However, the fact that the park is so close to a large urban area means that it has a tendency to be crowded, even on weekdays. For me, the park is a hit or miss opportunity. I rarely see much in the way of wildlife there (outside of turkey vultures), so I don’t visit it for wildlife photography. What I do head there for is to see some unbroken forest patches and to have some vertical relief to hike. One of the peaks (Kings Pinnacle) can give give you almost one thousand feet of climb from base to summit. Alas, I tend to have to share the peak with scores of other people–sometimes hundreds–so I rarely get the chance to find any solitude there.
Today, though, I decided to finally visit what is called the ‘Boulders Access’ area of the park. I’m not sure how long that section has been opened, but for me it was a new experience. I got out my map of the park and found out how to get there from I-85 and drove over. I figured, from my experiences with the main part of the park, that I’d be hiking with a couple of dozen other people moving up and down the trails. To my surprise, the entire parking lot was empty when I arrived. In addition, during the 2.5 hours that I spent hiking the Ridgeline Trail and scrambling around on the boulders for which the area is named, I didn’t see anyone else. I didn’t hear anyone else. At one point I heard a couple of dogs barking from 300 feet below on the Piedmont farmland, but not a sign of another person.
One more thing that I liked about this part of Crowders is that it’s far enough away from I-85 that I couldn’t hear the drone and roar of that superhighway. There were times when all I could hear was the wind in the trees and songbirds singing away. That was also very cool.
While I had no plans to do any rock scrambling, a couple of the giant boulders had routes that were easy enough that I could resist the temptation to climb them. I was very, very careful, though. I’ll be 62 years old in four days, so I know my years of tossing my body to risk should be far behind me. Especially considering how isolated I was with no other hikers on the trail. But I did it and had a good time. Too much caution makes a man into a coward, I reckon.
|The big-ass boulder right across from one of the big-ass boulders I climbed.|
|The office and rest room. The offices were closed, but the rest rooms were open. The big parking lot was utterly empty except for my truck.|
|After some rock scrambling I took a break for lunch and to re-hydrate.|
|The view from atop one of the really big boulders. If you embiggen this photo you will see a low blue line on the horizon–some of the real mountains far to the west of us.|
|I climbed up there, and then I had to climb down.|