High and Far Places (like Mount LeConte)

Life is Rich quote by Harold Broome - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Mt LeConte and Lodge

 

I’ve been reading and re-reading the journals of Harvey Broome  (Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies). They were written more than 60 years ago….and he has a profound way of describing the awe of the mountains. He writes over and over about Mount Le Conte but it was just another name to me.  A “someday” hike.

But then…a few days ago we had the opportunity to stay at the Le Conte Lodge thanks to a new friend we met at the Hemlock Inn (Hi Joe!!!).  It takes almost a year to get reservations so this was an amazing opening for our family. We didn’t even hesitate to say yes…even though we knew we’d have to hike a steep ascent to the top of Mt. LeConte to get to our destination. (Hike 5.5 miles uphill? No problem, right?)

LeConte Lodge Facts:
It was built around 1926, before the national park was established.
It’s only accessible by foot (i.e. a long steep hike).
A helicopter brings in the bulk of supplies each spring.
Llamas bring up supplies 3 times a week (linens, perishable food, mail!)
No electricity.

(watch this video to see the adorable llamas in action)

 

First, we had to figure out how to get up to the lodge. There are a few different trails that will take you to the top of Mount LeConte and we researched them all. We picked the steepest and most strenuous, but also the shortest: Alum Cave Trail.  It’s one of the most beautiful and scenic trails by far.  I had purchased a Scavenger Hike Adventures (GSMNP) that has scavenger hunts for many trails in the Smokies…the last trail in the book was the Alum Cave Trail…and it’s labeled “EXTREMELY EXTREME.”

The great part about the book was that it got Boo really into the hike right off….and it was as if the book was being written as we hiked….especially when it said to find the huge rock formation called Arch Rock and look for a salamander: we immediately found a salamander.

Arch Rock at Alum Cave and Mt. LeConte - Great Smoky Mountains

The first 1.5 miles of the hike follows the Alum Cave creek….a beautiful flow of water that twists and turns and churns over and around boulders of every size imaginable. At about 4,500 feet is a clearing (or heath bald) called Inspiration Point. There aren’t many trees at this location which makes the views extra breathtaking. The vegetation is a mix of rhododendron, mountain laurel and sand myrtle (nature is an amazing landscape artist).

Inspiration Point at Mt Le Conte - Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Bluffs is halfway to the top. Many people hike up to this enormous rock overhang (it’s pretty amazing) as their final destination before turning back. It takes about 4 hours roundtrip to just this point:

Alum Cave Bluffs - Halfway Mt. LeConte - Le Conte Lodge

After a brief stop at the bluff, we continued on to the top of Mt. LeConte. It’s a pretty steep and strenuous climb after the halfway point with steep overlooks but there are plenty of cable handrails:

Climbing to Mt. LeConte and Mount Le Conte Lodge via Alum Cave Trail

We knew there was rain in the forecast but mostly the thick mist just left us damp, but refreshed:

(umm….that kink might be why it was harder than usual to drink water)

Hiking Alum Cave Trail Mt. LeConte

The top of the mountain is where Alum Cave Creek starts.  The mist begins to condense onto the vegetation and then it begins to drip and then a trickle turns into a stream. As it’s filtered through moss and rock it gets funneled into tiny waterfalls across the trail…which eventually compound into the larger streams below. Broome writes about it better than I ever could:

Water trickles from mossy overhangs. Here one finds the moisture and greenness of high mountains, great pillows of moss, flat carpets of oxalis leaves studded with modest blooms, glistening heart-shaped leaves of the rare Grass of Parnassus, the white blooms of thornless blackberries, and the lovely pink of the punctatums springing sparingly into being in these high woods. -H.B. July 1962

How to Get to Mt. Le Conte Lodge

Almost to the top of Le Conte, with the thick cloudy mist, it was eerie. The thousands of dead Fraser fir trees that were infested by a small insect from Europe years ago give a slight Chernobyl-like feel but you feel a quickening in your step… as if you’ve arrived somewhere mystical. (Note: It IS mystical.)

Hiking to Mt LeConte and Mount Le Conte Lodge

We arrived at Le Conte lodge mid afternoon…it appeared out of nowhere….almost as if an elusive monastery.

Staying at Mt Le Conte Lodge on top of Mount LeConte

After checking in we were given a quick tour on where to get cold water for drinking and hot water for the wash basins. There is no electricity at the lodge so daily activities run by the sunrise and sunset.  Our cabin had a kerosene lamp for light and a small propane heater in case the temperature dropped too low. (Note: the temperature dropped to 38 degrees…but we were snug in our comfy beds!)

Mount Mt. LeConte Lodge Cabin

Before dinner we hiked up to Cliff Top. There are no words for it. It was like entering a another world.

There was an encompassing witchery to it, as of high far places. -H.B. 1962

Mt LeConte Cliff Top

 

“There was no sight of man except the cramped trail leading through the north woods and the sand myrtle to the cliffs. There was no sound of man other than our own quiet conversation. What leisured sanity! No entertainment – except soft-voiced exchanges of experience, and this haze dimmed world of mountains. I have never gone to that cliff without exhilaration. I have never left it without regret.

The calm, the immensity, the forest with a million components – healing, covering, vitalizing every foot of the scene below, and before us! I have no fear for life. I fear only for man, who with his works and numbers is shutting himself away from life. -H.B. at Cliff Top in 1962

I took my time as Boo and Brett headed back to camp…lost in my own thoughts.  I still have a bruised arm, hip and leg to show for that…slipping on a huge rock and not thinking fast enough to catch myself. I fell with a huge thud and only the trees heard me utter a pathetic whiny “owwwwwww.”

Then I saw a perfect little toadstool:

Mt LeConte Toadstool

Back at the lodge we ate dinner with the other guests in the dining hall. The food was much better than I expected considering they don’t have electricity. Boo loved the beef stew but declared that the green beans were not the same as the Hemlock Inn’s because they “left out the seasons.”  After some hot chocolate and cookies, and great conversation with new friends, we turned in for bed around 8pm.

Mt LeConte Lodge Cabin 7

I woke up in the middle of the night (or what I thought was the middle of the night….it was actually only 10pm).  As I opened the door to our cabin I took a headlamp with me.  The cloud and fog was so thick I wasn’t able to see more than a foot in any direction. I followed the stone path in the direction of the bathrooms sure that I would run straight into a bear.  I’ve always been scared of the dark but for some reason I wasn’t this time.  There was no light except my own.  There were no sounds except for the rain and my own heavy breathing of the thin air.

No sound at all. I listened and listened. After minutes of this game, surely there would be something. But I heard no stir. Silence, stillness, and peace. – H.B. at Myrtle Point, 1962

We woke up early the next morning to hike to Myrtle Point (about 7/10 of a mile) to see the sunrise. At the top we were standing unsheltered on large rocks that have been there for millions of years.  The wind whipped around us and as I spoke loudly the sound was blown right back into my mouth. There are no words to describe this view except: wow.

The mist dissolved and re-formed. Vague shapes of mounting appeared and vanished. There were stupendous, formless depths around us.  [...] Looking out again, we saw slivers of color forming above the maw of mist. [...] The awesomeness of the universe and the awful loneliness of man smote me. -H.B. at Myrtle Point, 1962

Myrtle Point from top of Mt LeConte in the Smokies #sunrise #mtleconte #myrtlepoint

Sunrise at Myrtle Point on Mt LeConte short hike from Mount Le Conte Lodge

The morning view from the third highest peak in the Smokies:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Myrtle Point

We emerged into the openness of the cliff and gazed down into an undulant world of blue mountains. This beauty, this mastery of environment, was what we had come for; and when we retreated to the lodge is was with mingled feelings of humility and of self-respect. -H.B.  on Cliff Top in 1961

Then we headed back to the lodge…and ate the best pancakes ever. And biscuits and apple butter. And eggs brought by llama.

And Boo played with new friends.

And then it was time to leave this mysterious, beautiful place.

I have never wanted to leave the top of a mountain. -H.B.

Mt LeConte Blog and Trails

 

After 60 or more trips to Le Conte, I sensed again, as though for the first time, the exhilaration which goes with the thin air a mile and a quarter up and the grand mystery of the wind ripping through a concealing fog on top of the mountain. I have never wanted to leave Mt. Le Conte. There is a pointedness to every experience. The world of business and of tense endeavor is absent. The mountains are dominant. -H.B. June 1960

 

We made it down the mountain in a little over 2 hours.  All three of us exhilirated. I used to wonder why people would give up everything just to be able to spend time in the outdoors…now I get it.  On the top of Mt. Le Conte a few days ago, 6,593 feet above sea level, I felt that adrenaline.  It’s mixed with a kind of homesickness or “mystic stirring” and “a feeling of foreverness” as Harvey Broome would say.

I wish I could bottle up that feeling and share it with people who I know need it.  Like with the woman at the lodge who insisted that her husband had dragged her up the mountain against her will.  As she complained about the hike, the rain, the lodging and everything else I felt a profound sadness about her.  I suggested she walk up the 1/10 of a mile to the top…through a portal to another world…but she wouldn’t.  And there was once a time where I wouldn’t have ventured up either.  But despite what they say: people can change. And then that change compounds. And everything has a point.  And there is no fear of life.

 
Resharing this from an old post: CONTINUE READING

Live Along Into The Answer

I love this quote:

 

My sister and mother are visiting this weekend. We all sat in the Hemlock Inn library tonight and read aloud from books and worked on a puzzle.  I pulled out a book and found this poem:

 

I believe
God is in what is happening
in me
I am being freed from the past
with appreciation
and freed for the future
with readiness
a particular hope is shaping
a careful joy is rising
don’t hurry it
don’t analyze it
it is being given
even as
it is being received
I am happening



I love that.
I am happening.
You are happening.
Day by day.
Don’t overcomplicate it all.
Live everything.
That is all.
Peace out.

 

P.S. I’m finally back to my weekly “Dear Friend” letter…it will be going out starting tonight. If you’d like to sign up click here.


Fighter Fires

On my wall this week:

Nothing in Life is to be Feared #quote #chalkboard

At dinner tonight we sat next to a table of Cal Fire Firefighters (or fighter fires as Boo calls them). As they got their food their alarms started going off and half the group darted out to the ladder truck. Boo walked over and asked the remaining group of firemen why they didn’t have to go too. I guess only one of the trucks was called but it turned out to be a false alarm and they returned a few minutes later. Boo chatted with them for a few minutes.  The firemen learned that becoming a firefighter is probably the last choice on Boo’s list of careers.  Her fear of fire on a scale of 1 to 10 is probably 12,535,105.  They gave her a badge anyways. She wasn’t born with a fear of fire, it’s grown over time.  The fire atop the mountains last year, that threatened friends homes and covered our home in ash didn’t help.  And then there was the house that burned down across the street.  Oh and the Fairfield Inn that burned last week right down the street. I don’t blame her one bit.  Fire scares me too.

She idolizes those firemen….because “they are brave of the fire.”

(i.e. they understand it)

Thank you God for first responders.

I love this GoPro video of a fighter fire saving a kitten:

 

 

 

Please Love Me

Sitting at the car dealership today getting an oil change, the woman across from me was crying on the phone. All I could do was give her a smile.

Another lady was reading a Nora Roberts book. One woman just stared oddly out the window the whole time.

The technician gave me my keys to leave and I had a panic attack.  You know my issue with cars if you’ve been reading for a while.  I can’t find my Prius in a regular parking lot, let alone a parking lot FULL of Priuses.*  I looked at him and asked if he could walk me to my car in the sea of Priui.*

*I have no idea what the plural of a Prius is.

As I sat in the dealership I thought about our neighbor’s house that burned down last night. They think that the outside grill was left on.  A friend from the news asked if I might do an interview and I declined.  I just don’t feel comfortable talking about other people’s tragedies (unless someone says “hey, please talk about my tragedy”)

Fire in Palm Desert Calfire

I watched a PBS documentary on the Amish last night. Something the narrator said struck me:

They are in our world, but not of this world.
They are pilgrims passing through.
They don’t get attached to this world.
They don’t get attached to the things of this world.

I wish I could get closer to that place. I mean I don’t want to convert to Amish-ism, but there is a part of how the Amish live that is very appealing to me.

And sometimes I just shouldn’t talk to people.  In trying to reach out to the owners of the burnt house last night I said “well….it was a house.” The owner did a half smile and said, “yes, and we are all safe, that’s all that matters.” But then I thought how much my comment minimized what had just happened.  Stupid comment. Of course it was just a house…but full of years of memories, photos, etc.

I stood outside after most of the crowd had left and watched the firefighters work. They cut the roof out with saws. It was just me and a policeman blocking traffic.

Fire in Palm Desert Calfire January 2014

 

“Ma’am, step away from the hose please.”

Calfire house fire in south palm desert

All I could think was: What are they feeling right now? What if it had been my house? What would I have saved? How do you start from scratch? They don’t even have underwear.

And I checked the expiration date on our fire extinguisher.  And I told another neighbor that if he ever saw smoke from our house to please rescue the dog if no one was home.  And it made me think about things that I hoard and how those items intermingle too much with the items that I would want to save, how they dilute the things that are of special importance like photos, Boo’s drawings, etc. And how many copies do I need of a single photo? Can’t I just throw out all the duplicates?  Everything that isn’t in albums….can’t that stuff just go away?  Yes, probably. And why do I still keep my wedding dress? To show Boo one day?  It’s not like it’s vintage….it’s c. 2001.  It cost $800….and overpriced at that. I wish someone would just come in and get rid of all the excess without me knowing. I’d probably never notice.

Here’s what I’m thinking today:  Things are just things….except for a few special things worth saving and protecting. And if, God forbid, I lost even those few special things, life would go on.

I think I’ve said this before, but when my grandfather died, there were all these trinkets in his drawers that he had obviously kept because they were sentimental. But no one had a clue why they were sentimental. I went through my jewelry box recently and got rid of almost everything….and anything that was sentimental I put in baggies with a note as to where they were from and why I kept them.  Part of me thinks: yay, when I’m gone someone will appreciate that I kept this….but the other part of me thinks: I have now made this a burden for someone because they will feel like they can’t throw it out. This is a problem. People own too many things now. We consume and we consume. Remember when people could fit all of their belongings into a single trunk?  I used to take a trunk to camp, it had almost my whole life in it!  Now I would need 4,893 trunks if I estimate off the top of my head…just for my books and paperwork.  Although, Mr. LBB and I did go through boxes and boxes of paper work the other day and sent six file boxes to the shredder. We are officially SIX file boxes lighter this week.  Congratulations to us.

I want more joy….not more things. Things take energy. I only have so much energy.

So, what do I do? I make more things, because that makes sense right?  More stuff.  Like some “Banksy” inspired art:

Please Love Me is what we are saying when we accumulate and accumulate. Because that’s the only thing we really need. Love. And that’s really our only assignment in life right? To love others. And when love is missing we fill it with things.

 

P.S. As I cleaned out my purse today I found this fortune at the bottom:

Fortune: your laugh and enthusiasm

Love and joy are pretty much the only things that can please people around us.

 

CONTINUE READING

25 Quotes of Joy

 

25 Inspiring Joy and Happiness Quotes for The Year of Joy - Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo #theyearofjoy #joy #happiness #quote

 

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. -Tecumseh

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life; the quiet confidence that ultimately everything will be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things. -Kay Warren

Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself. -Mahatma Gandhi

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. -Henri Nouwen

Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. -Tolstoy

Genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on. For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others’ happiness. -The Dalai Lama

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want. -Margaret Young

Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God. -Robert Schuller

 

Sunshine - Joy Quote #theyearofjoy #joy #happiness #quote

CONTINUE READING

You can tell a lot about a person

Saw this in my Guideposts this morning and it made me laugh….then cringe.  I’ve had some mixed reactions.  But I have learned the key to travel: never check anything in your luggage that couldn’t be replace with a quick trip to the mall.  If there’s anything that can’t be replace: carry it on.

Maya Angelou quote via lilblueboo.com

A Place of Gratitude

I want to live everyday from a place of gratitude.  Sometimes I’m pretty darn good at it, and other days I fail miserably, but when the grateful days way outnumber the bad days I think that’s a good place to be. 

I want Thanksgiving to be more than just a day. The more thankful we are, the more joyful we become.  Choose it: You have enough. You are enough. Practice this every day.  We are always searching for it, but true joy can never be found without sincere gratitude. Sincere. Gratitude. The prayer I pray the most is thank you, thank you, thank you.

Gratitude Quote via lilblueboo.com

Boo: Are you going to make a turkey?
Me: Do you like turkey?
Boo: No.
Me: Me either. I’m not making a turkey.
Boo: Everyone else is making a turkey.
Me: I’ve never made a turkey.
Boo: The grocery store can make it for you.
Me: When you are old enough to make a turkey, you can make a turkey.
Boo: I don’t really like turkey.
Me: I’m not making a turkey.
Mr. LBB: Don’t make a turkey.

I’m thankful my family accepts me for who I am and I don’t have to make a turkey.

We ate at Ruth’s Chris instead. Steak, shrimp, chicken. Mr. LBB actually did order turkey. I was torn on supporting an establishment that was open on Thanksgiving and I asked my sister-in-law if we should boycott. She was working there today. She said they had 800 reservations today alone and she was happy to work because patrons are spending time with their families. The worst scenario would be to have to work and there not be a good turnout. We made sure every server we came in contact with knew how thankful we were that they were working.  I’m thankful for Ruth’s Chris.

We held hands and said the Lutheran blessing my grandfather always said:

Come Lord Jesus be our guest, let these gifts to us be blessed.

 

During dinner Boo helped us make a list of things we could be thankful for:

So much to be thankful for today and every day.

And from my family to yours:

Have a Thanksgiving full of gratitude and joy!

 

The Horizon

I drove from the desert until I hit the ocean tonight.  Stopped on the PCH for a moment to take a photo because it’s been years since I saw the sun drift below the horizon. In the desert the sun falls behind tall mountains casting long shadows…..it’s completely different.

 

i hope the days come easy via lilblueboo.com #quote

P.S. These made my day…..especially the fort….oh and flower man….and sleeping puppy…..and…..

P.P.S. Does night follow day? Or does day follow night?

 

Inferior

Eleanor Roosevelt quote via lilblueboo.com

Make a Large Lightweight Chalkboard

Chalkboard Art: Make a Large Lightweight Portable Chalkboard via lilblueboo.com #diy #tutorial #chalkboard

 

You can make an oversized chalkboard for your home, business or school using this easy tutorial. It’s so lightweight almost anyone can lift it and move it around.  I wanted to make this large piece for a large blank wall in my studio…. it doubles as artwork and a photo prop.  I added two quotes to mine to fill up the space.   Total cost of materials was $35. CONTINUE READING

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