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Discover a new trail on National Trails Day

2012 May 31

By Ken Moore
Flora Columnist

This Saturday is the American Hiking Society’s 20th National Trails Day. This annual celebration on the first Saturday in June evolved from the 1987 report of the President’s Commission on American Outdoors.

Some of the trails at Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trails offer engaging views of the Eno River. Photo by Ken Moore

That concept became known as Trails for All Americans and eventually resulted in public and private groups joining with the American Hiking Society to launch National Trails Day in 1993. In addition to encouraging folks to get outdoors for obvious benefits, this day promotes the recognition of the countless hours of planning, labor and negotiating required for the more than 200,000 miles of public trails across America today.

Check out for specific activities planned locally in Cary, Raleigh and Durham by dedicated groups including Friends of Hemlock Bluffs, Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail, Triangle Greenways Council, East Coast Greenway Alliance and the Blue Jay Point County Park.

Some of you spend an hour or two each week walking along a favorite trail. I wonder how many of you choose a different trail each week.

Take a look online at Flora, ”Seven local natural wonders” (2/18/10), for a review of local trail systems. There are so many great hikes close by that one may walk a different trail every week, for weeks and weeks, and not repeat a walk.

Beautiful little spotted wintergreen is a pleasant surprise in woodlands everywhere these days. Photo by Brian Stokes

This past weekend I checked out a trail new to me. I’ve been meaning to explore the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail ever since it opened in 2003. The site of the Occoneechee/Orange Speedway, active from 1948-68, is a real cultural and natural-history treasure. We are indebted to Preservation North Carolina and many caring, energetic individuals who worked so hard to keep the site from commercial development.

Attractive new signage throughout Hillsborough makes it easy to locate the trail on Elizabeth Brady Road. Trail maps and interpretive signage enhance the visit there. The easy walk around the old one-mile track, now enclosed by a 40-year-old Piedmont forest, provides an unusual opportunity to sit in the old concrete racetrack viewing stands and appreciate nature’s rapid recovery while trying to imagine the day back when Richard Petty was the winner in the Speedway’s final year, 1968.

Trails beyond the old track offer engaging views of the Eno River as well as walks through a diversity of habitats, including the mature beech walk, where I was pleased to spot a vigorous population of the rather rare Lewis’s heartleaf, Hexastylis lewissii. Another wildflower treat, flowering in forests everywhere these days, was the spotted wintergreen, Chimaphila maculata, with pure white flowers beckoning one to take that “closer look” on hands and knees.

The trails around Historic Occoneechee Speedway offer lots of walking and viewing opportunities. Photo by Ken Moore

To acknowledge Trails Day this coming weekend, I’m going across the river from the speedway to check out the Poet’s Walk at Ayr Mount. Be nice to yourself this weekend; gather some friends and check out a trail new to you.

Email Ken Moore at Find previous Ken Moore Citizen columns at The Annotated Flora.

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