An Appalachian Bookshelf: Exploring Grandfather Mountain

Date: December 14, 2016

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“Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon” provides an in-depth history of the early exploration of this stately geologic figure of Western North Carolina and chronicles its development into a popular tourist attraction and state park.

book cover

In this beautifully illustrated volume, Randy Johnson shares both his knowledge of and love for this iconic mountain.

The book is divided into two sections. The first and longer section details the history of the mountain. After summarizing its geologic formation, Johnson details accounts of early adventurers and scholars who explored the mountain from the late 1700s onward. Later, townships around Grandfather were established, the railroad arrived, and the slopes were timbered and flooded.

Today, Grandfather Mountain is traversed by hiking trails, skirted by the Blue Ridge Parkway’s viaduct and crossed by the mile-high swinging bridge. The book chronicles these developments, along with the impact of the MacRae and Morton families, who owned this property for many generations until two-thirds of the mountain were sold to North Carolina and became a state park in 2008. The remaining third is operated as a scenic attraction by the nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

Grandfather Mountain

Profile of Grandfather Mountain. Courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

The second section provides a guide to hiking and photographing Grandfather Mountain and includes a wealth of information about the landmark’s plants and animals, together with an overview of the area’s many trails.

The stunning images that accompany Johnson’s text include a carefully curated collection of archival pictures and photographs taken by Hugh Morton — longtime owner of Grandfather Mountain until his death in 2006 — and by the author himself.

This book is published by The University of North Carolina Press, hardcover $35, uncpress.unc.edu/books/12100.html.

— Review by Elizabeth E. Payne

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