Trail Areas of the Uwharrie, Part 3

This is the third of a three-part series about the different trail areas covered in the second edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide.

The guidebook is organized in sections, one for each geographic area containing trails. Sections are ordered alphabetically, making it easier to find a specific trail area when flipping through the book.

Morrow Mountain State Park is located along the west shore of Lake Tillery, where the Yadkin River and the Uwharrie River meet and become the Pee Dee River. Morrow Mountain State Park contains more than 37 miles of hiking trails. About 20 miles are open to equestrian use. Bicycles are not allowed on the trails, but the paved park road that climbs to the summit of Morrow Mountain is popular with road cyclists.

The park offers rental cabins, a campground, group campsites, and a few backpack-in campsites. In addition to a boat ramp, canoe rentals, and a pool, a small museum and several history exhibits round out the many points of interest in the park. The City of Albemarle and its numerous stores and restaurants are less than 5 miles from the park.

Trails at Morrow Mountain vary from level, sandy stretches along the lakeshore to a steep climb up the park’s namesake mountain. Several of the other mountains in the park are traversed by trails, providing the visitor with a chance to see a wide variety of environments.

Morrow Mountain State Park map

Morrow Mountain State Park map

NC Zoo Park is a new addition to the guide. The paved pathways through the NC Zoo exhibits offer a fair bit of walking mileage, but the Zoo is also developing a set of more traditional trails outside of the exhibit areas. Their trail offerings are still limited, only totaling five miles in 2014, but work to extend them continues. Access to these trails does not require a Zoo admission ticket.

The trails maintained by the Zoo are not all located at the main Zoo property. The Ridges Mountain property is home to some fascinating rock outcroppings. The Pisgah Covered Bridge property is a small park with historical significance and a short loop trail that showcases the creekside environment near the bridge.

NC Zoo trails map

NC Zoo trails map

Pisgah Covered Bridge

Pisgah Covered Bridge

Uwharrie Trail area is a corridor that runs through several of the areas described elsewhere – the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness, Morris Mountain, and Wood Run. A few other areas connect these larger sections into a corridor nearly 40 miles long. The Uwharrie Trail runs through it all, offering hikers the opportunity for fairly long-distance trips. Even though some of these areas are covered in other chapters in the book, the Uwharrie Trail section focuses on this one trail and presents data in a way most helpful for anyone hiking through on part or all of the Uwharrie Trail.

Wood Run Area is home to the southern end of the Uwharrie Trail and the Wood Run Mountain Bike Trail system. The bike trails and bikeable forest roads offer mountain bikers nearly 20 miles of backcountry fun to explore. Several miles of the Keyauwee Trail were rebuilt specifically to flow better for biking.

The popular figure-eight route formed by the Uwharrie and Dutchman’s Creek trails offers hikers and backpackers a convenient 20-mile loop. The numerous trails in the Wood Run Area can be combined to create hiking route loops from just a couple of miles long to forty miles or more. Many of these trip route possibilities are covered in the guide, with maps and mileages details provided.

Wood Run Area map

Wood Run Area map

Complete details and maps for all of the trails in each of these areas are included in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. If you don’t have a copy yet, please order one today!

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Trail Areas of the Uwharrie, Part 2

This is the second of a three-part series about the different trail areas covered in the second edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide.

The guidebook is organized in sections, one for each geographic area containing trails. Sections are ordered alphabetically, making it easier to find a specific trail area when flipping through the book.

Boone’s Cave Park is a small Davidson County park located on the east bank of the Yadkin River. The name comes from a small cave overlooking the river that was rumored to have been used by Daniel Boone’s family in in the 1750’s. The park features 3.5 miles of hiking trails, a nice picnic pavilion, campsites, and a 1740’s-style log cabin. The state’s tallest Cottonwood tree can be found in the park.

1740's-style log cabin

1740’s-style log cabin

Boone's Cave Park map

Boone’s Cave Park map

Denson’s Creek Area is located just east of Troy, NC. The collection of trails in this area are managed by the USFS and the Town of Troy. The longest trail is the Town Of Troy Nature Trail, which follows Denson’s Creek from the Roy J, Maness Nature Preserve to the confluence with the Little River. Parking is available at either end, as well as at the USFS Ranger Station.

The USFS and Town trails do not officially connect, but a gravel road crosses both sets of trails and offers an easy way to connect them. Several of the Trips detailed in the guide use this gravel road to create a loop hike.

Denson's Creek Area map

Denson’s Creek Area map

Morris Mountain Area lies in the middle of the Uwharrie Trail corridor, just north of highway NC 109. The USFS manages this area. The Uwharrie Trail is the primary trail running through this area, but there are several logging roads and old woods roads that create loop hike opportunities.

Two less-developed hunt camps, one on each side of the area, offer car-camping options to compliment the backcountry campsites along the trails. The West Morris Mountain camp does have picnic tables, tent pads, and vault toilets, but does not have a water source.

Morris Mountain Area map

Morris Mountain Area map

Complete details and maps for all of the trails in each of these areas are included in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. If you don’t have a copy yet, please order one today!

In the third part of this series, I’ll cover Morrow Mountain State Park, the NC Zoo Park, the Uwharrie Trail, and the Wood Run Area.

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Trail Areas of the Uwharrie, Part 1

Several of my recent posts have been about the Uwharrie Trail, with a focus on the newly reopened sections. New trail is exciting, but there are many other trails in the Uwharrie Lakes Region. This is the first of a three-part series about the different trail areas in the Uwharries.

The second edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide covers ten different geographic areas containing trails. The guidebook is organized in sections, one for each trail area. Sections are ordered alphabetically, making it easier to find a specific trail area when flipping through the book.

Albemarle City Lake Park is one of the smaller trail areas, but it is notable for its purpose-built mountain bike trails. The bike trails and a bike skills area were built as a cooperative effort between the City, a local bike shop, and IMBA. The park is located on the west side of Albemarle, NC, off of highway NC 73 and is managed by the Albemarle Parks and Recreation Department.  The park also has a few hiking-only trails, numerous lakeside picnic facilities, and a small amphitheater for concerts. The lake is open for fishing and non-motorized boating.

Albemarle City Lake Park area map

Albemarle City Lake Park

Badin Lake Recreation Area is the largest trail area in terms of trail mileage, and perhaps in acreage. This area is located northwest of Troy, NC along the east shore of the Yadkin River where dams have created Badin Lake, Narrows Reservoir, and Lake Tillery. The Uwharrie River borders the southeast side of the area.

Managed by the USFS, this area contains the only USFS campgrounds with hot shower/bathhouse facilities. The Flintlock Valley Shooting Range is here, and the Cove Boat Ramp and King’s Mountain Point picnic facility are along the shore of Badin Lake. The area is cross-crossed by several surprisingly long gravel roads. Several less-developed campgrounds can also be found throughout the area, as well as numerous pull-off campsites along the gravel roads. This area sees the most visitors of all the trail areas in the Uwharries, especially on weekends.

Within the Badin Lake Recreation Area are three distinct trail systems, some of which overlap. The hiking-only Badin Lake Trail follows the lake shore around the large peninsula on the northwest side of the area where several of the campgrounds, the boat ramp, and the picnic area can be found.

More than 40 miles of equestrian trails run through the northern two-thirds of the area, with the heaviest use seen in the upper part. The Canebrake Horse Camp was built for equestrians, with high-line posts and tack tables at each site.
The OHV trail system is spread over the southern half of the area. Five different parking locations provide space for trailer parking and built-in off-load ramps.

Hikers can hike on all of the trails in the Badin Lake area, with mid-week outings offering the best chance for solitude.

Mountain bikers can ride all of the trails except the Badin Lake Hiking Trail. I should note that the equestrian and OHV trails are not typical bike trails, so do not expect to find lots of continuous “flow”. You will find yourself pushing up a few hills, climbing down others, and dodging some horse manure. If you can deal with these intermittent features, you can look forward to mile after mile of trail through one of the most mountainous sections of the Uwharries. There is plenty of scenery to enjoy, challenging riding to test your skills and endurance, and seeing another mountain biker will be a pleasant surprise. Equestrians and OHV drivers are usually curious to see meet someone crazy enough to ride the trails on a bicycle.

Badin Lake Recreation area

Badin Lake Recreation Area

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness is located a few miles southwest of Asheboro, NC. With its federal “wilderness” designation, the trails in this area are only open to hikers. There are no campgrounds, bathroom facilities, water spigots or other features often found at more developed locations. You will find trails here, with trees, rocks, and streams in abundance. Perfect for a quiet hiking escape!

The Birkhead area is managed by the USFS and is only separated by a few miles of privately-owned land from other USFS-owned property. The Uwharrie Trail runs through that nearby USFS property, connecting it to several of the other trail areas covered in the guide book. The original historic route of the Uwharrie Trail ran through the Birkhead Mountains area as well, and hopefully it will again soon.

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness

Birkhead Mountains trail sign

Birkhead Mountains trail sign

Complete details and maps for all of the trails in each of these areas are included in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. If you don’t have a copy yet, please order one today!

In the second part of this series, I’ll cover Boone’s Cave Park, the Denson’s Creek Area, and the Morris Mountain Area.

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Looking Ahead to 2015

2015

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2015? Some of my goals for the upcoming year: be a better husband/father/son, sleep better, eat better, declutter, save more. You know how that list goes. Here are a few of my other goals.

Write better. I would like to improve my writing skills this year. How will I do that? Read more, for starters. Noticing how others write, especially when they do it well, is a good step towards learning how to improve one’s own writing. I want to improve my skill on both non-fiction and fiction. My engineer-brain likes to understand pieces and parts and how they fit together, so analytical reading should be right up my alley. Reading more on the topic of better writing will help too.

Goodreads.com helps me track what I’ve read and motivates me to keep at it. If you are a reader too, check out my author profile there and consider following and/or friending me.

Writing more is another obvious way to work towards my goal of writing better. Practice makes perfect, right? Write. Several book ideas have been sitting on my back burner for a while. I would like to complete one of them this year, and make serious progress on the others. More articles are needed for donchildrey.com too.

Bike more.  This goal should be easy to reach, as long as having too many choices doesn’t hamper me. I can choose from my mountain bike, touring bicycle, and adventure touring motorcycle. Yes, I often refer to my motorcycle as a “bike” too, which I know can be confusing. Maybe that needs to be one part of writing better that I figure out sooner rather than later!

My larger goals for biking are to take several major two-wheeled trips this year. I really like cycling to a destination. Spinning for the sake of saddle time, or literally spinning in place on an indoor trainer, doesn’t motivate me. With several trips dangling in front of me like a carrot, trainer time and short local rides for fitness should be a bit easier to swallow.

I did my first bike overnight in 2014, so following that with a multi-day self-supported cycle tour seems like the proper next step. Perhaps I can spend a few days cycling along the outer banks before summer arrives. Or spend a few days cycling along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Other possibilities for biking are multi-day road trip to ride several of the mountain bike trail systems in NC, or spending a week in the Fruita, Colorado area to ride those amazing trails, or maybe spending several days exploring some of the gravel/back road Trans-Eastern Trail route in the Appalachians.

For motorcycling trips, I want to visit the remaining forty-four of one hundred counties in NC this year. With one overnight camp beside the river below New Bern and a long-way-home the next day, I can tag the remaining counties in eastern NC. Four or five days of riding through the western counties should finish the rest of the list. Riding the part of the Blue Ridge Parkway I have not seen yet should help me complete both of these goals. Beyond that, who knows. From my house, Canada is closer than Memphis. Just saying.

Back on the local bike scene, my wife starting cycling last year. There are lots of opportunities for us to spend time together on two wheels in 2015. Our local towns have done a tremendous job building and connecting greenways in recent years. These greenways are great for newer riders who not as comfortable or as willing to ride with motorists very much.

Spending time on two-wheeled trips should provide plenty of material to write about. How is that for setting two complementary goals?!

Exercise more consistently. Exercise and biking can be complementary goals too. Unfortunately, this exercise goal may be at odds with my writing goal. I’m not ready to try a treadmill desk just yet.

Including more hiking, running, and paddling activities this year should better balance the muscle groups used and help knock some dust off of my more-neglected gear. One special trip I have committed to this year is an 80-mile loop of paddling and backpacking in the Uwharries.

Although committing to run in a race is a proven way to motivate oneself to train more consistently, I find myself more motivated to train for an upcoming trip. I should certainly be able to leverage the anticipation of these fun trips to pry myself off the couch and away from the desk more often!

Watch this blog to keep up with my progress.

Best of luck with your 2015 goals!

Don Childrey

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Thanks Giving For Trails

With another Thanksgiving holiday nearly behind us, I’d like to take a moment to offer my thanks to those whose efforts over the years have made it possible for everyone to enjoy the trails in the Uwharrie Lakes Region (and beyond).

Trail builders definitely deserve thanks. Trails don’t come about or stay in place without the efforts of trail builders and maintainers. Especially those like Joe Moffitt, who years ago had the vision and wisdom to see that building a long hiking trail through the forest was as much a path to knowledge and maturity for his Boy Scouts and future generations of hikers as it was a path to get from one place to another.

Sign at Joe Moffitt Trailhead on Uwharrie Trail

Sign at Joe Moffitt Trailhead on Uwharrie Trail

Those Boy Scouts and the numerous volunteers and Forest Service employees who worked to put the Uwharrie Trail on the ground are just a small sample of trail builders. Numerous volunteer groups of OHV enthusiasts, equestrians, mountain bikers, and hikers have given sweat equity and more to build trails. Even a casual day hiker who throws a fallen limb off of a trail deserves a little credit for helping keep the trails open.

Trail advocates also deserve thanks. It takes more than axe and shovel labor to make trails a reality. People working for groups like the Greater Uwharrie Conservation Partnership, the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, the NC Zoo, and various trail clubs have supported the cause of trails and had great success in obtaining grants, easements or even purchases of land in order to provide protected spaces in which public trails can exist. The donors who contribute funding, in large or small amounts, to help preserve these open spaces or build and maintain trails are definitely trail advocates. Even the employees of the land managing agencies are trail advocates as they carry out their organizations’ responsibilities to protect the resources under their charge.

Trail users deserve thanks too. It might sound a little silly to say that someone just hiking or riding a trail has contributed, but if no one used trails, there would be no need for trail builders or trail advocates to do what they do. I’d also like to thank those friends who have shared trail experiences with me over the years. Those friendships are as much a benefit of trails as the scenery we’ve enjoyed along the way.

Obviously, a number of people fall into all three of these categories – trail builders, trail advocates, and trail users. That’s great! The more there are of each, the more trails there will be for everyone to enjoy.

I would also like to thank those trail users and readers and gifters who purchased a copy of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, especially the first edition published back in 1998. You proved there is a desire and need for these trails, as well as reliable information about them. I hope my guide has proven helpful in making your trail experiences in the Uwharries more enjoyable. The new second edition is even more helpful, with numerous updates and additional trails.

One of the best ways I can say thanks is to make it easier for you to get a copy of the second edition, whether you are are giving it as a holiday gift to a friend, or giving it to yourself! In the spirit of sale mania, I’m lowering the sale price of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide – Second Edition to $24.99.

Give the gift of trail fun!

Give the gift of trail fun!

 

 

 

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Wish Upon A Star

Have you been waiting to make a wish? Maybe you can’t wait until your birthday to blow out those candles. Maybe there isn’t a water fountain nearby to throw a few coins in. Don’t forget about wishing upon a shooting star!

starsSpotting a shooting star isn’t exactly easy, but your chances of seeing one are higher over the next few days. The Leonid meter shower is due to peak on November 17th, 2014.

Dragging yourself out of bed and out into the cold to stare patiently at the sky isn’t exactly easy. But surely the likelihood of a wish coming true is much greater if it’s made upon something rare and uncommon. I doubt anyone has ever thought, “I just saw a stoplight – I’m gonna make a wish for …”. Ok, bad example. Every time I see a stoplight, I do make a wish – that it would turn green or stay green until I get through!

The Leonid meteor shower gets it’s name from the Greek constellation commonly known as Leo. These meteors appear to come from this part of the sky when you see them streak by. But these meteors do not come from the stars in Leo. They are actually bits of dust and small pebbles left behind as the Tempel-Tuttle comet passes through our solar system.

Our home planet, Earth, is running into the paths of dust and debris left by the comet. Instead of these meteors shooting across our sky, they are more like the quick flash a moth makes as it passes through your vehicle’s headlight beam. You and your vehicle are moving much faster than the moth. These bits of dust and pebbles flash as our atmosphere hits them and they burst into flame.

Astronomers have made great strides in predicting the intensity of meteor showers in recent years. They’ve known for a few hundred years that this particular comet passes through our solar system roughly every 33 years. Early astronomers thought the Leonids peaked in intensity according to that 33 year cycle. Astronomers are now able to distinguish between the streams of debris left by different passes of the comet and can use that knowledge to better predict the next shower’s intensity.

Unfortunately, 2014 is not thought to be a strong shower year for the Leonids. There may only be 10-15 meteors per hour. Observing just before dawn gives you a better chance of seeing one, because that’s when you are on the leading side of Earth as it runs into the comet debris. The moon will be up, which can hinder your night vision and make it harder to see the fainter meteors, but at least it is in the waning crescent phase and only 30% illuminated. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and give you a clear sky. There seems to be a better chance of a clear sky on Tuesday morning than Monday morning. Tuesday is past the peak, but there should still be meteors to spot.

Again, all of these challenges to spotting a shooting star are why it is so worthy of making a wish upon. We don’t need a whole shower of shooting stars (although seeing that would be awesome!). Spotting just one shooting star is all we really need to make a wish!

While you’re out observing the dark sky, take along a copy of Star Trails – Navajo and learn a little more about the Navajo star stories. If you don’t have a copy, you can download a free Kindle version of Star Trails – Navajo on November 17th and 18th.

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Autumn Hike and Cookout – Nov 9, 2014

Come Join us this Sunday for a hike and cookout. We’ll be hiking in the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness. The cookout will be at the location of a future new trailhead on the Uwharrie Trail. More details can be found here.

If you don’t have a copy of the trail guide yet, this will be a great opportunity to pick up a signed copy!

Sunset view from the new trailhead.

Sunset view from the new trailhead.

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Uwharrie Trip Finder

Have you ever had trouble deciding where to take a group of less-experienced hikers? The Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide provides a solution with Trip quick reference tables and the online Uwharrie Trip Finder!

Several Scoutmasters recently told me of their challenges planning a hiking or backpacking trip  when the group of Scouts included younger boys. Finding trails that newer hikers can handle is difficult if you aren’t already familiar with trails you can choose from. Choosing a location can also be a challenge for more experienced hikers.

I learned to backpack on the trails in the Uwharrie Lakes Region when I was a young Boy Scout. There are a number of reasons why this area is a great destination for beginning hikers and backpackers.

The rural nature of the area and the ecological diversity found along the trails offer a wonderful back-country experience without being extremely remote. The ancient Uwharrie Mountain range has been worn down over time, but still retains enough elevation change to make you earn the top of each hill. Being able to drive to the Uwharries in lass than two hours is convenient for the 8 million or more people living in the central Carolinas.

The abundance of trails in the area offer lots of options for choosing a route to suit your group’s abilities. In the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, I included over fifty Trips for common routes that use more than one trail. Most of these Trips follow loop routes, as many hikers prefer a loop instead of a simple out-and-back hike.

Convenient quick reference tables are included in the back of the guide book. I’ve also posted a version of the Trip quick reference table online, called the Uwharrie Trip Finder. This table includes Trips for hikers, bikers, equestrians, and OHV enthusiasts. Details in the table include mileage, elevation gain/loss, trail area, trailhead name, which uses are allowed, and whether the Trip is near a campground or allows primitive camping.

Posting the quick reference table online allows you to filter and sort the information to help narrow down your search for a Trip that best suits the abilities or time schedule of your group. Are you looking for a daytrip between five and eight miles long? Are you looking for a weekend backpack trip that is fifteen to twenty miles long? The Uwharrie Trip Finder can quickly point you to Trips that match!

The Uwharrie Trip Finder table includes the page number for each Trip, so you can easily turn to that Trip in your copy of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. Take a closer look at a set of Trip pages in this PDF file. If you don’t have a copy of the guide yet, please order a copy here!

Hiking on the Yates Place Trail.

Hiking on the Yates Place Trail.

 

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Uwharrie Trail Audio Tour

Have you ever had the pleasure of hiking a trail with a expert who could show you unique points of interest and tell you stories about them? The extra information adds a wonderful new layer to your hiking experience.

Life Scout Chris Moncrief recently completed a project that offers the next best thing. There are now 24 “audio tour” markers along the historic Uwharrie Trail route. You can download the audio clips as podcasts before you hike , or you can use a smart phone with a QR code reader to download the clips when you reach each marker. The Uwharrie Trail Audio Tour project lets you carry that “local expert” in your pocket!

Life Scout Chris Moncrief at one of the audio tour markers.

Life Scout Chris Moncrief at one of the audio tour markers.

The Uwharrie Trail Audio Tour is the result of efforts by Chris, Land Trust for Central North Carolina intern Rebecca Schoonover, trail founder Joe Moffitt, and many other Uwharrie Trail and LandTrust partners and friends. The main goal of the project was to document some of the stories and folklore of the Uwharries. The Uwharrie Trail was used as a common thread to weave the stories together. The stories celebrate a shared natural and cultural heritage special to many people in the region, and provide a sense of place to visitors.

Most of the audio clips are short, ranging from 1.5 to 3 minutes long. Stopping to listen to the clips may break your stride, but the wealth of information and entertainment they add to your hike is well worth the time.

Hear stories about an escape from Bootleg Hollow, the search for Sasquatch, the legend of the Guardian Ghost Winds of Jumpin’ Off Rock, and the lost town of Lawrenceville. The clips also include stories about unique glade communities, old fire towers, ghosts of settlers past, and a wide array of other interesting tales that make this landscape and community so special.

Uwharrie-Trail-Audio-Tour-Map-final1-smLearn more about this project at the LandTrust page about this project. Download a zip file of the clips, a PDF of the text, marker coordinates, and more here. You can also listen to the clips here.

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Exploring the Trips

Among the unique features in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide are the “Trips”. Individual trails are covered in detail, as one would expect in a guidebook. But I found that single trails rarely lead you from a trail head to all the points you want to visit, and then back to the trail head. This is especially true in areas with many interconnecting trails. A typical route will most likely follow parts of several trails. Flipping back and forth between different pages in a guidebook to piece together mileage and directions for a multi-trail route gets frustrating very quickly.

The Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide solves this challenge by providing you with “Trip” details as well as Trail details. Each trail area has a chapter just for these Trips. The most logical trip routes in that area are included, with varying lengths to suite a variety of different users. A convenient chart listing the key Trip details is found on the first page of each Trip chapter.

Sample Trip chart

Sample Trip chart

Each Trip has its own map and elevation profile, conveniently paired on opposing pages.

Sample Trip pages

Sample Trip pages

These Trip pages give the turn-by-turn directions you need to follow the route. The elevation profile helps you visualize the hills and anticipate the turns. You can focus on the fun and not spend too much time trying to figure out where you are the map!

Take a closer look at the sample pages above in this PDF file.

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