After a whirlwind road trip to the Florida Keys, you might think I’d be ready for a break from the road. But that’s not really how I roll. Once I get moving, I don’t want to stop! So I hitched up the Raven & the Rattler, packed a few things for the summer and hit the road West.
After an unexpected but delightful three-day snow delay in Fayetteville, West Virginia, I booked it due south, chasing more spring-like weather. Cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway through northern North Carolina, I pulled over at an overlook and discovered a mini-Yosemite: a great granite dome capped one of the rolling mountains in the valley below. According to my Adventure Atlas, it was Stone Mountain, home of Stone Mountain State Park. I was willing to bet that a trail went to the top of that dome. Time for a hike!
I’ve been to Yosemite a few times and I’ve always wanted to climb Half-Dome, but I’m put off by the lottery system, which seems to do little to curb the masses of people who line up to climb Yosemite’s most famous massif. The hike is a walk-up, along fixed-line cables bolted into the rock, but the sheer exposure can be deadly: each year, a few people tumble off, often in wet weather. Sounds epic, but from the photos I’ve seen, it looks like you spend most of the day in line, waiting for nervous novice hikers ahead to gather their wits about them to take another step, clinging to the cables strung up the steep, sheer rock. I try to have patience for sharing the trails in National Parks, but I’m not one for waiting in line for anything.
I doubt Stone Mountain is any kind of substitute for Half Dome, but I loved the feel of solid granite under my feet. The four-mile loop took me up, across and down the dome and I met a few other hikers and no climbers. After my hike, I checked out the climbing permit station at the base of the rock. Expert climbers only! No kidding. This rock isn’t as tall as Yosemite’s famously big walls, but granite is granite: unyielding and unforgiving.
On to Tennessee!