Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Goodbye Stone Mountain

Starting with 502.3 miles, 82,750 ft. ascent

MST18-The end

Stone Mountain State Park to Mountain Park Baptist Church

15.2 miles  1,250 ft. ascent

At 7:30 A.M., it was 23 degrees when Sharon and I arrived at Stone Mountain State Park to hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for a couple of days.

During the winter, the Park’s hours are 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. The gate was closed and we decided to park at Elk Spur Church just outside the road. We didn’t want to wait around until 8 A.M. and we were concerned that we might not be back to pick up the car by 6 P.M.

I had had all the drama I could deal with in that Park. You may remember that I left my car overnight and the Superintendent started a search for me. We would pick up the 0.7 mile to the Visitor Center when we got back.

We start walking on the John P. Frank Parkway. The wind was blowing and my feet and hands were numb. I thought that maybe walking today would not be a good idea but I certainly wasn’t going to say anything. We walked.

There was snow on the sides of the road. I was wearing long johns under my pants. On top, I had a polyester short sleeve shirt, then a polyester long sleeve thermal, a button down shirt (I don’t know what good that was doing me), a fleece and a rainjacket. Hat, neck warmer, and two pairs of gloves. And I was still cold.

The route seemed to take us from church after church after church – Elk Spur Church, Home Missionary Baptist Church, Faith Baptist Church. All modern, clean and antiseptic, mostly Baptist churches.

MST18-old cemetery But we passed an old cemetery with just stumps for gravestones, fenced off. See the picture on the left.

MST18-Ice cold watermelon

 

On the side of the road was an old “Ice Cold Watermelon” truck – not exactly what I needed today.

The rolling hills were mostly farm land with beef cattle, chickens and even bee hives. Since we were not that far from Wilkesboro and the Tyson poultry processing plant, these chickens may be going to Tyson.

MST18-ThurmondWe walked through the community of Thurmond, a sad collection of small houses and abandoned buildings.

The nicest building was the small post office. The farms in the area seemed prosperous but most homes were modest with large “Private Property” signs. The smaller the house, the larger the signs and the meaner the dogs.

We walked against traffic as you’re supposed to. But when the road made a tight curve, we crossed to the other side. Back and forth, the whole day. We found few problem dogs, probably because it was so cold. On the road, it’s hard to find a place to take a trail break or to sit down and eat. We got to State Road Primitive Baptist Church which had a shelter with a high table. We put our packs down and we ate standing up. Then the wind kicked up and we were off again.

Finally we reached Mountain Park Community Church where we had left one car. The Mountain Park Family Country Store was advertising used books and that lured us in.

MST18-Peter in store Peter McGuire, the owner, seemed very happy to see us, especially when we told him we were walking the MST.

It seems that Scot Ward and Ian, the latest MST completer, stopped in. It’s a general store, the only one for miles, it seems. The store has a good selection of high-quality books and I bought one.

We got into Sharon’s car which we had left at the back of the Mountain Park Baptist Church and went back to Stone Mountain State Park. The gate was closed; I guess the road was too icy to open up the park and how many people were they going to get today in 20 degree weather?

So we ran up to the Visitor Center to close the gap. The photo above is of me inside the Park – well, the sign said the road was closed, not the Park. The Visitor Center was closed, even though there were State Park cars outside. We then ran back down. Goodbye Stone Mountain State Park.

According to my car thermometer, it reached a high of 32 or so by 2:30 P.M. when we got back to my car.

In preparation for tomorrow, we drove into Dobson to place my car opposite the library. Dobson is the “market town” and the County seat for Surry County, close to the Virginia border. That’s where we started our Dobson to Hanging Rock State Park trek last March.

We found The Lantern, an inexpensive diner with country cooking in town. We told the owner that the MST goes right through Dobson. He was very surprised that a trail was in his town.

Looking forward to tomorrow. It will be cold. 

Cumulative after Day 44, 517.5 miles, 84,000 ft. ascent

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