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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Smarty Day Trip Series: Hebron Rock Colony

By Rachel H

You know how you always have that one particular day that stands out as a perfect day with your family? Well, our day trip to Hebron Rock Colony was that kind of day. We escaped from everything for that day and it was simply wonderful. You definitely, definitely, need to do this. I recommend it for families with kids ages 4 and up.

The Rock Colony is not marked, and I am sure the name was just made up by Appalachian State students way back in the day. But most ASU grads that you ask will know about this place located near Boone. It is one of the most beautiful, serene spots around, and my children loved it. We can make it to this spot in about 1 hour 20 minutes from Winston, so the trip would be up to 30 minutes longer from other Triad areas. We left home at 10am and were back in W-S in time for dinner. I will include specific directions at the end of this blog, but for now, let me tell you all about the fun!

Once you arrive at the hairpin turn in the middle of nowhere, you will look for the trailhead on the right. This is where the kids will be so excited, that they will more than likely take off running ahead! Beware that the trail runs downhill and is full of rocks and roots, so explain to the kids that they need to be careful, and don’t let them fly down the trail!

Enjoy this path through the woods, cross over a creek, and then climb along the hillside which follows next to the water. This can get very tricky. You’ll keep going until you see the rocks start piling up more and more in the water. There will be a couple of spots that might lead you to think that the trail ends, but it continues on snaking along the side of the creek. The simplest way to figure out where the trail ends is when you can visualize the path on a series of adjacent rocks. If the rocks seem too far apart to navigate without getting in the water, you are probably off the trail. At first you will see a normal creek bed that isn’t anything special, but as you keep ascending, you will see the majestic aura of the place.Rocks the size of minivans and larger are waiting patiently for you to walk across their backs. You can stop at any time to picnic, rest, or just chill out on a rock. It is totally normal to sit and wonder how on God’s good green earth did all of the rocks get into one place hidden in the woods and why am I fortunate enough to being sitting here in the middle of it with my kids.

I am serious about this being difficult for anyone under 4. Miss Grace herself who is writing this blog even twisted my ankle while trying to jump across from one rock to another! As you can imagine, my husband and kids enjoyed laughing at me for that one. There were many rocks that my husband actually had to push me up on or help me jump across. The kids were pretty easy because we could just swing them from one rock to another. If you are going alone with your kids, you would definitely not be able to help them quite as easily. I might as well put in a little disclaimer for myself here and say that if anyone in your group happens to get hurt, this is at your own risk! If you have a little fireball kid that wants to take off and run, explain the ground rules first. My husband did a great job teaching my kids that if a rock is under the water, or a darker shade of gray, it is usually very dangerous and slippery. He told them that if you are going to make a daring jump, make sure you plan your fall to the side that has the shortest distance to the ground/rock below it. This rule applies to the adults as well. There will be times were you can choose to walk over the right side of a rock, have a tricky jump, but if you fall it is only a few feet, whereas if you go to the other side of the rock for an easier maneuver, it is a ten foot fall. This is the part that makes it fun. How can this be fun you say? Look at the pictures.

The true beauty of this place is the fact that you can make this experience as challenging or as easy as you care, there are always multiple ways of ascending the rocks. It is your choice. You can climb all the way to the top and find a wading pool there, as pictured. If you keep going back into the woods, you will find even more clearings and areas to wade in the water. The kids loved exploring, jumping, swimming, and people watching. As you can see here, the college kids in the waterfall below us were not a very good influence on my daredevil son. Lord help me if he turns out as fearless as his dad.

Stay as long as you like, but I recommend carrying as little as possible. Your hands will be best utilized by helping your family and maintaining your balance instead of carrying something. If you want to picnic, keep it all in a backpack. My husband has a CamelBak for water and it was perfect for a hiking adventure such as this one and we stuffed little snacks in the bag as well.

After we enjoyed our outing at Hebron we stopped at the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis for some old-fashioned candy and coca-cola. This is very easy to find on your way out. As you pass back by the traffic light for Valle Crucis, you’ll simply turn here and follow the signs.

Boone, Blowing Rock, and the surrounding areas, have so much more to offer, so if you decide to stay a little longer, I always recommend walking around the campus of ASU, or dining at Macados or Boone Bagelry on King Street. For a long weekend, I suggest, Tweetsie, Mystery Hill, Gem Mining, Price Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Howard’s Knob lookout, the main street in Blowing Rock, or the outlets in Blowing Rock. Stay tuned, because we will cover more of these places in future day trip articles.

Below are your directions for a blissful day at Hebron Rock Colony. I may have made it sound a little more challenging than it actually is since I am not athletically inclined, but I wanted to give you a head’s up on the difficulty of climbing. If you decide to go, please comment on this post and let us know if you liked it! I am sure you will, and your children will be applying to ASU before you know it.

Boone is a straight shot up Highway 421. Once you get into Boone, you’ll get to a traffic light that has a sign for Blowing Rock, Hwy 221, 421, 105. You will take a left here and continue on Hwy 105. You’ll pass over highway 321 and continue for about 10 minutes until you see the stoplight and a sign for Valle Crucis. You will continue straight through this stoplight and travel just a short distance until you see signs for Hound Ears Club on your left. You will veer left immediately after the Hound Ears Club sign onto Old Shulls Mill Road. This road runs parallel to a creek on your left and you will see people picnicking on rocks, fishing, etc. You can stop here if you want, but I like to keep on going to the real thing! (And it is technically trespassing, but rarely enforced.)

So you’ll follow this road and take another left onto Shulls Mill Road toward Hound Ears Club. You will take your first right onto Old Turnpike Road. Note your odometer mileage here. (You’ll pass Hebron Chapel Ministries, Woodbridge sign, etc.) This is the point when you will say, “This can’t be right. Where is she taking us? Shouldn’t this road be paved?” But have faith. You will follow this windy gravel road all the way up the mountain for exactly 1.4 miles. At the 1.4 mile mark you should be at a hairpin turn and this is where you will park. You will almost always see other cars parked along the side of the road at this point. Look for the break in the trees and the walkway shown in the picture below. Here is where the adventure begins! Have fun!


K.D. said...

This seems WONDERFUL! I knew I should have gone to school in the mountains!

Emily Halsey said...

I love this blog! I had great times at Hebron Rock Colony during my ASU years, but would not have remembered exactly how to get there for anything. Thanks Rach!

Jayna P. said...

Thank you for a "trip" down memory lane. The Rock Colony is an awesome place!! I can't wait until my youngest is old enough for our family to take a day trip. Wonderful post Rachel!

Amy Beveridge said...

Thanks Rachel! I'm so excited to have the directions again, and I'm thrilled to know it's still a secret treasure that is unmarked up in the mountains. I'm hoping to get up there before school starts.

Beth said...

We always want to take a trip to the mountains, but never quite know where to go once we arrive. Thanks for this great idea. My children will really enjoy this.

Maythi said...

This looks great! Definitely will have to wait until my fearless, wild thing gets old enough though! Thanks for all the heads up - otherwise, I would have carted everyone up there for what would have probably been a big disaster!! We'll be ready in a few more years. It looks beautiful!

Elizabeth said...

You may have just answered my question about what to do Thursday and Friday! What an AWESOME adventure you found!!!!

Anonymous said...

Just returned from our trip to the Rock Colony, and did actually think "how on God's Green Earth did all these rocks get here." Very beautiful and well worth the trip. This nervous Mom, however, did worry the whole time about her 12, 10, and 6 year old children jumping from rock to rock. But they loved it and did great. (and Mom only added a few more gray hairs)

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