This highpoint was supposed to be just an hour away from our hotel in Asheville, North Carolina. When we left, we started down a road and quickly found a sign that said “Road Closed, 15 miles Ahead.” Our only problem was that the GPS told us the highpoint was 26 miles down this road. That would be a problem.
We found a park ranger in the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Shop, who kindly told us the only way to the top was to go around the other side of Mt. Mitchell. ”You don’t have a trailer, right?” Asked the park ranger. No, we didn’t have a trailer. ”Nobody gets car sick, right?” She asked again. Nope. ”Good, because the way up to the top of the mountain is very steep and curvy. Little did we know she wasn’t exaggerating!
The small road we took for a detour eventually turned into a dirt road, one lane wide, and was the narrowest hair raising road of the trip thus far. If we met another car, one of us was going to have to back up about a half mile to find enough room to pass each other. We took this road rather fast, hoping we would get off of it before seeing another car. We passed one car on the way up, and one car pulling a trailer on the way down. It was a five mile long dirt road, one we never want to drive on again.
We eventually found the blacktop again, and made it to the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Once we got there, it was apparent that North Carolina valued it’s highest point since there were school busses (who apparently took a different route to the top), and numerous cars. This was a popular destination.
Our biggest letdown was when we tried to walk to the actual summit. A park ranger politely informed us that the summit was under construction and nobody but construction workers were allowed at the peak. We were crushed! We met another couple who were also seeking the highpoint (it was their 27th state!) and they too were disappointed. Although everyone was nice, North Carolina really blew it this time by not at least allowing a small walking path to the summit during construction. I realize they were trying to keep people safe, but some people (like us) traveled very far to reach this point.
We still considered this a successful highpoint since we were able to achieve the highest point were were legally able to reach in the state. That and we were about 500 feet from the actual peak. Close enough.
The drive back down really took a toll on our car’s brakes. The dirt road left our car covered in white dirt. The car rental company is going to love us. We stopped and had lunch at a scenic overlook. This highpoint was really beautiful, although some of the views were obscured by clouds that covered some of the nearby peaks. In fact, the kids really enjoyed it when a cloud formation descended over the cars in the parking lot. It was a spectacular sight to see.