Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crowder's Mtn

The end of summer in the Carolinas brings clearer skies, cooler temperatures, and the allure of the great outdoors. Last weekend, I had some time by myself and decided to follow the call and hike up one of our local "mountains." Crowder's Mountain is better called a monadnock. The park brochure provides a brief history,

Crowder's Mountain state park is a North Carolina park that is just across the border from the pewster's cave in York County South Carolina. Rising 800 feet above the surrounding countryside, resisting the forces of erosion over vast periods of time, are Crowders Mountain and Kings Pinnacle, remnants of an ancient mountain range. Once the core of mighty mountains that towered thousands of feet above sea level, these surviving peaks are part of the Appalachian chain that formed in the region 450 to 500 million years ago. Geologically classified as kyanite-quartzite monadnocks, only the strength of quartzite has allowed these pinnacles to withstand the wind, water and other forces that eroded less resistant peaks.

Crowders Mountain, at an elevation of 1,625 feet, is a registered natural heritage area that features sheer vertical cliffs ranging from 100 to 150 feet in height. Kings Pinnacle, by contrast, has a round, gentle profile and reaches an elevation of 1,705 feet. These mountains and the saddle that connects them are oriented in a northeast to southwest direction, their slopes facing east and west. Spectacular views await those who ascend these mighty pinnacles.
Knowing that the temperature was supposed to climb to 91 degrees, and that three days of rain had been forecast to begin the next day (following a four week drought which would have made for muddy and slick conditions next weekend), I rose with the sun, laced up my boots, rescued my favorite walking stick (which was being used ignominously to prop up the clothes line), loaded up my water bottle, and headed out in order to be at the trail head as the park opened.

My usual drive to this park takes me on "Grandview Road." There is one grand view on this road, and here it is. (Warning, don't try to duplicate this shot without having your walking stick to defend yourself from the neighborhood dogs)

Grandview Rd.

Since my first visit here 20 years ago, the park has upgraded its visitor center and parking, and another nice view can be seen from the parking lot.


View from visitor parking area.

I took the Pinnacle trail which is a 1.7 mile climb (3.4 mile round trip) on the eastern side of the mountain that is rated by the park guide as strenuous. There have been improvements made to this trail over the years with more and better trail markers to keep you headed in the right direction. I recall one Fall when the leaves on the trail were so thick that it was difficult to discern the trail, and I complained that some of the painted orange blazes (some on trees and some on rocks) had faded which could make the trail quite challenging to the casual hiker.


Old style

Updated Blaze
On this particular morning, as I was making my deliberate ascent along the quiet path, a pair of fit young women,  jogging deftly through the rocks, quickly overcame me and past me by. They must have had tough soles because the trail is rocky in spots. I suspect they were not going to the top and were instead going to take the Ridgeline trail (6.2 miles) that now leads all the way to King's Mountain State Park on the South Carolina side of the border. The Pinnacle trail seems easy up to the point where the Ridgeline trail begins, but then you notice that you should have been using that StairMaster for exercise instead of as a place to hang clothes. I felt a little better when I passed up some less than fit looking boy scouts making the climb. The scoutmasters, who had that "I can't believe I ate that scout breakfast" look to them, were taking a needed breather too.

There is a sign marking the end of the trail,


but everyone knows that if you climb over the next series of rocks, you will be rewarded with nice views and a welcome breeze from the western side of the monadock, a breeze that I now realized was missing during my climb.


 
 

 
View from the top.

I couldn't resist taking this one.

Sometimes it is good to set foot out of your cave.

4 comments:

  1. Great pictures.

    We love this place. My younger son and I took his first hike there to the top of King's Pinnacle. This past weekend I took him and his older brother hiking/camping in Shining Rock Wilderness off the Blue Ridge Parkway -- which can be seen from Crowder's.

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  2. Thanks Chuck. It sounds like you answered the call as well.

    Happy trails to you.

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  3. Nice. Is climbing allowed on the pinnacle?

    Cheers.

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  4. Randall,

    There are several rock climbing areas. There are two main climbing areas at Crowders Mountain. The 'Main Wall,' and 'Hidden Wall.' Most people go to the main wall area.

    Here is a good link for climbers.

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