On October 24, 2003, I hiked Grandfather Mountain Ė the hard way. I started from NC-105 at the bottom of the Profile Trail about 8:30 a.m. The rangers on duty nicely told me I could expect clear and abnormally warm weather. They were right.
The hike uphill traversed the well fitted stonework that marks this as one of the prettiest and most solidly built trails I have seen, except for the ancient Inca trails around Machu Pichu, Peru. Along the way I saw directly, heard or saw foot prints of grouse, gray and red squirrels, deer and raccoon. For many decades when I regularly hiked on this mountain I rarely saw wildlife, other than small birds. I am certain that wildlife is making a come back on Grandfather.
After reaching the top of the mountain at Calloway Gap, I turned southeast and climbed several peaks to my standard lunch site on the top of McCrae Peak. Another hiker couple exchanged the favor with me of taking each othersí pictures. Then I proceeded to cross the rest of the peaks to the Swinging Bridge.
Along the main ridge trail I encountered the usual scattered groups of hikers with questions about where they were and concerns about how to get back to where they came from. I enjoyed playing Ranger Bob about 10 times. Entertainingly, two different groups asked me, without first explaining from which of the three different parking lots they started hiking, which way they should go to get back to their car!
I donít know whether only my perception has changed, or if the mountain demographics are really different. But it seems to me that the number and percentage of hikers of the distaff gender, including groups of only women, is growing. Whatever, itís a pleasant addition to the usual macho gang of guys hustling over the peaks.
I was able to return to the Profile Trail and make my way back to my Bronco by about 5 p.m. with mostly fast-paced, marathon-type hiking. It is approximately 10 miles round trip with a several thousand feet of altitude gain and loss - and gain and loss, and gain and loss!
Itís a great trip and I look forward to returning with any of my friends who are interested. I think next time I will start from US-221 at the bottom of the Boone Scout Trail and make that out-and-back marathon hike to the Bridge.