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The Highland Games, yes, I know we were just here last year. However, the Highland Games on Grandfather Mountain are special; it's not just the games, it's not just the mountain, it's not just the people. It really is a cumulative effect of all these things coming together into what can only be described as the single can't miss event of the summer in North Carolina.

Additionally, if you live anywhere between the coast and the foothills you have absolutely no excuse not to go. When we're dealing with temperatures very nearly reaching a hundred degrees, and knowing full well that Grandfather Mountain is around 30 degrees cooler I can't think of a place that you'd rather go for a vacation.

I'm not exaggerating I said it last year and I'll say it again this year we dropped over 30 degrees on this trip. We left a daytime high of 97 and we found 66 when we arrived. I don't know why you haven't gone yet. Frankly I don't know why I came back...

The Highland Games were absolutely cloaked, covered, and smothered in a thick fog for the entire duration of our trip. That actually may have been a very good thing from an ambiance perspective. Not only did it give us a completely different view of the mountain that we had last year, it also paralleled the regular weather of Scotland. That served to give us a significantly more genuine feel to the event.

This year we decided we would focus more on the music then the competition. Not to dissuade you from the competitions, they are definitely one of the highlights of the Highland Games if not the primary reason for most people to go. But the music, very indie, with judicious amounts of bagpipe is actually starting to grow on me.

Before I get too far in I'd like to make a special mention of the stand-in drummer for Seven Nations. Hats off to a fantastic performance from a man who was thrown into a situation he didn't anticipate and probably made my trip because of.

The first time I saw Seven Nations perform it was at night. It was cold, I didn't have a jacket. I didn't think I would need one. Still it didn’t matter, the air was electric. the band had the crowd entranced. Honestly, I was stunned, everyone had been talking about them, but for some reason I didn't expect much. Boy was I wrong.

You see, they aren't like most modern Scottish theme bands, they are aggressive, powerful, dramatic and loud. They are much more rock than bagpipe, but with lots of bagpipe anyway.

Oh, did I mention the bagpipe? There was bagpipe.

I fell in love with the instrument that night. What's funny about this particular show was that Seven Nations drummer wasn't there. They had replaced him for this show as their normal drummer had to rush home unexpectedly.

This drummer was a friend of another "add on" band member, Elias. Elias was added to the band for this show because he looks so similar to Kirk McLeod;the front liner. When they found that they had a show to perform and wouldn't have their drummer, Elias offered his friend to fill in. So for every song the drummer was effectively winging it, making it up as he went.

It was awesome. That guy deserves a permanent position in my opinion. They can have two drummers; every band could use another drummer.

This show carried on into the wee hours; and I, unable to stave off sleep any longer had to give in and make my way back to my hammock. I fell asleep that night swinging to the sound of drums and bagpipe on the wind.

Look, you may be thinking I’m overselling this, I’m not. Seriously, if you can’t make it to one of their shows, at least go to the highland games and stay for the music on Friday and Saturday night. Its defiantly worth it, there were a lot of great bands that performed, Sottish Octopus, for one was a stunning non-vocal band. Modern and somehow still deeply traditional feeling they really made a strong case for more eclectic instruments in modern music.

I'm glad I was able to catch both bands that night and the next day. They were for sure the highlight of the trip.

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The next day we headed up the mountain to shoot some landscapes. The fog worried us, it blotted out the mountain in a sea of white. You couldn’t see a thing, seriously, there was maybe 2ft of visibility at times. That would make photography difficult, this was entirely different from our previous experience. However;  I. Loved. It.  It had been so hot back home, sticky, slimy, miserably hot. The kind of hot that you need a shower after so much as looking outside. The kind of humid that required a scuba tank to breath in. It had been like that for nearly two months. There was nothing, nothing in the world I enjoyed more than being in a cloud in the mid 60’s.

Thankfully there were breaks in the clouds and fog that offered us the opportunity to take a few photos. I love the view down the mountain from the bridge. There is no better place to view the blue ridge from. The mountains are gorgeous, lush and green; covered in windswept trees reaching for the clouds. At least 9 distinct ridgelines are visible, stretching out to the horizon, its breathtaking. You really feel the scale of the earth up here; how small you are and how grand the land is.

Who do I need to bribe to get a small house up here? Seriously, I’ll work cheap.

We ended up with some down time in between the mountains and the music and decided to check in on the educational zoo about halfway up grandfather. They recently put in a pretty cool Elk habitat, and while we didn’t get to hear them bugle, we did get to see them up close and personal. Additionally, there are Bears Eagles and Otters. All rescues to the best of my knowledge.

Its actually a really nice zoo, if you’ve been to the NC Zoo in Asheboro, you know what to expect, well laid out enclosures intended to mimic the natural habitat. The difference is that this IS the natural habitat, they didn’t need to set it up, they just fenced off a section of mountain and voila!

Pretty awesome in my opinion.

I’m so glad that Grandfather Mountain hosts this event every year, It’s a great reprieve from the brutal NC heat. It’s a great family friendly activity for the weekend and of course it is a great was to hear new music. I got to listen to some great music, see stunning competition, get lost in a beautiful landscape, and talk with some wonderful people. I don’t know of a better way to spend a weekend. Do you?

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