In July, we put out a call to hear about your #HikeTLC experiences, and we loved seeing the photos and stories come in from people across the Triangle! It’s clearer than ever that we need beautiful outdoor spaces for fresh air and space to unwind. Thank you to everyone who submitted photos, essays, and creative pieces!
Taking our grandchildren for a walk, we came across these beauties. I love the history of Flower Hill and wrote a letter to thank one of the original donors. My mother talked about Flower Hill telling us about picnics around May First and how beautiful the flowers were. Going to Flower Hill was a special event back in the day!
—Nancy Faber, Kenly/Photo of Flower Hill Nature Preserve
My favorite hour of the day is just after dawn when the moon kisses the sky “good day.”
When I first walked into this space I felt my breath getting whisked away like a cold breeze that snaps you into presence. The sight I held before me chilled me to my core. I felt a sadness there that I knew well; like a familiar song. A bluesy song. That kind of sadness that beckons you to hold on to so tightly as if to squeeze the tears from your eyes. And there were tears on my cheeks but what I felt in the wake of the chilly breeze was joy.
—Walter Horne, Bahama/Photo of Horton Grove Nature Preserve
Do you long for hiking experiences that are more like the mountains but want to stay closer to home these days? Do you enjoy woods, water and diverse flora and fauna on your hikes? Well this one is for you — the Schoolkids Trail in White Pines Nature Preserve.
Following the yellow markers from the upper parking lot, you soon pass by an old homesite and a small pond formed by an earthen dam. After the intersection with the Rocky Bluffs Trail you are high above the Rocky River and begin a long descent to the water. In the springtime, many mountain laurels may be in bloom and ephemeral wildflowers dot areas along the sides of the trail.
Near the river you are amazed at huge rock outcroppings and you notice parts of heavy old cables lying over some of the rocks. These are remnants of a cable bridge built in the 1920s to allow children living on what is now the preserve to cross the river to attend a one-room schoolhouse on the north side. You take a moment by the river to gaze at the water, the rocks and across to the far shore while realizing that the view you see is much the same as it was a hundred years ago.
After continuing on the trail across the floodplain you begin a long climb up the bluff. You enjoy hiking through the beautiful hardwood forest with the river far below. At the end of the trail the shortest way to the parking lot is to backtrack to the White Pines Trail, but instead you follow the Deep Bluffs Trail to the Gilbert Yager Trail, enjoying more great water views and hiking through deep ravines. It has been a memorable hike and you plan to return again soon.
—Jack Blackmer, Cary/Photos of White Pines Nature Preserve
Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that until COVID I knew little about TLC. While I have lived in Orange County nearly 30 years, I was a professor at UNCG until relatively recently. My husband worked in the Raleigh area and so our professional lives took us over 100 miles a day, 100 miles apart for many years. Our professional lives and the usual home/life care left little time for pleasure hiking in our personal time.
Serendipitously, I met two new friends on a senior women’s basketball team, just prior to COVID’s appearance in North Carolina and the cancellation of senior sports; the three of us had remarkably similar interests in the outdoors. After basketball practices were stopped one of the women suggested a weekly hiking group, practicing social distancing.
I was nervous about leaving the house. After all, we were under a stay-at-home order. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try. Our experiences together in the out-of-doors renewed my sense of wonder for new habitats, new places to explore together, and new friendships. Each of us had different areas of interest and expertise but we were all avid learners about the natural world. RM is an outstanding birder. SL is an incredible hiker and nature observer. Both of them know more about plants than I’ve ever known although the more we walked the more I remembered from forays decades ago in distant states.
I know a fair amount about reptiles and amphibians and have an inkling about a lot of fauna and flora. I had interacted with the PLC and supported The Nature Conservancy. But as our sallies and friendships morphed, I have during our TLC explorations at most of the properties, felt like I am the luckiest person in this time of COVID concerns.
—Catherine Matthews, Efland
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve by Bill Warren, Chapel Hill
New Hope Creek at Johnston Mill Nature Preserve by Bill Warren, Chapel Hill
Bluets at Johnston Mill Nature Preserve by Emily Oglesby
New Hope Creek at Johnston Mill Nature Preserve by Emily Oglesby
Since I track species at Brumley Preserve for the TLC, I spend a lot of time standing quite still and waiting for birds and insects to forget I’m there. After about 15 minutes of standing on May 14th, a little before sunset, this tiny creature decided I might be its people, so it wobbled out of the woods to stand by me. I was equal parts awed and appalled. I did have a walking stick, so maybe the three “legs” looked good enough to be “mother”? I took a few photos, resisted the urge to touch it (I think it would have let me pick it up!), tested that it would follow me, and then did what I hope was the right thing. I led it back to where I had heard it start moving when it approached me, hoping that’s where its mother had left it, and ran like crazy. A hundred feet or so later I turned to check and I could see it had hardly moved from where I left it, and was not following. So hopefully its mom came back soon and gave it someone more appropriate to bond with.
—Steven Emery, Hillsborough