This may be my first blog post about climbing mountains off the bike. As it happened, I had the opportunity to check out two mountains that I will likely climb in the future. The first of which, Grandfather Mountain, I will be climbing next month when I complete the Bridge to Bridge ride.
We entered Grandfather Mountain the old fashioned way, in a car, paying admission, and driving in. We drove about halfway to the hiking parking lot and made the rest of the way on foot via the hiking trail. It was not terribly long or difficult, just about half a mile and the climbing seemed easier because we were able to use the rocks as stairs. For going up such a steep mountain, it was not too difficult.
After about 20 minutes, we heard some creaking and out of the shadows emerged the Mile High Swinging Bridge, which meant we were at the top. After checking out the summit and climbing to the easy peak, we went back down only to get drenched by a torrential downpour.
After racing to the car, I wanted to drive up and get an idea what to expect when I try it on a bike. Oh my! That might have been a bad idea. This is going to be a tough climb! There are a number tight, steep switchbacks. One of them was used in the Forrest Gump movie. It is hard to estimate grades from the car, but I am guessing 15% for the switchbacks. Just before reaching the top, the road straightens out and curves up towards the stars for a few hundred feet. That is going to be one helluva grunt! Here I am guessing it is 20%.
The next day when leaving Boone, I decided to take a scenic route through Roan Mountain. This is a mammoth mountain, similar in scale to Mitchell, albeit not quite as tall. This mountain was part of the Roan Moan ride, which just occurred on July 27th of this year. I missed it, but might give it a shot next year. Or I may try to tackle this mountain on my own time.
The one thing about this climb is that it is long. I turned on my GPS shortly after entering Roan Mountain State Park. The summit came about 14 miles and 4,000 feet later. Again, it is difficult to gauge a bicycle climb in a car, but this one did not seem terribly difficult. That is, it didn’t seem too steep. The climb just keeps going, and going, and going. The turns are not very tight or too long. There are even some stretches where it levels off. It will just be a ride to keep spinning and getting in a zone.
I can’t wait to ride up this one for the scenery. I only got a few glimpses of the view from the car and they were spectacular. This mountain is around 6,000 feet, but unlike other big mountains I have been on, it is not near anything too big. So from the road, you are able to see about 4,000 feet downward from every direction.
At the top of the initial climb is Carver’s Gap. This is where the road meets the Appalachian Trail. I could tell from the road marking that this is also the peak of the Roan Moan climb. There was yet another climb from there to the park area, about two miles. I drove up to get a glimpse, but it was covered in clouds and I could not see much. The ranger station was unoccupied and there were no others there, so I went back down.
The descent will be little scary because of the height alone, but this is not a very technical downhill. There are only a few tight turns and the grade is nothing too severe. Like the climb up, it will probably be tiring because of the length.
So that was my weekend — a short ride on the parkway and exploring two other mountains that I will probably see again someday.