Monday, March 9, 2015



Always looking for hidden trails in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, I recently 
purchased "100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina" by Joe Miller.  Hike # 43 was listed as "TurnRight Loop".  The author described how to work a 3 mile loop into the trails of  Cedorock Park in Alamance County. Anyone see the blue river ghost?

Finding the park should not have been hard, but our Mapquest sent us the wrong way.  Simply take Exit 145 off I-85. Take NC 49 away from Burlington toward Liberty and about 6.5 miles down the road you will see a sign.  Cedarock is a multi-use recreation facility operated by Alamance County.  It has a wonderful Frisbee golf course, play grounds, historical farms, kayaks and of several miles of hiking and bridle trails. 

Finding the trail head is pretty easy as signs off the main road lead you to a nice parking/picnic area.   Don't be confused by the many trails listed.  Author Joe Miller provides the best advice with his "TurnRight Loop".   For a three mile loop ending at the Gristmill Dam, take a right at every trail intersection.  You begin on the Green Blazed Rock Creek Trail, turn right on the White Blazed Connector Loop, and keep taking right turns till you find the Gristmill Dam.

The Connector Loop Trail turns right after you cross this bridge and you generally follow the Rock Creek upstream and loop back to connect with the Rock Creek Trail.  It adds a mile to the overall hike and is a pleasant walk through the Piedmont forest.  On the day we visited much of the trail was washed out by the recent rainy weather and we were forced to trail blaze around the mud.
I am sure the trail is much more lush in the spring, summer and fall but it is also likely to be a lot hotter too.  On this early March afternoon, temps at 68 degrees proved a bit warm.  As you return to the Rock Creek Trail, the path leads over a ridge and crosses back to run parallel with the Rock Creek as it joins a larger creek.   At this point your turn right again crossing a small bridge following the unusually named "Stinking Quarter Creek" to the Gristmill Dam.   

Soon you will hear the roar of the water rushing over the dam and encounter many non-hiker spectators who are visiting the dam the easy way.  But for the roar of the dam, the creek does little to reveal the presence of an impediment.  

Above this point the park allows for kayaking.  However, an unsuspecting kayaker may be in for a rude awakening if the Dam Ahead marker is ignored.

The park road dead ends at the Visitor's Center and it is but a short walk along a paved path down to the dam.  Hiking to the dam places you on the opposite bank from most of the spectators.   The dam is the remnants of an 19th century gristmill. The mill has long since vanished but the sturdy stone dam remains intact and creates the signature photographic feature of the park.  The recent rain and snowfall caused the mill pond dam to overflow creating a magnificent waterfall.

From the trail side of the dam, there are many angles from which to take in the beauty of the structure.   First a look from downstream.

The dam is over 20 feet tall and is constructed of stone blocks which must be 10 feet thick.  I marvel at the endurance of such masonry.  The pressure of the rushing water over nearly a century or more is a testament to the craftsmen who constructed this dam.

I spied a couple having engagement pictures taken.  I missed the couple shot but caught the groom....who was reluctantly posing for his fiance'.  She was a cute girl, if the FBWG was to give him some advice....I would suggest...he just say "Yes Dear" and do whatever she suggested.

The trail leads downstream to a very well constructed bridge where we took our first left turn of the day and looped back to the tourist side of the dam where a nice covered overlook was constructed.  From this side of the creek you can get very close to the water rushing over the dam.

The trail led to the top of the dam where I inspected  the old valve box.  I assume someone would paddle to the valve box, climb from their boat by the metal ladder and operate the valve. 

 Not a bad job on a sunny summer day but on a cold rainy winter evening I am not sure what OSHA rules would have to be violated to operate this device.
The trek back to the trail head followed the west side of the creek across a meadow and soon back into the woods completing the "TurnRight" loop onto the original Rock Creek Trail.   A nice Sunday afternoon, 3 mile hike with a good dam place to take some pictures.  The dam sign explains the names of the creeks which we had encountered.
I am really not sure where the Rock Creek ended and the Stinking Quarter Creek began but if I had to name a dam, I cannot think of a better name than "Stinking Quarter Dam".  I think that is a good Dam name.  What about you?

Rating the trail is not hard.  This is a great afternoon family hike. Access is a 9.  The trail was well marked but very muddy-8; Scenery but for the Dam is not very interesting 7;  effort to view ratio is easy/good.  Overall an 8 trail.  I worry about how hot this trail may be in the summer but look forward to catching the autumn leaves. 


Thursday, February 26, 2015


The Midnight Ride of The Fat Bald White Guy

On a cold February night, it snowed all across North Carolina.  Foregoing a hike in the snow for a ride around town in a Jeep, my hiking companion and I got a midnight tour of freshly adorned snowy Kernersville, North Carolina

Stopping first at the historic Fourth of July Park we got a patriotic start to our midnight ride.
Four inches of snow was already on the ground and a another inch was steadily falling making the trees look as if they were encased in cotton.

Nearby the 1870 one room Piney Grove School House reminded us that school was closed tomorrow.

From the park we ventured down Main Street and dodging some fast moving snow plows, we snapped some pictures of the sights.  

First stop was the Gazebo at Harmon Park.

The gazebo was donated by the Grande Dame of Kernersville, Margaret Burks in memory of her late husband Leo Burks.  They left the lights on for us and as a result I got a postcard quality photo.

Historic Downtown Kernersville exhibits the largest number of restored 19th Century homes and buildings outside of Old Salem.  Across the street from Harmon Park is the home of Julius Harmon, built in 1858.  The Harmon House is owned by Clarence and Imogene Lamb and is used to host events.
Driving south on Main Street we came upon the Historic Korner's Folly.  The Folly was built in 1880 by Jules Korner.  It is one of the most unusual homes in the state, sporting a little theatre in the attic.  Jules Korner painted the famous Bull Durham Tobacco ads.  Owing to his artistic inclinations, the home is adorned with murals painted by Italian artists.  

Across the street from the Folly is one of my favorite homes, occupied by one of my favorite people, Edgar Shore.  The home was built in 1857 by his great grandfather, Dr. Elias Kerner, and has been the home of the Shore family for several generations.   
Down the street is the 1867 sanctuary of the Kernersville Moravian Church.  I really can't take a better picture than this.

Of course I had to try taking the picture from another angle.

Next to the 1867 Sanctuary is the 1992 Sanctuary. The belfry seemed to be frosted over.

On the north end of the downtown is the recently restored historic Southern Railway depot that dates to the 1870's.

On the way home I grabbed a nice shot of the Pierce Jefferson Funeral Home, built in 1850's and once served as a hospital for Confederate soldiers. It was originally a private school built by Masons known as the Plunkett Place, and served as a residence before becoming a funeral home in the 1930's.
Of course two other not so famous nor historic buildings were worthy of photographs.  The first is the Collins Law Office in Central Park. This is where the Fat Bald White Guy goes for his real life job.
The second is the home of my mother.  Though she now resides in a rest home, she enjoys pictures of her home in the snow.

What a treat is was to ride around Kvegas after midnight on a snowy night.  Some great shots and some fun driving.  Come visit our historic downtown someday, it is a great place to live!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Linville Gorge - Celestial Point


Talk to any Gorge Rat and they will tell you the best view of the Linville Gorge can be found at the Celestial Point.   Over the years I have seen pictures of the views and added this hike to my bucket why not New Year's Day 2015?!

We were joined on this hike by my pal, Mike Jacobs and his ten year old granddaughter, Madison Spruill, a student at Caleb's Creek Elementary School......yep.....Crocs Rock!

Foregoing an easier route to Celestial Point via Gingercake Mountain (because I could not find the trail head)...we decided to hike Sitting Bear Mountain aka Da Bear.  Da Bear is a 4026 foot peak along the eastern rim of the Linville Gorge.  We had hiked the peak on the way to Devil's Cliff a couple of years back.  We remembered it as a brutal climb on a summer day. Since it was 37 degrees we thought the climb would be easier.....what were we thinking?!

Maddie and Mike were real troopers and climbed 19% slope of the mountain with little problem. 

They were nice to wait on the FBWG who was often huffing and puffing behind them.  The climb up Da Bear is not for the faint of heart.  It is a real mountain climb along a narrow slippery trail.  

When we started, I pointed to a large rock as the halfway point and Maddie and Mike had to pose for a picture to memorialize their accomplishment.

A little further up the side of the mountain we encountered Da Bear.  Standing like a silent sentry guarding his mountain, Da Bear is a 70' rock balanced on the mountain in a manner which only nature could create.  The summit trail is only a mile long and the elevation change is about 800 feet.  The fact that Da Bear is about 2/3 of the way up makes it a great place to rest and catch your breath.  

Asking why the rock was called "Sitting Bear", I pointed out to Maddie the features of the bear head which most folks can see.  I even think I see Da Bear smiling...what do you think?
On the way back down the mountain, I asked Maddie and Mike to pose next to Da Bear just to illustrate how large and unusual this rock is. Nature sure has a sense of humor at times.  This rock defies explanation as to how it got here or how it continues to stand erect.

From the Sitting Bear Rock, the trail is much steeper but allows for occasional window views which are obscured by the summer foliage. Reaching the summit we found many trails which access some nice views in every direction.
Hiking in the winter, I am often concerned that there will not be enough color to make for good pictures.  On this day I did not have to worry as the blue sky mingling with a variety of clouds provided a nice color back drop to every photograph. 

 From the eastern side of the summit we got our first glimpse of the Hawksbill Mountain our destination last New Year's Day. 
These views were teasers to the views we would experience at this year's destination. 

Celestial Point has been on my bucket list for some time. I have marveled at the photographs of the views from this place.  But the trail seems to be elusive to some. I will do my best to help out.  To get there you must find the Midcliff/Devils Cliff trail intersection on the Jonas Ridge Trail.  Coming from Sitting Bear Summit, it is easy to find.  The trail is to the left. There are six rocks, three on each side of the trail forming a sidewalk of sorts.   You will find these rocks after you pass by some interesting ice cube rocks on the trail.  We erected a cairn on one of the six rocks, as much to signify our praise to our Creator for the beauty of the day as to mark the way for future travelers.  

Proceeding on the Devils Cliff/Midcliff trail, there is a "Y" the left is Devils Cliff trail.  Looking back from the "Y", you can see the six rocks and understand the split is not very far down the trail.  

The Devil's Cliff Trail runs along the ridge line above the Hurricane Wall and terminates at Devil's Cliff.  About a quarter of a mile down the trail, there is a tree with lichen on the right followed by a log on the left.  


The trail head for Celestial Point is to the left about 20 paces past the tree/log trail marker.  In the summer it is less well defined but on New Year's Day it was easy to find.  It is a down hill trail of about 250 yards to the Celestial Point Cliff.  

You will know you are almost there when you pass by a large rock under which is a nice cave.   

Leaving the rock there is a scramble of sorts down to the cliff. 

 The view there is breathtaking.  
As advertised by Gorge Rats, this is the best view of the southern end of the Linville Gorge.  You can see all the peaks as well as the river winding its way to Lake James. 

The clouds provided interesting shadows and lights on the gorge.  While I missed the lush green of the summer time gorge or the colorful autumn, the view was stunning none the less.  

Maddie was amazed by the view and added her beauty to the scene.  There is something special to watch the beauty of God's creation be reflected in the eyes of a child as she sees for the first time its majesty.  Besides Maddie smiles all the time and is such a joy to hike with.  Except that she has the hiking ability of a mountain goat and put the FBWG and his Hiking Companion to shame with her agility....oh, youth is so wasted on the youth!
If you want the best view of the Linville Gorge, then Celestial Point is the place to go.  I suspect the hike from Gingercake Mountain is a longer but easier hike.  As hard as the climb up Sitting Bear is, it is a real treat.  The many and varied views along the way provide a stunning display of the beauty of the Gorge and its surrounding mountains.  

But especially nice was the fact that we had the trail to ourselves only seeing people on the way out. Proving that the Fat Bald White Guy has become famous, I met a fellow named "Will" who was looking for Celestial Point.  After describing to him the trail, he said: "No way, you are the Fat Bald White Guy?!"  Well....with that kind of endorsement I had to make him and his girlfriend Selena famous too.  You meet the nicest people on the trail.

So how do I rate this hike.....Trail access along Forest Road 210 is great and easy to Gingercake trail head needs some work!  9;  The Jonas Ridge Trail up Sitting Bear Mountain is the eastern rim boulevard trail and easily trekked.  The Devil's Cliff trail and the Celestial Point trail also proved easy to find and well defined...9;  the effort to view ratio is good...the hike up the mountain is steep and hard but the views are outstanding....the views are 10....they do not get any better in the Linville Gorge than on this hike.  Overall a 9+ trail rating....but hiking with Maddie makes it a 10+!

People constantly ask me and my Hiking Companion why we do this.  We have found the observation of John Muir at the turn of the 20th Century so very true.  "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are finding that going to the mountains is going home....that wilderness is a necessity"  This is why we hike.  The reason I blog is to provide an incentive to other folks to get out into the wilderness too.  Heck if a fat, bald, white guy can do this maybe you can too!  I try to provide a trail review for folks wanting to hike a trail that we have hiked.  Finally, I know that some folks just can't hike. The blog is a virtual hike for them.   

" The Beauty of the Mountain is hidden for all those who try to discover it from the top, supposing that, one way or an other, one can reach this place directly. The Beauty of the Mountain reveals only to those who climbed it..."
 - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Happy New Year....and go take a hike in 2015 and if you find me on the trail I will take a photograph of you and make you famous too!