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Well actually my first July trip was Forney Creek in the Smokies but I’m stringing together 3.5 trips in this report to round out the month.
I’ve been so busy with my job during the week that I haven’t had time to post anything; I had insomnia last night and decided to write this out in a Word doc with pictures linked from a site that lets me batch upload.
***warning long blog style report on this one*** Read at your own risk.
First up was my annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games attendance to merge a little fellowship with some camping and hiking.
I ground out the three hour drive to the camping registration area. I had to shuttle my car out and hitch a ride back with such a late start on a Friday after work (all spots near the camping meadows were taken long before). The rain was coming and going in waves on the ride out.
The first part of my report deviates from a strictly hiking topic (although it was technically camping) but was part of my backpacking trip nonetheless.
And here was the castle wall to the area where the core group I’m connected with has camped for well over a decade (but only my third year in the “castle”). The folks in the area near this one have camped in the same spot for over thirty years for the games. It’s a really fun atmosphere and always a great time with descendants of the Scottish clans that use these games to recall and preserve their heritage (amongst other things.) The camping area is divided in to a “family” side and a “rowdy” side as they call it. It just so happens that the folks I know camp on the fringe of the rowdy side (and I camp on the fringe of their camp, which puts me pretty much in the woods).
I pitched my Fly Creek (and tarp above to give a dyer entry) for the next two days in my usual spot on the hillside above the main castle camp. This was done hurriedly as the rain picked up again. I didn’t quite keep everything dry in the process.
It was a rainy Friday night on the mountain and things were pretty subdued. The normal Friday night concert on the field had been cancelled due to rain.
But hey what’s this? A piper (blue jacket in the rainy photo)! Alright, now we got a piper right in our camp braving the rain! That’s the Highland spirit!
And the piper draws people…..
And the piper plus the people draw a drummer. And the people plus the piper plus the drummer draw more drummers and more people and so it goes on a rainy mountain Friday. Good times! And we had no “piper down” emergencies!
Ah the next day brought better weather!
After an hour-long run through area service roads and trails (and an invigorating mountain shower of cold water piped to a freestanding shower tall) it was time to head over to the game field.
Here we have a sighting of the elusive highland fairy.
A day hike out to an overlook above the games meadow brought this view (the peaks of Grandfather Mountain covered in fog)
My buddy Keith, getting dressed up to represent his clan in a meeting.
And I’ll end the games section with this shot of my cousin-in-law Mark in his Fat Bastard attire on the way to attend the Saturday night concert. I think he had a Camelback on beneath that costume but it was something other than water in it. Always a good time at the Highland Games!
And so here I was on day 3: I’m crossing Boone Fork after driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Daniel Boone Scout Trail parking lot. After two nights and two days of camping with the clansmen I was a little rough around the edges but still ready to hike the mountain!
Good advise on this mountain.
Movin’ on up.
Nice sign. If you actually were lost that washed out map would probably not help you.
Here is an example of why I love this trail. The route takes you up many rock faces like this one. It was actually pretty challenging because it was so wet and slick.
And again, you have to watch for blazes in unexpected places. Notice the blaze up high in the photo indicating you should climb the rock wall.
Ah the Indian Pipe.
I stopped off to see the High Balsam shelter. It was maybe the first time I’ve seen a shelter interior shellacked; interesting approach.
These ladders are so fun (these pictures are looking up each ladder). Two of them were quite skillfully curved to the contour of the rock faces they rode.
The thing about these trails is that they are a challenge with more than a daypack on but not overly difficult. I think such trail features create much interest; I like what it adds to the experience.
I had made it to Calloway peak and this picture is looking across to McCrea peak. The weather is notoriously variable on top of Grandfather; in my opinion it’s because the mountain is such an unobstructed prominence between two valley areas. Whatever the reason, the weather had my attention; with my first summit it began thundering and those dark clouds came and went with rain.
OK that was bad. See that weird whitish column of storm blast?
The same thing started happening on my route ahead! Crud..it started thundering and raining very hard. I hung out for a while but after crouching in the rain for about 45 minutes to see what would happen, I decided to bail. I usually regret bailing on any plan but this time I was just fine with getting out of that storm. Lol
So back down the ladder I go..
And some time later the other ladder…
Despite the rain I stopped off to see the crashed plane remnants from long ago.
A look up the mountain from the “cragway” as I used the alternate trail to descend.
This cool rock was my last good picture from Grandfather.
This completed my sixth year of attending the Highland Games and my third camping in the “castle”. What a great trip. See you next year G!
Well, I went home that evening and regrouped. It was good to see my lovely wife for the evening and I slept the sleep of the dead that night.