Mount Mitchell Challenge

Mitchell with a crown of clouds

Mitchell with a crown of clouds

In a matter of weeks, the annual Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge participants will come together to face a grueling journey at 7 a.m. on Saturday, February 22.  The Challengers will ascend 40 miles to the highest peak in the East – elevation 6,684 – and retrace the path back to the start/finish area.  Marathoners will run up to the Black Mountain Gap overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and retrace the route to finish.

The Mt. Mitchell Challenge is both historical and arduous.  The race was founded in 1998 by Wendell Begley (of Black Mountain Savings) and Trent Thomas (from Black Dome Mountain Sports).  They saw the need for a race designed to confront the challenges of nature with test of physical proportions, yet possible.  Race terrain is not only steep, but mother nature offers challenges that could include ice, snow, rain, cold, and wildlife. Runner safety is of paramount concern to race coordinators who work with Black Mountain Fire and Rescue and many other skilled members from surrounding counties.

h20 bottleBest to all of this years participants, and stop by Take A Hike for last minute needs!

Graybeard Mountain 01-22-14

Started out this morning at 8:40 with the temperature at a chilly 10 degrees.  I get to pick up my son today at 1:00 so better hurry.  Got back around 12:45 and the temperature is 21 degrees.  There were 2 people camping at the shelter and that was all that were out.  So here we go…..

Flat Creek

Flat Creek

Remember the creek picture from yesterday?  This is close to the beginning of the trail, about 1 plus inches on the ground.

As we moved up the mountain, the snow got deeper.  By the end of the 4th switchback there was 3 to 4 inches.  Leaving the switchbacks and heading toward the shelter was the first HARD fall all the way to the ground wipe-out of the day.  This one didn’t hurt as bad as the others.  While I have your attention there are a few observations to share with you.

1)  Hiking in/on snow is a lot harder than regular trail walking.

2)  Gaiters really help a lot.

3)  Hiking poles are even more important in the Winter than the Summer.

My hiking poles.

My hiking poles.

4)  Good boots that are properly fit and warm are essential.

Enough rambling – here are pictures approaching the 1st summit of Graybeard.  The snow was a steady 6 inches with drifts from 8 to 10.

View from the top.

Graybeard Mountain 01-21-14

Today is hike #6 for the season.  The temperature at departure was 44 degrees, around 11ish.  I got back around 2:15ish and the temp was 40.  Only saw 3 people today and 1 dog.  The wind has picked up quite a bit sense yesterday – obvious that the new cold front is moving in.  Knowing that tomorrow is going to be totally different than today, there will be more pictures to contrast.

Flat Creek before the 1st creek crossing

Flat Creek before the 1st creek crossing

The creek (flat creek) is flowing swiftly.  The hurrying clouds take us from sunny to cloudy to sunny again and back.  Depending on what side of the mountain you stand, the wind is whipping or still.

The hike up was uneventful.  Things seemed to be shifting from warm and sunny to something is about to happen and we’re not sure what.  I got past the switchbacks and the wind had really picked up but the sun had come out

The saddle just before Greybeard summit.

The saddle just before Greybeard summit.

too.  It really didn’t seem like a big storm was upon us.

Take note of the picture to the left – the Saddle.  This will look totally different tomorrow.

I love how the clouds are making such a stark contrast on Mt. Mitchell and the Craggy Gardens.  Notice how “black” things look on the mountain tops?  That is how this range gets its name “Black Mountains”.  Even more so with the sunshine in the foreground.

Starting to snow at top of 4th switchback.

Starting to snow at top of 4th switchback.

Coming back down things started to change.  A lite snow at first and then almost a whiteout near near the bottom.

Don’t miss tomorrows blog for the dramatic outcome of this storm.


Lilli & Mary Poppins

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Lilli McFerrin has competed in the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn since 2006.  This year Lilli placed third in the teen category inspired by the movie Mary Poppins. Her gingerbread house, “A Spoon Full of Sugar,” was her final entry before heading to college next year.  Click here to read an article featuring an interview with Lilli in the Mountain Express, and in the Black Mountain News.

Downtown Asheville

The Basilica of St. Lawrence

Mountain Music

In 2010 her masterpiece was inspired by the Basilica of St. Lawrence, home in downtown Asheville, NC. She placed first in the teen category in 2011 with “Santa’s Mountain Music & Dance,” influenced by the landscape at Warren Wilson College.   In 2012, Lilli placed 3rd in the teen category with “The Yellow Submarine.”

The Yellow Submarine

The Yellow Submarine

Lilli I am so proud of you! It has been a joy to watch you grow into the beautiful and talented young woman you are!  Love Dad

Graybeard Mountain 01-20-14

Today is hike #5 for the season.  I was so busy with the retail season over the Christmas holiday and ordering for next Fall that hike #4 got lost in the shuffle.  Now is the time that I do most of my hiking – no bees and a slower time at work.

Left the parking lot around noon with the temperature around 56.  Got back around 3:30, temperature at 60!  Really enjoyed todays hike.  26 other hikers and 2 dogs were out and about today.  The weather man says artic vortex #2 heading in tomorrow.

Moving past the creek walk brought me to the relative

Mr. Oak taking a break.

Mr. Oak taking a break.

openness of the switchbacks.  The blue sky opened up and the sun was warm and bright.  This is the day that the Lord hath made.  After weeks of not hiking, the muscles needed some loosening up and the impureaties of the holiday foods and cheer needed to be worked out.  I was able to relax a little and stretch this one out.  Here is a mighty oak tree taking a break on a boulder.

11The view on top was special.  This has to be where “Carolina blue” came from.

                     The wind was quite and the view was spectacular.



The walk back down the swithbacks was the closest I’ve ever come to falling asleep while walking.  The sun on my back was warm and I am tired.

Winter Hiking Tips

TNF Day PackEven though we are in the middle of winter, it’s a great time of year to get out and hit a trail. Without the leaves, views are spectacular over the valleys and mountains!

You want to hike smart this time of year as day light hours are shorter, and weather can fluctuate hourly.  This is especially true if you are on ascending terrain.  So before you head out, here are a few tips.

First, be sure to layer your clothing.  Do not wear cotton as it traps sweat and makes you chill.  Wear a base layer such as Patagonia Capilene for wicking sweat away from the body and quick drying.  You could wear a hiking specific pant over your base layer, or a pair of shorts depending on weather.  Here in the mountains it is a good idea to have a warmth in layers, including a water repellent outer layer tucked away in a day pack just in case.

Second, take plenty of water and food.  It can be more challenging to stay hydrated this time of year due to cooler temperatures.  For a day hike, a water filtration system, Platypus, or a Nalgene will do the job.  If possible, hydrate well the day before a hike. Take packable food, such as a ProBar or another protein packed power bar.

sw sockThird, take care of your feet.  Smartwool socks are made of merino wool from New Zealand. They are not only comfortable, but they perform well in moisture management by allowing the body to maintain a more stable core temperature during exercise.

Fourth, take care of your head and fingers. For protection and warmth, take along a quality hat and gloves to keep your overall body temperature and extremities regulated. Another good emergency item for your pack is a head lamp.  Daylight diminishes quickly during these winter days, so having a back up light source that is hands free is optimal.

Finally, be sure to grab trekking poles and day pack to keep your layers, food, and any additional supplies organized.  Go light, but prepared for weather, terrain, and short daylight hours. Get out there and enjoy! If you need anything, be sure to stop by Take A Hike!