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Stokes County

Zipline Canopy Tour

Open since 2007, Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tour offers a unique day of outdoor recreation sailing through the sky. It was the first zipline business to open in North Carolina. After multiple visits to Costa Rica, Robert and Joanna Nickell caught the vision for Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tour. Conception to completion was eight months of ducking vines, climbing large trees and hauling heavy cables through the forest. In 2010 Keith and Barbara Bollman brought with them their 12 children and 18 grandchildren to liven things up a bit.

Carolina Ziplines is located on a truly unique place. It was the active farm and homestead of R.J. Reynolds great-grandfather Joshua Cox (1731-1821). Joshua Cox was a trainer of the local Patriot Militia in the Revolutionary War and was instrumental in establishing freedom for North Carolina from the British. To learn more, visit https://www.carolinaziplines.com/ or call 336-972-7656 to make a reservation.

Sauratown Mountains Scenic Byway

The Sauratown Mountains Scenic Byway bends for 82 miles through the gently rolling rural landscapes that surround the ancient Sauratown Mountains. Sometimes referred to as “the mountains away from the mountains,” the Sauratowns are an isolated range with peaks that rise abruptly above the surrounding Piedmont to over 2,500 feet.

The route, which takes about two hours to drive, basically links Hanging Rock State Park with Pilot Mountain State Park. There’s another part that stretches along N.C. Highway 89 from Danbury to Bannertown in Surry County and a spur on into Mount Airy.

The Hanging Rock Scenic Byway’s southern end is in the Mount Olive community, where Highway 66 and Denny Road intersect. Driving north, you would bear right into Flat Shoals Road and then turn left on Mountain Road. After four miles, turn left on N.C. 8/89 and continue through the town. At this point you have a choice of turning left onto Hanging Rock State Park Road and continuing back to the starting point via Moores Spring Road and Highway 66. Or keep going on N.C. Highway 89 for about 25 miles to Shelton Town community east of Mount Airy in Surry County, where the byway currently ends.

Payne Road

It’s safe to say Payne Road is the only roadway in Stokes County that has its own Facebook page.

There are lots of stories and versions of stories, few based in fact. But who doesn’t get excited by a scary ghost story?

If you grew up in the southern half of Stokes County, or Rural Hall just over the county line, you know all the stories. They don’t need to be re-hashed here, but all involve murder, violence and creepy experiences. A quick Google search of “Legend of Payne Road” will give you all you care to read and more. Or visit said Facebook page.

No doubt if you were in high school in the area at some point you and your friends went for a drive to see what was what.

The first bit of factual information is that Payne Road is actually Edwards Road. There is actually a Payne Road in the area, but it’s not sure how this confusion originated. Perhaps the original Payne Road residents petitioned to change the name to deter adventure-seekers.

The only other gruesome story that is factual is that a man named Milus Frank Edwards, who owned land in a bend of Edwards road, blew himself up with a stick of dynamite in 1955. His house burned down in 1991 thanks to vandals.

The “haunted bridge” is also no more, as it was replaced by an ordinary culvert.

Trail Dome

The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail is a long-distance trail for hiking and backpacking, that traverses North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. The trail’s western endpoint is at Clingman’s Dome, where it connects to the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail stretches for 1,175 miles and is part of the State Park system.

In Stokes County it cuts right across the middle of the map, from Pinnacle in the west to Hanging Rock State Park. In the Hartman community it dips south, down through Walnut Cove and skirting the southwestern tip of Belews Lake. Mostly the trail follows the roadways of Stokes County, with a few exceptions where it is a hiking trail, from Volunteer around the Col. Jack Martin Rock House to Torys Den. Then there’s another trail loop around to N.C. Highway 66.

For more information, visit https://mountainstoseatrail.org/get-involved/become-a-member/.

Hillbilly Hideaway

When you visit the Hillbilly Hideaway Restaurant in rural Stokes County, you will be urged to relax in a rustic atmosphere as family-sized bowls of country-style food are brought to your table. You might ask for more of the crispy fried chicken, the salty country ham or the buttery hoecake and cornbread. If it is Saturday, you can mosey on down the hill to the music hall to take in some live country music from 6-9 p.m. or over to the gift antique shop to see what goodies await your purchase.

The owner, Rosanna Bray Jarvis, will typically be onsite to welcome you and make sure you enjoy the Southern hospitality her restaurant is famous for. The hospitable atmosphere has not changed since Rosanna’s parents, Sam and Louise Bray, opened the Hillbilly Hideaway in 1978. Even though Sam and Louise are gone now – she passed away in 2014 and he in 2016 – their daughter sticks to their original plan for guests. “I want them to feel like they’re coming to my house, like they’re at home, like they’re at Grandma’s,” Rosanna explains with her big smile. “They can have all they want, and we’ll keep bringing it to them.”

Located at 4375 Pine Hall Road in Walnut Cove, it is open only on weekends: Friday from 4-9 p.m., Saturday from 3-9 p.m., Sunday from 8-11 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for lunch and dinner. Reservations for groups of 15 or more are available but not required. The biggest day of their year is Mother’s Day, but Rosanna notes that on normal weekends, there is little to no wait before guests are seated.

Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock State Park’s total visitation for 2021 was a whopping 900,702, breaking the record set the year before, which was 867,911 guests. Hanging Rock “ticks all the boxes” among all the amenities that one might want a state park to offer. Constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Hanging Rock covers 9,011-acres and offers sheer cliffs and peaks of bare rock, quiet forests and cascading waterfalls, with views of the Piedmont that stretch for miles.

More than 20 miles of trails are available in the park. In addition to those that lead to Hanging Rock itself, other trails in the park lead to other peaks and rock walls with spectacular views. Two picnic areas are available for lunch before the trail or grilling afterward; there are 60 tables total. One is at the main Hanging Rock trailhead and the other is near the 12-acre lake with boathouse and swimming area. Rowboats and canoes are for rent during the summer (private boats are not allowed), plus there are 15 miles of biking trails, camping and cabins for rent. The main park website is https://www.ncparks.gov/hanging-rock-state-park/home.

Great Wagon Road

The Great Wagon Road was the main North-South artery, and was the main route of transportation from North to South into the Blue Ridge area of the Piedmont for settlers. This road is thought to have touched far southeast Patrick County in Virginia where Patrick and Henry counties come together along the North Mayo River. The Great Wagon Road came into North Carolina at Stokes County, forded the Dan River at Upper Sauratown at Walnut Cove and then continued to Wachovia in what was then Forsyth County which later became Bethabara.

You can roughly follow the path of the Great Wagon Road in modern Stokes County: in the north, Amostown Road to Sandy Ridge, then N.C. Highway 704 to Highway 772. At present-day Dodgetown, there was a fork in the path. Some wagons branched southwest here to ford the Dan River, possibly following Dodgetown Road past Dillard Road, then down Glidewell Lane to a ford and then over Bumpy Hollow Road and Stewart Road to N.C 89 to reach Meadows, Danbury, or Walnut Cove. Wagons also could follow Dodgetown Road and NC-1698 (Davis Chapel Church Road), crossing Davis ford (now a bridge) to reach Meadows, Danbury, or Walnut Cove.

It is possible that the original Moravian settlers forded the Dan River here in 1753 and then traveled south to present-day Walnut Cove, but this road doesn’t appear on the Wachovia map of 1767. On the Wachovia maps of 1770 and 1771 it runs directly from Salem to the Dan River ford here, crossing Town Creek at Walnut Cove.

Continuing south on Highway 772 to short distances on Hickory Fork Road, Willard Road, Saura Farm Road, Tuttle Road to U.S. 311 at Oldtown Road. Then Brook Cove Road to N.C. Highway 8 through Germanton to the junction with N.C. 65.

Foothills Farm Festival

A newcomer among Stokes County’s many outdoor events, the Foothills Farm Festival is held on the Knight’s farm in Lawsonville in early October and features old-time farm equipment. “The Festival is our family’s way of preserving Stoke County’s rural agriculture heritage for generations to come,” said Robert Knight. “We demonstrate local farming techniques from years ago as well as modern-day agriculture. The event allows children and adults to have a hands-on learning experience that they will never forget.”

Farm Fest Along the Sunflower Trail

Held in September, the trail starts in Francisco and meanders across the northern part of Stokes County. Marked with sunflower signs, the trail provides a look back at farm life and equipment from the “good ol’ days” as well as state-of-the-art agricultural practices, arts and crafts, baked goods, yard sales, and craft beer. It includes local businesses such as Midsummer Brewing, the Big Creek Lodge at Luna’s Trail Farm, and the Kordick Family Farm.

KingFest

Each October, King’s Central Park comes alive with its annual KingFest. The event, hosted by the King Chamber of Commerce, celebrated its 30th year in 2019. Music, food, crafts, demonstrations, animals and games line both sides of the park. KingFest offers two stages of music as well as many arts and craft vendors and kids’ activities. Music for the day ranges from local rock and bluegrass favorites to old-time gospel music. The festival also has its own traveling train, the KingFest Express.

Stokes Stomp

For more than four decades the annual Stokes Stomp Festival on the Dan has kicked off the fall in Danbury’s Moratock Park. Locals and visitors from surrounding counties flock to the event held on the banks of the Dan River to enjoy music, dance talent, local marching bands, games, crafts and food. The festival brings big crowds to the park every year and offers two stages of bluegrass and folk music. The fun kicks off with a parade through downtown Danbury and ends at the park. Organized each year by the Stokes County Arts Council, the festival also offers artisans from throughout the region a chance to display and sell their work.

Reach the Peaks

Reach the Peaks sees hundreds participate in the annual event, which is considered the premier single-day hiking challenge in the state. Reach the Peaks offers a strenuous 10 mile trail route testing participants to summit the five major peaks of Hanging Rock State Park, including Moore’s Knob, House Rock, Cook’s Wall, Wolf Rock and Hanging Rock. (There’s also a 5-mile option that summits Moore’s Knob.) Reach the Peaks has grown its participation base to expand beyond the county because of its challenge.

Soup in a Bowl

Stokes County Arts Council shows off its best attributes of culinary, visual, performance and volunteerism each November at the annual Stokes Soup in a Bowl at Hanging Rock State Park. For $25 per person, attendees choose their own handcrafted soup bowl, soup, beverage and dessert, with all proceeds benefiting the food ministries of East Stokes Outreach, King Outreach and Northern Stokes Food Pantry.

Meet Me on Main

Another King Chamber-sponsored event, Meet Me on Main is a spring Saturday celebration where the streets are closed off and vendors, kids activities and musicians take over the downtown area. “We are showcasing our membership and then also invite other vendors to come and set up as well,” King Chamber’s Cathy Loveday said. “The event also promotes the downtown businesses, many of whom stay open into the evening.” This year’s event added a 5K downtown run.

Polar Plunge

This growing event features hundreds of costume-clad thrill seekers to brave the cold waters of Hanging Rock Lake on New Year’s Day. And that group always draws a big crowd on onlookers. Arts Council Director Eddy McGee has also been a participant every year. “It’s awesome and exhilarating,” he said. “The build up to it, the anticipation was really something. When we were standing on the beach counting down I remember thinking to myself ‘I am fixing to run into this lake.’ It was great to be in the moment and then the next thing you know your feet are moving and you are running into the lake and then just.. cold. It is hard to describe.For me it was exhilarating, refreshing and cold, but something different. It was not nearly as bad as I had made it out to be.”

Stokes County Agricultural Fair

And while not technically a festival, the American Legion’s annual county fair in mid-September is certainly a big party, and remains on of the best county fairs in the region. The 2022 fair will be the 71th annual.

Parades

The parade season kicks off in September in Danbury with the annual Stokes Stomp Parade. That event winds through historic Danbury crossing the Dan River to end at Moratock Park and serves as the official kick off for the annual Stokes Stomp music festival. Then in early December King and Walnut Cove ring in the Christmas season in style with lengthy parades highlighting all of the area businesses and community organizations. Both of those parades are run by the local Masons and provide the entertainment and, for the kids, tons of candy.

Stokes Arts Council

Nestled in the small town of Danbury is a big-time art house. The Stokes Arts Council offers many of the creative amenities of larger cities in this quiet, out-of-the way rural community. The council offers a place for artists to work, show off their art through gallery shows, is home to the Three Sisters stage where plays, musicals and concerts are put on, and so much more. A quick drive to Danbury can give you an opportunity to enjoy all of this.

Roads

That might sound a little generic, but sometimes an attraction can be a simply, winding country road. Or a whole network of them. That is what you can find in Stokes County, where most of the highways and lands are narrow and winding and simply fun to drive. There are not many sections of straight roadway in Stokes County.

If you’re looking for a fun Sunday afternoon drive, or a sojourn into the country to get away from city life for a bit, then just drive the country lanes of Stokes. Along the way you’ll see the freshly plowed fields in the spring, the wet grass from summer showers, the hay bales during the harvest; ridges and mountains covered in lush green throughout spring and summer, then bursting with color in the autumn; and more. .

The Dan River

The winding Dan River offers a variety of outdoor activities to visitors of Stokes County ranging from excellent fishing to tubing, kayaking and canoeing possibilities. It winds more than 50 miles through Stokes County offering visitors and locals alike an abundance of options. “The Dan,” said professional fishing guide Kyle Hoover, “is clear and clean from one end of Stokes County to the other. You can catch fine fish anywhere.” Popular fish found in the Dan include Trout, Redbreast Sunfish, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill and Suckers.

And while the river is a paradise for fishermen seeking pristine mountain waters, it is also big draw for those hoping to just spend a lazy day floating on the water. A number of local business in Danbury offer tubing trips down the Dan providing a tube and shuttle service to return you to your car after a relaxing afternoon. Tubing season runs from late-May through Labor Day weekend. Rental of a tube and access to shuttle services cost about $10 and the average float lasts for about two hours.

For the more adventurous types a couple of businesses, like the Dan River Company, also provide kayak and canoe rentals. Rapids on the river are gentle (Class 1 and below), so you can run the shallow white water for thrills without spills.

Check the river conditions by checking both the weather forecast for Zip Code 27046 as well as the volume of flow as reported by a USGS gaging station at the Highway 704 bridge near Francisco (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?02068500).

About the author: AKDSEO

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