Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pilot Mountain

Hike: Pilot Mountain-Ledge Spring Trail
Location: Pilot Mountain State Park
Nearby Town: Pinnacle, NC (25 minutes north of Winston-Salem)
Elevation (Max): 2,200'
Elevation Gained: 440'
Mileage: 2.2
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: From Winston-Salem: Take Route 52 N for 21 miles, take the Pilot Mountain Exit, turn left on Pilot Knob Park Road, turn left on Pilot Mountain Park Road and follow to the summit parking lot (you could park in the lot at the base and make the 4 mile hike up for a longer, more strenuous outing). Hit the trail from the southwest corner of the parking lot.
Web Site:

E and I decided to spend a day in the Triad region (as opposed to the Triangle, where we live, the Triad is made up of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point). We decided we would begin the day with a quick hike of Pilot Mountain which had been intriguing me since we saw its distinctive pinnacle on our Moore's Wall hike months earlier. The drive out to the mountain was pretty easy and the highway provided some nice head on views of the pinnacle.

When we got to the base of the mountain we were stopped next to the ranger residences and park office where we told the parking lot on the summit of Little Pinnacle was full so we could either drive up and wait or park at the base and hike up. Since we planned on making this a quick hike, we drove up. The road to the summit is narrow and windy with precipitous drops just off the road. We hit the line of traffic waiting to get to the summit lot with about a dozen cars ahead of us. Initially, we were discouraged, but cars left the summit lot at a fairly quick rate so we only waited about 15 minutes to get in.

Pilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain and some other Sauratown Peaks

We parked the car, left everything behind but my camera, and set out on the Ledge Spring Trail which essentially does a loop on and around the Little Pinnacle. Foolishly, we assumed a 2.2 mile hike would be easy enough that we could do without water--a regrettable decision. The trail begins with a moderately steep descent (always a worrying way to begin a hike) toward the Grindstone Trail (be careful, the trail initially leads to a picnic area, so pay attention to where the trail breaks off to the left). Once the trail reaches the junction with the Grindstone Trail, turn left to remain on the Ledge Spring loop, with the descent now mostly over.

Ledge Spring Trail after the Grindstone Junction

The second half of the hike is pretty impressive with towering cliffs constantly overhead on the left and views out to the flatland of the Piedmont to the right. This portion of the hike is also significantly more strenuous than the descent portion with lots of small ups and downs that really add up. This area is extremely popular with rock climbing and we encountered at least half a dozen groups of people attacking the cliffs. They were all pretty impressive and if I was a rock climber, I would definitely head out there often. About halfway through the cliffs portion, we really started to fade for lack of water. Anytime a breeze would blow up the mountain we paused and spread our arms like vultures airing out our wings to get whatever coolness we could. Finally, we arrived at a great view of the pinnacle of Pilot Mountain. I wanted to do the loop trail around the base of the pinnacle--no one is allowed on top of the pinnacle--but we were short on time if we were to fit in the rest of the day's activities so we turned left at the junction and returned to our car. We went on to enjoy donuts at the first Krispy Kreme, tour the Moravian village of Old Salem, and then walk the loop around Guilford Courthouse Battlefield in Greensboro. A good day in the Triad, indeed.

Cliffs on Ledge Spring Trail

More Cliffs

A cliff about to be climbed (see rope on left)

E and I at the end of the Ledge Spring Trail

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reedy Creek Greenway

Hike: Reedy Creek Greenway
Location: Capital Area Greenway
Nearby Town: Raleigh, NC
Elevation (Max): 480'
Elevation Gained: 220'
Mileage: 4.7
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: From I-40, take Exit 289 onto Raleigh Chapel Hill Expressway. Exit Raleigh Chapel Hill Expressway at the first exit onto Edwards Mill Road and turn L. Turn L on Reedy Creek Rd., then park on the first gravel road on the left.
Web Site: Raleigh Capital Area Greenway

One of the best things about the Triangle is its large and growing network of greenways for pedestrian and bicycle use. They are all over the place and increasingly becoming interconnected allowing cyclists to get around without facing off against traffic on four lane roads. This hike details an out and back on part of the Reedy Creek Greenway. Reedy Creek provides a good illustration of the interconnectedness of the greenways--one can go the 15 miles or so from Meredith College in Raleigh, by the North Carolina Museum of Art, along Reedy Creek Road, through Umstead State Park, onto Black Creek Greenway in Cary, which ends on Chapel Hill Road near downtown Cary with only a few brief segments on vehicular roads.

After getting out of the car you can go either way on Reedy Creek Greenway, which parallels Reedy Creek Rd. If you go left, you will arrive at Umstead State Park where the paved greenway transitions to a packed gravel road. For this walk, E and I chose to go right. First, though, we checked out the horses in the field beside the greenway. We stood next to the fence admiring the horses and the baby horses and watched as another couple a few feet away pet one of the horses across the fence. As I reached my arm across the fence to rub a horse's shoulder, my forearm touched a nylon string with an electrified wire weaved into it, and the shock was quite startling to me, but probably more so to the horse who took off running. So, the lesson here is don't pet the horses, or if you do, stay away from that wire.

The horses

Anyways, we walked along Reedy Creek Road on the greenway, occasionally stepping aside to allow cyclists to pass. When the greenway intersects Edwards Mill Road, you can either cross on the crosswalk or, to avoid the road, follow the greenway to the right through an underpass beneath Edwards Mill Rd. The next portion of the greenway is a sidewalk through an industrial sort of area--definitely not the highlight of the walk. Don't worry, though, it gets better. The road will intersect Blue Ridge Road, across which lies the North Carolina Museum of Art and its Museum Park. The greenway continues through the Art Park which features several outdoor pieces of art along with many side trails leading to other pieces of art. These trails are generally short and can be easily explored. The greenway then enters its most strenuous section with steep ups and downs eventually leading to a pedestrian bridge (the longest in North Carolina) that crosses I-440. E and I turned around here to return to the car for a 4.7 mile round trip. You could continue along the greenway, though, and follow it along the edge of Meredith College's campus to its terminus across from Ben and Jerry's on Hillsborough Street.

Wind Machine by Vollis Simpson

Gyre by Thomas Sayre

Pedestrian Bridge over I-440

To see Jennie smile by Steven Siegel (that thing is made entirely of newspapers)