Everyone can sympathize with having no money in this day and age or at least being scared enough to think you have no money. I won’t guilt you with stories of the pygmies in Africa, but will instead share with you how I am coping with the new economic landscape. As much as it’s pained me, I’ve sold off all my Gulfstreams, I rent out my Rolls Royce on the weekends for parties, and no longer am I able to drive to the Grand Canyon when I have a free month off of work. Instead of traveling 3000 miles in my Bugatti Veyron, I suppose I’ll stick with the short drive to Crowders Mountain State Park.
Crowders Mountain State Park is often overlooked in favor of what people call “real” mountains, and those people are missing out on a gem. Crowders Mountain has a diverse selection of terrain, and some neat history attached to it. In the early 1800s, large quantities of gold were discovered underneath the mountain and were mined heavily until 1849 gold rush in California. One of the cool features left over from the mining is that there are several tunnels running underneath the mountain. One has graffiti lining all the walls with images of demons and dark figures; I don’t go to that tunnel. The other which is near the rock wall Trundalasarous doesn’t have any graffiti and almost no one goes there. www.crowdersmountain.com has maps of the area that are a big help in sorting through all the different areas of the park, and helping you get to the right spot. There are tons of rock walls at the Linwood access which is where the tunnels are.
While you’re at the Linwood Road Access, you might as well go hiking or climbing. Home to over 150 established climbing routes, Crowders is the best option for rock climbing in a 100 mile radius. Even if you’re not a climber, it’s really cool to explore the 100’ cliffs that encircle the crest of the mountain, and the views that stretch all the way to Charlotte on a clear day. The Backside trail goes up flight after flight of stairs, making your wish for a “real” mountain disappear in the burn of lactic acid. The Tower Trail ends at the same place but takes longer to get there….meaning your legs don’t scream in pain and divorce you at the top of the mountain.
The other access on Sparrow Springs Rd has a small lake where you can rent a canoe and paddle around, or hike up to Kings Pinnacle for another great lookout spot. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and have a free weekend, you could hike on the newly created Ridgeline which stretches from Crowders Mountain to Kings Mountain State Park. Stretching a total of 25 miles, this is a perfect chance to go on a backpacking trip to try new gear, techniques, and just have fun with a low-level of risk. You cross several roads along the way, and if you have to bail (weather turns south, mosquitos are the size of honey bees, sleeping in a hammock isn’t as comfortable as you thought), all that you may be out is a box of donuts to have someone come pick you up.
On the way on the Ridgeline Trail, you’ll go through the newly created bouldering area managed by Crowders Mountain State Park. I’ve been climbing there for years, but now it’s encouraged instead of being a legal gray area. Boulders as large as houses stretch over a hill for almost a half mile, and it’s great to just scramble on the rocks. Eventually you’ll wander into Kings Mountain State Park and finish on their 16 mile backpacking trail.
Kings Mountain State and Military Park has one of the richest histories of any park in South Carolina, honoring the “Over Mountain” men who defeated the British troops, which led to the turning point of the Revolutionary War. The visitor center has exhibits and movies that go into much more detail and depth than I could hope to. They also have a living farm exhibit, which is useful when I want to show people my humble beginnings on the farm. On that farm I built a potato powered computer so I could learn Java programming and condense my life into a game and make my fortune; my parents were not supportive that I could provide for myself with my creation “Farmville”.
Even if you’re not poor, having a place close to home that you can escape to is important. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in work, sports, and everything in between that you think you never have time to get away. It’s only a 45 minute car ride; instead of watching a re-run of CSI this Saturday, go out and have some fun.