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I'm from the foothills of the North Georgia mountains. I was a woodworker for about 12 years. Well, up until I had the rug pulled out from under my feet, and I was laid off. I got back into photography in 2008 and decided to give that a try professionally, but haven't made any money so far because rednecks, white trash, and hicks are cheap. So, I'm working in a local grocery store where some days I hear and see the craziest stuff. I tend to complain a lot about things, but I'm too poor to afford a good therapist. So, I decided to make a blog and complain online to all of you instead. But I digress. I really just wanted to do the blog to share ideas and stories with the interwebz. =D
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Armchair Wilderness Warriors...

I read a blog every day posted by the caretakers at the lodge on top of Mt LeConte in the Smokies. During the warmer months, the lodge is open to the public. They take reservations for people that wish to hike up and spend the night there. I think a shared bunkhouse that will sleep four will set you back about $100 or so, but good luck getting a spot. From what I understand, it's in such demand, that a lottery is how they decide who gets to stay.

I've never spent the night in the lodge, but I have stayed over at the backpackers shelter several times. It's about two tenths of a mile to the south towards Myrtle Point. You still have to get a reservation and backcountry permit to stay at the backpackers shelter though it's through the National Park Service and not through the company that operates the lodge. Good luck there too. I've called up to 3 weeks out and still couldn't get a reservation. (The max you can call ahead is 30 days.)

At any rate, there's six ways you can get to the top of LeConte. None of them are true leisurely strolls. sure, there's people that could make it up top in a couple of hours, but most of us aren't that athletic. I've hiked up or down all six but one - The Bull Head. Oddly enough the Bull Head is one of the lesser traveled trails. (I say odd because I've wanted to go up Rainbow Falls and down the Bull Head trail twice now, but haven't done it yet. The most widely used is Alum Cave. Most likely because it's the shortest, and could be considered the most scenic.

Alum Cave is a pretty steep grade almost the entire length except in a couple of spots. If you're afraid of cliffs and of heights, it's not the trail for you. In a couple of places the trail is literally carved into the rock on the side or top of a cliff or outcropping. Steel cables are bolted into the rock to help hikers along some of the rougher parts. I even had a couple of friends tell me that they've used the cables as tie-ins for climbing harnesses in the winter.

So I read the blog from the crew at the lodge. Right now, the winter caretaker is on the mountain. There's been a lot of snow there since this recent arctic blast has hit the deep south. If you think 30 degrees for a high is cold, the high at LeConte was 7 yesterday. 7 degrees is as warm as it got all day. Can you realistically imagine that? I've been out in -5 before. That was the coldest I've ever been out in. It wasn't bad since I had the proper gear, but I wouldn't say that it was comfortable.

The care taker hiked down Alum Cave yesterday, and grabbed some absolutely breathtaking photographs along they way. (These last there here of the snow are his.) I must admit I'm a little jealous, but I'm not posting on their blog saying that I'd love to have his job as many people are.

I find this to be absolutely hilarious. Here's folks sitting in there offices and living rooms, all snug and warm, looking at these photos and saying that they wish they could have his job. What retards! First, there's no power at the lodge. Yeah, they have a few solar panels to power a radio and I guess charge a few things, and maybe to heat up some water. (I'm sure he's likely got a laptop up there. They may even have satellite internet, I don't know.) But it's not like he's staying in a house or a hotel with central heat and hot water and such. These people have no idea what living in sub zero temperatures is like day in and day out. Yeah, so it'd be nice to go up for a weekend trip. I'd do it. Sure. I'd come back and talk about how cool it was. I'd probably take lots of nice photos too. But at no point am I willing to give up even my poorly heated house. I'm cold enough here, and it's only in the 20's and 30's!

It's these same idiots that would climb the mountain, and then shiver all night in their bags with everything they had on, nearly dying like the one guy I mentioned in a previous post. Hell, these people are the same crowd that likely complain about the chill of 50 degree temps in the summer in the high country.

So, my point is don't be fooled by a pretty picture. Sure, it might be a cool place to visit - and that's if you're prepared for it. But if you're some armchair wilderness  warrior, you need to get a grip and realize that the backcountry is not your neighborhood park on a chilly day, and that you dang sure aren't ready to live and work there everyday.



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