May 13, 2013. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is hosting its annual Naturalist Weekend May 17-19. This weekend provides guests with an in-depth look at the diversity found in the mountain’s ecological communities. Guests will have a chance to participate in guided hikes and workshops at the travel attraction operated by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation as well as Grandfather Mountain State Park.
The event begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. with the “Naturalist Nightwalk.” Join our knowledgeable naturalists for an unforgettable walk through the forest without the use of headlamps or flashlights. This walk will open your eyes to the many wonders of the night. Reservations are required.
Saturday begins bright and early with “Birding on the Profile Trail” at 7 a.m. Guests will hike a section of the beautiful Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park, looking and listening for many spring birds. The hike starts at the Profile Trailhead with the Director of Education of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Jesse Pope.
The “Wildflower Walk” begins Saturday at 9 a.m. Here guests will hike along the Watauga River on the Profile Trail and see, touch and smell many of the diverse spring wildflowers that cover the forest floor. Guests will meet Katie Gray, chief naturalist, at the Profile Trailhead off Hwy 105.
The “Habitat Diversity” program begins at 11 a.m. Participants will travel the mountain to see the different niches of plants and animals, learning about life zones, taking field samples and identifying the different areas. This skill can be applied to wherever participants call home. Meet Jill Goodwin, education specialist and Katie Gray, chief naturalist, at the Nature Museum to begin the program.
After lunch at 1 p.m., is “Birds of Prey.” In a program led by Nina Fisschessor, director of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute at Lees-McRae College, guests will see live birds of prey both common and endangered. They will learn about their differences and the myths surrounding these misunderstood creatures. This event will meet in the Nature Museum Auditorium.
At 1:30 p.m. is “Naturalist 101: The Grinnell Method.” Guests will hike with Blue Ridge Parkway Ranger Amy Renfranz, an award winning interpreter and writer, and learn ways to become a better naturalist by recording observations in nature. Participants should bring a camera and the nature journal of their choosing. Guests are to meet at the Julian Price Park Picnic Area, less than 20 minutes north on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Grandfather Mountain’s entrance gate.
“Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians” begins at 2 p.m. Those participating will join Mickey Shortt Jr., naturalist at the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, for a moderately strenuous hike that will focus on the native trees and shrubs at Grandfather Mountain and how these plants make the area unique. This hike will begin and end at the Extension Trailhead next to the Black Rock Parking Area.
Next on Saturday’s busy schedule is the “Salamander Workshop.” This 3 p.m. event allows Mountain-goers to get up close and personal to these commonly unseen critters. Guests will learn where they live, how they breathe and why they are so important to the ecosystem. There will be an investigation of which salamanders are in our forests. This workshop is led by Jill Goodwin, education specialist of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation and salamander enthusiast.
Rounding out Saturday’s events is the “Owl Prowl.” At 8 p.m., the Naturalists will shuttle everyone to the Swinging Bridge to watch the sunset before playing various owl calls in the hopes that an owl will hoot back or fly in to investigate! To reserve a space for this event, please call (828) 733-4326.
Sunday’s events begin at 9 a.m. with a program called “Backcountry Basics.” As participants are exploring nature, this program gives guests handy tips on what to bring on hiking trips. Staff will teach basic skills from what to pack for a day hike, to camping with only a few essential items. Meet Gabe Taylor, chief interpretive ranger of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, at the Woods Walk, 0.5 miles up from entrance.
Sunday’s next activity is the “Kid’s Clouds” program. This is a great introduction to the wonder of clouds. Chief Naturalist Katie Gray will start off by reading “It Looked Like Spilt Milk” by Charles G. Shaw. The group will then look at clouds and talk about favorite kinds of weather. After making craft clouds and a cloud viewer, participants will observe different types of clouds and discuss how understanding cloud types can give clues as to what our weather may be in the future.
At 11 a.m. is the “Interpreting the Forest” program. Interested guests will join Adam Herre, an interpretive ranger for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, to discover and uncover history using clues from the forest. Folks will learn how to read the forest’s story. Meet at the Woods Walk 0.5 miles up from the entrance gate on Grandfather Mountain.
Luke Appling, a Grandfather Mountain State Park ranger, will lead the next program at 1 p.m. “History of Nawati Trail” will discuss the cultural history of the trail. This is a moderately strenuous hike that is 2.5 miles round trip. Hikers should bring water. Interested guests are to meet at the Boone Fork Parking Area, milepost 299.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At 2 p.m. is the “Bear Workshop.” This workshop touches on the different bears found all over the world, while focusing on the black bear. Attendees will learn how they survive in the wild and how they are cared for at Grandfather Mountain. Participants will get a behind the scenes look by Bonnie Clark, assistant manager of the Animal Habitats.
Concluding the weekend is the “Naturalist Saunter” program. Participants will take a hike along the Black Rock Trail looking through the lens of the great American naturalist and conservationist, John Muir. Often referred to as the “Father of the National Parks,” Muir visited Roan Mountain and Grandfather Mountain in September 1898, six years after founding the Sierra Club and five years prior to his historic camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. This adventure is led by Jesse Pope, director of education at Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
For more information about Grandfather’s Naturalist Weekend or to make reservations for the “Owl Prowl” or the “Night Walk” please call 828-733-4326. For a complete schedule of the Naturalist Weekend events, please visit www.grandfather.com.
All programs and guided walks offered as part of the Naturalist Weekend are included in the regular price of admission. Those who attend for more than one day should keep their receipt from their first visit and present that for discount admission the following day.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park sustainably in the public interest, provide an exceptional experience for guests, and inspire them to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com or call 800-468-7325.