A Pilgrimage to the Summit

Isaiah 2:3

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…

 

This past weekend my husband, Jerry and I made our annual pilgrimage to the top of Stone Mountain. The mountain covers over 14,000 acres in Wilkes and Alleghany Counties in North Carolina, has a 25-mile pluton, and a 600-foot granite dome. It is really an awesome place to visit if you enjoy hiking, camping, waterfalls, nature at its richest, and a step back in time.

 

The hike up the mountain to the summit is a pretty good challenge for a couple that is fast approaching sixty-years-old. For the past twenty odd years we have joked about whether or not we’ll be able to make the climb. This year as we watched several buzzards flying over-head we were wondering if they knew something we didn’t. To be on the safe side I pulled out my cell phone to make sure I had service in case we needed to call 911.

 

All joking aside, truth is I’m not the spring chicken I once was. I used to be able to turn cartwheels, stand on my head, jog for a mile, and not worry about the 4.3 mile round trip to the top of Stone Mountain. Now I would be afraid to try those tricky twists and turns for fear of breaking a bone. I’m not saying we should just sit down and fade into the sunset, but God did give us a brain, and I think He expects us to use it. Accepting the aging process is not an easy feat. But we were born to die. Something so natural should be grasped with joy.

 

I think back to the ones who settled in the shadow of Stone Mountain. The first homesteaders were the Hutchinson family. They came to reside at the base of Stone Mountain in the 1850s. John and Sidney Jane Brown Hutchinson built a log cabin in 1855. In this tiny house John and Sidney Jane raised a family of eight children. One of these eight, John, grew up and married Matilda. One of their children was named Mary Elizabeth. She married Miles Blackburn and to them was born seven children, one of which was my husband’s grandmother,rsz_stone_mt_viewrsz_stone_mtnrsz_jerry_stone_mtn Pearl Eva Blackburn Byrd, (September 5, 1896 – May 25, 2000.) Yes, you did the math right she was almost 104 years old when she died. That’s a lot of sunsets.

 

As a young boy in the 1950s, before the Hutchinson homestead was deserted, Jerry can remember traveling up the back side of the mountain in a jeep to visit his cousins. He was very young so that’s about the only memory he has of the mountain when his ancestors still resided there.

 

After many years the cousins either moved down from the mountain or died out. In 1969 in order to preserve the heritage of a time long passed the state of North Carolina purchased the Hutchinson property and several hundred acres of land to establish Stone Mountain State Park. Descendents of John and Sidney Jane, Jim and Ruth Hutchinson were provided a lifetime right option to the Hutchinson Homestead.

 

Almost thirty years passed before funding was available to restore the homestead. Restoration of the property began in 1997. Over a period of two years, the cabin was totally reconstructed and the outbuildings were refurbished or replaced, road and accessibility improvements were made, artifacts were collected for display, and educational exhibits were developed to depict life on a North Carolina mountain homestead in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

 

My husband’s Grandmother Pearl, and his Uncle Ken’s voice were used on some of the educational exhibits. If you visit the living room exhibit inside the house Pearl will tell you about plucking feathers from the ducks in the spring to stuff their pillows. In front of the barn Uncle Ken will tell how the oxen and mules were used to till the land. All around the homestead you can listen to voices resounding memories of the past.

 

So when I say my husband and I make an annual pilgrimage to Stone Mountain its not just to test our stamina. It’s to visit the past, to trod where great-great-grandparents once walked the land. To gaze up at the massive hunk of stone and wonder how a family came to live at the base of such a proud and majestic mountain? And, to also wonder how they could have ever left?

 

To learn more about Stone Mountain State Park visit their website at: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/stmo/main.php

 

 

 

 

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