I spent the weekend in Winston-Salem in North Carolina. As part of the visit I had a chance to do a nice little hike (about 3.1 miles) around Pilot Mountain just a bit north of the city.
And other people in the park had a chance to see two barefoot hikers.
Pilot Mountain is always interesting to see, but I’d never been there before. As you head from Virginia to North Caroline along Interstate 77, descending down the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can always see it off in the distance, a lone peak sticking up in the Piedmont. You get right up and personal, though, if instead of heading south you go more east towards Winston-Salem.
Here’s the view of it heading back north from Winston-Salem.
That’s what’s called a quartzite monadnock. It was formed as a beach about 600 million years ago and then underwent metamorphasis (so it’s a metamorphic rock; high-school geology comes to the fore!) as the Iapetus Ocean opened up (this was a previous continental plate event to the present Atlantic opening up). The sandstone thus converted to the much harder and sharper quartzite.
It was called by the native Saura Indians “Jomeokee”, meaning “Great Guide”, which I guess could be a pilot. Interestingly, the city of Mt. Airy, just a bit north of it, is a contraction of another name that was used for Pilot Mountain: Mt. Ararat (where the Bible has Noah’s ark coming to rest when the water receded).
The whole mountain rises about 1400 feet above the surrounding terrain.
For the hike, we drove to the parking lot of the State Park near the top (lazy-bones!) and hiked around up there.
If you look at the picture (above) again, you can see the Big Pinnacle, with the Little Pinnacle to the left, which is the end point of a whole ridge of quartzite. In this picture (looking more-or-less to the northeast), you can see the Big Pinnacle while standing on the Little Pinnacle overlook.
[All these pictures were taken by my nephew on his smartphone, which explains why I am in a lot of the pictures. This particular shot used a "sweep" feature on the phone to get the panorama. Click to get a larger version of this one.]
Here I am again, this time with the short looking northwest so that the Blue Ridge Mountains (or are they called the Smokies at this point?) are in the background.
Here’s my nephew standing near a very small recess cave.
Being quartzite, and much harder than sandstone, the rock weathers quite a bit differently than sandstone. You really don’t get much in the way of recess caves, and the weathered rock is much sharper, as you can see in this picture.
It’s not as easy for water to get in and erode it.
Here I am just sitting in a small recess around the base of the Big Pinnacle.
Pilot Mountain is a mecca for rock-climbing. After circling the Big Pinnacle (you are not allowed to climb it) we took the Ledges trail along the south side of the ridge that leads to the Pinnacles. And there were rock-climbers galore. The State Park has something like 13 routes (with embedded pitons). It was a beautiful day, with the temperature up around 55° and if you were a rock-climber wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that in the middle of winter?
Here’s one climber.
I bet you that could be done barefoot.
It took us a long time to hike this portion of the trail because we kept stopping to admire the climbers.
Along the way I kept getting asked about my hiking barefoot, and I gave my standard explanations (you’ve seen them before). Folks were really interested.
And then, with about a mile to go, my nephew decided to try it too.
Now, the trail wasn’t the best introduction to barefoot hiking—it had been “improved”. I can’t really blame them. It was obvious that it got a lot of use and needed some sort of enhancement to keep from getting eroded away from all the traffic. Fortunately, the gravel that they used was fairly small stuff, more like gritty sand. You felt it, but not too badly.
Anyways, he joined me in hiking barefoot for the last mile (which generated even more questions from other hikers) and seemed to enjoy it. He lives in Texas and even the “cold” temperature of the ground didn’t bother him. (Showing once again, then when you are actually using your feet they don’t get cold easily.)
After the hike we went to a place for lunch, called Mary’s Gourmet Diner, in downtown Winston-Salem. It was an interesting sort of place, and sort of hard to describe. A bit hip and trendy, artsy, interesting art on the walls, and very nice. (The food was good, too.)
I have to say I kind of snuck in, not wanting to draw attention to my bare feet (because you never know). I was somewhat encouraged by one of the art paintings on the wall.
It was part of a series of pictures of women all wearing such animal masks. In the rest of the picture they were shod, but hey, at least they had that one.
On the way out, though, the owner (partner), Mary’s daughter Shama, did notice my bare feet and didn’t seem overly happy. She just remarked that it was good they hadn’t noticed me before.
But I told her I always went barefoot, and she asked, “What about the rules?” I responded by saying there weren’t any health codes, and then she asked, “what about liability?” My response wasn’t the best, but I did say it was the same as for a woman coming in in high heels. But we did have an interesting conversation, and she did think it was really pretty cool, and shook my hand. So, I don’t know if I might have also gained a convert (or at least a sympathizer) there, too.