It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas
On Saturday, I drove from my home in upstate South Carolina, to Table Rock State Park. I’ve been here a number of times but never on a weekend. I was surprised at how busy it was. The parking lot was like a shopping mall at Christmas time. I had to circle around and wait for someone to leave in order to park my vehicle. I was lucky though and didn’t have to wait too long. I guess I should have expected the crowds. The weather was ideal for a hike with pleasantly cool temperatures and clear blue skies. Also, the fall colors are naturally a big draw this time of year.
I was intent on doing a loop that would include the climb to the summits of both Pinnacle Mountain and Table Rock Mountain. When I registered at the kiosk, the ranger told me that because of the shorter days, the trails would close at 5:30 pm. I would have to hurry, since I had gotten a later start than expected and wasn’t on the trail until about 11:40 am.
The climb to the top of Pinnacle is 4.1 miles long and gains over 2300 feet in elevation. I hiked past a creek, a small cascade, and a huge rock ledge before arriving at an outcropping called Bald Knob. There were great views of the Piedmont from here but because it was windy, cold, and exposed, I didn’t linger long before heading back into the woods. From Bald Knob, it’s still 6 tenths of a mile and a 600 foot climb to the summit. The final push was steep and covered in a slippery layer of leaves which made for slow going. It’s wooded at top, so there are no views, just a sign with the elevation and coordinates.
Table Rock Mountain
After leaving the summit, I hiked 1.9 miles on the Ridge Trail to where it intersects with the Table Rock Mountain Trail. While the Ridge Trail is mostly downhill, there were a couple of short climbs. From the intersection, it’s about 1.3 miles to the top of Table Rock and then another quarter mile to the end of the trail. One of my favorite places along the way is an expansive outcropping called Governors’ Rock. From there, you have awesome views of mountains to the Northwest, including Sassafras Mountain. I’m used to having this spot all to myself or nearly all to myself, but this time there were at least a couple of dozen others that had made the climb. Often when I hike, I’m alone in the woods and may not encounter anybody else, but on this day I must have encountered easily more than 100 people. That’s good though. It means that people were out getting some exercise and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.
The summit of Table Rock is wooded like Pinnacle with only a sign marking the location. At the end of the trail however, there is another large outcropping with views of Table Rock Reservoir in the foreground and Caesars Head in the distance.
Okay, So Sometimes I’m A Little Too Competitive
Because I had gotten a late start in the morning, I didn’t have much time for taking breaks. I stopped three or four times for about a minute or two to have a drink from my water bottle, and I stopped briefly to take photos. I ate a granola bar while hiking. The only pack-off break that I took was at the top of Table Rock near the end of the trail. I sat there for twelve to fifteen minutes and had a snack while I enjoyed the setting. Afterwards, I put my pack back on and began the hike out. Just as I passed Governors’ Rock on my way down the mountain, two girls started down as well. I could tell from their chatter that they were both college students, probably nineteen to twenty years old, and competed in track. There was still about 2.5 miles to go and I was determined that they weren’t going to pass me, not because they were girls but just because I have a competitive drive. I’m a decently fast hiker, but they really gave me a run for my money. I wasn’t able to put much distance between us and we arrived at the trailhead only seconds apart. Actually, I’m glad that they were there. It allowed me an opportunity to challenge myself.
In all, I hiked 11.2 miles. The total ascent was 3533 feet and the total decent was 3491 feet, so the total vertical was over 7000 feet. It took me about five and a half hours to complete, including water breaks and my snack break. Overall, I would definitely rate this loop as strenuous.