June 22, 2011

Hiking Mt. LeConte: Part I, the Ascent

This weekend I achieved a goal that I set about six weeks ago.  I worked hard to make sure that I was in the best physical shape.  I saw it as this major testament to all of the progress I had made in the past six months to my weight, my health, and my overall sense of well-being. 

This weekend I hiked Mt. LeConte.

On Friday my parents, my sister, my dog, and myself drove up to Gatlinburg.  We spent the evening at Cades Cove, a family favorite.  We drive around the nine mile loop and always look for deer, bear, and anything else we can see.  This trip we saw two bears!  Or maybe the same bear twice?

On Saturday morning I woke up incredibly early in order to get a shower and to triple check my pack.  By 710 my parents and myself were on our way to breakfast of eggs and pancakes.  I had to be at the Sugarlands Visitor Center by 9. 

We arrived at 815.  That's a very typical Worley family move, by the way. 

After meandering, meeting other people in the group, and an orientation with the guides we were off to the trailhead by 10.  The group was made up of a variety of people, two doctors, some people from Florida like me, two from California, and many from around Tennessee.  There was a good chemistry among the group.  While climbing up and down the mountain I never felt any tension or stress from other people towards each other.  People were almost completely supportive and encouraging, always patient, and more often then not kind and generous.  One couple even lent me a trekking pole (an aluminum, adjustable hiking stick meant to give a person a better sense of balance) for the entire trip.  One couple was even on their honeymoon!

Also, a note about our guides: a father, Erik, and his daughter, Tara, led us up the mountain.  The husband and wife run a hiking guide service called A Walk in the Woods.  Their website describes the husband and wife experiencing an overall dissatisfaction with the rat race of corporate America so they found a way to make what they loved, hiking and the Smoky Mountains, into a career.  Throughout the trip I found both Erik and Tara to be approachable, kind, positive, and infectiously upbeat. 

We hiked up Alum's Cave Bluff Trail; one of about five ways up to Mt. LeConte. 

The morning started off great.  We made periodic stops to learn about different animals, the water, the trees, and the overall ecosystem of the Smokies.

This picture was taken at one of our first stops.  Bridges like this were fairly common when crossing the streams that run down the mountain.  It might be hard to see but there is a rail on the right side of the log.  Once I crossed the bridge I went left to go through a cavern carved into the rock with a staircase.

A little after noon we stopped for a lunch break.  By 1215 we heard thunder, by 1220 there was lightning and by 1230 it was pouring rain.

And it continued to pour the better part of the next five hours.

Because of the rain we didn't take many stops for the rest of the hike up the mountain and I didn't take many pictures.

Despite the rain the trip up the mountain was still amazing with breathtaking vistas, beautiful flora, and the whole time I kept thinking "I am on the side of a mountain!!  I am climbing a mountain!"

While I definately felt my heart pumping on the climb up the mountain, I never felt very strained.  Because of my exercise and weight loss the entire trip was very accessible to me.  Throughout the trip I felt strong, never wondering for a moment whether or not I could do this.  The whole time I knew the summit of the mountain was entirely within my reach.

We arrived at the Lodge a little before 5, completley soaked but in overall good spirits.

Look for Part II: the Lodge tomorrow!

1 comment:

chereemoore said...

I'm so glad you had a good experience!!! Climbing mountains is one of the most rewarding things you can do.