The Winter Backpacking Trip that Wasn't

The Winter Backpacking Trip that Wasn't

Ranger Bob had planned a backpacking trip to Grandfather Mountain on December 28 - 29, 2020.  I made my reservation using the new Internet system adopted by the State Park several months ago.  A couple days before the trip I received a call from one of the Park Rangers.  I had never been personally called by a park ranger before.  Apparantly I was the only person to have a reservation to camp on the mountain that entire week, so I caught their attention.  He wanted to know if I was aware of the conditions in the Park. 

He said the trail head parking lot is on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is closed due to deep snow.  Then the camp site I had reserved has no water, so I will have to carry all I need for two days.  And the only spring where water is available on the trail to my camp site is frozen over and not running. Then the trail itself is iced over and covered with deep snow.  Not only would these conditions make for difficult hiking, but the mountain is so steep and rugged that even in clear, warm, dry weather some steps can be difficult and dangerous.  Under deep snow the steps would be invisible and even more dangerous. Finally, the temperature is expected to be about 5 degrees, with a wind chill factor well below 0 degrees. 

I said that I am 68 years old, my family has owned a cabin near Grandfather since I was born, where I often stay.  I have hiked, camped and backpacked on every trail in every season and weather condition, so I expected these factors.  The ranger fell all over himself apologizing for insulting my experience. 

I laughed and said that my experience tells me not to go on this trip.  Even if I could handle it and survive, I am not in that strong shape physically and I would be miserably cold.  I thanked him profusely for being concerned about my safety and for contacting me as a precaution.  We chatted for a while more about the Park before hanging up. 

This trip is the first one in my life that I have cancelled due to bad weather conditions and my own lack of acclimation and physical shape.  I suppose this situation is a condescension to my aging, and maybe to my getting a little bit wiser. 

A good time was had by all snuggling on the couch in front of the open wood stove and drinking hot chocolate. 


GPS Coordinates: 36 6 15,-81 49 6

Bob Laney

Written by:

Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.