Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Queen City Treasure Hunt

Over the summer, I decided we should try geocaching. It seemed right up our ally: An outdoor scavenger hunt for hidden treasures. Seemed like a fun way to get some fresh air and challenge our problem-solving and orienteering skills.

We gave it a good run, but it proved more frustrating than enjoyable. The thrill of the hunt turned quickly to frustration and disenchantment the more caches we failed to find (which far outnumbered the one we actually did manage to locate!).

So, at least we tried, but it turns out geocaching is not for us.

Then, not long ago, I read about Charlotte's Treasure Trees and was intrigued. What a neat concept: Years ago, more than 100 of our more impressive trees were tagged by the Charlotte city arborist to foster interest in some of our greatest natural assets. The official Treasure Tree program, as it was known, ended in the early 2000s, but a renewed effort is underway to resurrect the original mission to invigorate locals' respect for trees.

This past weekend, we set out to do some "tree-o-caching," as our oldest dubbed it. And found it to be quite fun and rewarding. It's super easy, and there's a lot to be said for wandering around some of Charlotte's oldest neighborhoods in search of these treasures hidden very much in plain sight.

I so often take the city's canopy for granted. Turns out there's a lot of pretty cool history hovering over us throughout town.

To see 10 Treasure Trees over the course of a 2 mile excursion close to the heart of uptown, check out this Myers Park Treasure Tree Tour via Google Maps. Click on the location icon for a brief description of each of the featured trees. This Charlotte Five article gives you descriptions and locations in narrative form if that's easier for you to navigate.

This route is great for walking (strollers, too) or riding bikes. Kids will especially enjoy the scavenger hunt aspect of the outing.

If you want to abbreviate the tour, start at Queens University (the Gingko at 1830 Queens Rd.) and hit the next four trees (through the Japanese Zelkova at 2735 Briarcliff Place). Round trip back to Queens University, this is just under two miles.

If you're looking for an excuse to get outside and are eager for a bit of a challenge, this Queen City treasure hunt is for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Stewart Creek and Irwin Creek Greenways

I love the Charlotte skyline. I get excited every time I catch an unfettered glimpse of our beautiful uptown. If you're up for an urban hike with a view of the skyscrapers peeking over the horizon, check out Stewart Creek Greenway and Irwin Creek Greenway.

Combined, these wide, paved trails (a little over 2 miles long, one way) wind through gorgeous, historic neighborhoods toward uptown with several notable stops along the way. (See trail map.)

Stewart Creek Greenway starts in the Seversville neighborhood, just off State St. Parking is available a couple blocks south at Bruns Ave., where you'll also find Seversville Neighborhood Park (with fun playground equipment and a StoryWalk book) and the Wallace Pruitt Recreation Center. Continue south through the beautiful Wesley Heights Neighborhood along a beautiful tree-lined path.

This route will take you under I-77. At the intersection after the bridge, take a left to follow Irwin Creek Greenway through Frazier Park (parking, fields and playground equipment here) and on to the greenway terminus at Ray's Splash Planet and Irwin Ave. Elementary School.

These greenways are perfect for bikes, skates, scooters, strollers and shoes. And a pretty nice skyline view.

How to get there:
Parking for the Stewart Creek Greenway is available at Bruns Ave. Elementary School, located at 501 S. Bruns Ave., Charlotte, NC, 28208; and at Ray's Splash Planet, located at 215 N. Sycamore St., Charlotte, NC, 28202. Here's a trail map if you're not familiar with the area.

Don't forget to pack:

  • Comfy shoes or your preferred riding toy (with helmets!)
  • Hats, sunscreen and sunglasses: The greenways are only partially shaded.
  • Water and snacks: You can spend several hours on the greenway and adjacent parks, so prepare to refuel as needed.
  • Here's a trail map if you're not familiar with the area.