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Grandfather Mountain—eastern side October 14, 2013

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Southern Appalachians.
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The conifers seemed to be marching through the mist.

The conifers seemed to be marching through the mist.

Somehow or other, over the years, I’d missed out on Grandfather Mountain.  I’d heard many times about the famous swinging bridge, the grandfather profile, and the rugged trails. I’d driven past it on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yesterday my friend Gary and I visited the area’s eastern end and climbed Calloway Peak (5946′).

Several years ago, much of the area, long privately held, became part of the North Carolina state park system. The western end, with the swinging bridge and nature center, remains a private attraction with an entrance fee. Gary and I decided to access the park for free from the Boone Fork trailhead on the parkway,

We followed the Nuwati trail to its end, backtracked to the Cragway trail and followed that to the Daniel Boone Scout trail. We then continued westward to Calloway Peak, backtracked on the Boone trail, and descended to the Tanawha trail near the parking area. The trail system is somewhat complicated.

I loved this sign.

I loved this sign.

Our hike was about 10 miles with an elevation gain of 2000′. Much of the time we were in the spruce-balsam zone. The forest resembles other high-elevation areas in the Southern Appalachians, including the Smokies, but something about it looked different to me. I had a hard time putting my finger on it, but I finally decided that the vegetation is simply smaller and sparser than the familiar environment of the Smokies—no big surprise considering it’s further north. This doesn’t mean the Grandfather Mountain forest is less attractive than the Smokies forest. You could even argue that the Smokies vegetation is so dense and the trees and plants so chaotic and oversized that it’s, well, kind of messy-looking. I happen to like that, but… that’s just me.

The feeling of a tidier environment extended to the trail itself, which features many wooden steps and neatly crafted drainage systems. It also has ladders on some of the steep ledges.

The Nuwati trail had some nice overlooks.

The red maples were spectacular.

The red maples were spectacular.

Gary enjoys the view.

Gary enjoys the view.

Looking down into the bowl.

Looking down into the bowl.

Interesting rock formation.

Interesting rock formation.

We left behind the views and entered the mossy, misty conifer forest. I spotted these ferns growing in a crevice in a large boulder.

Polypody ferns.

Polypody ferns.

As we approached Calloway Peak, the way grew steeper and rougher. Some minor scrambling was required, and we encountered three ladders fixed to  steep places. On our way up, at one of the longer ladders, we met a man and woman descending. She was having a tough time with it, and descended facing outwards, which I believe made it harder. Eventually we topped out on Calloway.

View from Calloway Peak.

View from Calloway Peak.

After resting for a while on the summit, we went back down the ladders—facing the rock.

Gary descends a ladder.

Gary descends a ladder.

We had a few spots of drizzle, but the rain held off until shortly after we returned to the car and started driving down the parkway, when it poured. I liked the clouds and the mist—it was a fine outing.

Fall colors.

Fall colors.

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Comments»

1. cindy mcj - October 14, 2013

The leaf color is so bright- beautiful images of the foliage.

Jenny - October 15, 2013

Thank you, Cindy.

2. Gary - October 28, 2013

It was fun. The hikes the week before and after look great too
Gary .

Jenny - October 28, 2013

Thanks, Gary, I wasn’t sure how the fall color would turn out this year of unusual patterns of rainfall, but it’s turned out to be great.


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