|Fall colors on Crowders Mountain located between Kings Mountain & Gastonia, NC.|
In keeping with the theme of photographing interesting natural heritage sites during the autumn season, this blogger decided that the middle of November was the perfect time to take a drive north just over the North Carolina state line to one of my personal favorite hiking and photographic sites in the area: Crowders Mountain.
Crowders Mountain State Park covers an over 5,100 acre area largely located in Gaston County between the cities of Kings Mountain and Gastonia. The park itself includes the peaks of Crowders Mountain and nearby sister peak, Kings Pinnacle.
Rising to an elevation of 1,625 feet, Crowders Mountain itself is a registered natural heritage area that features sheer vertical cliffs at about 100 to 150 feet high in some places. The cliffs themselves are a popular local destination for rock climbers. Crowders Mountain rises sharply about 800 feet above the surrounding countryside, approximately 1,625 feet above sea level at its peak. It is named for nearby Crowders Creek which originated near its base.
Geologically classified as kyanite-quartzite monadonks rather than true mountains, Crowders Mountain and nearby Kings Pinnacle are both erosional remnants of an ancient mountain range that hundreds of millions of years ago 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 and have gradually been worn down over the eons by the elements. The peaks both sit at the northeastern end of the Kings Mountain Range, a 16 mile low range of low peaks at the southern Piedmont plateau that straddles the Carolina borders.
Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Crowders and the other peaks of the Kings Mountain Range marked the natural boundary between the hunting lands of the Cherokee and Catawba tribes. A major trading route of the Cherokees crossed Crowders Mountain. By 1775, approximately 80,000 Western European settlers -- mainly Scots-Irish from Scotland and Northern Ireland -- had migrated to the area from Pennsylvania. A treaty in 1777 allowed these settlers as far west as the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Catawbas retreated southward, though conflicts between these settlers and the Cherokees would continue until after the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783).
The discovery of a 17 pound gold nugget in 1799 and another weighing 28 pounds in 1803 would have considerable impact on the area. Significant quantities of gold would be uncovered near Crowders Mountain, and until the discovery of gold in California in 1849, North Carolina would be the chief gold producing state in the United States. Kyanite was also strip mined near Croweders, producing a devastating effect on the local environment.
Crowders Mountain State Park was established in 1973 as the result of a local citizens' movement -- the Gaston County Conservation Society -- to prevent the strip mining of the mountain. These concerned citizens were able to convince their friends and neighbors of the importance of preserving this unique natural resource and, wide wide support, was about to convince state officials of the need. The state park was opened to the public in 1974, but it was not until 1977 that the summit of Crowders Mountain was included within the park boundary. Nearby Kings Pinnacle and additional acreage were acquired in 1987. In 2000, an additional 2,000 acres were purchased which connected Crowders Mountain State Park in Gaston and Cleveland Counties in North Carolina with Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park in neighboring York and Cherokee Counties in South Carolina. A somewhat strenuous 6 mile long Ridgeline Hiking Trail connect the two neighboring state parks crossing the Carolina borderline.
Crowders Mountain itself is a natural treasure. One of the highest points in Gaston County and situated about 25 miles or so west of Charlotte, North Carolina. A neat little getaway from urban sprawl that attracts thousands of visitors weekly. Many of the trails are uphill hiking -- some over rocks and boulders that can be very hazardous. At least one person a year is known to die from either rock climbing accidents, falls, or hiking misfortunes as a result of ignoring safety regulations.
For serious hikers like yours truly, Crowders Mountain is a wonderful afternoon distraction. And mid-to-late November is an outstanding time to check out the wonderful views with the autumn colors on the mountain itself and the surrounding countryside.
About noon on Friday, November 18th, I drove the 35 miles from my home in Chester County, South Carolina north on SC 321 to York, and then from there on HWY 161 to Kings Mountain, North Carolina and Crowders Mountain State Park. I made my way to the Linwood Road Access parking and then took the 3/4 of a mile strenuous uphill Backside Trail to the rocky mountain peak.
Here are the following photographs I managed to take of the fall foliage along the trail itself.
|Crowders Mountain in mid-November as seen along Linwood Road in Gaston County, North Carolina.|
The Backside Trail is just one of nearly a dozen trails that connect the state park itself, but the one closest to the top of the mountain itself. In addition to being a steep, nearly vertical walk that goes on just over half a mile, once you get near your destination there are over 300 steps to walk up....I am not joking! Exactly 336 wooden steps that take an average person in good shape about five or ten minutes to climb.
|Ha ha ha....someone's a comedian.|
|At last! The top of the stairs is in view!|
|Yours truly taking a well deserved breather after reaching the top. |
Photograph courtesy of a fellow visitor.
|Truly outstanding view from about 1,600 feet above sea level.|
|Yeah, I didn't get that close to the edge. |
Thank God for zoom lenses.
|Thank you very much for your efforts. |
I know they are appreciated by everyone who respects conservation projects like I do.
Carolina autumn stretched out for miles in all of its golden glory folks. A view definitely worth the hike and this blogger dealing with his uncomfortable fear of heights.
Actually, my fear is of standing next to heights, or steep drops. Views I am okay with -- and actually enjoy quite well -- so long as there is no danger of falling, or straying close to the edge of a drop off.
|Raptors gliding along the wind currents along the top and side of the mountain.|
The radio and CBS transmission towers mark the very top of the mountain peak itself at 1,625 feet above sea level.
|Charlotte, North Carolina can be seen on the horizon in the distance.|
|A close up shot of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina 25 miles east on the horizon as seen from Crowders Mountain overlook.|
After about a little over an hour of enjoying the scenery, eating a packed lunch of turkey, tomato, and Swiss cheese on wheat bread with a nice bottled root beer; it was time to head back down the mountain and head back.
|Yep, gotta be careful with those slippery fall leaves on the steps. |
This is why it is good to always take a trusty hiking stick.
Unfortunately this time around due to a busy personal schedule I did not have the time to stay and maybe hike up nearby Kings Pinnacle -- which has a pretty good view also and is the highest peak in Gaston County at 1,705 feet. Though I have hiked up each peak in the past several times, I have never actually been able to climb up both Crowders and Pinnacle in one day in the dozen or so times I have traveled to the state park, though one day I am resolved to accomplish this goal.
I will try to return someday soon and get some shots from the top of Kings Pinnacle for this blog, perhaps in the spring with the greens and mountain flowers in bloom? Or maybe not given my allergies. I seriously like Indian summer better.
Still I do hope that y'all enjoyed the highlights of my trip and my photos of the autumn foliage from the top of Crowders Mountain. Please be sure to let me know what you thought in the comments section.
Till next time, fellow travelers.
This blogger is a proud contributor to the Friends of Crowders Mountain. For more information about Crowders Mountain State Park and how you can help contribute to maintaining the natural beauty of this Appalachian heritage site, please visit the Friends of Crowders Mountain website in the link provided on this blog page.