Monday, August 23, 2010

Grandfather Mountain Weekend - Introduction and Day 1

Grandfather Mountain 2010 Camera Clinic
Friday August, 20th thru Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Grandfather Mountain Sunset


Grandfather Mountain is definitely a spectacular place. My first hike after moving to the Carolinas over ten years ago was at Grandfather Mountain. Since then, I have only made one other visit. There are three reasons why I have not made many visits to Grandfather Mountain over the years.
  • $15.00 per person admission fee. While this is not a whole lot of money and I know the money goes towards preserving the park, there are plenty of free places to visit and hike.
  • It is not possible to photograph a sunrise or sunset since the park does not open until well after sunrise, and closes before sunset.
  • There is no camping on grandfather mountain and since for me it is close to a 3 hour drive (one way), it is a bit too far for a day trip!

However, there is a way to get around these three issues. The annual Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic:
This annual event solves all three issues I have with Grandfather Mountain! 

  • Great deal! For $25.00, you get entry into the park from 3:00pm Friday through 7:00pm Sunday, Two nights camping, and access to all the Camera Clinic Presentations, plus a Saturday Evening all you can eat Buffet Dinner!
  • Access to the park after hours allowing you to be able to capture the sunrises and sunsets.
  • The opportunity to camp in a place where camping is usually not allowed.

So several of my Carolinas Adventures and Facebook friends signed up!

Day 1 – Friday, August 20th, 2010

I decided to take the whole day off from work and enjoy a leisurely drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is nice to be able to drive the Parkway during a weekday since there is much less traffic (except right around Asheville)! I enjoyed being able to drive the parkway at my own pace and stopped at many of the overlooks.
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway
I also made a stop at Mount Mitchell State Park, the highest mountain in the Eastern United States. It has been several years since my last visit to the Mt. Mitchell Summit, and since that time they have built a brand new observation platform, which I wanted to check out.

Me at the Summit of Mount Mitchell
 Unfortunately, like every one of my previous visit to Mount Mitchell the views were all fogged in. However it was still an enjoyable visit. To experience 60 degree temperatures in the middle of August was a very pleasant break from the heat of the summer!

Foggy view from Mount Mitchell

My next significant stop would be Crabtree Falls. A nice 2.5 mile round trip loop hike takes you to this impressive waterfall. Unfortunately all the clouds covering Mount Mitchell did not make there way over here. I spent a good bit of time waiting for a rare stray cloud to briefly cover up the harsh sunlight so I could snap a few good shots.

Crabtree Falls

Waiting for clouds was also a good excuse for Iggy to crawl out of my pack.

Iggy at Crabtree Falls
By the time I finished the Crabtree Falls hike, it was time to head over to Grandfather Mountain to set up camp.

I got there just after 3:00pm and there was some confusion at the Grandfather Mountain Entrance Gate. Eventually someone figured out what was going on and I was given a camping pass and access the park for the weekend. We would be camping at the first picnic area on the right side of the road after entering the park.

I immediately spotted Joe and his strange colored Honda Element and knew I was at the right place. While this was the first time I have actually met Joe in person, he is a long time Carolinas Adventures member and I felt like I knew him already. This would also be my first time meeting Susan, who showed up shortly after I did.

Dave was next to arrive. Dave and I go way back to the days of the Waterfall Wandering Yahoo Group! He was also the one that Amy and I got to photograph our wedding several years ago.

Our Campsite at Grandfather Mountain
After catching up with old and new friends and setting up my tent, I decided it was time for a short hike. According to the sign at the Grandfather Trailhead, the trails close at 6:00pm so I only had about 30 minutes. I didn’t get very far, but did find a nice place to view the Mile High Swinging Bridge!

view of the Mile High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain
After my quick hike, I decided to head over and get a closer look at the Mile High Swinging Bridge.

The Mile High Swinging Bridge
As I was walking across the bridge I heard someone down below yell, “Stop Right There”. It was my buddy Johnny!
Here's Johnny!

Johnny and I spent a little while roaming around shooting photos before returning to camp to cook up some burgers.

A painter on Grandfather Mountain
 After dinner it was time for a sunset. We decided that the Cliffside Overlook would be a great place for a sunset. We were right!

Sunset from Grandfather Mountain
My favorite photos of the whole weekend were a series of Silhouette shots of Susan photographing the Sunset!

Silhouette of Susan at Sunset
Different White Balance setting brings out different colors

After sunset, we returned to camp to hang out around the campfire. It was a beautiful evening around the fire enjoying a few FABs and each others company. I was very thankful that Susan brought some wood to set up the fire. Camping just isn’t the same without a campfire!

The cool crisp mountain air and a nice breeze felt delightful. We could have easily hung out through the night, but we had a sunrise awaiting us the next morning so we retired to our tents around midnight.

To be continued

Day 2 coming soon.

The full set of photos from Day 1 can be found here:


wayne15575 said...

Fantastic captures Jack. Each one better then the next. I can't wait to see more of the trip,

Jack said...

Thanks Wayne! Hopefully I'll be able to get the next batch posted tomorrow, but the highlight shots from the weekend were from this first day

HemlockMan said...

Your photography is really getting damned good, Jack. You're close to pro-level (or beyond) as far as I'm concerned.

I've never heard of this camera clinic. Pretty darned cool deal!

You can always camp in the National Forest along the trail and hike to the summit and stay as long as you want. I know people who have done that.

Mr. J said...

Agreed about the sunset shots. I love seeing how different photos can turn out just based on white balance. It's pretty neat how our eyes adjust (without the benefit of the camera), and we rarely see the difference.