It was a busy weekend at the Visitors Center at Kings Mountain. Because it was sunny and about 70, everyone wanted to get out, especially after the snow and ice the weekend before. We had over 1400 guests in the two days of the weekend (compared to a total of 70 on Thursday and Friday). Lots of local people came to walk around the Battlefield Trail and we had a variety of dogs and people. Some people came specifically to learn about the Battle at Kings Mountain, but they were definitely in the minority over the weekend.
This weekend we saw another kind of visitor: overflow guests from Crowders Mountain State Park. Crowders Mountain is the state park closest to Charlotte and, on nice weekends, the park gets full. There are several different hiking trails – mountain and lakeside – and they vary in length, so there is something for everyone. However, parking fills up fast and when the lot is full, they “close” the park and send people to Kings Mountain State Park.
Kings Mountain State Park is adjacent to Crowders Mountain but in South Carolina instead of North Carolina. And Kings Mountain State Park is adjacent to Kings Mountain National Military Park. All three are linked by a couple of longer trails.
So people from Charlotte who want to go on a good hike head to Crowders and get sent to Kings Mountain State Park. They park in the first available spot and head off on the first trail they see, which is usually the Crawford Lake Trail. This trail leads them from Crawford Lake to the National Military Park. Sometimes they manage to bypass the Visitors Center and head up Browns Mountain, which means they have gone six miles by the time they get to the top. Then they come back down (nine miles total) and notice the Visitors Center which they think must be at the State Park. When they come in they are dismayed to learn that they still have to hike three more miles back to their cars.
Part of the problem is the state park does not have trail maps and several of their trail signs are missing. Kings Mountain NMP has a basic trail map and good signs but many people are exhausted by the time they find the Visitors Center. Tom and I were surprised by the number of people that came in looking for their cars. All they knew was they had parked them by a lake – and now they couldn’t find the lake! Most people will get some water, rest on the benches for a while, and then trudge back on the trail to the state park. Occasionally one of our Law Enforcement Rangers will give people a ride back to Lake Crawford, especially toward the end of the day. Tom and I think we could make some serious money on a busy weekend running a shuttle service!
The smart people drive from Crowders Mountain directly to Kings Mountain NMP, pick up a map and ask directions to the trailhead. These folks come back to the Visitors Center having enjoyed a nice hike up Browns Mountain or over to Lake Crawford and back. They knew the distance before they started, they noticed the signs along the way, and they can head back home having enjoyed their day outside.
Tom and I worked at the Visitors Center desk on Saturday and Sunday and answered lots of questions – most of them about finding the right trails. We enjoyed having so many visitors and were pleased that we could help so many people find their way. We look forward to the next time we have a busy weekend at Kings Mountain National Military Park.