There are some things in life we like so much, we want to return to them time and time again.
It seems no matter whatever comes along, I have an irresistible compulsion to return to the now 61-year-old annual Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic near Linville and Boone, about 230 miles from Wake Forest.
The clinic was started by the inimitable and late Hugh Morton, owner of the popular tourist attraction featuring a mile-high swinging bridge. The bridge either completely scares people so as to never walk across it, or they go ahead, cross it, get a thrill and tell all their friends about it.
Morton, who called it the mile-high bridge, was brilliant in using words that immediately got your attention. What he didn’t tell you, unless you asked, is that the bridge is actually a mile above sea level — but only several hundred feet above the nearest valley below.
No matter what, the bridge still thrills visitors as it swings very slightly at almost all times. The brave who cross to the other side can take in marvelous views from nearly 6,000 feet above sea level perch.
Until her death in 2005, my wife and I attended the camera clinic nearly every year since 1956. All together, I have attended the clinic 57 years.
At that time my photography training was practically non-existent except for what I learned in my high school camera club and from reading the instruction booklet that came with my first camera — a Kodak Brownie Flash 620 when I was 15-years-old.
That first trip, I was extremely excited as I drove our new 1956 mandarin orange and white Ford Victoria hardtop. I was antsy from the realization I was finally going to have some professional photography training — and the best part — it was all free!
In order to get through the admission gate, we only had to say we were attending the camera clinic.
Peggy and I liked it so much, we returned every year (except for a very few) because we liked not only the excellent professional photographer speakers, the atmosphere on the beautiful, cool, picturesque mountain breathed new life into our bodies and we enjoyed talking with people with similar interests.
We began to feel that if we didn’t take a mini-vacation to Grandfather Mountain every third weekend in August, we wouldn’t survive the daily pressures of publishing our weekly newspaper.
My friend Mavis is now enjoying the annual Camera Clinic, and she attended with me this year, bringing her 15-year-old grandson Clay of Raleigh. Only time will tell if he will catch the photographic fever like we have.
Also in attendance was Scott Luihn, a member of the Wake Forest Camera Club.
When Grandfather Mountain Director of Communication Landis Taylor asked for a show of hands Sunday morning to see how many years those attending had come, the closest anyone came to my 57 years, was someone with 39 to their record.
Mavis, Clay and I had a blast making images in the natural habitat of the bears, two otters, the lone eagle, two cougars and several deer before the clinic started Saturday afternoon.
Scott camped out on the mountain Friday night, but the rain forecast for Saturday night had him scampering to a warm and dry motel for Saturday night.
Will we return next year? God willing, you can count on it.
—Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, welcomes and encourages your comments or suggestions at 919-556-3059 or [email protected]