Friday, January 19, 2018

Grassy Ridge, The view that doesn't stop

 If you've ever wanted to find that place around North Carolina that you could see for miles and miles. The hike from Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Bald is the hike  you need to check out. Not only is it part of the most iconic trails in the country but it gives you views of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia as well as being  known as one of the most beautiful sections of the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail Looking at Jane and Grassy Ridge Balds

The trail Starts at Carvers Gap right on the state line of North Carolina and Tennessee. There is a spacious parking area along State Route TN-143 and NC-261. From the parking area you will see a wooden split rail fence toward the East, there are steps that will lead you through the Fence and from there you will be on the Appalachian Trail hiking up through a beautiful forest of trees. Twisting and turning as you ascend up Round Bald, which is roughly .7 tenths of a mile to the summit. You may be tempted to just stop there and can, the views here are incredible, you can see Mt Mitchell and Black Mountain to the south but I promise you need to keep going your views to the west are still obstructed by Jane and Grassy Ridge.

Jane Bald

As you descend down you will see Jane Bald straight in front of you, the hike up Jane is a decent ascent, I did this in snow and ice, making it more treacherous. Overall, considering the conditions, it wasn't bad. The elevation of Jane Bald is 5807ft and now you'll see Grassy Ridge staring you in the face with its elevation of 6189ft.

Tunnel of  Rhododendron

Once you leave the top of Jane you'll lose 100 feet before climbing up 500 feet before reaching the summit of Grassy Ridge. You will go through a cool tunnel of rhododendrons, I can only imagine this stretch in June is simply breathtaking. This stretch of the hike is pretty strenuous but in no way would I rate it as hard so rest if you need to but keep going and you will come to the summit that will leave you speechless.

Charlotte from Grassy Ridge Bald

Keep walking through the meadow along the trail and you will reach a cliff that will show you a panoramic view that will leave you speechless, to the east you will see Grandfather Mountain, to the right of there you will see Hawksbill and Table Rock mountains along the Linville Gorge. As you look at these two mountains if you happen to have a 500mm lens on your camera its this direction on a clear day you can see the skyline of Charlotte, which is around 135 miles away. As you look to the right you'll see the BlueRidge Mountains as far as you can see before you come up to the 6685ft giant, Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. If you are like me you will be in awe of just how beautiful this spot is.

So if you find yourself yearning for some unobstructed views of the Appalachian Mountains, then this Jaw Dropping 5 mile roundtrip hike is made for you. Sunrises here are what postcards are made of and I can only imagine sunsets are just as awe inspiring!!

Mt. Mitchell
Looking north to Tennessee
Grandfather Mountain
Meadow on Grassy Ridge

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Falling in Love with Waterfalls...

Falling in love with Waterfalls

In the past year I have found a love, one that I have always been intrigued by but growing up in Wine country the thought of Waterfalls wasn't really on the Wine list. I know there are waterfalls in Cali, last year I went to some in Yosemite, they were epic, but Northern California I could not tell you where the closest one was to me as a kid.  North Carolina on the other hand has over 300 waterfalls.  From the 30+ I have visited so far they are all stunning in their own right.

  I moved to North Carolina when I was 21,  For the first 10 years that I lived here I did a few hikes here and there but nothing to crazy.  I never saw a waterfall although looking back I was close to a few but not realizing what beauty was so close but hidden within the forests of Carolina.  I didn't visit my first waterfall here till a couple years ago when I visited South Mountain state park with the 80' High Shoals Falls.  Sad I know, but people don't really bring them up while eating their doritos around the lunch table. Once I went to the first though it made me start to wonder what other waterfalls were close by?  I later googled "waterfalls near me"  and to my amazement, there was a ton of them. I Was shocked!  How could I live here for so long and never once hear about all these majestic falls?  Each one different and flowing with the personality that has transformed the rocks into something so breathtaking that you just want to sit there and stare at their allure.

Looking Glass Falls

The ones I have visited so far have varied in every aspect possible,  some you have to repel down a 15 cliff (there is a rope there for you) others are a short but nice hike from the road and then there are even some that are right next to the road for those that want it to be easy.

English Falls

 There is  even one called Sliding Rock.  Sliding Rock is a 60' granite slab where the water flows down the rock and  plunges  into a refreshing natural pool waiting for you at the bottom.  On Summer days the lines at are long but full  of kids waiting for their turn to slide down.
  Sliding Rock

Once I started going to one after another it turned into almost an obsession to see how many I could see in one day. Six is the most so far. Dupont State Park is full of them some of the biggest you'll see as well, High Falls and Triple Falls are both 125' tall.

Triple Falls

I spent most of fall this year chasing waterfalls hoping to find that perfect shot where the leaves were that perfect shade of red orange and pink that you can only find in those couple weeks in late October, or if its this year November but what I found was a love for waterfalls that has always been there but never realized.  What I found was I have lived in a state that is full of  beautiful falls and I hope to one day be able to say that I have seen them all in every season possible.

Catawba Falls