Last month’s visit to Mt LeConte was my first hike on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains. It had also been a long time since previously experiencing Southern Appalachia at 5,000 ft. above sea level. This post includes notable scenery from the Alum Cave Trail.
In the last mile or so of our hike to Mt LeConte Lodge, we reached an elevation of 6,000 ft. This is about the time we started noticing the Mountain Ash trees, which were full of large clusters of reddish orange berries. Veterans I was hiking with mentioned it was rare to see the Ash berries so profusely displayed. We also began side-stepping ash berry laden bear scat on the trail. The ash berries appeared to be quite the bear treat. I heard later local mountaineers will gather ash berries, sweetened just after the first frost, to make pie filling.
After dinner Friday evening, I hiked up to the Cliff Top area to stakeout a spot to capture the pending sunset. In addition to the polarizer I used for the Alum Cave shots, this was the next opportunity for me to try my new 150mm hard graduated ND filter. I was hoping for a little more cloud drama, but was pleased with how the filter brought the sky portion down 3 stops to closer match the landscape.
Saturday morning I hiked up to Myrtle Point to catch the sun rise. I hit a soft spot on the outward edge of the trail and immediately dropped about 4.5 ft., landing on the ball of my right foot, facing the trail. Luckily, I didn’t break my foot or damage my camera. After breakfast though, it was a long and painful hike back down the mountain; 2,500 ft. over 5.5 miles! The last two miles were relatively flat, but also the most difficult; my foot and knees were about worn-out. Along this stretch, I did stop to rest, and capture a very interesting root structure just above the Styx Branch creek bed.
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