Mapping the Route to “Big Rooty”

December 1, 2023

By Cara Lewis, Senior Communications Manager

“Big Rooty” is one of the more distinctive sights on Robin’s Trail at Johnston Mill Nature Preserve. Photo: C. Lewis

Before taking their Fall field trip to Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, the first-grade students at Trinity School in Durham completed a unit about trees. They learned the parts of a tree, the functions of each tree part, and how to identify by observing the type of bark and the shape of the tree’s leaves.

TLC staff members helped to guide the students on the Robin’s Trail to the Old Field Creek bridge in search of the uprooted Sycamore tree that a former Trinity student named “Big Rooty.” Other names for this tree include “The Magic Tree” and “Tree with a Hole.” A favorite landmark on the Robin’s Trail, “Big Rooty” is frequently photographed by hikers and volunteer photographers.

“Our students wanted to create a resource for children their age to use as they explore the outdoors,” said Priscilla Wood, Lower School Reading Specialist at Trinity. “This year we chose to visit Johnston Mill and make a map of the trail with landmarks the children found interesting.”

“Map of Big Rooty Hike” created by Trinity School students in Durham, NC (Fall 2023).

Upon their return to school, the students excitedly created a map of landmarks they encountered along their hike as a guide for other children to use on their hikes,” said Wood.

Hikers of all ages can enjoy nearly the entire run of New Hope Creek on Robin’s Trail as the waterway is a constant companion. Winter is also a good season to visit Johnston Mill Nature Preserve when you can still see evidence of the Johnston family’s two old gristmills, crumbling chimneys, and hearths.

TLC’s Environmental Education Programs

Connecting people of all ages with nature is one of Triangle Land Conservancy’s four public benefits. We offer a variety of environmental education programs designed to facilitate positive experiences in nature for youth who might otherwise have limited exposure to natural and open spaces in the Triangle.

All TLC programs are free, educations, outdoors, and fun. Contact Kayla Ebert, TLC’s Education and Outreach Manager, to learn more about guided hikes, nature walks, and individualized education program.

Find a TLC Nature Preserve Near You