Living here in Charlotte, it generally takes me about two hours of driving to reach a place in the mountains. Ironically, just about the easiest place for me to reach is the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. You'd think I'd spend more time there, but I don't.
Today I woke up and had to run a few errands. I'd sold some copies of THE FLOCK and had to ship those. And I needed to send some gifts to friends. So that took some time away from my day off, but I really needed to get into the woods to escape the city for at least a few hours. Luckily, we here in the Charlotte area have a safety valve for that kind of thing. We have Crowders Mountain State Park located just southwest of the city near the town of Gastonia.
After I'd run my errands, I loaded my daypack and camera and headed to the park. It took me roughly forty minutes to drive there and I was quickly on the trail to the summit of Kings Pinnacle, the highest point in Gaston County.
As mountains go, this wouldn't even make the definition in places where there are real mountains. Its elevation is just a bit over 1700 feet above sea level, and it doesn't quite show 900 feet of relief above the surrounding Piedmont. But it does rise abruptly, and the summit is ringed by towering cliffs of quartzite rock. And due to chance and the efforts of some local people with the help of the State of North Carolina, the summits of Crowder Mountain and Kings Pinnacle and several thousand surrounding acres were spared from development and locked up into a state park.
It's where I go when I'm desperate to get away from the city, but don't have the time to drive into the real high country farther west. The Interstate is situated about a mile west of the park and from the ridge lines you can both see and hear the constant roar of the chrome blood rushing along its surface. But if you get the bulk of the mountain between yourself and the highway, you are greeted with nothing but the wind and blessed silence.
Today, I went hiking there. The skies were clear and blue. The weather was fine and cool. Chilly breezes blew over me and washed me clean.