My wife, Sara, and I had a 48-hour pass over the weekend. No kids. No pressing responsibilities. Our teenage sons went on a two-night ski trip with their youth group, leaving us with a quiet house, a surplus of food and hot water, and an opportunity to do some things the boys usually complain about: hiking and visiting quaint small towns.
The challenge in North Carolina is not finding a good place to hike. We have plenty of those. It’s deciding which trail to take. In January, you can narrow it down based on the temperature. With highs in the teens and 20s up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we opted for a more reasonable climate.
One of our favorite places to commune with the outdoors is Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County, not far from the Virginia state line. It’s less than two hours by car from uptown Charlotte and offers a variety of trails, from easy to strenuous, as well as rock climbing, tent camping, cabins, fishing, and swimming. You could easily fill a week there in the summer.
Once you arrive at Hanging Rock, you have some decisions to make. Do you want to see waterfalls? Are you looking for the best views? How long do you want to hike and how hard do you want to work? A very kind and helpful woman in the Visitor Center broke it all down for us on the trail map and Sara and I decided we wanted to reach the highest point in the park: Moore’s Knob. It’s also the highest point in all of Stokes County, so we can check that off our bucket list.
The Moore’s Wall Loop Trail, which took us to the observation tower atop Moore’s Knob, is a 4.7-mile glute-burner. Sara and I had layered up for the chilly day but soon had to remove our hats, gloves, and jackets. Luckily, we remembered to bring water. The sweating was worth it, though. The vistas from Moore’s Knob were perfect on Saturday. We had clear views of the mountains in southern Virginia, downtown Winston-Salem, and distinctive Pilot Mountain, which is another good day trip destination.
After returning to the parking lot and knocking the mud off of our boots, my brilliant wife proclaimed that we had “earned our pie” and suggested we head to Mt. Airy where she knew of a good bakery. Rarely one to argue with my wife, at least not about pie, I pointed our car west toward Andy Griffith’s hometown and Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies.
Located on Main Street, on the same block and Mt. Airy/Mayberry’s iconic Snappy Lunch (Home of the World Famous Pork Chop Sandwich) and Floyd’s City Barber Shop, Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies is a riot of colorful kitsch. The shop is full of clues that fun is the main ingredient in everything they do at Miss Angel’s. I should clarify that Miss Angel actually has two shops divided by a wall. The Heavenly Pies are on one side, the Hillbilly Creamery and Gluten-Free Bakery on the other. The wall is there to prevent cross-contamination.
Once again, we had decisions to make. Large pies, small pies, savory pies, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, muffins, fresh bread, mooshine ice cream. Like the lure of the Siren’s song, a large cherry crumb pie called to me the moment I walked in the door. And it was delicious, with the prefect tart-to-sweet ratio in the cherries. But the term “crumb” is an understatement. They aren’t much smaller than some of the boulders we saw at Hanging Rock State Park.
By the time we left the Miss Angel’s with a bag full of treats, it was 6:30 PM. We needed to get back to Charlotte and our dogs. Sara and I will have to return to Mt. Airy and explore the town another time. I’m curious about the Andy Griffith-related attractions and some of the historic buildings, namely the Earle Theater. Shoot, I might even get my ears lowered at Floyd’s.