Happy Earth Day! The theme of this 45th earth day is “It’s our turn to lead,” and that’s exactly what I will be doing at our Earth Day activity down in Piedmont this afternoon. But more on that at a later date, because today in honor of this worldwide holiday I would like to share how our little corner of the Upstate looks this spring!
We recently joined some friends at Lake Conestee Nature Park to hike another one of the new trails. On our last visit we explored Sparkleberry Island via the Heron Circle Trail, and as it was early in March there was only just the barest hint of green in the woods. The forest was at the opposite end of the spectrum by the time we returned, bursting with an almost electric green in the bottomlands.
Our trail of choice on this particular day was Raccoon Run, also easily accessible from the playground at Conestee Park. A little over a mile in length, we chose to start at the North Entrance (marked #5 on this trail map). This corner of the park is completely unique, with a sandstone cliff, rock balds and a view over the old landfill. The boys being fresh and adventurous wanted to climb the cliff; luckily for us the first wall was too tall to scale.
The rocky ground equates with small, stunted pines and minimal vegetation. I wondered at the history of this portion of the park, whether there had been any sort of mining involved to influence the topography.
As we continued on the trail circled back towards the Reedy, at one point passing close to the border of the park and what was once the City of Greenville’s landfill. According to a couple walking their dogs a trail runs in that direction for a short distance, at which point there is a ‘no trespassing’ sign forbidding access.
Raccoon run then continues alongside the Reedy River, crossing the access trail leading from the North Conestee Park Bridge Entrance to the Reedy River Bridge. By this time we had descended into the bottomlands, and the trail was a boardwalk through a sea of green. On the other side of the river is Sparkleberry Island, and at times we could see hikers on the Heron Circle Trail. We walked on, eventually reaching the southernmost point of our hike, the East Bay Observation Deck.
We rested a while on the benches overlooking East Bay until the boys grew restless and started asking for the playground. There are a few spur trails leading to the parking lot for those wishing to cut their hike short on the way in: Sapsucker Spur and Chickadee Link. It is also possible to slightly extend the hike by continuing on Dragonfly Way, but both options emerge in Forrester Meadow before the ball fields come into view. As I was carrying Vilis on my back, and Mikus has the shortest legs of the hikers, we opted to take Raccoon Run out and circle back to the playground via the paved road, while the rest of the crew headed back through the woods and emerged back at the bridge entrance.
This is an easy hike with plenty of options should the kids get tired en route, with a pleasant change in scenery and good chances at seeing wildlife. With the north section of the trail providing an experience unlike the majority of the rest of the bottomland park, we’ll be returning to this trail often, especially as the mosquitos pick up in the wetter areas. Next goal – the western section of Lake Conestee Nature Park.