Falls Lake lies along the northern rim of the emerging "mega-city" known as the Piedmont Atlantic, which stretches from Raleigh to Atlanta. Built in 1981, Falls Lake is a reservoir. It serves as the water supply for North Carolina's state capital. And its 60+ miles of well-marked and well-maintained trail mark the approximate middle of the state's Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
On either side of the Falls Lake trail are approximately 30 miles of additional new and planned off-road trail: the Neuse River Greenways to the east extending to Clayton and the Eno River/Laurel Heights Trail extending to Hillsborough to the west.
My last post covered the Greenway hike--all paved. This post covers the lake-side and river-side foot-travel-only hiking trails. When I hit these trails I felt, for the first time in my east-to-west MST hike, as though I was back on familiar ground, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. There are elevation changes that can get your heart rate up, especially on the western end of this segment. There are mixed hardwood forests growing in rocky soil. And there are deep ravines through which noisy streams ramble and tumble among said rocks. There's even a modest waterfall or two.
Nature takes the front seat here--signs of civilization are infrequent. And in some ways it's better than the Appalachian Trail, because there are abundant water views. The best of the water views, in my judgment, are two very different types that are within a few miles of one another. The first is from an 'aloof' elevated vantage point on a meadow-side bench.
And the second is the up-close-and-personal experience of crossing the Lick Creek boardwalk.
Here's a collection of a few of my other favorite lake and river views:
And here is a collection of some of the flora and fauna I encountered along the way:
|"What are you looking at? Never see a lizard before?"|
|Violets and Bluets - such straightforward complementary names|
|Lazy blacksnake sunning on a branch|
|Wild azalea and Eno River rapids|
|Trail tree - a massive double white oak|
|Coral honeysuckle and Dogwood|
Near the end of this segment I crossed the county line into Orange County--lucky thirteen in the tally of counties through which I've hiked. In order east-to-west, the Cape Fear Arch route passes through Dare, Hyde (Ocracoke), Carteret, Craven, Onslow, Pender, Bladen, Cumberland, Sampson, Johnston, Wake and Durham counties.
Orange County is the home of Hillsborough - a city of just the right size, as historic as the spelling of its name suggests, and the jumping off point for a new segment of the trail. After visiting historic downtown Hillsborough there's some road walking that leads to the first of the truly rugged terrain. Stay tuned.
Here's the map of the segment covered in this report with a link (click the title line) to an extensive slide show with more detail regarding the sights along the way:
MST Days 48-51 - Falls Lake and Eno River trails at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in North Carolina