Winter’s End at Morrow Mountain State Park

It is the beginning of March, and already, bird song has noticeably increased in the mornings, spring peepers are calling in the evening, and trees are beginning to bud. Lately North Carolina has been the stage for a dance between winter and spring, alternating between fairly chilly and unseasonably warm. Eventually and very soon, the warmer weather will take over and spring will be in full swing.

On an overcast day during this change of seasons, some friends and I ventured a couple hours away from home to North Carolina’s third state park founded in 1935: Morrow Mountain State Park in the Uwharrie Mountains. This mountain range used to be coastal but now lies in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Remarkably, the mountains formerly reached heights of almost 20,000 ft above sea level, but erosion has worked over time to reduce them to a fraction of this size, with Morrow Mountain standing at 936 ft.

The effects of rains earlier in the week were ubiquitous — sprouting acorns, active earthworms, and fluffy, thriving fungi.

We laced up our boots in the horse trailer parking lot, and embarked on the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. The hike was fairly strenuous, as a few stretches of trail, despite the switchbacks, were very steep. Our party certainly slowed down to save our ankles. We split off the main trail to visit the backpacking campsite, where we rested from the hills and admired the eastern bluebirds and trees over lunch.

The latter section of the trail offered another kind of fun: abundant stream crossings! Luckily, recent rains had both plumped up the fungi and vegetation and filled in the streams a bit. This posed more of a challenge in crossing the streams, but it was well worth the picturesque landscape.

Our canine companion enjoyed some creek walking.

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail intersects the Morrow Mountain Trail, a short hike to the peak, but one which lacks sufficient switchbacks, forcing us to ascend nearly 500 ft directly up the side of the mountain. I stopped a few times to catch my breath and give my calves some reprieve, and at each break, the view only got better. A couple of hikers had a terrific idea to bring hammocks with them, perching themselves just shy of the summit to enjoy the view.

Overcoming the steep ascent, we finally reached the summit, where we could see for miles around. I could only imagine how much more breathtaking it would be were it a cloudless, sunny day! An easy trail circumnavigated the summit, allowing us to admire in every direction the forested, rolling foothills that contribute to North Carolina’s exceptional beauty.

With great company in the great outdoors, there was nothing left to do but celebrate our hike by sharing food, stretching and doing a little yoga. As spring returns, temperatures rise, and tree branches become heavy again with leaves, I look forward to more visits to North Carolina’s gorgeous state parks!

From the top of Morrow Mountain, despite the clouds, we could see for miles in every direction.

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