Sunday, February 19, 2017



Hanging Rock State Park is one of my favorite places to hike.  Only 30 minutes from my home, it offers some of the best climbs and views that you could hope for 100 miles east of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  For two straight Sundays in February it was nearly 80 degrees so the FBWG took off to get into trail shape for the season....and on the first Saturday took along my Adopted Yankee Daughter (AYD)

The AYD taking a look at our first destination....we decided to hike to the peak of Hanging Rock Mountain then take the Wolf Rock Trail to House Rock.  My AYD had never been to Hanging Rock nor had she ever hiked with the FBWG....and she set a pace that wore the old guy out!
My AYD and I hiked about six miles...from the Lake Parking lot to the peak of Hanging Rock then along the Wolf Rock Trail to one of my favorite overlooks.....House Rock.   Looking back on Hanging Rock, we got an idea of how far we hiked.  While on the peak of Hanging Rock we met Bailey who struck a pose at the edge of the cliff.  While my AYD was contented with just the back drop of Moore's Knob
As reported before, Hanging Rock Knob hike is not one of my favorite hikes.  For two reasons.  First, it has steps...nearly 300 steps mark the final ascent.  Second it is a sociable is one of the more popular destinations for all kinds of people, their extended family...and of course their dogs.   It is only a 1.3 mile trail from the parking lot but it is very steep in places.  Nevertheless I decided to return the following Sunday...but got there a little later and encountered about 500 hikers....nearly 100 on the knob alone!
So to get me in the mood to hike alone I plugged in my ear pods and rocked to the top listening to Waylon Jennings.  Still even with all the people on the knob it was a majestic day and I took in some good views.

Most of the time I don't care for dogs on the trails...they have a good time but when you get 100 people and 50 dogs it can be too much.  Nevertheless...I became enamored with this young German Shepherd "Loki" who posed for me.
On the way down, I paused to consider a side trail...and true to form found a nice place that I have named "Hidden Rock".  The trail to this place is an unmarked spur trail located at the end of the last climb.  The main trail turns left at this point...but if you look to the right there is a trail off into the woods.  It leads to Hidden Rock.  A large rock on top of the spine of a ridge.  From the top of the rock is a great view to the northeast.

Being the only person on top of Hidden Rock, I suddenly wondered what would happen if I should fall and be injured.  One of the risks hiking alone I suppose, especially if you take unmarked trails.  So I decided to leave the rock scramble to these rocks for another day.  Bet there is a good view up there?!

Being late in the day I decided to return to the lake parking lot by way of the Hanging Rock Trail.  So I put in some Jamey Johnson singing Hank Cochran songs and trudged down the trail with all the other folks on the mountain.  I was about to reach the end of the trail and encountered a lovely lady from News2 who was not at all dressed to hike.  Telling her that I would make her famous by putting her in the blog, she offered to return the favor and interviewed me for a piece on News2 at 11.
Turns out someone fell from the Rock the day before...falling some 40 feet.   Guess what folks, gravity sucks! Prayers for the young man who was injured. Hey be careful out there!   By the way, the picture featured above is a person hanging from Balanced Rock...about six feet off the to admit...great effect!

Hanging Rock Trail is a great trail to hike on a lazy afternoon.  It is short but steep and has a great view.  Access is a 9...trail is a 8 (I hate steps!) .... scenery is a 9...effort to view ratio...near perfect...9....but you have to factor in the people and the dogs...the trail is much too sociable for me....overall grade is an 8

That being to hang out at the lake on the way back to the car and caught an nice sunset.
Also got a couple of nice shots of the lake and Moore's Knob Mountain.

But the best setting for the lake was the boat house.

And a shot of the dam was nice too.

Sunday, December 18, 2016



On a cold Saturday in December, we elected to hike the loop trail around Lake Johnson in Raleigh, North Carolina....a 5.5 mile wonderful trek....hidden off Avent Ferry Road, not five miles from the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University. Speaking of NC State, it is the Alma Mater of both the Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion.  Spending the weekend in a nice hotel adjacent to the campus, we thought we were back in college!
We were able to capture the beauty of the Raleigh skyline adorned in green for the Christmas Holidays overlooking Hillsborough Square....the site of a notorious college hangout, now sadly turned into a parking lot.

Lake Johnson is a well used public park along the northern shores of which is a paved greenway connecting other public trails within the city of Raleigh.  The other half of the Lake Loop is a wonderful forest path...and by taking the bike trial....a primitive path along the lake shore.  A wonderful planked board walk crosses the lake near the marina, allowing the hiker to vary the length of the hike....but of course we want to hike every we left the marina parking lot hiking west toward the headwaters of the lake...most everyone else was going the other way...the FBWG is just a non conformist.

The trail was across the road from the marina and is designated as a "woodland" trail....a wide leaf covered boulevard hugged the lake shore for 3/4 of a mile until we came to a wooden bridge which crossed the wetlands at the headwaters of the lake.

The bridge angles like a door hinge.  From it you can see how close the lake is to Interstate 440 whose roar disturbs the tranquility of the site. 

A view of the lake is also glimpsed. In the spring this area would be teaming with wildlife and flora.  The subtle evergreen adds the contrasting color for this winter view.
Leaving the bridge, the trail on the southern side of the lake becomes much steeper as it follows the ridgeline of the bluff.

  At about the 1.75 mark a spur trail to a round top bluff is one of the feature views of the hike....don't miss it! 
Atop this bluff is a park bench were you can sit with your companion and admire the lake. And you know the FBWG motto..."Never forsake a trail bench".  This spot was evidently special as the bench is a memorial bench upon which is inscribed a bittersweet message.

Sitting on the bench, looking west, you can see how the lake widens and know that in the fall this is a picturesque view.

As we turned to leave, my Faithful Hiking Companion stopped and pointed to a unique feature of this must be called "engagement pointe"! 

aSummoning up decidedly less courage than was required some 35 years ago, I again asked my bride of 34 years 363 days to again "marry me?" and she again said "yes!" 

Leaving Engagement Pointe, we traversed down the trail crossing a small tributary feeding the lake with the help of a small footbridge.

Crossing the road, we emerged on a paved path that encircles the eastern end of Lake Johnson.  Folks leaving the marina in opposite direction from the path we took can complete their hike at this point by crossing the boardwalk.  We trudged on understanding that a spur trail would provide us with a "scenic overlook" or least that is what the sign said.

Leaving the overlook, we scrambled down a less well traveled path...and it made all the difference, as we found ourselves on a bike path that hugged the shoreline of the lake.  The path was more primitive but far less social than the paved path which we could see on the ridgeline above us.  To get the best views of the lake, this path is the only one to take. 
Scrambling along the bike trail, we felt for the first time of the day that we were alone in the woods.  Soon we were rewarded for our efforts with a small waterfall in our path.
The bike path is decidedly more difficult but it is well defined and easily traversed if you watch your step.  The views of the lake allowed to see the bridge from a distance and even got a glimpse of "loch ness monster".
As we traversed around a point, we got our last view of the boardwalk and soon understood that the bike path would soon intersect in the much more sociable paved path. 

But before we got to the paved path the trail narrowed considerably.  But provided a great view of  iron bridge crossing the dam spillway.

The paved path crosses the dam but first you must cross the iron bridge.  From the bridge I noticed a bench below and correctly assumed the spillway formed a waterfall which could be viewed from this bench.  We scrambled down and I got to play in the water.

I scrambled down the slippery and icy rocks to get up close and personal to this manmade waterfall.  I bet this is a pretty sight when the lake is overflowing.

After playing in the water and not breaking my neck in a fall on slippery rocks, we resumed our hike and crossed the dam resting on a park bench where we got a great view of the greenway crossing the dam...and a water fowl spreading her wings.

From this point, the rest of the hike is a half mile stroll along a lakeside paved greenway.  When we returned to the marina, I took a walk across the boardwalk. 

A lone Marine was fishing two lines, having not caught anything, he was undeterred.  "Gonna catch something soon", he said has he changed lures and cast his line into the water.

The Lake Johnson Loop hike is a great urban hike.  Taking the paths less traveled made the hike much more interesting and enjoyable.  We put in 5.6 miles.  Access is a 10....right down Avent Ferry Road from NC State....plenty of parking and nice marina...trails are a 9...well marked and maintained....scenery is an 8...better in the fall I bet....effort to view ratio...about right....not hard effort and not spectacular view...but nice hike anyway.  Overall a 9 rated it out!