Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hanging Rock - Cooks Wall Hike


On an unusual August Day, the temperatures dipped into the 70's, I decided to hike alone in my favorite North Carolina State Park.  Starting from the parking lot of the visitor's center I trudged up the Hanging Rock Trail looking for the Wolf Rock Trail, which is about 2/3 the way up.


From the parking lot overlook, I got a nice picture of the knob of Hanging Rock Mountain.  The signature cliffs are to the right.  This picture looks so much like the Pilot Mountain Knob, it reminds me of the similar geology of the Saura Mountains. 

Many of the tourist hikers did not know what they were in for as they sped past me catching my breath before taking the Wolf Rock Trail.  The Hanging Rock trail for the final third is nearly all steps.  Any thought of visiting there soon left my mind. So I will add some pictures from earlier visits.

The Wolf Rock Trail combines with the Hanging Rock Trail to burn about 500 feet in elevation change from the parking lot in about 1.5 miles.  It is a great mountain trail shaded and free from tourists. I wanted to hike the Grand Loop but decided better of it, but you can get an idea of my hike from the map below

 After a steep climb, there are a series of rock cliff overlooks to take a needed break and enjoy the view.

You can easily see the Duke Power Plant at Belews Lake as well as the faint outline of the skyline of Winston-Salem.  

You can get to Wolf Rock easier by parking in the Lake Parking area and taking a trail behind the picnic area.  Leaving the Wolf Rock trail to House Rock is a 1.5 mile pleasant ridge line trail with a moderately steep incline as you get close to the House Rock.  

From House Rock, you can see the distant profile of Hanging Rock Mountain

House Rock is a great place to rest your dogs and drink some water. By my FitBit I had hiked 3.5 miles and I expect that covered about 650 in elevation. The ridge line hike ends at House Rock. The .8 mile hike to the Cooks Wall cliff is all uphill and is the longest 8/10th mile you will hike. You will know that you have reached the summit when you see an unusual grassy meadow surrounding a rock garden.  One small incline later and you are there.
From the cliff at Cooks Wall Mountain is one of the better views of Pilot Mountain.  On this day I was welcomed by three hawks performing an aerial dance.  

The countryside is only about 800 feet in elevation and even though Cooks Wall Mountain is only 2200 feet, the views are similar to that seen in the Blue Ridge.  Farms and house dot the Piedmont 

I always meet the nicest folks on the trail.  Today was no exception.  This couple is from Iredell County.  Rebecca is a high school senior getting ready to start school next week. Spencer has graduated and has enlisted in the Navy! Thanks for your commitment to serving our country Spencer, you make the Fat Bald White Guy proud!

The trail ends about 200 feet from the cliff and from a top a large rock formation, you can get a good look at Moores Wall.  The Knob can't be seen but any thoughts of hiking that ridge left me as I was reminded of another steep climb.

On the way down, I stopped at two favorite spots.  The first I call "Funny Rocks Cliff" for the odd shaped rocks that are balanced there. 

The second spot is "Cairn Rock", the first place we saw trail cairns.  Someone had rearranged the cairn rocks into a "peace sign".  I decided to return a cairn to "Cairn Rock" and in so doing I paused to thank our Creator for the magnificent day.  

On the way out I shared the Magnolia Springs Trail with a group from the Triad Math and Science Charter School.  They were a great group, and when asking one young man what he liked best about his school, he said: "I like the way they work us hard and challenge us every day"  WOW!  Props to the folks at Triad Math and Science! As we intersected with the Moore's Knob trail, I thought about extending my hike. Though tempted I figured I was 7 miles into the hike and did not have any water I decided to head home.  

But to get to the visitor's parking lot I had to hike about a mile and a half up the Moore's Knob Loop Trail through the campground and down the campground road. The first quarter mile consisted of theses steps! OUCH!
 The trail was great. I hiked nearly 9 miles. Trails were well marked and maintained. - 9;  Access is always good at Hanging Rock State Park-9;  Scenery is good but not spectacular-8; The effort to view ratio is skewed to the effort.   Overall a solid 9 hike. 

Folks often ask why I hike.  I have many reasons but I think they are best summed up by a quote from  Jackie Stetser who has produced a movie entitled "Monadnock, the Mountain That Stood Alone"  She observed: "Every time I hike, I gain a new perspective of my own life and the situations that I face. I gain new strength as I climb, and I spend time with some of my favorite people. No matter which mountain I hike, I walk away with a lighter heart."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

D-Day National Memorial Bedford Virginia



On June 6, 1944, forty-four members of a small town in southwest Virginia participated in Operation Overlord. Thirty-Seven were members of Company A 116th Regiment 29th Division of the United States Army. Twenty boys from Bedford, Virginia lost their lives storming the beaches of Normandy, nineteen died on the first day.  The statue pictured here is titled "Homage" and is emblematic of the feeling of loss which every community in the nation feels when one of its boys does not come home from war.

The Memorial was dedicated on June 6, 2001 and is a solemn tribute to those who fought and died in Operation Overlord.  The Memorial begins with a long avenue which leads to a large oval shaped plaza. 

At the entrance to the avenue stands a macabre statue named, Le Monument aux Morts donated by the citizens of France depicting a faceless warring angel of death. 

Surrounding the Overlord Arch are the flags of the Allied Forces who participated in the Normandy Invasion.  In the distance the Peaks of Otter stand as silent sentinels to the memorial.

Inside the arch is Final Tribute, a statue of a battle grave of a fallen soldier and the seal depicting the nations involved in the invasion.  

The Latin inscription: Ad commemorandum fortitudinem, fidelitatem, sacrificumeorum means "Remembering  their valor, fidelity and sacrifice. 

On the lower level, the plaza is enclosed on the far side by an arch shaped wall with the name of every Allied soldier who died on D-Day.  This arch frames the waterfall beneath the Overlord Arch in front of which are statues that depict the beaches of Normandy.  

The statue Scaling the Wall is a dramatic display of the courage and initiative of those soldiers who fought across the beaches and scaled the seawalls to break through the German defenses. 

Beyond the memorial wall is a flower adorned garden which is surrounded by the busts of the principle commanders of the invasion.  

At the far end of the garden is a gazebo with the statue of the General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Surrounding the garden are crepe myrtles which were in full bloom.  Using them to frame the distant Sharp Top Mountain, I unexpectedly captured the head and shoulders of the Homage statue, which makes it seems for the moment that one of the Bedford Boys has returned home. 

As we were leaving the memorial, I paused to listen to the last comments of a tour guide who pointed out a significant feature of the statue which guards the entrance to the memorial.  It depicts a soldier dragging a wounded comrade to safety.

On the hand of the soldier is a gold wedding ring which was donated by a widow of one of the Bedford Boys.  For me this statue completed the memorial.  The ultimate sacrifice, the life ended too soon, the family devastated, the courage, the horror, the pride...all these feelings illustrated by this simple ring. 

Go and visit this place.  Take a young person with you.  Tell them of those you know who were part of the Greatest Generation.  Make them marvel with you of what men they were. And make sure we kindle within the soul of this country the courage, the commitment, and love for our fellow man, that we are willing to make this sacrifice again if required.

"Men, I am not a religious man and don't know your feelings in this matter, but I am going to ask you to pray with me for the success of the mission before us. And as we pray, get on your knees and not look down, but up, with faces raised to the sky, so we can see God, and ask his blessing in what we are about to do."   

"God, Almighty, in a few short hours we shall be in battle with the enemy.  We do not join this battle afraid.  We ask not for favor or indulgence, but ask, if You will, use us as an instrument for right and aid in returning peace to the world."  
                             Lt. Col. Robert Wolverton