March and spring are finally here; well you could say that spring started unusually early this year with the kind of weather we had in February. Now at least I'm not as scared to plan a trip on the weekends for fear of cold weather and the daylight hours are getting long enough so I can grab some adventure for a bit after my workday is done. I live in Catawba and work in Fort Mill so if I'm going to get anything done before dark it means I need to be there by 5:45pm. Here are some of my favorite places to go that are within a short drive of Rock Hill.
Since I live in Catawba I have the good fortune of having Landsford Canal State Park only 5 minutes down the road. Most people kayak or canoe through the Spider Lilies that have made the park famous but I love taking early morning walks with my dog on a loop that includes the Nature and Canal trails and stretches from one parking lot to the other. You get to see the river, the bald eagles nest, and the old locks and canal stonework all along a nice and flat trail. The park closes at sundown so be kind to the rangers and leave before dark so they don't have to chase you down.
If I happen to have a canoe or kayak sitting on my roof I head a bit further south to where Highway 9 crosses the Catawba River and put in on the river and paddle up stream. At this point the river is pretty much a lake so you don’t have to worry about fighting the current unless you paddle all the way up to the State Park. Depending on the time of year you may see the same eagles that nest near Landsford hunting along the river banks or otters playing in the mud. There’s great fishing along this section of the river, and if your casts prove unsuccessful you can always grab dinner at Catawba Fish Camp across the bridge.
Further up river in Rock Hill you have 2 separate options for an easy walk or paddle to River Park and Riverwalk. River Park has the most diverse terrain for hiking with marshes, creeks, hills, and meadows and a lovely view of the wastewater treatment plant. If you're looking for a longer hike, there is a new connector trail that hooks up to the River Walk trail system giving you over 3 miles one way for a total of 6 miles round trip. The city of Rock Hill actually has a large network of trails all over town and you can find a map of them all on their website. If paddling is more your speed you can always put in at River Walk and paddle down to River Park and just walk back to pick up your car; word of warning though, you don’t want to make that trip in the dark so it may be best to arrange a pickup from a friend.
If you don't mind driving a bit further outside of Rock Hill your options multiply quickly. Heading towards Brattonsville you can hike the trails of the Draper Wildlife Management Area; be cautious during hunting season as it's a popular place for hunters, but during the spring it's more popular with photographers because of it's massive sunflower fields. Also on the property are several stocked ponds so if your preferred method of hiking involves circling a lake with a pole in one hand Draper has you covered. Also towards York you have the James Ross Wildlife Reservation which provides access to the Triple C Rail Trail which stretches for 23 miles from York to Smyrna. Depending on what section of the trail you hike it may be overgrown and nigh impassable; since it was completed 10 years ago it hasn't been maintained very well so hike at your own risk.
Right at the edge of the 45 minute circle from Rock Hill is Kings Mountain State Park, Military Park, and the connections to Crowders Mountain State Park in NC. Inside the National Military Park you have the Battlefield Trail which follows a portion of the historic Overmountain Trail. In the State Park they also have a trail that circles their living history Farm which is a great opportunity to do something that has brought me calm since I was a child: watching cows eat grass. I'm not sure what I find so comforting about it, but just wandering around a farm and it's animals and outbuildings bring me back to growing up on a farm outside of Sharon SC.
Nearby Lake York is also a great place to paddle and is usually empty except during the summer when Camp Cherokee has campers. You put in on a feeder creek and paddle out onto the open lake and there are small feeder creeks all along the edge to explore with shallow bottoms to see what’s going on under the surface. If the water is low and you’re in a craft with more draw like a canoe, just be careful to not run aground and tip over.
A few miles up the road is the Crowders Mountain State Park Dixon School Boulders access which puts you on the Ridgeline trail that stretches 15 miles from Crowders to Kings Mountain State Park. If you get on the trail and head north for a mile you reach the boulder area which has panoramic views and neat caves and overhangs to explore. If you’re also looking for an after work rock climbing spot, it’s a good little bouldering area to train on some problems before dark.
The be-all end-all outdoor mecca comes with a price, but at the US National Whitewater Center you have everything you can think of: mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking (both whitewater and flatwater), hiking trails, and if you’re into this sort of thing beer. Also new this year is their deepwater soloing wall which is a rockwall over a deep pool; when you fall off the rock you fall in the water, so there are no harnesses or protective gear to get in your way. Some of these options require a pass, but the hiking at least only requires a $5 parking pass (or $50 annually) which all goes towards trail maintenance.
While it’s easy to just give in after a hard day of work, to go home and pour yourself into the welcoming embrace of your couch and favorite Netflix series, rarely will you regret pushing through to go have some fun outside. So before summer’s brutish heat makes enjoying time outside impossible, get out and have some fun.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.