With flowers abloom and wildlife galore, springtime has arrived at Grandfather Mountain.
Visitors have a prime opportunity to experience this natural paradise at the annual Naturalist Weekend, returning May 13 to 15.
Throughout the three-day event, participants can scan for birds, browse for wildflowers on guided hikes or listen for owls in the night — all free with Grandfather Mountain admission.
“Naturalist Weekend provides a collection of unique programs that aim to connect people with the diversity of life found on Grandfather Mountain,” said Mickey Shortt, director of education and natural resources for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the popular Linville attraction. “The foundation and its partners use the weekend to celebrate the arrival of spring on the mountain and share it with visitors to the area.”
According to Shortt, Naturalist Weekend marks the time when spring takes hold of the mountain’s upper elevations, presenting a profusion of flowers, returning neotropical birds and leaf-out all throughout.
Who is Naturalist Weekend geared toward?
“Anyone and everyone with an interest in the natural world,” said Amy Renfranz, education specialist at Grandfather Mountain. “There will be programs for all skill levels and interests.”
Activities take place not only on Grandfather Mountain, but also the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain State Park.
The event begins Friday, May 13, with the High Country Audubon Society’s daylong spring bird count, along with a sensory hike on the Profile Trail, a guided walk to Beacon Heights off the Blue Ridge Parkway and an evening wildflower walk on Grandfather’s Woods Walk trail.
Saturday’s schedule takes place within inside the gates of Grandfather Mountain for a birdsong walk, geology-focused hike, special Junior Ranger programs and more.
New this year is “An Introduction to The Naturalist’s Journal,” presented by Renfranz, an award-winning interpreter and writer. The program, which starts at 1 p.m., will teach participants of all ages how to become better naturalists by recording what they observe while in nature. Folks are encouraged to bring a pencil and a nature journal of their choosing.
“We hope to provide guests with opportunities to grow in their own passions — whether that be with wildflowers, birds, geologic wonders or journaling,” Renfranz said.
The day continues with an owl program, wherein guests will be able to meet Grandfather’s two resident owls, and concludes with a sunset and stargazing session at 8 p.m.
On Sunday at 4 p.m., naturalist weekenders are invited to conclude the event with a ranger-guided walk along the Profile Trail in search of wildflowers.
Participants can attend as many or as few events as they would like, and they’ll also have ample opportunity throughout the weekend to explore the mountain at their leisure.
Just stepping foot in this unique ecosystem — home to 73 species of rare and endangered plants and animals — will allow visitors to appreciate the qualities that led famed newsman Charles Kuralt to declare Grandfather Mountain the nation’s best place to be in May.
“On a clear day, you feel that you can see the whole world from up there,” Kuralt wrote of Grandfather Mountain.
All activities that occur inside Grandfather Mountain are included free with park admission, but some require advance registration due to space limitations. All activities that occur outside the park are free to all.
The event is led by Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation naturalists with cooperation from the National Park Service, Grandfather Mountain State Park and the High Country Audubon Society.
The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visitwww.grandfather.com to plan a trip.