Most of the time, when I go to Grandfather Mountain, I park at a Parkway overlook, or at NC 105, or US-221, and hike to the top. Last year, a law office client of mine who was a Grandfather Mountain employee gave me a pass to the main entrance, entitling me to drive in the front gate and park in the main parking lot at the Swinging Bridge like I was somebody. So, on Saturday September 7, 2013, I did.
The majority of the day was summer-time sunny, hot and dry. But being late summer, the day started cloudy, cool and foggy. Wearing no back pack to engender a lot of sweat, nor rain suit to keep it in, I had the pleasant experience of hiking in the mountains without my clothes getting dripping wet, for the first time in about 5 months.
Even though school had started back a week or so earlier, the trail was surprisingly full of other hikers. There were families with kids, college students, older folks and one bunch of Alexander County Fire Department members.
My trip was from the top of the hill parking lot at the big shop, northwest on the Grandfather Trail, across McRae Peak, up the Chute, across Attic Window Peak, then down to a lunch stop at Alpine Meadow. From there I re-traced my route back to the beginning.
Because there are so many steep, exposed sections with ladders to ascend and descend the cliffs, several times the trail was blocked by faint hearted hikers who were afraid to go up or down. At the steepest, longest ladder section south of McRae Peak, as I was returning to the parking lot, it became imperative to be rude to get by. There was a lot of discussion and shouting back and forth between group members of what to do, but no progress. After several minutes of politely and quietly waiting, I did not see any resolution. I shouldered my way around the younger girl and middle aged lady stuck at the top of the ladders and proceeded down. The group seemed to accept my selfish action as inevitable and even thanked me for moving on.
As is usual, several times hikers stopped me on the trail and asked for directions. Then, I finally got to play Ranger Bob to a real ranger. I ate lunch with a back country ranger who was also an Appalachian State University senior. His major was geographical information systems, or computer mapping. He mentioned that he would graduate in 3 months and was looking for a job in the western North Carolina area. I gave him the names and phone numbers (from my cell phone) of several persons I know who do computer mapping in Wilkes County and Mecklenburg County. He keyed the data into his cell phone and thanked me sincerely. I told him you are welcome.