Let’s Do the Rock, the Chimney Rock!

On Top of Chimney Rock

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.

Looking out from the Grotto

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.

Hickory Nut Falls

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.

Vacation in the Woods

View from the Cabin
Hooker Falls
Wolfe's Angel

I’m writing this Wednesday August 7th, no idea when it will get posted. [Answer: later that day, at an Atlanta Bread Company.] Surprising myself, I haven’t even been that interested in finding wifi and checking my mail up to this point. I expected I’d be jonesing at the lack of internet but it just hasn’t mattered to me.

Our cabin is truly out in the nowheresville woods, which is kind of what we were shooting for. Just up the hill is a 3 acre pasture that we can run around in with the dog. The view on two sides is thick forest, on one is the main house and the last is an apple orchard. I’m not above picking an illicit apple or two, but they aren’t ripe yet.

Monday we got our bearings and drove around Hendersonville. We went up to Jump Off Rock, which we found interesting and a pretty view but probably not worth the pain of driving up to it. It was close to sunset when we got there, and there was one dude there who gave us as close to a serial killer vibe as we’ve ever gotten from anyone so our time there was limited.

On Tuesday we packed up and went to Dupont State Forest. We first went to Hooker Falls, which has a swimming area at the bottom of the falls. Best of all you can take your dog! We played around there for a while, then had lunch and hiked up to the other falls across the highway, Triple Falls and High Falls. We of course did all this on a day that was setting a record high temperature for the area, but under the canopy of trees it wasn’t so bad. After going up and down the trails, we were ready for some more swimming in the chilly water of Hooker Falls so we went back there. On the drive back to town we stopped at the cemetery and I snapped a picture of “Wolfe’s Angel” – the angel statue created by Thomas Wolfe’s father and the titular object of Look Homeward, Angel.

And that was that. The first full day of vacation was a success, and everyone was so tuckered that we ate and went to bed early. Just exactly the sort of thing we were hoping for.