We headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville to do some short hikes to viewpoints. It was another beautiful blue sky day.
Since it is a long weekend here we left the RV early for us. After a 23 mile and 45 minute drive we arrived at the first trailhead for the Craggy Pinnacles Trail at just after 10. Once again we need not have worried that it would be too busy. It is a large lot and we went by later in the day and there were still lots of spots.
The trail is a short 1.4 miles return trip to a lookout at the top of Craggy Pinnacle and then one lower down on the slope.
The first part was a tunnel of rhododendron, which unfortunately at this altitude of just over 5000 feet, have not yet started to bloom. The buds are there but it will be another few weeks.
In some of the open spots there were some trees whose roots had grown over the rocks like the alien pods on a face.
Here was another one that grew out horizontally.
It was a bit of a climb but not too bad.
We headed to the lower viewpoint first.
We could look down on the parking lot for our next hike.
Looking back up to the top.
A few more people.
Looking back down to our parking lot, with the parkway snaking off to the north.
We could look down on our next hike called Craggy Gardens. You first go to a picnic shelter and then up through a bald to a viewpoint.
Heading back down to the car past another alien.
Looking up at Craggy Pinnacle from our new parking lot.
The Craggy Gardens Trail was another tunnel through some very spindly looking rhododendrons.
Once we turned at the picnic shelter we were out in an open bald.
The viewpoint was a bit of a disappointment but I think the bald was supposed to be the highlight and this was just an arbitrary end point.
I hadn’t been sure how long these hikes would take so this is all I had planned for today. Since it was only just after noon we decided to head farther along the Parkway to Mount Mitchell State Park.
At 6684 feet above sea level, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the US, east of the Mississippi. You can drive almost all the way to the top.
This seems to be a destination for road bikers. We saw whole lines of them doing the climb all the way from Asheville. It is over 30 miles and at least a 6000 foot elevation gain because there are several gaps between the mountains on the way that you have to down into and then climb back out of. Never in a million years would I be able to do that.
There is a short but steep walkway from the parking lot to the top.
The lookout at the very top reminded us of the one at Clingman’s Dome at Great Smokey Mountain Nation Park.
We sat on one of the benches and had lunch.
When I had planned to come here as a single day destination there were two hikes that we were going to do. The first was called the Balsam Nature Trail but when we saw the description saying that it was just a signed forest walk where the forest here was the same as that in lower Canada we said “Been there, done that”.
The other hike was to the peak of Mount Craig which is in the foreground of the picture below just above the parking lot.
The trail goes much farther but the guide book says that a nice hike is the 2 mile return trip to the green patch near the top.
By now Jennie had had enough so she sat this one out while I headed off. It took me just over an hour.
It was actually a good thing that she didn’t come. It was a tough one.
First you climb down 550 vertical feet on some very tall stone steps into the gap between the mountains. The first few hundred feet trick you into thinking that this may not be too bad.
Then the endless steps start. These pictures are looking back upwards.
Not too bad going in but a killer coming back.
The middle section over the narrow ridge in the gap was a nice break.
Now you had to climb back up 350 vertical feet to Mount Craig. There were not many steps here. It was mostly scrambling up through and over the rocks.
Up and over.
Looking back at Mount Mitchell.
I sat and had a snack and a drink.
Before heading back.
I didn’t dawdle much because I knew Jennie was waiting. By the time I got back I was a sweaty mess. I took some recovery time with ice water and watermelon in the car before heading back to the RV.