Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Highpoint: North Carolina. Mt. Mitchell (6684 ft). June 15, 2010

We were looking forward to spending an evening or two at the top of the East Coast's highest mountain: Mt. Mitchell. Unfortunately, though we did reach North Carolina's highpoint, we were unable to sleep there.

The afternoon started well enough. The drive from Kentucky went smoothly and we reached the (free) auto road up Mt. Mitchell by 6pm. Then the fun started. We heard thunder far off in the distance...neither of my girls enjoys being outside in a thunderstorm, and neither wants to experience lightning at 6684 feet. I convinced them we would be fine in the car, and that if the storm was headed our way, we wouldn't camp where we had planned (at the campsite less than a mile from the summit).

The drive up was gorgeous, there were plenty of views -- unfortunately, a daddylongleg had hitched a ride with us from either Kentucky or showed up unexpectedly in the backseat and repeatedly ran over the girls. There was much fuss and screeching for most of the way up...the couple of times I managed to pull over, the critter disappeared, only to reappear as soon as we started driving back up the road. This atmosphere was not ideal for picture taking...or driving, for that matter. I consider it a miracle we didn't fall off the mountain.

We reached the summit parking lot and hopped out. I looked for the daddylongleg, hoping to set it free, but alas, it had yet again disappeared. We haven't seen it since -- I've a bad feeling it will turn up one of these days, sadly smushed at the bottom of our car.

Back to Mt. Mitchell...the footpath from the parking lot to the summit is paved and only a tenth of a mile in length.

We reached the top quickly. In spite of the girls' cheerful posing, they were quite concerned about the increasingly loud thunder.

I agreed we'd stay at the top for only a few minutes. Sage took the following pictures...

...then we headed back down to the parking lot. The wind was starting to pick up, so the girls dove into the car while I took a couple of pictures from our parking space...

We drove to the campsite -- it looked great, but it was rather exposed and the girls were adamant that we NOT stay there with the thunderstorm on the way. This bummed me out considerably, since I wanted to spend the next day roaming about the peak. I asked if the girls wanted to wait out the storm in the nearby restaurant.

After an hour and a half, the sky still looked like this (that storm cloud is directly over the campsite):

The hour was getting late and the rangers would close the park gate soon. We had to make a decision...lightning was striking all around the restaurant...the girls predictably (and wisely) decided NOT to camp here for the evening.

We ran like mad to the car, then I drove like cautious hell all the way down the auto road. It was not a fun experience -- lightning struck all around us and the rain made it difficult to see. We reached the Blue Ridge Highway, then I experienced another hour of high altitude dodge-the-lightning driving before we reached the local Motel Cheapo, where we crashed for the evening.

Next stop: South Carolina.

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