Capitol Area Greenway – Report four: The Bent Creek Trail 1.3 miles (2.6 round trip)
For those visiting Raleigh or are new residents of Raleigh not be aware of the wonderful park system and the “Capitol Area Greenway.”
The “Capitol Area Greenway” is a project in process. Started in March 1974 by the city council of Raleigh it has a master plan to make sure that there is open space for residents throughout the city. It is being built one trail, park and community area at a time.
Today the city boasts of at least 46 miles of trails connecting many of the 3000 acres of park land. Over the next few years I plan to follow all of these trails and share my impressions.
After a good start with the master plan, the parks and trails were damaged badly in 1996 by Hurricane Fran. Although a lot of clearing and rebuilding had to occur the years immediately after the storm the city is well underway on its project to create links between the various greenways. Though many of the trails are not yet connected, those that are create wonderful off road access to many parts of the city, especially for bikers and runners.
Bent Creek Trail – Report 4
The Bent Creek Trail is a very pleasant wooded trail that follows Bent Creek from Long Street in the north to the Shelley Lake Loop Trail in the South. There is limited on street parking on Bent Creek Drive.
The trail starts with a well marked entrance. It is paved from end to end. This makes it suitable for nearly any trail user.
The entry way is guarded by beautiful trees on both sides. As we start on our stroll (run, jog, skate, walk, etc.) we notice a stream emanating from a number of a tunnel and a number drainage pipes. This stream is both the continuance of a natural stream (tunnel) and of the resolution of the drainage needed to allow for the building of the city.
No matter it’s origins it is a very pleasant stream most of the time. It babbles and meanders to and fro for more than a mile and a half.
The trail we start down is lined with trees. Much of the woods here have survived the ravages of the hurricanes and are quite natural. At this time of year the entry has pine trees, not normally a flowering tree, covered with a veil of purple flower.
Wisteria, in its vine form, has discovered that pine trees are a great place to grow.
As we meander on our way we notice the stream to our right has worn its way down to the very rock the supports the piedmont. Like many of the greenway trails this one follows the natural flow of streams that have been working their way down to the ledge far below the red clays that much of the city is build on.
We haven’t gone far before we reach a large grey tree. This tree has stored memories of remember loves carved into its ancient bark. From its grey bark and its basic leaf structure I think this is a beech tree. Given its girth this tree must be centuries old. The carvings seem to be old too. The names of the focus of the attention are lost into the years, though the hearts remain in the bark.
Oh, Yeah! We were on a hike. You know us old guys, get distracted and we are lost. At the base of the tree are some interesting leaves of a small plant that has made its home among the roots. Now, on with the journey!
The trail goes straight for a shot distance and then meanders to the right following the path of the stream. To our left the houses of the street are becoming more distant. Across the stream we can still see a few backyards, but it is clear the trail is becoming more woodsy.
We pass a point in the stream where a black pipe crosses the stream. This is an excellent route for the squirrels and other small denizens of the forest to cross the stream. Off to our left the woods have completely obscured any sign of civilization. Just ahead on the path we cross our first bridge. This is a well designed metal bridge. It comes from the earlier era of greenway building. Most new bridges are faux “natural” pressure treated wood.
The stream in both directions is quite beautiful. You can see ripples in the distance, but near the bridge the surface of the water is like a mirror, reflecting the vines and later in the season the flowers that adorn the stream side.
Across this bridge you are truly in the forest. There are no visible houses in any direction. Only you, the squirrels and the forest birds inhabit this space. If you enjoy the feeling of nature in the middle of chaos (civilization) this is where it can be found.
It is not a quite place. The squirrel rustle in the leaves, birds chirp; sing; and squawk; and the wind rubs great trees together causing the forest to creak and rumble. There is movement all around you, yet most of the time you can’t see anything that moves.
Here we may be startle by a rabbit, invisible to our eyes, suddenly darting across our path. Or we may bend to pick up a twig, only to notice it has the eyes of a snake. (On a cautionary note, should you see a copper head it is best to leave it alone. They prefer to eat bugs and rodents can misbehave if they feel in danger)
Continuing along the trail, we notice several places where vines have wrapped around themselves and the trees of the forest. On some trees we see the tree patiently allowing the vines to climb there frame to reach the sun. On other trees we see the bark of the trees has swallowed the vine, incorporating it into the shape of the tree.
I can’t help but notice that the flowers are starting to appear along the trail as we meander along. Violets and dandelions appear in small carpets of green grass that dot the trail.
The stream continues to meander as we progress, somewhat slowly in my case, down through the forest. I notice here that one of the trees has a huge branch that is bent strangely. As a result of the bent, the tree looks like a giant number four. The tree has a dark bark making it is easy to see against a deep blue sky.
Soon we reach a bridge where we pass below the road. This is Lynn road. Just after we pass under the bridge with the stream to our left, we see that a second stream joins the first. Accept for the overpass, there is little to remove us from the sense we are in the forest.
At this point we see a sign that looks like a little man with a hiking stick and a backpack. This leads to a trail that follows the bank of the stream faithfully. It is a fairly easy trail until the vegetation accumulates through the summer. It can get a bit more challenging later on. It is very green and has the feel of the deep woods. Along this trail can be seen nature forest, with flowers and birds. Ducks and other larger birds sometimes nest along the stream here. There are no bridges along this trail (about .3 mile) but there is one area that is planked due to bank erosion on the stream. Definitely not a trail for small children or dog walks.
We continue on the paved trail as we move further into the woods. There is neither stream nor houses visible from the trail. It is just woods, filled with trees and the sounds of the old forest.
The trail meanders blissfully slowly left then slowly right. It is all forest here. There is a mix of pine and deciduous trees. Through the forest one catches glimpses of scarlet, purple and white as flowering trees display there colors.
Every so often we see a glimpse of brilliant red flash through the trees. No, trees don’t flash through the trees. That would be silly. No, some upstart Cardinal is showing off his colors to attract a mate.
Now we come to a long white pipe to our left. I think this is part of the sewer line as are the many large cement cones I forgot to mention. Fortunately, this will be covered soon with vegetation, hiding a part of civilization all the big cities try to keep out of sight.
Just past the white pipe, we see another huge beech tree. (I think it is beech) This tree is even larger than the other. Yet it is free of the scars of human love. It must have been hidden before the storms revealed much of the forest by clearing away the weaker trees.
The way the truck spreads out into its roots reminds me of the foot of a dinosaur I saw in the museum in Washington. The roots are arranged in twos giving the appearance of four toes. Some of us just have vivid imaginations.
We now cross through a tunnel with a no bikes sign. It is okay to walk your bike through here but not ride it. The tunnel is high enough for comfortable walking even for tall folks. It is not lighted and due to its length can be a bit dark.
One the other side we have just crossed under North Hills Drive. We continue with the stream now on our left side toward the Shelley Lake Loop. It is wooded here, though we see some housing from the trail. It is still a pleasant trail though we see one of those black pipes across the stream following the bank.
It is a beautiful straight fairly straight trail from here to the intersection that marks the end of this trail and the Shelley Loop Trail (see report 1).
This trail is very suitable for nearly any means of hiking, running, walking, strolling, riding and rolling. It has only one hill of any significance at the start point. This could be a challenge for baby strollers and wheel chairs, but it is a fairly short hill.
It connects to many, many miles of greenway trail for the bikers and distance runners. There are only a few places where bikers need to be polite and walk there bikes.
At the time of this report (April 06) this trail is closed. Someone dumped concrete sealer (that is the official word) into Bent Creek and caused a fish kill. I don’t know why this would cause a closing of the trails themselves, unless perhaps they are still looking for evidence. Hopefully they will open the trail soon; it is a very pretty trail. Plus for some bikers this will force them to use surface roads and could lead to needless injuries and possibly even fatalities. The person who damaged the stream should be held accountable for all the bad that happened and will happen as a result of their carelessness or willfulness. The greenways are one of the major things that differentiate Raleigh from other large cities.