Neuse River Trail: MP 11.5 – 13.25

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Over Memorial Day weekend, we headed out to Buffaloe Road Athletic Park to run along the Neuse River Trail and then have some playground time back at the park.  Unfortunately, the playground was closed for resurfacing so our short run turned into a much longer run and lucky for us the girls didn’t mind too much.

Buffaloe Road Athletic Park is located at 5812 Buffaloe Rd in east Raleigh.  We parked in the parking lot adjacent to the playground and headed out on the nearby trail.  With little signage to go by, we ran along the wooden boardwalk that dead ended at a small stream.  After getting turned around, we found a paved trail in the park and followed it along the perimeter of the park towards the aquatic center entrance.  We continued following the greenway signs, crossed the road before getting to the aquatic center main building, and finally found the Neuse River Trail after a few more right hand turns! Whew, we had a mile  (mostly uphill) under our belts already!   When you see the huge “traffic circle” feature in the trail, you know you’re there.  For future reference, we’ll park closer to the aquatic center if we need access to the greenway.

IMG_6589We turned right heading south onto the Neuse River Trail and we shortly came upon the 11.5 mile marker and a large bridge that crossed the Neuse River.  It had rained a lot in Raleigh over the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend, so the water levels were still pretty high and the river was flowing fast, which made for great toddler conversations.

There was quite a good bit of foot and bike traffic along the way so it was nice to see so many people using the greenway.  This portion of the greenway has a good variety of elevation – there are several flats parts mixed with some hilly parts.  We made several stops along the way for toddler nature potty stops and to admire the high water levels and nice houses across the river.  We even made it all the way south to where some good friends live across the river; even though we couldn’t see their house through the dense forest, our GPS showed where we were in comparison to their house so that was neat!  When looking back over the COR greenway map, we ran until just north of greenway parking #44 (2894 Abington Dr).

IMG_6611The run home felt much shorter with several less stops than the way out.  When we arrived back into Buffaloe Road Park, we followed signs to the athletic park instead of to the aquatic center.  With this option, we ran along the northern perimeter of the park and got to witness the massiveness of the baseball fields.  When we got back to our car, we were pooped! Ashley made a final pit stop in the restroom facilities near the closed playground and then we headed out for some well deserved lunch.  I look forward to taking the girls back to the park later this summer when the playground surface is finished.

More Resources:

Thumbs up: views along the greenway, condition of the greenway, photo ops, having playground and running options in one spot (despite playground being closed)

Thumbs down: no mention of playground being closed on COR website, lack of signage to greenway from playground

Neuse River Greenway: MP 15-17 & Milburnie Dam

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While I was training for the City of Oaks 10k last fall, it gave us a chance to try out several trails during my longer runs on the weekend.   One Saturday we headed over to the Neuse River Greenway near Anderson Point Park for a 4 mile run.  The Neuse River Greenway runs through Anderson Point Park and since I had explored part of the trail south of the park, we decided to park in the small lot prior to the entrance to Anderson Point Park and run north.

The parking lot at 22 Anderson Point Dr is rather large and serves for access to the greenway, overflow parking to the park, and canoe launch access to the river.  After parking, we headed north on the greenway and shortly saw mile marker 17 and signs for Mingo Creek Trail, which is maintained by the Town of Knightdale.

Along our 4 mile run (2 miles out and back) we passed over several pedestrian bridges, ran under New Bern Ave, passed a good amount of bikers and runners and discovered the beautiful Milburnie Dam.  The nearby greenway bridge provides great straight-on views of the dam, which has been out of commission since the 80s.  Milburnie Dam was first built in the mid-1850s as a power source for a paper mill.  From powering a paper mill, streetcars, and gristmill this dam has seen several changes since its inception according to the on-site information guide.  While the dam hasn’t been in use since the 1980s, it has since created a vibrant habitat for several animals.  In researching more about the dam it seems that removal of the dam has been debated for the last decade so its future use is unknown.  In the meantime, be sure to visit this great spot for some amazing photo opportunities…yet another reason why running on the greenway can provide beautiful surprises.

There is a small parking lot for quicker access to Milburnie Dam near the intersection of Old Milburnie Rd and Loch Haven Rd.

Check out Raleigh Nature’s blog post for more information on the Milburnie Dam.

Thumbs up: beautiful views of Milburnie Dam, relatively flat and shady greenway, having a playground near the greenway

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Neuse River Trail Opening

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A couple of months ago we attended the Neuse River Trail grand opening at Anderson Point Park located at 20 Anderson Point Dr.  Most grand openings we attend are usually low-key and only involve a few important speakers, but this celebration was full of food trucks, live music, crafts for kids, local vendors and more.  As typical, we sat through 5 minutes of the grand opening speeches and then played on the playground before hitting up the food, vendors and crafts.

The Neuse River Trail is located on the eastern side of Raleigh paralleling the Neuse River with 7 bridges over the river throughout the trail; it  begins at Falls Dam Lake and continues south past the WRAL Soccer Park, Buffaloe Rd Park, Milburnie Park, Anderson Pointe Park and to the Johnston County line.  The new section of trail added 20 additional miles, bringing the total distance of this paved trail to 27.5 miles.  The Neuse River Trail allows for easy connections west to Crabtree Creek Trail or Walnut Creek Trail and is a great connection between the municipalities of Wake Forest, Raleigh, Knightdale, and Johnston County.  Part of the trail is also a segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail that extends from the Great Smokey Mountains to the Outer Banks.

img_3085After devouring some delicious pizza from my favorite local food truck, Klausie’s, Ashley and I headed south on the trail for about a mile before her patience and the time got the best of us.  The parts of the trail we walked were gorgeous – the trails are 10ft wide, the views of the river are amazing, and the bridges make for exciting photo ops.

To access the Neuse River Trail near Anderson Point Park, the parking spots are either inside the park or at the parking lot near the canoe put-in at 22 Anderson Point Dr. At this location, you’ll be near mile marker 17 of 27.5.  I can’t wait to return and explore more of the trail on bike next time!

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: condition of trail, scenic views of river, photo ops, bridges

Thumbs down: signage to trails from within park

House Creek Trail Grand Opening

img_2710At the House Creek Trail dedication and grand opening ceremony yesterday, you really got a sense of the anticipation and excitement around this new trail.  Many guests spoke about the history of the greenway system, especially highlighting the fact that House Creek was Raleigh’s first pilot greenway trail back in the 1970s.  It was a short gravel path made possible by the Barefoot family, who was also in attendance at the grand opening.  Fast forward forty years and the addition of the new House Creek Trail brings the total greenway mileage up to 78!  At 2.9 miles long, the House Creek Trail is a vital north/south connection between Meredith College and the Crabtree area.

The grand opening took place inside Glen Eden Pilot Park.  After the ceremony we headed towards Crabtree Valley Mall on the newly paved path.  While on our way, we cruised by I-440 rush hour traffic in the distance, crossed bridges, noticed large land developments underway, and visited the Marshall Memorial Park.  Not aware of the Marshall Memorial Park, we stopped to take a look and a quick rest.  The park is a project funded by Rick Marshall, long-time Raleigh realtor, in honor of his father, Lt. Col. George F. Marshall.  Lt. Col. Marshall was killed in World War II while commanding troops during the British-American invasion of Oran, also known as Operation Torch.  The park is quietly located near the intersection with Blue Ridge Rd and contains a iron arbor and several stone seats and a wooden boardwalk, making it a good place to reflect and relax.

img_2712After passing the memorial park, we came to Blue Ridge Rd, which was rather busy around 5pm.  Several signs alert you of the busy two-lane highway, so we were able to cross with ease and continued to the corner across from the McDonalds.  In all it was a relatively easy .75 miles from Glen Eden Park to the McDonalds.  The mile markings begin near the McDonalds and display every .25 miles.

After arriving back to Glen Eden Park, we continued south on the House Creek Trail where we crossed under the Glen Eden Rd tunnel and kept on until the 1.5 mile marker.  The path is well landscaped throughout; natural grasses, plants and trees line most of the shady path with newly planted magnolias and other hardwoods throughout.  If you’re concerned about walking on the sidewalks of Glen Eden Dr or other areas that seem more dramatic from the beltway, don’t worry – this greenway trail has more railings and safety features than any other I’ve seen!  The stone wall along the tunnel slightly reminded me of Hokie Stone at VT!

Covering half of the new trail was a perfect end to a gorgeous fall day.  We passed so many bikers, joggers and walkers enjoying the new trail.  We’re excited to start at the southern end near Meredith College and work our way north next time.  Check out my previous post about House Creek Trail when it was under construction.

Thumbs up: landscaping, safety railings, signage, safety of the area, memorial park, connection created between Meredith College and Crabtree

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Joslin Gardens

Bill being in Blacksburg this past weekend meant that Ashley and I were on our own for a girl’s weekend!  Years ago, a girl’s weekend would’ve been much different than what it is today, but nevertheless we had a fun weekend.

img_1037First we visited the Joslin Gardens in Raleigh.  The gardens were part of a private residence that Mr. & Mrs. Joslin donated to the city and established the City of Oaks Foundation.  The gardens sit on a 4+ acre lot at 2431 West Lake Dr.  Not knowing what to expect once we arrived, I carried Ashley in the baby bjorn, which proved to be the right choice.  The paths throughout the property were very clear, but narrow.  There is a small stream running through the rolling hills on the property, so we had several bridges and steps to walk on.

img_1038We started the self-guided tour by heading north along the trail through the pine woodland area.  There were several helpful maps highlighting the suggested tours throughout the gardens.  I was amazed at how many plants and shrubs were identified.  We slowly made our way over the rolling hills, across bridges, around the streams and eventually up to the formal gardens next to the house.  The formal gardens were my favorite, maybe because they had the most flowers in bloom, but also because it seemed very whimsical.  The pergolas were covered in vines with new rose buds, the gorgeous irises were in full bloom, and the vegetable garden was in the middle of preparing for a busy summer.

It was pretty amazing to witness all the flowers, plants, and shrubs this couple had cultivated over the years.  It truly is a secret garden in the middle of an enchanting city.

Carrying Ashley up and over the gardens exhausted me, so we headed down to the Historic Oakwood area for an early lunch. Ever since I can remember first spotting the restaurant, I’ve been wanting to try Side Street Restaurant.  It’s an adorable neighborhood restaurant with a great selection of sandwiches and desserts.  Ashley was an angel and devoured her first grilled cheese sandwich.  It was very much the perfect mother-daughter lunch spot!

A lot of what Ashley and I did on Saturday morning reminded me so much of my grandma, Mimi.  Maybe it was the quiet creek flowing through the gardens of the Joslin residence; Mimi was infamous in her neighborhood for having a gorgeous water feature and surrounding it with her neighbors.  Or maybe it was the gorgeous spring weather; Mimi’s birthday was April 1st and until a few years ago, she made an annual trip with my aunt to visit us during this time of the year. Or maybe it was the neighborhood cafe with its white-linen tablecloths and regular customers that Ashley and me had lunch at; Mimi loved getting to know her servers and would’ve loved Side Street’s selection of sandwiches.

For more information about the inspiring work Mr. & Mrs. Joslin have done for the City of Raleigh read about their 2011 induction into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.

Thumbs up: quiet girlie weekends, peacefulness of the gardens,

Thumbs down: wished the gardens were open at the peak of the Camelia blooms

Windemere Beaver Dam Park

I have had the privilege to visit several parks with my daughter and granddaughter as they have been working on their blog for the past 8 months!

With the holidays, I asked if I, her sister Ginni, and Ginni’s husband, Blair, could take the baby to a nearby park for the Twelfth Day of Raleigh Parks Christmas and let us take pictures and blog!

Well here it is and to all who know me, I will keep the four letter words to “park”!

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is a wonderful neighbor park – quiet, peaceful and serene!

If I lived in this neighborhood I would be bitter, because I would have to share with all (lol)!

I also realized I was not the only grandparent enjoying the Raleigh sunshine that day, as the park had several families celebrating and enjoying a gorgeous day with their babies just like me.

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is located at 1500 Nottingham Rd in the median between Brooks Ave and Nottingham Rd. It is a wonderful place for families to celebrate just about anything, not only Christmas, but birthdays, soccer/t-ball/pick-up games, etc. They have a couple of picnic tables and numerous benches to take a rest if you are walking, jogging, or running on the nearby greenway trails. You can take a quiet walk and visit the babbling brook that goes around the outskirts of the park; and how wonderful that would be on a hot summer day, to dip your piggies!

In my opinion one of the best features is the open field, where you can play good old fashioned games of kickball, freeze tag, dodge ball, Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light, and of course soccer, lacrosse, t-ball, etc. I would suggest to bring your own chairs so you can be mobile between the open fields to the jungle gym/swings.

The playground area offers 2 slides, 2 swings for us big people and also 2 additional tot swings for our babies.

I truly think the best part of this neighborhood park is how the City of Raleigh kept it in its natural environment! It is a wonderful habitat, great for bird watching, as I saw several cardinals (male and female), chickadees, mocking birds, finches, nuthatches, great for a beginner bird watcher! They have everything they need to survive – food, water and shelter.

I’m grateful that Raleigh has one of the BEST park systems on the East Coast! Being just a visitor to this city over the past 9 nine years, I’d like to thank the citizens and the city council for making your parks a priority in their budget/bond referendums over the past several decades.

Thumbs Up: great family outings, jogging trails, natural habitat

Thumbs Down: parking, lack of park sign, not very stroller-friendly

Fallon Park

On the sixth day of Raleigh Parks, we visited Fallon Park, which is located just northeast of the Five Points area and not far from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.  Fallon Park is a long and slender wooded area between Royster St and Oxford Rd at 2601 Oxford Rd.  A small stream runs off from the nearby Crabtree Creek and meanders through the park creating small pools for splashing and admiring the water creatures.

The lower level of the park has a large open field with a pavilion, picnic tables, and benches.  There is also a leaning deodar cedar tree planted almost 40 years ago that immediately grabs your attention.  Be sure to walk along the unpaved path in the park, where you’ll cross over bridges, admire the large rocks along the stream, and enjoy the natural setting.  On this particular day we passed quite a few people jogging and walking their dogs.  On the northern side of the park, there is a gazebo and additional benches and picnic tables.  If you continue heading north on Oxford Rd you’ll eventually come to a portion of the Crabtree Creek Trail, which can take you either to Lassiter Mill Park or Kiwanis Park.  I’d love to visit this park again in the spring or fall when the trees are in bloom or changing colors.

Thumbs up: natural setting, exploring the stream, neighborhood setting

Thumbs down: downed trees along stream

Pullen Park

A few weeks ago, I went to the Pullen Park VIP Event with my friend, Jason, from southwestraleigh.com.  This post originally appeared on southwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Excitement was in the crisp Fall air during the Pullen Park preview event on Thursday afternoon and it’s not going to die down any time soon.  Children played on swings, adults rode the newly renovated carousel, and the train sounded off when leaving the station.  It’d been nearly two years since the amusement area had been open and the smiles say it all – it’s well worth the wait.

Pullen Park is located at 520 Ashe Ave, just west of Downtown Raleigh and at the edge of NC State University.  The renovations to the amusement center cost more than six million dollars and are part of the 2003 Parks & Rec Bond Referendum.  During the renovations, the Pullen Arts Center and Aquatic Center remained open.

Upon entering the park, your eyes are immediately drawn to the new sign extending across the walkway.  Near the entrance is the new Pullen Place, serving healthy, local fare at very reasonable prices.  Adjacent to the cafe is a large outdoor eating area, restrooms, and the Welcome Center where you can learn more about the park, purchase tickets for rides, or purchase park schwag.

If you head right, you can explore the various playground and climbing areas, swing sets, sand and water play areas, misting fountains, tire swing, and open play areas.  The different play areas have guides indicating the ages appropriate for the equipment.

Also in this area is a restored caboose with seating inside for having a picnic.  Smaller children can also enjoy a boat ride for one ticket.  A must-see attraction is the CP Huntington miniature train ride, which is great for all ages and a beautiful way to explore the park from the perimeter.  The views of the park from the train, especially around the lake, are gorgeous.

Another main attraction at the park is the carousel.  With over 50 hand-carved animals, it is a Dentzel Carousel housed in a gorgeous new building.  Among the animals you can ride are pigs, ostriches, horses, and billy goats, just to name a few.  The Wullitzer organ produces music that sets the mood.  The Pullen Park emblems outside the building provide a royal touch to the carousel.  The weather vein atop the building is unique in that it contains colored glass and animals other than just horses.

Heading from the carousel to the lake, you’ll pass a large pavilion with picnic tables, another restroom building, the pedal boats, and the Andy & Opie statue. Be sure to stroll around Lake Howell, where you can admire the waterfront views, stop for photo ops, or enjoy the fauna.  The new bridges are spectacles in themselves, adding a rolling hills feeling to the park.

With so many things to do, see, and hear at Pullen Park, you may not notice the attention paid to the small details.  The cedar shakes, green color palette, emblems, new landscaping mixed with mature trees, and stonework are also worth mentioning as it all adds to the atmosphere of the park.

The park’s grand opening was Saturday, November 19 from 10am-6pm.  Be sure to also purchase tickets for Holiday Express, where Pullen Park is transformed into a Holiday Wonderland from December 8-11, 4pm-7pm.

Thumbs up: playground area, views around lake, carousel, unique details in woodwork/design, miniature train ride, Pullen Place

Thumbs down: not many, but parking may be tough, especially in the beginning months

Edna Metz Wells Park

This post originally appeared on southwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Looking for a park in the Creative District bursting with fall colors?  Then, make your next park visit to Edna Metz Wells Park, where urban and nature intersect. This is a small park on the edge of Cameron Village that you’ve probably passed by a dozen times on the way to Glenwood South and never paid much attention.  It’s located at the intersection of Smallwood Drive, W Johnson Street, and Peace Street at the southern edge of Cameron Village. W Johnson Street is one-way, so go around the block and park either on Park Drive or W Johnson Street.  In late 2010, a $340,000 stream enhancement project was completed at the park as part of an improvement plan for Pigeon House Branch, a watershed that drains much of the downtown area.

Edna Metz Wells Park has several walking trails that meander through the mature trees and over the stream.  Several small bridges cross the water and large boulders on the southern part of the stream aid in preventing further erosion.  The dense forest is full of pines, oaks, magnolias, and ferns, to name a few!  The leafy tree colors are magnificent right now, great for photo ops and picnic spots.

There are also a few open areas in the park, still mostly shaded with nearby benches.  This is a great park for taking in some nature in an urban setting.  The sounds from the stream provide a nice backdrop to the busy nearby streets.  The USGS stream gauging station at the park helps monitor water levels and flow rates for flood forecasting and other projects.

So, grab a lunch or dinner nearby at Noodles & Co or Piccola Italia and head to Edna Metz Wells Park for a nice stroll and picnic.

Thumbs up: photo ops, shady, walking trails, nature spot, beautiful neighborhood park

Thumbs down: lack of information on-site about park

Kiwanis Park & Crabtree Creek Trail

A few weeks ago we headed down to Lassiter Mill Park again to access the nearby greenway via Crabtree Creek Trail for a run. Little did we know that after a mile and half into our run, we would come to Kiwanis Park. It was a nice surprise and a good break from the run, as we weren’t anticipating either!

Following the greenway was a bit tricky in some places.  If starting near Lassiter Mill Park, you’ll  eventually come to Claremont Rd, where the greenway signs stop.  Take a left onto Claremont Rd and then cross Anderson Dr where Claremont Rd turns into Oxford Rd.  Stay on the sidewalks and you’ll shortly see the next portion of the greenway on your left, which will lead you straight to Kiwanis Park.  Despite the trickiness of the greenway, this has turned out to be one of the favorite running trails in Raleigh.  It is super FLAT and the bridges and scenery you pass make the running seem effortless at times.

The Kiwanis Park is located at 2525 Noble Rd just inside the beltline. It has a playground area with a jungle gym, but no swings. There are also several large open fields, mostly used for playing soccer. There is a sand volleyball court, baseball fields, and a basketball court. The nearby community center is not staffed and is available for rent.  The large pavilion has several picnic tables and restrooms.

Even though you can get to the park by car, why not make this a greenway/park/brunch adventure with the kids! 1) Run/walk 1.5 miles with the stroller on the greenway to the park, 2) let them burn up some energy on the playground while you rest from your run/walk, 3) then run/walk 1.5 miles back followed by 4) yummy brunch at Nofo at the Pig!

Thumbs up: flat portion of greenway, scenery along greenway, playground, open fields at park, recreational sports

Thumbs down: signage along parts of greenway, no swings on playground