For those looking for a park that’s a little off the beaten path, Wilkes County’s Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest might be ticket for a lazy Saturday this fall.
The forest sits between the tiny Wilkes County communities of Miller’s Creek, Parsonville and Purlear, and it might be considered a kind of hidden gem. Sprawling across some 3,300 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Rendezvous Mountain offers everything from hiking trails to “talking trees,” and more than a few spots to take in the view and enjoy a quick picnic.
According to author Fay Byrd’s “Wilkes County Bits and Pieces,” Rendezvous Mountain may have been an assembly point for patriots on the march to the Battle of King’s Mountain in the fall of 1780. That route taken by the “Overmountain Men” also is celebrated by the nearby Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
The idea for Rendezvous Mountain as a state park, however, began in the mid-1920s, according to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, after a local set aside some 140 acres to be included in the state park’s system. It was later donated to the state’s forestry division in 1956, and finally opened to the public in 1984 as an educational forest.
It grew to its present size after additional land became available around the turn of the century northwest of Miller’s Creek.
Today, it features a “Talking Tree Trail,” which features recorded messages designed to offer listeners an understanding of the forest that surrounds them.
Though she’s now a mother herself, Wilkes County’s Mitzi Dancy said that self-guided feature remains her favorite part of Rendezvous Mountain.
“My dad took me there as a child and each time I go now it transports me back to those days with him,” Dancy, whose father passed away in 2002, said. “I can still hear his laughter echoing through those trees. It’s a good hike for kids and adults, not too exhausting, yet you know you’ve been active. I think the trail is slightly over a mile with several hills and stops along the way.”
The forest also includes a Forest Demonstration Trail which gives insight on forestry practices, and different points around the park can offer views of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock and Hawksbill — views Dancy calls spectacular when the leaves begin to turn each fall.
“There is also an amazing picnic shelter with a beautiful rock fireplace and a mini-amphitheater,” Dancy said.
Rendezvous Mountain also features periodic outdoor education workshops, ranger-conducted classes, and a chance to get a little wet along the Amadehy Waterfalls Trail. The property also includes an on-site fire tower.
“Another great memory from my younger years was climbing up the stairs to the top of the fire tower — a major thrill for a little kid,” Dancy said. “You could see for untold miles on a clear day, but you can no longer do this. It’s been chained off for several years.”
Rendezvous Mountain’s season runs from March 18 through Nov. 20, and hours of operation vary so call 336-667-5072 or visit http://www.ncesf.org/rendezvousMt.html for more information.
Rendezvous Mountain is located at 1956 Rendezvous Mountain Road, Purlear. To get there, travel U.S. 421 to Wilkesboro and take N.C. 16 South. Turn onto Shingle Gap Road and then onto Rendezvous Mountain Road.
Nathan Ham may be reached at 336-489-3062.