Imagine the words of love spoken on the open granite mountain over the centuries? One can only wonder at the vows of love taken and made at the Stone Mountain State Park over the millennia.
It's that magnificent a place.
One would also think it became a special and revered spot for the later Amerindians over time. If we go forward some more to the 18th and 19th centuries, we would find Highland Scots, Scots-Irish, German, and some English and Irish settlers coming down the Great Wagon Road to settle and farm in the area. Their lives were not an easy one in any respect for they lived by the ax and the plow and the gun.
One story told over and over in these parts is that the first pioneers, traders and trappers, being rather bereft of European ladies, often took Cherokee wives as mates; hence the large number of present white folk who often claim at least a bit of Cherokee blood coursing through their veins.
What good is life without a least a little humor?
After the Eastern band of Cherokee acquired their popular Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort, those claims of tribal blood increased considerably. Unsurprisingly, though, many Native American blood hopefuls' were found to have too little or any showing up in whatever tests were done to determine this. In addition, documentation could be scarce, and often was.
The park is some 13,747 acres, or, for the European readers and others on the metric system of Once Upon a History (nearly 56 m2) and is bordered on the west by the Thurmond Chatham Game Lands and on the north by the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.
Stone Mountain itself is not too far from the Virginia state line, and a report during a survey operation in the late 1720s or early 1730s, when the boundary between North Carolina and Virginia was being extended and marked, had to be stopped in the summer months for the profusion of large timber rattlesnakes all about! What a truly wild country it was in those long ago days, and still is, in a sense, up until our very own time.
The mountain also offers some of the best rock climbing in the state and while there I noticed quite a few loading up their gear. These rock climbers were impressive-looking types and have me beat by a mile for intense and sustained endurance, and I'll be the first to admit that fact - admiringly!
There is even a serene- looking pool of water at the bottom amid the surrounding rocks.
Although tempting, this was near the end of the 5-hour hike and no way was I going all the long way up and down those steps to see it up close and wet my aching feet in its cooling waters. Perhaps in recompense, one of the largest red-tailed hawks I'd ever seen flew by very close before soaring off to another area of the parklands.
The first thing was running into the church's landowners who were only there for a few minutes to tidy up and take down some decorations. The Garden Creek Baptist Church remained with the Brown family when the state purchased their property through eminent domain for the park. (The Brown's owned a goodly portion of its eastern parts.) Thanks to the U.S. law separating church and state, however, the family was allowed to keep their house of worship which was built in 1897 and has continued in use ever since.
The Brown's were kind enough to let me in for a look-see and some very interesting conservations and observations about the family themselves. There was the mother, her thirteen-old-son, and eight-year-old daughter present. What impressed me about the children is you could tell how they had been influenced by a respect for others and the work ethic of their fore-bearers. The family had been on or near the property for many, many, generations. And this family definitely did have some fine Cherokee blood in them.
It was a pleasure meeting them and being shown around the church and learning about the family's history.
As to the second unexpected thing happening on this trip, it came about like this: the walk to the homestead was the last thing done and on the way there, there was only one other person walking the trail along with me who turned out to be the sister of that day's forest ranger. We all had a great time talking and one thing the ranger told me was that recently for a study to see how the park's wild animals were interacting with the public, trail cams had been set up in a part of the park that sees few hikers or others. They were delighted to find animals such as bobcat, bear, coyote, deer, raccoons and other species were using the trails at night!
In conclusion this writer would like to thank all for taking this historical nature trip along with me through the majestic Stone Mountain State Park.