At times it was not so much a hike as a parade along the stony trails of Hanging Rock State Park Saturday.
In only its second year, the park’s Reach the Peaks event drew more than 400 registered hikers who accepted the challenge to crest five named peaks on an 11-mile trek. The event was successful beyond the expectations of the Stokes County Arts Council and the Friends of Sauratown Mountains, the primary sponsors.
“The 5k’s and color/mud runs and these types of events are really trending right now, and I can see why,” said Park Superintendent Robin Riddlebarger. “Long distance marathons and triathlons are not for everybody. But an event such as this, which involves the great outdoors, is appropriate for an average person’s fitness level and is a wholesome family atmosphere.”
Stunning September weather, free music and lunch for registered hikers also added appeal. While some hikers strode at record pace across the route – and some ran – the majority went at a more leisurely pace and took a few moments to enjoy the scenery at Moore’s Knob, Cook’s Wall, House Rock, Wolf Rock and Hanging Rock.
Volunteers at each of the peaks marked entry cards with arrival times. At mid-day, enough space to rest tired legs was at a premium at the end point, Hanging Rock’s rough ledges, and the namesake peak retained a festive atmosphere for hours.
Riddlebarger said area business sponsors are being attracted to the event, and the long-term effect should benefit the community.
“It’s good for the park because it gets more people here to see what awesome facilities and scenery we have that they may not have visited before. It’s good for the community because the visitors will see what the Stokes County Arts Council does and what the Friends of Sauratown Mountins do,” she said. “The event brings people to Stokes County where they can see the beauty and spend some time and money here, boosting our economy and future tourism.”