Three Parks, Two States, One Trail

This year we celebrate America’s best idea: our national parks.  As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial year, South Carolina recognizes our connection and link to America’s best idea. Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, presented the idea of a system of parks across America to impact citizens and communities regardless of who operated or owned the

 property. Mather knew that every significant property could not be a national park, so he proposed that states fill this need to preserve, protect and provide recreational opportunities where appropriate.  In South Carolina, the National Park Service was instrumental in the development of several of our state parks including Table Rock, Kings Mountain, Edisto Beach, Myrtle Beach and Cheraw. Bottom line- Director Mather was on to something with this idea. Fran Mainella, the 16th director of the National Park Service popularized and promoted the phrase a “seamless system of parks,” which underscores the importance of all parks and the understanding that visitors love their park experience regardless of the steward who is taking care of it. So in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, and in celebration of this concept of a seamless system of parks, I could think of no better way to experience this than with a special hike: three parks, two states, one trail. 

My adventure started at Kings Mountain National Military Park on a beautiful summer day with just enough cloud cover to keep the Carolina sunshine from taking its toll.  As we walked through the forest of the national park that commemorates the Revolutionary War battle of the same name, I couldn’t help but think of the Overmountain Men who came over the mountains from Tennessee to change the tide of the war on this very ground. In this historic setting we leave the national park boundary and travel into Kings Mountain State Park. Once in the state park, we travel alongside the creek and take in the beauty of an oak hickory forest that is filled with the sounds of birds and provides needed cover from the summer sun. The boundary between the national and state park is hardly noticeable. As we made our way to the state line, the change in elevation is noticeable, as is the increased amount of boulders and rock outcrops. The South Carolina-North Carolina line is marked with an interpretative wayside and then it’s up the ridgeline to Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina. The hike to the summit of Kings Pinnacle is not easy, but the reward is great as you look out over both Carolinas with a sense of accomplishment. The 16-mile hike is tough but very rewarding on so many levels. There is the sheer beauty of the trail from the creeks to the forest, and the amazing geology of the ridgeline. The fact that you traveled through three parks and across two states on just one trail is pretty special, but perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this trail is the celebration of a nationwide system of parks like that Stephen Mather talked about. A seamless system of parks that serves its visitors without concern for boundaries, lines or the patch on the arm of a uniform.  It’s about the resource and the people who experience and enjoy their parks. It’s summer time and time to “find your park!”

See you in the parks!

Phil