On our vacation in the North Carolina woods, yesterday we went to Chimney Rock Park. There is an elevator to the top but because we brought our dog, the only possible way we could get to the actual Chimney Rock portion was to climb the stairs. I don’t have a good count but it was a pretty solid climb up, I’m guessing the equivalent of 25 flights or so. Our dog did very well on the whole trip, not being wild on the leash or spastic on the stairs. There were a few points where it was tricky to manage him and the traffic in the opposite direction but overall it wasn’t too bad. He got a lot of admirers along the way, and up at the peak he was a big hit.
The view from the very top of Chimney Rock is quite beautiful. You can see a whole lot of the Lake Lure area from it. It made a lot of sense to tackle that very first because after we went up and down that thing, we didn’t have a lot of desire left to do much more stair climbing.
On the way down, we almost didn’t go through “The Subway” tunnel because there was a sign saying something was closed and we assumed the whole pass was. However, a park dude who was right there assured us that we could go through. We were glad we did because not only did we get into a nice area in “The Grotto” but we also were able to climb down to the main trail from there, but with far fewer other people on the stairs. In fact, no one.
After that, we met up with the main trail and took the side trail to Hickory Nut Falls. After the stretch up the stairs to the top and back down, it was nice to spend some time walking down fairly flat trails. There was a little rise and fall to it but nothing like the rest of it.
It was a little odd how people kept greeting us with encouragement. “Only 10 more minutes, don’t worry! It is worth it.” It dismayed me a little bit. Did I look like I was in that bad of a state that other tourists needed to give me pep talks? As it turned out, this whole stretch felt like a breather. We were able to stop and give the dog water several times and to go at whatever pace we felt like.
The other huge advantage is how cool it was comparatively. This whole stretch was under the canopy of trees anyway and as we approached the falls the mist and water must have cooled things off at least 5 degrees if not more. The falls themselves are pretty. It is possible to climb around down to where the pool underneath is, but we opted not to. There was a pretty thick layer of slime on all the rocks and sticks underwater, and it didn’t seem like the best wading experience ever. Plus, there is always the downer of getting your feet wet and putting on socks just to hike some more. If I was going to get my feet wet, I would want a little more bang for my moisture buck.
After a little time at the falls, we packed everything up for the hike out. As is usually the case, the return trip seemed to go much faster than the trip out. By virtue of doing the Hickory Nut Trail last, we didn’t need to climb the stairs to meet back with the other trail but could just keep going straight out to the parking lot with no stairs involved at all.
After we left the park, we got ice cream in the little town at the base of the park. It seemed like a nice little place. On our way back to the cabin we stopped at a swimming hole and played with the dog out in the water, just to give him some swimming for the complete tired-out experience. After all, a tired dog is a well behaved dog.
Follow that up with a little grilling on the deck of the cabin and we had us one great vacation day. This is the kind of stuff I signed on for.