Category Archives: State Parks

State parks and forests, not just NC ones

Dupont Forest while freezing

It was 6 degrees or 9 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on what web site or app you were looking at when Sharon Mc. and I left my place in Asheville to meet the rest of the Carolina Mountain Club group this morning.

Grassy Creek Falls

Karen L., a new CMC leader, had scheduled an ambitious hike in the Pisgah District up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since the Parkway is closed almost everywhere, the hike would have showed off the icicle formations on the side of the road. But she wisely felt that hiking at the 4,000 ft-5,000 ft altitude wasn’t wise. So she switched the hike to Dupont Recreational State Forest, a wise decision.

Eleven hikers showed up – amazing. We were all comparing the number and type of layers we were wearing. You’re not going to get pictures of my clothing. But here goes:

On top

High Falls
  1. a thin thermal top
  2. a thick thermal top
  3. a light fleece jacket
  4. a down jacket

On the bottom

  1. a thin pair of thermal bottons
  2. a thick pair of thermal bottoms that could be worn by itself
  3. Hiking pants

Two pairs of gloves, a neck warmer and a wool hat. And of course, hiking boots with wool socks. Did I forget anything?

We started at the Lake Imaging parking lot and walked to frozen Lake Imaging. Then up to Grassy Creek Falls. By then, the uphill got me a little warmer and I could start to feel my fingers. Grassy Creek Falls was partially frozen, just like me.

Down, down, down and finally to Lake Dense for lunch – see the photo on top of this post.

All that heat got dissipated when we sat by the lake. Lake Dense was cracking and coming out with the most unusual moans and groans. It sounded like an animal was trapped under the water.

Triple Falls

We worked our way to the highlight of the Forest – first High Falls, then Triple Falls. Both Falls had wonderful ice formation, while still running aggressively.

Other walkers were making their way to the falls. Some got as close to the falls as possible, braving the ice. Others stayed back on dry land.

By the time we got back to our cars, the temperature had climbed to the 30s – a heat wave.

When I got home, I found that I had a bunch of discarded clothes on my bed and floor – fleece and thermal underwear that I had tried on and rejected. My places now looks like a teenager’s bedroom before a big dance.

The day was cold, my fingers were freezing much of the time but I’m so glad I went hiking. Dupont Forest is a gem.

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!