October, 2012 – Applied for reservations for LeConte Lodge & got them!
April, 2013 – We drove the 5 hours to Gatlinburg from our home in a rainstorm. Our plan was to start for the summit early the next morning because we had no idea how long it would take us to reach the top; the trail guide says 5 hours is average. All evening we watched television weather channels, checked radar, waited, hoped the rain would stop. It did not & the local weather forecast was for possible thunderstorms the next morning.
7:20 AM – After breakfast at the Hampton Inn we loaded the car with our backpacks & began the drive to the Trillium Gap Trailhead. Entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I had to turn off the car headlights – the fog was so thick the lights were reflecting back in my eyes making it impossible to see the road. The last rise into the parking lot, “Stop!” I came to an abrupt halt! A large tree limb had fallen across the road during the windy, stormy night. DH could not move the limb by himself, so I got out of the car & we managed to push & shove & roll & drag it to the side of the road. Of course, I had stowed my camera in my backpack in the trunk, so no photo. Rats!
Car parked – it’s still raining, but not quite a hard, we pull our ponchos from our backpacks, shrug on the packs, don the ponchos, lock the car, zip the keys into DH’s pack & we’re off.
The initial climb was to Grotto Falls & not strenuous, just a nice stretch of the legs. However, the water level of the falls had been rising with the rain & the falls roared as we passed behind it.
The farther we climbed, the more the trail became a stream & the streams became rivers. There was no way to pass the streams “dry” by stepping on rocks because all the stream rocks were covered by ankle-deep water at least. I was beginning to regret my decision to climb in my Merrell workout shoes with Smart-wool socks rather than buying water-proof boots.
There were no birds singing, or if there were, we couldn’t hear them for the pattering of rain on our covered heads. We did see a red salamander slowly crossing our path enjoying the rain – a salamander with 4 legs & 1 tail. (This is a reference to Joel Salantin’s Folks, This Ain’t Normal observation that pesticide-laden farms & streams are producing 3-legged varieties regularly.) No other animals were seen, though we did pass a couple of community bathrooms for the bears – scat all over the trail & difficult to avoid.
The turn to Mt. LeConte was the 3-mile mark which we made in 1 hour 50 minutes. 35-minute miles, not bad with all the rain. We had high hopes for making the summit with energy to spare & enjoy the lunch we had packed. We were curious that no one else was on this trail with us.
The trail became more steep from here. Large rocks, streams of water pouring down the trail, nowhere to get away from the rain when stopping to catch our breath & drink water. It was getting tough. The temperature was dropping as we ascended, too, which for one with soaking wet feet, this was not good news. Not being familiar with this trail, we were disappointed that there were no further markers to tell us where we were, how much farther we had to go. We just kept walking uphill.
This is a trillium – the reason this trail is named Trillium Gap Trail, also the last photo I took on the trail on the climb up!
As we ascended, there were giant trees down from winter storms. I had read the LeConte Lodge blog since October & remembered comments about this trail being closed due to downed trees, but I had no idea how many there would be. I guess the llamas hauled up the chainsaws used to clear the trail.
Clouds kept the light fairly low helped by overhanging trees so we had to keep a sharp eye to our footing. DH slipped only once on slick rocks catching himself with his ski pole before falling face down in a stream. I caught my trailing foot on a hidden root in a very steep section falling hard on my right knee causing a sharp “ouchie” but nothing serious. When the trail narrowed, the walking was more difficult – not as much room to firmly plant a foot, particularly one as large as DH’s.
We passed a family & an older couple climbing down from their overnight stay at the Lodge. They said we were not far – encouraging words. Not far is a relative term, I now know, because we had entered the steepest part of the climb; the final 1 mile, though we did not know it at the time.
Rain increased. Temperature decreased. Stops to catch our breath more frequent. At every turn we hoped to see the cabins, a sign, anything! But no – just more uphill trail. At this point I had lost the feeling in my feet due to the cold & the wet, making my steps difficult – I couldn’t plant my feet securely; I was very grateful for the ski pole which added stability. I remembered DH’s Dad talking about having frost bite on his feet during World War 2 & wondered how quickly permanent damage set in. I also had been in deep conversation with the Lord about perseverance, as spoken of in Revelation 1, 2, 3, 13 & 14…no other distractions around – He had my full attention.
A sign! I see a wooden sign! Could this be it? Could this be the end of the trail? No! It was a sign denoting where to park one’s horse. Horse! You mean I could have ridden up here & missed all the muddy, wet fun? Nope! Horses are no longer allowed on the trail due to the damage they were causing. But at least it’s a sign that we must be close! I hope…
Another turn. Another up. “I see a wooden roof!” DH called out from behind me. I didn’t see anything. Maybe he’s hallucinating! “See it? Over to the right!”
Yes! There almost obscured by the clouds & fog, a wooden roof, 2, more! We had made it! 6.7 miles in 4 1/2 hours!
This is the final San Francisco post. Yeah, I’m glad, too.
Walking the streets of San Francisco in the Union Square area, DH & I were shocked that almost all the young people had cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.
I have a question – did the young people of San Francisco, particularly the young Asians not get the memo that smoking cigarettes is bad for one’s health? Not only does it cause severe lung disease & exacerbate heart disease, but it increases the risk of EVERY CANCER! NOT JUST LUNG CANCER – EVERY SINGLE CANCER!
Is this a cultural thing of which I am unaware? Has there been new research proving that the studies of the past 80 years are wrong?
Now, let me say that I am all about freedom. You have the right to do anything you jolly well want to as long as what you do doesn’t impede my freedoms. Whoops! That’s the problem! Because of ObamaCare, I now have to pay for the healthcare for all these stupid young people who are choosing to participate in a very risky lifestyle, proven to be excessively risky because of the absolute certainty of disease as a result of this lifestyle.
I have no problem if you want to smoke, as long as I don’t have to breathe your smoke. But I resent having to pay for your healthcare!
I have made a personal choice to stay physically fit, eat an organic/grass-fed diet & do my best to stay as healthy as possible. Why should I have to pay for people who by their actions, by their very own choices are going to be a burden on society?
Nope, no photos of the smokers – ICK!
They rush on the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
The LORD utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
I don’t like big cities. Nope. Don’t care about the fancy restaurants. Don’t care about the claims of more cultural venues. I don’t like the asphalt, concrete & crowds.
Because DH was attending a Continuing Medical Education conference, I was on my own each day. One day I met him for lunch, the day I took all the “feet” photos.
One day I searched the Union Square area for a restaurant for dinner, took a wrong turn & was in an area where I was …hmm… not at all comfortable with my surroundings. My gratitude to the Lord for His protection!
We did have three delicious dinners, the most notable at M.Y. China – beautiful presentation & delicious food!
We had a lovely room at the Grand Hyatt.
I shipped home wonderful wines my friend, Veronique, had given us…uh…actually they were empty bottles…since the UPS Store didn’t have a license to ship wine out of state…wink, wink, nudge, nudge. (We have some of the most stupid laws in this country, but that’s another rant!)
Oh, I returned home to find my credit card information had been stolen!
I used the card at the Walgreens at the corner of Powell Street & Sutter, a Walgreens on Market Street & the UPS Store on Sutter. That’s it! So, someone in one of these three places stole my credit card information.
Oh, the next day home we discovered DH’s credit card information had been stolen! He had used his credit card at the 3 restaurants & that’s it!
Nope, I don’t like big cities & don’t care if I ever go back to San Francisco. You can keep your sourdough bread – I’m a low-carb lifestyle person anyway!
After a bit more hiking in the redwoods, we bid a fond farewell to the Russian River Valley & Sonoma County.
The temperatures had been a bit cooler than I had expected, the towns smaller (I haven’t driven down this many Main Streets in years!) & the wines wonderful. I loved driving past pastures of cows, sheep & goats over my head & appreciated seeing Organic Valley signs on pasture fences with cows grazing on fresh, green grass! It’s not raw milk, or as I call it Real Milk, but it’s better than the standard white stuff in the plastic containers! By the way, Organic Valley, why do you restrict local farmers in their milk sales? You don’t even allow them to sell a single gallon to a family member or neighbor. What are you afraid of? that when enough people taste delicious, unadulterated REAL raw milk they won’t drink the nasty stuff in the grocery store dairy case?
But before we could drive into San Francisco we had to pay a visit to a friend, a friend I have had for a number of years now, spoken to on the phone numerous times, but never met face to face. She insisted we stop by her home which overlooks a bay on our way into San Fran.
Dr. Veronique Raskin started The Organic Wine Company in 1980 as a way to introduce the world to excellent wines which were, by the way, ORGANIC!
I don’t really remember how I found out about this company, but joined the Wine Club & have looked forward to the selections chosen by Veronique every month.
Have you ever experienced flushing when you drink wine, particularly red wine? Have you ever had a headache after drinking wine? How about nasal congestion? It’s not the sulfites!
DH was struggling with these issues to the point of frustration until I insisted he drink only Veronique’s organic wines for a time. Problem solved! I don’t know what standard wine makers spray on their vines, their grapes or pour into their wines, but whatever it is, it’s NOT in the organic wines! Even organic wines with sulfites do not have the same effect as standard wines.
Please go to website, do some reading & order some wine from The Organic Wine Company! They are the best tasting organic wines available & the prices are so reasonable! You can even choose a Chateau Veronique from Veronique’s family vineyard in France!
Our final day of tasting the nectar of Sonoma’s wine country found us at Clos Du Bois as our first stop.
The hospitality staff was wonderful & we enjoyed their reserve samplings, purchasing two reds…
…a surprise to me, because I have always thought of Clos as a maker of delicious white wines.
There is construction on the grounds with a pond being dug, bluebird houses installed & eucalyptus trees planted.
What is it about the gnarly old vines that attract my eye? These Zinfandel vines are 75 years old. They will make okay grapes for now, but once they reach 80 years old – oh my goodness, the depth of flavor, the richness change a wine from acceptable to Ancient Vine Amazing!
Since it was right there, we pulled into the Coppola Winery property but didn’t get out for a tasting.
I had another venue on my radar & I was not going to leave Sonoma without visiting J Vineyards & Winery!
Our #1 son introduced me to J wines the first year Judy Jordan introduced the world to her wines.
We were not disappointed!
While we waited for our server, we were poured glasses of the Merlot being served at the tasting bar. Dana escorted us into the Reserve Tasting Room where we relaxed on the sofa while she prepared our selections.
“This is what a pinot noir is supposed to taste like!” announced DH. I agree! Oh my goodness this daughter of the noted Jordan wine family certainly knows how to make excellent wines.
We finished with a sparkling wine & joined the wine club before leaving – the only club we joined this trip! We also sent #1 son a selection of J wines with a note of thanks for his introduction 10 years earlier.