Category Archives: State Parks

State parks and forests, not just NC ones

Hiking Everywhere – Athens, OH

There’s hiking everywhere.

It can be glamorous and far away like Europe and New Zealand. You can hike in a national park like Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Or you can hike locally in Athens, OH.

Mystery mushrooms

Athens, the home of Ohio University, is a smaller version of Asheville and just as hippy-dippy.

Local food, local art, music and spirit but no national parks. Located in the northwestern end of Southern Appalachia, the town has rolling hills and an amazing greenway, more suited to biking than hiking.

But, there’s hiking right from town. My son, Neil, had designed a hike which started at Dow Lake in Strouds Run State Park and took us to Sells Park and back – a total over about 10.5 miles.

It was only 22 degrees when we started out by climbing on top of the Dow Lake dam. With no other information, I assume that the lake was created for recreational use – primarily boating and fishing. We walked along the long narrow lake and I had my doubts if my frozen fingers would ever work again.

In Stroud Run SP

But there was just enough altitude gain (not much) and I was so bundled up that after about an hour, the heat from my core spread out to my fingers. By then, it must have been in the low 30s.

Once we left the lakeside, we encountered artifacts of past homesteads. Daffodils are a dead give-away that people lived here. The flowers must have been freezing, like hikers.

No native spring flowers yet. But we did see red mystery  mushrooms. Though they look plastic, I assure you that they are real.

Once we got to Sells Park, it wasn’t long until we reached E. State St., the main shopping street and Cafe Sol, a Cuban and Caribbean restaurant. What a brilliant idea! No need to have our sandwiches outdoors in the freezing weather.

I had a Spanish omelet with potatoes, cheese and beans. It was wonderful. I could eat that every night in Spain.

And then we went back the same way. By the afternoon, mountain bikers and dog walkers had come out to enjoy the cold sunshine. An easy all-day hike which can be modified to try other intersecting trails. There’s hiking everywhere.

PS I finally looked up where daffodils are natives. They’re from Spain and Portugal. I wonder if I’ll see them on the Camino de Santiago.

On the Carolina Thread Trail

It’s all about local trails in the winter. You want to get out; you want to move beyond the gym and yet, you don’t have the whole day.

I’m on the North/South Carolina border and bumped into the Carolina Thread Trail out of Waxhaw, NC. I’m at a writing retreat/workshop but I need a little sunshine.

So Mica and I walked about four miles on a trail close to our lodging. Five minutes to drive to the trailhead, less than two hours on the trail, and we had seen something new.

The Carolina Thread Trail is a network of short walking, biking and horse riding trails around the Charlotte area. From Statesville (north) to just over the South Carolina border (south) you can pick up a piece of trail without much preparation.

Mica and I found our section between Waxhaw and Mineral Springs off McNeely Rd. opposite McNeely Farms, no longer a farm but a housing estate. Nice parking, a helpful sign board and we were off on a yellow-blazed trail.

The thread trail is really a thread. The Catawba Lands Conservancy managed to protect a  linear piece of land with a stream. The trail, which follows the water course, is meticulously maintained with several fresh, brand-new bridges. Large well-spaced houses above the trail shows you how difficult to save land.

I think that the whole trail system is managed by the North Carolina State Trail System but I can’t find confirmation.

Here is one way the Thread Trail is different  from National Parks. We passed a bench and tribune to a horse rider and (probable) donor – see the picture above.  Friends of the Smokies, to pick one national park friends group, manages donations for Great Smoky Mountains National Park but the park won’t put up a bench for its donors.

We weren’t the only people on the trail this sunny Saturday afternoon. Walkers, dogs, horse back riders and us. A great way to get out!



Big Island Historic Parks

In 1995, Lenny and I went to the Big island of Hawaii for the first time. We, of course, had booked our flights and lodging months in advance. But our government decided to forego a budget. Therefore the national parks were closed. We managed to walk a few minor trails in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park but never really knew about the historic parks.

Temple in PUHE

I’m making up for lost time and opportunity and dragging my family to the three historical parks on the west coast of the Big Island.

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site protects a Hawaiian temple, one of the major sacred structure built in Hawaii before Europeans came.

It also introduces visitors to Kamehameha, the warrior, who united all the Hawaiian Islands under his rule, of course. Besides a half-mile loop through the protected area, there’s not much to do.

Staff at PUHE

But a poster in the visitor center caught my eye. There was a picture of every staff member that works in this park – from park ranger to the folks to manage the bookstore.

Now, what if the Smokies did this?

South of Kona on the Big Island lies the Captain Cook monument. Captain James Cook (1728-1779) was a British explorer and a navy man. He was the first European to visit the Hawaiian islands.

First the Polynesians welcomed him but by Cook’s third visit, he was no longer the “White God”. Tensions arose and he was killed by Hawaiians villagers near present-day Kona.

Captain Cook monument

In the late 1800s, a monument was put up on the bay where Cook met his demise. Several other groups have put up plaques in his honor. This website explains how to find the trailhead.

You can only get there by boat or by a steep 1.8 mile trail. On the way, we saw goats, a lost cow and several weasels. Most people who hike down plan to spend the day snorkeling but we just wanted to do the hike.

I don’t know why this monument isn’t more accessible. After all, Cook was a pretty famous explorer in the Pacific.

Maybe in the late 1800s, there was still animosity toward Europeans or maybe no one really cares.