Grandfather Mountain State Park hosts summer programs

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Jun. 19 | Modified: Jun. 30
Grandfather Mountain State Park hosts summer programs

Interpretive specialist S. Becker leads the ‘Stream Ecology’ program during 2013’s Family Day at Grandfather Mountain State Park.

Photo submitted



Trail-building, stream ecology, Native American heritage — it must be summer at Grandfather Mountain State Park.

The state park, not to be confused with the Grandfather Mountain attraction in Linville, is hosting a bevy of outdoor activities throughout June, and all are invited to participate.

“All our programs are free and open to the public,” park superintendent Susan McBean said. “This is a great chance to get outside and have fun, maybe learn something in the process, meet some new people and experience some new adventures.”

While the attraction in Linville offers family-friendly adventure and some of the most iconic landmarks and vistas in the Southeast, the state park offers visitors a more rugged, wild experience, with more than 2,500 acres in what’s traditionally known as the “backcountry” of Grandfather Mountain.

With 12 miles of trails and 13 backpack campsites, the state park, McBean explained, is more about the natural element of Grandfather.

Visitors can experience it firsthand with five remaining activities in June.

Stream Ecology is geared toward young and old adventurers alike and will take place Friday, June 20, at 4 p.m., starting at the Profile Trail parking lot, located on N.C. 105 South, a quarter of a mile north of the N.C. 184 intersection.

Through hands-on activities, participants will learn about the interaction between the living and non-living inhabitants of mountain streams.

“Kids are going to get wet,” McBean said. “They’re going to have the opportunity to get in the water with salamanders, crayfish, water-striders and all kinds of insects — mayfly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs, there’s so much in the water to find. It’s very exploratory, and it’s so much fun.”

Nets will be provided, and all participants willing to get into the stream are asked to bring waders or clothes that can get wet, along with a towel. Parental supervision is required for children younger than 16.

A Volunteer Trail Work Day will follow on Saturday, June 21, starting at 9:30 a.m. On trail workdays, volunteers join GMSP staff for a day of trail maintenance. In the process, folks learn the ins and outs of trail tools, sustainable trail design techniques and trail labor in general.

“Our trail workdays, boy, they help us a lot,” McBean said. “Maintaining the trails in the state park is a lot of work, and we couldn’t do it without volunteers, so we greatly appreciate their efforts.”

According to GMSP, tasks are based on volunteers’ skill level and experience and will range from easy to highly physical. As such, trail workdays are suited only for those older than 12 years of age, and parental supervision is required for those younger than 18.

“All the volunteer days I’ve worked on have been a lot of fun,” McBean said. “And they’re very active. You’re hiking to the site and doing a lot of physical work. Come with a great attitude to be ready for work and meet new people and enjoy supporting their state park.”

Volunteers should also dress appropriately for outdoor work, including work gloves and close-toed shoes, and they should also bring food and water for refreshment throughout the day.

On Sunday, June 22, GSMP will offer a program on Native American Heritage. Starting at 2 p.m. at the Boone Fork Parking Area (near milepost 299.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway), participants will join a ranger to learn about power animals, natural plants and colors that factor into Native American culture and what they mean.

The program will run for 30 minutes, followed by an optional one-mile hike. Those planning to hike are encouraged to bring water, snacks and appropriate footwear. Both the program and hike will take place outdoors, and children younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

On Saturday, June 28, the state park hosts Fields to Forests, which examines what happens when farmland grows up or old forests fall. According to GMSP, “Early succession is a natural and vital part of the landscape. A healthy landscape is a mosaic of different forest types, including open spaces.”

Park-goers can see this firsthand by joining a ranger for a walk through an open field to see how the environment has adapted and grown with a diversity of plants and wildlife.

“It’s just really interesting,” McBean said. “Because when you’ve got a field, you see what grows first and what comes in after that, so you can really see the succession — a lot of wildflowers, old apple trees and more. And it’s a short hike, very easy.”

The group will meet in the field off Shook Road, just behind Grandfather Campground on N.C. 105.
On Sunday, June 29, young and old can again get their feet wet with another Stream Ecology day, only this one will take place off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The group will meet at the Boone Fork Parking Area, located near milepost 299.9 on the parkway.

McBean also suggested that adventurers of all ages mark their calendars for Family Day on Aug. 23. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., families can enjoy a mountain of activities, including live music.

For more information, including directions to meeting places, call (828) 963-9522, or email (grandfather.mountain@ncparks.gov) For all of the above programs and events, GMSP requests that participants and volunteers leave their pets at home.

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