Sunday, June 24, 2012

Discovering Uwharrie National Forest

Uwharrie Trail - Uwharrie National Forest – 4/21/12 – 6.5 Miles

At the invitation of member Karl Munn, I joined an outing of the Uwharrie Trail Club for a spring Saturday hike in Uwharrie National Forest, over 52,000 acres of protected land about an hour’s drive east of Charlotte, NC – yes, east.  On several occasions I have visited Morrow Mountain State Park, which butts up to the western edge of Uwharrie, but I have never ventured farther into the country’s oldest mountain range.  You read that right:  oldest.  Once similar to the Rockies, erosion had its way and now the Uwharries top out at about 1,000 feet.

What was I waiting for?  I am embarrassed to say that Uwharrie, although old and important and all that, never seemed adventurous as I always looked west for higher elevation.  After a fine day with some fun folks, I have been educated. 

There are around 65 miles of hiking-only trail within the forest, plus sections that are multi-use (horse, bike, even ORV).  The major hiking trail running north to south is the Uwharrie Trail. (I’ve read that we can thank Joe Moffit, who grew up roaming the Uwharries during the Great Depression, for making the trail a reality in the 1970’s when he served as scoutmaster for a troop of Boy Scouts earning their Eagle rank.)  There are three major trailheads and a couple of other minor roads that cross the trail.  We hiked a chunk in the middle, from the Horse Mountain Trailhead on Tower Road (SR 1134) southbound to the NC Hwy 109 Trailhead. 

The crew:  Karl, Annette, Robert and Don, plus me

Is that gal wearing a skirt, you ask?  Why, yes.  This was the first time I’d met Annette and she certainly made an impression on me.  Annette is a gregarious local, happy to share her ideas and love of the Uwharries and some interesting stories about the area and its residents.  That smile did not fade all day long. 

There was more up-and-down than I expected on this trail and a couple of times we had to stop talking to get up one of the rolling hills.  So much for the flat Piedmont!   Annette was scouting for out-of-the way camping spots for a solo overnight trip she was contemplating.  She sometimes hikes alone, mostly out of necessity, but she said she finds it peaceful and contemplative, much the same as I do.  Actually, when I first asked her how she felt about hiking alone she promptly answered, “I am never alone because the Lord is with me.”  Did I mention that Annette is a pastor? 

Don also was born, raised and still lives in the area.  He and Annette shared a couple of stories about the by-gone days of moonshining and we saw some rusty evidence of that pastime.  Our favorite story that had us slapping our legs with laughter was about a community called Black Ankle.  Such an odd name!  Well, they say that you could tell kids from that community by their black ankles, from running around bare-legged near the fires beneath the stills. 

A muddy crossing

Mountain laurel were bursting into bloom overhead

Uwharrie is a popular destination for Boy Scout troops from the eastern part of North Carolina.  We passed many of them along the trails.  For some reason, the adults were always bringing up the rear…

Doesn’t this look like the result of some scoutmaster saying, “All right, boys, go build something”?  And how about that fire ring made with quartz stones?

Nice bridge over a large stream

There were several tent cities set up along that stream – do not go here for solitude

As we got closer to our exit, more people streamed in loaded for an overnight stay.  One fellow carried a Barbie pink cooler and a “cube” container full of water, must have been a couple of gallons. Sorry, no photos, just trust me.

A day well spent exploring a new-to-me area practically in my back yard.  I look forward to hiking the other sections of the Uwharrie Trail and some of its connecting trails too.

Of course there is much more to Uwharrie National Forest than the tiny slice I enjoyed, including boating and water activities on Badin Lake and many campgrounds.  Check out the resources here and here.

To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.  ~Helen Keller

1 comment:

Linda W. said...

Looks like another beautiful hike. Thanks for sharing!