Tag Archives: Trillium Gap

LeConte24 Part 3: Inside my head…

Boulevard Trail

Miles:   8.8       Elevation:   3724 ↑       Grade: 8%          

Hiking Time: 3:15       Pace:  2.8 mph       Avg. Temp.:   60

Map Miles Completed:   8.8       Total Map Miles:  36.5       Total Miles Hiked:   36.5

Newfound Gap at the beginning of the end

Newfound Gap at the beginning of the end

9:00 is a better start time than midnight.  man i’m freezing.  it’s not that cold but i’m shivering.  pull out the fleece.  it’ll come off in 15 minutes but right now, i’m freezing.  let’s get this picture over with and get moving.  watch that guy in the broken down pickup truck.  looks a little suspicious.  oh, good, he’s leaving.  so glad that truck cranked.

“Brian, you ready to go?  I’d need to hit the head right quick.”

“Yep. I’m ready to warm up so let’s move.”

it’s amazing but I don’t feel that bad after hiking almost 30 miles.  advil helped a lot.  i should have eaten more dinner.  it’s all good cause i have plenty of trail food.

Shawn: “Make sure to thank Tina for me.  She really helped us out by shuttling us up here.”

Brian: “You bet.  I think we made the right decision on the routing.  It took a total of 30 minutes to transport, eat and load up for the next segment.  Last time it took 1:45 to go around to Greenbriar.”

“We’re going to break 5:30 am all to pieces.  Heck, we’re going to break 4:00.  Do you think we can hit 3:30?  That would take 3 hours off our time.”

“I feel pretty good right now.  I think it’s a good chance we can. look, there’s the AT blaze.”

“It’ll take you all the way to Maine…”

“wow, pretty quick time to the Boulevard Trail.  that was a fast 3 miles.  crazy that the Jump Off is not on the official map.  even more crazy that trails like the horse trail around Smokemont are. a mile of mud and horse poop.  it’s just as well, there wouldn’t be much to see tonight.”

“We’re going down now.  A lot!  I’ve already climbed this elevation! I don;t want to do it again.  Do you know how much we descend?”

“I think it’s about 1,000 overall.  We head down until about 6 miles in.  Then we have to climb back up to the ridge.”

gotta be really careful.  legs are tired.  every time i stumble, i head for the edge of the trail.  Trees and rocks.  my head.  broken ankle.  can’t see much.  nice and cool though.  the night is clear.  thought there’d  be more stars than this.

“There’s a sign.”

I think it’s for Myrtle Point.  Yep that’s it…”

High Point is just ahead.  I wonder if I can get a picture of it…”

there’s the shelter, those guys we met at the Alum Cave trail said they were staying there.  It’s midnight.  we should wake them up and ask how far it is to Rainbow Falls. we should probably be quiet…

Rock Pile at High Point at midnight

Rock Pile at High Point at midnight

Trillium Gap/Brushy Mtn. Trail

Miles:   9.1       Elevation:   4,564↓       Grade: 9.5%          

Hiking Time: 3:50       Pace:  2.4 mph       Avg. Temp.:   60

Map Miles Completed:   5.4       Total Map Miles:  41.9       Total Miles Hiked:   45.6

9.61 miles.  i wish we could have figured out how to skip the Trillium Gap trail and just do the Brushy Mtn. trail. we’ve already done it anyway.  i don’t know why we’re counting Brushy Mtn. anyway.  technically, it doesn’t go all the way to the top.

“Hey Brian, did Dave Worth hike all 6 trails?”


dang it!  i guess we gotta do it.  it’s not like we can hitch around it now at 1:00 in the morning.  9.78 miles.  man, we’re going slow.  i’m not sure having this GPS watch is such a great thing.  i keep looking down and we’ve only covered a tenth of a mile.  maybe it’s better not to know.  that way you’re surprised when you’re done.  we finished Alum Cave sooner than i thought.  9.81 miles.  that’s the fourth time the “low battery” warning came up.  i don’t remember the rocks being so big the last time.  how can they make the llamas walk on this stuff?  9.83 miles.  CRAP! we’re going slow.  my legs hurt. my butt hurts.  EVERYTHING hurts.  these big step things they put in the trail don’t help a bit.  9.98 miles.  GREAT!

“10 miles in Brian.  We’ve descended about 1,200 feet”

Low battery again.  

“Hey Brian, my watch isn’t going to last much longer”

“Mine’s dead too.  Hopefully it saved the data.  Be a shame to lose the whole day.”

great!  spend $300 on a fancy watch that can tell you how many steps you take and it can’t last a whole day.  

Brushy Mtn. Trail Junction

Brushy Mtn. Trail Junction

FINALLY!  Brushy Mt. trail.  i love seeing those signs. 4.5 miles to Porters Creek.  i can make this. i hope we’re done with the rocks.  Brushy Mtn. trail is one of those old logging road beds right?  i don’t remember. 

Brian: “We did the right thing hiking the spur trail to the summit this afternoon.  I’m so glad we don’t have to do it in the dark.

Me: “It, would have been pointless.  We wouldn’t see much except the city lights would be cool”

the rocks are still here and now there’s overgrowth. at least there hasn’t been any blow downs to climb over. WAIT! don’t say that, we still have 4 miles to go.  don’t kill the mojo!  i thought the cicada’s or whatever these things are would be gone by now.  i guess it’s better than dead quiet.  i thought we would hear an owl or something.  at least there’s no motorcycles in the distance.  no bears today.  wonder what happens if we hear that loud huffing sound. 12.6 miles.

“Hey Brian, 4 miles to go and we’ve descended about 2,200 feet.”

“It’s 4 miles to Porter’s Creek.  We still have the gravel road.  It’s another mile.”

“Are you sure??!!!

“I’m sure”

CRAPPPPP!!!! now i’m playing mind games on myself.  5 miles to go and it hurts every step.

“Brian, how are you feeling?”


he’s lying.  my whole body hurts.  we’re both slowing down.  i felt so good at Newfound Gap, even going uphill.  should have eaten something but my stomach hurts.  drink some water.  10.13 miles. “low battery” AGAIN!  i gotta sit down a second.  i’ll let Brian hike on ahead and i’ll catch up.  i could fall asleep right now.  just a little nap.  it wouldn’t hurt our time that much.  WHAT AM I SAYING???!!!!  get up slacker.  OOOOOO my legs hurt.  great, Brian waited on me.  

“Hey Brian.  I’m dead!

“You mean you or your watch?”


now what am i going to do?  i can’t tell our progress.  that’s it.  it’s way better to know and keep looking.  now all i can do is suffer.  got nothing left to talk about.  can’t see anything.  those cricket things won’t shut up!  my headlamp is a lot brighter than Brian’s.  i should lead for a while but i need him to pace me now.  i could count steps.  no, that’s just stupid.  i could pull out my phone and check the time but then i’d have to hold it.  i could ask Brian to check the time, he’s got that belt pocket.  nah, just grind it out.  working through the pain sounded honorable at high school football practice but it just sounds stupid now.  at least the trail’s finally smoothed out.  it’s really flat here. we gotta be close to the road. there’s a switchback.  switchbacks are good.  change of direction. something’s different.

Brian: “It’s the gravel road”

Me:  “Finally. Do you think we can pick up the pace?

Brian: “I don’t have much left.”

Me: “Me either.  We’re almost there.”

i REALLY hope we were supposed to turn left.  Brian seems sure.  i should ask.  no i trust him.  i REALLY hope he’s right. maybe he’s almost delirious like me.  are you crazy if you know you’re going crazy?  wait, that’s a catch 22.  i can’t be crazy because i’m thinking about being crazy. i wonder where the other end of this goes.  what would we do if we turned the wrong way?  nah, Brian knows.  i should ask. no i trust him.  I REALLY hope he’s right.  we’re moving faster.  that’s good.  chocolate milk is waiting in the truck.  cold chocolate milk.  i REALLY love chocolate milk.

“There’s some sort of light ahead!  Was there a street light at the trail head?”

“Don’t think so.”

LeConte24 - 2015: THE END!

LeConte24 – 2015: THE END!

“Wait, it’s the reflectors on the gate.  WE”RE DONE!!!”

“4:05 am.  We cut an hour and a half off our planned time, which was two hours off our first time.  19 1/2 hours.  Plus we added the Brushy Mtn. summit. WE DID IT!!!!”

LeConte24 Part 1: And So It Began…

Rainbow Falls to Mt. LeConte

Miles:   6.7       Elevation:   3601↑       Grade:  10%       Avg. Temp.:   64

Map Miles Completed:   6.7       Total Map Miles:   6.7       Total Miles Hiked:   6.7

It was a dark and stormy night…  No it wasn’t.  It was a clear, cool, beautiful morning.  The kind that suggests what the 6th day of creation must have been like.  Except for the cars in the parking lot…

Brian and Shawn at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead

Brian and Shawn at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead

LeConte24 – 2015 got underway about 8:30 am on Saturday, September 19.  According to my hiking buddy and good friend Brian Thomas, it was this same weekend 4 years ago when we did this the first time.  We decided to hike all 6 trails on Mt. Leconte on a whim after we heard about Dave Worth’s record break
ing hike a few weeks earlier.  We had no expectations of breaking records; only completing the hike in 24 hours.  It became the impetus for completing my first 900 miler.

A complete account of it, plus Brian’s excellent post of this hike can be found on our blog: www.leconte24.com.  The goal this time was to cut a couple hours off our time of 22 hours.  Brian redesigned our route to minimize shuttles between trailheads and optimize elevation gain in our favor.

The new route: Up Rainbow Falls, down Trillium Gap; up Bull Head, down Alum Cave; shuttle to Newfound Gap; up Boulevard, down Trillium Gap/Brushy Mtn.

IMG_1348This time, rather than starting at midnight, we chose to begin in the morning after a good night’s sleep.  We dropped my vehicle off in Greenbriar where we planned to end the hike around 5:30 the next morning.

The hike to Rainbow Falls was pleasant.  We targeted a 2.5 mph pace but actually had a hard time keeping it under 3.  The time was spent catching up on our lives and greeting other hikers we passed.  Rainbow Falls flowed barely more than a trickle here in mid-September.  We stopped for a quick pic and moved on. We got to the top in about 2:44, 2.45 miles per hour which was right on target.  Time for some food and water then on to Trillium Gap.

Mt. LeConte to Trillium Gap

Miles:   9.6       Elevation:   3654↓       Grade:  8%       Avg. Temp.:   64

Map Miles Completed:   8.5       Total Map Miles:   15.2       Total Miles Hiked:   15.6

IMG_1390Finding the Trillium Gap trail at the top of LeConte can be a challenge because it’s kind of hidden in tall plant growth off to the side of the cabins.  Brian went right to it though and we were off.  Trillium Gap is pretty rocky most of the way.  It’s also the route the llamas take when they resupply the lodge.  The Park Service installed several step sections to control erosion but they are not a smoother alternative to trail.  This will become challenging later in the hike but with fresh legs, we descended steadily to the junction with Brushy Mtn.  Here we had a decision to make.

The last time we did this, we passed on the spur trail to the summit of Brushy Mtn.  It was not on the agenda for hiking the trails up LeConte.  However, it IS on the official park map so that means a 900 miler has to hike it.  This decision caused me to have to do an 18 mile hike later in order to complete the 0.4 mile section to the summit of Brushy Mtn.  Although it was an additional 0.8 miles, Brian was gracious to head off on the spur trail with me.

View from the Summit of Brushy Mtn.

View from the Summit of Brushy Mtn.

The effort was rewarded with some of the most incredible views we would have that day.  Brushy Mtn. is a bald, although the prodigious plant growth is worthy of the mountain’s name.  The only other time I was in this place, it was socked in and there were no views whatsoever.  The trail just ends at the top, kind of like a cul-de-sac.  We were up and down within 20 minutes and ready to continue down Trillium Gap.

A crowd of civilians enjoying Grotto Falls

A crowd of civilians enjoying Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls was a popular spot with dozens of people playing in the water and taking pictures.  A line formed on the trail at the edge of the waterfall as people wanted their picture taken behind it.  It’s good to see kids hiking and enjoying the park.  Nervous parents try to make sure the children don’t slip on the rocks.

Eventually we got to the parking area and the trail turned to follow the road back to the Rainbow Falls trailhead.  We debated whether or not this section of trail was official Trillium Gap Trail or just a connector.  My mind went back to thinking about how we could have bypassed it but that was wishful thinking.  At the trail head, the official milage included that section.  Oh, well.  At least the effort wasn’t lost.  The  8.9 mile descent took 3:15 including the spur trail to Brushy Mtn. at an average of 2.7 mph.  Right on schedule!  Time for lunch!