“Just as knowledge is derived from information, wisdom begins with knowledge, grows with experience, and is empowered by discernment.”
-Joseph Marshall III, Walking with Grandfather
I don’t usually start my posts with a quote, but I learned a lot about myself on this hike and it feels right.
Grandfather was one of those hikes I knew I had to do but wasn’t entirely sure when. Maybe it was the name, or maybe it was that that are so many trails on Grandfather, but somewhere inside me I felt like it was going to be a special hike.
I got up for my hike early on a Saturday morning and checked the weather, something I had neglected to do the night before while preparing my pack.
Typically the forecast doesn’t deter me, but I like to know what I’m getting myself into and prepare accordingly.
This particular morning brought forth a sad little rain cloud with an 80% chance of rain hovering in front of my half open eyes.
My aforementioned statement has an exception- rain. I don’t love hiking in rain and especially on more technical trails, because I’m terrified of slipping and hurting myself. As someone who does a lot of solo hikes, my biggest fear is falling and becoming injured with no way to get back down the mountain.
After a quick cross reference on the weather channel app informing me that the chance of rain was much lower I decided to go anyway; I could always turn back if things got bad or it started to rain.
The drive there was beautiful, and I stopped a couple of times to look at the scenery and really enjoy the drive! There were a couple of kayakers out on the lake I stopped to look at. It made me wish I had a kayak of my own to take out and spend on exploring the water!
I don’t know if it’s because I don’t see them every day like I did in Vermont; but I find myself feeling absolute elation whenever I turn around that unsuspecting bend in the road- the first glimpse of the mountains setting my soul on fire. Anyone else feel this way?
I had a slight hiccup when I pulled up to what I thought was the trail head and realized it was the state park entrance that was a straight drive to the top! Obviously not the way I wanted to go.
After driving for another 10 minutes I pulled into a coffee shop where the barista informed me that the trailhead I was looking for was just past the shop. I thanked him and told the guys I would see them post hike for a celebratory latte!
Finding the trailhead was easy after the guys told me how close I was, as there was a sign right past the outlets the café was nested in. I turned on Alltrails and started off on my little adventure.
The trail starts off pretty mild, with mostly a packed dirt trail which follows a delightful stream. I noticed a couple of places later on that deepened to about 4 feet!
About a mile in I passed two guys by the stream I had just crossed piling rocks into chicken-wire cages. I waved at them and went to walk past but curiosity got the better of me and I backtracked the 20 feet between us to ask what they were doing.
“We’re creating these walls to prevent any more deterioration.” The younger of the two told me, gesturing to the noticeably crumbling sides of the trail.
We chatted for a little bit more and I thanked them for taking care of the trail and then I was on my way.
The first mile stretch of this hike takes you along and over quite a few minor river crossings. i’m personally a huge fan of this as the sounds of running water are really calming for me.
I continued on without incident for another mile and a half before things really started to get technical. It was at this point that I also came to the realization that my 6-mile hike was going to clock in much closer to 8 miles. For anyone who’s ever hiked, you know that, that additional mile can be brutal; so, adding in two more came as quite the shock.
For all the hiking that I do, I had never actually done anything more than 6 miles by myself and for some reason the idea that I was going to have to do an extra two by myself felt deeply unnerving. If you’re not pushing forward and doing things that scare you a little you’re not growing though, so on I went.
I wrote a post a while back about hiking and mental toughness which touches on how as hikers we have to be stronger than our excuses. That post was based on my experience hiking this trail.
While I was more than prepared in the physical sense for this trail, mentally I was put off and emotionally getting to each sign that I thought was going to tell me I was there only to find out I had yet another mile to go wore on me.
I had originally planned to eat my snack at the summit, so I could enjoy the view, but when I got to this part of the trail I was over it. I took a second to pull out my RXBar, recalibrate my thoughts, and take a few deep breaths.
It wasn’t currently raining, but the humidity was clocking in at 90 percent and clearly it had rained within the last 24 hours, because the rock covered stretch ahead of me looked treacherous.
Eating something definitely helped, and my legs didn’t feel quite so shot after taking my mini break, but at this point I still wasn’t convinced that I didn’t want to quit and go home. Instead I gripped my poles a little tighter and hauled myself up the rocks.
When I reached the top of them there was a final sign informing me that I was .4 miles from the summit. I pulled out my head phones, picked a pump-up song usually reserved for the gym and kept going.
During that last mile I really didn’t have what I would call “fun,” but I got a lot out of it. I thought about the random things that entered my brain, processed how I had changed in the last few months, and realized that I am far stronger than I give myself credit for.
To level with you, hiking isn’t always “fun.” This hike was really tough for me, and if you’re just starting out I’d recommend finding a different trail. That being said, if you’ve been feeling unsure of yourself lately and you’re looking for a challenge, this is your hike.
At the summit I was greeted with about 10 minutes of a view before a thick fog blew in, blanketing the trees in its soft white mist, reminding me of cotton balls when you unravel them. Wispy around the edges and almost playful in its steady movement across my field of vision.
Despite my limited view, reaching the top of Grandfather was one of the most rewarding sensations I’ve had on a hike to date. I sat at the top on an offshoot of the trail and journaled about the thoughts I had on my way up.
I like taking some time to journal down the things I think about on my way up. I try to do it after the initial thrill wears off and my heartrate slows. It’s cathartic to get everything I’ve thought about down onto paper and out of my mind. I feel like I’m a better writer this way, because all of the initially incoherent fragments of ideas that have been tumbling through my conscious have had time to settle into something I can express.
I don’t share my journal thoughts, those are for me. They’re fun to go back and look at every once in a while, to see where I was mentally at that point in time. Getting to have a reference for my personal growth and reflection feels really valuable for me on the days I’m feeling lost or unsure of myself.
When I had finished my journaling and felt like it was time to head back down I gathered my things, dusted myself off, and began back down the path. Profile trail is an out and back type hike, so this time around I knew what I was in for.
I took the first section down slowly, making sure that one foot was firmly planted before lifting the other. With the rocks still slick I wasn’t looking to take any chances and get flippant with my steps.
As per usual, my trekking poles came in clutch and made me feel a lot more secure in my descent.
With a renewed sense of accomplishment my descent felt easy and passed by a lot quicker than my ascent. In part because heading down always feels like the reward for going up, and I knew I have coffee to look forward to.
About half way down I passed a group of hikers who were taking a break to catch their breath. I greeted them while stepping over a log and proceeded to absolutely eat it.
I landed directly on my ass and while it hurt, I laughed it off and felt mostly alright after the initial shock. That was the really the only “incident” I incurred.
Once I got back to my car I drove the three minutes to the café and ordered myself a latte before heading home. My timing couldn’t have been better, because 30 seconds after taking this photo it started pouring!
Overall, Grandfather Mountain’s Profile Trail is a highly rewarding hike. It was exhausting mentally and a little bit physically which made getting to the summit feel like the biggest victory I’ve had in a while. I’ve come to realize that every hike I go on seems to provide me with something different. Some as simple as offering me the opportunity to get into the wilderness and unplug. And then there are ones like this, the hikes that push you past the limits you thought you had, creating a new standard of possible.
Side note: I did wake up the next morning to the most aggressive bruise on my butt I have ever seen. I’ll spare everyone the visual, but I rolled over when I woke up and proceeded to screech “what the f-” before running over to the mirror in my room to figure out if I have been stabbed by an unknow intruder in the middle of the night.
After figuring out what must have caused it I laughed it off and was fine after about 3 days.
Question: What kind of hike do you prefer: Easy and fun or Tougher and rewarding?