|Hike Name:||Great Smoky Mountain National Park - Mount LeConte|
|Trip Date:||February 4, 2005|
|Trail Traffic:||Light to Moderate|
|Trip Weather:||Sunny, Partly Sunny, Partly Cloudy|
|Trip Temperature:||High: 51-60, Low: 0-10 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Trip Report:||Thursday (2/03/05) – Mostly cloudy with temps to 50's H, 30's L. Left work at 4pm this evening to stop by the house, get my gear, then head to Porter's for a 5pm rendezvous with Brunn and McKinney. Porter drove his truck to the Smokies tonight and we followed I-985 northbound in heavy traffic up to Gainesville for the traditional pre-hike dinner at El Sombrero. Lee and Hayes joined us within 15 minutes, and DeLisle, Ewing, and Moehlick made it to the restaurant within the hour. After a hearty dinner and numerous drinks, we hit the road around 8pm for Gatlinburg and drove across the Smokies via US 441 at Newfound Gap. McKinney took the wheel after dinner and stopped at a grocery store near Franklin so we could load up on beverages and ice. Thirty minutes earlier, we nearly had a collision with Lee when we stopped abruptly at the state store on the GA/NC line (which was closed as it turned out). By 11:30pm, we were passing through Newfound Gap in the Smokies and had stopped to stash three beers in the 6-8" snow for our hike through here on Saturday. The stars were out in force tonight, and I haven't seen a sky like this one in many years. We also spotted a bobcat and fox on US 441 as we climbed to the gap, so the wildlife viewing is off to a good start.
DeLisle, Ewing, and Moehlick found a room at the Best Western in Gatlinburg (not far from the Happy Hiker), and everyone spent the next two hours getting their gear together for the hike in the morning. I was already packed, but Porter, Brunn and McKinney were active til 2am getting their food sorted and everything loaded into their backpacks.
Friday (2/04/05) – Cloudy in the morning, sunny in the afternoon. Temps to 40’s H, 10’s L. We were out of our room at the Best Western in Gatlinburg by 7:30am this morning, and we headed across the street to a small tourist-oriented breakfast place to power down some eggs, pancakes, etc. After the feast, Lee and Hayes split from the group and drove to the Sugarland Mountain trailhead. They got to hike a bonus mile today to meet park requirements and keep our group size at eight (and not the nine we had at the restaurant.) DeLisle and Porter dropped the rest of us off at the Husky Gap Trailhead then shuttled SUV's to the Sugarlands Visitor's Center. There were about 8-10 wild turkey's in the fields of Sugarlands when we drove through at 9am, and I almost went back with DeLisle and Porter for some photos.
As it turned out, McKinney and I started in the front of the pack and began the long 3500' climb to Mount Collins shelter. It was a 10+ mile hike to the lean-to, but around 4400 feet we broke out of the clouds and into the sunshine (and snow). It had warmed up enough to melt some snow, and most of the trees were covered in thick ice. Around 1pm, I took a break at the Rough Creek trail junction. Ewing, Moehlick, McKinney, Brunn, Lee, and Hayes all caught up with me in the process and also had lunch. The snow got deeper and the hiking got tougher during the last four miles, and we finally reached the shelter around 4:30pm. Apparently, the park service has been remodeling the lean-to's in the park, but they haven't gotten to the Mount Collins shelter yet and it still has the classic design (with a fence in the front). We spent the rest of the evening cooking dinner, mixing up some drinks, and hanging out around the shelter. It was 18 degrees when we jumped in the bags for the night at 10pm.