Grandfather Mountain releases 2023 adult field course lineup

Last Updated on April 13, 2023 1:18 pm

LINVILLE, N.C. – Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, is bringing its Adult Field Course series back for 2023, offering participants the chance to explore Grandfather Mountain like never before and take a deeper dive into a variety of related topics.

“These courses allow attendees to examine specific aspects of the park ecosystem, as well as the natural history and cultural history of this region, through fun field excursions,” said John Caveny, director of conservation and education for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “Our course leaders are experts in their fields and include professors, naturalists, researchers, artisans and acclaimed artists.”

The series runs from May through September, with topics including bird behavior and species mapping, sketching the natural world, wildlife drawing, the spruce-fir forest, nature therapy, mindfulness, wood crafting and backpacking. Each is limited to 20, or fewer, participants, so they fill up quickly.

Courses cost $60 per person (or $51 for members of Grandfather Mountain’s Bridge Club), plus tax, with registration required in advance at The “Introduction to Grandfather Mountain Backpacking” in September is a multiday field course with a cost of $100 per person (or $85 for Bridge Club members), plus tax.

Many of the courses run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but all event times are outlined below. Bringing a bagged lunch is recommended for most field courses, although Mildred’s Grill will be open to attendees.

Courses include:

The North Carolina Bird Atlas: Getting Started – May 13

Time: 8:15 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Limited to 20 participants

The N.C. Bird Atlas (NCBA) is a five-year statewide community science project that will harness the power of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers to map the distribution and abundance of birds from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks. These observations will give researchers a comprehensive picture of bird populations across the state. During this course, led by Lee Sherrill, mountain region science support specialist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, and Andrew Rapp, a N.C. Bird Atlas technician, participants will learn the basics of the NCBA and then head outside to explore the area and put their newly learned atlas skills to use.

Tickets on sale now. To register or learn more, visit

A Naturalist’s Sketchbook: Botanical Illustrating and Nature Journaling – May 20

Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Limited to 20 participants

The naturalist’s sketchbook is full of drawings and observations of the outdoors that bring moments in nature to life. The way a person arranges these drawings on a page, as well as the notes they take, can boost the storytelling quality of the sketches. Participants will learn basic observation and drawing techniques with pen, pencil and colored pencils. Course leader Preston Montague is an artist, educator and landscape architect who developed a passion for the natural world while growing up in the rural foothills of Virginia.

Tickets on sale now. To register or learn more, visit

Grandfather’s Animals in Art: Wildlife Drawing – June 10

Time: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Limited to 15 participants

In this field course, the group will be working in close proximity to Grandfather’s wildlife in the Animal Habitats, using them as live models while learning to accurately draw their anatomy, posture and gestures. The instructor, Ryan Kirby, will be working alongside participants, doing demonstrations and offering advice as the course progresses. Near the end of the day, the group will gather for a critique of the drawings (this is optional and only for those that would like critique) and a brief Q&A. Kirby has been a full-time wildlife artist for over a decade and produces original oil paintings and drawings of deer, turkey, elk, sporting dogs and much more from his studio near Todd, N.C.

Registration opens April 20. To learn more, visit

Exploring the Sky Island of the Southern Appalachians: The Spruce-Fir Forest – June 15

Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Limited to 20 participants

Join John Caveny, director of conservation and education for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, to explore, examine and discuss one of the most endangered forest types in the U.S., the spruce-fir forest. During this field course, participants will go off the beaten path to find some of the largest red spruce trees on the park property. Participants will learn about the forest ecology and wildlife and also assist Caveny in gathering scientific data to benefit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation’s Natural Resource Management Program.

Registration opens April 20. To learn more, visit

Nature and Forest Therapy at Grandfather Mountain – July 22

Time: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Limited to 20 participants

Join Dr. Mattie Decker, a certified forest therapy guide, for a relaxing stroll through the forest at Grandfather’s Woods Walk. Eventgoers have an opportunity to focus on being present in the moment, deepening their connection with nature and community and enjoying the many gifts nature has to offer. Decker is also a mindfulness teacher, a Zen practitioner, an Episcopal oblate and a retired professor of education.

Registration opens May 22. To learn more, visit

Movement and Mindfulness in the Mountains for More Health, Healing and Happiness – July 29

Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Limited to 20 participants

Course leader Miranda Peterson Harton will share tools, tips and techniques that she uses to achieve profound health, healing and happiness, including yoga, meditation and outdoor mindfulness. Though designed for beginners, students with more intermediate skills are encouraged to join. Peterson Harton is an RYT500 yoga teacher, hiker, mom, wife and entrepreneur based in Western North Carolina. After quitting corporate life in 2015, she took a sabbatical during which she did her first 200 hours of yoga teacher training in India, hiked around the world (including the Himalayas, Andes and Alps) and studied meditation with Buddhist monks in Thailand and Myanmar.

Registration opens May 29. To learn more, visit

Appalachian Woodcraft – Aug. 5

Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Limited to eight participants

This field course will examine the types of things the hardy settlers of the Appalachian Mountains made for themselves from the forests, as well as the tools they used to make them. The group will study chairs, bowls, spoons, tool handles and more. After taking a walk through the forest, which was the pioneer’s lumberyard, participants and course leader Jason Lonon will identify trees and some of their uses and then focus on a hands-on project. Lonon is an artisan and teacher who has taught welding, blacksmithing, woodcarving and other skills in a wide variety of settings, from the community college system to wilderness camps, over the years.

Registration opens June 5. To learn more, visit

Introduction to Grandfather Mountain Backpacking – Sept. 8-9

Time: 1 p.m. on Sept. 8 – 12 p.m. on Sept. 9, also includes a virtual pre-trip meeting Aug. 19 | Limited to eight participants

This Adult Field Course will give participants a chance to experience the wonders of Grandfather Mountain during the day and night by backpack-camping overnight at one of the primitive backcountry campsites on the mountain. Participants will gain experience in planning a trip and using backpacking gear, as well as learn about the unique ecosystems that make Grandfather Mountain so special. Course leader Eric Payne is the assistant director of outdoor adventure at East Tennessee State University, where he manages the Campus Recreation Outdoor Program. 

Registration opens July 10. To learn more, visit

For more information about the Adult Field Course program at Grandfather Mountain, visit To learn more about becoming a Bridge Club member, visit

The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, visit

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