Sometimes you just need a dose of nature to get yourself back on track. We’ve been on the road as part of our latest mobile marketing tour for about three months now. The current tour’s client is Dole (the fresh fruits and vegetables divisions), and they have a worthy goal: getting people to live healthier, eating more fruits and veggies. After a year of overindulgence on our European Game of Thrones tour, it was time to reset and get our healthy eating back on track. This tour was a good fit! We have been able to bring our diet back to a more moderate range, but our busy schedule doesn’t always allow as much exercise as we’d like. Crowders Mountain State Park offered the perfect day-trip’s hike from Charlotte, our current location.
Even though the temperatures have been scorching, we wanted to get out and take advantage of a day off. We decided on a hike in Crowders Mountain State Park. The park features 11 trails, ranging from easy and family-oriented to strenuous. You can also try canoeing with rentals available, though water levels were so low that rentals were suspended until further notice when we visited. Backcountry camping is also possible, as is rock climbing and bouldering in designated areas and with a permit.
We read that the forest itself is relatively new growth. The park was just established in the early 1970s, a local response to the threat of mining coming into the area. The area between Crowder Mountain and King’s Mountain has a modern history including institutions of higher learning, a WWI artillery range and a mineral springs resort. Most of the land surrounding the park was traditionally used for tobacco, corn, soybeans and livestock. Earlier, it served as a major trade route for the local Catawba and Cherokee. It’s an interesting history, one worth reading up on, especially if you’re visiting the area.
We began our hike from the Visitor’s Center at the Sparrow’s Springs Access point. The Turnback Trail is designated as “moderate,” but we worked up quite a sweat and a heartrate by the time we reached the Pinnacle Trail after 1.2 miles. The Pinnacle Trail continues another mile or so, before terminating at Pinnacle Peak. This is also the beginning of the Ridgeline Trail. The views from Pinnacle Peak are stunning. The valley below spreads as far as the eye can see. The peak is the highest point in Gaston County, at 1,705 feet. This was the perfect place for a picnic, and with a nod to northern Spain, where we first learned the joys of Pan con Tomate (fresh tomato and chopped garlic, olive oil and salt), we enjoyed a snack while reminiscing. Squirrels eyed us from high in the trees, hoping for scraps. A trio of turkey vultures swooped overhead, bringing back memories of being menaced by birds on a much different hike in Argentina. A blue-tailed skink scurried away as we made our way back to the trail to head back down from the Pinnacle.
The Ridgeline Trail continues another 6 miles or so, across the border into South Carolina! From here in Crowders Mountain State Park (Gaston County, North Carolina), it links to Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina. We hiked only a short way in, before returning to the alternate route down, the Pinnacle Trail. Being much rockier, it required a bit more scrambling than the way up. The website labels it as “strenuous,” which it certainly may have been on the climb up, but we found it to be more in the moderate range for the descent.
After returning to the parking at the Visitor’s Center, we drove over to a lovely lake just down the road. There is an easy, gravelled ring trail, just under a mile, around the circumference, as well as choice spots for fishing. This is also where the canoe rentals are ordinarily located.