What's New at Chimney Rock Park
She Said Yes! Couple Engaged at Chimney Rock with Help from Staff & Guests

Ashley Traynor never saw it coming. When the preschool teacher and her boyfriend Chase Crawford planned a weekend getaway to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock the weekend of January 16, she thought it was to make up for the trip they’d had to cancel last October. “We’d planned to come on the anniversary we’d begun dating, but it rained that weekend, so I thought this was just a reschedule,” said Ashley. But Chase had more than a raincheck in mind; he was planning to propose.

Chase and Ashley met in 2010, when they were teenagers working at a skating rink. After some “pretty serious flirting,” the couple went on their first date to Sonic, where they shared their first kiss over mozzarella sticks and milkshakes. They moved on to different jobs and different colleges, but they never broke up. “We had an instant connection that we’ve never lost,” says Ashley.

The couple settled in Raleigh, and after six years of dating, Chase decided it was time to make things official. The weekend before their trip, he told Ashley he needed to help his father with a construction job. But Chase and his parents instead came to Chimney Rock, where they scouted the area for the perfect place for Chase to pop the question. “We both love the outdoors, especially waterfalls,” says Ashley. “So Chimney Rock was the perfect place.” Hoping to capture the special moment on camera, Chase was desperately hunting for a local photographer that day, too. Luckily, he and his mother stopped by the Old Rock Café for some coffee and happened to mention their dilemma to manager Talia Davis. And it just so happened that Talia is a part-time professional photographer.

With all the logistics set, Chase returned home and waited. The weekend of January 16, he and Ashley set out for Lake Lure – but nothing seemed to go as planned. Rain poured from the sky on Friday, the day he was going to propose, so he decided to wait until Saturday. Talia was scheduled to work at the Old Rock on Saturday, so she arranged for her partner, Jennifer, to be at the Park that afternoon. But Saturday morning, the couple got an earlier start than Chase had anticipated, and he had to secretly text Jennifer to ask her to be in the Park much earlier. When the couple arrived at the Park, they learned that Exclamation Point, the site of the proposal Chase had chosen, was closed due to icy conditions. With some surreptitious texting, Chase coordinated a new meeting place with Jennifer – the top of Chimney Rock. The couple hiked to the top of the Rock, where Jennifer waited, pretending to take photos of the view. Chase surreptitiously asked a guest if she’d film the moment on his tablet. And finally, Chase was able to get down on one knee and propose.

“I was so surprised!” says Ashley. “I had no idea the whole time!” Jennifer continued snapping photos of the happy couple, and now they have beautiful memories to share of their once-in-a- lifetime moment.

Ashley and Chase plan to marry in the spring of 2017 – and they’re also looking forward to returning to Chimney Rock often. “We’ve always chosen a different place to vacation every year, but Chimney Rock is such a beautiful escape from the bustle of everyday life and spend quality time together, that we want to return every year,” says Ashley. “And of course, we now have happy memories of our engagement here, too.”

Congratulations to Chase and Ashley! If you have a special story you’d like to share about your time at Chimney Rock, please contact Shannon at prandevents@chimneyrockpark.com.


Taking It One Step at a Time: U.S. Wheelchair Athlete Masters the Outcroppings trail

Mia Ives-Rublee doesn’t seem to know the word “can’t.” At 31 years old, she has acquired a list of accomplishments that many people don’t achieve in a lifetime. A research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine with a Master’s degree in social work, Mia is also a gifted athlete and artist. She began qualifying for Junior Wheelchair Nationals in track and field in middle school, breaking numerous records. In high school, she continued her success in track and field and in 2003 was accepted to the University of Illinois on an athletic scholarship, where she earned student athlete awards every season.

Mia was born in South Korea with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a congenital collagen defect that causes bones in the body to break easily. Her first sentence, “I do it myself,” would essentially summarize her life mantra.

Once Mia sets her mind to something, there doesn’t seem to be much that can stop her. “It was my goal to participate Athens Paralympics in 2004, but pneumonia and a car accident that year prevented me from going,” she says. “I obtained B standard times and just missed getting on the US team.” Undaunted, Mia continued to compete in track and field, but had to stop after a severe fall fractured her leg. The fracture led to a non-union, which required numerous operations. Unable to sit properly in a racing wheelchair, she turned to Wheelchair Fencing to stay active. She has competed at numerous North American and World Cups. In 2013, she was invited by the US Wheelchair Fencing team to compete at the World Championships in Budapest.

All her life, Mia has overcome what most folks would consider insurmountable challenges. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that when she visited Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park with her friend Janine Healey last October, learned that the elevator was out of service and that the only way to reach the top of Chimney Rock was by climbing 499 steps, she decided that’s just what she’d do. “I came to Chimney Rock to get some fall photos. I knew I was going to get a great perspective from the top of the Rock,” says Mia. “And I just decided to go as far as I could.”

With her service dog Arianne and Janine by her side, Mia began to ascend the Park’s Outcroppings trail by crawling on her hands and knees, using the staircase railing to pull herself up. After climbing for about an hour, Mia reached the top of Chimney Rock, where she sat and gazed on the views while catching her breath. “You don’t get to see that kind of view often in the world,” she remarks. “It was worth it!”

Mia’s advice to people who are daunted by all those steps? “If you focus on the difficulty, you’ll defeat yourself. But if you take it one step at time, it’s not too bad. There are landings along the way where you can take breaks. Just focus on your end goal, and you can do it. And having friend along with you helps!”

Follow Mia on Facebook at Mia Ives-Rublee, US Wheelchair Athlete. See more of her photography, including her shots atop Chimney Rock, at www.dogstarprint.com.


New Blue Ridge Heritage Trail Sign Installed

A new interpretive wayside sign greets visitors to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and is one of 69 such signs being installed on the new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail. The Trail is a collection of special places throughout the North Carolina mountains and foothills that embody the remarkable history and culture of the region and is an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership (BRNHA).

At each location, the sign tells the stories of the people and places that have shaped the distinctive heritage of the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina. The Chimney Rock sign tells the story of how Dr. Lucius Morse, captivated by the beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge and intrigued by Chimney Rock during his first visit to the area in 1900, subsequently purchased Chimney Rock in 1902, and how he and his two brothers Hiram and Asahel committed their lives to making this area accessible to the world while preserving its natural beauty. The Morse family’s dedication continued for over 100 years and resulted in the sale of the Park to the State of North Carolina in 2007, which ensured that their stewardship would forever be continued.

In addition to the signs, the Trail will be enhanced with the installation of interactive kiosks in five NC Welcome Centers that greet visitors to the region, plus a map brochure and website to help them get around the region and learn more about each site.

This initiative is designed to attract and inform visitors, students, and residents alike about the many natural and cultural heritage attractions in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The goal is to encourage people to discover places they may not know about. It is not a “Point A to Point B” trail, but rather many stops throughout the region. People can enjoy a single stop or piece together several sites by theme, town, region or activity to create their own personalized “trail.” QR codes on each sign will enable people with smart phones to locate other nearby sites.

The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a project of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and was supported by Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement funding administered through the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Haywood County, NC.


Chimney Rock Awarded EENC 2015 Outstanding Partner

Chimney Rock Management, LLC at Chimney Rock State Park is the 2015 Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) Outstanding Partner. The Outstanding Partner Award is given annually to an individual, organization, or business who supports EENC and helps make environmental education possible in North Carolina.

Each year the EENC publically recognizes environmental educators, EENC members, organizations and partners for their valuable contributions to environmental literacy, the field of environmental education, the EENC as an organization and the environmental well-being of North Carolina.

Chimney Rock Management hosted the first Western Section Mini- conference on February 6, 2015. The conference was a big success, bringing well over 100 educators together for a day of professional development and networking at a very low cost. The Mini-conference planning team was looking for a site that is an iconic part of Western North Carolina and could host both indoor and outdoor workshops, and Chimney Rock fit the bill.

“Chimney Rock Management, and in particular Education Manager Emily Walker, made our event a success,” said EENC Partnership Chair Keith Bamberger. “We invited EENC members to present but also wanted programs from the best naturalist and scientific minds. Chimney Rock Management worked with Chimney Rock State Park to provide the facilities for the workshop. CRM also brought in renowned naturalist Ron Lance and geologist Anthony Love and helped EENC double the programming space due to the enthusiastic response and participation from the EENC members.”

Keith continued, “It is important that EENC shows value of membership to our constituents. For that reason having events like a mini conference is incredibly important. Our phenomenal turnout had much to do with the reasonable cost of the event and the outstanding State Park resource. Thanks to Chimney Rock Management, we were able to meet realize these goals for the event.”


Goats Help Get Rid of Invasive Plants

This past summer and fall, Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park employed some four-legged partners to help get rid of invasive plants in the Park. Fifteen goats were hired as part of a partnership between Chimney Rock Management, LLC; NC State Parks; the Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) and the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park as an ecologically- friendly way to keep invasives such as such as Kudzu, Princess Tree and Oriental bittersweet at bay.

Visitors to the Park were able to see the goats hard at work on the mountainside above the gravel parking area located just before the top parking lot. Our furry friends worked for about one month this past summer, clearing out a two-acre swath of land near the top of the mountain that was a tangled mess of weeds and invasives and returned in mid-September to munch for nearly three more weeks. WAC-HNG will spot-treat the area with herbicide in late spring or early summer of 2016.

“Using livestock to control non-native invasive plants is an ecologically-friendly and cost-effective measure,” says David Lee, WAC-HNG Hickory Nut Gorge Steward, who coordinates invasive species management for the group. No machinery needs to be used, and little to no herbicide is needed.”

“We’re always working to remove invasive plants from the Park,” adds Mary Jaeger-Gale, Chimney Rock Management, LLC General Manager. “Invasives increase the chance of erosion and landslides, decrease food supply for birds and other wildlife, limit access to recreational use and are an eyesore. Goats love the woody-stemmed vegetation found on the mountainsides of the Gorge, their body sizes makes for a light footprint and they aerate and fertilize the soil as they work, which encourages the growth of natural plants in the spring. Using goats to control invasives is a perfect fit with the Park’s goal of sustaining our land in the most ecologically-friendly way possible.”

WAC-HNG offers an adopt-a-goat program in which they contract with local business who “rent” out their goats for invasive control throughout Hickory Nut Gorge. For more information, contact them at 828-625-9983, ext. 506.


Passholders Use Park to Get Fit

It’s 8:30 in the morning, and Angela Stockdale is beginning her trek up the 499 steps of Chimney Rock’s Outcroppings trail. In the next hour, Angela will run and walk up and down sections of the Outcroppings and Exclamation Point trails, then reward herself with a trek down the Hickory Nut Falls trail to view the 404-foot waterfall at its end made famous in 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Originally from Augusta, Georgia, Angela and her husband Rick bought a cottage in Lake Lure several years ago so they could visit the area on weekends and holidays. They were drawn to Chimney Rock for its beauty and soon became annual passholders, but they also discovered that that Park offers them unique ways to exercise. Four years ago, the couple decided to make Lake Lure their permanent home, and they visit the Park several times a week, running up and down the trails and stopping from time to time to take photos of the wildlife and scenery. Angela, a neuro technologist, works out in the Park about three or four days a week and Rick, Senior Director for Myriad Genetic Labs, works out about three days.

“I tell everyone this is the best and cheapest gym I’ve ever belonged to,” says Rick, Senior Director for Myriad Genetic Labs. “You get a great workout in while seeing outstanding views. I don’t know why anyone within 30 miles who wants to get healthy wouldn’t purchase an annual pass.”

Rick and Angela each have their own exercise goals and routines. Rick will run until he exhausts his limit, take a break, and begin again. When he reaches 2,000 steps, he’s done. Angela, a neuro technologist, works out at the Park three to four days a week and focuses more on endurance and time; she’ll run up and down sections of the stairs for about 40-50 minutes before she’s finished. “I’ve figured it up, and Angela and I have climbed over 200,000 stairs a year,” says Rick. “That equals 400 trips to the top of the Rock or 134 climbs to the top of the Empire State Building.”

“The first time up the stairs is always the toughest,” adds Angela. “But once you your endurance kicks in, it gets easier.”

The couple stresses that you don’t have to be in top physical condition to work out at the Park. While the Four Seasons and Outcroppings trail offer challenging climbs, the Hickory Nut Falls provides a more forgiving, moderate trail with slight inclines (not to mention the gorgeous, 404-foot waterfall at its end). Parents and kids can walk the half-mile Great Woodland Adventure trail, which is also perfect for those just getting started with an exercise routine.

Spending time in the Park has other benefits, too. The couple enjoy the relationships they’ve formed with other Park guests and Park staff. “We see other passholders like us who come here often, but we also find ourselves answering questions of first- time guests as we walk,” says Rick. “I probably spend about 20 minutes each time I’m here talking to guests.” The couple also knows most of the Park staff by name and celebrates milestones with them, such as the birth of a baby or a child’s high school graduation.

Angela frequently takes photos of the wildlife and views she sees after her workout. “I’ve gotten some great shots on the Four Seasons trail,” she says. “And during the summer, if you get here right when the Park opens and walk out to the Hickory Nut Falls, you can often see a rainbow that appears right across the rock face of the middle of the falls.”

The views, say Rick and Angela, are what drew them to Chimney Rock, what convinced them to purchase an annual pass, and what inspires them most in during their workout routine. “We always stop about four or five times just to see the views,” says Rick. “As many times as we’ve walked these trails, there’s always something we see that’s different.”


We Made it onto Yahoo Travel!

We made it on Yahoo Travel's "Waterfalls, Caves, and Lakes — 50 Hidden Gems Across America" by Melinda Crow! Check it out under the North Carolina section here!

Elevator Out of Service Until Further Notice; Park Admission is Reduced. Sky Lounge is CLOSED.

The elevator will be closed indefinitely while reoccurring issues in its general operation are addressed. Engineers and technicians are looking for a solution to these ongoing problems. Our Sky Lounge is also closed. We are sorry for the inconvenience this closure has caused and will keep you updated on any progress. We appreciate your interest in the Park and your understanding.

You can still access the top of Chimney Rock with an exhilarating walk up our 499-step Outcroppings trail. As you climb, be sure to stop and check out the Grotto, the Subway and Pulpit Rock. These familiar features have recently reopened, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the awesome views they provide.

While the elevator is out of operation, rates will be reduced. Adult tickets, normally $15, will be $13; youth tickets (ages 5-15), normally $7, will be $6. Normal discounts will apply.

The Sky Lounge Gift Shop & Deli is open daily from 10am- 6pm when our staff is able to access the elevator for business use. Cliff Dwellers Gifts is open daily from 8:30am- 6pm.


Grotto, Subway and Pulpit Rock Now Open!

Soon after NC State Parks bought Chimney Rock Park in 2007, an inventory was done to determine the condition of the trails and Park structures. Several did not meet state construction standards and were closed until improvements could be made. Access to popular destinations along the Outcroppings trail—the Subway, Grotto and Pulpit Rock—were closed at that time. But, as noted in the State Parks’ Master Plan for Chimney Rock State Park, these destinations along the Outcroppings trail were to be redesigned, rebuilt and reopened.

A crew with NHM Constructors, LLC out of Asheville began in December 2014 to rebuild the stairs and boardwalks to restore access to these unique features along the trail that leads to the “Rock.” As you can imagine, it was no easy task. Materials were brought in by truck and carried up the mountain. A helicopter flew 70 loads of materials to the site in one afternoon, with the pilot threading the materials down through trees for the crew on the ground to put in place. The harsh winter weather we had made it even more difficult!

But all of these efforts were well worth it; the Subway, Grotto and Pulpit Rock were reopened Memorial Day weekend to the “oohs” and “ahhs” of our guests as they experienced the amazing views!

Check out photos of the progress and completed project on this page as well information on how you can experience these exciting features! And don’t forget to visit our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages where you can see even more photos of these features, plus much more from around the Park!




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