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."

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