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

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!

Holly Jolly

ChristmasHolly Jolly is a wonderful tradition in Black Mountain.  It is an event sponsored by Black Mountain Business to Business.  The streets are lit with luminaries, stores are open late offering refreshments to patrons in the spirit of community and the Christmas season. It’s happening TONIGHT from 5-9 p.m., so come out for a wonderful evening full of holiday festivity, reconnecting with old friends, and holiday shopping. There’s rumor that Santa and his elves are making an appearance, so be sure to find the jolly man himself on this amazingly warm December evening!

Small Business Saturday

Local T-Shirts

 “It’s All Good” Black Mountain, NC 

We hope that you had a memorable and wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Now that the rush of Black Friday is over, come out to see us on this beautiful day to support local businesses here in Black Mountain. We have a wide, colorful selection of local T-shirts that would make great holiday gifts featuring hiking trails, Mt. Mitchell, Black Mountain, the Appalachian Trail, and more! You can find long and short sleeve t’s, and sweatshirts.


We also have a vast selection of hats featuring the AT, Black Mountain, and the Take A Hike logo. John’s favorite trucker hat in the store features the Appalachian Trail, pictured left.

Come on by and say hello as you venture out on Small Business Saturday! Thank you for your support!

Graybeard Mountain 11-23-13

This is hike #3 for the Fall season.  The temperature was 51 at noon when I left and 48 at 330 upon getting back.  The first of two fronts have moved thru pushing out most of the clouds and cooling things down a lot.

Looking south to High Windy and the Blue Ridge conference center

Looking south to High Windy and the Blue Ridge conference center

The picture to the left is taken from the first overview on the first switchback.

Freshly downed pine needles cushion the trail

Freshly downed pine needles cushion the trail

Next picture is the transition from the 3rd to the 4th switchback. The wind must have been howling the night before because the trail is covered with pine needles.


Cloud over Pinnacle

Craggy and the Parkway

Craggy and the Parkway

Mitchell with a crown of clouds

Mitchell with a crown of clouds

This picture is the usual view of Craggy and the Parkway. I say usual but everyday is different and beautiful in its own way. On top, the wind is 20-25 constant with gusts well into the 30’s. I only lasted about two minutes on top and had to head down to the relative warmth of “out of the wind”  It might be another week before I get back up here.  Work calls.  If anyone is reading this, would love some feedback.  Still working on how to format and work with a blog.  Thanks for your patience.

Graybeard Mountain 11-16-2013

Coming back down into the clouds and Rhododendrons.  This is a silent and peaceful winding down.  I never get tired of this!

Coming back down into the clouds and Rhododendrons. This is a silent and peaceful winding down. I never get tired of this!

Hiked up thru the clouds to a beautiful view of Craggy and Mitchell.  Everything is as it should be.

Hiked up thru the clouds to a beautiful view of Craggy and Mitchell. Everything is as it should be.

Top of the fourth switchback sun starting to peak thru.  Laurel, light and moisture coming together in a magnificent dance.

Top of the fourth switchback sun starting to peak thru. Laurel, light and moisture coming together in a magnificent dance.

Today was the first assent of Graybeard for the Fall. I had to wait for the first good freeze so the bee’s would be in hibernation. It started out nice and drizzly and 51 degrees at the trailhead. At the beginning of the first switchback started to get into the clouds. A great walk in the clouds up to the end of the fourth switchback and the light started filtering thru. The vertical picture tried to reflect that (not so well). The moisture on the Laurel and the sun reflecting off was a special treat. By the time I made it to the shelter all was sunny. Ok, so being the first hike of the season there were a couple of reminders about what and what not to do. First of all take some water. I didn’t and was plenty dehydrated by the end of the hike. Second, make sure not to over do it when first starting back. I did that also and am feeling it. This January thru April hiked Graybeard around 40 times and did not know how to blog. So now I am going to take pictures and share with you guys on a weekly basis. This is one of the best trails around and changes on a daily basis.

Hope you enjoy. John

Beer City USA

The Ale House Black Mountain, NC

Asheville was voted Beer City USA in 2010, and came in 3rd place this year, respectively. The city and surrounding area has continued the momentum since 2010 with local breweries springing up all across the city. New Belgium Brewing out of Fort Collins, CO will be established here in Asheville by winter 2015. To sample the top breweries in Asheville you can jump on a Brews Cruise downtown to hop from bar to bar via shuttle.

Locally here in Black Mountain, I enjoy the atmosphere, food, and great selection of local micro brews at The Alehouse. I sat amongst friends the other night and we greatly enjoyed the atmosphere, brew, wings, buffalo chips, and hummus plate.  Everything we ordered was exceptionally good, and the service was fantastic.  The live music offered filled the room but did not crowd out the chatter amongst friends.  If you get a chance, you won’t regret supporting local business by stopping by the Alehouse for a micro brew and delightful food!