Sunday, December 18, 2016



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 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.

As we turned to leave, my Faithful Hiking Companion stopped and pointed to a unique feature of this must be called "engagement pointe"! 

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".
As we traversed around a point, we got our last view of the boardwalk and soon understood that the bike path would soon intersect in the much more sociable paved path. 

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 it out!

Sunday, November 20, 2016



The Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion have neglected our favorite park this year.  So on a sunny cold day, the week before Thanksgiving, we headed up to the peak of Moore's Knob Mountain.  The trail up there was profiled earlier.   But it is a five mile loop trail from the parking lot to the peak and of the best hikes anywhere in the Triad.  Got to try out my new hiking poles...hoping to ease my hip pain...and they worked well.

The Park's lake and bath house are historic reminders of the contribution of the Civilian Conservation Corps who constructed this park in the 1930's.  The path to the peak begins at the bath house and ends an observation deck a top of Moore's Knob mountain.  If you look carefully you can see the observation tower from the deck of the bath house.

The path begins along the shores of the lake and proceeds up through Huckleberry Gap.  Several trails diverge from this trail and I guess the Park Rangers got tired of complaints from folks who missed the trail up to Moore's Knob. So at the intersection of the Moore's Knob Trail and the Tory's Falls trail, they erected a sign in the middle of the Tory's Falls Trail.  The trail gets steep here for about a half a mile.
At the sunglass cairn is a nice rock to rest your dawgs and catch a breath.  We stopped here and had a powerbar and discussed the great day with all who passed us by.  The trail was sparsely used on this cool Sunday afternoon but those we met, like us, were having a great day hiking one of North Carolina's best kept secrets-Hanging Rock State Park!  Leaving the Sunglass Cairn there was a brief steep climb to the ridge of Moore's Wall.  I have always longed for better views from this ridge line.  We were given glimpses of nearby Hanging Rock Mountain and more distant Pilot Mountain nonetheless.

Along the ridge there are many interesting rock formations and cliffs.  While I have in the past scrambled on to various ledges, I have yet to find a really great view.  But the rocks are interesting. 

The real treat of the hike is at the observation tower that is erected a top nearby Moore's Knob.  The views there are wonderful and the rock scrambling is pretty nice as well.  From the top of the observation tower there is a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

Nearby Hanging Rock Mountain can be seen in all her splendor.  For the first time I wondered of trails to the northern side of this peak.  The day was so clear, not only could you see the Winston-Salem skyline, but that of Greensboro as well!  The visitor's center looks like a magnificent home.
The closest peak is Cook's Wall Mountain.  Late fall color is still dotting the mountainside even though it is almost Thanksgiving!  Of course to the west, there is a view of the Blue Ridge.  My peakfinder app helped us understand that many of the mountains seen over the Moore's Knob were in Virginia.
But to the south are the twin sister of the Saura Mountain Range, the famous Pilot Mountain and Sauratown Mountain.

Leaving the observation tower, I scrambled over to the Knob and found a pretty easy trail to the base of the knob from which I captured another view of Pilot Mountain.  From the other side was a great view of the Blue Ridge and surrounding countryside.
The path down from the Moore's Knob is a series of steps...about a mile and a quarter worth....and you know the FBWG hates steps! But the color on this side of the mountain made us think this was late October, not late November.
The trail loops back through the Hanging Rock Park Campground and connects with the Lake Trail.  As we ended the day we tried to catch the sunset over the lake...almost missed it.
As the sun set over the ridge, it illuminated the slopes of Moore's Knob Mountain.

Did I tell you that Hanging Rock State Park may be the perfect North Carolina Park for me?  It is located 30 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem and boasts a wonderful lake, three great mountains and five wonderful waterfalls.  There is no excuse for my couch potato readers not take a walk in this park!
Access is 9....Scenery is 9...Trails are 9...effort to view is perfect....a 9+ hike every time I visit the place.