Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Pike Road Natural Trail and the walk of a thousand ponds

"Florida or Bust" - Days 37 to 42

I searched the internet for bike paths or greenways through the city of Montgomery, Alabama but couldn't find any.  I don't like cities and I don't like hiking noisy four-lane-divided highways.  The designated route of the Eastern Continental Trail and the Great Eastern Trail directed me to go straight through downtown Montgomery on city streets, right past the State Capitol building, and then onto some of the busiest highways in and around the city and on north for ten miles or more.

No thanks.  I sought a different route.

And what I found was the four-mile-long Pike Road Natural Trail and lots of quiet country-road walking past more roadside ponds than I could count, which I am calling the 'Walk of a Thousand Ponds'.

I think it's a worthy alternative to the route through the city, where I would constantly be watching my back and worrying about sketchy residents and bad drivers, not to mention noise and fumes and other human-produced sensory pollution.

So this is the report.  I've kept the words abbreviated, and just show a few select ponds, then provide a set of turn-by-turn directions.

Pike Road Natural Trail was just completed in 2012, so not too many people know about it yet.  It's a dedicated gravel footpath that runs beside Meriwether Road for four miles.  It has large dedicated hiker parking areas on either end with rest rooms that have flush toilets and sinks with running water.  It's hiker luxury. 

Pike Road Natural Trail's east trailhead parking area and rest rooms
The west trailhead parking area is even more impressive, and this rest room  not only has a flush toilet and sink but even has electric light.

The trail itself is flat and ordinary, but being on dedicated footpath makes me feel special.  Meriwether Road is not a busy road, so the sounds of nature are all that fill the silence most of the time.

And along this four mile stretch of trail you pass within sight of two or three dozen ponds, including a private fish hatchery.  This part of Alabama seems to take special liking to ponds.  It seems like every home is set on enough acreage to have a pond, and most of these are set between the road and the house.  This was true along nearly the entire Montgomery Bypass route that I hiked, so I came to call it the 'Walk of a Thousand Ponds.'  Here's just a small sampling.

Golf course pond
Mansion pond
Institutional pond
Quintessential residential pond
Country pasture pond
Natural shore pond
Bridged pond shared by two homes
Prison pond - Kilby Women's Correctional Facility
One of many, many ponds with Gazebos
Biggest pond, so big the owner calls it Lake Charles
And what pond collection would be complete without a duck pond

The walk was great fun.  If I have to do a road walk, this is the kind I prefer.  Rural Alabama is distinctive and worth getting to know.  If walking through a city on auto-roads is not for you, then give this a try.

North to South directions:

From Hatchett Creek trailhead and the east end of the Coosa Trail turn right onto CR 29
5.9 miles to Left on CR 31
2.7 miles to county line where name changes to Buyck Rd., CR 429, continue straight
4.2 miles to Left on New Home Road, CR 80
0.8 miles to crossing of CR 21.  Continue straight, road name is now Bradley Rd.
0.3 miles to Right on Bowden Rd. CR 335
2.0 miles to Left on Laurel Creek Rd., CR 334 (Right 2 miles on Laurel Creek to resupply)
0.2 miles to Right on Rea Rd., CR 336
0.9 miles to Right on Weoka Rd., CR 221
1.6 miles to Left on Blake Rd., CR 340
1.2 miles to Right on Nobles Rd., CR 338
1.0 miles to Right on Grier Rd., CR 209
Immediate Left onto Fortner just before the church
1.2 miles to Right on Trace Rd., CR 206
2.4 miles to Left on Williams Rd., CR213
1.3 miles to cross Central Plank Rd., GA 9, continue straight
1.1 miles to Right on Georgia Rd., CR 63
0.5 miles to Left on Old Georgia Plank Rd.
0.4 miles to bear Right on Old Tallassee Rd.
0.9 miles to Right on Tallassee Hwy., GA 14, New Style Methodist Church
0.8 miles to Left on Firetower Rd., CR 59, at Texaco and big convenience store
3.8 miles to stop sign, cross Redland Rd., CR 8, Continue straight, name is now Dozier Rd.
4.8 miles to left on Rifle Range Rd., CR 4
0.5 miles to right on Emerald Mountain Expressway.  Convenience store at corner, Dollar General on right 200 yards before the turn.  After turn is the toll gate, crossing is free for pedestrians.
2.1 miles, crossing Tallassee River then passing Creek Indian Casino and golf course to Left on Wares Ferry Rd.
4.4 miles to crossing of I-85, no exit.  Continue straight to flashing red light. (go right and follow frontage road on to many services.
0.3 miles to flashing red light, Road name becomes Pike Rd.  Continue straight (go right and follow frontage road for many services including a huge Wal-Mart)
5.1 miles to town of Pike Road and PIKE ROAD NATURAL TRAIL Trailhead on the right side of the road (look for kiosk with big sign right after war memorial and pavilion) just before right turn onto Meriwether Rd., CR 40.  Trailhead parking area is well off the road and has flush toilet and sink.
Follow PIKE ROAD NATURAL TRAIL Right at Meriwether Rd.
4.0 miles to end of PIKE ROAD NATURAL TRAIL at trailhead well off the road with flush toilet, electric light, and sink with cold running water.  Continue straight on Meriwether Road from trailhead entrance.
0.2 miles to sharp Left on US 231, a high speed four lane divided highway.
1.0 miles to Right on Trotman Rd., CR 22
2.5 miles to Right on Woodley Rd., CR 38
1.2 miles to Left on Snowdoun-Chambers Rd., CR 18
5.4 miles to Left on Hobbs Rd. with convenience store in view.
0.1 miles to cross US 331, town of Snowdoun.  Cross highway and continue on Butler Mill Road, crossing railroad tracks and bearing left, resuming the 'official' route of the trail as previously published by others.

South to North directions.

Where Butler Mill Rd crosses Railroad Tracks and intersects US 331, do not turn left on 331, but cross highway, road becomes Hobbs Road.  Immediately bear left onto Snowdoun-Chambers Rd., CR 18, before the church on the left.
5.4 miles to right on Woodley Rd.
1.2 miles to Left on Trotman Rd.
2.5 miles to left on US 231
1.0 miles to sharp right onto Meriwether Road - sign says 'Pike Road' referring to the town
0.2 miles to big PIKE ROAD NATURAL TRAIL TRAILHEAD parking on right,  Continue straight on PIKE ROAD NATURAL TRAIL paralleling Meriwether Rd.
4.0 miles to Left on Pike Road (the road) at the town of Pike Rd.
5.1 miles, past a red light at CR 110 to flashing red light, frontage road near I-85
0.3 miles to I-85 overpass and intersection with north side frontage road, continue straight, road is now called Wares Ferry Rd. (left on frontage road to many services)
4.4 miles to right on Emerald Mountain Expressway past Creek Indian casino and golf course
2.1 miles to Left on Rifle Range Road
0.5 miles to Right on Dozier Rd.
4.8 miles to stop sign, cross Redland Rd, continue straight, road now called Firetower Rd.
3.8 miles to Right on GA 14
0.8 miles to left on Old Tallassee Rd., just after New Style Methodist Church
0.9 miles to bear left on Old Georgia Plank Rd.
0.4 miles to Right on Georgia Rd, highway 63
0.5 miles to Left on Williams Rd.
1.1 miles to cross GA 9, continue straight on Williams Rd.
1.3 miles to Right on Trace Rd.
2.4 miles to Left on Fortner Rd.
1.2 miles to Right on Grier Rd.
Immediately bear Left onto Nobles Rd.
1.0 miles to Left on Blake Rd.
1.2 miles to Right on Weoka Rd.
1.6 miles to Left on Rea Rd.
0.9 miles to Left on Laurel Creek Rd.
0.2 miles to Right on Bowden Rd.
2.0 miles to Left on Bradley Rd.
0.3 miles to cross CR 21, road name becomes New Home Rd. Continue Straight
0.8 miles to Right on Buyck Rd.
4.2 miles to county line, Road becomes CR 31, Continue Straight
2.7 miles to Right on CR 29
5.9 miles to Hatchett Creek bridge, Left into Coosa Trailhead parking area, resume 'official' route by hiking the Coosa Trail.

Below is a map of the route I hiked.  It differs from the turn-by-turn directions in the northern part (hiked before I decided to seek a Montgomery Bypass) and in the vicinity of I-85 where I headed west for two miles to find services and to stay at a motel for a zero day.  But the rest of it follows my designated route.  There are links to a whole bunch of additional photos of ponds and other interesting sights along the way--far too much stuff to put in this blog post, but worth a look.  Check it out:

Pike Road Natural Trail and a Montgomery bypass at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Alabama

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