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CRYSTAL COCKMAN COLUMN: Camping at Morrow Mountain

A friend and I recently spent a night camping at Morrow Mountain State Park. We reserved one of the car camping spots, and planned for a fun time outdoors.

Crystal Cockman writes a column for The SNAP through the Three Rivers Land Trust.

These spots are really affordable, the one we rented was $25 for the night, and was close to a very nice bath house.

We could arrive at the site at 4 p.m. and did not have to check out until 3 p.m. the next day. I had done this once before last year, and knew it would be a great experience.

The spot we reserved had a nice fire ring and plenty of room to set up my tent and to park both of our cars. The setting is really nice also, with plenty of trees around the campsites, enough to feel relatively private even though there are other people not far away. And lots of habitat for wildlife.

Shortly after we got there, I was able to snap some great pictures of a pileated woodpecker and a red-bellied woodpecker. There were also lots of squirrels scurrying about.

We had a fire that evening and a great “meal in one” dinner of hamburger, potatoes, carrots and onions cooked together. It was dark around 8 p.m. and shortly thereafter we both called it a night.

We woke up the next morning and decided to hike the Big Rocks trail for our first adventure, since it is a short walk from our campsite to the start of that trail.

The Big Rocks Trail follows a horse trail for a good portion of the hike, but then cuts off and heads towards the lake. The trail is relatively flat and makes for a pretty easy hike. There is a sign to watch out for the steep areas and rocks and cliff faces near the lake though. We carefully made our way down to some rocks overlooking the river and took a few pictures.

From this location you can see Hidden Lake across the river, which is a really beautiful spot. On the way back we noticed a beautiful patch of resurrection fern on a tall tree limb.

By that time, it was about lunchtime, so we started another fire and warmed up some leftovers from the meal the night before. After we ate, we decided to go ahead and pack up the campsite and that we would hike the Hattaway Mountain Trail before we left the park. That trail is over near the swimming pool, and there’s a large parking area just beyond it.

The Hattaway Trail starts with a short connector trail to a loop. We went to the left, and I’m glad we did. It went up the mountain pretty quickly and steeply, but I was much more comfortable going up that section of trail than I would have been going down it. I had hiked the trail before but it was many years ago, so I didn’t really remember the terrain very well. We made it to the top and there were some great views of mountains in the distance.

The rest of the hike was mostly downhill, and the trail was not as steep and for a good portion there was a lot of mountain laurel on the sides of the trail, so it felt safer walking there than it would have going down the way we came up. We eventually made it back to the connector trail and back past the pool and to our cars. From here we parted ways and both agreed we would have to enjoy another camping trip here again soon.

Crystal Cockman is director of conservation for the Three Rivers Land Trust, which includes Stanly County.