It was the elevator to excitement Monday for a local teen Luke Wilcox crossed the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain in a wheelchair.
The Grandfather Mountain bridge attraction had only been accessible by climbing 50 steps, limiting those able to take in the views. Officials made the decision two years ago to solve the problem.
The original Top Shop was torn down in 2009. The new one is equipped with an elevator and a raised "bridge to the bridge" from the third story.
For one Vilas family, the accessibility was described as a dream come true.
"I thought the bridge would eventually be wheelchair accessible, but not in Luke's lifetime," Anita Wilcox said.
Her son, Luke, now 13, was born with cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair his entire life. He communicates with the assistance of a computer attached to his chair.
"Mom and Dad have brought me up to Grandfather Mountain since I was a baby, and they were able to carry me up to the bridge until I was six," Luke Wilcox said. "We still visited the mountain in April and July of each year, but we only went halfway up the mountain to the animal habitats, because I have gotten too big for my parents to carry me up to the bridge."
On Monday, Luke crossed the bridge for the first time in his wheelchair, sporting a wide grin and raised hands.
Other visitors, who were told about the special occasion, cheered when he reached the other side. Parents were overheard explaining the situation to their own children waiting to walk across.
"I was really looking forward to crossing the Mile High Bridge on my own," he said.
Grandfather Mountain is open year-round, weather permitting in the winter. For more information on Grandfather Mountain, visit http://www.grandfather.com or call (800) 468-7325.