Conventional wisdom advises that habits are ingrained after 21 days of repetition. If that theory holds true, then the eat~play~shop local habit requires time and effort to develop. Each month I’ll share “21 Days” of some event, place or organization in the Triangle, enabling (and I mean that in the most positive sense possible) your inner Localista to come out and join us. This month it’s all about the great outdoors in the Triangle – parks, trails and green spaces under blue skies. So brush up on your trail etiquette, lace up those shoes, slather on the sunscreen and join us for some fresh air and fun times.
Near the center of the Triangle is the “crown jewel” of parks, Umstead State Park. With more than 5,500 acres it’s the largest park in the area though at one time much of the park forest had been cleared for agricultural purposes. In the mid 1930s, federal and state agencies purchased the parcel of land to develop the recreational area we now know as William B. Umstead State Park (named after the former governor). Today we can enjoy 22 miles of hiking trails meandering through forest. We can also go camping, picnicking, canoeing, fishing, horseback-riding and mountain-biking within the park, and entry is free for all.
Umstead is accessible in two sections. The Crabtree Creek entrance is located off Highway 70 (Glenwood Avenue) in Raleigh, while the Reedy Creek section is just off Interstate 40 in Cary. The park office and visitor center (via the Crabtree Creek entrance) is home to nature exhibits. Directly behind the visitor center is one of my favorite trails, Sal’s Branch. It’s a relatively moderate hike, with a few hills, that meanders by a creek, through the woods and skirts the remains of an old campground no longer in use. The trail includes a short detour along Big Lake where fishing and canoeing are popular activities, then returns to the verdant forest trails lined with ferns. At almost three miles, the Sal’s Branch hike is a fairly good distance for a workout, though there’s so much beauty along the way, it hardly feels like exercise.
The park is celebrating 80 years in 2014/2015 (it was established as a national park in 1934 and construction began in 1935). The non profit organization, The Umstead Coalition, is planning a series of events to mark the anniversary milestone. Currently, they are accepting entries in a photography contest. So next time you’re planning a visit to the park, make sure you bring that camera along for the hike to capture that winning shot.