Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stone Mountain State Park

8/10/09 – Stone Mountain State Park – 9.5 Miles It’s been probably a dozen years since my family visited Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap. A lot has changed since we followed the white dots up the granite dome face of this gem of North Carolina. Danny Bernstein's book "Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage" has an excellent overview and trail descriptions. Stone Mountain is a great day destination for everyone, with fantastic natural rock formations, lovely waterfalls and Hutchinson Homestead, a mid-19th century farm. So on a hot Monday morning I drove northwest of Charlotte to spend a day in the park. What’s new? Stairways and railings and cables galore. This is a much-loved park, as evidenced by the well-worn trails and multiple shortcuts. The stairways and railings are an attempt to funnel people going across the rock faces on the way to the summit, but there are still plenty of places to wander and possibly fall off the face of the earth. However, on this Monday I would have had no witnesses to my demise. I did a figure-eight hike of roughly ten miles starting from the lower trailhead parking lot and only saw a few other visitors, all near Stone Mountain Falls.

Views begin early on the trail to the summit

Cables seem like overkill here
Remember to look back over your shoulder as you go up!
Looking at Cedar Rock from Stone Mountain - later on I was over there looking back over here
Very impressive tree growing out of the rock
A busy bee on a summer day
Joe pye weed blooming on the slopes of Stone Mountain Falls
Looking up from the base of Stone Mountain Falls (or is this Stone Mountain slip-n-slide?)
After Stone Mountain Falls I made the side trip to Middle and Lower Falls. Middle Falls is kind of so-so, Lower Falls a little nicer destination, good for a snack and a rest. The highlight of this side hike, though, were several deer that watched me curiously as I passed them. I briefly stopped to take photos, but the gnats were merciless buzzing around my eyes and I had to keep moving to stay sane. Insects were annoying me all day long, but on this trail they were nearly unbearable. And shame on me, I think that's why I forgot to look around for the evidence of moonshining as described in Danny's book.
Full view of Stone Mountain from the valley floor
Nearly all the way around the Stone Mountain Loop Trail I passed the Hutchinson Homestead but I continued on to turn left onto the Wolf Rock Loop Trail. (This would take me to the Cedar Rock Trail and then back to the Stone Mountain Loop and back by the Hutchinson Homestead a second time.) Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock are also granite dome faces, in my opinion just as cool as the namesake rock. If you want to be by yourself and wave to the folks on Stone Mountain, go to Cedar Rock.
This mushroom looked like a pedestal cake stand
The cap was the size of a dinner plate
A long low rock wall near the top of Wolf Rock Trail - reminds me of the Smokies
On top of Wolf Rock -the world's strongest tree that split the rock in half!
Beautiful view from Wolf Rock
Looking at Stone Mountain from Cedar Rock On my family’s visit so long ago we somehow missed the Hutchinson Homestead, so today I explored a bit. The buildings are open on weekends during peak season and include a log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib, meat house and original furnishings. Stone Mountain State Park has car camping facilities as well as group and backcountry camping, making it a great weekend base to explore. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs through it as well. Now that I have rediscovered it, I will return with some of my non-hiking friends (who are becoming hiking friends now!) to watch them gasp at the beauty of this place.
It was my good fortune that today they were paving the main road in the park, so I got to chat with the flag guy as I waited to get around the heavy equipment. He told me that he and his buddies frequently come to Stone Mountain to rock climb, but he's never really hiked the trails for the sake of hiking. To each his own...
If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleonora Duse


Old Dan said...

Great story and pics as always Sharon. I will definitely add this spot to my list of places to see.

Danny Bernstein said...

Hi Sharon:
Great story about Stone Mountain SP. We don't appreciate our state parks as much as we should. The hiking is so easy and the trails so well-maintained.

Mountainfitter said...

Great Post. The trees growing out of the rocks make for some awesome photos. Isn't nature awesome!