Thursday, October 19, 2017

2017-10-14 Grandfather Mountain from the Boone Fork Trailhead

Grandfather Mountain Hike
from the Boone Fork Trailhead
Watauga, Caldwell, and Avery County, NC
Saturday, October 14th, 2017

View from the Cragway Trail
Grandfather Mountain State Park

We had our annual SSPBDT Mancation Camping trip this past weekend. This group of friends is not really into the hiking, so I left them at the campsite on Saturday Morning and went for a solo hike to Grandfather Mountain.

I avoided the $20 admission fee by starting at the Boone Fork Trailhead along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Along the way I stopped at one of the Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks to check out some above the clouds views!
Above the clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway

I started my hike by taking the Nuwati Trail up to Storyteller's Rock.

Storyteller's Rock from Below

The trail officially ends at a campsite near the base of the rock, but there are several scramble paths that take you up to the top of the rock for some impressive views!  The spectacular fall color was an added bonus!

View from Storyteller's Rock

view from Storyteller's Rock

From there I backtracked a bit before taking the Cragway Trail up the mountain!  This is a great little trail which has several awesome viewpoints along the way!

 View from the Cragway Trail

 View from the Cragway Trail

View from the Cragway Trail

The Cragway Trail ends at Flat Rock where I took a little break to check out some additional views

 Hanging out at Flat Rock

I continued my climb up the mountain on the Daniel Boone Scout Trail which has a nice distant view of the Linn Cove Viaduct.

view of the Linn Cove Viaduct

All the trails up to this point were new territory to me.  However once I hit the 5,946 ft high Calloway Peak (the actual summit of Grandfater Mountain), I was in familiar territory.

 Out on a Ledge near Calloway Peak

View from Calloway Peak

From the Calloway Gap Junction, I continued on the Grandfather Trail which is one of my favorite stretches of trail anywhere!

Along the Grandfather Trail

 Along the Grandfather Trail

 Along the Grandfather Trail

Along the Grandfather Trail

I had considered going all the way to the Swinging Bridge area, but the crowds started getting thicker and thicker the closer I got.  It amazes me how many more people start their hike from the $20/person trailhead just to avoid about 1,500 feet of elevation gain that is required when hiking from the free trailheads.

There was actually a line of people waiting to climb the latter to the MacRae Peak Summit area!

Heading up to MacRae Peak

I figured the crowds would only get thicker the closer I got to the Swinging Bridge, so I decided to make this my turn around spot.

 view from MacRae Peak

view from MacRae Peak

 View from MacRae Peak
Note:  The people are actually on the trail.  That is one cool section of trail!

I didn't take a whole lot of photos on the hike back down since most of it was stuff I had already seen on the hike up.  However, I did find something that I missed on the hike in.  The remains of an old plane crash.

Plane Crash Remains from May 12th, 1978

Here is the GPS track from my hike

After my hike, I returned back to my friends at Camp Buff.  Once it got dark we decided to have a little fun with some burning steel wool long exposure photography.

Fun with Burning Steel Wool

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing around the campfire!

Hanging out around the campfire at Camp Buff

My complete set of photos is posted here:



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

2017-10-05 Cold Mountain and Shining Rock Loop

Cold Mountain and the Shining Rock
Loop Hike with Mark
Shining Rock Wilderness, NC
Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Mark and Me at Shining Rock

I decided to take the day off from work to join Mark on a 16 mile loop hike into the Shining Rock Wilderness area of North Carolina.  The company that I work for does not allow you to carry over vacation day and our Fiscal year (and Vacation year) ends on October 31st.  So as the saying goes, "Use them or Lose Them!"

Our hike route.  We did the loop Clockwise
(Note:  I did not get a clean GPS track - User Error!)

We started out at Camp Daniel Boone, a Boy Scout Camp located on the Western Edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area.  According to the outside temperature gauge on my truck it was 38 degrees starting out!  It felt great to finally hike in cooler weather after a long and hot summer!

We quickly warmed up as the trail gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation over its first 3.8 miles to Deep Gap.

 Me at the Deep Gap Trail Intersection Sign

We took a short break to shed some layers before continuing on to Cold Mountain.  The Cold Mountain Spur adds another 2.8 miles (1.4 each way), and almost 1,000 feet of additional elevation gain!  The views are well worth the effort it takes to get there!
view from Cold Mountain

 Mark at Cold Mountain

 view from Cold Mountain

 The Summit marker on top of Cold Mountain

Me at Cold Mountain

After a nice break on Cold Mountain we returned back down to Deep Gap and continued South on the Art Loeb Trail through "The Narrows", which offers up some nice views.  It is about 3 miles from Deep Gap to Shining Rock. 

view from the Narrows

 Buzzing around some Wildflowers

 Me along the Art Loeb Trail Narrows

 View from the Narrows

Mark along the Narrows
 Gentian Blooming along the Art Loeb Trail

 Mark Scrambling down a steep section of the Art Loeb Trail

The Art Loeb Trail takes you around Shining Rock, but you can't see much from the actual trail.  There is a multitude of side trails and scramble paths that will take you to Shining Rock.  I have found that the best way to to come up from the South Side.  My attempt at a short cut bushwhack from the North was definitely NOT a good idea. 

Fortunately after a run in with some evil briers, we eventually did make it on top of Shining Rock, a rare White Quartz rock outcrop deep within the Shining Rock Wilderness!

 Mark at the base of Shining Rock

View from Shining Rock 

 Me on Shining Rock

 Mark on Shining Rock

From Shining Rock, it is a little over 6 miles back down to the Daniel Boone Camp along the Little East Fork Trail.  The first 3 miles is a little overgrown, but still easy enough to follow.  The final 3 miles pretty much parallels the creek all the way back to camp.

 Me along the Little East Fork Trail

There are a lot of nice cascades and small waterfalls, but since I elected to save weight and not bring my tripod, I decided to save these for another day!

It was a beautiful day for a hike!  Much better than a day at the office!  It took us about 8 hours to travel the 16 miles and we only encountered two other humans during our hike.

My complete set of photos (plus a few of Mark's) is posted here: