(Ken) April 6, 2013 – April 9, 2013. It’s a beautiful spring day, how about a nice hike to get some exercise and take in the spring air! The park brochure boasted over 15 miles of hiking trails from easy to strenuous. The Stone Mountain Summit was listed as moderate and only 1.7 miles to the top. We’ve hiked miles before, and riden bikes over 50 miles at a time – how tough could a 3.4 mile mountain loop trail be? Oh, how the signs can mislead!
The beginning of the Loop Trail was a third of a mile away from where we started. Then it was 1.7 miles to the summit, and 2.6 miles down and around the other side to the falls. They just happen to be a bit over a half a mile off the loop. So, our 3.4 mile hike turned out to be about 5.5 miles with a climb of 2300 feet and a decent of 2300 feet smack in the middle of it all. For the avid hiker, I would agree the trail would have been rated moderate. However, for a pair of hikers who have been in hibernation for 5 months; the warning signs should have been a deterrent.
The trail up the to the summit seemed to be a breeze. A slight incline that zig-zagged back and forth didn’t seem too strenuous at all. Towards the top, a guide wire was provided for you to grab hold and steady yourself on the slick granite surfaces. They were especially helpful where the spring water dampened your path. It was all worth the effort, because the view from the top was fantastic. We happened to the summit on perfectly clear day and were able to see for miles. Simply put – breath-taking.
We reached the summit 2305 feet above sea level! We sat with another couple from Winston-Salem, NC. and watched the birds fly below us. After a snack and some water, it was time to head back down the mountain. Forging ever forward, we decided to continue on the trail rather than turn back the way we came. You would think that walking down hill would be easier than walking up; 585 steps and numerous steep switchbacks later tell a completely different story. Talk about the agony of de-feet! Not to mention the agony of de-knees, de-hips and de-back!
2305 feet doesn’t seem like much until you stand below and look up! Though not completely at the bottom, the Hutchenson Homestead butts right up to the face of the stone wall. Now that is a big stone. The homestead was first settled in 1827 and remained an active farm until the late 1940’s. There were still a few apple and pear trees still on the grounds that were planted in the 1920’s. Also amazing were the pines growing out of the cracks in the stone.
As we headed towards the Upper Stone Mountain Falls, I had to stop for a drink. Well, not really; but I did take a scoop of ice-cold water and spit it back out. All in a days fun. When we reached the falls, I was astonished that the water came from a number of small tributaries of spring water, one of which ran right behind our RV. A 200 foot fall over the face of the stone; the ultimate water slide! Though I climbed the rocks to the base of the falls, I had no desire to try that slide. At least Jodi dangled her feet for a minute or two.
All in all, it was a great afternoon. It took its toll and wore us out, but we enjoyed it all the same. I recommend to anyone travelling in this part of North Carolina to stop and walk a trail if you have the time. Not only is it good exercise, the beauty of the area around you is equally as breath-taking. Now, all we have to do is find where we packed the sports cream!