ANNIVERSARY HIKE - LAKE JOHNSON LOOP TRAIL
On a cold Saturday in December, we elected to hike the loop trail around Lake Johnson in Raleigh, North Carolina....a 5.5 mile wonderful trek....hidden off Avent Ferry Road, not five miles from the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University. Speaking of NC State, it is the Alma Mater of both the Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion. Spending the weekend in a nice hotel adjacent to the campus, we thought we were back in college!
We were able to capture the beauty of the Raleigh skyline adorned in green for the Christmas Holidays overlooking Hillsborough Square....the site of a notorious college hangout, now sadly turned into a parking lot.
Lake Johnson is a well used public park along the northern shores of which is a paved greenway connecting other public trails within the city of Raleigh. The other half of the Lake Loop is a wonderful forest path...and by taking the bike trial....a primitive path along the lake shore. A wonderful planked board walk crosses the lake near the marina, allowing the hiker to vary the length of the hike....but of course we want to hike every inch...so we left the marina parking lot hiking west toward the headwaters of the lake...most everyone else was going the other way...the FBWG is just a non conformist.
The trail was across the road from the marina and is designated as a "woodland" trail....a wide leaf covered boulevard hugged the lake shore for 3/4 of a mile until we came to a wooden bridge which crossed the wetlands at the headwaters of the lake.
The bridge angles like a door hinge. From it you can see how close the lake is to Interstate 440 whose roar disturbs the tranquility of the site.
A view of the lake is also glimpsed. In the spring this area would be teaming with wildlife and flora. The subtle evergreen adds the contrasting color for this winter view.
Leaving the bridge, the trail on the southern side of the lake becomes much steeper as it follows the ridgeline of the bluff.
At about the 1.75 mark a spur trail to a round top bluff is one of the feature views of the hike....don't miss it!
Atop this bluff is a park bench were you can sit with your companion and admire the lake. And you know the FBWG motto..."Never forsake a trail bench". This spot was evidently special as the bench is a memorial bench upon which is inscribed a bittersweet message.
Sitting on the bench, looking west, you can see how the lake widens and know that in the fall this is a picturesque view.
aSummoning up decidedly less courage than was required some 35 years ago, I again asked my bride of 34 years 363 days to again "marry me?" and she again said "yes!"
Leaving Engagement Pointe, we traversed down the trail crossing a small tributary feeding the lake with the help of a small footbridge.
Crossing the road, we emerged on a paved path that encircles the eastern end of Lake Johnson. Folks leaving the marina in opposite direction from the path we took can complete their hike at this point by crossing the boardwalk. We trudged on understanding that a spur trail would provide us with a "scenic overlook" or least that is what the sign said.
Leaving the overlook, we scrambled down a less well traveled path...and it made all the difference, as we found ourselves on a bike path that hugged the shoreline of the lake. The path was more primitive but far less social than the paved path which we could see on the ridgeline above us. To get the best views of the lake, this path is the only one to take.
Scrambling along the bike trail, we felt for the first time of the day that we were alone in the woods. Soon we were rewarded for our efforts with a small waterfall in our path.
The bike path is decidedly more difficult but it is well defined and easily traversed if you watch your step. The views of the lake allowed to see the bridge from a distance and even got a glimpse of "loch ness monster".
But before we got to the paved path the trail narrowed considerably. But provided a great view of iron bridge crossing the dam spillway.
The paved path crosses the dam but first you must cross the iron bridge. From the bridge I noticed a bench below and correctly assumed the spillway formed a waterfall which could be viewed from this bench. We scrambled down and I got to play in the water.
I scrambled down the slippery and icy rocks to get up close and personal to this manmade waterfall. I bet this is a pretty sight when the lake is overflowing.
After playing in the water and not breaking my neck in a fall on slippery rocks, we resumed our hike and crossed the dam resting on a park bench where we got a great view of the greenway crossing the dam...and a water fowl spreading her wings.
From this point, the rest of the hike is a half mile stroll along a lakeside paved greenway. When we returned to the marina, I took a walk across the boardwalk.
A lone Marine was fishing two lines, having not caught anything, he was undeterred. "Gonna catch something soon", he said has he changed lures and cast his line into the water.
The Lake Johnson Loop hike is a great urban hike. Taking the paths less traveled made the hike much more interesting and enjoyable. We put in 5.6 miles. Access is a 10....right down Avent Ferry Road from NC State....plenty of parking and nice marina...trails are a 9...well marked and maintained....scenery is an 8...better in the fall I bet....effort to view ratio...about right....not hard effort and not spectacular view...but nice hike anyway. Overall a 9 rated hike....ck it out!