Falls Lake – a closer look

Falls Lake - bridge

This past weekend, Lenny and I took our granddaughter camping at Falls Lake Recreation Area just outside of Raleigh. Falls Lake is not wilderness but what areas east of the Mississippi really are?

We camped at Rolling View and hiked eight miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I wanted to see the famous bridge that Friends of the MST built. See above.

I had done this section back in January 2010, when I was working on walking the whole MST. But by now it was all new to me. And besides, we were here at a different time of the year.

Here, the trail is on rolling hills lined with loblolly pines, white pines, and tulip trees. At several points, we came out to the lake and just stared. Way out in the distance, a boater motored across. But otherwise, there was no activity. On a beautiful Saturday, Earth Day no less, we had the trail to ourselves.

The Army Corps of Engineers finished the dam on the Neuse River in 1981, creating Falls Lake. People who lived around the river, had to move out and left many modern artifacts. We came across bricks and a modern barbecue grill. On other sections around Fall Lake, homes and tobacco barns have been left.

The land seemed to have restored itself. With just a cursory look at the scenery, you might call it scrub. But with a child, you look closer and you stop at everything.

Children love lists. On the hike, we made a list of all the wildlife we saw:

    Toads, butterflies, caterpillars, a box turtle, centipedes, grasshoppers, spiders, robins, sparrows, crows, mocking bird and a lone sandpiper around the bridge.

We heard a woodpecker and swatted at lots of gnats – yes, we counted gnats. I also saw a deer leap across the road through the campgrounds.

This is an impressive list, given that the land has only had a chance to recuperate for about 30 years.

Falls Lake - Atamasco lilyFlowers were harder to identify. Bluets were huge, compared to those in the mountains. Blue-eyed grass and blackberry flowers were plentiful. I just identified this lily as an Atamasco lily. From the website, I learned that

Rafts of lovely white atamasco lilies announce the arrival of spring in moist open woodlands, meadows and along country roads throughout the southeastern U.S. from Virginia to Mississippi and the northern half of Florida.

I won’t find this lily in the mountains.

Falls lake - mystery lilyBut what is the other flower, here to the right?

Can anyone help identify it?

We reached the bridge over a finger of the Lake, a beautiful arched bridge, built by Friends of the MST volunteers. Before the bridge, long-distance hikers had to walk about five extra miles around the water. On the other side of the bridge is an island leading to a series of boardwalks.

Falls Lake - BoardwalkBut Whoops!

There’s a lot of water between boardwalks. There’s been a lot of rain lately and the area is flooded. Word has it that the task force will fill in with more boardwalks. We had lunch at the bridge and walked back.

And what did Hannah think of the hike? Stay tuned.   


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