Hike: Company Mill Loop
Location: William B Umstead State Park
Nearby Town: Raleigh, NC
Elevation (Max): 440'
Elevation Gained: 360'
Trailhead: Take Exit 287 from I-40. Turn R if coming from the east (L if coming from the west) and you will quickly enter Umstead Park. Continue straight and you will enter a parking lot. From the entrance to the parking lot, the trailhead is in the far left corner.
Web Site: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/wium/main.php
In the middle of August, E and I decided to explore our nearby state park. It's a wonderfully convenient park for us, only an 8 minute drive away. We filled up our water bottles, and set off for Umstead intending to hike the Company Mill trail which I read about in 100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina. We arrived, picked up a map from the map board, and set off down the trail. Things started off well, the trail is easy to follow, and we quickly arrived at the bridge over Crabtree Creek (which just so happens to also flow behind our apartment, through our favorite city park in Cary, behind the mall in Raleigh--I'm pretty sure that creek is everywhere). After crossing the bridge, the loop begins. You can either go left or right; either way you will arrive back at the bridge. We went right which walks along the creek for a while before turning uphill into the woods. There are no overlooks in this hike, but it does feature a few nice ups and downs and varied terrain. My favorite part of the hike was the enormous loblolly pines, some of which were 10 or 12 feet in circumference. Continue straight when the trail crosses a packed gravel road, the trail on the other side of the road is not all that spectacular (more big trees, though) and will eventually loop you back to this road so if you want to take a short cut, instead of crossing the road, turn left on it, and turn left onto the return loop of the Company Mill trail. The return loop goes past the biggest tree I saw on the hike (and perhaps the biggest living tree I've seen outside of Yosemite), a nice patch of ferns, and then back across the bridge that spans Crabtree Creek. I did not take my camera on this hike, but below is a cell phone picture I took.