Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain was originally thought to be the highest peak in the Carolinas, and perhaps even in the entire New World, until Elisha Mitchell discovered a higher peak nearby. At 5,964' it's still one of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi river. Of course we now know that the New World contained much higher peaks further west but many of those peaks start at a plain level of 5000', whereas the Appalachian's start at a plain level of about 1000'. So a 10,000' peak in Colorado (where the plain is 5200' in Denver) is the equivalent of a 6000' peak in the Appalachians.

Grandfather Mountain is privately owned and requires an entrance fee, but it has some very nice trails and a small zoo containing bears, otters, eagles, mountain lions and deer. It's most famous for it's mile high swinging bridge. This is a good area for people who want to experience nature without having to work too hard for it. You can drive straight to the top, hike a little and return back to gift shop/snack bar.

Location: 36° 5'42.33"N 81°49'52.12"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 131 miles
Local Geocaches None.

Grayson Highlands State Park

This is a bit of a stretch for the purposes of this blog, given that Grayson Highlands is a four hour drive from Greenville, but it’s definitely worth the drive. Located in southwest Virginia, this state park offers camping, hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. There is even a stable on the premises. The park borders the Jefferson National Forest, which resembles Nova Scotia much more so than the southeast. Mt. Rogers, located within walking distance via the Appalachian trail is the highest mountain in Virginia.

In addition to the amazing scenery, wild ponies roam free in the park and are quite friendly. The best place to spot them is via the Rhododendron Gap Trail located at the Massie Gap Parking area.

Compare the two images below. The one on the left I took yesterday at Grayson Highlands. The one on the right I took four years ago in Nova Scotia. (Click images for a larger view.)

Winter Images (click to see larger view):

Location: 36°36'44.36"N 81°29'24.54"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 213 miles

Cruso, NC

Location: 35°25'1.74"N 82°48'41.47"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 84 miles
Local Geocaches

Pisgah Inn

After leaving the Inn at Iris Meadows, we ventured to the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped in to see if we could get a room at the Pisgah Inn. The inn is typically booked every night of the season but we lucked up and just happened to come by right after two families had checked out a day early, leaving two rooms available. The other one had already been booked.

The inn sits at about a 5000’ elevation over-looking the Blue Ridge Mountains and has a great restaurant attached to it with a menu that ranges from cheeseburgers to venison. I recommend the trout (which they will filet at your table) and a Highland Mocha Stout to wash it down. The great thing about the restaurant is that despite it’s impressive upscale menu, there is not much of a dress code. I’ve walked in many times filthy from a day of hiking wearing a hat and t-shirt and it’s no problem.

Each room has the same view. This was taken from our balcony. (Click image to see larger view.) Despite this amazing view the rooms are only $99 a night. The rooms themselves are nothing special. They are very basic with no phone or cable, but they are clean and everything is in working order.

Even if you don’t stay at the inn, it’s a great place to stop for a meal, a drink, or just to restock from their gift shop or country store. Across the street from the inn is a great little campground where every site is enclosed by rhododendron. The Mountains-to-Sea trail runs behind the inn and there are several other local trails including the Mt. Pisgah summit trail.

Mt. Pisgah as seen from the parking lot of the inn.

Mt. Pisgah in October.

Location: 35°24'10.95"N 82°45'16.30"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 70 miles
Local Geocaches

The Inn at Iris Meadows

Last week, my wife and I decided to spend a few days wandering somewhat aimlessly through Western, NC. Saturday night we stumbled across the Inn at Iris Meadows in Waynesville, NC. Waynesville is a quaint little mountain town that looks like something you’d see on a model train set-up.

We love B&B’s and this is one of the nicest we’ve experienced. Many B&B’s are bed and breakfasts in name only, but this was the true Bob Newhart style B&B with pubic sitting areas both inside and out, family style dining with the other guests, and gracious hosts who were happy to sit and chat or happy to leave us to ourselves.

George and Becky Fain, the owners, refurbished the 100 year old house a few years ago and they spared no expense. Everything in the house, down to the hinges on the doors, is top quality. Each room is furnished with a Jacuzzi style tub and a fireplace. Apparently there are several good restaurants within walking distance of the Inn, but we were having such a nice time, that we decided to picnic on the upper balcony. The next morning we had an amazing breakfast of homemade granola, yogurt and fruit, quiche and bacon.

View from the top balcony early Sunday morning.

Location: 35°29'44.84"N 82°59'32.01"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 82 miles
Local Geocaches