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Trip to Mount Mitchell 6684’ near
Asheville, North Carolina 5/23/01

12 Miles 3720’ Elevation gain

Kevin, Judy and Emma

Something got into me. I wanted to go someplace besides our mountains. My fathers sister Eleanor lived in Asheville, North Carolina which I knew was near Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. I wanted to see Eleanor who I had not seen since I was a child, and the prospect of getting to climb Mount Mitchell while I was there made up my mind. Jude agreed to go along with my whim “as long as my dog can go.” Eleanor was not getting any younger and I wanted to see her before she passed away as her husband, my Uncle Harold had done the year before. We started out bad. We got a late start because I had soaked the wiring for the campers tail lights with WD40 to clean the corosion off of them, and now the wet wiring kept the lighting from working. Eventually it dried out and we got started. Then I missed the highway I wanted in Connecticut and we had to do a lot of in-town driving to get back to where we wanted to be. We stayed near Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania in the pouring rain the first night. We made it to Ashville late the next afternoon and the skies cleared up a little bit. We stayed with my Aunt Eleanor’s daughter, my cousin Mary and her husband Dave. I also had not seen them but maybe once or twice since I was a child, so we had a lot to catch up on. Also their daughters Erica and Sarah came over with their one-eyed dog Spike, and Emma had an instant friend. The weather was poor the first full day there, so after visiting my Aunt Eleanor we took a ride up the Blue Ridge Parkway to see some sights and maybe get in a little hike. We stopped along the road at Craggy Gardens near Mount Mitchell and had a hike in the rain. It poured and we really couldn’t see much of anything. There were places along the trail where the rhododendron bushes grew like arches over the trail, but unfortunately they weren’t in bloom yet. Some azalea was still visible in spots, but we were between seasons. The next day the weather cleared and after another great breakfast made by Mary, we headed out to Mount Mitchell. The information center at Craggy Meadows wasn’t open yet, so we couldn’t get in to see the maps and decide the route we wanted to take, or where to start from so we continued along the parkway until we came to Mount Mitchell State Park. Unlike the Mount Washington Auto Road you are already driving along at about five thousand feet, so the ride up to the summit of Mitchell is not much of a climb. The difference between this summit and Washington is amazing. Where Washington is bare and rocky Mitchell is green and lush. Due to the lack of harsh weather trees can grow to huge sizes and there are many on and around the summit. There is a big parking lot and a gift shop and a concrete and stone tower to climb to get a three hundred and sixty degree view. The views are astonishing as there are over forty peaks in the state that are over six thousand feet, there are eighty that range from five to six thousand feet and several hundred rise between four thousand and five thousand feet. Dr. Elisha Mitchell is buried at the foot of this tower. The height of Mitchell was in dispute for years with some insisting Mount Washington or various other peaks near Mitchell were higher. In 1835 Dr. Mitchell determined through mathematical calculations and barometric pressure that Mitchell was 6476’ high. He returned in 1838 and 1844 and decided that the mountain was actually 6672’ high. Amazingly he was only 12 feet off, 6684’. At age sixty four on a return trip he apparently slipped while crossing a stream and washed over a forty foot waterfall. His body was recovered by a search party and he was buried in Ashville but later his remains were exhumed and reburied at the summit of the peak which bears his name. Later Governor Locke Craig campaigned vigorously and in 1915 the mountain became the first state park established in North Carolina. I guess what a lot of people do is start at the top and hike down to Black Mountain Campground, then back up to the summit. We were having trouble getting information on hiking around the park, so we decided this would be OK and off we went, from the top to the bottom and back up. At no point do I remember the trail being steep or rocky, it was more like taking a walk in the woods on a declining plane. The weather was beautiful and we had a great hike. At no point did it seem strenuous. The trail was mostly smooth packed earth with very little picking around rocks. In some places the trail went into tunnels of rhododendrons like at Craggy Gardens. I would love to make an overnite winter trip here, I’m sure we would have the place to ourselves. As it was we were pretty much alone on the trail, although when we got back to the summit it was a little crowded with tourist types. Following suit I went in the gift shop and bought us t-shirts and me a hat. It was a great trip and the chance to see my Aunt and get to know Dave and Mary and their daughters a little better, along with a great day of climbing on Mount Mitchell made the thousand mile trip all worth it. I would like to go back and spend more time climbing in the area, some over nighters in those mountains would be awesome. In winter the weather would be pretty mild and even if there was a lot of snow, the temperatures wouldn’t be sub zero during winter like in the Whites. I still can’t get over how different the lack of harsh weather made the mountain tops there compared to in the Whites. Mount Mitchell may be higher than Mount Washington, but that is the only thing it can claim. Climbing Washington is like climbing Everest compared to Mitchell. I guess I could compare Mitchell more to say, Carrigain or Passaconaway with their treed summits.
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