Friday, March 18, 2011

My Feet on the Table

Table Rock
Yesterday I headed out for a day hike with Juneau, my awesome dog.  Our destination was Table Rock State Park where our entire family had been to earlier this year.  During that outing we hiked the Carrick Creek Trail and after looking into to the other trails offered in the area, I was determined to hike Table Rock Trail up to the Table Rock summit.  While researching the trail, I decided to make this trip an all or nothing trip, and hit two summits on the same day.  First, we would summit Pinnacle Mountain and then we would cross Ridge Trail to Table Rock and summit there as well.  I knew it would be a hard hike, yet it would be a great adventure with Juneau, get me into the woods, and provided an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular scenery of God's handiwork!

First, some background.  Table Rock Mountain was named from a Cherokee legend that the Great Spirit used the flat granite summit as a dinner table.  So, today, I was determined to put my feet up on the Table...or so to speak. 

Prepping for the trek, I packed my Camelbak Octane 18X 100oz pack, and Juneau's dog pack with water, made sure I had all my emergency essentials, and my sunblock and bug spray, which both came in very handy!!  I also packed treats for Juneau, Kashi trail snack bars, and my lunch.  Well next time I'll pack sandwiches for two as Juneau wanted my whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and turkey, and he and I ended up sharing all my Kashi bars as he wouldn't touch his snacks!  At least he was a happy hiker.

We headed out from our house at about 8:15 am, and arrived at Table Rock State Park around 9:30 am.  Our planned route would take us from the trail head, up Pinnacle Mountain Trail, to Mill Creek Falls, onward to Bald Rock Overpass, then to Pinnacle Mountain Summit.  The second part of the trek would be on Ridge Trail taking us to Panther Gap, then to Table Rock Trail leading to Governor's Rock onward towards Table Rock Summit, then to the spectacular view at Caesars Head.  The final stretch would be backtracking Table Rock Trail, however this time following until where it meets Carrick Creek Mountain Trail, then finishing at the Nature Center.
Our trail started at the Nature Center, where we register our hiking route.

Within a few minutes we came across small waterfalls, then the trail connects to the Pinnacle Mountain Trail.

The trail is nicely marked through the entire hike.  It is obvious while walking the Pinnacle trail that it is the less traveled of the two main mountains.  The trail in many sections is wide enough really for one hiker single file.  There are plenty of areas to allow others to pass....however during this entire section of the hike we never crossed another hiker.  There are some beautiful large boulders with water dripping off them, small waterfalls and some areas provide nice look-outs, however the view is pretty obscured by trees...the better views are still to come and you have to keep working on towards higher elevation.

We diverted off Pinnacle Trail to head towards Mill Creek Falls Spur Trail, a small .8 mile round trip for the view of a beautiful waterfall. 
On our way to the waterfall.

Once we stopped at Mill Creek Falls we enjoyed a quick lunch and got hydrated.  Juneau ended up sharing my lunch as he wasn't interested in the food I brought for him.  Spoiled, spoiled dog!
Mill Creek Waterfall

Bald Rock Overlook
We backtracked on the Mill Creek Spur Trail to Pinnacle Trail and continued our journey to Pinnacle Mountain Summit.  On the way to the summit, we crossed Bald Rock Overlook and we took in an amazing view!
Bald Rock Overlook

We would have stuck around longer, but it seemed that every mosquito in the area caught my scent, and descended upon me.  I poured Juneau some water, and swatted the bugs while he drank...then we headed out for the coveted summit. 

We reached the summit, at an elevation of 3425' after 3 hours of hiking, however the summit is tree covered and provided no photo opportunities, so I was just left with the satisfaction of making it to the top!  We then started our trek across the Ridge Trail, which was a nice change of pace.  The trail was mostly a decent, with some moderate inclines.  It's a pretty hike, however there aren't many photo opportunities.  I did find some signs of Spring, and some pretty fungi (I have no idea what exactly it is).
We continued on our way to Table Rock and stopped for a few minutes to have another quick snack and Juneau was thirsty.  However, by the time I got the food out and the water and bowel for Juneau, he decided to take an extended break.
Juneau catching a breather

We finally reached the Table Rock Trail and headed at Panther Gap junction, and started our next ascent, about 400ft for Table Rock Summit.
Panther Gap Junction
Carved by waterflow
View from Governor's Rock
We headed to our first stop along the way, Governors Rock (2,920 ft), a large, exposed section of rock with small steps carved into the rock and some cool water erosion carvings into the massive rock.  We stopped for this awesome viewpoint and took a few pictures. 

Our next stop is at the summit of Table Rock (3,124 ft) after 5 hours hiking, which just like Pinnacle Mountain summit, is covered in trees and there isn't really any view.  We stopped here again for a few pictures and Juneau spent some time hydrating.
At the summit of Table Rock
I  had read that a lot of hikers turned around at this point, believing they have seen all there is to see.  However continuing along the trail for a short 5 minute descent takes you to another spectacular view at Caesars Head.  So we headed off in that direction for our final view of the hike.  I was glad I didn't skip this portion as it was not only an excellent view of God's canvas we would have missed out on the nice cool breeze which  we stood and enjoyed for about 10 minutes.  The weather was called for upper 70s for the day, however it was only around the upper 60s at this point, regardless, we were hot and the rest stop was deserved!
View from Caesars Head
Next we headed back via Table Rock Trail to Panther Gap, then on towards the Nature Center.  This is a very well defined trail, with plenty of log and rock steps.  There is a small shelter along the way but there was no rest for the weary and we continued our journey down the mountain.

At the end of the Table Rock trail we connect with the path to return to the Nature Center, which quickly becomes a smooth walk, nice bridges and a return to the small falls that greeted us when we first arrived.

We finished the 10.6 mile (17km) trek in 6.5 hours.  The total ascent from the base of the trail was 2665ft / 815m.  It was an outstanding trip, and I would do it again.  Juneau was awesome on the trail, blazing ahead of me, and often I wondered if I was the one on the leash, not him!  I can't wait to go on another adventure with him, but I'll let him recover from this hike first!

Sorry for the length of this blog, but with the length of the trail, and all the photos, it was hard to keep it condensed and give a full overview!  


  1. is your dog a husky by chance? OUR dog is name Jun too!! but it's just a nick for Junaluska!! kinda neat!!! love ur blog!

  2. oh DUH just saw the pup!! my computer has lag so bad at work!!

  3. I LOVE Huskies! Beautiful dogs. I would consider getting one but with the South Carolina heat I think it would feel more misplaced than I do!

    My dog Juneau is a Redbone Coonhound. He's really a great dog, I just love him to death!

  4. Thnx for sharing this hike. It looks like it was hard. Your pictures are great and it is cool your dog goes with you.