Sunday, May 29, 2016

A New State and Conquering Table Rock Mountain

We crossed another state line! We are now residing in South Carolina--in Table Rock State Park. We are in the northwest corner of our new state, residing in the mountains of upstate South Carolina. It was cloudy on our first day in the Palmetto state, so our first picture of Table Rock Mountain is shrouded in clouds. But we could still see that famous rock face peeking out over a sea of South Carolina trees.

This is a nice state park, with two different lakes. We have put our bikes away, however, because the park roads have wicked inclines and lots of curves.

We have been watching for black bears since we got to the mountains, and today we saw one--crawling into a truck camper in our campground.

We had to make a double-take on that "bear" that turned out to be the truck camper's overgrown black dog instead.

There are nice trails in this state park, and we are taking the signature trail on this blue-sky day. The stone face of Table Rock Mountain is a little hazy in the distance, and we are climbing there today for a closer look.

We start at some easy falls, but we are prepared for a tough hike. We're both wearing backpacks, complete with our camelbacks filled with water to get us through the 8 mile mountain hike.

It's going to be in the 80's in the park, but we will be shaded until we get to the top. This trail gains lots of elevation in a hurry, and it feels like we are on a three-hour stair-master climb.

Occasionally we break out of the trees for a look over the surrounding valleys, and we use that for a good excuse to rest our weary legs.

After just visiting Black Rock State Park with so many flowers, we realize that we are seeing almost no flowers on this hike. So when we did spy this curious-looking red bloom, Denisa had to take a picture.

After over two hours and over 2,800 feet in elevation gain, we break out onto a big slab of granite known as Governors Rock.

We were back in the forest when we came upon a bird, flitting frantically across the trail. She looked like she had a broken wing, but she was moving so fast it was hard to photograph. Then we realized that her "broken" wing changed from one side to the other.

That's when we heard the frantic chirping on a low branch, and spotted this fuzzy-headed baby bird. Mother bird was obviously trying to distract us away from her fledgling that might be leaving the nest a little early.

Another thirty minutes, and we arrive at the summit! This should be the moment of accomplishment and celebration--but is that the trail continuing onward? And after all this climbing up, why are we going down in the other direction?

Because the real climax of the trail is reaching that big open granite face that we could see from the bottom when we started. People don't make this hike for the summit, they take it for this view from the wide open granite top.

We swapped taking pictures with another couple to prove that we both made it to the top (and we both still like each other).

Even though his parents won't want to hear this, Mark went down to the edge of the granite lip. He just wanted to see that vertical drop-off that would insure a deadly plunge if he should slip. Denisa is going to have to get a leash for him!

After our long climb, we deserved the lunch we had packed. We had a great view for our picnic. Even though it was 80 degrees in the valley, it was chilly in the shade at the top of the mountain while we were lunching.

By the time we took this break at the top, we had been on this hike for three hours. So it was time to head home. The good news is that the trip down the mountain is much easier and goes faster. It took almost no time to get back to Governors Rock, where Mark took a panorama of the wide expanse of granite framed with the green mountains beyond.

Denisa even had enough energy to scoot up to the top of this boulder on the trail. Normally this is Mark's job. But living in a motor home with someone 24/7 can lead to mimicking their bad behavior.

So, five hours after we started this adventure, we were back home. That was a work out, but we have conquered one of the epic hikes of South Carolina. Our legs weren't sure we could climb the steps up into the motor home, but we think we're going to like our new state.

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