Grandfather Mountain

The name Grandfather Mountain may sound old, but the area is vibrant with a variety of experiences. The fun begins immediately as visitors receive an auto tour cd upon entering the park. Pop in the cd and immediately, you’re immersed in the history that appears at every turn.

With a movie highlighting the area, restaurant, fudge shop, and animal encounters, the first visitor center has plenty to do. My favorites were the animals and animal feedings. If you get a chance, definitely check out the bear feeding which provides an opportunity to view the black bears up close and yet safely.

The drive up to the next visitor center via the narrow, winding road, is not for the faint of heart, but provides stunning views along the way. For those wishing to forego the final steep ascent to the visitor center, there is a lower parking lot with a short, scenic hiking trail that leads to the visitor center.

The second visitor center at the top of the mountain is less commercial, but provides more outdoor activities via hiking trails, the mile high suspension bridge (mile high in elevation, not from the ground), and plenty of unencumbered views.

One day was hardly enough to scratch the surface. I could see easily spending more time fully exploring the area. For all the pertinent details go here: www.grandfather.com

Finding the path in the Eliada Corn Maze

“Do you know where number 11 is?” The little girl asked. “Sorry, I’m only up to number 6”, I politely replied. Then I looked down at the map and realize d I’d lost my place. Oh no!

I’ve driven solo across the country, but finding my way through this corn maze was proving quite challenging. A friend and I were finding our way through the Eliada Corn Maze, in Asheville North Carolina. The first maze was listed at 2.7 miles in length. Definitely a larger challenge than my last corn maze!!

The corn maze has numerical check points and you punch your card at each checkpoint. The goal is three-fold; find all the checkpoints and find your way out, preferably before dark, and have fun.

We embarked and found the first couple of checkpoints relatively easily. Then there was a long stretch on the map. Actually it was a section where several trails made a circle all together. One trail was correct and the others wrong.

Right turn, then left, and the next check point should be right here. Except it’s not and I can’t see anything that looks close to where I think we should be. Uh-oh…….

My friend and I take another look at the map and then back tracked some. The trail still didn’t look familiar; we back tracked more. In a corn maze, you can’t see out or around; you have to follow the map. If you lose your bearings, like we did, it’s challenging.

Shoot, we were doing so well too!! Fortunately, it is the south and everyone was more than friendly mainly because we’re all in the same boat. “What number are you looking for?” a gentleman asked. “Six” I replied. “Oh that’s over there” as he pointed in the opposite direction. That’s nowhere near where I thought; obviously….

We said thanks and promptly found number six. Ok, now I’m concentrating on this map much harder because it’s a long stretch to the next one. For me following the map, took all of my concentration and I became “the map”. I wasn’t getting lost again.

We managed to find our way through not just one, but all three of the mazes. It was fun and a great sense of accomplishment. However, the corn maze was just the beginning of the fun.

As we were in the corn maze, I kept hearing this “whoosh” sound periodically and wondered what it was. Once I saw it, my eyes lit up. Lined up, three in a row, were air canons. You put a corn cob in the end, aim, and fire. Sometimes the corn would fall a few feet in front and other times, it sailed off into the forest. Oh yeah, I’m so doing this!!

Who knew something so simple could be so much fun!! I could’ve spent a few hours launching corn cobs into the forest. After that we hopped on the adult hay ride and took a leisurely tour. There is also a hay ride for the kids so whatever the age, anyone can enjoy a hay ride.

All of these activities benefit the Eliada Homes which are dedicate to helping kids succeed. Having been a kid myself, I’m all for helping kids succeed. It can be tough sometimes and a little help goes a long way.

If you’re in the Asheville area, come have some fun, support a great cause, and spend an afternoon at the Eliada Corn Maze.

For more information: http://www.eliada.org/get-involved/eliadas-annual-corn-maze

Here’s a very short, no frills video I took:

Turkeypen hike; mushrooms, bushwacking and great scenery

“How much farther up does this go?”….. Up being the key word as we had climbed for about half an hour and still were climbing. I knew we were on the right trail, but I couldn’t see where it ultimately went. The thick Carolina foliage only revealed the trail as you hiked along.

I had heard this trail was one of the tougher hikes on the hiking challenge and so far it was living up to its description. We were taking on the Turkeypen hiking trail near Ashville, North Carolina and it is one of eight hikes listed on the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s hiking challenge 2.0. When you complete all eight hikes, you’ll receive a White Squirrel patch; I just saw a couple of white squirrels in person and that was really cool! Squirrel or not, the hiking challenge is a great way to encourage people to get out and explore new scenery.

Turkey Pen/South Mills River gap would be my 4th hike in the series, and it’s rated very strenuous at 6.4 miles and elevation gain of 1,240 feet. As you stand in the parking lot there are a couple of trail options. We took the one on the left, as if you were walking in front of your car. Up is up, but I think this might have been the easier way to tackle the terrain, because you climb the all of the elevation in the beginning.

We continued the steep ascent stopping along the way to photograph the tall trees and tons of mushrooms. I’ve never seen so many different mushrooms on one trail. I enjoy fried mushrooms, but I have no idea which ones to pick so I just took photos.

Finally, we reached the top of the trail and were greeted with a survey marker noting the trail and elevation. The top was shrouded in thick foliage so it was shady, but the expansive views were hidden. Take this hike in the fall and I bet you’d see a long way.

Happy to have the hardest part of the trail behind us we descended into a lush forest with babbling brooks and moss covered logs. The guide labeled this section the Garden of Eden and it was easy to see why. Just as the Garden of Eden had a surprise, the trail had one more surprise for us.

Descending into an open area, the trail mysteriously just disappeared into a stream. There weren’t tracks around the stream as expected. It just stopped. I’m used to walking down a stream a bit, but usually you see the trail on the other side. I didn’t see any signs of trail here.

Backtracking a bit didn’t reveal any missed turnoffs and the trail guide didn’t note anything about crossing a stream. This has to be the way to go, so I decided to go scope it out and return with a report.

I picked my way over the rocks and headed down the stream. After a few yards, I found the only exit point which was through tall brush that appeared to have remnants of path through it. Although it appeared to not have been used in eons.

There were two options here; snakes or poison ivy. I’d prefer the snakes because generally they move, although in a similar area, I saw a rattlesnake hold its ground and I moved. Well, here goes…trekking poles in hand, I made my way through the dense foliage.

About 100 feet later, I exited the jungle into a wide open space and there was the trail. I’m not sure how people were getting to this section, but I think I was the only one through that overgrown area in a long time. Fortunately, there weren’t any snakes or poison ivy.

Shortly after that adventure, the trail again dead ended in a large creek. However this was noted on the trail guide and there is a trail that goes to a fun swinging bridge. I say it’s a fun bridge; it wasn’t too high over the water and was easy to make swing. I bounced, rocked my way over the bridge and just had fun playing. Don’t ask me why I found that so entertaining, but at one point I almost swung myself right into the river.

Leaving the bridge, the easy trail follows the creek with access points among the trees. One stop was too inviting to miss and I stretched out on a rock in the warm sun. The sound of the water, the warm sun, and warm rocks and I could’ve been out for a long time. I must be part cat; I enjoy a good nap in the sun, plus I had been walking for hours. Days it seemed.

The trail crosses more bridges, then makes another small ascent and ends up in the far end of the parking lot behind the sign with the big map. 5 hours and 6.4 miles later, we were done and mostly spent. It turned out to be a combination of hike and adventure, which I always enjoy.

As I took one last, long look at that creek babbling among the green trees, I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the fall. They say October is the best month to see the fall foliage. I may have to make a visit back just for that.
For more information:
www.carolinamountain.org/hikingchallenge2/turkeypen