Here I am on Eastern America's highest point. Rev. Mitchell is in the cage behind me
Mount Mitchell, in the Black Mountains, is not only the highest point in North Carolina, but also the highest east of the Mississippi River. This mountain is in a state park of the same name. Mount Mitchell State Park, established in 1915, is the oldest state park in the Tarheel State.
The naming of Mt. Mitchell was not without controversy. Thomas Clingman and Elisha Mitchell engaged in a lengthy dispute about which of the two men had been the first to accurately measure the mountain. In 1857, Dr. Mitchell set out to verify the measurements he had made over a decade previously. However, before even reaching the mountain, the University of North Carolina scientist fell to his death at a spot now known as Mitchell's Falls. As a result of the tragedy, Clingman and his supporters agreed that Mitchell deserved to have the peak named in his honor. Later, Clingman was to have Clingmans Dome in the nearby Smokies named in his honor.
It is possible to drive to within two-tenths of a mile of the summit. From there, a trail will take you through a forest of conifers and mosses to the top where there is an observation tower, as well as the tomb of Dr. Elisha Mitchell.
For More Information:
Mt. Mitchell State Park
Commentary courtesy of Kathy
The 470-mile long Blue Ridge Parkway is one of most beautiful roads in the world. Despite being socked in by intermittent rain and fog, we saw enough spectacular vistas with clouds steaming up from vast valleys capped by peaks sticking through the clouds. The rain created a wonderland of waterfalls all along the highway. We hit just at peak fall color (at least at 4,000 feet and below).
A five-mile long and very wide asphalt road leads to the summit leads to within a quarter mile of the summit. There are several buildings near the summit (four were under construction when we arrived -- they appeared to be overnight shelters). An unmanned museum traces the rivalry of Clingman and Mitchell; tells of bear hunter Big Tom Wilson (who killed more than 100 bears, led city folk up the mountain and found Mitchell's body). The museum notes that temperatures drop to -20 in the winter and winds can blow at 100 mph.
We found the mountain actually significantly warmer and the summit less of an alpine environment than yesterday's Spruce Knob, WV, summit which was nearly 2,000 feet smaller. There is a faux alpine environment -- caused by the beetles which have killed most of the firs here in the Black Mountains (and on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies).
The rain at the summit can be significantly higher than lower elevations. In the early 1980's the observation tower (circa 1930) had to have a modern drainage system installed which looks out of place.
Signs at the summit note there are many sub-peaks which are slightly shorter. One of which (Clingman's Peak -- not to be confused with Clingman's Dome) has the radio tower for radio station WMIT. Despite the terrible weather and lack of views, there were still 50 people or so visiting.
After we climbed the tower and paid our respects to Rev. Mitchell in his stone bier at its base, we had lunch at the park restaurant just below the summit. They were closing Oct 31 and prices were unbelieveablely cheap although the food was so so. The restaurant had huge windows overlooking the vistas and a large room with a wood burning fireplace and model of the mountain.
We spent the night in Asheville, which I found a delightful mix of college intellectualism and mountaineering spirit. I was puzzled that there were so many signs advertising witchcraft services. Of course, it might have been that I was listening to too many Anne Rice and Stephen King books on tape on the way down.