Reaction of The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All to reaching the summit of 5,408-foot Graybeard Mountain, 12/3/11. (Well, OK, a quick rest after lunch before starting down to beat the sunset.)
The nearly two dozen trails on the Montreat property are highlighted by the 4.75-mile Graybeard Trail and its 2,400-foot climb to the top of the 5,408-foot peak.
The hike sort of divides itself into three pieces: a rocky and steep climb to start, a series of long and very gentle switchbacks where a logging railroad once ran, and then another steep and sometimes rocky section to the summit.
On this pretty Friday, we had the trail pretty much to ourselves, aside from when The Day Hiker pulled us up behind three women who (a little less than two miles into the hike) asked if we were almost there.
This was as demanding a walk as we've done in awhile, with the climb taking two hours and having us begin to calculate sunset times during lunch.
On the way down, at about the same spot we met the women on the way up, we crossed a couple also headed up; they asked about sunset time, and said they'd be right behind us soon on the way down.
We had set out into this day with the hope of climbing 6,000-foot Craggy Knob; the mild disappointment gave way to a good strong feeling of accomplishment with Graybeard, touted as "the patriarch of the Seven Sisters," seven peaks along Middle Mountain just south of Graybeard.
Graybeard Trail at Montreat (N.C.) Conference Center, out and back. 9.5 miles.
How to get there: West from Asheville on U.S. 70 to Black Mountain, then north on 9 to Montreat and into the property about as far as you can go.