Day 2 - Saturday, August 21st, 2010
Day 2 Photos:
Once I heard others starting to stir about the campsite and saw a bit of daylight peaking through my tent, I decided to head up the mountain to catch a sunrise. There was significant cloud cover, so I really didn’t expect much. In addition to the clouds, I passed Dave driving in the opposite direction down the mountain and I figured that was a bad sign.
Dave got up well before sunrise and had eventually given up on the morning's display of light. I got there just in time for the sun to make a brief appearance through the clouds for a total of about 30 seconds.
Grandfather Mountain Sunrise
Turns out that would be the last of the sun I would see all day!
Morning Light at Grandfather Mountain
I liked the way the clouds formed around MacRae peak to the left of this photo
It wasn’t a spectacular sunrise, but it was good enough that I am glad I got up early. I also got a few good shots of some Deer on the side of the road during the drive back down to the campsite.
Deer on the side of the Road
I returned to camp and fixed myself some breakfast. After breakfast Johnny and I decided to go for a hike, but first I had to help Johnny find his glasses. I found them laying on the ground next to the pile of rocks that Johnny tripped and fell over the previous evening.
Our hike plan was to do a Lollipop loop along the Grandfather and Underwood Trails, summiting MacRae Peak along the way. This was actually the first hike I ever did after moving to the Carolinas back in 1999 and I was looking forward to doing it again.
By the time Johnny and I arrived at the Trailhead, we were surrounded by thick fog. It was obvious that there would not be any distant views today. Fortunately I enjoy hiking through fog, so it should still be an enjoyable hike.
Me taking a break along the Grandfather Trail
The Grandfather Trial is sometimes referred to as the “Chutes and Ladders Trail” for obvious reasons.
Lots of Ladders up the Mountain
While the many ladders, ropes, and bright blazes do take away from the true wilderness experience, this terrain would not be safe without them. Plus, they make for a very interesting hike! I ended up with about 50 photos of Johnny climbing up and down various chutes and ladders.
Johnny Playing Chutes and Ladders
The Summit of MacRae Peak is only about a mile hike from the trailhead. To give an idea of how rugged this trail is; that mile hike took almost 2 hours, which is about 5 times slower than my normal hiking pace.
At the summit we could see absolutely nothing but fog and the rock below our feet, so we stuck around just long enough for Iggy to crawl out of my pack and pose next to the MacRae Peak Summit Marker.
Iggy at the Summit of MacRae Peak
The return hike down the Underwood Trail was definitely easier, but still no walk in the park! While not as many as the Grandfather Trail, the Underwood Trail still had its share of “Chutes and Ladders”
Johnny on top a ladder on the Underwood Trail
The nice thing about this hike is that I can do it again on a clear day and it will be an entirely different experience. Hopefully we will have clearer weather next year!
It started to drizzle during the tail end of our hike and it became a steady rain once we returned to the campground to fix up some lunch.
There is a running joke amongst some of my hiking groups that it always rains when I go camping. Over my past 20 camping trips, I can only remember one camping weekend when we didn’t get any rain. It doesn’t make a difference what the weather forecast calls for; the rain will come once I pitch my tent.
We were thankful for the canopies that Dave and Susan brought along, even if Dave’s canopy had the Clemson Tigers logo all over it.
The rain canopy I brought was useless. The last time I had it out, I was too lazy to try and get the cover back in the bag with the frame, forgot the cover wasn’t in the bag, and therefore ended up only bringing the frame.
I also forgot to bring camp chairs, but fortunately Johnny brought a couple of extras. That’s one of the nice things about camping with larger groups, if you forget something; chances are someone else with have you covered!
Dave’s brother Gary arrived on his Harley during one of the heavier periods of rain, and the final arrival of the weekend was Andy.
Despite the rain, Andy and I decided to get a hike in. We chose the Black Rock Trail, a one mile out and back hike (2 miles round trip). We elected to bring umbrellas in place of hiking poles.
One of the highlights of this trail is Arch Rock, a natural bridge formed by a stream eroding through the rocks over millions of years.
Arch Rock on the Black Rock Trail
An impressive view awaits at the end of the trail and the fog had actually lifted very briefly for us.
View from the end of the Black Rock Trail
Andy climbing up to another viewpoint
As we were nearing the end of our hike, the skies opened up again. You would think I would be happy to have an umbrella, but it turns out an umbrella does little good while hiking through thickets of Rhododendron!
We were both all wet and muddy and had no time to clean up and dry off before the first presentation of the day.
Bill Fortney works for Nikon and gets paid to travel across the country giving photography presentations and leading photography workshops. What an awesome Job! He showed some of his amazing work, gave us a few tips, and kept us entertained for a little over an hour.
Next up was a break for dinner which was an all you can eat buffet consisting of fried chicken, baked chicken, shredded pork BBQ, veggies, rolls, and an assortment of desserts.
Andy and I strategically got to the front of the Buffet line. The Fried Chicken was the highlight of the meal. I thought about going back for another piece, but there was still a good line of people who had yet to eat. Instead we used the remaining dinner break time to take a stroll through the animal habitats.
I got some good shots of the Bears, Deer, and Golden Eagle; but the Cougars and Otters were all hiding.
Nice Rack on this Buck
The next presenter of the evening was Doug Brewer. In addition to sharing some of his awesome photography, his very unique sense of humor and style kept us entertained for the next hour.
This was actually the perfect time to be sitting inside, because we could hear a monsoon of rain pounding on the auditorium roof.
The final presenter of the evening was William Bake who recently completed a year long photography project for the Blue Ridge Parkway Association. He spent about 45 minutes sharing photos from all along the parkway and the stories behind them.
The rain had stopped, but the fog was as thick as pea soup. Our original plan was to head up the mountain for a sunset, but Andy and I were both in agreement that there would be nothing to see and instead elected to head back down to the campground and commence to drinking.
That was my biggest regret of the whole weekend. It turns out that the top of the mountain peaks were poking up into another world above the fog! We could only kick ourselves as some of the others came back and gave us a preview of what we missed on their LCD camera screens!
Above the Clouds
Photo by Joe Rone
Here is a link to Joe’s shots to get an idea of what I missed
For the second night in a row, we had a very enjoyable evening around the campfire. Since we were one of the only groups that actually had a fire (Thanks to Susan), we had several other visitors show up to hang out around our fire throughout the evening.
We all retired to our tents around midnight in hopes that a beautiful sunrise would await us the next morning.
To be continued....
Day 3 coming soon
The full set of photos from Day 2 is posted here:
And for those of you that might have missed it:
Day 1 Blog Post
Day 1 Photos