Even though we only live about two hours from the mountains we've only been up there a couple of times-- mostly for taking the kids to/from summer camp or getting a Christmas tree. We talked about taking a picnic lunch up on a Saturday several times, but never made time for it until we found a great Groupon for Grandfather Mountain. The Saturday after school got out for the summer was our day for a trip to the mountains! We had a quick breakfast at home before setting out on our drive towards the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Up in the mountains it's nearly 30 degrees colder than at our house near Charlotte. In fact, it's usually almost ten degrees colder at the top of Grandfather Mountain than at the entrance to the park. Ellie was excited to get outside and look around.
What is it about "Be Careful" or "Caution" signs that inspires this boy to behave like this?! All the kiddos ready to cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
Making our way across the bridge. It's a 228-foot suspension bridge that was originally built in 1952 and then rebuilt in 1999. The bridge spans an 80-foot chasm at an over 5000-foot elevation (hence the "mile high" moniker).
Sweet kiddos enjoying the views.
While the NC mountains aren't anywhere near as high or "rocky" as mountains on the West Coast, there are still beautiful in their own way.
Once you cross the bridge, there is a short walk up to the top of Linville Peak. Nicholas and Benjamin were the only two brave enough to go with Jacob.
They made it to the top and were able to enjoy amazing panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On a clear day you can even see the Charlotte skyline over 80 miles away.
Ben and Lexie :)
The kids (especially Nicholas) were intrigued by the weather instruments at the top of the bridge. These instruments are responsible for the weather forecast that we saw at the Visitor's Center (at the beginning of the post). In order to get up to the Swinging Bridge, you have to go through a series of switchbacks as you make your way up the mountain.
Neither of these pictures do the curve any justice but this is where "Forrest Gump" was filmed during his run across the United States.
After our time at the Swinging Bridge, we made our way to a picnic area for a quick lunch. And later in the day, we stopped for some ice cream!
Ellie's first time in the grass-- she wasn't sure at first but then became enthralled with all of the twigs and flowers that were in her reach.
The Albaeck crew.
Grandfather Mountain also has a Nature Museum. Ben was particularly fond of the NC Gem collection, including this amethyst that he REALLLY wanted to take home. Lexie liked the displays of flowers that are native to the area.
We spent some time checking out the wildlife habitats as well. The bald eagle was our first stop though sadly, the kids did not seem too impressed.
The black bears on the other hand, were a hit! Grandfather Mountain has several black bears, including Kodiak, a rare cinnamon-colored black bear.
Ellie loved watching the bears and kept shrieking at them to try and get them to come to her.
Our next stop of the day was at Mast General Store, a quaint store carrying everything from "cradles to caskets" for over 100 years.
Views like this are just one of the many reasons I love North Carolina.
Ben and Lexie played a quick game of checkers while we were there. And Christopher and Nicholas (and Ellie!) thought the porch swing was pretty cool-- I think we need to get one.
We all got a bottle of soda to enjoy on the front porch-- apparently none of the kids had ever had soda from a bottle! They thought it was a fun treat. We stopped in Boone for dinner and then headed out of the mountains and back home. I love that we're close enough to the mountains that we're able to get away for the day!