Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Hanging Around Hanging Rock State Park

We have a guest today. NC native, Deborah Dunn, who is an author, artist, counselor (corporate crisis and marriage/family), and descendant of Quakers that first settled in the Albemarle region, has graciously agreed to share moments from her recent trip to Hanging Rock State Park, located in the old Sauratown Range. Hanging Rock is a great place to visit during the autumn (as well as in the spring or summer.) The park wasn't her only goal, though, as Deborah explains. So let's welcome Deborah!

Cross another adventure off my bucket list, and an adventure this surely was. Hanging Rock State Park specifically, where my husband I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. The park is beautiful with well-marked walking trails that offer various degrees of difficulty for hiking, so it is appropriate for anyone. Each walk ends in a waterfall, a vista, or the Rock itself. However, be aware that the walk to Hanging Rock is rather strenuous.





We chose the easy way (my husband is seventy and has a heart and hip condition) taking the shortest walk up to Cascade Falls. It is stunning, refreshing, and the falls can be seen close up, even wading if you like, so we were not disappointed. (As always, use caution when walking near waterfalls. Ledges are steep and rocks can be slippery from unseen algae.)



Camping is tent or small RV only, with no electrical hookups. For that reason, I suspect, spaces were plentiful. But there are beautiful cabins that can be rented and a small lake for swimming and kayaking.  I wish I had known before I spent money on a B&B! I think the most surprising thing is how close the park was to home. I'm used to four hour treks from Raleigh before we even spied a mountain, but here we were within two and a half hours, not weary from travel at all. A quick drive up I-40 to Winston-Salem and then thirty miles up Hwy. 52 toward Mount Airy and you are almost there. Ample signs point to the park, two miles from a quaint little town named Danbury, on the Dan River, about twenty minutes off of the interstate.

There are few shops and restaurants, so come prepared. By the way, the park and the local environs are a good distance upriver from the coal ash spill, which runs away from this still pristine neck of the woods.

The idea for this trip came from a Groupon I’d found offering a ziplining package at Carolina Ziplines, about ten miles from the park entrance. I’d been wanting to see the area for several years. In the last few years I’ve been doing genealogical research about family, specifically my grandfather, John Henry Bundy. He’d been born in Mount Airy around 1873, but his parents moved their little family to Jonesville, Va. (my next adventure) when he was a baby. He had been orphaned at the tender age of eleven and had to make his own way in the world, but he returned to the area off and on as a young man, living with families and working on farms up in Grayson County, in and around Galax and down in  Surry, and the greater Yadkin Valley.

Being a former foster care social worker, I had a tender spot in my heart for him, especially once I read that he “attended a singing and writing school up in Bethel, Va for a short while.” That was a one line entry he’d made in his journal before he died at the age of eighty one, just a few months after I was born. My heart jumped, because I sing and write too and always felt that the gift of writing was passed down to me from him, and there was my proof! Even though most of the landmarks and people he mentioned are long gone, I wanted to retrace his footsteps and get a better sense of who he was. I was not disappointed, especially once we found Old Quaker Rd. I knew in my heart that is likely where he wandered. He had come from a long line of Quakers and had passed the love of that faith down to me.

But I also wanted to have some fun, enjoy my sweet husband’s company, and celebrate our long journey together. Forty-five years is a milestone.

We stayed at the Singletree Gun and Plough, which is advertised as an “elegantly rustic” bed and breakfast. Actually the B&B main house is the home of Johannah Stern, a warm, friendly hostess with an eye for art and design, who went out of her way to make us feel welcome, even throwing in a bottle of wine to celebrate our anniversary. The property is located on 1000 acres, with five miles of river frontage, known for its excellent fly fishing, rafting, and tubing.

Because of overflow (we are notorious for planning trips at the last minute) we stayed at a cabin on the property, Innisfree. (Cabins don’t include breakfast, by the way…) Actually, it was a small two bedroom house that had been remodeled, not a real cabin, and the only drawbacks being that it only had one window air-conditioner and there was no real view of the mountain range, just the tops of tall trees. But the house was very tastefully decorated, the beds were comfortable, and the stay very quiet and restful, if that is your thing.


Be aware there are no electronics of any kind, not even a radio. We spent most of our time out and about, and by streaming the wonderful 98.1 radio station in Galax on my smartphone, we had the kind of music we craved. Bluegrass and folk is our preference these days. So we were just fine. I’m a therapist, techie, and because of my writing career, I'm into social media marketing. Getting away from all that was much needed!

On Saturday, we set out up the back roads to Galax, up Piper Gap Run, a lovely, twisty, mountain road with stunning vistas around each turn that got us off the interstate and gave us fresh air to breathe. That actually takes you up to Piper’s Gap, a small crossroads on the main road that heads into Galax, all in all about an hour’s drive.



I truly love Galax, Virginia. There is a relaxation and peacefulness to the town that is gentle on the soul. That day, a group of young musicians were fiddling on the street corner, the tinkle of the fiddle and banjo wafting in the cool mountain breeze. Galax is the home of the Old Time Fiddlers Convention, held this year August 4-9th, its 79th year! Music is in the water up there.

If it’s antiquing and bargains you crave, this is it. I bought an old, handmade oak porch swing for only forty dollars at a local vintage shop on Main Street. It would have cost three times that much in Raleigh. And just catty corner to it is the gallery of the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts. It has some of the most unusual crafts I’ve ever seen. They even offer classes like wood carving and such on Saturdays that you could plan a trip around.

With our trunk full of treasures, down the hill we traveled, this time via the Blue Ridge Parkway, just a few miles from Pipers Gap. The views here are beautiful as well, but more of the rolling valley kind instead of ragged peaks found at higher elevations. We could have gone farther, but tired from our day we got off at Fancy Gap, heading back down 52 to Mount Airy, better known as “Mayberry” to some folks.  If you loved the series and are a fan of shopping and country cooking, this is a good destination for you, but it’s a bit too commercial for me. Of course, there’s the Museum there dedicated to the memorabilia and history of the show.  It’s easy to find and right down town.

After a dinner of salads, a glass of wine, and a peaceful evening spent reading, we headed to bed for a restful night’s sleep. I wanted to be full of energy. It was time to fly through the trees!

But that's another blog post. Stay tuned! Pictures will be included, and I promise the dizzying adventure won’t turn you green.

For more information about Deborah, go to www.deborahdunnbooksandart.com

For more info on Hanging Rock, go to www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/haro/main.php

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