Progress on the revised Guide!

We’ve got a cover draft! Holding the second edition in your hands can’t be too far behind!

Progress - draft cover!

Progress - draft cover!

 

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Oak City Bike Overnight

A friend recently alerted me to an overnight bike trip being organized by a local independent bike shop. We’ve both been interested in expanding our camping skills to include travel by bicycle. He was unable to go, but I seized the opportunity to end my procrastination and get an S24O under my belt.

My gear for backpack camping has finally evolved down to a load of under 30 pounds. Key items include a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent, an REI Radiant 40 degree down bag, an REI Flash insulated air mattress, a Jetboil stove, a Cascade Designs chair kit with short Ridgerest pad, a couple of small dry bags of clothes, mug/bowl/utensils, and a bag of food. A few other small items like a headlamp, toilet kit, sunscreen, etc round out my kit.

The gear easily fit into a full set of Ortlieb Front and Rear Roller panniers on the Novara Safari touring bike I bought last year. I rode two supported tours of 400+ miles on this bike, but I had only ridden it fully loaded in my daydreams. It was time to change that!

Loaded and ready to ride!

Loaded and ready to ride!

Oak City Cycling Project takes it’s name from the city of Raleigh, commonly known as the “City of Oaks”. They are a fairly new bike shop catering to “regular people” interested in cycling. They organized a few S24O trips in the past year, with a dozen or so riders participating each time. The upcoming trip was scheduled to start on a Saturday evening in late June. They promised a route of 25 miles to the campground, returning the next morning.

In keeping with the spirit of travel by bike, I decided to ride from home to the bike shop. Riding to Raleigh from the adjacent town of Cary would add about 13 miles to my route and give me a little time to get used to riding with a load before riding with the group.

Piecing together a series of marked bike lanes, signed bike route sections, and some low-traffic-volume side streets, I was able to to get from my neighborhood to one of Raleigh’s paved greenways without having to deal with too much heavy traffic. Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway System contains over 100 miles of trails. In the last few years, the system has completed key connections that allow fairly long stretches of travel on greenways.

I joined the Walnut Creek Trail at the east end of the Lake Johnson Nature Preserve. Happy to be away from vehicle traffic and the hot afternoon sun, I followed this greenway eastward along a small, shady creek and into the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University.

Walnut Creek Trail on NCSU's Centennial Campus

Walnut Creek Trail on NCSU's Centennial Campus

Walnut Creek Trail continues another eleven miles to connect with the Neuse River Greenway on the east side of Raleigh. But I was heading to downtown Raleigh, so I left the greenway and cut through the Dorothea Dix campus. The Dix campus is a state-owned property that has long served as a mental health facility. Its grounds have large open green spaces and may soon be managed as a regional destination park. The view of the city skyline above rolling green lawns and a thick oak tree canopy was amazing, considering how close I was to the downtown area.

View of downtown skyline from Dix campus

View of downtown skyline from Dix campus

After just a few city blocks I found myself in front of Crank Arm Brewing. Their slogan of “Beer love. Bike love.” should leave no doubt why I chose to make a stop here on my S24O route! A pint of Rickshaw Rye IPA went down perfectly on the outside patio, as I sat next to my loaded bike.

Patio at Crank Arm Brewing

Patio at Crank Arm Brewing

In keeping with the day’s cycling theme, the local Trolley Pub rolled by while I was there, with all 14 riders pedaling away merrily. Many of them also seemed to be loaded, but in a different way.

Leaving Crank Arm, I rode north for several blocks before turning east on Jones Street. Riding through the downtown area wasn’t so bad late on a Saturday afternoon. The trip through the heart of downtown was quick, despite riding past the southern end of South America (see picture of four-story globe on the side of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences).

Passing by South America

Passing by South America

I also rode past the General Assembly building, the Governor’s mansion, and the Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. The Hot and Fresh sign was not lit so I did not stop.

Krispy Kreme! But the sign is not lit. :(

Krispy Kreme! But the sign is not lit. :(

Oak City Cycling is tucked into the basement of a small building on the north edge of the downtown business district. Their relatively small space is packed with bicycles and gear. David, one of the owners, greeted me when I rolled down the ramp to the garage door that serves as their entrance. Several other riders came in one by one. After a few introductions our group of eight headed out through nearby neighborhood streets.

Neighborhood cruising

Neighborhood cruising

In less than two miles we turned onto the Crabtree Creek Trail where it crosses Raleigh Boulevard. Transitioning to the greenway marked our departure from an urban street environment to one even more green and relaxing. We passed under or over several major roads as we followed Crabtree Creek to the northwest, but it felt like we were in a separate world.

Our route turned to follow the Mine Creek Trail greenway northward, going past Shelley Lake. We eventually rode beyond the current reaches of the greenway system. The ride leaders knew a route that kept to neighborhood roads and led us further north and away from the city.

Quick break

Quick break

Eventually we even rode beyond the suburban sprawl and found ourselves on rural roads.

A final few miles on New Light Road, also followed by US Bicycle Route #1, led us to the entrance of Shinleaf Recreation Area. This campground is part of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area.

We arrived at the Two Oaks group camping site and met two riders who had ridden over from Durham. About half of the group hung hammocks and the rest pitched tents.

Two Oaks group campsite

Two Oaks group campsite

Despite having just spent over two hours with most of the group, there was still much getting to know one another to do. Snacking and conversation were soon accompanied by the sunset coloring a few wispy clouds above the trees.

The Two Oaks site is located on a peninsula that sits above a neat little sand beach in a cove along Falls Lake. We walked down to the beach and enjoyed a swim beneath the stars. Dinner cooking and a campfire followed, as well as more conversation. Some even went so far as to shower off at the bath house. There may have been a very late bike ride through the campground, although I didn’t see it from my horizontal position in the tent. Being the oldest in the group, I had claimed the right to hit the sack first.

Going to bed first may explain why I had time to sleep late (for me), rise, cook breakfast, walk around, take pictures, and pack up my gear before anyone else stirred.

Two Oaks cove in the morning light

Two Oaks cove in the morning light

I did wait until most were up so I could thank them for organizing the trip and sharing the experience with me. I bid them adios just before 9am and rolled on.

Instead of following yesterday’s route back to the bike shop, I chose to take a more direct route to my home in Cary. Several of the roads I followed were probably at their most bike-friendly on this beautiful Sunday morning. The overnight temperatures had dipped about 10 degrees lower than they had the preceding several weeks and the morning felt great.

Bike routes!

Bike routes!

By Crabtree Creek in Umstead State Park

By Crabtree Creek in Umstead State Park

I eventually reached Umstead State Park. The wide, graveled bridle paths in the park are quite popular with cyclists and connect to both Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway System and the Town of Cary’s greenway system.

I could have followed greenways for most of the last ten miles of my ride, but with the light Sunday morning traffic I decided to just follow a couple of Cary’s signed commuter bike routes through town. Routes #7 and #5 offer a straight shot through the historic district and to within a few blocks of home.

Veteran's Memorial on N. Harrison Avenue

Veteran's Memorial on N. Harrison Avenue

More bike routes!

More bike routes!

A "sharrow".

A "sharrow".

My mileage for Saturday was just over 38 miles. Sunday’s mileage was about 26 miles, giving me a trip total of 64 miles. Not only had I ridden a respectable number of miles, I enjoyed a number of local sights and met some new friends. I walked back in the door 21 hours after I left, successfully completing my first S24O. It will not be my last!

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Birkhead Hike Trip #215

Just a few miles southwest of Asheboro, NC, in rural Randolph County, lies the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness. This is a relatively small unit in the USFS-managed system, and one of just a handful of designated Wildernesses in North Carolina. Unlike many other Wilderness areas, the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness contains numerous historic remnants that are signs of past human residents. In fact, the name “Birkhead Mountains” came from the Birkhead family that once owned over 3,000 acres that included the most prominent mountain-like ridges in this area. There are a few standing rock chimneys still remaining from the old tenant farms, and several more collapsed chimneys. Old roadbeds still traverse the ridges and follow the valleys. The remains of old rock dams can still be found across many of the creek bottoms. But the forest is steadily reclaiming this area that was once home to a number of families and farms.

Hike Trip #215 is a loop that starts at the Thornburg Farm Trailhead and loops clockwise around the central triangle formed by the main trails of the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness. I started out my latest hike of this route early on a late January morning. It was sunny, but a bit frosty, and there was a definite nip in the air. There were two frosted cars in the parking when I arrived. I’m guessing they belonged to backpackers already camped out on the trail somewhere.

The USFS is restoring the Thornburg Farm as a period exhibit of an 1820’s working farm. The Thornburg Trail passes through the yard of the old farmhouse and between several of the outbuildings. The original farm road passes to the right side of the house, but a walking path goes through the yard on the left side. There are informational signs on posts beside each of the buildings, describing the purpose and age of each.

farm buildings
I hiked along the farm road past a frosty, fallow field sparkling in the morning sun and then over Betty McGees Creek. Farm tractors just ford through the creek, but hikers have a small footbridge to keep our feet dry. I was momentarily confused by two trail options on the far end of the bridge, but soon realized that the trail proper swings out into an old field along the creek, while the other trail was made by hikers who seemed determined to get back to the farm road as soon as possible. Those hikers have tromped out a muddy path back down the creek bank and onto the farm road. The trail through the field rejoins the farm road about 100 feet further along, once the road is up out of the flood zone.

The farm road climbed quickly and soon brought me to a nice overlook of the creek from a little rock outcrop. Higher up I passed a recently sown field that appeared to have inch-high wheat or grass coming up. It is probably one of the fields being managed as a wildlife food plot. This field caught my attention because it seemed to be so much more open to the sky than the lower fields. I noted to myself that it would probably be a nice place to star gaze from, being so far from street lights. From there, the trail follows the farm road up towards the ridges that form Birkhead Mountain.

The trail soon came close to a larger rock outcropping. Relatively isolated groups of rocks poking up out of the ground like this are fairly common throughout the Uwharrie Mountains. Most of them appear to be disc-shaped, looking like a set of fat stone pancakes buried halfway in the ground, on edge. A foot trail branched off to the right here and headed toward this set of rocks. I saw a recently used rock fire-ring there, and could see how that would be a neat place to camp. The foot trail then reconnects back to the old farm road and the main trail.

Someone had erected a fairly new wooden sign with routed lettering at the intersection with the side trail. I found it a little confusing because it had arrows pointing left and right, with the name “Robbins Branch Trail”. That’s the name of the trail that the Thornburg Trail eventually tees into, a mile or so further on. I first thought maybe there had been a major reroute since the last time I had visited.

Below that sign was another that said “To Birkhead Mtn Trail”, with arrows pointing to the left. From here, you have to follow the Thornburg Trail almost a mile to it’s end, take a left on Robbins Branch Trail, and hike over a mile and half to the end of that before you finally tee into the Birkhead Mtn Trail. The signs’ information could be considered technically correct, but they seemed out of place to me. Of course, I would recommend that you trust your guidebook first, and well-intentioned signs second. These were not official USFS signs.

sign After thinking about this sign a little more, I’d be willing to bet that the sign installer, having already toted the heavy sign post and posthole diggers up the trail to this location, saw this “intersection” and was more than happy to set his load down and erect the sign. The sign would make much more sense if it was placed at the Thornburg/Robbins Branch Trail intersection, which is the next and only “real” trail intersection you come on the Thornburg Trail.

Trail signage and the trail itself were both easier to follow after that. The Thornburg Trail is blazed with white paint. There is an official USFS-made sign where the Thornburg Trail tees into Robbins Branch Trail. Less confusion resulted when I read that sign. Following the Hike #215 route, I turned left/north here and followed the trail as it dropped off the ridge down to Robbins Branch and then cross-crossed the branch numerous times, leading me upstream. The trail eventually climbs up onto the main ridge of Birkhead Mountain itself, where it tees into the Birkhead Mountain Trail.

The trip route turns right and follows this section of the Birkhead Mountain Trail along another old road on the top of this long ridgeline. It eventually drops down the southern end of the mountain and intersects with the Hannahs Creek Trail. Turning right on Hannahs Creek Trail, I soon passed by a beautiful example of an old stone fireplace and chimney. It is actually a double fireplace, with two separate hearths on opposite sides of the chimney. Not far from here, I met a small group of hikers, some of which were members of the original Uwharrie Trail Club. I had met several of them many years ago. They were still out enjoying the trails and were glad to hear I was working on a revision of the guidebook.

As I hiked along Hannah’s Creek Trail, I noticed a couple of unsigned trails that I did not remember from previous visits. They had obviously been used a fair amount since last fall’s leaves fell, so they must go somewhere interesting. I didn’t have time today to explore them, so I’ll save them for another day’s adventure.

Hannahs Creek Trail parallels it’s namesake, although not too closely, crossing a few small side streams along the way. It does stray far enough from Hannahs Creek to take you by another impressive set of boulders.

rocks
Hannahs Creek Trail ends where it meets the Robbins Branch Trail. The #215 route turns right at this intersection and follows Robbins Branch Trail back northward to the intersection with the Thornburg Trail. From there I retraced my steps back out to the trail head.

The #215 loop hike is just over 10 miles long. A detailed map, mileage chart, and elevation profile can be found on pages 214 and 215 of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide.

Yours truly

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Wood Run Trail Expansion!

On November 12, 2011, the Tarheel Trailblazers hosted a ribbon-cutting for the trail work being done under the recent Recreational Trails Program grant and a matching donation from First Bank in Albemarle. It is being called Phase I of the Wood Run Area Trail Expansion. Although most of the work being done consists of relocations and rehabbing of the existing Supertree Trail, Keyauwee Trail, and a portion of Wood Run Road, there has been enough new singletrack trail created to call this a true “expansion”, and that’s exciting!
Ribbon-cutting event
The ribbon-cutting “event” consisted of a catered BBQ lunch, a brief announcement and thank you’s to the people and groups that came together to make this happen, and some loosely organized rides to go see the new trail. Yes, a ribbon was cut.
Ribbon-cutting Brian Bristol was the hero of the day and was given due praise for his extensive efforts to bring together the people and groups that made this expansion happen. Brian acknowledged my work as one of the early torchbearers who started UMBA and worked with the USFS to get the first “bike trails” signed and opened in the Wood Run area. Thanks Brian!

UMBA started in the mid 1990′s. Brian got involved in the mid-2000′s and transitioned the “club” to a SORBA chapter and helped carry the dream forward. The “club” then evolved into IMBA/SORBA and the Tarheel Trailblazers out of Charlotte got involved. A grant of nearly $95,000 was awarded last year and Trail Dynamics was contracted to do the trail work. I’m sure most of the riders reading this will find the history lesson interesting, but are really wanting to know what was done on the ground!

After the festivities settled down, Brian and I rode out from the Wood Run Camp on Keyauwee Trail, heading clockwise around the trail. The trail was rehabbed from the camp up to where the hiking trail intersects. The intersection was moved slightly to the left to line up better with a completely rerouted section climbing up the first mountain. The new trail swings further to the west and switchbacks up the mountain to tie into the old trail near the top.

From there, the trail down to the end of Walker Mountain Road was rehabbed with rolling grade dips. At the road, new trail angles off to the left and heads south around the contours of the mountain before turning back and heading north again. This new trail crosses the gravel road once and switchbacks up the mountain before contouring along the west side of the mountain. As it drops off the mountain from there, I was reminded of the smooth-rolling grade dips found on the Warrior Creek trails near Wilkesboro, NC. Those trails were just awarded IMBA Epic status this past week, so making this comparison is significant!

The trail crosses the big creek in a well-armored new location and works its way around to tie into the old trail along the relatively flat section between the two creeks. The steep climb up to the road from the big creek is history now. There were some minor reroutes from the small creek up to where the Uwharrie Trail crossing was, but that section is still a significant singletrack climb in this direction.

After crossing the Uwharrie Trail, Keyauwee still works it’s way around the shoulder of Dennis Mountain on the old off-camber section, but after that it has been routed to gain elevation smoothly up to the saddle. From there, it follows an old road bed back to Wood Run Road. The one short singletrack climb in the middle of this section has been rerouted to switchback up in a more manageable way.

Even though Brian I and I missed riding during the middle of the day, I think we caught the light just right with our late day spin through the trails. The low angle of the sun lit up the changing leaves in fluorescent yellows and reds. Beautiful.

Fall colors
We also rode through Supertree clockwise. Only the first part of the reroute on the south side of the power lines has been completed, but they will eventually move all of the trail from the power lines back to Wood Run Camp off of the road and onto new singletrack.

The first piece of trail built was an alternate to riding Wood Run Road all the way to the Camp from the NC24-27 parking lot. Just past the power lines, the new Wood Run Trail splits off to the right and snakes its way to the camp. This section also features the flowy feel of a well-designed and properly built trail.

Ed Sutton and the Trail Dynamics crew did a great job building the new sections of trail and rehabbing the existing trail to make it all nearly maintenance-free. Taking care of water drainage is the key, and they have done that well with rolling grade dips, banked switchbacks, and proper sloping. They even worked in a few rock garden sections, with bypasses, for those riders who aren’t content with just flowing smoothly through miles of secluded forest trail.

If you can’t get out to ride Wood Run right now, you can see still see the trail, sort of. I found these youtube videos of the new Keyauwee trail, taken several weeks ago. The trails are a lot more polished now, but you’ll get the idea. This guy rode it the opposite direction from the way Brian and I did. Video 1Video 2Video 3

Brian Bristol and Don Childrey

Brian Bristol and Don Childrey

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Uwharrie Hike Trip #205

Last Friday’s weather was fantastic. I had to work. But I did make time Saturday to get out for a hike. The weather was about 10 degrees cooler than Friday, but it was still sunny and quite pleasant for a hike.

My goal was do Hike Trip #205 from the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. It’s about a 12 mile loop. Starting from the USFS trailhead parking lot on NC 24-27, the Trip follows Dutchman’s Creek Trail northward until it crosses the Uwharrie Trail. From there the Trip jumps onto the Uwharrie Trail and follows it back to the parking lot, completing a counter clockwise loop.

This time of year is good for seeing more of the Uwharries than you do in the summer. With the leaves down, you can see some of the neighboring ridges, albeit through a screen of silvery gray tree trunks.

February Uwharries view

While I was up on top of Dennis Mountain, I noticed a neat four-trunk tree. It was even marked with one of the white paint blazes used on the Uwharrie Trail. About 30 yards down the trail I saw another four-trunk tree beside the trail. I’m sure there’s an explanation for why there were so many multi-trunked trees in that area. I’ll leave that for someone else to discover!

Four-trunked treeEven though the parking lot was pretty full, I only met 6 groups out on the trail. Averaging one group every two miles is not bad, if you’re looking to get out for some solitude. I did have a guy sitting on a log beside the trail offer me a beer. That was pretty friendly.

After I turned onto the Uwharrie Trail, I noticed that there was a lot of grayish colored dirt on the leaves in and beside the trail. A little further on, I noticed that the ground looked like it had been well traveled by lots of feet pretty recently. Thoughts of a herd of hikers coming through came to mind. I’d probably hiked along a good half mile before it dawned on me that what I was seeing was evidence of the previous weekend’s Uwharrie Trail Run. All of the 20-milers came through here, and the 40-milers came by twice. I even read my friend endurogirl‘s account of her run within the past few days and it still took me half a mile to connect the two things.

Endurogirl talked about wading knee-deep across streams on her run, but things were pretty dusty a week later. Even the large streams were dry enough to rock-step (not even rock-hop) across without getting wet. The weather lady has been saying we’re in a severe drought already this year. I believe it from what I saw along the trail this weekend.

I did most of my snacking and drinking as I walked, so I only stopped a few times for pictures or to check out something interesting up close. By moving steadily, I managed to hike the 12 miles in just under 4 hours. Of course, my pack only weighed 10-12 pounds, if that much. I enjoyed that part of it much better than all the times I’ve toted a full 50+ pound pack along that trail!

Here’s a PDF file of the two pages covering this trip – Hike Trip #205 from the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. Enjoy!

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Uwharrie Trail Club Revival

The Uwharrie Trail Club has recently seen a revival. Ok, maybe I’m a little slow in catching on. “Recently” might only be true if you include last year in that description. But for a club that first got started in the early 1970′s, last year is fairly “recent”.

2010 started with no active club in existence. In April, several hikers with a strong interest in the Uwharries decided to revive the club. By the end of the year they had organized and held a hike into the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness, held a general meeting in Asheboro, ordered new club patches, manned a booth at the Uwharrie Mountain Festival, and put on the Monadnock Exchange. By the end of the year they were up to 28 members. I just added another member to their roll.

For 2011, they are planning a variety of opportunities for those who love the chance to get together for hiking, biking, paddling and service outings. Membership dues are only $5 for a individual, $7 for joint memberships and $8 for family. Even if you’re not sure if you can be attend many outings, I’d encourage you to join as a member and show your support. C’mon, it’s only $5. Clubs like this are key to the future of trail resources, so if you’ve ever hiked in the Uwharries, or want to, do your part and join up!

Karl Munn of Charlotte takes care of memberships. He can be reached at awa-km@att.net for applications and renewals. Tom MacMillan of Stanly County will be organizing events. His email is tmachebgb@earthlink.net. The club’s mailing address is Uwharrie Trail Club, P.O. Box 32455, Charlotte, NC  28232-2455. They do not have a website up yet.

The Monadnock Exchange, in case you missed it, was a conference whose objectives were to bring together people of varying interests to promote better stewardship for our public lands in the Uwharrie Area, to gain knowledge of The National Wilderness Preservation System and The Wilderness Act and to become aware of some of the issues and opportunities within the trail systems in the Uwharrie Area. The keynote speaker was Ted Snyder, a former Sierra Club national president and a wilderness advocate. Joel Hardison and Theresa Savery with the USFS gave presentations about the archaeological resources of the Uwharries, a history of the Birkhead Wilderness and the Leave No Trace program. Bill Hodge of The Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition reported on developments of a new stewardship program for the southeast. A panel of 5 “subject matter experts” was put together to share a bit of info about their perspective on the Uwharries.

I participated as a member of the panel representing the hiking community. My book, the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, apparently served as my credentials to be on an “expert’ panel. I graciously participated without trying to set them straight on the value of my credentials. Other panel members included Dean Najouks of the Yadkin Riverkeepers, Ron Anundson of Morrow Mountain State Park, Elizabeth Earnhardt representing equestrians and Uwharrie Trail Riders Association, and Brian Bristol of Explore Uwharrie represented the mountain biking community.

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Town of Troy Nature Trail

January 8th started out crisp and partly cloudy. Temp’s hovered around freezing as I drove to Montgomery County and delivered more copies of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide to Melinda at the Eldorado Outpost.

My next goal was to explore the Town of Troy Nature Trail. I had seen the sign for this trail on NC 24-27, just east of Troy, but couldn’t find much information about it. One of my roles as a guidebook author is to remedy situations like that! So with topo map, GPS, and notepad in hand, I set out for a day of hiking adventure.

I started at the small gravel parking area on Glen Road, not far from it’s intersection with NC 24-27. There is room for maybe half a dozen vehicles in this lot.

The trail is marked with an eclectic application of orange paint blazes. The Town has erected nice wooden direction signs at all of the trail intersections.

Town Of Troy Nature Trail sign
Sign at NC 24-27 Parking Lot

The Town has also added an interesting assortment of footbridges, stairs, hand rails, and hand lines to help hikers deal with some of the spots where footing is less secure. There hasn’t been a lot of work done on the trail tread itself, but the route follows old roadbeds and flat riparian terrain for much of it’s length, so the tread is quite manageable as is. Overall, I’d rate the difficulty level of this trail slightly above Moderate towards the Difficult side. I certainly enjoyed my hike on it!

From the 24-27 parking area, the route heads east and drops down towards the confluence where Denson’s Creek joins the Little River. A side trail splits off near the bottom and will take you along the Little River and under the NC 24-27 bridge. The main trail follows Denson’s Creek upstream for just under half a mile before turning right on a gravel road and crossing a low-water bridge to the east bank.  The trail stays on the east side of the creek from there on. If you turn left at the gravel road, you’ll soon find a trail crossing for the USFS’s Denson’s Creek Trail loop. This easy connection between the two trails is not indicated on the trail signs.

The Nature Trail never gets far from Denson’s Creek, although there are a few rocky bluffs that the trail climbs up onto before dropping back to the floodplain. I enjoyed a few longer-range views up the creek valley a few times, but I’m not sure that would be true after leaf-out in the spring.

Denson's Creek
Denson’s Creek along trail

Just over a mile and half up the creek, I passed what appears to be the dismantled supports for a cable span foot bridge across Denson’s Creek. It wasn’t very old, so I’m guessing it might have been damaged in a flood? The creek is substantially wide at this point, perhaps 50 feet across and a few feet deep. The banks are about 6-7 feet high, so it looks like a good place for a span bridge. I learned later that the trail at the other end of this missing bridge ties into the USFS’s Denson’s Creek Trail.

Not far past the missing bridge location, you will be able to see the Town’s wastewater treatment facility on the west side of the creek. Another mile farther and the trail passes under a railroad bridge. The next major landmark is where the trail crosses Okeewemee Road. There is a wide pull-off at this road crossing, where you could probably park 2-3 cars.

old dam
Old dam above Okeewemee Road

Within sight of the road is a old concrete dam across Denson’s Creek. There is a nice footbridge across the creek just above the dam, and an old pumphouse. I suspect this might have been the Town’s water supply impoundment at one time, but has since been replaced with a newer, larger impoundment upstream. Another half mile up the creek is a much larger dam.

The trail turns from the creek at this point and climbs a short distance to the edge of a 30+- acre lake. This is the current water source for the Town and is the key feature in the Roy J. Maness Nature Preserve. The Preserve was dedicated in 2000. There is a loop trail running around this lake, as well as a large paved parking lot and a couple of campsites. I need to research more of the details on this park’s hours, camping rules, etc.

Roy J. Maness Nature Preserve lake
Roy J. Maness Nature Preserve lake

When I hiked through, the place was deserted and there was a cold wind blasting tiny snowballs across the lake. One particularly strong gust took my hat for a flight and gave me a tour of the lower side of the dam embankment. On the far side of the lake, I sat on one of the benches and ate my lunch in the sunshine, with snow falling steadily all around. That was quite an unusual experience!

From the Nature Preserve, I retraced my steps to the railroad bridge, found a place to rock hop across the creek and stay dry, and followed the tracks over to Glen Road. My initial intention was to walk the road back to the truck to save some miles and time. But the lure of more trail adventure got me and I jumped onto the USFS’s Denson’s Creek Trail where it crossed the road and hiked around that trail loop. There are connections off of the trail that lead you to the USFS Ranger Station, and to the USFS Fitness Trail, so you can add more miles to a trip here if you want to.

I finally made it back to the truck around 2pm. I had started at 10am, so I was out for 4 hours. Without the side trip on the Denson’s Creek Trail, I should have been able to easily hike up to the Nature Preserve and back in 3.5 hours.

Look for the Town of Troy Nature Trail and the Roy J. Maness Nature Preserve Trail to be detailed in the next edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. See more pictures from this hike here.

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Guidebook feedback wanted

With close to 6,000 copies of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide having been sold, I’m convinced this book proved itself to be a project worth doing. I incorporated some features in the guidebook that I as a hiker wanted to have in a trail guide but didn’t often see in others. These features included “trip” descriptions (in addition to “trail” descriptions), elevation profile graphs, and quick reference charts.

As I’m contemplating writing more guidebooks and updating the Uwharries guide, I thought I’d seek feedback from other trail users on whether those features contributed to the appeal of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. We also have access to new technologies now, such a GPS and ebook readers, which are more readily available than ever before. I’d like to know if hikers are really making use of this new technology.

To collect your feedback, I’ve created a simple survey where you can help me determine which guidebook features you find helpful. Please take a moment to share your thoughts!

Guidebook Format Survey

Thanks!

Don

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December Solstice

December 21st will be a busy night for sky viewing. This date is when the winter solstice occurs in 2010. It also happens to be the date of a full moon. The December full moon is often called the Cold Moon or Long Night’s Moon, both are appropriate names for those of us in the northern hemisphere. The name of Long Night’s Moon is especially true this year because the full moon will occur on the longest night of the year. In North Carolina, the moon will be rising around sunset on the 21st.

December 21st is just one day before the Ursid meteor shower reaches it’s peak intensity. They begin increasing in intensity around the 17th. The Ursids will appear to be radiating from a spot in the sky near the cup of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) constellation. The Ursids aren’t a big shower – they may only produce 5-10 meteors an hour, but you might get lucky and spot a few of them if you’re out looking after midnight. Unfortunately, the light from the Long Night’s Moon may conceal these traditionally faint meteors.

December 21, 2010 is also the date of a total lunar eclipse. Look for total eclipse to occur around 3 am on December 21st. Viewers in North America will get a chance to see the northernmost total lunar eclipse for the next several centuries. We haven’t had a total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice in 456 years, so this is a special occasion worth getting up to see!

While you’re out checking out all this night sky activity, you can also take a moment to observe Revolving Female and Dilyehe, two of the Navajo star figures described in my book Star Trails – Navajo.

Revolving Female, or Nahookos Ba’aaddii, will be visible high in the northern sky over North Fire (the North Star). She will be on her side, with her head to the east and her feet to the west. Many may recognize her main stars as the “squashed M” of the Greek constellation Cassiopeia. View a free PDF file of the Revolving Female pages from Star Trails – Navajo. Revolving Female is complemented by Revolving Male, who may be seen low on the northern horizon below North Fire.

Dilyehe is a cluster of 7 or so relatively bright stars that will be seen high in the eastern sky after sunset on December 21st. According to the Navajo star stories, these were the first stars that Black God placed in the night sky. They are also commonly known as the Pleiades star cluster.

Enjoy!

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Uwharrie Hike Trip #204

Hike Trip #204 (PDF)

This month’s featured hike trip is #204 from the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. This 9.17 mile hike starts at the Wood Run Trailhead on NC24-27 and combines parts of the Uwharrie and Keyauwee Trails to form a “lollipop” route. The “lollipop” loop itself is just over 5 miles around.

Along the Keyauwee Trail section of the hike, you will have the opportunity to catch a few long-distance views to the west. In the right spot, you can see parts of Lake Tillery or Morrow Mountain. You may have to hike off the trail just a bit to find these vistas as the ever-growing forest tends to block the views over time.

After crossing Upper Wood Run creek, the trail stays low on the western flanks of Walker and Dennis Mountains. If you keep your eyes open, you might catch a glimpse of some old moonshine stills off to the right of the trail. These will be around mile 4.0. These three stills were rather large, about 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. They’re full of shotgun holes now (from revenuers or bored hunters?) but you can still see how they were constructed from sheet metal tops and bottoms and poplar plank sides.

You can easily turn this hike into an overnight trip by staying in one of the primitive backcountry campsites along Upper Wood Run creek (around mile 6.5) or at the primitive Wood Run Hunt Camp (mile 7).

Download a free PDF file of the Hike Trip #204 pages from Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. It’s perfect for taking with you on the hike!

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