Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve: Umbrella Tree/Big Oak Loop (Blog Hike #486)

Trails: Umbrella Tree and Big Oak Trails
Hike Location: Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve
Geographic Location: east side of Charlotte, NC
Length: 1.9 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: August 2014
Overview: A rolling loop through nice forest with lots of boulders.

Directions to the trailhead: On the east side of Charlotte, take I-485 to Rocky River Road (exit 36).  Exit and go west on Rocky River Rd.  Drive Rocky River Rd. 2.7 miles to the signed park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, and follow signs along the main park road for the Nature Center.  Be careful driving over the speed bumps on the park road: they may be higher than you think.  Park in the large blacktop parking lot for the Nature Center.

The hike: For my general comments on Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve, see my hike to Robinson Rockhouse, also located at this site.  This hike combines two different trails to explore the southern section of the nature preserve.  This route does not pass any historical sites such as Robinson Rockhouse, but it does offer a quiet rolling nature hike through some nice forest.
Umbrella Tree Trail trailhead
            Start by walking the paved/gravel path around the Nature Center and crossing a gravel road to reach the signed trailhead for the Umbrella Tree Trail.  This trailhead is located just to the left of a mowed-grass clearing marked as the “gathering area.”  A brochure that corresponds to numbered posts may be available at this trailhead.  The wide trail heads southeast into the forest.
            At 0.1 miles, you reach a small prairie that is surrounded by woods.  Prairies used to cover large portions of the southeast, but only small pockets such as this one remain today.  Near the other side of the prairie, you need to angle right where an unmarked connector trail heads left toward Dragonfly Pond.
            Now back in the woods, the trail descends moderately to reach a junction with the South Fork Trail, which exits to the left.  Continue straight to remain on the Umbrella Tree Trail as it crosses a small unnamed creek on a nice wooden bridge.  The Umbrella Tree Trail gets its name from the wide, waxy leaves of the magnolia tree, though I saw very few magnolia trees on this trail.
Stairs out of ravine
            Across the creek, the trail climbs out of the ravine using a wooden staircase and then curves right as it undulates through some smaller ravines.  At 0.6 miles, you reach a junction with the Big Oak Trail.  Turn left to begin the Big Oak Trail and head into the southern reaches of the nature preserve.
Starting the Big Oak Trail
            Marked with blue triangles, the Big Oak Trail stays on the ridgetop as it treads around a large shallow ravine, which falls away to the right.  There are some large old oak trees in this area, but there are also some good-sized beech and poplar trees.  Perhaps the most noteworthy feature is the large number of boulders scattered across the fairly level ground.
            At 0.9 miles, you reach the big oak for which this trail is named.  Typical of the scenery here, washing machine-sized boulders surround the tree’s base.  1.3 miles into the hike, the trail curves right to join an old dirt road.  The noise of cars buzzing along Plaza Road filters through the trees from the left.
Big oak tree
            The trail curves right as it nears the preserve’s western boundary.  Some more decent-sized oak trees grow over here, but they live about 30 feet off of the trail.  Just before reaching the west end of the Big Oak Trail, you pass a recent trail reroute where the old eroded trail is blocked by a pile of brush.
            At 1.6 miles, the Big Oak Trail ends at its west junction with the Umbrella Tree Trail.  Turn left on a wide gravel trail to continue this loop.  After passing through one final ravine, you come out at the staff parking area behind the Nature Center.  Angle right, walk around the Nature Center, and arrive back at the main visitor parking area to complete the hike.

No comments:

Post a Comment