Just back from two nights at the Mast Farm Inn, Valle Crucis, near Boone and Linville, NC.
Weather turned cold and blustery as soon as we arrived. We knew the Grandfather Mountain trails we wanted to try would not be accessible Tuesday morning (it was snowing up there, we knew, as a very cold rain fell where we were), so I had my "Hiking - North Carolina" (Randy Johnson) book with me, looking for a lower elevation hike, as Ann and I went to the original Mast General Store for gloves and hats we had not thought we would need.
Two older fellows sat near the very hot pot-bellied stove in the General Store as I tried to find a good trailhead nearby. Turns out they were both Boy Scout leaders and gave us good directions to the trail head for the Boone Fork Loop Trial (mile 296.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway).
The weather, as we stopped at the Moses Cone summer home (now a Parkway Craft Center), still threatened to make for a miserable hike.
We hiked the 4.9 mile, Boone Fork Trail from 11 a.m. to a little past 2 p.m. The weather behaved reasonably well.
The trail is special.
As one of the two fellows at the General Store advised, we started to the left, through camp grounds. At one early point, a white tail deer ran off to our right. A bit farther, her two friends were in the trail ahead of us. One, especially, froze in our path just a little ahead of us. Nice promise of the great hike to come.
The trail offers a little bit of everything. Lots of rocky, rooted rises and falls. Many tricky little water crossings. A stroll through a high pasture complete with the cows and their cow patties.
A beaver dam and pond, an old lake bed from the days of "archaic" native Americans , one sign said.
The mountain laurel for some long stretches created a tunnel that protected us nicely from the cold and wind (which the pasture did not!).
The Mountains to Sea Trail is a part of a good part of the loop. The Tanawha Trail (between Beacon Heights, near Linville, and Blowing Rock) offers a part to the loop as well.
This morning the weather was nicer. So we set off for Grandfather Mountain. But there had been enough snow that they did not even open the lower part of the mountain until 11:30 a.m.
We waited and then went up to the animal exhibits and museum. It was bitter, and only the deer were to be seen outside.
Inside we found my old friend Hugh Morton, who developed the Mountain. He gave us soup and then drove us to the top of the Mountain. (I took down the "Road Closed" chain and replaced it, as we were the only visitors above that point this early afternoon.)
Hugh's running commentary about the movies (like "Forrest Gump") and car commercials (like Cadillac) filmed on his Mountain were a treat to us both.
It was really bitter at the top! The snow had "piled up" sideways (!!) on the metal railings and posts at the gift shop near the "Mile High Swinging Bridge". (Wind speeds occasionally top 100 mph at the top of Grandfather.)
After some quick photos, Hugh returned us to our car to find another, lower-elevation hike.
We "settled" for the very popular, highly traveled (even on this, now-improving Wednesday in late October) Linville Falls trails to the three easiest to reach views of those big falls.