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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

How a Visit to Mayberry Became a Peak Experience

[Marilyn B. of MA is the winner of an advance copy of Amy Boucher Pye’s 7 Ways to Pray from last week’s giveaway. Congratulations Marilyn!]

Knowing that the month of August will be an intense one for our family, Mike and I spontaneously took an overnight getaway this past week to a small town in the north-central part of our state: Mt. Airy, better known as Mayberry.

Any child – or adult, for that matter – who lived through the 1960’s is familiar with the beloved show starring North Carolina’s favorite drawlin’ son, actor Andy Griffith, and his TV son Opie (who went on to become the respected film director Ron Howard). I bet many of you can still whistle that iconic tune!

A striking landmark signals you’re getting close. Just twenty minutes from Mt. Airy, Pilot Mountain rises 2,400 feet from the valley floor and can be spotted from miles away. The indigenous Saura tribe referred to the big pinnacle as their “Great Guide.” It also served as a compass for countless pioneers who traveled south in the 18th century to settle the Yadkin Valley.

The BIg Pinnacle of Pilot Mountain as seen from Little Pinnacle (M.Rowe photo)
“I love you, LORD; you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.” Psalm 18:2

Although we were dressed and booted for hiking, the temperature was already soaring into the 90’s when we arrived. Mike pointed out that our water supply was insufficient for the seven-mile Grindstone Trail we had hoped to hike from the Visitor’s Center up to the base of Big Pinnacle and back. I was reluctant to abandon our plans until I saw the sign warning hikers that the trail was equivalent to climbing ten ten-story buildings.

Yeah, maybe not today.

So instead we took the much shorter Jomeokee trail around the base, stopping to admire 360° views and the dozens of broadwing hawks riding thermal updrafts above the mountain. We learned that despite its name, Pilot Mountain is not technically a mountain formed as a result of volcanic activity or shifts in the tectonic plates.

Instead, when God first blew his breath over this part of creation, this famed peak was at the bottom of a shallow sea. Even today, you can see the effects of the waves on the rocks left behind when the surrounding land eroded over the eons. Big Pinnacle appears impenetrable and unbreakable, but once upon a time it was merely shifting sand.

In mid-afternoon we escaped the heat of the park for a frozen custard parlor in Mt. Airy. We checked in to a comfortable B & B on Main Street, circa 1901, telling our host about our aborted hiking plans up Pilot Mountain.

“Mighty hot today,” Joe observed. “Some of them trails are way out yonder where there ain’t nobody never is.”

The next morning we lingered long over a leisurely southern breakfast while chatting with the other guests.

“We don’t serve breakfast before 9 am,” our host commented cheerfully. “Nobody’s in a hurry here in Airy.”

And we weren’t either. We strolled Main Street twice over, stopping to visit Wally’s service station to admire the old police cars that tote tourists around town, windows down and sirens screaming. We wet our whistles (popular pastime in Mayberry), with fresh-squeezed lemonade at Barney’s Café, where bad moods are not permitted.

Though immersed in the 60’s for a day, present-day concerns were not far away. You can stay in an historic place, but the past itself has a No Vacancy sign. As we drove home, it wasn’t Mayberry we had on our minds, but our upcoming month in Massachusetts.

And Pilot Mountain.

That peak that once was composed of sand at the bottom of a shallow sea has been transformed over time by pressure and heat into immovable quartzite. It’s tough enough to withstand the elements, whatever they may be.

A mighty mountain is Pilot. A guide, a symbol, a metaphor.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors." James 1:2-3 MSG

And a promise for us all.

Copyright 2021 Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, is available wherever books are sold. If you already have it and have read enough to offer an opinion, would you kindly leave a review here? Your recommendations get books into more hands, hearts, and minds. Thank you!



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