Hanging Rock State Park's Deadly Hiking and Camping
|Many have died from the ledge at Hanging Rock|
Once there was pre-historic mankind, oft thought of as primitive creatures roaming the Earth who then evolved over time to ride in cars, live in homes, watch television, surf the WiFi, and then one day out of the blue, says to himself, "lets relax and leave it all behind". "Let's go live as we did when we were less evolved!" "Let's go be cavemen in some rock up in the mountains!"
So I go off to Walmart where I buy a tent. We had to buy a tent because our current tent, a two person Arctic Xtreme isn't big enough for the two additional children we've acquired since our last camping trip. While in there I notice machetes for $6.00 and think to myself, what would most sane individuals do if they went camping? Buy a machete! So me, a 17x11 tent, and a $6.00 machete exit the store and get back on the road with my family to Hanging Rock State Park.
Up Highway-66 through Kernersville onto the 8 and into tent spot 56. The next hour involves our collective fighting, yelling and crying while we attempt to put up the tent. If you don't cry putting up a tent, then you're not camping.
Next we decided that we need food, but driving down the road leads us on a two hour adventure to Stuart, Virginia. There, I meet Clayton, a Lowes Food employee with about as much ambition as a slug covered in salt. He ends up crashing his register only after charging my credit card, but not before completing the transaction. I'm a bit worried at this point since we are approaching the 9 PM lockout time for the campgrounds and want to get back. Eventually, Clayton figures it out and we're on our way. We rush down the curvy roads back to Hanging Rock, only to have my daughter vomit from car sickness.
With about fifteen minutes of light remaining, I attempt to start the fire. This is when my son starts crying and says he wants to do it. I attempt to show him how, to which he protests and says, "I do it my own way", and then begins to cry. I'm now tired and head off in the woods with my machete, leaving my son to figure out fire... and life. Hanging Rock has a no scavenge rule to protect wildlife, but I've got to ask myself, why build a freaking campground here if you're suddenly environmentally friendly? Wouldn't the little critters you're trying to save be better off if there wasn't a God forsaken giant road going through their little homes? So, I followed the rule I learned as a child, tread lightly, take out what you bring in, and only scavenge dead trees. A few minutes later, I'm back with a log the size of the car, and the realization that a $6.00 machete doesn't do much other than look really cool when you walk into the woman's toilet and demand to shower. At this point though, the fire still isn't going, it's now completely dark, and everyone is mad at me because they're starving. I remove the several hundred hardwood logs from the fire that my son had arranged into a skyscraper, put in some kindling and some small twigs, and light it. A few minutes later we have fire.
Dinner was delicious. Though the burgers were burnt on the outside and raw in the middle, they might have been the best burgers I had ever eaten. You're not camping if the food isn't both burnt and raw. Frankly I would have eaten our adjacent campers if my machete wasn't so dull.
As the evening wore on, we told ghost stories. Mine was about Squeezils, the hairy midget creatures who like to eat shoes but often nibble off peoples feet in the process as their victims slumber in their sleeping bags. By flashing the light on and off, I obviously scared my son enough that he felt it necessary to pick up a large stick and beat me over the head with it, thereby causing me to suffer internal cranial damage (or at the very least a bad headache).
Eventually, we went to bed. While laying in our tent during the unprecedented 100 degree heatwave, I laid on the ground. Earth so hard that my back felt like it was being bent straight, like metal ore over fire. Shannon ends the night with a final comment by evoking orphan Annie, "Tomorrow will be a new day, it will be better."
The Next Morning
After a morning of re-starting the fire, which by now I was now given sole responsibility, my son then decided to vomit in the tent. While cleaning this up, he then loses complete control of his colon and renders an explosive poop in the tent that we had just cleaned. That's when we decided to pack up camp and do what any normal family would do in this situation: go on a hike. So we jumped in our car, which by now seemed like the greatest technical marvel ever invented with its cold blowing vents of magic and drove down to the trails.
When we hit the half-mile point of the Hanging Rock trail we were already spent with the two kids in tow and our fat black Labrador that had lived off bacon grease for the last year. No water, and temperatures approaching lava, it didn't seem like a big deal when we left the trail head and the sign tread "only a short, cool, one mile hike." At least, that's how I remembered the misleading signpost.
At one point, the dog pulled me so hard that I thrust my foot into a rock sticking out of the ground and pierced my toe. I was now bleeding and gouged by a stupid mountain with a dumb Hanging Rock, but I continued with a throbbing, toiled foot. "Stupid dog", I shouted at her. She was going back to the pound when we got home.
By the time we hit the Hanging Rock we were completely soaked in sweat, thirsty and ready to call the EMT. Except, there was no phone, no water, no nothing. Just this giant rock to jump off of an end our misery. Shannon then asks, "so is this where people were hung?" (Sounding so belittling to us southerners, with her California accent.) I'm like, "I think it's just because it hangs off the mountain". "Oh!" she says, as we've now got both children firmly by the wrists. The idea of the children slipping off the edge is enough to give me an anxiety attack and sends me into a severe fear of heights panic. I suddenly don't want to be up here. As I finally get the kids to sit down within arm's reach, I take a moment to take it all in. It's pretty, but not worth dying for and we will die when we have to travel down the mountain.
There on the edge of this silly rock, my mind turns to what it normally does, weird thoughts. I begin to wonder exactly how many people have died on this rock? After all, there is no hand-rails and someone could jump, be pushed or simply just fall to their death. I turn to Shannon who now winks as if she's reading my mind. "How does she do that I ask myself?" I'm now doing mental mathematical statistics to which I deduce at least one person must have had died off this thing. When I got home I Googled, and sure enough:
A Greensboro man was found dead at Hanging Rock State Park Thursday afternoon after he fell from the rock formation that gave the park its name.
M. David Carruthers, 59, fell between 150 and 175 feet from Hanging Rock, according to park superintendent Tommy Wagoner.
I'm guessing there's been more too. I was putting my whole family at risk just sitting on this big dumb rock. The rock could have broke loose and plummeted all of us to our deaths. Fear of heights is a survival skill!
After a long and gruesome climb back down from Stupid Rock with our dog now so thirsty she was swerving and our children now refusing to do nothing but be dragged and cry, we returned to our car. We broke out the boiling water bottles that had sat in the car and started the ignition. The air conditioning literally may have saved my life as we sat there for several minutes to watch the other idiots huff and puff out of the trail head.
It was now three hours since we left on our one mile hike and we were exhausted. We were ready to go home. We stopped at the nearest convenience store and picked up some of the coldest, most refreshing drinks that our mouths have ever tasted. As we drove away, there in the rear view mirror was Hanging Rock State park, and in front of me was a sign indicating I was only thirteen miles to Winston Salem. Civilization. Thank God.