Travel Stage: After Huntersville, Before Asheville
Date Range: May 5 – 10, 2016
Summary: We stay at a Thousand Trails campground in Lenoir, NC. From here we visit Boone and hike Grandfather Mountain.
When we visited Banner Elk and Boone in fall of 2015, we left with some unfinished business. We also had really liked the area and wanted to spend more time there in general. This time, we brought our house with us too!
We stayed at a campground in Lenoir, NC which was about 30-45 minutes away from Boone, where we met up with some friends for dinner. We also toured more of downtown Boone where we found some awesome cheap tourist t-shirts and a kava bar of all things! (If you’re not familiar with kava, it is a South Pacific root drink that has similar yet different effects than alcohol.)
Grandfather Mountain is technically the highest mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains with its Calloway Peak topping out at 5,946 ft. It is, however, beaten by nearby mountains in neighboring ranges: Mount Mitchell (elv. 6,684 feet), located 40 miles south in the Black Mountain range, is the highest point in Eastern America. Roan Mountain (elv. 6,285 feet), located 20 miles to the west, is the highest peak in the Unaka Mountains, and we hiked it last fall. It was named “Grandfather” by pioneers who recognized the face of an old man in one of the cliffs.
Grandfather Mountain is probably the most visited mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has an aquarium, a science museum, a famous suspension bridge, and more. And it costs $20 per person to get into the State Park that houses all this entertainment. We didn’t want all that fluff. We wanted to climb the mountain!
We planned our trek to the highest peak, Calloway Peak at 5,946 feet. We started our ascent from the Boone Fork Parking Area at 3,905 feet with the dogs in tow. The trail we took was marked as “strenuous” and we didn’t really give much thought to what that meant. Maybe “beginners beware?” This wasn’t our first mountain, so we figured we’d be fine.
The angle was pretty steep the whole way and the trail was very rocky for the 3.7 miles up to Calloway Peak. We took pride in the burning of our legs and the sweat on our brow. Masters of the mountain! The dogs were enjoying themselves, too. We had some amazing vistas along the way.
At one point along the trail we came across the wreckage of a plane that had crashed long ago. The twisted metal and debris spread across 200 yards or more. Still here from when it crashed in 1978. It took rescue crews 4 hours to reach the crash, which was fatal for the pilot who was the only person inside. You can read the Newspaper report of the incident here and read the N735MB crash report here if you are curious.
Then we came to the ladders. They went practically straight up the faces of gigantic boulders. We knew we had to be close! But the dogs couldn’t do ladders. We had to bushwhack our way around and up along the hillside using the trees to pull ourselves up. The dogs had 4-wheel-drive so had no problem bounding up the steep grade as long as their claws could dig into the dirt. At last, we reached the top!
It had taken us 4 hours to hike to the top of the peak, and now we had to beat the sunset down the mountain. It went much faster, just 2.5 hours, and we almost lost Bella over one of the boulders with the ladders on it, but we made it in plenty of time.
We were pretty relieved and tired when we finally make it back to the parking lot. The dogs passed out for the ride home…and I think I may have too!
Highland Coffee House – Lenoir, NC
One other place of note we visited was the Highland Coffee Shop in downtown Lenoir. We needed good internet for a day and found this cozy little shop to meet our need. They also made a killer Caramel Macchiato.
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