Day 2: The Mile High Club at Grandfather Mountain

Day 2: The Mile High Club at Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain SignSome would say that putting the words “grandfather” and “mile high club” in the same sentence is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Normally, I would agree. But, not this time, Johnny!

After hopping off of the Blue Ridge Parkway for the day, Kenny and I headed to Grandfather Mountain near Linville, North Carolina. I wanted to go up to the top and give the Mile High Swinging Bridge a look-see. I had seen photos of it perched a mile above sea level and the surrounding view online and couldn’t wait to check it out for myself.

When we pulled our bikes up to the park entrance gate, the nice older lady who was working the booth leaned out and said, “Now, the wind is really gustin’ up they-er. It’s blowin’ 45 miles’n’our,” in a sweet southern drawl.

Grandfather Mountain entrance

She then paused and looked at us clearly waiting for some sort of response. The best I could formulate was a couple quick blinks and an, “okay?” That seemed good enough for her. ::shrug::

I figured that it was part of her job to give sissy-pants Marys a warning so they don’t try to sue the state or something if they should get a little dust blown in their eyes at the top of the mountain. So, we said thanks and began our ascent up the switchbacks to the top parking area.

The road to the Mile High Swinging Bridge

As we slowly climbed along the roadway I wondered why she had tried to scare us. There was barely breeze on the road.

Parking lot at Grandfather Mountain

When I crested the hill for the very top of the mountain I was hit by what felt line a linebacker. POW! The non-stop wind shoved me to the right where my bike and I were almost knocked over as it came barreling across the parking lot unimpeded by anything in its path.

Oh, THAT wind.

It was so windy in fact that since I’d put my feet down after almost being knocked over that I felt like I couldn’t safely pick them up again to get moving. The wind just continued to shove against the broad side of my bike.

Shoved by the wind

I stood there teetering on tiptoes, holding my bike up waiting for a window where the wind would die down and I could park my bike next to the gift shop. I stood and stood and stood for what seemed like an eternity.

It was just a few moments, however. But it was long enough that Kenny had time to park next to the building and walk back over to me and help me get steady and get rolling again. WHEW! Ain’t love grand? 🙂

There were signs on the gift shop noting to hold on to car doors, small children and any loose objects because the wind would surely grab hold of them and carry them away. Man, they weren’t kidding!

We climbed the steps to the bridge and took in the view. It was beautiful. All day long I had thought about being up there and seeing those beautiful green mountains rolling out before us and the sweet, mile high swinging bridge. Now, there we were.

Now we were there, indeed. Oh, lord! Man, was it windy and the bridge didn’t seem to look as sturdy as it did in pictures…

While we stood at the entrance to the bridge there was a howl that came from it as the wind whipped across its cables. It added an extra special touch to the feeling that I was about to die either from being blown off the bridge or having it collapse into a heap of tangled steel cables on the treetops below.

Mile High Swinging Bridge

With nervous laughter I asked Kenny (who is brave and cavalier about everything) to take a picture with me. You know, just in case it was our last one. Ever.

I’m a huge chicken and kind of scared of heights. But, I hate the idea of quitting or letting my fear keep me from trying something. So, I stepped on to the bridge and began slowly and steadily walking across. Longest. Walk. Of my LIFE!

Between the incessant wind, the give of the slats below your feet, the motion of the bridge and the howling of the wind across the cables I just could not wait to get off of the damned thing.

I held on to the railings with both hands, kept my eyes looking directly ahead and steadily and carefully moved forward. I’m pretty sure I must’ve looked like I shat myself as I slightly crouched and walked.

When I stepped off of the bridge on the other side a wave of relief washed over me. I did it – I was part of the mile high bridge club. It was a triumph! I wasn’t sure if I could ever do that again but I was happy to have made it. Except… that I had to walk back across to get to my bike. DAMNIT!

At the Mile High Swinging Bridge

Though it was scary for a yellow-bellied chicken like me, it was so worth the detour for the views alone. If you’re heading down the Blue Ridge, don’t skip Grandfather Mountain. It’s wonderful.

–gallery rem’d

More Posts from the Trip:

17 Replies to “Day 2: The Mile High Club at Grandfather Mountain”

  1. Holy frijole, those are cool pics. I love the panorama of the bridge. But I REALLY love #102, where it looks like you are driving up into the clouds. Glad you had a gorgeous, albeit breezy, day. 🙂

  2. Love the picture of you and your panoramic is FAB!

    I felt like such an ass the last time that I was there. I don’t have GPS; so I print my trip directions on successive pieces of paper and tape them inside my windshield. I was at the end of that portion of my route and made the mistake of opening my bag to get out the paper and tape for the next portion of my trip. At just the WRONG moment there was a gust that blew 3 sheets of paper and my water bottle all the way down the parking area. I’m sure that I looked ever so graceful chasing them.

  3. One more place to add to the “list” (as if one really existed!). The pano is pretty cool and gives one a great idea of the fabulous view.

    Great description of the “Longest. Walk. Of my LIFE!”

    1. Thanks, Richard 🙂

      I bought a Sony PnS for this trip so that I could zoom better than just my iPhone and not have to lug my dslr around. I’ve been very happy with it for the panos alone.

  4. Great post, great monument to your courage. And love the picture of you.

    I had similar fear climbing the highest mountain on the East Coast at Acadia National Park during a windy day. No curb or guardrail, just a thousand foot drop next to me while riding up a sharp vertical climb with a passenger on board (whose life was in my hands) while wind whipped me from side-to-side. We remember those moments.

      1. Can I reply five years late? (Just saw your tweet to this post.)

        Yup, that’s the mountain. Scared the crap outta me. Wouldn’t have been bad if I was alone but I feel super-responsible when carrying a passenger.

        1. ughhhhh – i had to fix something in a couple posts because of a dead plug-in. i made the mistake of un/re-publishing it, which reshared ’em everywhere. numbskull! 🙂

          it was a beautiful view up there but the wind was a challenge, for sure. I can’t imagine having to balance and take care of another person through it!

  5. I Wish I knew about this when I made a trip down there a couple of years back. Just means I will have to go down again. I actually have a bad fear of heights when I was out on the DRZ last summer at the “Top of the World” in lost trails I wouldn’t go closer then about 3 feet to the edge. I practically crawled there too because I was scared of getting blown off. Awesome though and good on you for going across the bridge! What an amazing view.

    1. I just watched a video of the Top of the World Trail today. I’d like to go check that out!

      You need a bike with a better gas range. So many trips to be taken! 🙂

    1. It was just non-stop blowing wind! Crazy. Kenny was almost forced into a boulder that they paved around in the middle of the parking lot.

      It was crazy – never felt anything like that before.

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