Starting with 528.25 miles, 84,750 ft. ascent
Hanging Rock State Park to Meadows
850 ft. ascent
Egypt, Mubarek, Tunisia … All those problems swirl through my head as I drive to Danbury to walk another section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I start driving at 7 A.M. and first I hear BBC world Service, then NPR weekend edition. I go from station to station but it’s the same bad news.
But here on the MST, it all seems so far away and irrelevant. I know that people are suffering but they’ve accepted Mubarek for 23 years. Now Egyptian activists caught the bug from the Tunisians.
Sharon, my hiking partner, has decided to bike the road sections of the MST, so we’ve separated temporarily. I gave up on biking. Sorry – it didn’t work out for me. I’m not too proud of that but I like my feet firmly on the ground. So I am on my own for a while. We plan to reunite for the beach section.
I called Wippoorwill Inn in Danbury and asked if they had someone who could shuttle me. Earl, who owns the inn with his wife, suggested Gabriel, his stepson. I get to the Inn at about 10:30 A.M. and Gabriel shuttles me to Hanging Rock State Park, where Sharon and I left off last March.
Gabriel is a naval reservist in his 20s. Right now, he’s waiting for an opportunity to train as an EMT but he doesn’t have a job. So he’s happy for the extra cash that shuttling will bring him.
We leave my car at a gas station on NC 89 and he drives me to Hanging Rock State Park Visitor Center. He leaves me in the parking lot close to the Indian Creek Trailhead.
I start down the trail past two shelters and a picnic area and follow the trail to Window Falls. See the photo above. There’s an overlook to the falls, then the trail continues to the bottom of the falls. Before I get to the falls, I pass a sign warning of serious injuries and death by waterfalls. It’s a standard State Park sign.
Warning This area contains hazards associated with water, rocks and cliff faces. Serious injury or death possible.
What if they said, “Welcome to your state park. Don’t climb up the waterfalls.”
The trail keeps descending and I meet several groups with dogs going up. It is a beautiful Sunday. The forecast is of 60 degrees. What a great start.
The trail ends in less than two miles. I walk out the park on Hanging Rock Rd. The road has steep ups and down. We’re in the Piedmonts, which means foothills in French, not on the flat.
The road winds up and down and I keep crossing the road so I can have some room to walk on the side of the road. I wave to everyone, not a one-finger wave popular in the Appalachians or a limp wave like the queen mother. My wave is hard and energetic, so that cars can see me.
The road enters Danbury and passes the bank, library, the county courthouse and several churches. The faded sign says:
Welcome to Danbury, established 1849. Gateway to the mountains. National Historic District.
Danbury is a one main street town, cute and very spread out. But historic? The churches are small and boxy, not the elaborate Catholic or Episcopalian churches that I associate with historic.
Walking out of town, I stop at the Danbury General Store and Grill with a couple of gas pumps in front. I buy an ice cream sandwich and show the clerk the listing for her store.
“I knew there was a trail but I didn’t realize that there was an actual route,” she says.
“You need a guidebook or you wouldn’t know where to go.”
If the last section west of Dobson, was a hike from church to church, this section takes me from gas station to gas station. Gas stations are useful on the road. They’re the place for trail breaks, occasional snacks and most luxurious, garbage cans. I throw my ice cream bar wrapper at the next gas station.
NC 89 is a mecca for motorcycles; two wheelers, three wheelers, riders alone, riders in packs. They pour out of side roads like creeks flowing into a river. Some riders honk at me in solidarity. They’re taking advantage of the golden weather.
Clear Springs Primitive Baptist Church established about 1770 is a small white manufactured building with a huge cemetery. Obviously the building doesn’t date back from 1770. The congregation may have had a wooden building that burned down.
The road has an assortment of buildings from broken down wooden shacks and trailers to substantial manufactured homes and a few brick houses. Weeds cover up some small shops.
I arrive at Whickers Grocery where I left my car. Scot Ward, who wrote the guide book I’m following, called it a “must stop” with very cool people. So I introduce myself as an MST hiker to Kala, the owner’s daughter. She had met Scot and walked with him to the Walnut Cove library. She thought he was “cool” as well. I confess that I’ve spoken to him on the phone and emailed but have not yet met him.
“I’m not as cool as Scot,” I say, “but would you be interested in walking to Stokesdale with me tomorrow? It’s about 14 miles.”
We exchange phone numbers and she says “I might.” I get this feeling that there’s not much to do in this area. Gabriel had told me that Winston-Salem is the place for young people.
Is this a dry county? I have not seen a bar. I wonder if Gabriel might want to walk with me one day. Maybe I should introduce Kala to him. They’re both attractive and look to be in the same age bracket.
Earl, the inn keeper, drives up as I get back to the Inn. He shows me around the Inn. The place is huge with a large sitting room, kitchen and dining room and two bedrooms.
The inn is on a small back street opposite an abandoned jail, the fire station and a “pretrial release and district resource center.” While I waited for Gabriel this morning, I saw two teenage boys and an older man go inside. It sounds like a detention center for wayward boys.
For dinner I drive up to the Dan River Family Restaurant, the only place in town. The menu is almost all fried food but I have spaghetti with meat sauce, cole slaw and pinto beans. It’s a lousy place but the only place that’s open in the evening. Is country cooking a code word for “fried”?
I settle down to watch Downton Abbey on PBS and discover that somehow, the TV at the Inn doesn’t have PBS. Can someone tell me what happened on Sunday evening?
Cumulative after Day 46, 540.1 miles, 85,600 ft. ascent