Sunday, April 7, 2013

Crowders Mountain State Park - King's Pinnacle


               at  Crowder's Mountain State Park

Driving north up I-85 from Gaffney South Carolina as you approach the North Carolina State line, there looms a small mountain with distinctive features.  In fact it looks similar to Pilot Mountain as seen on NC 52 north of Winston-Salem.  The difference is that this peak is missing the distinctive dome.
King's Pinnacle is part of a small range of mountains millions of years old.  All but the quartzite rock has been eroded away.  Geologists name these mountains: monadnocks.  Its sister ridge, Crowder's Mountain, along with Stone Mountain, Morrow Mountain, Pilot Mountain, and Cooks Wall Mountain are similar seemingly oddly placed mountain peaks within a piedmont plain.

As with all North Carolina State Parks, Crowder's Mountain is a well maintained facility boasting a large visitor's center with a friendly staff and a small natural history museum.  As you can tell from the number of cars in the parking lot, the park is very the point that one trail review pointed out that the trails were "sociable" which is a chamber of commerce term for "crowded".  
We chose to take what we thought was a path less traveled to the peak of King's Pinnacle via an ominously named trail: "Turnback Trail"
In about 1.2 miles Turnback Trail intersects with Pinnacle Trail and you begin an ascent of about 600 feet to the summit of King's Pinnacle.  The trail is mostly moderately steep switchbacks. 

However as you approach the summit the trail is noticeably steeper and narrower.  Due to the number of people on the trail at times we had to stop and let folks descending pass.  One urban youth who was no doubt experiencing her first and perhaps last hiking experience was overheard saying: "Hiking is the devil"

Right before you reach the summit, the Pinnacle Trail intersects with the Ridgeline Trail.  This trail connects Crowder's Mountain State Park with King's Mountain State Park in South Carolina. This is a six mile trek which I would guess is not as "sociable" as the Pinnacle Trail.

You know you have reached the summit because there is a sign that states: "end of trail".  Most folks elect to scamper up the rocks to an overlook but we elected to follow a trail to the southern end of the peak from which we began our exploration of the rocky ridge of King's Pinnacle and as a result got to enjoy many varied views of the surrounding countryside.
Looking south into South Carolina is the King's Mountain National Military Park, the site of one of the most crucial battles of the War of Independence.  There Col. Benjamin Cleveland and his Over The Mountain Men defeated the Loyalist Regiment commanded by Col. Patrick Ferguson, the first of three victories which led to General Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.
Looking East from the Southern Summit
The summit features many rock scampering opportunities as there are trails which lead in every direction, each offering another view of the countryside.  We took time to explore the western side and were treated to some nice views of the town of King's Mountain, NC

We found a less "sociable" spot and took a lunch break next to a neat rock formation.  From this spot we could enjoy another southern view and could see I-85 snaking southward into Gaffney.

Finishing our trail mix and Gatorade we begin our rock scamper of the summit trekking  north and found the highest peak of the mountain some 1724 feet high.  

Looking East

From this spot there is an 180 degree view of the countryside.

Looking South
Looking West
We always are fearful of injuries on the trail and on this hike I got lucky. As I was descending from the pinnacle rock, I took a nice fall, fortunately landing between two large rocks rather than on them...only a jammed thumb to show for I said before, the good Lord looks after drunks, fools and Fat Bald White Guys.

Our last stop was the northern overlook where we got a nice view of Crowder's Mountain, the city of Charlotte and the green roofed visitor's center.

Hiking back we elected to remain on the Pinnacle Trail which intersects with the Crowder's Mountain Trail so that we could create a loop back to the parking lot and perhaps find a place a little less "sociable". At the intersection of the Turnback Trial, the Pinnacle Trail leads across a small rocky ridge.   While navigating through the rocks, we discovered one of life's truisms.  Kurt Vonnegut said it best: "Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go around looking for it..." 

Returning to the visitor's center I was drawn to a dogwood tree arrayed with golden blossoms. Spring is upon us for sure!

This hike is hard to rate. It was a moderate four mile hike. The Park is a really nice place to visit but it is so popular that the trails are crowded and escape to a wilderness is impossible....heck, every fifth person we saw had a dog! I rate the Trail a 5 only because it was so popular and well used....Scenery is a 7, nice views for a small mountain....Access is an 8...easy to find off I-85.  
Overall a 7. 

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