in Checking In, Travels

Sweetie weekend

Atop Hanging Rock

Kelly and I have enjoyed a wonderful “sweetie weekend” hiking around Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury, NC, after Kelly took the kids up to stay with Kelly’s parents for a few days. We boarded the dog Saturday morning and headed west, stopping by the Tanger Outlet mall to get a few clothes. Then we headed up to Hanging Rock to spend the first of two days hiking around this beautiful park.

Upon arrival at the park’s visitor center, Kelly asked the park ranger what trails he suggested. Peering around the room, the ranger noted there were no kids in tow and suggested we try one of the more strenuous trails: Moore’s Wall Loop Trail. We took that advice and set off for the trailhead near the lake’s bathhouse.

Moore’s Wall Loop Trail is a challenging hike in one direction and not so much the other. We opted to go counter-clockwise towards the highest point in the park, Moore’s Knob, and that proved to be a very tough climb! It was step after step for what the ranger said was 700 steps until reaching the base of the lookout tower on Moore’s Knob.

Kelly and I were quite winded by the time we had made it to the top, and I could feel the blood pounding in my head by that time. The sun was out by then and the tower didn’t offer much shade but by soaking ourselves with our Camelbak water we were able to take advantage of the nice breeze we felt up there. We were wishing there were placards at the top, showing visitors what they were looking at, but I suppose not many park visitors choose to haul themselves up that never-ending series of steps.

The rest of our walk was along the ridge of Moore’s Wall. It became clear that if one went through the loop in a clockwise manner that the elevation change wasn’t nearly as shocking.

After a few hours walk through the trail and along the Magnolia Springs Trail we made it back to the parking lot. We opted to visit two of the park’s waterfalls (both somewhat smaller than we anticipated) before heading into Winston Salem for dinner and a hotel. We enjoyed Seeing Double IPAs and a steak dinner at Foothills Brewing before retiring at Winston Salem’s University Parkway Holiday Inn. Our hotel (a Hotwire special) was perfect, with an attentive staff, a quiet room, a comfortable bed, and complimentary WiFi that actually worked. We’d stay there again in a heartbeat!

Breakfast this morning was two mega-big omlettes at the local IHOP. We then drove back to the park and saw that fog and clouds still cloaked the mountains. While we waited for the fog to clear, we checked out the other waterfall, the Upper Cascades Falls. This one was more impressive than the other two and I spent about 15 minutes photographing it from all angles. We were delighted to see the sky clearing as we left the falls, so we began the long hike up to Hanging Rock itself.

Upper Cascade Falls

The map shows Hanging Rock Trail to be a moderate one but I think that’s a little too tame a rating for this trail. There is quite a bit of climbing that one must do as the rock begins to loom over you. What seemed like an easy hike at the start had become challenging. I felt my heart pounding again as we began to tackle the last big elevation change.

We made it up, though, and were rewarded with an amazing view of the Piedmont below us. The sun had ducked behind clouds again in the time it took us to climb the trail, so instead of cooking on top of the rock we enjoyed a pleasant breeze and cloudy skies. Lots of pictures were taken, of course!

On the way down we took a different route back, walking clockwise along Wolf Rock Trail. At the start of this trail we had a bit of a climb but it wasn’t nearly as tough as yesterday’s climb. It was quite peaceful as well. After passing a few hikers coming down the mountain we arrived at Wolf Rock. True to its name, we could see a wolf’s face in the rock below us. Soon we were patting that wolf on the head, thanking it for keeping us safe.

As we had heard thunder in the distance, we hurried back to the trail. An uneventful hike down brought us to the bathhouse again, where we took a few more pictures before returning to our car. As we left the lake parking lot we could hear the lifeguards clearing the lake. They had finally heard the same thunder we had been hearing on the mountain for at least an hour.

With two days’ worth of good hikes under our belts, we turned south towards Greensboro and eventually home, stopping for burgers at Five Guys before turning onto I-40. Then after unpacking and showering at home, we searched Raleigh, looking for an appropriate dessert to finish our weekend with. After striking out on almost a half-dozen restaurants we found what we were looking for at 518 restaurant.

Now it’s time to rest my tired, aching hiking muscles and be ready for another busy week. I sure wish weekends like this could last longer!