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Want to Stand on the Highest Mountain Peak East of the Mississippi? Visit Mt. Mitchell State Park in NC

I never imagined that I would be on board, or even an initiator of spontaneous adventures. I'm the girl who loves to plan, organize, and agonize over every last detail. When my husband and I married in 2007, I fell even more in love with his family, but there was something about them that drove me absolutely crazy... last minute everything! Plans didn't seem to exist days or weeks ahead of get togethers for family dinners or holidays. Coming from a complete opposite family dynamic, I started to let the fear of the unknown take over, and crippling anxiety was always sure to follow.
I expressed my frustration to my husband of needing to know 'the plan' for every day of our married life. He looked at me as if I were nuts, and sweetly told me that I needed to learn to be more spontaneous.

As a new mom in 2010, every minute of the day was planned, and if we left the house with our baby, we always made sure we had everything with us, aside from the kitchen sink- just in case we needed it. Now we're deep into 2020- in the middle of a surprise pandemic, and through these past few months we have all quite literally had to learn to 'go with the flow.' 'Into the Unknown' has turned out to be so much more than a hit Disney song from FROZEN II, it's now our theme song. The song, however, focuses much more on courage, bravery, and excitement than the fear that can so easily take us over and pull us under.

Since our 'COVID Summer,' as I have been calling it, has been so very different, we've been leaning into making memories, and giving our kids a fun summer. One of the things that I love most about my job is flexibility. When my husband mentioned that he had Wednesday of this week off, I immediately started wondering- Hmm, what can we do with the kids?

Hubs needed to make the 45 minute drive from Salisbury to Hickory, NC to drop some music off at the office for the symphony he plays with. He had offered to take the kids with him, just to get them out of the house and out of my hair for a couple of hours. As much as they have been 'in my hair,' I wanted us to be able to spend the day together as a family.

Fun with the animals at Zootastic!

We decided to surprise the kids with a trip to Zootastic Park, which is a privately owned drive-thru, and walk-thru zoo/park in Troutman, NC. I'll share more about Zootastic in detail in an upcoming blog post. Zootastic was sort of on our way to Hickory, anyway, so it made sense to drive through, feed the animals, let the kids have a little fun, and then continue down the road to Hickory. Zootastic was great fun, and I'm surprised we didn't come home with an alpaca after our daughter invited them to come into the car and live with us at home.

Ready for adventure!

Hickory was the same old place- my old stomping grounds from my days at Lenoir-Rhyne University (then College). We dropped the music off, and treated the kiddos to lunch at Mellow Mushroom, a family favorite. As we were getting into the car, I leaned over to Sacha and said, 'It's too bad we hadn't planned on going to the mountains today- we're half way there.' I could see the mountains not too far off in the distance, and my heart ached for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My husband asked me to look and see how far it was from Hickory to Mt. Mitchell, which happens to be the highest point of elevation on the Eastern Seaboard. It was only an hour and a half away. Not far at all. The kids groaned and begged to go home (they are so used to being home now), but my pleading eyes lead my husband to keep driving west. We promised the kids it would be worth it. We had no screens in the car, just a lunch box filled with a few snacks, and a couple of dolls for our youngest. Yes- it was going to be worth it.

Views from the drive up the mountain. There are a few tunnels to drive through, and lots of overlooks to stop at along the way.

A few turns off the Interstate later, we were headed up the mountain. We drove the most wonderfully winding road I have been on in twenty years or more. It rained on our way up, and it was foggy, which made the drive up feel even more daring than it normally would. 

B was so excited to have visited Mt. Mitchell!

When we reached Mt. Mitchell State Park, we heard thunder in the distance. It was raining, and we had no rain jackets. It was 65 degrees and chilly, and we were all in shorts. The Summit at Mt. Mitchell is a beautiful overlook- a 300 yard path taking you up the side of the mountain to its highest peak. Even though it was raining, we weren't skipping walking up to this beautiful spot. 

The handy outlines show the various mountain peaks around Mt. Mitchell. On a clear day, you can view them from The Summit at Mt. Mitchell.

The Summit offers a gorgeous viewing area/observation tower.

We were all so glad we chose to keep driving yesterday. The kids were completely in awe of the mountains all around us, and knowing that they were standing on the highest peak east of the Mississippi. It's really hard to beat the views between the NC/TN mountains. I've always fancied myself a beach girl, but the older I get, the more I realize that my heart lies in the mountains even more.

Breathtaking views from Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina.

The kids had such a great time dancing in the rain and literally walking through the clouds atop Mt. Mitchell. I knew in my heart that they were so amazed and happy to be there, even though we hadn't planned on going there. I promised them a family fun day- filled with adventure, and a few surprises, and I think their dad and I delivered.

My sweet little entourage- made for adventure.

The kids asked us why we were going to the mountains without planning it as a day trip (do they know their mom, or what!?). My response was that life is too short not to do all the things, even spur of the moment things. It rained the whole way up the mountain, and the roads were treacherous and winding, but it was well worth it for the memories made, the experience of God's peace, and the overwhelming majesty of it all. Aside from not having the proper shoes on, the day was nearly perfect. The next time we decide to go to the mountains, I'll bring along a pair of Keen women's hiking shoes which are better suited for a day of climbing!

The day wasn't without whining and tears, patience running out, sanitizing hands 50 times, or me just putting sunglasses on and gazing out the window as if it would block out the noise. That noise, though, is the soundtrack of life for us right now. When I stop and listen to it all with my heart and not my ears alone, I realize that the noise is actually incredibly beautiful and I couldn't bear to live without it.

Want to Plan a Visit to Mt. Mitchell?

One of those places that stand apart from the ordinary, Mount Mitchell’s dramatic summit is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet and was the inspiration for one of the nation’s first state parks. From its easily accessible observation deck, the spruce-fir forest of Mount Mitchell State Park leads the eye to unmatched views. A museum explains the mountain’s cultural and natural history, and its trail network allows visitors to explore up close, offering short hikes near the summit and challenging treks leading to adjacent wilderness areas. A nine-site tent campground is open in warm-weather months, and backpacking opportunities abound, including entry onto the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail. A concession area and a full-service restaurant serve visitors from May to October.

Visit Mt. Mitchell State Park for more information.

Where will your next adventure call you to? Will you say 'yes' when it does? I hope so!

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