Thought it was time to explore the North Carolina high country at yet another level and drove over to the Profile Trail parking area off Highway 105. The plan was to speed hike Profile to the intersection with Grandfather Trail, turn right up the mountain, and see how far I could get. Here's a link to more on the Grandfather hiking opportunities:
I christened a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline ASR trail shoes. I seem to do well with a minimalist approach to footwear, while others on the trail opt for heavy, ankle high hiking boots. The early sections of Profile offered good footing but the ascents started early. I hit mile 1 in 20 minutes, mile 2 in 25 minutes, and a tough mile 3 in 27 minutes. I was a bit cocky in my mind, then the party was over.
The next sections were brutal. Large rock formations were mostly straight up. Some transitions over the rocks intimidated me. A slip could have been bad and to my right was the sheer expanse of the mountain.
I made the Profile intersection with Grandfather Trail and opted to make a push for the suspension bridge atop Grandfather. I journeyed forward into new tough sections that featured secured ladders from rock to rock.
Here's the rub: Master competitor is afraid of heights and I knew that near the top of the mountain, some hairy sections awaited. So mind over matter needed to prevail. I didn't have a big enough pair to take Grandfather's route to the "ladder climbs" where one traverses exposed ledges and relies on guide cables. Instead, I took the interior Underwood Trail, still a tough pull but an alternative to being literally on the edge.
There were most excellent primitive camping platforms at key locations along the trail. After my Yurt outing in Alaska, I am enamored with backpacking into remote camping locations. If I can find used equipment, you can be sure I'll be back for overnighters.
I made the crest at the suspension bridge (approximately 6 miles) in 2.5 hours. I enjoyed a light lunch while visiting with one of the park guides. After refilling my Nathan hydration pack at the new visitor center, it was time to descend. I felt a bit more at ease and less uptight on the way down. Two hours and 14 minutes later, I was back at the car.
Doing Profile to the top of Grandfather makes for a complete day. I bought a big bag of fresh fruit and vegetables on the way home. Now it's time to fuel the engine and rest...need to get up at 4 am and drive to my metric century bike ride tomorrow.