Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: Rainy day fun and Mount Mitchell State Park Review! - Burnsville, NC

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rainy day fun and Mount Mitchell State Park Review! - Burnsville, NC

Mount Mitchell State Park
2388 NC-128 Burnsville, NC 28714

Having the highest elevation east of the Mississippi is the distinction that can only be held by one mountain.  For the longest time, I thought that it was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  How wrong I was!  Mt. Washington stands at 6289' which is a full 394' lower in elevation compared to Mt. Mitchell.  To add to that, Mt. Mitchell's climate is much more suited for visiting more months out of the year.

Curtis Creek
Curtis Creek Road "Surprise! It's dirt!
From Old Fort, NC where we stayed at Sky Island Retreat , our GPS had us go in a very peculiar way, Curtis Creek Road.  What we didn't know (or understand at that time) was that it was only 18 miles to get to Mt. Mitchell State Park, but it was going to take us nearly an hour to get there!

We soon found the reason.  Not only did the road ascend over 3000 feet in only a few miles, it was dirt - about to be mud from the pending rain!

Fortunately, we were no strangers to "mudding".  With me being from Pennsylvania and Jeanine being from Colorado, neither of us had any shortages of off-road experience.  To add to that, we had been to a few weekend mud jams with our previous Jeep.  This was going to be fun!

Curtis Creek Campground
Although I didn't need it, I felt it necessary to engage the four wheel drive on the truck (after the recent repair on the transfer case!) and give the system a run-through.  Everything worked as it should, so I was naturally happy.  After switching it off, the rain started to come down even harder.  Some of the switchbacks were so tight that even I questioned whether or not I would brave taking the 5er up that road (despite J's skepticism, I would!).  I also noticed that when accelerating out of the switchbacks, the rear end of the truck was losing traction quite a bit.  With my natural love of driving, I decided to push it a bit and fish-tailed around a few - having a blast in the process.  Once I was reminded of the erosion and possible road damage I may have been causing, I went back to driving normally :),

About a mile or so from the Blue Ridge Parkway, we ran into some National Forest personnel who had come across a bit of a bad spot with their vehicle.  While they were cutting up and clearing a (very large, impassable) tree from the road, they mistakenly left the lights of their truck on... without the engine running.  The battery was completely dead so much that it wouldn't allow use of their radio leaving communications at nothing.  Miles from the closest person and also just out of cell phone reception, we came upon them at just the right time. One of the guys was contemplating walking downhill to the first real civilization - about a six mile trek!

After gathering a set up jumper cables and letting their battery get a good charge to it, we sent them on their way and followed them the rest of the way up the mountain.   A few miles down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we arrived at the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park.

The summit was a few miles from the entrance but it was a nice drive.  Windows down and enjoying the low 80's temperatures (at the bottom).  By the time we reached the parking lot, the temperature had dropped to a chilly (Floridians here) 59 degrees!  Thankfully, my wife reminded me that it was going to be cooler, so the dress was appropriate.

We weren't sure which trail we wanted to hike since it had been raining on and off all morning.  Most of the trails around the parking lot were short and easy - we wanted something not-too-long, but still challenging.  Jeanine had been steadily increasing her daily hikes/walks, so she was feeling up to the challenge of a little more difficult hike.  Luckily the rain looked to be letting up so we decided to go for a two mile adventure.

On the hike we chose, we made our way to Mt. Craig at 6648' above sea level. The trail from Mt. Mitchell parking lot took us through a strenuous round-trip total mileage.  While we saw only a small portion of the the total trail length of 12 miles ending up at Deep Gap, we would vote this as our favorite hike to date.  Despite the soggy weather and mostly bad visibility due to the low clouds, we couldn't have had a better experience!  We saw signs that there is a primitive, overnight campsite about 5 miles in to the Deep Gap trail.  We hope to return sometime and make it an overnight adventure!

In the two times that we visited the park, we hiked the trails encircling and ascending the summit, including the interpretive nature trail, which we would have normally thought were pretty boring, but this one zig-zagged through a bunch of very different small ecosystems.  We got the opportunity to gain education about the mountain, its history, and its climate.
Our hike of Mt. Craig tracked with our Fitbit

Needless to say, we would definitely visit Mt. Mitchell again.  Since we were there during a busy time, there weren't any sites (primitive tent) available in the summit campground.   There isn't any RV camping available in this state park, which didn't surprise us.  Although it would be neat to stay here, there are other campgrounds available nearby.  Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area, which we heard about from our neighbor in Florida, is supposed to be really gorgeous, but we weren't quite ready for the lack of hookups.  Plus, it was very hot and humid (yes, coming from Floridians!) during the time we were there, so we decided to hit that one on our next go-around.

Have you been to Mt. Mitchell State Park?  Do you have questions about MMSP or the surrounding areas?  We would love to hear your comments below!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

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