By Shannon Quinn
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 walk 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 now 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, exercises in the Park about three or four days a week and Rick, Senior Director for Myriad Genetic Labs, works out about three days. 35_Angela and Rick Stockdale
“I tell everyone this is the best and cheapest gym I’ve ever belonged to,” says Rick. “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 to Chimney Rock.”
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 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 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 trails offer challenging climbs, the Hickory Nut Falls trail provides a more forgiving, moderate walk or jog with slight inclines (not to mention the stunning, 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 guests and Park staff. “We see other passholders like us who come here often, but we also find ourselves answering questions of first-time visitors 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.” 35_angela stockdale_devil's kiss
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 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 different to see.”
Make 2016 your year to get healthier and see inspiriting views along the way! Annual Passes at Chimney Rock are $28 for adults and $12 for youth ages 5-15. Included are unlimited visits to the Park for 12 months, discounts in Park retail stores and with area merchants and attractions such as the Biltmore House and Nantahala Outdoor Center and exclusive Passholder events.