Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Table Rock... again!

This month last year, David and I braved some nasty weather and hiked up Table Rock . When we got to the top (well, near the top, actually), the clouds parted long enough for us to take in some amazing fall scenery. It's certainly the best mountaintop scenery I've enjoyed on the east coast.

This time around, we went up about a week ahead of the leaves changing, so the fall colors weren't quite there, but neither was the fall rain. We also brought along some company. David's wife, Holly, made her second Table Rock climb and I was lucky enough to be accompanied by the entire family. By "entire," I mean my wife, Laura, and 16-month-old Gabriel.

We drove straight from Augusta to Table Rock State Park, arriving around 3:30, an hour behind schedule, which is customary when traveling with David, and ended up not actually getting on the trail until around a quarter to four. The issue with the later time was that Gabriel would be approaching bedtime before we could make it down off the mountain and we had no idea how he would handle being stuck in a baby carrier while his eyes got heavy. Of course, we also had no idea how he would enjoy being stuck in a baby carrier for the hike up the mountain either.

As has been the case on all our other outdoor adventures with the little man, he was perfect. When he gets outdoors, his wheels stop turning quite as fast, he calms down, his eyes get big, and you can tell his little mind is just taking in all the scenery around him. This trip was no different.

About an hour into the hike, we stopped at a large boulder beside the trail to take in some water and let Gabriel stretch his legs. David hopped up on the boulder to find a seat and the little toot headed up after him. This was a solid granite faced boulder that had a very steep grade, but he got about half-way up the 6 to 7-foot face before realizing that he was climbing on his own. Crazy little kid!! David's mom always jokes with me that because I introduced David to backpacking, I am also responsible for his rock-climbing hobby (which I completely refuse any responsibility for). Now I tell her that her son taught MY son how to rock climb, so we're even.

We loaded back up and headed up the trail. After about a half hour we came to the gazebo that marks the approximate half-way point. Near the gazebo is an exposed rock face that you can safely walk out on, giving you your first hint of Table Rock scenery.

Already running a little behind schedule, we didn't spend too much resting. With just another couple of minutes climbing, we would be at Governor's Rock. This is the place that David and I had to stop last time due to time and weather constraints. I was looking forward to going back and letting Laura and Gabriel experience the views, although the colors weren't quite popping yet.

We plopped down and let Gabriel run around and much as safety would allow. We took some pictures, drank some water, and snacked on some trail food. Again, we were in quite a race with the sunset so we didn't hang around long because I was anxious to make it all the way out to the nose of Table Rock.

After hitting the trail again, we crossed paths with a four foot rat snake. It was quickly making its way across the trail. If nothing else, it was fun to see David's fear of snakes manifest itself for a quick second. We kept moving and after crossing the official summit of Table Rock, we came to what they call "the nose."

The extra effort was certainly worth it. The views of the lake below and the landscape stretching out into the South Carolina Low Country was awesome. But again, as our race against the setting sun continued, we had to pack up fast and make a hasty retreat down the mountain.

We headed down at a much faster pace, but it was obvious we were not going to make it down before the sun set on us, so we divvied out the headlamps and anxiously awaited Gabriel's fussiness from riding in the carrier at night. Come to find out, as long as he had a handful of crackers, he was as happy as could be riding on my back. He never got fussy. He never wanted down. He was enjoying every second of the hike. The last 15-20 minutes of the hike were with headlamps on, hiking in the dark. Still, Gabriel didn't make a peep. At this time of day he would normally be having a bottle of milk while getting rocked in preparation for bedtime. He was just as content holding on to a handful of crackers hiking through the night!

We made it back to Hotel Dennis and, as always, enjoyed a weekend spending time with the entire Dennis family (despite Texas losing to Oklahoma the following Saturday). Now, Gabriel has added a second patch to his lil' pack! He'll be out of room for patches before you know it!