Monday, August 07, 2017

Mount Mitchell + some falls...

A few weeks ago Joe and I decided to take some time off of work and visit western North Carolina.  Some of our favorite type of adventuring: hiking and waterfall chasing.

The first waterfall we ventured to was not impressive for several reasons: one it was in dappled light and two there were a bunch of people and kids playing around and there was just not enough room to get a worthy photograph to post...  So that one will probably never make an appearance outside of my computer.  However, we did make it to two additional water falls.  The first one was rather quiet and secluded.

Toms Creek Falls (near Little Switzerland)

Joe behind the falls.

It was necessary to pop in the frame and touch it.

I didn't feel like venturing behind the waterfall.  (:

Crabtree Falls

We visited Crabtree falls (below) a few years ago, but decided to make another trip over there.  It's probably one of my favorite waterfalls in NC as it is a mere 70 foot tall drop.  However, when we arrived there were a TON of girls there.  We assume it was some sort of camp outing from nearby.  Joe was disappointed to not have his portrait made in front of it and I'm sure I will never hear the end of it...

Overlook on the blue ridge parkway.

Wicked clouds and a small rain shower.

One of Joe's "bucket list" items was to hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell, which is also in western North Carolina.  Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi with an elevation of 6,684.  The hike roundtrip is approximately 11.4+ miles from the Black Mountain Campground (total elevation gain of 3,689 feet).  It's a rough terrain with roots and rocks that's for sure with a pretty steep elevation.  Typically when we hike we know it's about a 30 minute hike per mile, so we assumed it would be about a 3 hour hike up and a little less than 3 hours back.  Once the 3 hour mark hit and we were NOT near the top, I we both sort of had a mental fallout.  There were no signs at the bottom of the trail indicating how long it would take to get up, only signs to watch and call for bears.  It ended up taking us 3 hours and 45 minutes to get to the summit - which when we found the sign at the top of the mountain with details of the hike....  it stated approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes to get to the bottom.  Going down should be faster...  I guess that made us feel slightly better that we made it in good time, however we still had to make the 3 hour and 30 minute hike down the mountain and attempt to miss the afternoon storms we knew were on it's way.  A little nerve-racking I would say.

On a random note - intermittently throughout the hike when things were quiet, I would say HEY BEAR!  Joe would laugh every time I said it, but the sign at the campground said black bears were present - so you should talk in general and also if it's quiet for a bit call out to them with HEY BEAR.  I was just doing what I was told one should do!  I requested this sweatshirt for good reason.

In the last hour or so, felt really long...  Both of us felt like our feet were made of cement and I almost slipped on a mud hole and also caught my foot on a tree root and almost face planted.  Thank goodness for trekking poles!  On our way down, we realized why people camp on the mountain to hike up and down.  It started to make more sense when we saw tents around.

NOTE: we would NOT recommend taking the Higgens Bald split at least in Summer.  It was very overgrown and brush and foliage enclosed a lot of areas and who wants to be touched with weird plants and possibly get some sort of rash.  Fortunately, neither of us got any sort of rashes, but better to be on the safe side next time.

I only brought the camera out at the top of the mountain as there weren't any great overlooks on the way up.  So I only made a few up at the top - which was slightly disappointing as you were literally IN the clouds so the view was a minimum.  But what a feat - we did it!

Once we made it down to the bottom about 10-15 minutes from getting to the car and trying to cleanup before our 4 hour drive home the skies let out.  Heavy rain with what I would call white out conditions while driving about 20 miles per hour, lightening and thunder, wind and listening to the radio we were under a warning including the threat of hail.  It was quite the storm and we knew that God was watching out for us as we barely missed this storm by 10-15 minutes with an almost 8 hour hike!  I can't imagine trying to get down the mountain in that even though we did come prepared with rain gear.

Once we got to the car, I was reminded of a How I Met Your Mother episode when Barney ran a marathon and took the subway home. (marathon video clip)  Even though we are both runners and do train for long distance races, the way we felt the next morning was worse than running a half marathon.  I'm going to need a little mental preparation and time for healing to do something like that again.

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