CEDAROCK PARK IN ALAMANCE COUNTY
Always looking for hidden trails in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, I recently
purchased "100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina" by Joe Miller. Hike # 43 was listed as "TurnRight Loop". The author described how to work a 3 mile loop into the trails of Cedorock Park in Alamance County. Anyone see the blue river ghost?
Finding the park should not have been hard, but our Mapquest sent us the wrong way. Simply take Exit 145 off I-85. Take NC 49 away from Burlington toward Liberty and about 6.5 miles down the road you will see a sign. Cedarock is a multi-use recreation facility operated by Alamance County. It has a wonderful Frisbee golf course, play grounds, historical farms, kayaks and of several miles of hiking and bridle trails.
Finding the trail head is pretty easy as signs off the main road lead you to a nice parking/picnic area. Don't be confused by the many trails listed. Author Joe Miller provides the best advice with his "TurnRight Loop". For a three mile loop ending at the Gristmill Dam, take a right at every trail intersection. You begin on the Green Blazed Rock Creek Trail, turn right on the White Blazed Connector Loop, and keep taking right turns till you find the Gristmill Dam.
The Connector Loop Trail turns right after you cross this bridge and you generally follow the Rock Creek upstream and loop back to connect with the Rock Creek Trail. It adds a mile to the overall hike and is a pleasant walk through the Piedmont forest. On the day we visited much of the trail was washed out by the recent rainy weather and we were forced to trail blaze around the mud.
I am sure the trail is much more lush in the spring, summer and fall but it is also likely to be a lot hotter too. On this early March afternoon, temps at 68 degrees proved a bit warm. As you return to the Rock Creek Trail, the path leads over a ridge and crosses back to run parallel with the Rock Creek as it joins a larger creek. At this point your turn right again crossing a small bridge following the unusually named "Stinking Quarter Creek" to the Gristmill Dam.
Soon you will hear the roar of the water rushing over the dam and encounter many non-hiker spectators who are visiting the dam the easy way. But for the roar of the dam, the creek does little to reveal the presence of an impediment.
Above this point the park allows for kayaking. However, an unsuspecting kayaker may be in for a rude awakening if the Dam Ahead marker is ignored.
From the trail side of the dam, there are many angles from which to take in the beauty of the structure. First a look from downstream.
The dam is over 20 feet tall and is constructed of stone blocks which must be 10 feet thick. I marvel at the endurance of such masonry. The pressure of the rushing water over nearly a century or more is a testament to the craftsmen who constructed this dam.
I spied a couple having engagement pictures taken. I missed the couple shot but caught the groom....who was reluctantly posing for his fiance'. She was a cute girl, if the FBWG was to give him some advice....I would suggest...he just say "Yes Dear" and do whatever she suggested.
The trail leads downstream to a very well constructed bridge where we took our first left turn of the day and looped back to the tourist side of the dam where a nice covered overlook was constructed. From this side of the creek you can get very close to the water rushing over the dam.
The trail led to the top of the dam where I inspected the old valve box. I assume someone would paddle to the valve box, climb from their boat by the metal ladder and operate the valve.
Not a bad job on a sunny summer day but on a cold rainy winter evening I am not sure what OSHA rules would have to be violated to operate this device.The trek back to the trail head followed the west side of the creek across a meadow and soon back into the woods completing the "TurnRight" loop onto the original Rock Creek Trail. A nice Sunday afternoon, 3 mile hike with a good dam place to take some pictures. The dam sign explains the names of the creeks which we had encountered.
I am really not sure where the Rock Creek ended and the Stinking Quarter Creek began but if I had to name a dam, I cannot think of a better name than "Stinking Quarter Dam". I think that is a good Dam name. What about you?
Rating the trail is not hard. This is a great afternoon family hike. Access is a 9. The trail was well marked but very muddy-8; Scenery but for the Dam is not very interesting 7; effort to view ratio is easy/good. Overall an 8 trail. I worry about how hot this trail may be in the summer but look forward to catching the autumn leaves.