Dupont State Forest Rock Quarry and History

Learning New Things about DuPont State Forest – Guest Blog by Lenny – Danny’s Husband

While I went on the Blue Ridge Parkway ice formation hike last Sunday, Lenny went on a Dupont History hike. Here’s his blog.

North Carolina’s 10,000-acre DuPont State Forest is one of my favorite hiking areas. With its five waterfalls, three lakes, and two cemeteries, as well as a host of other artifacts, it offers high reward for relatively easy hiking. And it’s at low elevation, making it ideal for winter hiking. I thought I knew DuPont fairly well, so I was surprised when Carolina Mountain Club offered a hike to its rock quarry. It was in a part of the Forest that the Club rarely hikes, but I should have had a hint, since the map shows a mile-long Rock Quarry Road.

Eleven of us started out on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. The weather forecast was grim – rain, snow, and the coldest temperatures in more than twenty-five years were headed our way, but not until late that evening. We didn’t head straight for the rock quarry – that would have made the hike too short. Ashok Kudva, our leader, planned a four and a half mile trip over a variety of trails, passing the rock quarry along the way.

DuPont isn’t wilderness. I knew that it had been settled centuries ago. I knew that DuPont Chemical Company had bought the land in the 1950s and built a photo products plant there, which had ultimately been abandoned when photography went digital. Ashok worked as a chemical engineer at that plant. From the graves in the cemeteries, I knew that families had made the Forest their home from before the Civil War. But until this hike, I didn’t know its earlier history.  

On the way to the rock quarry, Ashok stopped the group at the start of the Micajah Trail. “Does anyone know what this name means?” he asked. We didn’t, so he told us. Nicolas Micajah, a soldier who received an 11,000-acre land grant in 1790, was the first white owner of the land. Ashok had planned to hike the trail, but didn’t. He was worried that there might be ice on some of the rocks we would have to scramble over. I mentally made a note to learn more about Micajah and certainly to hike the trail bearing his name.

Rock quarries are either carved-out cliffs or big holes in the ground. DuPont’s quarry had both. They are interesting for what they tell us about the people who lived there before it became public land. Shirley, one of our group, look at the quarry wall and announced the rock was gneiss (pronounced nice), a metamorphasized rock that is about 1.2 billion years old.

“How did you know that,” we all asked? It just looked like gray rock to me. “I took a geology course at College for Seniors last Spring,” she answered confidently.

Wikipedia – the source of all knowledge these days – added that there is a type of gneiss known as Henderson gneiss that only occurs “east of the Brevard shear zone.” Since Brevard is the town nearest DuPont, this is what we were looking at – a noteworthy geological oddity. I’d heard of gneiss, but didn’t know that we had a special variety of it here in Western North Carolina.

Even a very familiar hiking area can have its surprises.

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