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A trail just for walkers!

2010 November 4

The Nature Observation Trail is just for walkers. Photo by Ken Moore

By Ken Moore
Flora Columnist

Three cheers for the guys who manage UNC Carolina North’s 20-plus miles of trails! There is now a footpath reserved exclusively for walkers. Believe it or not, the markers at the trailheads state that the trail is for “walking only, no dogs, no runners, and no bikes.”

Unbelievable. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I walked it recently and, though near residential areas of hundreds of homes, I experienced peace and quiet akin to being in a far-away wilderness. Mind you, it was in the middle of the week, so even heavily traveled trails elsewhere in the forest would not be too crowded. But I had this particular trail, the Nature Observation Trail, completely to myself for a leisurely hour of walking, contemplation and standing quietly in awe of big pines, oaks and tulip poplars.

One stand of towering tulip poplars made me think of the virgin Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in the far-western end of our state. Well now, the trees aren’t really that big, but big enough to make me think of Joyce Kilmer. The opportunity for uninterrupted, quiet contemplation and nature observation is really special.

The trail is narrow and intimate. At times, one has the sensation of walking along on a deer path. We walkers and quiet nature observers are fortunate to have such a trail; hopefully, the rules of this single pathway will be honored by all the other enthusiastic travelers along more heavily used trails.
However, this and many Carolina North trails are under siege.

Invasive eleagnus (silver-green leaves) out competes native spicebush (leaves turning yellow). Photo by Ken Moore

Exotic invasive plants already have a frightening foothold. Much of the understory shrub layer bordering the creek and beaver swamp is a thicket of one particular exotic invasive, Eleagnus umbellata, silverberry, or autumn, olive. This exotic from China and Japan has literally consumed hundreds of acres of forests. One heavily infested area along the Nature Observation Trail right now offers a dramatic contrast.

Spicebush,Lindera benzoin, the host plant of spicebush swallowtail butterflies, is in its yellow fall phase. In contrast is the silver-green foliage of eleagnus, which is visibly poised to outcompete and eradicate the spicebush within the next several years.

Now enter the Carolina North management team of Greg Kopsch and Jerry McGovern. To combat this invader, they supervise an active program that provides opportunities for community volunteers to take part in assisting with the eradication efforts. Coming up on Nov. 13, they will host another volunteer workday to extract more of this noxious, shrubby weed from the native spicebush habitat. Contact them at for more information. Better yet, visit their informative website ( for trail maps, scheduled special events, regular updates about what’s going on in the “forest” and other activities available for volunteers.

And all you walkers out there, now’s a good time to discover for yourself the trail that’s reserved just for you!
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Many spots along the trail are worth a closer look. Photo by Ken Moore

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