Grandfather Mountain Hike

We Torgs used a day off from school (thank you for your service, Veterans!) to drive east and hike at Grandfather Mountain near Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Upon our arrival, we were told the top of the mountain, where the swinging bridge and most of the trails are located, was closed due to high winds. Warning to anyone who is interested in going: it’s $20 per adult and $9 for kids to be admitted to the park. Also of note: you can park on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike in if you’re up for it. That’s what I’ll do as soon as our kids can handle the hike. We were admitted for half price since the top of the mountain was closed.

After about an hour inside the park, the top was opened. Here are some pictures and video from our visit:


the bridge at Grandfather Mountain


it was still windy on the bridge


ladders were fun and scary


a video from the ladders


Grandfather Mountain, hiking, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

My wife Megan started to get nervous here.


Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock, Boone, North Carolina, Hiking, Blue Ridge Parkway

We did it!

Lover’s Leap and Paint Rock: Views of the French Broad River from Up on High

As a part of work I’m doing on a film about the French Broad River, I drove north from Asheville to Hot Springs so that I could shoot some video of the river from Paint Rock and Lover’s Leap.

Paint Rock is about seven miles north of Hot Springs on River Road. Heading north on Highway 25 into Hot Springs, I took a right onto River Road right before the bridge. It’s a pretty cool road in that it is narrow, changes to gravel, and stays very close to the water. I had to stop once because there were a bunch of wild turkeys in the road.

River Road, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Appalachian Trail, AT

River Road near Hot Springs

I made a mistake that got me about 40 minutes of extra exercise. I wanted to stand on the cliffs and take a picture of the river and so I looked up the Paint Rock Trail online before I left. I read that I should go 1/10 of a mile on Forest Road 54 and look for the trail. I found it easy enough and began to hike. It was a hot day for November, in the upper 80’s. The trail was very steep and kept me at least 30 yards from the edge of where I thought the cliffs might be. The underbrush was thick and I was a little worried about scrambling through the underbrush and falling over the edge down onto the rocks. I thought the trail would come out to an overlook. Eventually, after thirty minutes of hiking practically straight up, I was so high that that I wouldn’t be able to shoot the river with my GoPro.

Paint Rock, North Carolina, French Broad River

from Paint Rock Trail

On the way down, I got off the trail a few times to try and find the overlook I had in mind but didn’t see anything. Once I got off the mountain, I waded around in the area of where Paint Creek flows into the French Broad. I stared up at the cliffs and couldn’t see how I could get out to one of the lookouts. I also realized that even if I could scale one of the cliffs before me, it wouldn’t offer much of a view of the river as much as the adjacent mountain.

I started to walk on River Road back toward Hot Springs and the direction I’d come. It was then I noticed a very steep trail that went up to a ledge that looked out on the river. I’d done a tough 40 minute hike when a little five minute scramble would have done the job.

I took some pictures and shot the video I needed, and so with plenty of time to still get back to Lover’s Leap, I didn’t mind the extra workout.

French Broad River, Paint Rock

video footage from here will make our French Broad River movie


In Hot Springs, you access the Appalachian Trail to Lover’s Leap across the bridge from town. If you’re headed north into Hot Springs, you need to take a right before you can drive under Highway 25 and park at the Nantahala Outdoor Center parking lot. The AT goes right past the parking lot. I’m 90% sure that the rapid pictured below is called Surprise. We went over this with Blue Heron Whitewater when we did Section 9 of the French Broad River with them. The water level is wayyyy down from when I was last in Hot Springs.

surprise rapid, Hot Springs, North Carolina

Surprise Rapid

I walked along the river upstream to follow the white blazed AT. There are many switchbacks to get to the top.

Hot Springs, NC, resort, AT, French Broad River

Hot Springs Resort from Lover’s Leap

I was excited to meet a solo AT hiker. He told me he was doing half of the trail this year and the other half next year. He’d started earlier in the summer from Harpers Ferry, WV.The guy had covered over 20 miles on the day we met and over 400 miles for the summer. I told him my family and I had gone up there to buy a used raft.


from the bridge in Hot Springs


Click here to find the Facebook page for our French Broad River movie

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1,000 Miles for a Used Raft: Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway

The French Broad River runs right through where we live in Asheville, North Carolina and everywhere you go there are kayaks perched on top of automobiles. With daughters the ages seven and ten, my wife Megan and I thought we’d enjoy either tandem kayaks or maybe a raft. The typical tandem kayak in town went for around $800 and rafts like what I thought we’d need ranged from $2,500 to over $5,000.  Not knowing if we’d actually enjoy our time on the river (would it be too slow? too much of a hassle to get the boat in and out of the water and cars arranged at the appropriate geographical points) I thought I’d see if I could find anything used. There was almost nothing for sale. I took this to be a good sign. People were buying kayaks and rafts and liking them enough that they weren’t for sale. Check Craigslist for exercise equipment and a different story is told.

“I like the idea of us being together,” my wife Megan had said. And so we decided on a raft for the whole family and the best deal on a used one I could find was in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. This is about 470 miles from where we live. I’d vaguely heard of the town as one where the Appalachian Trail passed through.

Would I really drive seven hours each way for a used raft?

Turns out, I was willing to drive even farther than that. First I thought if we added The Skyline Drive in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, we could make a family trip out of it. Megan said she and her parents used to go on such trips as vacation. Now we wouldn’t be so crazy, going so far for a used raft. We were going on vacation!

The plan evolved and we decided we would also buy a tent and do our first camping as a family. Why not take our dog Indy too?  The following pictures show a little of how our pilgrimage went:



Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

loaded up and ready for take off


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, River Riders

destination #1: the nice folks at River Riders in Harper’s Ferry


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, River Riders

phase one of mission completed, raft purchased


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

ready for picnic dinner on the Skyline Drive


Not long after dinner, we saw our first bear. Actually we saw three of them, a mother and two cubs who’d climbed up a tree. We saw this from The Skyline Drive. There were several cars pulled off to the side of the road, and probably ten or so people pointing up into the trees. At this point, my youngest started keeping track of the wildlife we spotted.


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, wildlife, snakes, bears, deer, turkeys

My Youngest Kept Track of Our Wildlife Sightings


Not long after the first bear sighting, I hit one with our van. I was driving around a corner, my sight impaired from the sunset, when I could just make out a bear when it was only a few feet from our bumper. I hit the brakes and gently turned away from the bear as it rammed the front left of our car. With no shoulder to pull onto and because we were on a curve, we didn’t stop right away. The bear was not visible in the rearview mirror or the side mirrors. Looking back, it seemed to be gone, having run off into the woods. We stopped at the next pull off and inspected the car. There was a small scratch and the bumper was covered with bear slobber.


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

Our campsite at The Meadows on the Skyline Drive


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, Bears

the first bears we saw


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

deer near our campsite


Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders

Now which way are the falls?



Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders

We made it!


Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders, Peaks of Otter

another good dinner spot: at Peaks of Otter Lodge off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Coming Soon:

Reports from our raft on The French Broad River