Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jomeokee



Jomeokee is the Native American name for Pilot Mountain.  It means The Great Guide and was considered  sacred. (was not the whole earth sacred then?).  While hiking on the Ledge Spring Trail, you can see ancient stone faces of mythical proportions jutting out from the walls, adding to the mystical feeling of being transported deep into a past where ceremonies might have taken place on the summit.  For 250 years, a tribe called the Saura lived at the base of the mountain and grew vegetables, hunted and lived near the abundant, life giving Yadkin river.  (A very interesting documentary about this river, including beautiful local flavor of speech can be found here: http://yadkinriverstory.org/yadkin.html)

  Jomeokee is a monadnock (meaning an isolated rock hill that rises from a level plain) estimated to be 500 to 750 million years old.  It is made of quartzite.  Geologists theorize that it was once a beach.  From Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas, "although Pilot Mtn is 2,421' above sea level today, its cliffs originated as white beach sands on the shores of an ancient ocean. About 540Mya, the Iapetus Ocean was lapping at the shores of Laurentia, the continent that later would become N. America. Laurentia's sandy beaches were probably similar to the beaches of the Carolinas today, except they were made up of almost pure quartz grains."(p.137)

One of my favorite stories about Jomeokee is told by a park ranger who hiked with us.  He explained that during training for deployment to Iraq, a group of soldiers built a rock staircase into the side of the mountain.  I have since searched for documentation or a newspaper story on this, to no avail.


 http://www.naturallyamazing.com/americasparks/7722.jpg


My back aches just imagining it...according to the ranger, the rocks were delivered via helicopter and put in place by the sweat, muscle, teamwork and determination of the soldiers.


What I loved about the trails that circled around this monadnock were the amazing rock formations and beautiful flora.  In the spring, the walls burst with with rhododendron and mountain laurel blossoms.  There are no bears in the area because highway 52 passes nearby.  At night while camping, we could hear the flow of traffic.  This sound keeps the bears away.  So, for me, this is the PERFECT compromise between my mountaineering husband who lives for the wilderness, and me, who is often  always afraid.

On our latest adventure to this location, we decided to camp. Normally we would make a day trip of it, as it only sits one easy hour north by highway.  But the weather was nice, school was out, and this campground looked inviting! Instead of tents, we took a risk and experimented with hammock camping.  Once he set everything up, our site looked like this:



On this trip, I was reminded that regardless of logic, I always encounter a little fear every time I find myself sleeping overnight in the woods.  This new situation was ripe for facing an unexpected fear.  Sleeping in a hammock did not afford the sense of security I longed for.  Even with brave Ozzie to guard our behinds now made vulnerable to wandering skunks, possums and racoons in the night, this didn't feel as heavenly as I imagined.  The first night it rained, and I ended up on the ground in a sopping wet backpacking tent instead of in the hammock.  I slept with my phone, which was so water damaged by the morning it was completely useless.

But losing it seemed an insignificant loss compared to what I gained.  This mountain is a place of reclamation for me; a chance to confront fears and enjoy spectacular trails without being completely traumatized by my over active imagination. Besides my imagination, I am also nervous about heights, especially if I get too close to a precipice (something in me has this insane urge to jump...and I find that I must force myself to back away...)  But keeping my focus forward, I felt fine.

  At the lookout on the top of Little Pinnacle, there is a wide viewing area that one can experience from a comfortable distance, or go closer if you enjoy that feeling of being suspended in the sky.  So I decided that this sign at one trail head must be for the seriously reckless fools who run and leap with wild abandon:



Some people might say that Pilot Mountain is not for serious wilderness seekers, because it is so popular.  I love it for this reason.  I enjoy the people we encounter.  Everyone says hi or smiles on the trail.


Even the rocks smile on Jomeokee


Is this for REAL?
Hiking boots are needed. And patience to navigate through rocks.

While hiking the Ledge Spring Trail, glimpses of the plains are visible.
There are places on the summit trails that take you near the steep incline, but also plenty of room to stay near the rock walls.


Farther down the mountain, there are miles of open wooded trails leading to the Yadkin river that are not bursting with heaps of rocks or steep inclines.  A gentle day hike would take you from the ranger station to the river and back.  It is magical on this trail due to the height of the trees, and a canopy which doesn't support a lot of underbrush.  I love hiking in the open, where I can see through the woods.  Walking through dense growth is unnerving...I don't like sudden surprises.



This time I came home feeling energized and excited for the next trip, instead of blissfully grateful for a house with four walls...but I have to admit, after all that hiking, I dearly missed my bed.


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