Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Conquer and Divide - A tale of the hike in Grandfather's Mountain North Carolina

Back in October 2016 while on a business trip to North Carolina, my colleague and I decided to be active the weekend in US - because the weather was awesome, and we had too much food. And we were in North Caroline, home to the beautiful Grandfather Mountain in Parkway Ridge! After much research we decided to tackle the hardest and longest route - Profile Trail. Go big or Go Home - that's our mantra so nothing of the 2 hour short hike sort.
Hiking in Grandfather Mountain is absolutely free! Profile trail is even on Google Map so it's easy to find the parking spot if you are driving. Our drive took 2 hours from Greensboro, and we nearly missed the tiny sign that pointed to the start of Profile Trail. Note of caution - this trail by itself is not too difficult but you do need to have an above average level of fitness. If you decide to move on to Grandfather's Trail or the Calloway Peak (like we did), then make sure you are very fit because it is no walk in the park.
We arrived rather late at 11:30am. It ain't a bad time but would have been better if we were earlier. The ranger told us to buffer 1 hour per mile - which would have made the Profile trail a 3 hour hike one way (6hours return). It scared us a little and we thought of just stopping at Profile and head back - but we were also skeptical about his estimates. So we headed out with the option of going ahead to Grandfather's mountain (another 2 mile hike) or heading back if it got too late.

At Calloway Peak
The start of the Profile trail is easy - we probably did almost 2 miles in an hour. The last mile was slightly harder with some uphill hiking but still manageable. We got to the end of the trail, at the junction point in 2 hours (with a stop for lunch in between). At the junction, we decided to give Calloway Peak a try since it was only 0.4miles away. You would have thought 0.4 miles would take 20mins or less - but we hiked like forever! The view up there was amazing but the return trip costs us 1 hour - how the hell did that happen! By then it was almost 2 pm, and we looked at the trail to Grandfather's Mountain and in our hearts we wanted to go for it. Calculating the 2 km to hike there and back, we were confident we would be able to make it back before sundown. So the hike starts!
Being Lara Croft

The hike started with some precarious rock face walking - a slip and it's bye bye. The view was amazing and it was pretty fun to do some "rock climbing". Nothing too technical. Then we got to the fun part! Steep rocks down down down. It was awesome, but the thought of having to come back up the same way on our way back didn't excite me much. From that point, there are 2 options to get to Grandfather's mountain - the easy way is to go under the canopy - saves time and effort or go the hard way - lots of climbing and ladders. Of course we chose the hard and fun way! It was ladder after ladder after ladder. Mostly going down and just a wee bit of uphill. Finally we arrived at Grandfather's Mountain - the swing bridge after 4pm.

Putting my muscles into good use

New hiking boots need a break

The Mile High Bridge is so-called because it is a mile high up. It was very crowded when we got there and windy. If you want to visit the bridge but don't want to hike, you can drive up to the carpark and park there for 20$. Pfft, why pay when you can hike there for free! We spent some time walking to the edge, taking pictures and finally have to make our way back to our starting point. It was almost 4.30pm when we started the way back and we moved at high speed to make sure we got back before sundown. Because there are more downhills than uphills going back, we made good time! Bumped into a family who saw us at the Profile Trail (they drove to Grandfather's Mountain because with the kids they couldn't hike all the way), and they offered to drive us back to our car since it was late. We declined politely and ventured on. Mind you, if you parked your car at the Grandfather's Mountain carpark, you need to be at your car by 5pm as they close the gates. If not, you are free to roam the mountains.
On the swinging bridge!
The view from the bridge
Telling you it's not for the faint hearted
The tough park for me was when I had to go uphill again - after so many hours of hiking and when you're tired and your mind is weak. But the only way out was to go up. I pushed on, and finally we arrived at the junction towards Profile Trail in 1 hour. From there on, Profile Trail is rather easy. Mostly downhill but watch our for your knees. We were both counting down to when we'll see the parking lot because the closer you get, the more you feel like this had to end. When we got to the 1.5mile marker, our hearts just rose because it meant our car was in sight. But the last 1 mile or so was the most difficult because it was so near yet so far.... Finally we made it out by 630pm. We were both knackered but my colleague still had to drive the 2 hour road back to our comfy hotel where we basically crashed out.
It was a really great hike and workout! I highly recommend anyone who's heading there to do this hike. Of course you don't have to do everything like we did (we were only there for 1 day so we had to do everything), just the profile trail to Calloway Peak would be nice as well! But I found the Hike from Profile to Grandfather's Mountain to be the most scenic. Of course if you have 2 cars, you could easily park one car at the end so you only have to hike one way and drive back to collect the other car!

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