5 Hours in the Triangle: William B. Umstead State Park and Gravy

November 15, 2013

Triangle Land Conservancy

Photo courtesy of Lisa Rainwater

10 a.m. Arrive at the William B. Umstead State Park at the Crabtree Creek entrance.  The Umstead State park covers 5,579 acres in the Triangle, and is a perfect place to escape from the noise and the bustle of the roads and local cities. Though there are almost 22 miles of hiking trails within the park, the Crabtree Creek entrance provides the perfect trail for a quicker trip.

Start at the Visitor’s Center and make sure to pick up a map – there are a lot of trails within the park and you don’t want to get lost. Say hi to the park employees and pick up the scoop on any wildlife that has been seen in the area.

10:15 a.m. Take Sal’s Branch Trail, a moderate-ranked hiking trail of 2.75 miles, indicated by orange circles. The path is featured on the North Carolina Birding Trail, so keep an eye out for white-breasted nuthatches, belted kingfishers, and even great-horned owls.

10:45 a.m. Arrive at Big Lake, a man-made lake at the edge of the state park. Enjoy the large blue expanse of the lake in front of you, relax along the shore with a snack, and enjoy the day and the quiet of the park. Though there’s no swimming, there is a boathouse right along the water’s edge.

11:45 a.m. Take a 1.25 mile detour on Pott’s Branch Trail, an easier loop marked by orange diamonds. Take a break in the picnic area to enjoy the fall foliage (or a quick trip to the bathroom). Picnic shelters are available to reserve if you are planning a group hike or event.

12:50 p.m. Continue on Sal’s Branch trail away from the water and back towards the Visitor’s Center. Pine and hardwood forest surrounds the trail and provides a unique habitat for local flora and fauna.

1:50 p.m. Upon returning to the parking area get hold of your appetite and head 15-20 minutes to Gravy, an Italian-American kitchen at 135 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC. Open for lunch until 3 p.m. on weekends, Gravy ($8-$12 lunch) describes its style as “heart and soul poured into the preparation of traditional Italian-American dishes paired with inspired modern twists and a focus on seasonal ingredients.” With lasagna, eggplant pie, chicken parmagiana, and a host of salad and sandwich treats, Gravy is the perfect place to indulge in some Italian favorites.

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