grandfather mountain - round 2.
We have a lot of friends that say they want to come hiking with us all the time. The thing about that is, most people don't hike like we hike, and when it really comes down to it, we go alone. So when Mark and Ashley said they wanted to come hiking, we knew we had to go big. Grandfather Mountain was the chosen place. And the plan was to hike the Profile Trail (3.6M) and the Grandfather Trail (2.4M) all the way to the swinging bridge and back, in one day.
Park Map: grandfather-mountain-park-map
So it was give or take about 6 miles right? No big deal...
We arrived in the Profile Trail parking lot around noon. It's hilarious, I'm sure, if you know these trails, because arriving at noon is not ideal at all. The Profile Trail alone climbs 1,775 feet in those short 3-miles and on average, it takes an hour per mile to complete. The Ginger and I conquered the profile trail once before, but got rained out and ended up camping under the Hi Balsam Shelter for the night and hiking out the next morning. You can read the blog all about that, here: https://behindthecamerasnaps.com/2017/06/28/grandfather-mountain-state-park/
A pack full of treats ready to go - we were off on our next adventure with our two victims.
Immediately entering the trail we passed a few hikers coming out who were scrubbing their shoes off as they were caked with mud. "Just great", I thought as we conquered onward into the thickest, sloppiest mud I have ever tried to hike in. This lasted for a good mile or so before clearing up and then the trail became nothing but ice and snow from there.
The greatest part about hiking at Grandfather Mountain is that the weather is ever-changing and always unpredictable. I love that aspect, but I also hate it. We had to carefully make our way through some steep rock climbs as the ice got worse the higher we climbed.
We kept telling Mark & Ashley that the end was right around the corner and it really wasn't - and we really hadn't even begun yet. We were approaching the only water source at Shanty Spring, when we took a short break before heading up the rock scramble to the top where the Grandfather Trail joins in.
It was getting remarkably colder as we continued on, and luckily we had all brought gloves to keep our hands toasty. Mark and Ashley were doing great and kept up with us without complaining at all. I was getting a little sketched out as we kept going because I wasn't quite sure how we were getting back to the car... it was approaching 2pm and darkness was creeping on us.
Passing a few others hikers, we asked them to grab a group shot as we approached Mile 3 of the Profile Trail. They informed us that we "had a ways to go", and the one guy actually laughed and said "you're not going to make it".
I think the fact that they didn't think we would make it, is what made all four of us conquer on. We had reached the end of the Profile Trail and felt incredible. From here, in our minds, we thought the rest of this hike was going to be a piece of cake...
Little did we know the events that would happen next.
We stopped at one of the first major view points on the Grandfather Trail around 5pm. Grabbing some wonderful scenic shots of the mountains in the distance, we soon continued on the trail in a sort of frantic hurry thinking we were close to the end and it was just about dark.
The end never came.
We started getting to the "technical" part of this advanced trail - and in the ice and snow, one should be extremely careful as you make your way up and over a bunch of rock walls, steep pinnacles, and ladders. The open mountain views were incredible, but we honestly didn't have time to take the scenery in as much as we would have liked. We only had about an hour left of daylight.
We hustled, but I did grab a few shots to share.
We stopped and grabbed a bite to eat on a rock just before the clouds started spitting out a rainy mist. Stuffing our faces and chugging the beers we had carried in as fast as possible. Meeting another couple who had been hiking all day was a relief, at least we weren't alone...
The trail runs through areas of complete beauty in the forest - lots of spruce and fir. It is here we saw our first print. A paw print.
It's so quiet in these areas of deep forest, and all I could imagine at this point, was a hungry bear being behind me. These were fresh prints, and the boys immediately started talking loud, calling out "HEY BEAR!", while I sang my melodies of peace and happiness.
We passed by and had to follow the trail into a couple of caves and tried to stay as calm as we could. I have never been more terrified.
Making our way down another set of rocks, it began to sleet. Following that, we had finally made our way to the Grandfather Mountain Extension Trail. Not far to go...but oh wait, we still had to get to the car...
These were the last pictures taken before we would be hiking the rest in pure darkness. We had two headlamps, souls full of fire, and a bear.
Making it to the Grandfather Mountain attraction parking lot, we started walking the 2-miles to the ticket gate. At the gate, a Security Guard was there and was not surprised to see us. He said this happens all the time. The latest he had people hike out was 3am, so we were in good shape as it was only 9pm. HAH!
We called a friend in Boone to scoop us up, murdered some tacos at the first restaurant we found, and I slept like a baby that night.
Grandfather Mountain kicked our ass again, and I have the feeling it will always be an experience each time we come back here. It's a place of absolute beauty, and will offer you a challenge to say the least. As for our friends Mark and Ashley -- they are coming camping with us this weekend. Eager and ready to conquer more trails with us, we have succeeded in showing two people the greatest feeling of all: BEING PROUD OF YOURSELF.
Happy trails, ya'll. :)