Saturday, October 31, 2015

3 Little Pumpkins celebrate Halloween

Happy Halloween!!!

Halloween snuck up on me this year, the need for costumes arriving far before any creativity and initiative was evident from this mom. Luckily we have a big box of costumes lovingly sewn and handed-down from the Seattle cousins, and the older boys immediately found a costume they wanted to wear during our week of festivities. Vilis was the outlier with a costume borrowed from a friend (thanks Holden!!!), and then I hit the stores to find our cats some scary garb. Just kidding, they look like that all year.

The number of Halloween events in the Upstate is growing each year, as evidenced by Kidding Around Greenville’s lengthy ULTIMATE trick-or-treating guide. We stuck to a few familiar evenings such as Enchanted Tracks and Boo in the Zoo, adding in a couple of new events to mix things up. Enchanted Tracks was once again super-crowded, and after hearing a few not-so-nice comments about kids and their costumes I’ve got a suspicion this might have been our last visit; the boys on the other hand loved the evening spent in the “enchanted forest” with all the fairytale characters, as well as their time in the bounce houses, so we’ll just have to see what next year brings. George the Train still isn’t running, and although they gave the kids passes to the bounce house in the Pavilion instead, I have to wonder why the event is still called Enchanted Tracks…

Having been invited to a neighborhood parade and party we suited up again, resulting in a fun morning meeting new friends. With a spookily spectacular treat table, numerous little projects for the boys to craft, and a bounce house (I see a trend) it was hard to pull the boys away, but fortunately we got home just before it started raining.

Luckily the rain paused long enough for the sweetest twins’ birthday party. The bucolic setting had a backdrop of autumn foliage around the pond, the main attraction of the evening a giant screen that had been set up in the meadow. We sated our appetites with a great big bowl of chili next to the bonfire while the kids raced around, settling in at the picnic tables with warm blankets at sundown to watch a movie. It was such a beautiful evening, topped off with delicious cupcakes and sleepy snuggly children…

Boo in the Zoo was a madhouse as always, but once again we had pre-purchased tickets and so avoided the long wait in line to enter the zoo. By arriving a few minutes before it started we also made it in before the rush, guaranteeing the experience wasn’t as wall-to-wall people as it was even 30 minutes later. Although some of the ‘treats’ broke soon afterwards, I still prefer the toys over the sweeter variety, and the boys spent a good bit of time over the following days sorting and playing with their loot. New to the event this year was a cemetery for extinct species – a visual reminder of a few of the species lost forever in only the past decades.

In other news at the Greenville zoo, the new South American Pampas exhibit was unveiled yesterday, featuring the four years-old giant anteater Mochila, or Mo. Weighing in at 90 pounds, Mo is actually pretty medium-sized for a giant anteater. A beautiful mosaic in honor of the previous residents of the enclosure, the elephants Joy and Ladybird, features 1,500 tiles painted by local students.

On our most recent visit we also spotted a few of the new zoo babies, including red panda Willie (named after one of our fave musician’s ‘Red Headed Stranger’ album), baby siamang George and a Solomon's Island prehensile-tailed skink (born last December). Willie doesn’t look much like a baby; born in July, red pandas achieve full adult fur and coloring by the time they are 3 months old. Meanwhile George (born in March) is still clinging to his mother, and the skink looks obviously like a juvenile, despite being ¼ of its adult weight. We still haven’t seen head nor tail of the twin ocelot kittens.

It isn’t just the kids getting dressed up in our neighborhood. The brick house on East Stone Avenue that is completely dwarfed on three sides by the new development has dressed up this year as the movie star from “Up”. Although the balloons weren’t ‘quite’ as impressive as in the Pixar film, the similarities otherwise are there. This historic building is home to several businesses and law offices.

However you may be celebrating Halloween, I wish you and the kids a safe and happy day. Boo-čas y’all!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Shenandoah - Skyline Drive and the Blackrock Summit Trail

In the pilgrimage to view fall foliage, thousands visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park in late September through October. It’s a quest to arrive on the peak color weekend, and because it isn’t an exact science, leaf-peepers resort to watching “fall foliage cams” and reading “color updates” from various regions. We managed to arrive in Shenandoah right during peak autumn color, and I know this because: 1. it was the weekend that we could make the long trip and 2. it was utterly beautiful and captivating. My point is; make the trip when you can and don’t worry so much about the color meters, as a fall visit to the Blue Ridge will be spectacular, a memorable trip that you will want to repeat every year!

We set out for the southern Rockfish Gap entrance to Shenandoah on Saturday morning, managing to avoid waiting in line to pay our Park entrance fee by beating the crowd to the Park. It’s entirely possible most visitors enter through the Front Royal entrance station as it’s the one furthest north and closest to Washington DC, but it’s more likely that the morning temperatures (which were hovering around 40˚ F) were the reason we saw relatively few cars parked at the overlooks and trailheads the first two hours.

The 200,000 acre Shenandoah NP is very long and narrow, running along the Blue Ridge mountains and including 60 mountain peaks between 2,000 and 4,000 feet in altitude. The Park’s main attraction is Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge. The easiest point of reference for location within the park is milepost #, with numbers running north to south for orientation. Therefore we entered at MP 105, south of which Skyline Drive joins the Blue Ridge Parkway and runs south all the way to Great Smoky Mountains NP. Within 2-3 miles we had already reached the first overlook, of McCormick Gap and Scott Mountain (2,760 ft). We also stopped at Crimora Lake Overlook (MP 92.6) for a look at the lake that’s left over from the valley’s mining days. At one time the area’s mines were among the largest manganese mines in the world and extracted more of the element than anywhere else in the US.

It is easy to stop at each overlook and spend the entire day having just traveled a short distance, but in order to fully experience Shenandoah I feel it is imperative to get out in the woods for one of the dozens of hikes within the Park. We had chosen the 1-mile Blackrock Summit Trail for our morning hike, parking available at MP 84.8. (The trail is rated easy, but be advised that the trail actually circumnavigates the summit (3,092 ft); the rocky top of the mountain isn’t so much of a marked trail but more of a scramble through a boulder field.) Not only is Blackrock Summit Trail one of two Track Trails in Shenandoah, but it also counts as an activity to earn a Junior Ranger badge, making it a very productive morning. I was excited because from the parking lot we followed the Appalachian Trail to Blackrock Summit, giving me the opportunity to tell Lauris and Mikus about this famous trail and share with them my dream of one day hiking it in its entirety. The boys quickly got into their Track Trails adventure, selecting the names “Joker Ghost” and “BumbierJānis” as their trail names. For bonus points, guess which one chose which... (For Kids in Parks Track Trail info please click here.)

From the trailhead we took the AT south for ½ a mile, emerging to the summit and a field of boulders. The autumn panorama was phenomenal, the view over Dundo Hollo and beyond a spectacular patchwork of color and texture. We were far from the only family enjoying ourselves on the Summit that morning, but one benefit of having to choose your own path over the mountain of boulders is everyone was spread out, and I didn’t feel as if we were intruding in other hikers’ space nor did anyone intrude on ours.

The contrast between the rocks, the colorful forest and blue skies made for some fantastic photo opportunities, but it was hard to get the boys to sit still long enough to take a picture. One Lauris and Mikus worked up the courage to climb by themselves (without their parents guiding their every step and holding their hands through more difficult spots) they were hard to stop; I couldn’t bear to watch them clambering about, certain the hike would end at best with a twisted ankle. Of course Vilis wanted out of the backpack carrier as well, but even the trail isn’t the safest for his tottering about, with plenty of trip hazards and slopes to the sides. When quizzed after our trip both boys named rock climbing at Blackrock Summit as their very favorite point of the entire trip.

From this point the Blackrock Spur Trail veers off northwest to Trayfoot Summit (3,374ft) and Furnace Mountain (2,657ft), and the Appalachian Trail continues on to the Blackrock Hut just a short bit south. To return to the parking lot we could either return the way we had come via the AT, or circle around on a service road/trail that parallels the AT along the ridge. We opted to complete the loop, enjoying the stroll down a wide, grassy path even though it didn’t have the status of being a trail as famous as the Appalachian Trail.

Once back at the car and hiking sticks packed in the trunk, we readied ourselves for some more scenic driving down the Skyline Drive. Of course it wasn’t long until we were back out at the next scenic overlook…

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

From the Research Triangle we drove straight north following a series of small highways towards Charlottesville, VA, a city not much unlike Greenville. Also located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is older than Greenville but has a smaller population (established in 1762 and according to the 2010 census the population is 43,475). Home to two U.S. presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, it was Monticello that brought us to Charlottesville on this particular Friday.

Located on a mountaintop 4 miles southeast of the city, Monticello is one of the most-visited historical sites in the region, hosting 500,000 visitors a year. The plantation was the home of our third president, author of the Declaration of Independence, and the founder of the University of Virginia – Thomas Jefferson. Monticello is the only U.S. presidential and private home on the UNESCO World Heritage site list.

Having inherited the land from his father, Jefferson started building Monticello at the age of 26, working on and expanding the home becoming a life-long project. The exterior is instantly recognizable and can be seen reflected in dozens of homes in the area as a brick façade adorned by columns and an octagonal dome. Influenced by Italian Renaissance architecture, it includes traditional 18th century elements as well as multiple elements of Jefferson’s design. Many of these are still on display today, such as the Great Clock in the entrance hall that told not only time but also the day of the week simultaneously to the interior and exterior of the house. With an enormous face so that workers could read it from afar, it also had a gong that could be heard three miles away.

The entrance hall was used by Jefferson to display items of science, the parlor behind it the base for the dome. The room under the dome, with yellow octagonal walls, a green wooden floor and a circular window in each wall functioned as an apartment, but it isn’t included on the house tour due to fire regulations. In fact, there is no photography allowed on the tour (included in the Monticello day pass and house tour which comes with the price tag of $25/adult and $8/child during the months of March to October). If you just want to see the house, tour the grounds and see the basement exhibits you can purchase a day pass (excludes the house tour) for half that. If you do decide to take the house tour, buy your ticket online to select a time convenient to you and ensure the day’s last tour hasn’t sold out, as the 30 minute tour has a maximum of 25 people. Also be sure to get to Monticello a good half an hour before your tour as you’ll need the time to park, walk to the welcome area and take a shuttle up the mountain.

As we arrived later in the day we were able to park close to the Visitor Center where we purchased tickets and hopped on the shuttle bus. There is a trail that climbs the ½ mile up to the house, but we elected to experience that on our way out (downhill!) after exploring the gardens. The shuttle approaches Monticello from the east, the first glimpse of the majestic home being of the East Portico. As there are dozens of online architectural resources that do a great job of describing the interior of the home and its unique features (of which I have no photos), I’ll continue with our experience on the grounds.

We explored the cellar passage under the terraces and house where there were several exhibits on the day-to-day life at Monticello. The beer and wine cellars, all sorts of storage, the kitchen, smokehouse, dairy, stables and all the other spaces needed to keep the home operational were hidden from view, but connected and easily accessible, the walkways on top serving as terraces. The South Pavilion was actually where Jefferson and his wife lived while the first Monticello was under construction, and the North Pavilion now houses a shop where tourists can buy snacks and drinks.

20 oval-shaped flower beds surround the house, and a “flower walk” encircles the West Lawn. A fish pond was used to keep the catch from the river fresh until needed for dinner, and the grove behind the lawn featured some of the 160 species of trees documented as having been planted during Jefferson’s life. It was easy to imagine his grandchildren running across the wide expanse of lawn while watching my own boys at play…

I was pleased with our late-in-the-day visit as by 5pm (the estate closes at 6pm) it had really cleared out other than the tour groups (last one starts at 5:10pm). We had the West Lawn pretty much to ourselves, and the late afternoon light was perfect for viewing the home from the western vantage point.

Several additional tours of the estate are offered including a special “behind the scenes tour” which does include the iconic yellow room; all the tour options are found on the Monticello website, along with the interpreter-led walking tours of the gardens. Thomas Jefferson was an avid gardener and grew many varieties of plants and vegetables. The three main gardens were for flowers, fruits and vegetables, and the garden served as a laboratory of sorts, with 330 varieties of some 99 species of vegetables and herbs grown. Today the garden serves as a preservation seed bank of 19th century vegetable varieties.

When it came time to start heading back we headed south toward his gardens, walking down Mulberry Row where the wooden structures that housed the workers and craftsmen of Monticello were located more than 200 years ago. Further south were the vegetable garden, vineyards and the orchard, and autumn was fully evident here: in the fall crops that were still growing in the garden, in the crunch of leaves underfoot, and in the colors of the vineyard and orchards. Having traversed the length of Mulberry Row we entered the Grove, shortly coming upon the Monticello cemetery.

The cemetery originated in an agreement between Thomas Jefferson and his friend Dabney Carr, that they would be buried under an oak tree on the grounds of Monticello. Carr married Jefferson’s sister, but passed away in 1773 - the first grave on the site. Jefferson was buried there in 1826, the present monument a larger version of the marker he himself designed. The base covers the graves of President Jefferson, his wife, his two daughters and his son-in-law.

Soon enough we were back the Visitor Center. Within this complex are the ticketing pavilion and also a gift shop, a theater, a café and various galleries and educational rooms. A two hour visit is enough for a cursory exploration of Monticello, but in order to fully experience the tour, the grounds and the various resources 4 hours would suffice. Autumn is a beautiful time to visit this historical mountaintop estate, not only because of the seasonal beauty of the estate, but also due to the fantastic fall foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains. While our tour of Monticello was over, another Virginia adventure awaited us the following day… the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Morehead Planetarium & Science Center in Chapel Hill

With one more morning left in North Carolina we headed to the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill to visit the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center. The complex was built as a gift from John Morehead III, UNC class of 1891, and opened its doors in 1949. The GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater is in the Morehead building, which also houses the Science Stage, classrooms, exhibits, the UNC Visitor Center and the Observatory.

We bought tickets for the Planetarium show “Earth, Moon and Sun.” Although geared towards 7-13 year olds, Lauris and Mikus thoroughly enjoyed it, laughing loudly and repeatedly at the antics of Coyote, a cartoon character adapted from Native American folk tales. With his help we explored the relationship between the earth, moon and sun, and even got a guided tour of the evening nighttime sky by the astronomer on duty. The boys have been more interested in the phases of the moon since the harvest eclipse moon last month, and this awareness has only increased since our visit.  On the other hand, the one-year old mostly slept, as the theatre was dark and my lap warm…

After the show we took a look at the various exhibits in the lower level of the planetarium. The most famous visitors to Morehead were the US astronauts in training for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, including Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Alan B. Shepard Jr. among others.

A quick stop in the souvenir store later we were already headed out the door, anxious to get back to the hotel and start the next leg of our journey. The morning had turned cool and rainy, and so large sundial on Franklin Street threw no shadow. We took a look nonetheless, the task of explaining how it works harder when it’s not operational, and then we were off. The Planetarium is high on my list of places in the Chapel Hill/Durham area I would recommend to visitors, and we might return on our next visit to the region to catch one of the other shows.

* Morehead's programs include classes for adults and children, special courses for teachers, summer camps for children, afterschool programs, memberships, public viewings of astronomical events and lectures. It’s a good idea to call/check the website for scheduling information before your visit, as there are numerous shows aimed at a variety of ages, and on days when large groups visit shows can be sold out. Note for Roper Mountain Science Center members - Morehead participates in the ASTC Travel Passport Program, and so members can receive 2-for-1 admission to all regularly scheduled shows.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Carrboro, North Carolina

Named for NC industrialist Julian Shakespeare Carr, the little town just west of Chapel Hill has a history similar to many of the mill towns of the region. Originally known as West End, Carrboro’s roots are in the establishment of a railway depot; in order to keep university students from leaving on weekends (and spending their money elsewhere), state statutes required the railway depot to be at least one mile from campus. The arrival of the train to the area brought along with it a steam-powered grist mill which in turn became the Alberta Cotton Mill before being incorporated into the Durham Hosiery Mills complex. In addition to the university and the textile mills, the depot was also a major hub in the lumber industry in the 1920s and 1930s. The Great Depression, the closure of several mills and the end of passenger service on the train line resulted in the Carrboro languishing until the 1960s when the growth of the University of NC sparked an economic upturn.

An oak on the old mill property

The abandoned mill stood empty for a decade and was nearly demolished in 1975 before being saved by the community to be restored as Carr Mill Mall, now on the National Registry of Historic Places. In the complex is also one of Carrboro's most famous attractions, the Weaver Street Market. A co-op with plenty of organic and healthy choices, the market has a hot bar, perfect for the boys to choose what they want for lunch. We were rather hungry from our hike and time spent at Bolin Creek, and as the market is conveniently right off main street in the heart of the town it was an easy choice. Another great healthy option is only a few blocks away; the Carrboro Farmer's Market features local organic produce, locally produced cheeses, baked goods, and handmade crafts, it was one of the first stores in the area to link farmers directly with their customers (they require that everything sold must be produced within a 50-mile radius).

Source: here
We paid for our meals and headed outdoors to a large grassy field with picnic tables. Lauris and Mikus devoured their lunch and scampered off to play hide-and-seek, a favorite hiding spot being behind one of the massive oaks that I imagine to have been planted in the heyday of the mill. It’s the perfect lunch set-up; healthy food for a variety of budgets that can be consumed in an area that lets kids play and entertain themselves while mom savors her lunch and takes a bit of a breather!

It’s no surprise then that Carrboro is a favorite destination of UNC students, not just for places like the farmers market but also for the restaurant scene. One of our Carrboro favorites is the homage to the town’s railroad origins, the Southern Rail Restaurant and Bar, located across the street from the Carr Mill Mall and Weaver Street Market. The eatery is located between active freight train tracks and not only is decorated with an extensive assortment of train-themed memorabilia, but is housed in restored vintage rail cars that have been connected with an industrial steel and glass platform enclosure. There’s even a dining car that allows for an alternative to the outdoor seating in the front courtyard, and the adjacent Station bar is separate, creating a one-of-a-kind place to eat: for rail-enthusiasts, children and the university crowd alike.

Southern Rail Restaurant & Bar

Our waitress mentioned that the best time to see trains on the freight tracks is Friday morning, and sure enough, several trains passed the next morning blowing their whistles in a seeming salute to the long-stationary cars of the Southern Rail. Across the road from the restaurant the tracks run adjacent to the Libba Cotten Bikeway, the trail connecting the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus to Carrboro. Paved with separate bike and walking lanes, many students and professors use it daily to get to and from campus. The bikeway was named for Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten (1895-1987), best known for her song “Freight Train” about the train that ran past her house on Lloyd St. Cotten’s left-handed guitar and banjo playing style won her a Grammy at the age of 89 along with a place on the Smithsonian Folkways recording label, and although the only trains running on these tracks today are the ones UNC uses to transport materials to its power plant, the spirit of the rail lives on in the vibrant town of Carrboro.

Along the Cotten trail: poison ivy, view down the trail and the cemetery near Brewer Lane

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Track Trail adventure in Carrboro, NC

Last week we once more found ourselves in the “Research Triangle” in North Carolina, home to University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Duke in Durham and NC State in Raleigh. Our stay was in the town of Carrboro, which neighbors Chapel Hill to the west with no clear boundary separating it from the University town of larger fame. We’ve visited many attractions in the nearby area including the NC Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina, the Coker Arboretum and the Museum of Life & Science, but on our first day decided to stick rather close to our temporary home and go for a local hike.

On our most recent visit to Congaree National Park I signed the boys up for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks Track Trail program, aimed at promoting children’s health and the health of our parks by “increasing physical activity and engaging families in outdoor adventures that foster a meaningful connection to the natural and cultural world.” Sadly there is only one Track Trail in South Carolina (the one in Congaree), but as I soon noticed, dozens in North Carolina including one not even a mile north of Carrboro’s Main Street. We got an early start and pulled into a near-empty parking lot at Charles Herman Wilson Park.

The 1.3 mile Track Trail follows trails in “Adam’s Tract,” with a very short section utilizing the Bolin Creek Greenway, a multi-use, paved trail connecting the Community Center Park and the Battle Branch Trail. Each Track Trail has an accompanying “adventure,” the choices for the Town of Carrboro being Birds, Bug Out and Nature’s Relationships in addition to our choice, Hide and Seek. The brochures are meant to guide the kids in their exploration, to be educational without being dry, and are available for download or at the beginning of the hike. Lauris and Mikus both got into the spirit, finding all sorts of cool stuff that had escaped my notice.

We found a pair of mature American elms that have somehow escaped/repelled the Dutch elm disease, the fatal fungal disease that pretty much wiped out the American elm in the 1900s. Spread by the elm bark beetle the tree is usually killed upon reaching maturity, and although isolated native elms have survived in the US and researchers have developed several hybrid Asian elms and American elms that are resistant or tolerant, it is extremely rare to see large American elms in our forests.

They also spotted a lime-green Luna moth caterpillar, the Actias luna moth being one of the largest in the US with an average wingspan of 3-4.5 inches (but occasionally up to 7 inches!). Because they only spend a week of their lives as adults, sightings of the luna moth are rare so a daytime sighting of a caterpillar (while not as rare) was a cool discovery.

However, Bolin Creek was the most exciting ‘find’ on our hike. With numerous opportunities for boulder climbing, splashing and rock skipping, the boys were in their element. Lauris and Mikus were immediately engrossed with the search for animal tracks, the splash resulting from a rock being dropped in, the eddy of leaves in the current and with criss-crossing the stream via rocks. Vilis would have been more content to play in the water; cooler weather disallowing this option he was rather unsatisfied at first, but eventually his fussiness was lulled by the sounds of water rushing over stone and autumn wind rustling the trees.

As far as other sightings go, the boys checked off quite a few things in their nature journals including mammals (squirrels and chipmunks), amphibians (Lauris sighted the toad trailside on our hike in) and birds. Even the hike out was all smiles, and there was enough energy remaining that another hour was happily spent playing in the sandbox and on the playground. It was only when the time came to head out that the smiles disappeared – but not for long, as we were headed to lunch and another adventure…

Monday, October 19, 2015

A lake hike at Furman University

During these beautiful and warm autumn days it’s a little easier to coax the boys out for a hike! I’m trying not to overschedule, I’ve got a hundred +1 things to do just like everyone else this time of year – but we can at least head over to Furman!

Furman University is just 5 miles north of downtown Greenville! I wrote about the iconic clock tower and the previous location in the west end of Greenville, but neglected to mention the 1.5 mile Lake hike. There is no better time than the present to fix that, especially since the temperatures, fall color and buzz of students on campus makes for perfect hike with the kids!

The Janie Earle Furman rose garden

Visitor parking is conveniently just next to the Barnes & Noble, which is located in the Trone Student Center. If you’re looking for a place to eat there are several options in the center, but if you’ve brought your own lunch you can grab one of the outdoor picnic tables or bring it along to eat at the picnic shelter at the opposite end of the lake. The trail runs between the Student Center and 40-acre Swam Lake, and the first place you’ll want to explore is between Trone and the Daniel Dining Hall: the Janie Earle Furman Rose Garden. The rose garden is named in honor of the late Janie Earle Furman, a graduate of Greenville Woman’s College and wife of the late Alester G. Furman, Jr., a member of the university’s founding family. No matter the season, it’s worth ducking in to see the fountain and feel the tranquility within.

The Jamie Earle Furman rose garden

Continuing on, the trail crosses a bridge over a small canal. If you were to continue straight instead and look to your right you'll see a gravel path and stairs gradually leading upward. Another interesting detour, the Place of Peace is an inter-generational temple (Hei-Sei-Ji) that once stood in Nagoya, Japan. In 2004 it was dismantled into 2,400 pieces, transported through the Panama Canal, and reconstructed by Japanese craftsmen in 2008. We’ve not yet had the chance to see the interior, but the craftsmanship and serene architectural lines of the temple are a sight in itself.

Place of Peace

Across the bridge is the Asia Garden, which together with the Place of Peace are “designed to stimulate your experience of connection to the earth, and all the peoples of the world.” A little pond and manicured gardens are contained off a pebble path, and if you choose to take this route you’ll be back on the trail in only a few dozen feet.

Asia Garden

My two older boys enjoy riding their bikes while I walk with the stroller, and what makes this hike such a success other than proximity to our home is that the trails are very safe for beginning bicyclists. There are only a few points that we have to worry about vehicular traffic, and these are easy to navigate as there are few cars utilizing these small roads. The first stretch is while walking along Bell Tower housing to the clock tower, but the speed limit is set low and there is good visibility. After the tower the trail resumes, and to your right is another of our favorite stops, the Susan Shi Garden. The David E. Shi Center for Sustainability/Furman Farm is named for Furman’s 10th president (and Susan Shi was his First Lady from 1994-2010). The gardens echo the goal of the Center, which is to support the study and integration of sustainability-related topics on campus as well as in the greater Greenville community.

Susan Shi Garden

Next you’ll pass the Amphitheatre, after which the trail loops around to continue following the shoreline of Swan Lake, and there you will find the afore-mentioned picnic shelter. The environs are more wooded for this second portion of the hike, the only structures being the Thoreau Cabin and the Lakeside Rest Room. The Cabin was built by Furman students, a replica of the cabin Thoreau inhabited while writing Walden, the same distance from the water as Thoreau’s cabin sat from Walden Pond. This is the home stretch, and I let the boys ride out far ahead of me knowing that they’ll stop where the trail meets the road. What’s interesting about this section is that it runs parallel to the Swamp Rabbit Trail – visible in places, I’m always tempted to skip over and continue on…

At the road we cross the spillway to find ourselves at the parking lot and at the end of our hike. Often we will linger a while outside the student center for a snack before hopping back in the car for the short ride home. If you’re looking for a longer hike/run, be sure to check out the Furman website and the trails map; the Lake trail is just one of the several trails on campus, various combinations of which could make for a lengthier hike. 

For a map of the trail click here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...