|The day started off beautiful -- warm, clear blue skies, and a gentle breeze to help keep us cool. I love hiking in
the fall and my son-in-law John had been after me for years to go hiking with him at Crowders Mountain State
Park not too far from his home nearby in Mt Holly, NC.
John's younger brother Alan showed up just in time to go with us and soon, all three of us were loaded up and
headed for the park. I had seen this mountain from the Interstate (I-85) dozens of times every time we came to
Mt Holly to visit with our daughter Ashley and of course, the "twins" Matthew & Madelyn -- our first grandkids.
John said the hike would be easy and that we would have a great time. We hadn't gone a quarter of a mile when I
realized he might be lying. We started off on the 2.8 mile long Crowders Trail (white blazes) which was not too
bad but had a few hill challenges to prepare us for the BIG challenge that awaited us at the end of that trail
when it met up with a new trail called the Backside Trail.
I think this was where I first mentioned to John that I was thinking about taking him out of my will -- for lying to
his father-in-law about "trail difficulty" levels. His "0-1" easy rating was fast approaching a leg-numbing "10".
Then we started up the now orange blazed trail (old gravel road) for about a 1/4 of a mile and then boom -- I saw
them -- steps. I'm not talking about 10 or 20 steps, not dozens, but hundreds of then climbing up the "backside"
of Crowders Mountain. You hear me? HUNDREDS of steps that look like they went on forever
up the side of the mountain!
The hike up was beautiful -- sheer rock face cliffs on our left and distant views coming into our view on our right
as we CLIMBED higher and higher until we finally reached the top at an area called the "Overlook."
Two things became crystal clear to me as I slowly walked along the top of the mountain trying to catch my breath.
One, John was out of the will and two, you could see forever towards downtown Charlotte 25 miles in the distance.
The views were breathtaking and we all enjoyed our rest stop here with some water and trail snacks to munch on.
We knew we had well over 3 miles to go to get back to the Park's Visitor Center so we struck out on the
now red blazed trail called the Rocktop Trail.
We hadn't gone 100 yards when I realized that this trail was apply named and it might be "difficult" going back --
especially when it started to go down steeply in elevation changes later on. This trail was designated as
"strenuous" and the classification was right on. I am glad that we had not come this way up as had been the
original plan. We literally followed the backbone of Crowders Mountain for about 2 miles -- rock hopping, climbing
up and over rocks and enjoying the fantastic views as we made our way back.
We slipped past the actual peak of Crowders Mountain and marveled at all the electronic stuff installed there on
about 10 different types of towers. The place looked like some secret CIA listening post or something like that.
Anyway, we were soon past that and well on our way back down the mountain.