The spirits of Dr. Elisha Mitchell and Big Tom Wilson seemed to be present in the light fog that shrouded Mount Mitchell State Park this weekend and its signature Centennial event that celebrated 100 years of the park and the entire state parks system.
Every state park is holding a special event during 2016 as part of the Centennial of North Carolina State Parks. But this one seemed special as park rangers and guests from across the state made their way to the 6,684-foot summit where it all began. The world-famous Bailey Mountain Cloggers provided a celebratory mood and mountain musicians provided a soundtrack for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Craftsmen demonstrated traditional mountain skills, and historians and naturalists interpreted the mountain’s singular history.
David Boone, a celebrated woodcarver and direct descendent of Big Tom Wilson, presented the park with busts of Dr. Elisha Mitchell, who measured the mountain and became its namesake, and Big Tom, Dr. Mitchell’s guide who found the geologist’s body at the base of a waterfall in 1857. Dr. Mitchell’s watch – which presumably stopped at the time of his fatal fall – was displayed, on loan from the UNC Chapel Hill Wilson Library.
Park Superintendent Bryan Wilder laid a wreath on Mitchell’s mountaintop grave attended by Boone and descendants of Dr. Mitchell. North Carolina Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson recited original verse that explored the mountain’s untamed nature. And, the North Carolina State Parks Ranger Honor Guard lent dignity to an opening ceremony suitable for such an historic occasion and the mountain that is a North Carolina icon.
Here is a photo gallery of the event. Click any image to begin.