Gracie McNicol is one of the legendary individuals associated with Mount
Leconte. Gracie was a nurse. She never married and lived a quiet,
frugal and very full life. Born 1 October 1891. At age 62 she left
her job in Alaska and set out to find a new job; she found one at Blount
Memorial Hospital, Maryville, TN, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
In the spring of 1954 Gracie joined a hike in the Smokies, led by a national
park ranger, that went up the Alum Cave Trail to the bluffs that give the trail
its name. The ranger told the party of hikers that another few miles up
the trail was the top of Mount LeConte, the location of LeConte Lodge. A
few weeks later, Gracie rode a bus from Maryville to Knoxville where she caught
a bus going from Knoxville over the mountains to North Carolina. She got
off the bus at the Alum Cave Trail trailhead and, on 14 June 1954, Gracie made
her first hike up LeConte.
On 30 September 1983, at age 92, Gracie rode horseback for her last trip up
LeConte. In all she hiked up LeConte 155 times and rode horseback another
89 times. Gracie kept diaries of her life, including notes of her
adventures in the Smokies. She was especially fond of wildflowers and her
diaries include descriptions of the flowers she encountered on her hikes.
Gracie died on 10 September 1991, only three weeks before her 100th birthday.
I commend to everyone the book Gracie and the Mountain, by
Emilie Ervin Powell, available from Amazon.com.
I worked at LeConte Lodge for two summers, 1962 and 1963. Also, I made
several winter trips up LeConte to open the Lodge during the off-season for
special visitors. I was fortunate enough to meet Gracie on several
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