Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Return to Hanging Rock

Judy and I got away for a refreshing day of hiking at
Hanging Rock State Park last week.  We had been there
five years ago and did a lot of the same hikes.  I'm happy
to say my new knees held up fine, and so did the rest of
our bodies, for the most part.

We ate lunch at the Dan River Family Restaurant in Danbury, NC,
then took in this scenic view of the Dan River nearby.

This is our obligatory selfie before starting the hike.

Not sure what this view was, but it was looming above us
from the parking area.

Mountain Laurel was everywhere, in various stages of blooming.

Our trail markers to the Hanging Rock.  If we turn up missing,
this is where we were last seen.

Some of the steep inclines offered log stairways.  And after a
while, even lifting your foot to the next step was a challenge.

Just below the iconic Hanging Rock.  Still quite a way to hike.

This is a "Where's Buggy?" picture.  Near the center of the leaf
cluster in the middle of the picture is a black stinkbug with a
yellow head (black dot in center).  I'd never seen a stinkbug like
this one.  He had moved quickly to the center of these leaves,
where his camouflage was most effective.  Remarkable.

Almost at the summit, one of the side views, featuring rhododendrons.

A view from the top.

Another angle.

Looking out into the wild blue yonder.

Every way I turned, a scene begged to be photographed.

Judy claims the best seat in the house.

A closeup of those rhododendrons.

The profile of a large brown skink on a tree.

This tri-trunked tree reminded me of Jack, Will, and Tom,
familiar to my many readers who have hiked our Sandhills
Farm Life Nature Trail.  This was much smalledr.

Liz Taylor, this means YOU!  (and me)

After the trip up and back to Hanging Rock, we did some shorter
trails to favorite destinations.  This is the view as you approach
the Upper Cascade Waterfall.

The view is good from here, but from the bottom
of the gorge it's exceptional!

The Upper Cascade Waterfall.

Judy knows how to enjoy her surroundings.

An area called The Rock Garden.

This shot is from the observation deck at the Museum and
Visitor's Center.  Facilities are excellent.

We drove to a parking area in another area of the park, then hiked
to the Lower Cascade Waterfall.  Here's the approach.

The thing I love about waterfalls is that each is unique.
The rock formation enhances the setting of this one.

Any closer and I'd be IN it.

This brown skink is not the one I showed earlier.  This one had
been pursuing a blue-tailed skink, but paused to pose for me.

This waxy plant is called Ground Pine or Ground Cedar.  I've
loved it since I first saw it at Camp Cherokee in 1972.

There's nothing unusual about maple trees.  Our nature trail has
plenty of Red Maple and Sugar Maple.  But this is Mountain
Maple, which does not grow in our county as far as I know.

This final hike of the day is really off the beaten path, and I'm
certain most park visitors never get here.  Again, you must drive
to a separate parking area.

First you come to a side trail with a view of Tory's Falls.
It's still quite a descent to Tory's Cave, where Tories hid out
during the American Revolution.
It's a cool cave, whether you're inside or out.
But I wouldn't want to live there.

We returned to Winston-Salem by a different route.  Maps available
at the park show local roads that will help you navigate and find
Tory's Den and see views like this one.  This is Moore's Knob,
a distinctive feature of the Sauratown Mountains.

We spent a restful night in excellent accommodations: a Hampton
Inn just off Highway 52 and University Parkway.  All day, we stayed
ahead of the predicted rain, and as a light rain fell, we only had to
drive 30 seconds to get to our dinner destination.  That was Silvia's
Honey Tree Restaurant, and Judy and I both raved about our meals.
She had some of the best chicken and dumplings she'd ever tasted,
topped off with a huge portion of baklava.  I had the other special,
The Big Fat Greek Platter.  I'm serious.  Lamb, meatballs, grilled
chicken, Greek salad and more for under $11.

I'll be giving both of these places top ratings on Trip Advisor.

The next day on our way home we stopped off in Asheboro.
This realistic mural really caught our eye.  Not only is the artwork
sufficient to convince you the locomotive is coming out of a tunnel,
there's an actual working headlamp to add to the illusion.  There
were other great murals all over the downtown area.

This sculpture of a mosquito was just across the street from
the locomotive mural.
By the time we arrived back in Murdocksville, I thought
I could safely put my camera away.  But, in the front
yard of our now-vacant old house was a huge snapping turtle.

I've known for years not to mess with these rascals,
so I took my pictures and left him alone.  

Not only was it a refreshing getaway, we brought
back a ton of memories from our trip.  It never fails.
I love sharing our experiences with you, dear readers,
and perhaps some of you will venture to one or two
of our favorite destinations.  Just on this blog, you
can search words like "hike," "trail," "park," or "waterfall" 
and come up with some great ideas.

We're already working on plans for our next getaway,
even if it's not until next fall.  Happy Trails to y'all!

Friday, April 1, 2016

There's Nothing Like a Train!

All my life I've loved the sights and sounds
of railroads.  And I've been fortunate enough
to live within sound of train whistles almost
everywhere I've lived.  Where we are now, in
Manly -- north Southern Pines -- we are a short
walk to the train tracks.  There was a train stop
in Manly beginning in 1877, ten years before 
the town of Southern Pines was incorporated.
The sparsely settled Sandhills were a prime
source of turpentine and other forest products. 
Manly, along with Shaw's Ridge (future Southern 
Pines and Blue's Crossing(future Aberdeen)
 were the loading spots.

On Tuesday, Judy and I took Bri and Hunter
to the vacant lot nearest the tracks.  We hid
Easter eggs and played games like Frisbee
and Pine Tree Tag until we heard the first 
train whistle in the distance.  We got a good
viewing position on the high bank beside the
tracks.  We listened with anticipation as the 
rumble of the heavy locomotives drew nearer.

Bri counted 89 cars.

There's the last one.  Modern trains don't 
need a caboose or conductor.  Everything
the conductor once did is handled electronically.

 Even after the train was gone, the
excitement lingered.

The tracks are clear-- lets' take a look.

Train watching is still fun!

We talked about the rails, wooden ties, gravel
bed, and iron spikes.

The very next day, Claire and Evan got to
see the afternoon freight train and investigate
the tracks, too.

DO NOT try this at home!

Here's 14 seconds worth of the excitement
if you can stand it.

I don't think we'll go running every time
we hear a train, but I won't be surprised
if the kids ask to go again.  There's nothing
else quite like the anticipation of the rumbling
engines and clattering freight cars zooming by.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kings and Queens of the Mountain

At our old house, we had a stream with
waterfalls, and a tree house.  At the new house,
we have a whole mountain!
Since it's the only "mountain" in Manly (North
Southern Pines), let's call it Manly Mountain.

Here's Bri and Hunter's first introduction
to the mountain. Love at first sight!

It's a long way down.  OR up.

We could call it Lookout Mountain, but
that's already taken.

The plateau at the top provides ample
play space for imaginative play.

But for sheer challenges, there's nothing
like the climb.

I'm on top of the world!

Bri and the others have energy to climb
the steep slopes over and over again.

It's a great workout.

Don't back up, Hunter!

Is that where I was a minute ago?

This is the low side of the mountain.

Evan can strike a super hero pose on
a moment's notice.

Claire keeps her balance as she follows
this ravine.

You don't climb to get to the top or bottom.
You climb to start all over again.

And sometimes, just to be different,
you try sliding.

Just look at that expression of determination.

As we were playing Roy Rogers, Claire 
took the usual role of Bullet, Roy's dog.
Lo, and behold-- I found this ancient artifact
among the rubble on the mountain.  Obviously
a German Shepherd.

Claire and the others have also supplemented
their personal rock collections from their
amazing finds.  When they find Indian Paint
Rock, they may share it with Grandma so
she can write messages on stone.

Proof that the world is not flat.

Now Claire has a sliding disciple.
Check those pants for holes, Mom.

Claire has even set up a nice office on the
mountainside, including a computer, cell
phone, and a series of gates that open by
remote control.  One gate is for spaceships.

Evan engages in a little target practice.
Sometimes with dirt clods, sometimes with
stones.  He is closely supervised by Grandpa
when he has projectiles in his hand, don't worry.

For my readers with plenty of time on your
hands, I have a series of short videos of some
of the action at Manly Mountain.

Bri scales the mountain (31 sec.)

Claire and Evan , movin' on up

Evan bounces from peak to peak (7 sec.)

Mountain goats? (36 sec.)

Mountain climbing has its ups and downs.
(12 sec.)

Claire agrees about the ups and downs.
(23 sec.)


So, we have our own almost-private mountain.
It's not The Lonely Mountain.
It's not Mount Doom.
It's not Witch Mountain.
Whatever you call it, it's FUN!