I have probably been thinking about making a hike to LeConte Lodge for 2+ years. Actually, I'd probably been thinking about it longer than that, but thinking it was doable for the last few. I actually made reservations for June 2013 back in October of 2012, but I realized how far out it was and that the odds of me picking a proper and doable weekend that far in advance (including the kids) was basically 0, so I let the reservations lapse.
Sometime this spring I realized that the Lodge announces last minute cancellations via Twitter and I thought that maybe this would work if we could be really flexible. I decided if we could snag a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, we'd somehow make it work. Meanwhile, we had targeted the end of June for a few days off (with no particular plans since we'd postponed our Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip until next summer).
I called LeConte Lodge reservations to figure out the best way to snag a cancellation that overlapped with our planned days off. They indicated that 10-15 days in advance is a good time to start calling...that's when people need to get their cancellation in before they are charged no matter what. They said the twitter cancellations are usually REALLY last minute. I called every morning...to no avail.
Around 1pm on June 25th, I learned that there had been a cancellation for the very next night (I had set the LeConte twitter account to text me so I'd know instantly). After a quick call to G, I called them to say we'd take it. Decision made in about 10 minutes and now we'd have to head out a few hours later to get closer to the trailhead for our hike up the next morning.
After quickly packing...we headed out. We stopped at a motel in Maggie Valley, leaving an hour or so to get to the trailhead the next morning. We hit the Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead at 9:50am and made it up to LeConte Lodge Cabins around 1:30pm.
It's a great hike...from the shady wooded hike along the Balsam Creek to the rocky narrow path that peeks out from the canopy...just a beautiful, uphill hike.
I really wanted to bring my DSLR on this hike, but realized I didn't have a pack that would accommodate my clothing needs (rain jacket, change of clothes, extra layer), my water, and the other small items we were bringing. I could definitely have lashed it to my pack, but the fear of rain and no where to stow it made me decide to just leave it at home. I grabbed my Canon G12 instead. Except I didn't charge the battery. So...the photos are somewhat lacking from the upper portion and top.
LeConte Lodge is really a series of buildings and cabins that accommodate approximately 60 guests each night. They provide dinner, breakfast, and clean bedding in your cabin. There is no electricity in the cabin or main dining hall or office (which is supplied with tables/chairs/books/puzzle/games) so once the sun goes down, you are using oil lamps for light. The fact that it didn't get dark until 9pm, coupled with a long day of hiking (we made 2 smaller hikes once we go to the top), left us going to bed pretty early. We even forgot to go out and look at the night sky!
Highly recommended hike and experience. Again we found ourselves hiking in a hurry (maybe that's natural) both on the way up and the way down. We definitely stopped many times on the way up to catch our breath, but we didn't linger anywhere very long. Maybe one day we'll change that.