The opportunity to share what I have learned traveling the Grandfather Mountain trail system is special to me. I enjoy talking to visitors and teaching anyone who treks with me on my “Trail TREKs.” It is like an addiction to me. The “mountain” calls daily and I love this mountain dearly.
This memory comes a year before I retired out of the military. I often offered my troops the opportunity to hike the beautiful trails on Grandfather Mountain— and up until this time, not one soldier would take me up on a hike — until I received a call from Dorian Green.
I questioned him, made sure he was serious and set a date. He was wanting to train for a school he was going to and wanted to include some great scenery and a workout with a pack. I told him no problem, so the trek was set — up Profile.
We met in late July and transferred gear, except his gear was exceptionally light. I quickly told him that if I bring in a 25-pound pack, he does, too. He turned around and added more weight to his pack and I checked it out to see if he was bluffing. He was good to go. He had good boots, but I was worried about food and water. He assured me he was ready, so we left to the trail head.
I am one who tries to be as prepared as possible on a hike, so I packed extra water, electrolytes, food and anything else to help out, if danger presents itself. Keep in mind, I am going to give this soldier a workout and education all in one hike. He was excited to be hiking Grandfather Mountain.
I left out on a blistering pace with the intent on working his legs in the first two miles of the trail. He kept asking me, “When does it get harder?” and I responded, “Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. This is the calm before the storm.” I could hear him breathing hard, so I finally stopped at the Profile view and told him why the trail is named ‘Profile.’
As we watered down, I asked him how much water he had. He said, “Not enough.” “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve got you covered.”
Lesson one: Be prepared for even the smallest trip, and when hiking, always hydrate properly.
The next leg up to the Grandfather Trail really had Green hurting, but to his credit, he made it up. I took him up 3.3 miles in one hour and 45 minutes only to turn and head toward Attic Window Peak. One of my favorite places to take a siesta and eat lunch. The views are to die for — and it is as close to heaven you can get in our area.
So, when we finally arrived at Attic Window peak, he was pretty tired and he let the pack thud on the granite rock below before taking a seat. I asked him, “Do you have any carbohydrates?” He said nope. “Here’s some crackers or an energy bar, your choice.” He said, “You really are prepared.” I replied, “Always, even for those who travel with me.”
Lesson two: Cover for anyone who is traveling with you. It is called teamwork.
The day was beautiful with clouds coming in from Tennessee, The wind was picking up a bit and it was a relief to feel the wind flow over my sweaty back. Other people showed up and had lunch. I love to find new views to photograph. As I looked around, I noticed one of the rare flying squirrels hiding at the top of a Hemlock. He was really blending in, but I noticed him looking out between the branches. I alerted Green who did not see it until I made it real obvious. “How did you see that?” he asked. “I am always looking for different things on my trips.”
Lesson three: Be aware of your surroundings.
It was time to head back down the trail; as the wind picked up, I took a sniff. He asked, “What are you doing?” I responded with “Sniffing, I smell rain.” “Rain?” he asked. “Yep, it is going to rain, and we need to head down before it gets bad.” Heading back down Profile, I could smell the rain getting closer. I also picked up the pace to a very quick walk, almost a trot. Green stayed close until I really picked up the pace. I then stopped and asked if he had a poncho. “No?” he responded. “Reach in my pack and pull out a poncho, it’s going to rain soon.” “How do you know that?” he asked. “Trust me, you are about to get wet.
“ We were not half mile down the trail when the bottom burst out of the clouds and drenched us.
Lesson four: Trust your instincts.
As we finally made it back to the truck, I congratulated him on a great hike and offered him another hike down the road. He said he would make sure to tell all the soldiers what they missed, and that, “the First Sergeant,” will show you what a good hike is all about. That said, the best thing I took from this was the opportunity to teach trail lessons and show what I know on the trail.
When I travel these trails on Grandfather Mountain, I get lost in the silent beauty around every bend in the trail. The wind that blows and then stops to let the birds chirp escape the mountain wilderness. I love to sit and listen to the trickling water of the many streams flowing down to the valleys below. It is exciting to accidentally spook a red squirrel, and then listen to it give you the riot act or come up on a brown garter snake slithering across the trail. Finally, it is the beauty of the scenery, wildflowers and rock formations that keep me coming back for more.
This is why I trek my favorite mountain — Grandfather Mountain.