Honeycutt Creek Trail: Strickland Rd to Honeycutt Park (MP 2.25 to 3.5)

honeycutt creek trailAfter exploring the northernmost section of East Mine Fork Trail, we crossed Strickland Road via the pedestrian access near West Millbrook Middle School to catch up with Honeycutt Creek Trail.  Heading east on Strickland Rd, we shortly passed mile marker 3.5 for Honeycutt Creek Trail.  Honeycutt Creek Trail was part of the 2003 & 2007 bond referendum that opened about a year ago and features 5.6 miles of greenway, some of which is unpaved.
Continuing on Strickland Rd, we followed greenway signs and turned left onto Carriage Tour Ln, which offered some great views of the gorgeous homes in the neighborhood.  Following the signs, we turned right on Chatterson Dr and found the official entrance to Honeycutt Creek Trail at 305 Chatterson Dr.  The beginning of the trail starts in dramatic fashion along a tall concrete walkway built between the homes of the Bent Tree neighborhood and forest that backs up to I-540.  The concrete walkway then leads into a slightly inclined wooden walkway that sits high off the ground offering great views of the nearby creek, residential homes and neighborhood pond.

pedestrian tunnelAfter running along the walkways we crossed under the I-540 pedestrian tunnel near the 2.75 mile marker.  I was pretty out of breath pushing the double stroller up the small hills we’d run so far, but I was definitely not prepared for the long, steep hills on the other side of the pedestrian tunnel.  Holy hills, Batman! Thankfully, Honeycutt Park (our destination) was only 1/2 mile away.  Honeycutt Park seems to be one of the lesser visited parks, yet it has great playgrounds with fun features for kids of all ages.  It also holds a special place in my heart as it was the last park our then family of 3 visited before little Claire was born (I have vivid memories of sweating it out in the full July sun).  The playground is in full sun, but there is a large nearby pavilion along with other park features including sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, and baseball fields.

After some playground time and a picnic lunch at the pavilion we headed back the way we came.  I was thankful the route was downhill, but had to work hard to control the heavy stroller down the steep hills.

If you wanted to continue north along Honeycutt Creek Greenway, follow the trail through the park and along Honeycutt Road to the Durant Rd intersection where it transitions to an unpaved trail.  According to the map, it continues north to Raven Ridge Rd where it connects with the South Shore Trail (part of Mountains-to-Sea Trail).  A note of caution: a portion of the unpaved trail between Durant Rd and Raven Ridge Rd is managed by the NC Wildlife Refuge Commission, which allows seasonal bow hunting.  According to the website, brightly colored vests are available for temporary use and signs display making it obvious of the game lands you’re entering.

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: connectivity to Honeycutt Park and beyond

Thumbs down: steep hills

East Fork Mine Creek Trail: MP 1 to 2.5

IMG_3485When the weather hovered in the high-70s on Christmas Eve, my family headed to a newly opened section of greenway for some exercise before filling up on holiday libations and rich foods.  East Fork Mine Creek is a 2.5 mile north-south paved trail that runs along Mine Creek near Lynn Rd to the north side of Strickland Rd.  We drove to one of the entrances of the trail near the intersection of Newton Rd and Sandy Creek Rd and parked in the shopping center across the street (note: take note of “no parking” signs; we arrived before the shops opened so we thought we’d be fine with parking in the center).

After crossing Newton Rd and heading north on the trail we quickly passed mile marker 1.  With the recent rains the paved trail was pretty wet with debris and the nearby Mine Creek flowed quickly.  This section of the trail runs behind a residential area of houses and apartments.  We also passed by a large section of tall bamboo on the side of the trail opposite the creek.

IMG_3489We continued north on the trail until we came to Old Deer Trail, a neighborhood street in the Summerfield subdivision.  We crossed over Old Deer Trail and followed the Capital Area Greenway signs as we winded our way through this cute, low-traffic neighborhood.  We passed a few other bikers and walkers along the way before coming to Strickland Rd.  We crossed Running Cedar Trail, heading east on Strickland Rd where we also passed West Millbrook Middle School and mile marker 2.5, the end of East Fork Mine Creek Rd.  At this point of the trail there is a well marked pedestrian crossing area designated for crossing over busy Strickland Rd.  My aunt and I opted to head back to the car while the rest of the group crossed Strickland Rd to extend their run on the connecting Honeycutt Creek Trail (more on this hilly trail in a future post).

A morning run on this section of East Fork Mine Creek was the perfect pre-Christmas exercise to involve all ages.  This section of the trail is pretty flat and offers lots of creek views, houses and people for little ones to view.

Thumbs up: flat trail, creek/residential views, safety, well-marked pedestrian crossing at Strickland Rd

Thumbs down: designated trail parking near Newton Rd

Crabtree Creek Trail: MP 0 to 4.75

IMG_3014Back in November we took advantage of my aunt visiting and went on a greenway biking day date!  We biked along Crabtree Creek Trail from milepost 0 to 4.75, completing the final segment of this greenway that we had left to explore.  We parked at Anderson Point Park and biked past the traffic circle near the park’s main entrance to the Crabtree Creek Trail greenway entrance and headed west (note: there are also signs for Neuse River Trail).

This portion of the greenway was pretty flat, but offered a lot to look at along the way.  We biked almost 5 miles and crossed several bridges and went under several overpasses on this trail segment.  From Anderson Point Park, we headed west where we biked under Rogers Ln and US-64, S New Hope Rd, I-440, New Bern Ave and then followed the sidewalk along Milburnie Rd before connecting up with more of the greenway.  After Milburnie Rd, the trail was covered in leaves and got rather hilly.  We saw some pretty water views from the high banks of Marsh Creek but also saw less desirable views of the abandoned nightclub, Envy.

IMG_3008We biked until about mile marker 4.75 where we turned around at an abandoned commercial building with a gantry crane to ensure we returned to the park before sunset (note: just past this spot is Lockwood Park).  The ride back was as refreshing and quiet as the ride in, covering more wooded areas than residential areas.  We passed a few runners and bikers along the way, but this section of the trail definitely felt less travelled compared to others.  After our bike ride, we quickly came home to change and then hopped back into the car for part 2 of our date at the new Cinebistro movie theater in Cary where we saw The Martian…a relaxing end to a fun date!

Thumbs up: road signage at highway overpasses, quiet/relaxing ride

Thumbs down: lack of signage about upcoming parks/playgrounds along bike route

Canal Path/Heritage Trail & Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg, VA

IMG_2283Before summer came to an end we headed back up to VA for a final party at my mom’s house before turning it over to new owners.  To counteract the bushel of crabs (and beers) we were going to eat that weekend, we headed into downtown Fredericksburg on Saturday morning for a run and some playground time.

We parked at Old Mill Park (2410 Caroline St) along the Rappahannock River in downtown Fredericksburg.  We walked up towards Caroline St and turned right on the Heritage Trail, heading towards Route 1. Heritage Trail is a 1.6 mile paved path that parallels the Rappahannock River, offering gorgeous views of the flowing river through the city.  We quickly passed under Route 1, then followed along Riverside Dr before turning right along Fall Hill Ave.  We passed by the entrance to Virginia Outdoor Center and then turned left onto Canal Path trail.

IMG_2309The Canal Path is a paved 1.8 mile trail that parallels the canal until Princess Anne St where it then connects back with the Heritage Trail making a loop through downtown.  The Canal Path is mostly shaded, making it a great way to escape the summer heat.  We passed behind Mary Washington Hospital, ran under Route 1 again, ran by the Wetlands at Gayles Pond, and passed the Fredericksburg Dog Park on our way back to Old Mill Park.  Both trails display mile markers and informational signs throughout the paths related to historical aboriginal culture, Civil War battle action and current-day wetlands.

After our 3.1 mile loop run we ended back at Old Mill Park, which was a great place for the little ones to get out and stretch their legs.  Old Mill Park has a large playground for ages 2+ nestled under large trees.  It has several slides, climbing structures, built-in games for littles one to manipulate, nearby swings with tot swings, and several teeter totters.  Old Mill Park also has several large open fields (used mostly for soccer), pavilion with picnic tables, restroom facilities and riverfront views.  After all our running around we headed to the nearby Mason Dixon Cafe for brunch and mimosas.  And, no downtown Fredericksburg visit would be complete without walking next door to Carl’s for amazing ice cream!

Additional Resources

Thumbs up: beautiful river views, accessibility to running/walking loop in downtown Fredericksburg,  historical markers of information, picnic spots, playground along running loop, felt very safe with all the foot traffic

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Neuse River Trail – MP 22 to 23.75 & Sunflowers Field

IMG_1945Near the end of July we ventured to the southern section of the Neuse River Trail in hopes of finding the beautiful field of sunflowers that were in bloom (from a hot tip by TriangleExplorer).  We’ve run or biked a large portion of the Upper Neuse River Trail, but haven’t done much exploring along the Lower Neuse River Trail so it seemed like the great thing to do before the sunflowers lose their blooms.

We parked in the small greenway parking lot near the intersection of La Costa Way & Auburn Knightdale Rd in southern Wake County.  After parking we walked down the short access road to the compass in the greenway and turned right to head south.  We quickly passed mile marker 22 and even though it was a weeknight we saw a good amount of foot traffic.  We ran over some small bridges, ran parallel to acres of old farm land that separate the greenway by rolling white picket fences, and ran under the Battle Bridge Rd tunnel before coming to the field of sunflowers around milepost 23.5.  There is little shade along this greenway so we were hot and sweaty from pushing the double stroller and happy to walk up the hill towards the sunflower fields.  Unfortunately, my timing was off so we missed the sunflowers at their peak and saw mostly wilted sunflowers that were losing their seeds.  The 50 acres of sunflower fields are used as an application site for biosolids from the nearby Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The sunflowers are eventually harvested and seeds are used to produce biodiesel.  Read here to learn more about the sunflower fields.

IMG_1935We continued south along the greenway and caught a closer glimpse of a few sunflowers still in bloom.  We turned around when we reached mile post 23.75 near the intersection of Brown Field Rd.

It was a hot and humid July night for a run, so we took our time on the run back and enjoyed some much deserved Bad Daddy burgers and beers on our way home through downtown Raleigh.  I can’t wait to catch the sunflower fields in their peak next summer (calendar has been updated).

Hot tips for next year:

Thumbs up: scenery of sunflower fields, beautiful open farm land

Thumbs down: hot, sunny trail in summertime

Spring Forest Road Park

IMG_5429At the end of May family visited us for the weekend so we headed out on Sunday morning with my aunt, sis-in-law, and niece to explore a new park in northeast Raleigh, Spring Forest Road Park.  I’d been wanting to check this place out ever since I heard earlier this year that it was going to be one of the parks to host the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  With such a massive open area surrounded by a walking trail and shade trees it’s no wonder it was chosen for such a festival.

Spring Forest Road Park is located at 4203 Spring Forest Road, east of Capital Blvd, near a fire station, and not far from Triangle Town Center.  After arriving in the parking lot, we took a short walk along the trail to the nearby playground.  The playground is in a very sunny location and has a sandy base.  It has several slides, monkey bars, and climbing areas that are all connected, making this a playground for ages 2-12.  The first few steps lead to a small slide for the younger ages and a big step leads to a jumpy suspension bridge, two twisty slides, a covered “castle” area (deemed so by Ashley), and a curved ladder.  After the girls exhausted my aunt on the playground they settled in with some sand toys that we brought from home.  Being that the sand and playground area was so sunny, we enjoyed a quick snack on the nearby benches before taking a walk around the loop trail.

IMG_5447We passed several small groups of folks walking that morning and noticed signs advertising walking programs held through the City of Raleigh/Wake County on their information boards.  They also advertised several zumba and kickboxing evening classes held here, which sound like a fun place to meet up with neighbors and friends in the evening.  The paved trail is 1/2 mile loop with a few small hills and passes through some shady spots.  The surrounding open space must be one of the largest open fields in the whole park system, especially if it was large enough to house a hot air balloon festival.  We also passed a baseball field before returning to the parking lot where the large pavilion with restrooms and tennis courts with backboards are located.  Several types of flowers were in bloom and the trees were full of leaves throughout the park making you forget it’s just a short distance from busy Capital Blvd.

Thumbs up: large open space, great walking trail, community walking group/activities, landscaping

Thumbs down: very sunny playground area

Crabtree Creek Trail: North Hills Park to Crabtree Valley Mall

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.00.37 PMTimes have been rather difficult in our household for the past few weeks.  My mom unexpectedly passed away at the end of March so my world has been flipped upside down and writing has been pushed to the back burner.  As I set out to get back into writing park reviews, I’m reminded that I started this blog because of my mom.  She’s the one who created lasting memories for me at our local parks growing up.  She’s the one who enrolled me in summer camp.  She’s the one who taught me (and the rest of Stafford County youth) how to swim.  She’s the one who helped me get my first job at Curtis Park Pool.  She’s the reason I want to create lasting park memories for my kids, nieces, and friends’ kids.  So please bear with me as I get back into writing…

IMG_0075.jpgA few months ago my sister and her family were in town so we set out for another run on another (new to us) section of Crabtree Creek Trail.  To ease the double stroller intensity we put Claire and baby Ava in the same stroller and let Ashley ride solo.  We started at North Hills Park with the goal of running to the far western edge of Crabtree Creek Trail.  As mentioned in previous posts, the greenway trail at North Hills Park starts out extremely steep so use caution.  At the end of the steep hill we turned right, kept straight across the small footbridge, and then made a left to stay on Crabtree Creek Trail (turn right to proceed to Shelley Lake).  We shortly passed mile marker 12.5 before passing the access to North Hills Dr.  After crossing another bridge and running under Glenwood Ave we found ourselves behind Crabtree Valley Mall.  The greenway is mostly flat and residential in these sections and the foot and car traffic was very steady for a Saturday morning.

We passed mile parker 13.5 behind the mall and then ran under Edwards Mill Rd, which is when the foot traffic decreased and the residential landscape changed to empty commercial lots for a short while.  We even came across an abandoned wood and steel suspension bridge to nowhere. Glad to have running buddies with me, the landscape turned more inviting and more commercial on the Glenwood Ave side of the greenway and more residential to the left of the greenway.  We meandered along, taking in the wooded scenery and trying to find turtles in the creek before turning around just past the 14.5 mile marker at the western edge of the greenway by Lindsay Dr.

Despite the sunny pictures below it was a chilly day so everyone was bundled and made few noises throughout the long 5.5 mile trip.  After some playground time at North Hills Park we grabbed some Snoopy’s take-out and then headed to Raleigh Brewing Company for some much deserved beverages!  It made for the perfect combination of outdoor exercise, family fun and local beers!

Thumbs up: flat trail, views of the creek, several parking options along trail

Thumbs down: abandoned commercial lots past Edwards Mill Rd

Crabtree Creek Trail: North Hills Park to Lassiter Mill Park

IMG_9604Have I mentioned that we spent a lot of time on the greenway this winter?  So, here we are again, exploring a new (to us) portion of the Capital Area Greenway on the Crabtree Creek Trail from North Hills Park to Lassiter Mill Park (about 2.5 miles round trip).  We started at the greenway entrance at North Hills Park (100 Chowan Circle) so the girls could run out some energy at the playground afterwards.  If you’ve never been on this portion of the greenway, I’m forewarning you that the hill from the parking lot to the greenway is extremely steep, but the trail levels out at the bottom.

After we ever-so-slowly pushed the double stroller down the hill we turned left to follow the trail east under I-440.  The greenway wasn’t particularly busy this morning and running under overpasses tends to creep me out, so I’m glad Bill was with me.  Shortly after passing a bridge and access to Alleghany Dr, we saw mile marker 12.  Based on the placement of mile marker 12 on the greenway it seems the placement of mile marker 12 on the COR greenway map is too far west.  This portion of the trail is sandwiched between Crabtree Creek and beautiful residential homes.  The recent heavy rains caused the creek level to be pretty high, so between the rushing water and neighborhoods we all had nice things to see.

IMG_9642Then shortly after passing mile marker 11.5 the trail abruptly becomes unpaved and very narrow.  In hindsight we should’ve taken one of the Alleghany Dr access paths, but there were no signs beforehand to indicate strollers or bikes wouldn’t be able to pass up ahead.  So, we continued on the unpaved trail for a short time, all the while traversing over tree roots and narrowly squeezing between the creek and neighborhood roads above.  When it seemed impossible for the double Bob to continue on, I ran up ahead to see how much further until Lassiter Mill Rd.  At the end of the unpaved trail there is a set of stairs leading to Hertford Rd.  Take a left onto Hertford Rd and follow it along behind Root Elementary School and then cut over to Lassiter Mill Rd.  Turn left onto Lassiter Mill Rd where you’ll soon see Lassiter Mill on the left and Crabtree Creek Trail on the right.

While the signage on this portion of the trail is less than desired, the scenery along the creek is serene and enchanting.  Before you head out, review the greenway map or bring along your phone with GPS and/or utilize the RGreenway app.

Thumbs up: scenery along trail

Thumbs down: lack of signage alerting to unpaved trail ahead, narrow trail

Neuse River Trail: MP 0 to 1.5

IMG_9816.jpgFor the few days it’s been sunny and above 40 degrees this winter you could easily find us at a park or greenway soaking up the fresh air.  Even though we’ve explored a lot of the southern end of the Neuse River Trail, we hadn’t run along the northern portion (aka Upper Neuse Greenway) until this winter.  It’s a great location to get some exercise and then have a picnic along the shores of the dam.

The Neuse River Trail is nearly 28 miles long and officially starts just south of the Falls Lake Dam.  We parked in the lot adjacent to the dam, which is near the intersection of Old Falls of Neuse Rd and Pleasant Union Church Rd.  From the parking lot, walk along Pleasant Union Church Rd and bare left onto the paved trail that goes under Old Falls of Neuse Rd.  As another parking option, turn right onto the service road before crossing the bridge over the Neuse River.  Follow the road 100 yards to the greenway parking lot, which has space for about 30 cars and is across from the canoe launch.  I prefer to park in the dam parking lot because it offers amazing views and has picnic tables for post-run picnics.

IMG_9828.jpgOn this particular day the water level was elevated, so it was relaxing to hear the rushing water flow over a screaming 18-month old (yes, she screamed for about 95% of our run).  Regardless, this trail is great in that it parallels the river offering great water views and glimpses of the native flora and fauna.  We saw herons, beautiful budding red berry bushes (maybe winterberry shrubs) and tall native grasses.  We passed under Falls of Neuse Rd and over small bridges.  We also passed by the Bedford at Falls River neighborhood with greenway access to Falls River Ave and then turned around at the 1.5 mile mark, which is by the fork in the trail; keep left to stay on the greenway or stay straight for another access point to Falls River Ave and a greenway parking lot.  The steady stream of foot traffic and proximity to made me feel secure about returning on my own and the relatively flat, wide trail might make it ideal for kiddo balance biking!

After finishing our run we enjoyed a picnic lunch near the dam and then walked down to the shore line for some good ol’ rock throwing.  If you’re still looking for something do after exploring the greenway and dam, hike up the nearby unpaved trail to the top of the dam for more gorgeous views and some playground time.

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: safety of trail, beautiful views, relatively flat trail, abundance of parking lots

Thumbs down: nothing to report

E. Carroll Joyner Park

IMG_4982With our red wagon and balance bike in hand, we headed out on a clear, sunny winter day to explore E. Carroll Joyner Park in Wake Forest.  E. Carroll Joyner park is located about 20 minutes from Raleigh, just off Rte. 1 at 701 Harris Rd.  Upon arriving into the park you immediately notice the expansive rolling fields and stone ribbon wall.  Follow the main road towards the back of the park where you’ll find the parking lot.

After parking we studied the information board to better understand the park’s layout.  With over 100 acres, this park has a lot to offer: three miles of paved trails, grass amphitheater, a pecan grove, farm buildings, a perennial garden, and a performance garden.  We spent most of our time walking and biking on the paved trails, which proved to be great balance bike practice for Ashley; the rolling trails are wide with gradual declines and park benches and swings along the way for resting.  The trails have great visibility, which is necessary for inexperienced young bikers who swerve all over the trail.

IMG_4994Along our walk/ride we passed several beautiful settings including the refurbished farm buildings.  This park was originally a working farm as recently as the 1940s, owned by the Walker family who grew produce to sell to local merchants.  It was sold to E. Carroll Joyner who raised cattle until the 1990s and then bought by the Town of Wake Forest in 2003 and opened as a public park in 2009.  The original farm buildings include a tobacco barn, log cabin, chicken coop and mule barn.  The girls had a fantastic time exploring the different buildings, especially the chicken coop.  Several of these buildings and the nearby settings also offer great photo opportunities.

After exploring the old buildings we followed the trails south around the pond.  We continued along the greenway past the pond, but after consulting the GPS we turned around since it was going to take much longer to get back to the parking via the greenway.

Before heading to the car we stopped for a short picnic at one of the bench swings and then stopped for a quick bathroom break in the very clean and comfortable public restrooms.  Make this park a must-visit for 2015 – whether walking, biking, running or out for some photography this park is your setting!  It’s also part of the Kids in Parks Track Trails program which encourages kids to have fun outdoor adventures.

Thumbs up: trails, photo ops, farm buildings, gardens, beautiful settings

Thumbs down:  greenway signage