Forty Acre Rock… It’s a Secret

Along the Carolina Piedmont, thirty-five miles southeast of Charlotte, and five miles south of the North Carolina border, is a geologic treasure that no one knows about, and there’s good reason why that’s a good thing. Imagine if there was a place so environmentally sensitive that the government didn’t want you to know about it, out of fear that human activity could destroy very rare vegetation.  Forty Acre Rock is just one of those places.

South Carolina has designated 2,500 acres near Lancaster, as a “Heritage Preserve”, because to call it a State or National Park or Monument, would promote visitors, which, for so many reasons, is a bold move on their part.  There are no signs  directing you to the Preserve. Other than two cleared parking areas, there are no facilities of any kind in the Preserve. Three hiking trails are clearly marked, but one could get lost here if you aren’t careful. Something really cataclysmic happened along the Piedmont millions of years ago,  and what was left behind were giant boulders, deep ravines, creeks, waterfalls, and most dramatically, a seventeen acre expanse of exposed granite, which was mistakenly named “40 Acre Rock” by early settlers.  A mile and a half hike over rough terrain will take you past a Beaver Pond, and wetlands that contain rare and endangered plants. More and more granite boulders, some the size of a house, become visible as you approach the “Rock”, but nothing can prepare you for what you are about to encounter.

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And suddenly, there it is. The sight takes your breath away. You’ve never experienced anything like this before.  The hour and a half hike was an unfolding mystery, but the reward would have been worth a two day camping trip to get there.

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rich 3Lichens and mosses have found a way to grow on this exposed rock, nourished by the occasional rain storm. And speaking of rain, you don’t want to be out on this granite during a storm, because you could be knocked over by the force of the torrents cascading to the forest below. But it’s the rain that has created the habitat for the rare plants that have found a way to thrive on the soil starved hilltop. Water fills geologic “holes” at the highest point of the Rock, and over millennia, small plants have evolved that can survive the extreme heat of summer, and the extreme cold of icy winters. When the pools dry up, these plants can go into a form of hibernation, waiting for the next shower.

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Following a trail to the north off the Rock, you will enter a gorge where water has smoothed large slabs of granite, creating waterfalls and crystal clear creeks.

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You could easily spend a full day in this Paradise, but make sure you bring lots of water and something to eat, and a cellphone in case you get lost. And because there are no trash cans, make sure you carry out everything you brought in. 

And please, keep this place a secret from anyone who would not respect its fragility.

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