Mingo Creek Trail MP 0 to 2.25

IMG_8407Looking for a fun family bike ride over the holiday weekend? Discover the Mingo Creek Trail of Knightdale where it features flat rides, long causeways and interesting creek life!

We love finding new (to us) greenway sections to explore, so we headed to Anderson Point Park to access the Mingo Creek Trail. Mingo Creek Trail is part of the Town of Knightdale’s greenway system that connects from the Neuse River Trail. We parked in the large parking lot (just outside the main entrance to Anderson Point Park) and biked north on the Neuse River Trail.

We shortly passed MP 17 for the Neuse River Trail and then turned right, following signs for Mingo Creek Trail. Then, we winded up a paved path before biking across the Neuse River. The trail eventually led to a clearing with residential homes on one side and railroad tracks on the opposite side. Around MP 1, the trail’s gradual hill leveled out to the Princeton Manor neighborhood at the Hodge Rd intersection.

IMG_8426We maneuvered through the neighborhood sidewalks and carefully crossed Hodge Rd to continue on Mingo Creek Trail. Shortly after, we biked along the half-mile causeway, which was sandwiched between marshy areas and residential homes. We stopped on the causeway to watch the turtle and duck families sunning in the water. A great heron (or egret) also caught our eye.

Eventually we biked under the I-540 bridge and turned around at the Lynnwood Rd Connector at MP 2.25. Knowing we’d have a 2.25-mile return trip, we enjoyed a picnic on the side of the trail before calling it a successful ride. I hope to bring the girls back to finish biking this trail over the summer where it ends at Mingo Creek Park.

Thumbs up: easy to read Town of Knightdale greenway map with incremental markings and mileage table, connection to the larger Neuse River Trail for longer rides, interesting wildlife viewing in marsh, great family bike ride, sunny bridges and causeways make for great photo ops

Thumbs down: lack of signs made maneuvering through neighborhood near Hodge Rd confusing

Forest Hill Park (Richmond, Va)

forest hill parkLast fall we headed to Richmond for a little man’s 1st birthday party. Before the big party we headed with friends and all our littles to Forest Hill Park in Richmond, Va. Forest Hill Park is located south of the James River at 4021 Forest Hill Ave. It features an amazing farmers market open during the summer and fall months, paved walking trails, playgrounds, a pond, unpaved bike trails through the woods, wide open fields, picnic shelters and tennis courts. If you’re looking for a fun morning outing for the family, this is the place!

Once an estate owned by different families and then an amusement park, the City of Richmond bought the land in 1933 and turned it into the present-day urban park. They preserved some of the old stone buildings including the circa 1840s Stone House and old stone gazebo with fire pits by the pond that once served as a warming hut for ice skaters.

DSC_0163Farmers Market, Trail Walking & Pond

During our visit we parked at the northern entrance along New Kent Ave and first walked through the farmers market. We visited with the woolly sheep, watched a short acrobatic demo, bought coffee and donuts, and admired the local artisan’s goods. We enjoyed our breakfast goodies at the old brick shelter near the entrance and then walked down the adjacent paved loop trail.

The loop trail starts off wide and downhill, and surrounded by dense forest. The beautiful morning sun casted warm glows and soft textures – perfect for documenting our walk with the little babes and friends. The kids enjoyed watching mountain bikers hit the trails in the woods. We walked to the hexagonal stone shelter (formerly a warming hut for ice skaters) near the pond so the kids could feed the ducks. After exhausting our bread supply, we continued walking along the flat trail that soon shifted uphill. Near the top of the hill the trail narrowed as it opened to large rolling fields. We meandered along the trail passing picnickers and large, sparse oak trees until we arrived at the playground.

Playground

DSC_0222The playground features two play structures divided by age group and swings for all ages. The younger child playground contains slides, a spiral ladder, and nearby teeter totters. The older child playground contains steeper slides, arched ladders, double “racing” slides, monkey bars and zipline. The kids loved racing each other down the slides and swinging across the monkey bars. The playground’s hardwood mulch surface lessened the monkey bar falls. The original 1840s Stone House, picnic tables and tennis courts are also just a short walk away. 

After a long time on the playground, we continued on the trail back to the parking lot. Though we walked about 1.5 miles, the full loop trail is about 3.2 miles. The northern section of the trail connects to the Reedy Creek Trail and feeds into the much larger James River Park System. The James River Park System contains acres of shoreline for fishing, biking, running, walking, rafting, and canoeing. I’m excited to explore the river during my next trip to Richmond and see first-hand its importance to the large biking and running community of Richmond.

Thumbs Up

beautiful scenery, open fields, playground features, variety of vendors at farmer’s market, wide trails, preserved stone buildings

Thumbs Down

lack of restrooms near playground

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

Mini Post: Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet

IMG_3704After our visit to Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, we headed across the street (literally) to Brookgreen Gardens to spend time at the zoo, storybook playhouses and nature playground.  Brookgreen Gardens is located at 1931 Brookgreen Drive off US-17 and features thousands of acres of gardens and sculptures, a low country zoo, beautiful light displays in the evenings at Christmastime, educational programs and much more.

We didn’t have time to visit the gardens, but spent about an hour walking the 1-mile+ loop and visiting the animals through the zoo.  We saw domesticated animals such as cows, horses, turkeys and several native animals such as alligators, bald eagles, foxes, otters.  The aviary features a boardwalk elevated over a swamp where you walk through the birds’ habitat to see several different types of birds including herons and egrets.

After seeing the animals we walked over to the Storybook Playhouse area where the kids explored every inch of the storybook-themed houses for Cinderella’s Castle, Hansel & Gretel’s gingerbread house, Snow White’s cottage, Dr. Seuss, and Rapunzel’s tower.  Then the kiddos climbed, jumped and banged around the nearby nature playground.  They seemed to mostly enjoy making music with the pots and pans secured to the wall.

Brookgreen Gardens is an enormous place; we hardly dusted the surface of this Lowcountry garden and zoo.  In looking at their website, they have lots of cool exhibits and events scheduled for their 85th anniversary this year, including LEGO sculptures on display at the zoo.

Thumbs up: variety of activities, native animals, aviary exhibit

Thumbs down: nothing to report

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

Neuse River Trail: MP 7.25 to 9 & Suspension Bridge

IMG_0632Towards the end of March we headed out to Neuse River Trail to explore the area surrounding Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, in anticipation of the new park opening sometime this spring/summer.  Using the RGreenway app, we mapped our starting location at the small parking lot at 198 Trailhead Ln outside I-540 and off US-401.  Knowing we wouldn’t pass a playground along our run, we brought the girls’ bikes and scooters to play on after our run.

We walked along the access trail to the main Neuse River Trail and turned left at the compass in the trail to head north towards Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.  After crossing over a wooden boardwalk we passed milepost 8 1/2.  The vegetation at this point in the year was very sparse, but showing signs of life to come (you’ll see a remarkable difference in a future Neuse River Trail post that I write).  We stopped every once in awhile to point out interesting things in nature to the girls – a rotting fallen tree, a wicked looking pale-as-a-ghost tree across the river, fallen gumballs, and pigeons resting under underpasses.

After running under US-401 we came to another amazing feat of steel, cables, and pillars – a massive suspension bridge spanning across the river with access to Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.  The other suspension bridge I’ve seen along Neuse River Trail is further south at milepost 13.5.  Even though signs indicate the park is closed for construction we looped around and over the bridge for a closer look.  After a short 1/4 mile run we stopped at the “Greenway Closed” signs on the edge of the park and headed back across the bridge and further north along the greenway.  We crossed over some more bridges before turning around near run-down barns around milepost 7 1/4.

IMG_0661This portion of the greenway continues to be relatively flat and shady.  The areas surrounding the greenway are mostly dense forest to one side with the river to the other.  We saw quite a few fisherman on both banks of the river with most of them concentrated in spots near US-401.  Our run back to the car was much faster than the run out so we took advantage of happy little faces and retrieved a balance bike, scooter and helmets from the car and let the girls ride on the greenway.  It wasn’t a busy morning on the trail, so the girls had a carefree time riding.  Ashley biked south on the greenway all the way to milepost 9 where we crossed over a small bridge with a shallow creek below, perfect for spotting turtles.  Claire enjoyed her first scooter ride where we pushed her from behind as she cruised along.  They were troopers for such a long morning run of about 4 miles and then some bike time.

Upcoming event: Celebrate the completion of the Neuse River Trail on Thursday, June 4 at Anderson Point Park with live bands, food trucks, kids’ games and more

Thumbs up: suspension bridge, wide/flat trail, shady

Thumbs down: nothing to report

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

House Creek Trail: MP 1.25 to 2.9

IMG_8471Even though the House Creek Trail was completed only 2 years ago, the trail’s history dates back to 1973 when it was a mere 350ft unpaved foot path and the foundation of the Capital Area Greenway.  House Creek Trail is a north/south connection between Reedy Creek Trail (near Meredith College/Wade Ave) and Crabtree Creek Trail (near Crabtree Valley Mall).  Having explored all other parts of House Creek Trail, I was excited to visit this last stretch and get some more mileage in before the City of Oaks 10k back in November.

I parked in the residential area (Leonard St/Ridge Rd intersection) behind the Ridgewood Shopping Center and then walked on the sidewalk toward Wade Ave to start at the end of the trail, which is mile marker 2.9.  The trail parallels Wade Ave for awhile before heading straight uphill towards the NC Museum of Art.  Before crossing the 440-beltline pedestrian bridge, bare right at the House Creek Trail sign and proceed with caution down the steep hill.

IMG_8497This greenway parallels the eastern side of the 440-beltline until the pedestrian crossover at Glen Eden Rd.  Even though you can hear and see the 440-beltline traffic, with the expansive tree lines on both sides of the trail, I sometimes felt like I was miles away in middle earth.  Occasionally I passed other bikers and walkers, but for the most part on this chilly October morning it was just me and Claire.  Before coming to the Lake Boone Trail tunnel, we passed the small Horton St apartment complex and a designated greenway parking lot located behind Martin Middle School.  It was around this time (mile post 2.0) that I also spotted a random basketball pole and hoop in the nearby creek, making me question the history of this area.

Continuing on, we spent some more time going uphill and navigated through the tunnel underneath Lake Boone Trail.  There are huge rock piles and large drain pipes here to help with drainage since this is a rather hilly spot.  We continued on a bit further and came upon an information plaque highlighting the original House Creek Trail and more details of the history of the Capital Area Greenway.  This part of the trail is relatively flat, which was a comforting change (see my elevation change photo below) so we continued on until the tunnel at Glen Eden Rd (approx mile post 1.25) where we turned around.

Having explored all of House Creek Trail now, I can say that I enjoy the flatter stretch of the trail from Glen Eden Rd to Crabtree Valley Mall, even though this probably better prepared me for the hilly City of Oaks run!

More Resources:

Thumbs up: scenery, safety, wide trails

Thumbs down: beware of the hills