The Stone Mountain sweet spot

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

There’s this little Sweet Spot along Stone Mountain Creek in the state park that I like as a getaway. My canvass folding chair wedges snugly between two rocks and locks me in face-to-face with the water and its soothing gurgles while turning my back to the parking pulloff, the car, the road and the rest of the world.

I especially like to find a warm, early spring day to escape to the Sweet Spot and spend a quiet Sabbath morning in communion with the Lord.

Alas, spring’s gone and I haven’t made it to my Stone Mountain Sweet Spot at all this year. Where has the time gone? And the immediate future’s not looking too good for an escape, either.

My bad. What a shame. And I’m separated from and longing for my Sweet Spot at a very opportune time.

For North Carolina is observing this year the centennial of its state park system. On March 3, 1916, the state bought 795 acres at Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern U.S., for its first park.

Coincidentally, the U.S. is celebrating the centennial of its National Park Service this year as well.

North Carolina is celebrating with an event in each of its 41 parks. You didn’t know there were that many, did you? I didn’t.

Pilot Mountain State Park in eastern Surry County will hold the biggest centennial celebration in our area on Saturday, June 4. The day-long event will include a fishing derby, guided hike, music performances and star-gazing in the parking lot after sunset.

Two weeks later Hanging Rock Park over in Stokes County is recruiting 100 junior rangers for a nature program for kids complete with a junior ranger swearing-in ceremony at the end. Stone Mountain Park near Traphill will dedicate its annual Old Fashion Day on Sept. 10 to the centennial.

So I sat back and thought and counted 12 state parks that I have visited over my many years. Only 12. That means I’ve missed out on 29. And I feel bad about it.

But I felt a bit better when I also remembered excursions to Virginia and biking in New River Trail State Park near Galax, walking a bit of the Appalachian Trail at Grayson Highlands Park on the way to Damascus and taking in an arts and crafts festival at Hungry Mother Park outside of Marion where I bought my faux-antique “Come sit on my porch” sign that hangs over my porch today.

And I’ve let the ocean sing me to sleep at the four beachfront state parks in South Carolina.

Not long ago I tolerated a rant on one of the big, national talk-radio shows that claimed that our parks were just the first step toward an authoritarian takeover of the U.S. Oh, come on.

No, forget the conspiracy theories and the selfish oppositions to the parks over the years. There are just some places that are too precious not to share. So we wisely created parks so God’s natural gifts can just be enjoyed by everyone.

Public TV filmmaker Ken Burns called the parks “America’s Best Idea.” In January, UNC-TV called the state parks “Saving The Best.”

For instance, anybody should be able to climb onto the top of Stone Mountain on the Wilkes-Alleghany County line and take in the magnificence.

If not for the creation of the park in 1969, I never would have found my Sweet Spot.

I’m delighted with the news that Elkin’s greatest natural wonder, Carter Falls, on Big Elkin Creek, soon will be available to anyone who has walking shoes and 10 minutes to spare. They’re planning a walking trail off Pleasant Ridge Road, thanks to a cooperative land owner. My thanks to all involved.

Not everybody loves the outdoors but most can find somewhere their own outdoors sweet spot, a place to get away, a second or third or fourth home, whether it be at the Elkin Park playground while watching the kids or at Stone Mountain taking a heart-pumping trek across the top. (The last time I tried, I didn’t make it across.)

It’s time for a lot of people, including me, to get off the duff and spend a little time outdoors. And this centennial summer season is just the time to do it.

Sweet Spot, I’m coming to ya.


Memorial Day: Remember to honor our fallen heroes today.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

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