MST16-Stone Mountain State Park
Starting with 460.2 miles, 75,850 ft. ascent
Devils Garden Overlook MP 235.7 to Stone Mountain State Park
9.9 miles, 1,500 ft. ascent (3,000 ft. descent)
We're all bundled up though we know we'll take off almost everything soon. This is where the MST leaves the Parkway. We have been following the Parkway since we left the Smokies over 300 MST miles ago, so this spot is a landmark for us. For this occasion, I saved my GPS trace for the day. Usually I only carry a GPS for mileage during the day and altitude gain.
The trail starts up, over a hill and we soon enter Stone Mountain State Park at its northwest corner. A sign warns us that the MST has been rerouted for "your safety" but it doesn't say when.
Was it this year? A decade ago? We have no idea if Scot's instructions are for the old trail or the current one. We turn left as the sign indicates and follow an old road.
We pass two blazes close together but then nothing. The road goes down, curving around Scott Ridge. I feel uneasy at the lack of blazes but we haven't passed any other trails so we have no other choice. We pass an old cabin in ruins and now we know that we're following current directions.
After five miles of down, down, down, down, we reach the backcountry parking and registration area. Two guys are organizing their gear around their truck getting ready to leave. They've been coming here for years and tell us that the reroute was done at least six years ago. Why is the park still talking about a reroute? That's just confusing.
"So what was unsafe about the old route?" I ask the guys.
One man had an old topo map which showed an old aerial tramway
"It was extremely steep," one says, "because the trail was underneath the tramway. A local man came back from World War II, saw aerial tramways in Europe, and thought he could replicate it here."
According to a website on Trailjournals.com, it was supposed to be “the world’s longest and highest gondola span.” The tram crossed 2,800 feet over the Bullhead Creek chasm- 1,052 feet in the air. People could ride from Mahogany Rock Mountain to Scott ridge for 50 cents. There was a visitor’s center, restrooms, and gift shop on Scott ridge. But that's all gone now except for a confusing sign.
We walk on the road to the Hiker Parking area, passing Widow Creek Trail and start on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, taking it counterclockwise. The MST takes us to the elaborate staircase which leads to Stone Mountain Falls.
Warning signs are everywhere, trashing the beautiful surroundings. Passing a chimney, the trail goes down to a picnic area and back to the visitor center where I had left my car.
Cumulative after Day 40, 469.1 miles, 77,350 ft. ascent