Alan Williams takes a trek to the top of Mount LeConte, Part 1

MOUNT LECONTE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- East Tennessee is known for it's wonderful natural resources, and one of those rises majestically -- more than a mile high. We know it as Mount LeConte.

Recently, Volunteer TV's Alan Williams trekked up the mountain with a camera crew in an attempt to capture the mountain's beauty, and the uniqueness of what you find when you finally reach the top.

Rising 6,593 feet up, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the smokies, and a mountain that has been the subject of stories, hikes, and breathtaking scenery.

At 7:30 a.m. on March 28, it was 28 degrees, and we were on the five-mile-long Alum Cave Trail. It is the shortest of five trails, but it's also the steepest.

Two camera crews, my brother, and myself began the trek amidst the rhododendron, and the roaring waters.

At every bend, every switchback, is a photographic moment. There are no car engines, no cell phones, only the sounds of the wind through the trees.

As the morning progressed, so did the body heat, and the shedding of clothing. It got much steeper, too.

The mountain has a bit of controversy. Some say it was named for geologist Joseph Le Conte, others say it's for his brother, John, a professor at South Carolina College.

However, thousands have claimed it for their own after mastering its trails.

Jack Huff was one of them, and LeConte Lodge manager Tim Line says, "His mother had been very sick, had always wanted to come to LeConte, and was never able to make it, the trip ,so Jack devised a chair where he could put her on his back and he brought her up the mountain. she wanted to see the sunrise from myrtle point, she was here for five days."

The approximate halfway point up to Mount LeConte is Alum Cave, it's basically a rock overhang formation where salt peter was mined for gunpowder during the Civil War.

Then, a bit farther up the trail, we ran into none other than 82-year-old Ed Wright, a Mount LeConte icon, and we asked him how many times he's hiked LeConte.

Wright says, "Well, all the way to the top 1,306...I did it three times a day, three times...most I've ever climbed it in a year was 230 times...every time is different, deferent people different overs, different animals, I've seen a lot of bear on the trail, even seen ferret or a mink at Grassy Slide, I'm not sure what it was."

Hours later, we reached the summit.

In the decades of keeping journals, it's never gotten above 80 degrees.

The much talked about lodge has been a rustic getaway since 1925, and not much has changed.

Line says, "We have 10 guest cabins that sleep anywhere from four to 13 people, a dining room that'll seat 60 people, and a crew of 10 that work here for the whole season."

That's from March to November.

There's no electricity, just a kerosene lamp; no heat, only a propane heater; no hot water, just a pump. But there are clean bed linens and a hot dinner and breakfast, all for $97 a night.

We asked Line what kind of wild questions he's gotten from people when they get to the lodge.

"We still have those who bring their curling irons that want to plug it in somewhere."

High above Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Knoxville, Mount LeConte has given so many so much pleasure. It gives us a chance to see God's creation from the eye of an eagle, and for many, it really is the top of the world.

Now the question is, how do they get all that equipment up the mountain for the lodge to operate?

It's a one day event, that is an incredible sight. that's part two of, "top of the world". tomorrow night at 5:30.


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  • by GP on May 15, 2008 at 08:54 PM
    Can you get a copy of Alan's Top of the World? It would be great. GP
  • by the other Allan Location: knoxville on May 14, 2008 at 08:34 AM
    I wonder how your knees are Alan? I learned that a walking stick or two can make the hike much easier on older knees. This is the first time I have seen a really nice video of the ascent as well as the lodge also. Good job.

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