morning arrives and I am eager to get back on the mountain. Each
day at GMHG has it’s own rhythm. This day, the meadow opens up and the
vendors start arriving in earnest. Already the sun had come out
and the forecast is for a gorgeous weekend with mild temperatures and
My sister Debby and Cousin Donna
immediately start a rigorous campaign of shopping. Each tent is
reconnoitered, scrutinized and cataloged for potential purchases.
No garment is left untouched, no book unbrowsed, no jewelry not
held up and appraised. These after all are “professionals”.
By day’s end both they and the merchants are pleased. Fine wool caps,
sashes and scarfs in our family clan tartan were purchased along with
matching accessories of course. For my part, I deferred to
my own in house expert, who would be arriving later on in the day.
As preparations continued in the meadow,
We elected to drive to the top of Grandfather Mountain to scout out some
camera angles and take in the sights. Driving up the switch backs
and gaining altitude by the fistful, I gained even more respect for the
runners of the “Bear”. The first leg from Linville to the
MacRae meadows was steep, but the balance of the run was greater yet, a
constant upward path.
on top, you behold a wondrous view all the way into Tennessee. There,
rising up from the parking lot stands the famous “mile high”
suspension bridge and a visitor’s center. This rock
redoubt. houses a shop, refreshment stand, weather station, observatory
platform and museum. The weather station sends out information from the
mountain world wide which is used in forecasting. The structure
resembles a fortress for a reason. Winds here can easily reach
Hurricane Force and beyond during certain times of the year.
Sandwiched in between the 1st and 3rd
floor of this building is the workshop of Thomas Wolf. Do not miss
Mr. Wolf! He is a master woodcarver and his shop houses
wondrous examples of his handicraft. I can’t prove it, but he just may
be in fact Santa Clause come south for the summer. At any rate, a
nicer fellow you will not meet.
or later, you have to decide whether to walk over the bridge. It
is a sound metal structure and when the wind blows, it gives off the
sound of a pipe organ. What a treat to be there, just under the
heavens, with the sound of angels humming in your ears. I am
afraid that the camera just does not do justice to the great depth and
perspectives you see with you own eyes. The Morton’s have kept
the mountain true to it’s nature with a minimum of understated
appointments. Small signs ask you take care and show some common
sense. There is a smattering of tarmac here and there to even up
the trail, other than that, you see only what God created.
what a visual feast it is, with unending vista’s, craggy rock
formations and a bird’s eye view of the world. I sat there
spellbound, watching hawks riding the air currents below me, soaring
this way and that then suddenly soaring up and over me, performers with
out peer in a natural air show.
After an hour or two of climbing out on the rock promontory, I
reluctantly headed back, saving the many trails for another day.
Midway on the mountain however is yet another treat, the natural habit
at and museum where you can view animals native to the area in a natural
There are eagles, otters, deer, cougars
and of course bears. In the deer section two fawns were
playing tag among the trees. Their speed and agility were a
delight as they first ran 60 or 80 yards one way and then stopped on
dime only to immediately charge off in another direction.
Down from them, the bear cubs were having a wrestling match under the
watchful eye of mama bear. There was no clear winner so the whole crowd
adjourned to the pool for a dip and then up onto the rocks for a nice
Back down in the meadow I walk around to
sample some of the music workshops. The sun has come out heating
the field up to a toasty 80 degrees. I ducked in one of the shaded
areas to observe William Jackson, a harpist and composer of
international standing, going over the finer aspects of the Scottish
Harp with Rita Hamilton. Although I know little or nothing about
harps, I find it fascinating to watch as the harpist fingers dance over
the strings. It seems that most Scottish harp techniques and
arrangements have been passed down orally and very little is written.
In that tradition, Mr. Jackson passes on his expertise and the sheer joy
of learning was observable as each musician tried out the lessons on
next port of call as it were was to watch Alex Beaton performing on the
fiddle. While there I found last years “Mystery Lass”, taking
in the concert on the hillside. Her name is Gail L’esperance and
like many, she returns each year clothed in period costume to take in
all that is GMHG. These beautiful garments, the kilts and dresses,
the swords and skins make the games a visual treat and provide a fair
measure of fun for the wearers.
Later that evening, preparations are
getting underway for the Celtic Jam. As I have said before, there
is something for everyone, young, old or in between. This night
time concert in the meadows blends Scottish music with Rock n’ Roll.
Celtic Jam lives up to it’s name with bands Seven Nations,
Clandestine, Celtic Soul, Cuillin, Full Moon Ensemble and Bad Haggis.
The energy of these entertainers is simply incredible. Ancient
instruments are paired with screaming guitar’s but it is the bagpipes
and fiddles that steal the show.
there under the stars, listening to Clandestine’s G. G. McQueen
pulling raw emotion out of his fiddle you wonder how much better can it
get? Then the fog machines started... and through the mist you
heard the rumbling of the drums...the wail of the pipes and you are off
The pictures speak for themselves.
This is a first rate production with the stage crews bringing off a
technological tour de force. No matter where you sat, the
acoustics were terrific. I was down front with the press photographers
and that high energy I spoke of was a real challenge to preserve on
film. The guys with film camera’s were smoking down their motor
drives hoping that something would come out. Even with the immediate
feedback of my digital camera, I was lucky to get one out of five
focused shots.. but I not complaining.
Trying to photograph Seven Nation’s Dan
Stacey is a kin to trying to bottle lighting. His fiddle blazes as
he dances and moves like a wraith around the stage. Only slightly
less animated is Lean Singer/Song Writer Kirk McLeod who mesmerizes you
with with haunting ballads and adrenalin charged jigs. Then
there are the electrified bagpipes of cot Long. Nothing can so energize
a Celtic crowd as a masterfully played set of pipes. When Scot
joins in with the wail of the drones, it’s as if the entire cast of
“Braveheart” has been let loose. From the roar of approval going up,
you half expect to turn around and see a wall of blue painted faces,
claymores and battle axes held high. The kicker here is that at
Grandfather, this is a distinct possibility. Why see Braveheart
when you can live it?
It was past midnight before we headed
down the mountain. Once again the meadow was quiet with only the
sounds of crickets and night creatures to break the stillness.
During this down time the valiant grounds crews went over the hills,
groves, track and fields with a fine tooth comb so that when Saturday
rolled around, the entire area was restored to it’s pristine
One footnote about Celtic Jam. If
you wanted more, the bands play individually in the groves during
Saturday and Sunday all during the day. You are as likely to see
the members walking around the games as anyone else. I must
say, they are approachable and friendly. And if you missed
Friday night’s Jam, Come Saturday night, a second concert is
played at MacDonald Stadium at Avery Country High School.