Leconte or Bust
I had already planned the title of this post before the family yearly trek up Mt. Leconte. I have been training pretty much all year leading up and was pumped, excited, nervous, and tired. Perhaps that was a bit of foreshadowing on my part.
The husband and I woke up suuuuper early and were on the trail by 4:20am eastern time, so on my internal clock it was 3:20am.... We hiked for the first few hours with a headlamp and flash light. And it was beautiful. There is something magical about seeing the sun rise over the mountains. Really, it was amazing. There is also something about trusting your spouse to not let you fall over a cliff, but that may be a different post.
This year Le talked me into tackling the Boulevard trail. It's a "strenuous" 8 mile trek to LeConte Lodge. But it's not a straight climb, meaning it goes up and down, mostly up, the whole time. I actually felt pretty good and we didn't take too many stops until about 5.5 miles in.
I have taken a few 7 milers in prep and I knew this would be hard. What I didn't anticipate was dropping my water down a cliff 15 minutes in. Yep, all my water. I knew my husband had packed extra, but not a complete person extra. That added a bit of stress. Then about a mile in we realized we forgot our hiking poles. While they would have been nice on the hike in, they were super important for the hike down the next day. But we were already an hour in and not willing to go back. THEN once we got about 5 miles in I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I forgot something else... yep... our dry box with our charging cables and etc. This wasn't a required thing, but it was an added "ugh".
Le and I finally made it to Myrtle Point, it's an incredible vantage point to see the sunrise or you know, everything. There we had a snack and enjoyed the view.
Once we made it to the to the lodge we checked in and I took off my shoes - best feeling ever in the moment, found our cabin, drank more water and Le, once rested hit the trail again to go meet my dad and hike up with him. I read on our porch and watched and greeted other hikers as they came in and out.
We were the first up the mountain, my sister Donita and her amazing daughter Bug were a few hours behind. They accomplished Bulls Head, the hardest elevation climb up. Seriously, they are amazing. Dad and Le made it up Alum Cave with little problems. We spent the night at the Lodge, shared our table with a sweet couple and had an amazing birthday cake to celebrate Dads, Donitas, and my birthday week.
The next morning Le and I started down Trillium Gap, it's a 6.7 mile trek, and from LeConte, it's primarily down hill. We were the first to hit the trail and had amazing time for the first part. We stopped at the first split, it's about 3.7 miles down the mountain. There several trails connect and it just makes a good stopping point.
You know where I talked about forgetting our hiking sticks? About a mile from Grotto Falls, and about 2.5 miles off the trail I slipped, hard, and fell twisting my ankle. This "may" have been prevented with hiking sticks, but who knows, maybe it was just my time to have some crappy luck. It was obvious that I sprained it pretty good. Le asked if I wanted to stop and I declined. I wanted to keep going and get off the freakin trail. Once to Grotto Falls I submerged my ankle, shoe and all in the icy water. It felt amazing. I did that again in few more streams along the way.
Finally we made it to the end of the trail, I hobbled to the end and even on a janky ankle I felt that rush of adrenaline. 9.5 miles the first day with Myrtle Point thrown in and 6.7 the next. Not to shabby, at all. LeConte or Bust...indeed. Ankle and all, it was 100% worth it.
Mt. Leconte, you are incredible and I will do even better next year.