Monday, August 14, 2017

Hopscotching Dutchman’s Creek

Like creek-crossings? Our 6-year-old thinks they are exciting, and so do I. Traversing rocks through a gentle trickle of water adds an element of challenge and intrigue to a good hike. With that in mind, I searched the catalogue and decided on checking out part of Dutchman’s Creek trail, an 11-mile, natural surface, out-and-back hiking trail at the southern end of Uwharrie National Forest, about 90 minutes east of Charlotte, near Albemarle. 
Early Saturday morning, we grabbed breakfast, packed the car and headed out for our adventure. The ride is easy: Just hop on Albemarle Road. Once you get past the Charlotte city stoplights, it’s a fairly open cruise through the small towns of Midland, Locust, and Red Cross (see "How to get there” below).
About a mile after you cross the Pee Dee River, there’s a gravel parking lot on your left, marked with a Uwharrie National Forest sign. The main lot holds about a dozen cars, but you can make your own space in a clearing beside the lot if it’s full.
Grab your water bottle and snacks. There is an information kiosk and a sign marking the trailheads. Follow the yellow blazes (spray-painted on the trees) to take the Dutchman’s Creek trail.  
The trail is well-worn and well-marked. It winds through a gorgeous, dense green forest. For the most part, it is flat, with a few rolling hills, but no serious climbs. There are a few rocky traverses, but mostly the path is packed dirt. There are mile-marking signs every half-mile.
About three-quarters of a mile in, we encountered our first creek crossing. It’s no more than 4-feet wide where the trail hits the creek, and there are plenty of rocks to form a “bridge.” But the creek makes a serpentine curve at the crossing, making it perfect for exploring a stretch of its banks for frogs, fish and treasures. We spent about 30 minutes jumping in, over and around the creek before marching on. We even found an “abandoned” turtle shell!
Over the next mile and a half we enjoyed shaking smaller trees to shower ourselves with cooling raindrops left from storms the night before. There are a number of large fallen trees with massive exposed root structures that make for exciting exploration. We counted a number of bugs, spiders and beetles along the way.
Then, just after the 2-mile mark, we were rewarded with a stretch of trail that hopscotched back and forth across a handful of creek crossings. Again, none were more than 6-feet wide and all were easily passable for our three-year-old when we held hands. We spent time here looking for critters and also scoping out some rugged campsites that look to be used regularly by folks passing through.
This is where we turned back, though the trail went on for 9 more miles and I hope to explore more of it next time we visit. We love to do loops because you’re not covering the same ground twice, but there was enough to see and do along this trail that it was equally enjoyable on the return stretch.
Altogether, we spent about three hours on the trail. We had packed a picnic lunch for the ride home, but rewarded ourselves on the drive with a stop at The Sundae Shop in Midland, just over 20 miles outside of Charlotte, for a well-deserved and wonderfully delicious milkshake.
This was a fun hike, good for all ages, and especially kids (and kids at heart) who enjoy a good creek-crossing.

How to get there:
The trailhead is in a Uwharrie National Forest parking lot just east of Albemarle. To get you to the general direction, enter Dusty Rock Drive, Mount Gilead, NC 27206 in your GPS. You’ll take NC-27 (Albemarle Road) most of the way, with one right turn onto Main Street (Highway 24/27) about 7 miles before your destination. Dusty Rock Drive will be on your right after you cross the Pee Dee River. Go another mile and the parking lot will be on your left.
Don’t forget to pack:
Water: Take filled water bottles for the hike and a supply of water to refill when you return to the car. There are no water sources at the trail head.
Snacks: Throw in a granola bar, trail mix or crackers. It buys you time on the trail when your tank starts running on empty.
Backpack or satchel: Something lightweight and comfortable to carry your essentials.
Trail map: This is a well-marked trail, but it's always good to have one to reference when you get there. Here's one you can print.
Bug spray: We didn’t see many mosquitoes, but the gnats were relentless. Plus, ticks are always a threat.
Shoes: Keen sandals or hiking boots are best. You don’t have to get your feet wet crossing the creeks, but you may find you want to!
Small hand towel or handkerchief: Handy for wiping sweat from your brow.
Change of clothes and shoes: You may not get wet crossing creeks, but it can be still in the dense forest and, depending on the heat and humidity, you may find you’re soaked in sweat coming out.
Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: I pack ‘em everywhere we go, though the canopy was thick enough on this hike we didn’t need any of them.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds great. I have added it to your list of places to check out. Can't wait to see what else you recommend. I am going to love your site!