June 7, 2018
When I first graduated law school, it was the height of the Great Recession. I was lucky enough to be one of the few that got a job right after graduating, a 1-year fellowship with Legal Aid in a town way off in the western portion of North Carolina. I moved to Morganton with absolutely no money, no friends in the area and no family nearby. I heard people discuss a state park in the southern portion of Burke County that was gorgeous. This was alluring as activities that are free are appealing when you are broke. I vividly remember moving to the area, and after paying for my first month’s rent, I had exactly $12.00 to my name.
South Mountains State Park will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the place I found that I spent hours wondering around, reintroduced me to nature, to that cathartic avenue of release by simply staring up at trees, listening to the sounds of nature. It was free and it was glorious.
I’m glad that I was finally able to introduce my family to this area on Thursday. “The South Mountains, carved out of the Blue Ridge by erosion, are a broad belt of peaks and knobs rising abruptly from a deep valley. These steep, rugged mountains encompass 100,000 acres in Burke, Cleveland and Rutherford counties.” (*1) Like many mountain trails, they were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s, at a time when most Americans were out of work. “Those employed [by the CCC] constructed forest service roads, cleaned stream beds and built a forest observation tower.) (*1)
We decided to hike the Hemlock Nature Trail to the Upper Falls Trail and corresponding waterfall (a total of 1 mile). It is a superb trail full of greenery, towering pines, forgotten hemlocks and a monstrous 80 ft. waterfall.