Looking Ahead to 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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Exploring the New Maps

The elevation profiles in the Second Edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide aren’t the only new features. Each trail and trip in the guide has its own brand new detailed map to help you visualize the route and identify important locations along the way.

newmapKeyauweeAll of the maps were redrawn for the second edition. Each trail was GPS’d in order to provide a more accurate presentation. The maps in the first edition were good, but the trails were painstakingly hand-traced on contour maps before being digitized. The method used for the new maps eliminated the manual tracing step.

The trails and roads on the new maps are proportionally accurate. No stretching or squishing was used to make things fit. Verification against aerial photographs was performed where possible. A scale is included on each map to give you an idea of the zoom level of each map. Each map is custom-zoomed to provide the best balance of detail and surrounding landmarks for that map.

Other trails and roads that intersect the featured route are shown on the maps. You will find matching text entries for these intersections on the corresponding elevation profiles. All of this information is provided to help you visualize the route from both a bird’s eye view and a sideways elevation perspective.

A compass rose is included on each map, to show you which direction is North. Trail heads and parking locations are marked, as well as the Start and End locations, which match the direction on the elevation profile. Above each map are symbols indicating appropriate use for the highlighted route, such as biking and hiking for the example above.

Using the information in this guidebook can save you from spending too much time trying to figure out where you are or where to go, so that you can focus more on enjoying your trip and having fun!

If you don’t have a copy of the new edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, order one today!

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Friday Freebie!

Let’s have a little Friday Freebie fun! On Friday, September 19th, 2014, the price of the Kindle version of Star Trails Navajo on Amazon.com will be $0.00!

FridayFreebieFall is approaching, with cooler temperatures and less humidity. The moon is approaching its New phase and will be below the horizon for the first part of the night (for those of us on the East coast). All of these factors should make for better star viewing conditions this weekend.

If you have a a Kindle device, or a smartphone or tablet with the free Kindle app, claim a free copy of Star Trails Navajo this Friday and use it to discover a new way to see the stars – through Navajo star stories!

Spreading the stars on Father Sky.

Spreading the stars on Father Sky.

Chart showing location of the Revolving Male star figure.

Chart showing location of the Revolving Male star figure.

If you find Star Trails Navajo the least bit interesting, leaving a comment or two on the book’s Amazon page and on the product page on this website would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for your support!

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Exploring the New Elevation Profiles

Hot off the press, the Second Edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide features a new format for the elevation profiles. Each trail and trip in the guide has its own detailed graph to help you visualize the elevation changes and important locations along the length of the route.

new_profile_formatThe previous edition of the guide contained elevation profiles that were a simple plot of elevation vs distance. A mileage table with text descriptions for key spots along the route was shown above the profiles.

The new elevation profiles are a mash-up of the plots and the mileage tables. Each profile starts as a simple plot of elevation vs distance, and then the text descriptions are laid on top of them. The text descriptions are placed on the plot at the appropriate mileage point.

One advantage of this new design is that the profile graph can now be enlarged to fill the entire page, making it larger and easier to see. The descriptions are accurately placed along the route, so you can easily see if your next turn is close by or much further down the trail.

Each profile graph for trails or trips in the same area shares the same elevation scale so you can easily see relative elevation differences between trails. For example, all of the profiles for Morrow Mountain State Park have an elevation range of 200 feet to 1,100 feet. The Three Rivers Trail appears low on its graph, which is logical since it starts near the boat ramp on Lake Tillery. The Morrow Mountain Loop Trail appears high on its graph, since it circles the summit of Morrow Mountain.

The text descriptions for key spots include the mileage along the trail and the actual elevation in feet. Simple codes in the description indicate if the spot is an intersection, a stream crossing, a water source, and/or a campsite. The names of intersecting trails are also given. A legend for these codes is on the side of each profile, along with GPS coordinates (both Lat/Long and UTM) for the “start” of the trail (in case you need help getting back!)

Each profile page contains a wealth of information for the trail visitor. The profiles might seem a little confusing at first glance, but once you learn how to read them, you will appreciate how much helpful information one page can give you! If you don’t have a copy of the new Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, order one today!

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