature paintings are on display and available for purchase!) Enjoy two photos from this beautiful exhibit below courtesy of the museum . . .

photo in Nevada State Museum

photo in Nevada State Museum

  Blossom II: Art of Flowers at the Greenacres Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH

51st Society of Animal Artists “Art & the Animal” Exhibition at the Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, FL

8th Annual Heartland Art Guild Miniatures Art Show at the Miami County Historical Museum, Paola, KS

To view all our many exhibits: http://www.artofwildlife.com/exhibitschedule.html

“Collect the future’s history today while it is still affordable.”

Until next time ~ Rachelle

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