A couple of weeks ago, *A* and I escaped to one of our most favorite spots for a couple of days. We stayed in a dog-friendly cabin at Lake Lure and spent some time in (sort-of) neighboring Dupont State Forest and at Chimney Rock State Park.
The view of Chimney Rock from our cabin in Lake Lure.
We spent our first day hiking in Dupont State Forest, which we’ve visited quite a few times. I used to work nearby at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site as a Park Guide, and then as a Museum Technician when I was in grad school. We’d never been to Bridal Veil Falls in Dupont before, though. This area is known for waterfalls – there are hundreds in this part of Western North Carolina.
Me at Bridal Veil Falls. The previous photo is of the most dramatic drop, which was maybe a 10-foot-high ledge. The falls continued over granite slabs for several hundred yards.
We stopped for a snack on some boulders at the base of the falls – pretty cool because the water ran underneath them and continued out the other side. This photo is from that vantage point, as I sat with feet dangling over these massive rocks. The ledge from the first photo – the actual “veil” of Bridal Veil Falls – isn’t visible from this photo. We walked up the side of the falls on a not-too-wet granite outcrop a few hundred feet to take that first photo.
The next day we spent at Chimney Rock State Park. The little Village of Chimney Rock sprung up around the base of a 315 foot granite column high on a mountainside – well over 100 years ago. Chimney Rock was a privately owned tourist attraction – owned by the same family for 105 years. It was privately owned when we first visited in 2005, but a few years ago, it was sold to the State of North Carolina and became a state park. They are working on all kinds of improvements, as it is a largely staircase-based park. The drive from the village is only a couple of miles up the mountain and you hike the rest of the way to the rock, much of it straight up via staircases.
We hiked in from the trail nearest the base of the mountain, the Four Seasons trail. It was the only trail we’d not yet done in the park. This photo was taken much, much further up that trail, at the base of the 315-foot tall granite monolith that is the actual Chimney Rock.
A view of just two of the many, many staircases. The photo from above, with Chimney Rock, is from the same vantage point as this. That photo was taken looking left from this staircase. From the beginning of the trail we hiked, there were 1,431 stairs to the highest point in the park – a place called Exclamation Point, which is even higher (about 600 more stairs) than Chimney Rock. Tucker did pretty well on the staircases, but not when he could feel the vibrations of other people stomping up and down them – that made him pretty nervous and required quite a few breaks – with which we were happy to comply after so many stairs. I’m also not brilliant when it comes to heights, so I had to keep my eyes on the backs of *A*’s boots and just keep moving. It’s a lot better than it used to be – when it was a privately owned park, the staircases were made entirely of wood – which had weathered over the years. It used to be a real mind game to accomplish several of those staircases in the park, particularly one called the “Needles’ Eye,” a staircase that started at the top of another staircase and proceeded underneath two house-sized boulders. It was narrow (hence the name) and in places you had to crouch down on your hands and knees to continue. Yep, that’s where I discovered my not-so-great-with-heights attribute – but I was determined to master it anyway. Unfortunately, the Needles’ Eye became so unstable that it collapsed in on itself (according to a ranger I talked to at the park) and they weren’t sure they were going to rebuild it.
*A* on top of Chimney Rock with Tucker.
The view of Lake Lure from the trail above Chimney Rock.
This was such a good trip. It was nice to get away, to focus on something else, to get out in the woods and hike. It was a welcome and much-needed chance to re-charge. In one of our favorite places.
It’s interesting returning to places that have worked their way into our travel traditions. Now that we’re hoping to grow our little family of two (plus Tucker) into more (plus Tucker), we’re evaluating our favorite places in a new light – are these trails family-friendly? Should we wait until The Littlest Brooks-Livingston is a wee bit older? Would a backpack carrier be good for trails like these? (Judging from the number of them we saw, we think, maybe, yes.) What about the wind? The sun? I’m sure we’ll figure it out – and then, when we think we’ve got it, we’ll figure it out again. If I’ve picked up anything, it’s that parenthood is about flexibility (at least to a certain extent).
These are such special places to us – from the earliest days of us being us – we’re certainly looking forward to experiencing them with our kid(s) someday soon.