Grandfather Mountain

Our first backpacking trip.  

Well... not Matt's first, but a first for Kayley. We've been talking about taking a backpacking trip with some good friends from Kentucky for awhile, so when the perfect weekend opened up, we took it by the reigns and said YES. 

We met in Boone, NC—home of Appalachian State University—and ate at Proper, a super cute, hip cafe. (*Side-note: Their mac-n-cheese is to die for. Matt and Justin realized this reality on the hike up.) 

Proper

Proper

We fueled our stomachs, stopped by Mast General Store to buy Kayley a sleeping pad (yes we know, she should have one of these by now but this was a trip of firsts), and headed to the Boone Fork Parking Area where we would start our 4-mile hike in to Briar Patch to camp for the night. 

The start of the hike begins on the Tanawha Trail which connects with the Daniel Boone Scout Trail.

The start of the hike begins on the Tanawha Trail which connects with the Daniel Boone Scout Trail.

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You must reserve a campsite before hiking up. The sites are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

You must reserve a campsite before hiking up. The sites are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

We began the steep climb up the Daniel Boone Scout Trail. The weather was PERFECT, but with 30-40lbs on your back hiking up a rocky hill... well... there's no way around your body's natural cool down method. We knew we would be sweating a lot, so we made sure to pack plenty of water with us for a couple of days.

*Hiking tip: More than likely, you won't be able to carry all of the water you'll need for the trip, so it's important to bring a water filter with you. Make sure to fill the water filter from a flowing stream versus standing water. 

On top of staying hydrated, it's important to keep your body fueled, especially during a rigorous hike. Here's a list of our favorite protein packed snacks for any adventure:  

  • Earth Fare Brain Food Trail Mix (~$3 a pack):   
    • Two packs of Brain Food Trail Mix lasted the two of us 3 days (snacking regularly in the car and on the trails). Packed with rich protein and energy. Great for long hauls up the mountain or back to the city. 
  • Earth Fare Almond Covered Dates (~$3 a pack): 
    • If you have a sweet tooth, this snack is for you. It was the perfect pick-me-up when we needed a break from the trail mix and wanted a little something sweet to taste. 
  • Dried Mango and Nuts
    • One of Matt's go-to snacks, this blend of dried fruit and nuts is the right mixture of savory and sweet. 

Okay, back to the story... When we were about 2 miles in, we came across tall boulders on our right and decided to drop the packs and do some exploring before the sun went down too far. And this is what we came to... 

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And so we continued along the Daniel Boone Scout Trail another couple miles until we came upon our campsite for the night: Briar Patch Campsite. 

It was the perfect, secluded spot that we were hoping for. Highly recommend if you ever backpack up to Grandfather Mountain! 

*Side-note: The campsite is tucked back in the woods off the main trail. You'll have to hike a couple hundred feet to find the actual campsite and sign.

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Matt enjoying one of the almond covered dates. A much needed treat after the many handfulls of trail mix consumed on the way up the mountain, and Justin wishing he had one.

Matt enjoying one of the almond covered dates. A much needed treat after the many handfulls of trail mix consumed on the way up the mountain, and Justin wishing he had one.

When we made it up to the campsite, we set up our tents and made a fire to cook our Freeze Dried Chicken Gumbo by AlpineAire. Freeze dried meals are your best option when it comes to fixing meals while backpacking (or camping!). All they require is a pot of boiling water; although, you usually need less water than recommended. (And contrary to popular belief, they are really tasty!)

When it comes to backpacking, you really only want to bring the essentials in order to keep your pack as light as possible. We've had a lot of people ask us what kind of gear we brought, so we've compiled a list of "essentials" from our trip: 

  • 55+L Pack 
  • Two 2P tents, specifically a Marmot Tungsten 2P Tent & REI Half-dome 2P Tent 
  • Sleeping bags (It was a little chilly at night, about 40 degrees, so naturally Kayley brought a 30 degree rated bag because she's cold-blooded)
  • Sleeping Pads
  • *Optional: Pillows (you may or may not need one if you can get creative and make one out of a jacket) 
  • Bear canister 
  • Jet Boil and/or pocket stove 
  • 2 REI Flexlight chairs 
  • Eno air couch (to share stories around the fire)
  • Waterproof matches and dryer lint (to start the fire) 
  • Water filter 
  • 2 water bottles (1L water bottles) 
  • 3 black diamond mini lanterns (to create artificial firelight)
  • 4 black diamond headlamps (They come with a red light feature to deter bugs) 
  • Trail map (We brought 2 trail maps for when I leave one on a rock) 
  • Extra pair of clothes to sleep in/ hike back down the mountain 

And that's pretty much it!

(p.s. if you want to know more about the gear or brands we brought, please reach out to us!)

After camping for the night, we packed up our gear and headed towards Calloway Peak. Along the way, we came across remnants of a 1978 plane crash. The story goes that the pilot flew into intense fog, became disoriented, and eventually crashed into the mountainside. 

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It was a cool yet somber sight to see. We sat here for a while considering this man's life. We pondered the life he lived. Who was this guy? How long had he been flying for? What other things did he do in his free time? We didn't have answers to most of our questions but it reminded us of our lives. Our friends and family's lives and our appreciation of the lives we were given. 

We continued along the trail and up some ladders until we reached Calloway Peak and took some time to take in the scene around us. 

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We reached a small boulder outcropping with an expansive view. We sat for a while absorbing our surroundings. Matt read a book. Kayley took pictures. Justin and Victoria talked to some others at the top. It was a spot of meditation.

Before heading back down we stuffed our faces with our remaining snacks and some small sips of water (we were running low at this point and needed to conserve what we could).

The hike down was a quiet one with few stops. We were eager to get some real food in our systems and to devour some water. We got backtracked on a "social" trail—a non-designated trail created by hikers that go off the beaten paths. These can be dangerous to the environment but also to fellow hikers. We've been sidetracked on such trails before and have ended up on some dangerous terrain because of it so be careful and stay on the main paths.

After finding our way back to the main trail we picked up our gear that we left under some boulders to lighten the weight up to the peak and quickly began our descent. It took nearly half the time to hike down that it did to hike up to Briar Patch—approximately an hour and a half. And oh man when we came across a flowing creek we threw our packs off, unlaced our boots and filtered some water. We drank enough water to drown a whale and it was so satisfying. After some much needed R&R we headed back to the car to begin our next leg of the trip: Asheville.

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By: Kayley & Matt