Llamas play a key role in getting food and other supplies to the remote LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky.
When you stay at LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you have to work a little bit to get there. Located at 6,360 feet, LeConte Lodge can be reached by any of five hiking trails.
Hot Mountain Meals
But a little exertion just means that the lodge’s family-style meals are even more of a welcome sight. Breakfast consists of scrambled eggs, grits, Canadian bacon, pancakes and biscuits. Lunch is served only to those who stay more than one night. However, you can purchase a sack lunch for your hike down for $10. Dinner includes beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked apples and the menu may change for those staying multiple nights. If you are interested in wine with your dinner, be sure to pack $11 per person.
Llama Train to LeConte
But how does the lodge get its food when there are no roads to the high-altitude perch? A train of llamas has been carrying food, linens and other supplies up the lodge three times a week along the Trillium Gap Trail since 1986. Prior to the llamas, horses carried the loads, but they made a relatively big impact on the narrow, rocky trail.
Before starting their 6.7-mile climb to the lodge, the llamas eat alfalfa cubes. Led by a llama wrangler, the llamas spend about four hours on trail to reach the lodge. They walk under Grotto Falls and at Trillium Gap, the halfway point, the trails narrows and gets rockier, although the llamas have great gripping abilities, thanks to their foot pads. When they arrive, the lodge staff removes the llamas’ loads and reward them with something special: pancakes. On their way back, the llamas are loaded with garbage and dirty linens.
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Video courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountains Ass. www.smokiesinformation.org