Captain’s Blog: Mile 32641. May 16, 2014.
Morrow Mountain State Park, Campground Loop C, site 104.
Nights at site: 2
Miles Driven: 209 (round trip)
Miles Hiked: 13
Maybe you’ve heard of the Uwharrie Mountains. Maybe, like me, you’d heard they are the oldest mountains in North America, but forgot. They were said be have been formed by volcanic activity some 550 billion years ago, which was right about the time the supercontinent Pannotia broke apart. Pannotia was a forerunner of Pangea, so you might say the Uwharrie Mountains are twice as old as North America. Most of the old mountains in North American (the Appalachians) were formed by the collisions and separations of Pangea.
Rebecca and I chose Morrow Mountain State Park, located in the Uwharrie Mountains, as our first vancamping destination due to its relative proximity to Southern Pines, where I was slated for U.S. Open Leaderboard Operation training. The internet made it sound like it might be a nice place to visit. We were able to reserve an appropriate camp site via the state parks system’s on-line reservation system.
If one has any reservations about the Uwharries being real mountains, the view from the N.C. highway 24/27 bridge across the Pee Dee River should remove any doubts. It’s not the Matterhorn, but at 936 feet above sea level, Morrow Mountain is a nicely formed little bubble of a mountain, within a range of several others, the highest of which is High Rock Mountain at 1119 feet.
The park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, proving once again the government can do really nice things when the chips are down. It’s the only state park in North Carolina with a swimming pool.
The campsite provided us with a good first experience. There was an electrical hookup, which actually provided us with ample power for the lights, as well as to run an extension cord back out to the picnic table to
power a lamp. We took a load of firewood, which proved sufficient for one night’s fire, but the campground sold bundles of wood so we were able to have a nice fire on night two as well.
There is a great trail system in the park. Our first hike was to a rock formation overlooking the rivers. The park is located at the confluence
of the Yadkin and Uwharrie Rivers, which forms the Pee Dee River and the headwaters of Lake Tillery. Just about everybody in the park is there for the water activities. They rent canoes and paddleboats, and many of the campers pull fishing boats. In addition to the rock trail, we hiked two mountain trails, a quarry trail, and several connecting trails, and our only encounters were a band of campers coming in from their overnight stay at a backpack site, and a couple of horse riders. (Horses are not allowed on most of the hiking trails.) Noteworthy are the park’s trail signs. This may be the best marked trail system in the United States.
We had some really fancy lamb chops I’d picked up on last-day sale at Harris Teeter for our first dinner. I grilled them on a propane-powered Coleman grill Rebecca bought, which folds up nicely and fits into one of the van’s exterior storage bins. After dinner, while washing dishes, I managed to take a dramatic tumble over an ankle-high tree stump. It was quite jarring; fortunately nothing was broken (neither on me nor among the dishes), although I did open a few cuts on my leg and sustained a nice deep thigh bruise to remember the trip by.
Here’s a sample of the hiking experience in the park.
You might have noticed some trees on the ground in some of the photos. The area was mauled by a derecho (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derecho ) in June 2013. Thousands of trees were felled. The park was closed for almost two months. On our visit, there was evidence everywhere of controlled burns throughout the park where they’d cleared some of the tender to prevent future wildfires. On the north side of Sugarloaf Mountain the controlled burn took out a large amount of mountain laurel. Some of them were resprouting at the base from their roots, and some were issuing new leaves from the burned branches.
And so to bed … yes, the bed in the camper was good for sleeping.