This Fourth of July, my family wanted to do something different; we opted for a quiet retreat to nature. With our youngest daughter’s help, we decided on a trip to Raven Rock State Park with 8 of the grandchildren.
Watson and I started at 7:30 a.m. and picked up 3 of the grandkids; Christa, our daughter, drove her van with 5 aboard. The 11 of us headed south to Lillington turning west on Hwy. 421 for about 9 miles to Raven Rock Road. We had packed a picnic lunch with sandwiches and fruit. Because the temperature was predicted to be in the 90’s, we each carried water in backpacks as we hiked. Thankfully on Monday, it only registered 80 by 1 p.m. with moderate humidity; heat was not a problem.
Upon reaching the park, we studied the map and quickly decided on the Raven Rock Loop Trail. It takes you 2.6 miles to the Cape Fear River and the large cave-like rocks. It also meanders around to a rock wall that overlooks the river. The hike was mostly uphill as you go toward the river where the rocks rise in some places to the height of a ten-story building. There are stairs that lead down to the river once you get to the large formations. The children enjoyed exploring the area under the crystalline structures and finding paths that led around the sides of these monster rocks. They even explored some cave-like areas on the back of the huge boulders.
We could all picture in our “mind’s eye” the time when Siouan and Tuscarora Indians camped, built fires and cooked their fish fresh from the muddy Cape Fear waters. Some areas had dark spots giving the impression that smoke from earlier fires may have blackened these overhanging rocks. It was also amazing to see how trees and flora can survive on these outcrops. We noticed that some large trees had blown over due to the narrow depth of root growth. We exclaimed at what we called the “octopus tree”. The roots of the tree had grown down the rocks looking for soil to feed upon until the tree and roots gave the appearance of a large octopus with its tentacles reaching out for food.
Climbing back up the steep stairs, we headed for the overlook that gave us a striking view of the trees along the banks of the wide river as it flowed by the mile-long rocky cliffs. As we rested, I thought it the perfect time to tell the children of ancestors who had sailed from Scotland to the Port of Wilmington in the late 1700’s. These ancestors continued on boat up the Cape Fear to this very area before settling in northern Cumberland which later became Harnett County.
Leaving the overlook, we decided to take a detour on the Fish Trap Trail—1.5 miles down to the river and back; it was well worth it. A steep incline to the river brought into view large flat rocks with pools of water where fish could be trapped when the water receded. The rushing river was low enough for the children to walk out on the smooth surface of the big stones and get close to the water as it made its impatient journey to the sea. Here again we could picture the Indians easily catching fish from the pools left in the rocks. Hiking to the river on the Fish Trap Trail was not difficult, but climbing up the terraced slope of about 25 steps on our return took some resolve. We were pleased that there was a bench half way up for us to rest and refresh ourselves.
Finally arriving at the parking lot, we unloaded our coolers taking them to the picnic area for our much anticipated lunch. Adding our picnic basket and a box of home-made brownies, it was the best meal ever. There is something about food eaten in the wild that makes it superior to anything else. Nature’s monument turned out to be an interesting and delightful way to celebrate the Fourth in one of the state’s very special parks.