Shining rock, North Carolina.
We through our bags over our shoulders, not quite sure to expect. The trail head stood before, tall and long on the mountain top. Clouds were rolling over, taunting, teasing, threatening us with an impending thunderstorm. The maps were vague, and the mileage varied depending on what source you were referencing. I knew the destination was north, and that was all I needed.
There were eight others, nine considering myself. I curiously eyed the others, inspecting their gear and judging their readiness silently. Some of us were experienced, but for the most part only beginners. That just ensures the trip will be interesting.
We hit the trail, enthusiastic and full of energy. Somewhere between 3 and 20 miles was our destination, Shining Rock.
We cut through the trail, winding through trenches and cutting through the forest. Tall steps and boulders lined the path. As we climbed, the trees descended and were were then exposed to the wilderness. The weather was great, despite the predicted thunderstorms for the evening. The vegeta tion ranged from burly, wind torn trees on the lower elevations to stout, durable laurel on the higher sides. The clouds rolled on by at eye level as we kissed the summits, one at a time crossing the ridges.
Several miles in, we passed a small group who said our destination was near. Only ten minutes away! The sun was young, and the energy was high. We continued along the past enthusiastically. Several miles later…the destination was no where in sight. I consulted my map. My compass ensured us we were on the right path, however something like shining rock…you would think we could see it.
The clouds darkened, but the sun continued to shine. Eventually we came across a patch of trees, excellent. A little shelter from the storms that were obviously rolling our way would be wide, and the group was growing tired from the constant hill climbs. With a few hours of sunlight left, we decided to set up camp in the small isolated jungle. We pitched our tents, had some snacks and made a hard decision.
We weren’t sure how far the final destination was, or if we could even get there before night fall. Half of us would stay at camp, and half of us would move on for shining rock. I would lead the first group out, and with any luck we would be back in time for the second group to head out and see the view from the top. With camp set, we could drop our gear and move much faster across the tall, rugged terrain.
A few hours later, we still hadn’t reached shining rock. The sun we nearing a sunset, but thankfully I had advised the small group to bring headlamps. As the sun slumped at an angle, and that’s when I saw it. In the far distance, a bright, glistening, massive rock formation leaping from the peak of the mountain. It was shining rock! A few more miles and we were there.
The final climb drove us back into the tree cover, relieving us from the ever present sun. The ascent began to hint at was was to come. Small, shimmery chunks of quarts began to pepper the landscape. A small chunk here, a sharp shard there. It was driving us crazy. The excitement built, and built as we neared the top. Through the trees, you could tell something we coming into view. Tall walls of solid white began peeking around the green leafy trees. Every step higher in the mountain revealed a little more, until finally, in front of us rested the wildest formation I have ever found.
A massive, 2 story glacier like boulder of pure, angel white quarts stood proudly in the middle of the forest! It was amazing. The sun lit the glassy surfaces and lightly reflected through the trees. As we began to climb the massive rock, it began to feel like we were in the arctic. The snow colored stone looked as if it was a massive ice berg, stagnant in the forgotten forest of the wild. The view from the top was mesmerizing, proudly overlooking the mountains. The sun still held a few shafts of light on the mountains, creeping from one ridge to the next as the wind moved around us. Despite the beautiful view, the sun was setting, and the looming storm was finally nearing. Rain speckled our hair. It was time to get off this peak.
To be continued.