On my last day in the Triangle, I went to the Blue Jay Center for Environmental Education, another place that I just blew past when I walked the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The trail goes right through the County Park but doesn’t actually go in front of the building. Here the trail is covered with pine needles and wood chips, making for soft walking. Wooden park benches are placed every few hundred feet so you can sit and contemplate the trees.
The environmental center is focused on children, as all of these programs seem to be. But the back room had a beautiful exhibit on the natural environment around Wake Forest, including a classic nature journal by Anne Runyon.
She had gone to different habitat around Wake County, observing, jotting down notes and sketching what she saw. It almost made me want to learn how to paint. OK. I said “almost”.
I tried to see from the exhibit what trees and flowers were in the Triangle area that don’t exist in the mountains. Loblolly pines and long-leaf pines are the obvious ones. Most of the flowers that we don’t have in the mountain pop up on the edges of fields. Some in Runyon’s nature journal seemed like exotics such as butterfly pea. In the mountains, we’re less likely to hike around fields and also more concerned about exotics. I didn’t feel as if I got a satisfying answer.
I walked to Sandy Point, a finger into Falls Lake. It looked and felt like the beach, complete with mussel shells. A tall wooden pole had been placed in the water and an osprey nest had built its nest on top. The County Park had posted a “No Swimming” sign.
So here’s the question. How often can a long-distance hiker go off the trail to see something interesting? Obviously she has to pick and choose or a 1,000 miles could end up being a couple of hundred more.