Top of the Adirondacks




Camper Blue Ridge from Mt. Mitchell Dan and Brian on Mt. Mitchell
Gotta Go!
1) The Top
2) Crest Trails


Skip It.
1)Higgins Bald

1)Mt. Mitchell Trail



I'd always known that Mt. Mitchell was the tallest mountain in North Carolina. But it wasn't until I read Bill Bryson's book "A Walk in the Woods" did I learn that Mt. Mitchell is the tallest mountain on the entire East Coast. Learning that I'd lived under the shadow of this huge peak for seventeen years was a challenge to my self-esteem as a hiker, so I swore to set foot upon its summit. The goal was set but it still took four months to find a hiking partner. Apparently, not many middle-aged men aspire to climb a 6,000 foot mountain on a rare weekend away from home and family. Despite some trepidation about the 'extremely strenuous trail designation, my buddy from business school (Dan) was a real trooper and agreed to join me.

We pulled the pop up camper to a campground near the base of the mountain on Friday night and got an early start on Saturday. We couldn't have asked for better hiking weather. A gorgeous fall day with a brilliantly clear blue sky lifted our spirits. It was a sky that airport weather watchers describe appropriately as 'Severe Clear'.

Unfortunately the hike wasn't as glorious as the weather. Overall, the trail is rough. Lots of roots and steps instead of a smooth gradual slope. It took us 3.5 hours to gain the 3,500 feet during our 5.5 mile walk. It was a nice walk, with some beautiful dense hemlock and fir forests carpeted with thick moss. But for the most part, the trail is only average without a lot of interesting features or overlooks. This trail won't be enjoyed for the journey but only for the final destination and the satisfaction of having conquered the Applachian's highest summit.

The view from the summit is spectacular. We were lucky to have perfect weather, since the summit is shrouded in fog eighty percent of the time. Unfortunately, the summit was crowded. It is disappointing to put in all that work just to share the prize with tourists munching on ice cream cones. One advantage to having a road to the top, is it will be easy for me to take the family back one day. When I do go back, I'm going to hike north along the ridge line to Mt. Craig. It looked like an interesting trail with some balds and very little traffic.

After a quick lunch on the summit we were dreading the pounding our knees were going to take on the climb back down the mountain. Luckily, we'd met a young couple on the trail who had a car parked on top of the mountain and offered to give us a ride back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the couple had parked their car three miles from the summit. Three brutal miles away over a very rough trail which skirted the ridge line. So we didn't really save much time or wear on our knees by accepting the car ride.

The best part of the trip was chilling by the campfire that evening with steaks and beer. Most importantly, it looks like I may have found a hiking partner. Dan seemed pretty enthusiastic about going out again, "Now that we've climbed the highest mountain on the East Coast...What about Pike's Peak?"



Family Grades
Toni (Mom) - B "I'm glad Brian got to spend some time away, but I missed him."
Details
The Top, Crest Trails, Higgins Bald, Mt. Mitchell Trail
Mt. Mitchell Summit
Why Go
Great views!
Getting There
Mt. Mitchell State Park is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is also only about 45 minutes north of Marion, NC on interstate 40. Map Mt. Mitchell State Park Site Wikipedia

Advice
Check the weather, the top is supposed to be socked in by clouds most of the time.

Crest Trails
Why Go
I haven't hiked the crest trails to the north of the summit, but they looked interesting and I'm going to return someday to try them. The trail leading to Mt. Craig seemed to pass along some balds and had very few hikers.


Higgins Bald
Why Skip It
The maps and guide books claim there is a bald about half way up the mountain. However, as of October 2011 it is over grown. It has disappeared like most of the balds in the Appalachian mountains. There is a nice dense fir and hemlock forest just above the old bald.


Mt. Mitchell Trail
Why Skip It
This is a pretty rough trail that parallels the road leading from the restaurant to the summit for three miles. It has a few views off to the east of the mountain but doesn't have any real redeeming value.


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