49 spearhead the future. In 2008, that meant selling the vast bulk of Morton’s mountain to the state of North Carolina. Today Grandfather Mountain has become two entities: One, Grandfather Mountain State Park that encompasses the popular trails and loftiest summits, a pub-licly owned state park that stopped charging the hiking fees collected under Morton’s ownership; and the other, a private attraction, the swinging bridge, still owned by Morton’s heirs, operated as a nonprofit foundation intent on stewardship and environ-mental www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM education. Now, entering the backcountry, and even hiking into the attraction, is free, if you have the energy to hike back without the need for someone to rescue you. That change is taking a little getting used to for a public long-accustomed to Hugh Morton’s single-minded vision of Grandfather as “his attraction” — which actually is just a tiny part of a much bigger, and misunderstood, mountain. The process that ultimately preserved most of the mountain started in the 1970s. By then, an early trail system built by a Blue Ridge Parkway ranger had become completely overgrown. When a hiker died of hypothermia on those vanishing paths, Morton put up no-trespassing signs and closed Grandfather’s backcountry.
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