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Brief History of LeConte Lodge

 

Nobody knows when the first person came to look east from Le Conte's Myrtle Point to watch the sun rise out of the mists and mountains, or who was the first to see the sunset from the Cliff Top. Since at least the late 19th century, people have been climbing Mt. LeConte.

The deer hunting stone dated 1880

Sometime after Pauline and Jack Huff opened the Lodge in 1926, their son Phillip discovered a piece of slate rock inscribed with a crude sketch of a hunter aiming a rifle at a deer being chased by a dog.  Scratched into the slate were the names "J. N. Walker," "L. L. Houser," and "T. F. Walker" and the date July 27, 1880.  Later, Knoxville journalist Carson Brewer (who has written MANY articles about the Smokies) tracked down the origin of the stone -- it had been carved by  Thomas Walker to commemorate his brother John's shooting of a deer on a hunting trip.  According to Walker, in 1925 he and his son Mel went up LeConte to look for the stone but did not find it.  Phil Huff unearthed the stone during some excavation work.  (This story is found on pages 119-120 of A Natural History of Mount LeConte, by Kenneth Wise and Ron Petersen.)

Early visitors to LeConte

In a 1963 essay, John O Morrell, a Great Smoky Mountains National Park management assistant, wrote of his first hike to Mt. Le Conte in August 1913. The way he and his father and another Knoxville father-son pair did, it took seven days to reach the top of Le Conte.

In a 1964 letter, Paul Fink of Jonesborough, TN, recalled a week he and two friends spent atop Le Conte in June 1921. He said there were not many signs of previous visitors at all. The trail out to Myrtle Point was so obscure they spent part of their time chopping it out.

By late 1921, enough hikers were going to Le Conte to give some unidentified person the idea of nailing a Prince Albert tobacco can to a post. Hikers were invited to leave their names on a piece of paper in the can. C. L. Baum of Knoxville attached a copper can to a Le Conte tree in 1922, and in it he left a book for names to be recorded. He wrote: "This book was placed on top of Le Conte Mountain for records on June 6, 1922, by C. L. Baum, at this time said to be the oldest man to climb to the top, age 61."

Paul Adams builds a cabin, 1925

The idea for a lodge on top of Mt. LeConte to accommodate visitors dates back to 1925, when Paul Adams established a permanent camp for the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, an organization formed to seek national park status for the Great Smokies. Many prominent visitors spent the night at the early tent camp as guests of the Association in order to win their support for a park in the Southern Appalachians. Where else could you provide a better grandstand view of the Smokies than from the summit of Mt. LeConte?

In 1966 Paul Adams published his recollections in a tiny volume Mt. LeConte, by Paul J. Adams; published by Holston Printing Co., Knoxville TN.  This work is out of print but occasionally shows up on used and rare book sites.

1926:  The Huffs and LeConte Lodge; 1960 - The Browns; and Today

In 1926 Jack Huff took over from Adams and started Le Conte Lodge, which has been there ever since. Jack and Pauline Huff married at sunrise on Myrtle Point April 29, 1934. Pauline said the wedding party started up the Bearpen Hollow route at 10 P.M. the night before.

The Huffs operated the lodge through 1959. Herrick and Myrtle Brown took it over in 1960.

LeConte Ltd. Partnership now operates the lodge as a National Park Service concession.

Today, LeConte Lodge is the highest inn providing lodging for visitors in the East. Although LeConte is the third highest mountain in the Park at 6,595 feet, it is actually the "tallest" mountain in the Eastern United States, rising over a vertical mile from Gatlinburg. Rustic accommodations include the lodge, a dining hail, and a cluster of small cabins equipped with double-bunk beds. Dinner at the dining hall is served at 6 p.m., breakfast at 8 am. A packtrain of llamas brings food, bed linens, and other supplies to and from the Lodge three times a week. These animals do not damage these heavily used trails as much as horses.

LeConte Lodge can accommodate an average of 45 guests per night, and normally fills up a year in advance. Reservations are required for the lodge and for the 12-man lean-to shelter (with bear-proof chain link fence across the opening) near the lodge. There is no charge for staying at the shelter, but reservations are required through the Park's backcountry office.
 


LeConte Lodge Site Table of Contents

Photo album
Brief history of LeConte Lodge
 Joe's LeConte stories
Reverend A. Rufus Morgan 
Gracie McNicol: 244 times up LeConte
 Links to other sites
LeConte Lodge in winter
LeConte Llama Wrangler Retires After Ten Years
(Nov 2011)
Suggested reading
How to submit your articles for publication. 

 

 

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