Mike Cooper requested me (Bob Laney) to plan a backpacking trip over the long weekend of August 28 – 30, 2015. I selected Grandfather Mountain, since it is the most rugged set of trails that I know within convenient driving distance from Wilkes County, and none of the other campers had been there. Accompanying us were Chip Wilkes, Drew Willardson and Justin Mikell.
We parked at the Boone Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our hike started with a short ways south on the Tanawha Trail to the State Park check-in kiosk. There I learned for the first time that there is a new camp site reservation system. Up until then, all campsites were first come / first served. All but one still are. Now, the Daniel Boone camp site can be reserved in advance by phone … and somebody had done so for the next evening. This development seriously messed up our logistics. I had planned to stay at the Daniel Boone campsite Saturday evening, because it is the only campsite on that side of the mountain with water. Now we had to change to a dry campsite. I selected the next closest camp site up the mountain, being the Briar Patch.
Friday afternoon we hiked further south on the Tanawha Trail, then up stream on the Nuwati Trail to the end of the trail. We camped at The Refuge camp site. It does not have much of a view, but has large amount of space to accommodate our four tents and a nearby creek for water. Drew made a nice campfire. Most of the wood was damp, so he had a hard time keeping it going, but it smelled great.
Saturday morning Mike awoke reporting an upset tummy and a night of nausea. He felt under the weather most of the rest of the trip, but he toughed it out and soldiered on with the rest of us. We packed up camp and hiked up the steep and rugged Cragway Trail to the Daniel Boone Scout Trail. Just beyond that intersection, at the Daniel Boone campsite, we went to the spring and tanked up with water. According to my prior instructions, we had all planned to have water available at both camp sites.
Since we had changed our plans to a dry camp site Saturday night, we were short on water containers. Chip and I both had pee bottles. I had used mine in my tent the night before. I am not sure about Chip. We looked at each other. Sometimes a man has to do what a man has to do. We both washed out our pee bottles and filled them with fresh drinking water.
Our intrepid group then hiked up the Daniel Boone Scout trail to the Briar Patch campsite a mile closer to the summit. We set up camp and had lunch. Then we made Mike comfortable in his tent. The rest of us hiked to the top of the rugged trail and summited at Calloway Peak, at 5,946 feet the highest point on Grandfather Mountain and one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We snapped some photos and talked to the several other hiking groups congregated on the summit.
After we hiked back down the trail to the Briar Patch, Drew built another fire and we all fixed supper. Mike even came out of his tent and ate some beef jerky. Chip heated on his alcohol stove and ate his usual healthy, delicious, home-made, dehydrated and vacuum sealed dinner. Justin ate one of his several Army surplus MRE’s. I experimented with a new system and took no stove. All my food was dried or semi-fresh and edible right out of the container. One meal was canapés made from Triscuit crackers, sliced summer sausage, cheese squares and mayonnaise. Another meal was a big chunk of fried bacon with cheese sticks and dried fruit. I skipped my usual drinks of Instant Breakfast with rehydrated milk; and Gatorade; and just drank fresh water. [Funny how some of it had a kind of uric acid twang? Just kidding…]
The second night Chip slept in his hammock under a tarp. Drew had a nice two man Sierra Designs tent, but he was so intrigued with Chip’s tarp system that he said he may switch to a tarp in the future. Sunday morning we packed up and hiked back out, down the Daniel Boone Scout trail, to the Tanawha Trail, and back to the Boone Fork parking lot. A good time was had by all.
If anybody is interested in another trip, Chip and I are planning to go to the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic area in the Pisgah National Forest early this fall.