This "tee shirt message" could be a synopsis of my experience at Chimney Rock State Park----I hiked it and I liked it! This photo is also a reminder to mention that even though the park is full of hiking trails, and many remote, seldom visited parts, it DOES have a large gift shop, full of every kind of souvenir a tourist could need!
Since the park consists of 6,807 acres, there are various modalities of transportation available. Shortly after you go through the park gate where the entrance fee is collected, there is a large field where one can park their car, then hop on this shuttle bus. This was my first visit to the park, so I did not know until afterward, that individuals can also take their private vehicle up the narrow, curvy road (full of switchbacks!) to a parking area about midway up the mountain. However, having seen the bus-private vehicle encounters on my ride, I think I would still choose the free bus shuttle!
In years past, there was an elevator that carried passengers (for an additional fee) up the equivalent of 26 stories, to the Sky Lounge. However, on the day I visited, the elevator was not in service, and according to the park's official website ( www.ncparks.gov/chimney-rock-state-park ), the elevator will be out of service until further notice.
Even though the indoor Sky Lounge was closed, there is a delightful outdoor dining deck available, where one can enjoy the light meals, snacks, and beverages available from the concession stand at this level.
The park is named after the most notable feature, which is the 315 foot granite monolith rock formation, shown in this photo.
In 1902, Dr. Lucius B. Morse purchased 64 acres at Chimney Rock Mountain. The Morse family owned and operated Chimney Rock Park as a privately managed park until 2006. In 2007, the state of North Carolina and the Morse family reached an agreement, so now it is fully owned by the state.
Seeing Chimney Rock at the angle shown in this photo reminded me of The Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Italy. When I was a teenager, I got to climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa, and I was determined that now as a "keen ager", I was going to make it to the top of Chimney Rock, as well!
This photo shows the "stairway bridge" that connects the edge of the mountain to the granite monolith.
For those with claustrophobia, this optional stairway through some of the crevices will probably be something they will choose NOT to take!
There are over 500 stairs in the Outcroppings Trail, according to the brochure. I will have to take their word for it, because I lost count!
The top of Chimney Rock is fairly large, as shown by this photo, and I did not see any signs restricting how many people could be at the top at any one time. Likewise, I did not see any signs restricting how long a person could stay at the top. However, I wanted to explore additional aspects of the mountain, so I walked around on top to get several photos, and then started scoping out additional locations to hike to that are visible from the top of the monolith, but not visible down at the bottom of the mountain.
I call this photo of me, the "Post Card From The Edge". To get the photo, I handed my camera to another tourist, who was standing on a rock above me. At the time, I was so focused on looking up at the photographer who was taking the picture, that I was not paying attention to what was behind me. It was not until I saw the photo, that it made me feel a little bit rattled about being just inches from the edge of the bluff! Very thankful that railing is there to keep me from going backwards!
If you recall that a mile is 5,280 feet, then you will know that the top of Chimney Rock, sticks up about one half mile into the air. But alas, visitors can go to even higher elevations, if desired. This photo shows an indentation on the bluff at the left, where one can hike to yet another viewpoint. That little indentation is called the "Opera Box".
This is what Chimney Rock looks like when one is standing in the Opera Box.
With its long park bench and gorgeous views, it is tempting to spend one's entire time in this scenic location. However, since I only had one day to spend in the park, I rested a while, then continued my upward trek!
Another prominent geological formation is a "balanced rock" that has the name "Devil's Head", as seen on the left side of this photo.
When I posted this photo (without its identity listed) on social media and asked the question, "If you could name this formation, what would you call it?", the name "Cardinal Rock" got the most votes. What would YOU call it??????
Another popular stop along the trail is "Exclamation Point", with an elevation about 200 feet higher than the top of Chimney Rock. Seems like, if they wanted to really confuse people, instead of spelling out the words "exclamation point", they could have just put "!!!!!" on the sign!
I am so thankful that I had a beautiful, sunny autumn day for my visit to this incredible location! Another helpful website in planning your trip to this area is www.chimneyrockpark.com , as it provides information on lodging, restaurants, and other items of interest to tourists.
Part of the park is popular with climbers, and is called the "Rumbling Bald Climbing Access". Perhaps these boys are practicing for a climbing competition scheduled to be held there on February 17, 2018, called the "Rumble Bouldering Competition".
After the hiker goes past Exclamation Point, there is the additional Skyline Trail that will take you through additional woods and bluffs on top of the mountain.
The lake one can see from the mountain elevation is Lake Lure, and was the location where the Dirty Dancing water scenes were filmed, where the couple practiced the "lift" they would use in their dance competition. ( The only reason I know this is because I went to a Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org ) program at Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia, which was also one of the filming locations for the movie. )
With as many stairs as there are to climb, and the absence of water fountains on the way up, there is a risk that someone can have a health issue. That is exactly what happened on the day I was there. As our shuttle bus was making its trip up the mountain when I first arrived, I heard a dispatcher tell the driver to be on the lookout for an ambulance that was headed up the mountain road, because a visitor had passed out on top of Chimney Rock. As I was walking up the stairs, emergency personnel were slowly, but surely, carrying the lady down the 500 stairs (remember I said at the beginning the elevator was out of service?) .
There was a virtual "train" of first responders involved---two or three going in front of the cart to clear out people going up the stairs, plus two men on the front of the cart and two men on the back of the cart, a park ranger following the group, then several members of the lady's family, following all of them!
Seeing the way this very specialized piece of equipment had played such a vital role in transporting a patient down such a long stairway, I was curious as to how long they have been available to medical personnel. I worked in a four-story hospital until 2000, and never saw such a specialized evacuation cart, for use when there was no electricity for the elevators. Perhaps they have come about since the tragic lessons learned when the World Trade Center in New York was attacked.
These three Emergency Response Vehicles were waiting at the bottom of the stairs, to transport the patient to the appropriate medical facilities. I am thankful I live in a country where there are dedicated individuals who unselfishly put themselves in harm's way, in order to help others. Although they may not realize it, they are actually involved in a God-ordained "ministry to the sick", and provide a visual aid to help me remember my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse from Philippians 2:13 that says, "For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his purpose." I want to say a big THANK YOU to all those health care workers who provide care to those in need! By the grace of God, I was able to make it to the summit of the mountain, and back down again, on my own two feet, and that gave me MILES OF SMILES!