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Grandfather Mountain to Celebrate 70th Anniversary of Mile High Swinging Bridge

August 24, 2022 On Friday, Sept. 2, the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, will reach a major milestone. One of the most iconic destinations in North Carolina will be turning 70 years old, and the park is throwing a celebration with a mile-high slate of activities.

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Grandfather Mountain Announces Opening of Wilson Center for Nature Discovery

July 1, 2022 Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, has announced that the new Wilson Center for Nature Discovery is now open to the public. Admission is included with your entrance ticket. The facility nearly doubles the size of public space in the current Nature Museum with 10,000 square feet of education space, including state-of-the-art museum exhibits, three classrooms, an ADA-accessible theater and expanded capacity for hosting conferences and community events (up to 300 people, seated).

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Artist Kent Paulette Paints and Donates Large Bear Painting to Grandfather Mountain

July 1, 2022 Artist Kent Paulette, recently donated a large bear painting to Grandfather Mountain.  It hangs permanently on the wall at Grandfather Mountain above the entrance to the newly redesigned Nature Museum at The Wilson Center for Nature Discovery. This project has been in the works since 2019 when artist Kent Paulette first proposed the idea of making and donating an original painting of a bear for Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. He met with Jesse Pope and Lesley Platek, and they discussed the upcoming large expansion of the Nature Museum and possible spots for the painting to hang.  This would be the biggest painting Paulette had ever done, 10 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall.

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The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble Returns to Grandfather Mountain in Early June

June 6, 2022. Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, is welcoming guests to celebrate the beauty of spring by partaking in the Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble, a series of guided strolls that showcase the park’s blossoming rhododendron and other native species. The rambles take place at 2 p.m. daily and are happening now. These short guided strolls are led by the park’s naturalists and are included with the price of admission. If the rhododendron continue to bloom beyond early June, Grandfather Mountain naturalists will extend the event dates. 

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Grandfather Mountain to Host Birthday Celebration for its Resident Animals on June 8

June 6, 2022. Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, is throwing its annual birthday bash for all resident animals on June 8 – and you’re invited! The celebration, which will feature games, contests, crafts and surprises, is included with admission. The park’s habitat staff is preparing a fun-filled afternoon for guests with programs to celebrate its furry and feathered inhabitants as they mark another trip around the sun. Millie the Bear, the mountain’s mascot, will also make special appearances throughout the day.

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Avery County High School to Hold 2022 Graduation Ceremonies on May 26 at Grandfather Mountain’s McRae Meadows

May 25, 2022 Avery High’s 2022 graduation ceremonies will be held the evening of Thursday, May 26 at picturesque McRae Meadows near Grandfather Mountain in Linville.  Graduation will commence at 5:00 p.m.  Seniors are requested to arrive at McRae Meadows no later than 3:30 p.m. on May 26. Gates will open for families of those graduating at 4:00 p.m.  Families and other guests are asked to bring their own lawn chairs to sit in during graduation ceremonies, although there will a limited supply of chairs available at McRae Meadows.  By Tim Gardner

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Grandfather Mountain to Hold First-Ever Public Viewings of Synchronous Fireflies

May 2, 2022. For the first time in the park’s history, Grandfather Mountain, the Linville, N.C., nature preserve operated by the nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, will be welcoming the public to witness first-hand the miraculous spectacle of its synchronous fireflies this summer. Tickets for the viewing events, known as “Grandfather Glows: Bioluminescent Evenings on Grandfather Mountain,” go on sale May 23, with the viewing nights taking place June 26, 29 and July 1. Tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis, and only 200 tickets will be available for each nighttime viewing event.

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Todd Bush Photographs the Beaver Moon Lunar Eclipse While Battling High Winds at Grandfather Mountain

November 21, 2021. The Beaver Moon partial lunar eclipse began early Friday morning, which meant the moon passed into the shadow of the Earth, resulting in a red-brown hue covering the moon. Local photographer Todd Bush took this occurrence as an opportunity to leave in the early hours to attempt to capture the event at his favorite mountain — Grandfather Mountain. Running on only a couple of hours of sleep, he arrived at the parking lot for the Mile High Swinging Bridge around 3 a.m. Friday and found “crazy high winds with car-rocking, knock-stuff-over gusts.”

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 21

October 21, 2021. Grandfather Mountain spans the horizon with accompanying fall color, as seen from nearby Beacon Heights (milepost 305.2) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Meanwhile, fall color works its way down Lost Cove Cliffs, as seen from the eponymous parkway overlook (milepost 310). Experts anticipate color to continue developing at lower elevations this week. “By (this) weekend, there should be excellent color along the Parkway in most places,” said Dr. Howie Neufeld, professor of biology at Appalachian State University and the WNC High Country’s official Fall Color Guy. “However, even if higher elevation sites are past peak, lower elevation sites will be coming into their best color over the next two weeks.” And lofty locations like Grandfather Mountain offer spectators a perfect point from which to see them! For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photos by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 19

October 19, 2021. Grandfather Mountain’s color-dappled peaks rise beyond MacRae Meadows, site of the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Although fall color is peaking at the area’s higher elevations, many trees in lower elevations have yet to turn, making Grandfather Mountain the ideal location from which to watch the season unfold. For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photos by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 18

October 18, 2021. The Linn Cove Viaduct area on the Blue Ridge Parkway is beaming with brilliant fall color. Experts anticipate this particular area and others nearby to reach peak color any day now. “The Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather Mountain is peaking this week, including Rough Ridge and the Linn Cove Viaduct,” said Dr. Howie Neufeld, professor of biology at Appalachian State University and the WNC High Country’s official Fall Color Guy. “However, even if higher elevation sites are past peak, lower elevation sites will be coming into their best color over the next two weeks.” For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 14

October 14, 2021. Fall color is reflected in the lake at Camp Yonahnoka near Linville, N.C., as Grandfather Mountain rises in the distance. Colors are continuing to progress at a steady rate, and with a dip in temperature this weekend and into early next week, experts anticipate that peak color is just around the corner in the WNC High Country. For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 13

October 13, 2021. Pictured during the early morning hours of Wednesday, Oct. 13, this picnic spot on Grandfather Mountain, located just before Split Rock and Sphinx Rock, offers spectacular views of fall color, accompanied by the mountains and valleys below. Fall color is presently bursting on Grandfather, and the color change is steadily making its way into the lower elevations, with birches, maples and sourwoods stealing the show. Experts anticipate peak color around Oct. 20 for the WNC High Country. For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Citizen Science Soars at Grandfather Mountain’s Annual Hawk Watch

October 12, 2021. The month of September has flown by, just like the many migrating raptors that passed over Grandfather Mountain during their annual journey to warmer climates. Throughout the month, dozens of volunteers participated in a vast citizen-science project with the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Grandfather Mountain nature park, to count and identify the numerous species of raptors heading south for the winter. Raptors are birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles, owls and vultures. The telltale signs of the raptor are sharp talons, a hooked upper bill and keen eyesight. While some of these birds remain in place during winter, most will travel south, where food is more abundant. This year, approximately 30 volunteers contributed a total of 578 hours to Hawk Watch, with Grandfather Mountain staff providing an additional 374 hours. The combined effort culminated in 1,875 raptors being recorded migrating overhead during the month of September and in early October.

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update – Oct. 11

October 11, 2021. Today kicks off a pattern of perfect autumn weather at Grandfather Mountain! The extended forecast calls for sunshine and temperatures in the 60s. Today’s photo is from the Blue Ridge Parkway, traveling south from Blowing Rock toward Linville. Fall color lights up the landscape with Grandfather Mountain seen in the distance. For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation | www.grandfather.com

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Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight on Grandfather Mountain Happening Oct. 2

September 28, 2021. People are familiar with Grandfather Mountain’s resident animals, including black bears, bald eagles, cougars, river otters and elk. But what do they do after dark? Guests can find out Saturday, Oct. 2, at Grandfather Mountain’s annual Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight, a nighttime event that features fun and spooky stories told by firelight, along with exclusive after-dark tours. From 7 to 9 p.m., guests young and old can enjoy hot chocolate and warm apple cider by the glow of a bonfire. The event is BYOS (Bring Your Own S’mores, e.g., marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, roasting sticks, etc.), but the park will provide cider, hot chocolate and seating. As a safety precaution, any snack items provided by Grandfather Mountain will be individually wrapped. From there, guests will join Grandfather staff members on a nocturnal trek to the top of the mountain (via shuttle) and the environmental wildlife habitats. While riding the shuttle, all participants are required to wear a face covering.

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Fall Color Rambles Return to Grandfather Mountain October 2-10

September 28, 2021. As the Blue Ridge Mountains begin to burst with fall color, Grandfather Mountain invites leaf-lookers to see the brilliant change from one of the best leaf-looking destinations in the South. Grandfather Mountain is home to myriad species of plants and hardwood trees that range from pumpkin-colored beech trees to blood-red sourwoods and rusty red oaks. For a surefire glimpse of the autumnal brilliance, leaf-lookers can partake in Grandfather’s Fall Color Ramble, a series of guided walks through the mountain’s most colorful locations to be held Oct. 2-10. These easygoing, 20-minute rambles, led by members of the park’s naturalist staff, give guests an opportunity to learn more about color change and explore the species of plants and trees native to Grandfather Mountain.

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Grandfather Mountain Staff Expects Uptick in Hikers this Fall, Shares Hiking Tips

September 16, 2021. The call of the wild has been loud and clear during the pandemic with many people looking for a way to escape, get outdoors and connect more with their loved ones and nature. That trend is evident with Grandfather Mountain experiencing record attendance the last two years. With more people visiting, the park has also observed a substantial increase in hikers. In 2019, the Linville, N.C., nature preserve recorded 11,889 hikers between January and August. In 2021, 15,110 hikers hit the trails during that same period, a 27-percent increase. “Having more people on the trails means that people are getting back to nature and specifically seeing the wonders of Grandfather Mountain in a unique way,” said H Patton III, natural resource management specialist for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the park. “Hiking our trails offers one of the most difficult and exciting experiences that our guests can have. The rugged connection to the mountain is one that they will never forget.”

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Hawk Watch Returns to Grandfather Mountain Throughout the Month of September

August 20, 2021. Being a mile high has its advantages. From atop Grandfather Mountain, visitors can grab a front-row seat to one of nature’s most stunning spectacles — thousands of raptors migrating over the mountains and heading south toward their wintering grounds. Guests can observe the raptors during the annual Hawk Watch, in which official counters note the number of passersby in the sky throughout the entire month of September. Raptors are birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles, owls and vultures. The telltale signs of the raptor are sharp talons, a hooked upper bill and keen eyesight. While some raptors remain in place during winter, most will travel south, where food is more abundant. Grandfather Mountain is a prime spot for viewing this phenomenon, because it sits along the eastern escarpment of the Appalachian Mountains, and its rocky peaks generate strong thermal uplifts and allow prime visibility.

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The Nest Best Thing: Grandfather Mountain Celebrates Peregrine Falcon Nesting

August 13, 2021. At its tallest point, Grandfather Mountain stands 5,946 feet above sea level. But the nonprofit nature park’s latest conservation efforts soar to even loftier heights. In conjunction with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, park naturalists have confirmed the successful nesting of two peregrine falcons — the first on Grandfather Mountain since 2008. Why are a couple of small fledglings such a big deal? “Peregrine falcons are formerly a federally endangered species,” said Clifton Avery, mountain wildlife diversity technician with NCWRC. “They were delisted in 1999, but they’re still a state-level endangered species in North Carolina.” That means North Carolina has only about 15 to 20 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons in state every year. “So, that’s not a lot — at all,” Avery said.

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John ‘The Mountain’ Van Beuren Rises Above the Competition at Highland Games

July 13, 2021. The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games has a reputation for inviting select professional athletes to come and enter in to its slate of time-honored competitions, but this year, John Van Beuren, called the games to ask if he could participate on his own accord. Based on Saturday, July 10’s results, this approach worked out pretty well for him. Beuren finished first overall in the men’s heavy athletics competition, winning the open stone, lightweight for distance, hammer and weight over bar categories, while placing well in the heavyweight for distance, the caber toss and sheaf toss. Even though it was only his second outing as a pro, Van Beuren showed out during his first trip to Grandfather Mountain. His only other experience as a professional came in 2018 when he competed at a Highland Games in Idaho and has since quickly learned the ins-and-outs of what it means to be a pro. “There’s no set way (to become a pro). You just have to know the numbers that people post on their throws, and you have to make sure your numbers are pretty close,” he said. “And you really have to know people. I didn’t really know anybody, but I knew who the athletic director was, and I called him, said I was free to come, and fortunately he had a spot open.”

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Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Women’s Heavy Athletics Bolstered by Tough Competition

July 13, 2021. In just over a span of five years, the women’s heavy athletic division at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games has grown from a group of three dedicated competitors to now attracting more than a dozen professional athletes form the across the country to participate in the weekend’s slate of ancient competitions. Leading this group during the Elite women’s category on Saturday, July 10, was Elissa Van Vleck, a first-grade teacher from Fort Worth, Texas, who finished first overall after stringing together dominant performances in the 28-pound toss and the lightweight throw for distance. Vleck previously won the GMHG in 2019, making her the back-to-back champion after the games were postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A prominent track and field athlete who specialized in shot put, discus and javelin while attending Aurora University in Chicago, Vleck began competing in Highland Games at the recommendation of her college coach. “When I found another passion and tried to be a runner with five kids, that did not go well,” Vleck said. “So then my university coach told me to try the Highland Games, and I was like, ‘I don’t know what that is,’ but he gave me one practice, shoved me out the door, and said ‘Good luck.’”

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App State Students Take Top Honors in Highland Games Track & Field

July 13, 2021. Two Boone residents took their track and field careers to new heights at the 2021 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Patrick Freeman and Casey Meinert, both seniors at Appalachian State University, were named Outstanding Athletes of the track and field competition at this year’s Highland Games. Freeman competed at the Games in 2019, but 2021 marked Meinert’s first year doing so. “It was a ton of fun,” she said. “I absolutely loved it.” “It’s the most fun track event I’ve been to,” Freeman added. A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., Freeman is currently studying geography at Appalachian State and hopes to become a wildlands firefighter after graduation. Meinert hails from Stafford, Va., and is studying nutrition and dietetics at Appalachian. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree and a career in pediatric nutrition.

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Locals Claim Top Spots in Return of Race Up Grandfather Mountain

July 9, 2021. During the 26th annual running of The Bear, Grandfather Mountain’s breathtaking views took on a literal meaning as more than 800 runners ascended 1,568 feet over the span of five miles to mark the return of the iconic race, following a hiatus due to COVID-19. Yet, first-place finisher Josh Izewski appeared to breathe easy shortly after finishing the endeavor with a time of 31:50.7. “It’s an awesome race,” Izewski said. “It’s great that they were able to put it on. They do a great job, and I’m excited to be able to come out here.” Izewski, a professional runner who lives in Blowing Rock, carried on the tradition of endurance athletes with ZAP Fitness finishing the race among the top competitors. Izewski said that it was his first time running The Bear and that he trained for the mountain’s steep grade by running the hills up to the Moses Cone Manor at the Bass Lake just 10 and a half miles away.

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