2 Day Trip to King’s Mountain/Crowder Mountain on the SC-NC Border | March 4-5, 2016 | Part 1
One Friday morning before he left for school, Curtis briefly mentioned to me that he might get an early out that day, so if I wanted to plan a little trip that would be okay – we just wanted to be back for church on Sunday. 8 hours later, I had an itinerary planned, a hotel booked, and cookies baked, we quickly mapped out all the back highways we would take, and we were off! Part of the reason why it’s so easy for us to plan a trip like this is because I have a big list of trips we want to take saved that range from only 1 day to 3 days long. We may be constrained by tight school schedules and a 350 mile radius, but we will make the most of that with every chance we get!
We were so excited for this trip because it was going to be our first experience hiking in mountains in the East! It was finally warm enough for us in the areas of the state which have significant elevation change. This trip also featured 2 other big interests of ours – history (which will be featured in the next post), and “new counties”. Curtis started counting counties after we got married, but I resisted starting my own map because I knew that as soon as I did, I’d probably obsess over it until I had been to them ALL. Which is ridiculous. But I gave in a few months back because I had done a little more traveling than Curtis had over the summer, and I wanted a way to keep track of my own travels… And now here we are, that crazy couple that turns a 3 ½ hour trip into 5 hours and cheers every time we cross into a new county. Yeah, I’d say we’re perfect for each other in that way. 🙂 (By the way, if you’re interested…you should check out our maps: Jess//Curtis. If you have your own county map online, feel free to share with us, we would love to see it! If you want to start one for yourself, we recommend mob-rule.com.)
So, back to the trip: Instead of taking 26 to 77, Charleston to Rock Hill – only 3.5 hours – we took highway 52 up to Moncks Corner, then highway 6 to 601 North, headed East on 34, then took I-77 N the rest of the way to our hotel in Rock Hill. As I mentioned, it took 5 hours, and we got 4 new counties, we happened to drive past the site for the battle of Eutaw Springs (which Curtis will talk about in the next post), and we got to highlight all new roads in our Atlas. All of which were super exciting for us and maybe would have been all we needed for a great weekend trip all on their own – trust me, we recently did a 4 hour day trip to get new counties and roads just to visit a battle field! 🙂
While in Rock Hill, we stayed in a Red Roof Inn (which has become our favorite chain to stay with because they are inexpensive and dog friendly, with NO extra charge for Charlotte!) and we got a pizza & garlic knots from Empire Pizza right around the corner, which the 3 of us all enjoyed. We settled in for our big day of hiking and sightseeing. We also enjoyed seeing a gorgeous sunset, full of bright and vibrant pink, blue, and yellow colors!
On Saturday, we woke early, packed up and got out by 8. The hotel’s breakfast bar had yogurt and granola bars which were perfect fuel for hiking, but Curtis decided that donuts were what he really needed to get going. 😉 We drove up and down through the beautiful hilly country roads, and got little peaks of the mountain range we’d be hiking in. We crossed into North Carolina and made our way to Crowder Mountain State Park. We were glad that we arrived early, as there were signs all around saying that if parking wasn’t available, to go to another lot – this parking lot wasn’t small, but being so close to Charlotte, it’s easy to see how it gets so busy over the weekend – especially on a beautiful Saturday like today! We parked, and Curtis went to the visitor’s center to figure out the best trails for us. We loved that this park had no entrance fees, and that Charlotte was allowed to hike here!
We decided to hike to the Pinnacle, which would be a moderate 4 mile round trip. We hadn’t hiked in a while and weren’t sure how the elevation would affect us, so this would be a good workout and would give us a good overlook of the area. There were already a lot of people here, so we knew that a quiet hike wasn’t what we were getting here, but we were excited nonetheless. We set off on the trail, happy to be in back in our hiking boots.
The beginning was easy with a gradual incline, but it still got our heart rate up. However, if passing everyone on the trail is a sign that you’re in shape, then we definitely are! Sometimes I’d hear people commenting on Charlotte as we passed by, something to the degree of “Oh that poor baby, look at her hike with those short legs!” But we could tell that she was really loving it. They say that a “busy dog is a happy dog”, and Charlotte has always eagerly taken on hikes. Besides stopping and sniffing here or there, she does a great job, and we love having her with us. (And her “short legs” got her up the mountain faster than any of those who made such comments!)
We started off with sweatshirts but were soon able to shed them as the climb grew steeper. The trees kept us in the shade the entire time, and a breeze helped to cool us down. The trail was well-worn from so many hikers. One unfortunate thing we noticed was the erosion off the trail from people cutting the switchbacks. We used to see signs for this all around the West, and now we know why. There were no signs here, to be fair, but hopefully people will respect the signs where they are to protect the land from this. Stay on the trails!
The last half mile was the steepest part, when after a few switchbacks the trail became just a steep slope up the mountain. We did what we always do and pushed through right to the end. The trail ends with a bouldered outcropping to reach the “peak”. There were signs cautioning hikers to climb up at their own risk, and there was a large group of people just standing there, possibly thinking that they were at the end. Curtis and I went to the right of the signs and carefully made our way up onto the boulders and found a place to rest at the top. After we did that, the group did the same. There wasn’t really a top point where we could have a good 360 view because there were still trees all around, but we had nice windows that showed off the surrounding land. We could see King’s Mountain in South Carolina – where we would be heading next – and all the flat land surrounding us. It was a beautiful day with great visibility. I had been hesitant about hiking this early in the spring when there was no leaves on the trees, because I thought that all we’d be able to see was grey, bare trees, but there were enough evergreens thrown in to add some color to the view. Next time we go, we know there will be more color there – and we’d especially love to see it in the fall, but that seems so far away (and yet, it will be here before we know it…).
After taking some pictures, figuring out which direction we were facing, and eating lots of cookies, we began to make our way back down. On the way up, we had taken Crowders Trail to Pinnacle Trail, this time when we came to a crossing, we took Tumback Trail back to the parking lot. It didn’t really add any length to our trail, but it had significantly less people on it and we enjoyed a peaceful walk. Altogether, our hike was under 4 hours, and we felt great afterwards. If we hadn’t planned on going to King’s Mountain National Military Park, we would have maybe done another hike here, but we knew we could do a short hike there so we were content with what we had accomplished here. As we left, we saw that a park ranger was blocking off the entrance to the parking lot and sending cars elsewhere to park – lesson learned, the early bird gets the parking spot!
After that, we made our way to King’s Mountain…come back tomorrow to read about the last half of our trip!