Mt. LeConte’s Peak Is Calling Me To Climb

Published 3:26 pm Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Smokies are calling me again, but I’m stuck here 200 miles from paradise. A swollen Achilles tendon — a sign of aging — kept me from climbing Mt. LeConte during the spring. I think I can make it now.

My example is Grace McNicol who climbed the 6,593-foot elevation peak 244 times. She was 62 when she started.

She must not have had a lawn to mow or a husband or any other distractions in life.

There’s a tribute to Grace at the top of Mt. LeConte, and a book has been written about her accomplishment, “Gracie and the Mountain: Growing Young Climbing Mount LeConte.”

She was 62 when she climbed for the first time. She also hiked the mountain — about six miles uphill — when she was 92. A photo of her at the top indicates that she was a sprite of a woman. She didn’t have much weight to carry.

I’ve climbed to the peak five times — at least once with each of my three sons. Next year I’m thinking some of the grandchildren will be ready.

Until then I hope to get up to the Great Smokies during the fall when the leaves turn. The weekends have suddenly become busy with yard work now that the drought has been broken and the grass is growing again. But I need to go to the mountaintop again. I’ve got a long way to go to break Grace’s record.

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There’s another mountain hiking movie being released, “A Walk in the Woods” starring two geezers, Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, who tackle the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve read the popular book that was the basis of the movie. The author hiked the 2,100-mile trail with good sense. He shortened it to 800 miles — hiking only the parts that suited him. I’ve often thought a very shortened AT hike would be more to my suiting, maybe 250 miles. We’ve encountered many Georgia-to-Maine hikers over the years in the Smokies. Not many actually make it. By the time they reached the Smokies, reality was beginning to set in on most of them.

Critics haven’t exactly predicted Oscars for the new movie, but the views of the mountains are supposed to be stunning.

It’s also far more likely that hikers would actually meet a pair like Redford and Nolte in the mountains than a beauty such as Reece Witherspoon, the star of the Pacific Crest Trail hiking movie “Wild.”

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It doesn’t look like a bumper crop for corn here, but soybeans are off to an amazing season if the weather continues. July was dry, but August corrected that in time for the soybeans to look lush and bushy in the field.

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The purple martin gourds will be coming down soon. The birds have long since left for Brazil without so much as a wave good-bye. They do like to travel. My slowly expanding brood should be back next April.

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What I could be doing with my drone these days — spying on people and getting into all kinds of mischief similar to those I read about in the newspaper. I have a drone — a Christmas present. Two of my sons wanted to demonstrate it for me. They quickly flew it into a tree.

My drone, broken on the shelf, will cause no trouble.

— Dwight Sparks