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A Windy Day at Hanging Rock

posted Mar 5, 2012, 6:53 AM by Justin P
Yesterday, Sandy and I headed up to Hanging Rock State Park with the Raleigh hiking group for two more hikes in the 100 Classic Hikes series (#38 and #39).  We parked at the visitor center and split into two groups with Brian leading the faster group and I led the slower group.  This was fine with me, since I was carrying a backpack, which slows me down, especially on the steep climbs up to the mountains.  Our group went to Hanging Rock first.  We headed down the trail, which was paved at first then turned to a dirt road for a ways until a bench - the last resting point before the steep climb up he hill.  Most of the elevation gain along the Hanging Rock Trail is in this last half-mile or so up to Hanging Rock.  It's mostly steps, but quite steep.  But we made it up to the top and surprisingly, there was almost no one else there.  At Hanging Rock.  On a nice day.  Well, it was a little cold and very windy, but I was still surprised to see no one else there.  We all hung out on top of Hanging Rock for a while.  It would have been a great day for pictures, but the strong winds made it difficult to hold the camera steady - I'll have to go through pictures tonight and see how they came out.  This was Sandy's first time to Hanging Rock and she enjoyed seeing all the interesting rock formations up there.  We climbed out and around at various spots and enjoyed wonderful views of the surrounding Piedmont countryside.  We didn't go to far out on the rocks, though, because of the strong winds.  After a short while, we headed back down the trail.  At spot just under Hanging Rock, I stopped to see an interesting tree.  It had grown straight up until it hit the overhanging rock, then made a 90° turn and grew out past the overhang, then starting growing up again.  At the "elbow" where the tree hit the overhang, the tree had grown roots up into the rock.  We continued heading back down and made a quick stop at the visitor center to use the facilities, then continued on towards Moore's Wall.  We followed the road into the family campground and then got on the Moore's Wall Loop Trail.  Almost immediately, there is a stream crossing, then the many stairs up to Moore's Wall.  We saw the other group here who were just coming down from Moore's Wall.  Then the climb.  The wind and temperature made the walk chilly, but at the same time, I was sweating from climbing - a peculiar sensation of being hot and cold at the same time.  Finally, after a long climb, we made it to the top.  I ate my lunch here and we took some photos on Moore's Knob and from the lookout tower, then finished up the loop.  After the lookout tower, the trail follows the ridgeline for a while with more interesting rock formations along the way, then descends down.  After descending down the from the ridge, the wind was a lot lighter, as this part of the trail is protected on both sides by Moore's Wall and Cook's Wall.  We followed the trail back towards the campground, through thickets of rhododendron.  This would be a great hike in the late spring when the rhododendrons are blooming.  Finally, we hiked along the lake and back to the parking lot to make the trip home.
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