|Many have died from the ledge at Hanging Rock|
What drives a rational person who is normally adept at sitting behind a computer, sipping on her cheap Folgers coffee, to drive to Walmart and buy a tent then drive to some huge rock and live like a cave-woman?
Seriously, you have pre-historic mankind, which by definition, are these primitive ape creatures roaming around the world. He then evolves to ride in cars, live in homes, watch television, surf the wifi, and then one day, out of the blue, mankind says to himself, "lets relax and leave it all behind", let's go live as we did when we were dumb. Let's go be cavemen in some rock up in the mountains.
So, off to Walmart, where I buy a tent. We had to buy a tent, because our current tent, a two man Arctic Xtreme, $1200 tent I won when I worked for Verizon 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 Gwen Cooper do if she went camping? Buy a machete! So me, a 17x11 tent, and a $6.00 machete run out of 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 need food. But driving down the road leads us on a two hour adventure to Stuart, Virginia where I meet Clayton, a Lowes Food employee with about as much ambition as a slug covered in salt. He ends up breaking his register only after charging my credit card, but not before completing the transaction. I'm a bit worried 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, I attempt to start the fire when my son starts crying saying he wants to do it. I attempt to show him how, to which he protests and says "I do it my own way", begins to cry, and demands to do it without assistance. I'm now tired and head off in the woods with my machete leaving my son to figure out fire. 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 immediately. 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 my son had arranged into a skyscraper, and put some kindling and some small twigs in, light it, and 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 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 while they sleep in their sleeping bags. By flashing the light on and off I obviously scared my son enough he felt it necessary to pick up a large stick and beat me over the head thereby causing me to suffer internal cranial damage.
Eventually we went to bed.
While laying in our tent with 100 F heat, on ground so hard my back felt like it was being bent straight, Shannon ends the night, sounding like Annie, by saying "Tomorrow will be a new day, it will be better."
The Next Morning
After a morning of re-starting the fire, by which I was now given sole responsibility, and my son vomiting in the tent, then subsequently pooping in it, we decided to pack up camp and do what any normal family would do: go on a hike. We ate our eggs and bacon off the fire, jumped in our car which by now seemed like the greatest technical marvel ever 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 a fat black Labrador retriever who had lived off bacon grease for the last year. No water, and temperatures approaching 100 F, it didn't seem like a big deal when we left the trail head and the sign that said "only a short, cool, one mile hike." At least that's how I remembered the misleading signpost.
It was somewhere in here, that the dog pulled me so hard that I thrust my foot into a rock sticking out of the ground and pierced my toe. Yes bleeding and gouged by a stupid mountain with a dumb Hanging Rock, I would now continue the journey with a throbbing bleeding 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 my misery. Shannon then asks, "so is this where people were hung?" (Sounding so belittling to us rednecks, 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 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 them to sit down within arms reach, I take a moment to take it in. It's pretty, but not worth dying for, and we will die when we have to travel another 1.5 hours back to the car.
After I take in the initial beauty of it all, my mind turns to what it normally does, weird thoughts, and starts wondering 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. I'm now doing mathematical statistics to which I deduce at least one person has had to have 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.
And I'm guessing there's more. I'm guessing 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. See! Fear of heights is a survival skill!
After a long and gruesome climb back down from the Hanging 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. After breaking out the water, now hot from sitting in the sun, and starting the ignition where the air conditioning literally may have saved my life; 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, and ready to go home. We stopped at the nearest convenience store and picked up some of the coldest, most refreshing sodas our mouths have ever tasted. Too darn tired to even press the gas, I drove over to Highway-52, where I could set the cruise control and just relax. 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 Goodness.