I had some exploring at Hanging Rock State Park in mind — the goal was to park at a remote trailhead and trek over to the Moore’s Wall Loop, which has an excellent view of Hanging Rock from the next hill over. Never got there; never came close. Well, I was within the park boundaries; except when I wasn’t.

Wrong turn on the Sauratown Loop Trail

I started out at the Tory’s Den trailhead, where my last hike here ended a couple weeks back, glanced at the big map on the signboard and figured the trail markers would do the rest. It was a glorious morning to be hiking, and glorious woods to be walking in: dashes of fall color, empty trails, nothing but breezes, bird songs and one noisy squirrel blasting his way from tree to tree.

Perfect conditions to send a hiker way, way in the wrong direction if he misses his left turn at Mile .3. I was three miles deep into the forest before it occurred to me to consult the map for my next turn. I walked on a bit more and thought this’d be a great time to try some GPS navigation for the first time. First thing I notice: I’m due southing when I want to be southeasting. Then I pan out on the view of my GPS track, compare it to my map and realize: crap, I’m totally on the Sauratown Loop Trail; if I stick to my original plan it’s a good five miles to the bottom of Moore’s Wall and another four miles after that, then four miles back to the car. Talk about a bliss kill.

Because I’m not Fedak, I do not glory at the prospect of an extra five miles with a thousand feet of climb, so I formulate a new plan: follow the orange blazes, hope my GPS batteries last and pray that I haven’t actually strayed onto the main Sauratown Trail — which connects Hanging Rock to Pilot Mountain State Park and goes even further out of my way.

I had to sweat a mile and a half of fretting over the worst-case scenario — that I was truly, deeply lost — vs. the merely annoying scenario, that of retracing all my steps if the right trail didn’t show up soon.

The trail did turn up, and from there it was about a mile and half of easy walking back to the car. I’m actually thankful for the wrong turn now, because it gave me a story to tell. The Sauratown Loop is about six miles with lots of up-and-down. It’s a fine walk (provided you dodge the horse poop — it’s a shared trail) that’s long on solitude but short on visual splendor.

I took a few pictures, but knock-your-socks-off photo-ops weren’t happening.

Nice woods

See, it’s an Eastern deciduous forest in early October — about what you’d expect this far south.

Broke-off tree stump

I did like the way my flash lit up this stump.

Wacky decaying tree

Not sure what was holding this termite-bitten tree vertical. Looks like horses and deer had scratched off about half of it.

Bit of a view

One little vista, the only one on the route.

It's this way

I love the way these signs always seem to be pointing in the only available direction.

Sauratown Loop

Another sign on the trees.

Fall colors coming in

See, it is a pretty trail. Quite a bit of climbing in some places; my GPS tracked over 1000 feet of ascent over the course of six miles.

Not me!

I think the Blair Witch put this sign up.

Trail junction

Finally, the trail sign I was looking for, revealing I had walked an extra three miles to reach this point. I head back, scouting for my missed turn.

Key trail sign

Here it is: the sign assumes all the hikers and equestrians will be coming from the opposite direction. I walked right past it, missed my left turn and barreled on into oblivion. But it was good kind of oblivion.

Related links:

  1. EveryTrail trip and GPS tracks. | ET Destination page
  2. Waterfalls of Hanging Rock.
  3. My first Hanging Rock hike.
  4. Hanging Rock State Park’s official web page.
  5. Trail map (PDF download).

Google map of the trailhead.

View Tory’s Den Trail Head, Hanging Rock State Park in a larger map