Well! We did it! We survived! The Hanging Rock State Park Five Peaks Challenge. You get one day, sunrise to sunset, to make the loop to Balancing Rock and the Lookout Tower, Cooks Wall, House Rock, Wolf Rock, and Hanging rock. The loop, for us, started at our tent, and ended at our tent.
Once we got to Cooks Wall, the walk was wearing her down. I worried about her. Hey! I worry about her. It’s what I do, so deal with it. She had to stop for some Gatorade, peanut butter, and pretzels. Trail food. We packed light. And I can’t ever explain how proud of her I am. She hung in, and made the 5 peaks loop.
We started with Balancing Rock and the Lookout Tower. The highest point in the park. Also the steepest ascent, with the most stairs. My God, but it hurt to scale those stairs. I have no idea how many there were. At times, they just seemed endless. Which is why we started with them. Get the hardest part over first.
Of course, that put Hanging Rock last, and that’s not a cake walk either.
The Lookout is about 1.3 miles out from our tent. Give or take a bit. We got there about 0930 hours. It was gorgeous. No, better than that. I can’t begin to describe it. Oh. Look. Bug guts on the display screen. Ah well. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The Lookout. We were above the cloud deck. There were some breaks in the clouds, and we could see the ground, way, way, way down there, and miles away from where we were. We could see other peaks sticking up above the clouds. We spent a little while taking pictures.
We started on the longest part of the trail. It went downhill from The Lookout, then went uphill to Cooks Wall. That walk didn’t want to end. It’s something like 5+ miles. Holy crap, did it hurt to walk that. Especially since none of it was flat.
Cooks Wall wasn’t anything spectacular. But we did climb the big blocks of granite, and took a few pictures. I even took pictures of The Lookout. You could see it from Cooks Wall. I looked at The Lookout, and said, “Wow. That’s a long way off.” It was. The only way I could verify it was The Lookout was zoom in with the 35X optical zoom on my camera, then look at the picture. Yep. It was The Lookout. Way the hell away from us.
Next, we staggered back down the trail (The last mile to Cooks Wall is an out and back deal. A mile there. A mile back.) to House Rock. I asked her why they called it House Rock. She said, “‘Cause it’s big as a house.”
OK. I can’t argue with that. We had company while at House Rock. Two black vultures. They watched us taking pictures. Figured out we weren’t a threat, and let us take pictures of them. Pat discovered those suckers have one nasty hook on their beaks. The better to shred things with when it’s time to eat.
Next, we walked to Wolf Rock. The 4th stop on our merry jaunt. I was very concerned she wouldn’t make it. But, she said, “We’ve come this far.” And soldiered on. Wolf Rock didn’t really look like a wolf. I got more scenery shots. And we found a lizard of some kind, who was nice enough to let us take some pictures. She told me, “No further! Come back in here!” Yeah. I know. Sometimes I’ll get up to the edge of a zillion foot cliff. I made a point of sticking out my right leg, to get my foot in the picture, to lend some perspective to the view. Yeah. A tiny blue Avia shoe overlooking a cliff.
Then, the walk to Hanging Rock. She sent me ahead of her. Hanging Rock trail is a bitch. Momma. The last 4 tenths of a mile is stairs. Most of them cut from rocks. Most of them better than 8 inches high.
It speaks volumes when a microscopic Pekingese dog, all of a foot tall at her highest point, raced by me, with her part of 3 humans trying to keep up with her. That dog was a fireball of energy.
I took pictures from the top, and kept my promise to her. “No going near the edge!” I found the geo-marker, took a picture of it, and took all my pictures from within ten feet of it. Lots of pictures of people out by the edges. Perspective, I have learned, is important in showing people the scale of Hanging Rock.
The trip down.
The trip up, I knew I could make. That’s just brute strength and endurance, and pacing yourself. The trip down terrified me. Last year, when we climbed to the peak, the trip down brought me to my knees. My left knee especially. There’s enough ligament damage in my knee that the steep descent from Hanging Rock pushes my knee to its limits. The walk down is a walk of pain. A walk of misery. A walk I can never forget.
And I’ve walked it twice now. Once last year. And today. Most people, the walk down from Hanging Rock is a party. It’s all downhill. Me? It’s torture. And she knows it. She slowed the pace down. She stopped at the benches along the way. She monitored the pain levels by talking with me on the trip down, and when they got too bad, she could hear it in my voice, and she stopped.
Did I mention I love my lady? 🙂
Now, we are in the tent. It’s 2011 hours. She’s on the air bed, under the covers, headed to sleep. I won’t be far behind her.
And tomorrow? We rest. 🙂