Hiking Mt. LeConte- day two

            Sweet Llamas
            11 miles down


We set our alarm to watch the sunrise, but decided against it when we stayed there in the nice cozy bed feeling our aching muscles. We still got up early since there was no electricity and breakfast was at 8am.

We had heard that the llamas bring up the supplies three times a week and today was one of the days. We asked which trail they were coming up, since I really wanted to see them. The trail they were coming on was a nine mile trail down called Trillium.

So we headed off with enthusiasm sure that the trail was in the direction of Rainbow Trail. After a half hour hiking of hiking downhill we ended up back at Rainbow and knew we’d gone the wrong direction. We turned around and soon ran into some hikers with a newer map, turns out our map had the Trillium in the wrong place. So back UPHILL to the Lodge where Trillium Trail leaves from right behind the Lodge! So we started again on our journey with two miles added, a nice morning stroll!

The llamas had not arrived yet so I knew that we would be passing them on the trail. What a fun experience to see the llamas coming up the trail. We stopped and talked with one of the men about the llamas and got to hang out with Earl, one of the llamas. There were about 8 llamas in the group, all males. It turns out that when they get up to the Lodge they get to eat the leftover pancakes, so most of them rushed by to get there. I wonder about how work animals feel. Must say, they all seemed healthy and happy.

We asked Tom, the llama guide, why they used llamas over mules. Turns out llamas are more gentle on the trail, whereas mules would wreck it up pretty badly; llamas are easier to manage with their size and weight; are more predictable and have a gentle nature. I had a delightful time passing the llamas on the trail.

I thought about the many yaks that we will be passing on the trek in Nepal to Mt. Everest base camp. In fact the guide books all firmly state to please stand on the upside of the mountain when passing a yak and every guide there has a yak pushing someone off the cliff story.

The hike down was beautiful! We passed many hiker/Lodge guests that were heading up for the night. I was amazed that many were couples in their 50s and 60s that had been doing this yearly for many years. One man shared a story about a 90 year old woman that worked at the Lodge 20 years ago and she was walking very slowly with tiny shuffling-steps all the way up to see the Lodge again. Her granddaughter was with her and would walk ahead and wait. I am sure that when she finally arrived her heart soared with pure joy for the love from those at the Lodge and her love to, again, be surrounded by such beautiful nature.

The most memorable part of the hike down was the beauty! Every inch of the trail down was a picture moment. My heart was full of love for all life.

Then all of a sudden about three miles from our destination we entered upon a lot of people hanging out around Grotto falls. Grotto falls is a beautiful waterfall that is about 1 1/2 miles from the road. So many people go there to get out and experience the falls there since it is easily accessible. We still had 3 1/2 miles to go before we get to the car.

It was an odd feeling to be in a place of peace with few people, then enter a place of many people talking, laughing and playing. It was kind of surreal for a minute. Then I was able to shift to the outer place of being and connect to those around.

When we saw the parking lot, a sense of accomplishment was felt by both of us. We had hiked 20 miles in two days and experienced some of the most beautiful nature that the Smokey Mountains has to share. It was a true blessing to be a part of this experience.

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