Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Official blazeCLT Summer “Thrival” Guide

According to the public school calendar, we’re halfway through summer. Now what?

Maybe you’ve already taken your family vacation, the kids have been to camp, and you’ve visited all of your go-to entertainment destinations (. . . several times over).

Maybe you’re feeling fatigued or uninspired. Or maybe you’re eager to do Summertime Things as your schedule allows, to inject some sense of adventure into your typical year-round routine.

May I offer some suggestions?

Below are lists some of our favorite activities and outings – something for everyone (kids, no kids, grandkids, kids at heart. . .) for whatever free time you have (weekdays, weekends, before work, after work) – all in and around the Charlotte area.

Summer may be half over, but there’s still plenty of time for playing. Go ahead, try something new. Make the most of those open weekends, unscheduled evenings, yawning weekdays, and squishy lunch hours. Your next adventure is calling!
Fun-Sized Outings for Tiny Explorers

Urban Excursions

Discover and Learn
  • Trail of History: Discover Charlotte's rich history. Great for exercise, exploration and education.
  • Carolina Raptor Center: Fun trails, dozens of species, and the largest owl aviary in the Southeast.
  • The Scheile Museum: Beautiful outdoor trails and compelling indoor exhibits.
  • Reed Gold Mine: Full of history, fresh air, and (still!) a little bit of gold.

Hiking and Biking

Bonus recommendation:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Four Mile Creek Has Something For Everyone

The Matthews Four Mile Creek Greenway, part of the Carolina Thread Trail, is a fantastic example of what a community asset greenways can be. Constructed in 2011 through a partnership between Mecklenburg County and the town of Matthews, the 2-mile (one way), paved trail threads its way along the creek between and through neighborhoods, connecting Matthews Elementary School to East John St., with  Squirrel Lake Park in between. It offers a number of access points beyond the trailheads, making it a convenient destination for folks all over town eager to get some fresh air and exercise.

Taking a walk along the quiet, peaceful greenway is like attending a linear neighborhood get-together. And right smack in the middle is Squirrel Lake Park, an excellent place to park if you're not within walking distance, and a guaranteed hit for the kids.

On our visit, we parked at Squirrel Lake Park, which offers playground equipment, bathrooms, a picnic shelter, benches, a twelve-hole disc golf, two permanent corn hole sets and a lake with a fishing pier. There's a short, natural surface trail that circles the lake if you want to do a little exploring without taking to the greenway.

From the park, you can access the paved greenway -- great for bikes, strollers and hiking -- at about the mid-point of the trail. Taking a left will steer you a little over a mile toward Matthews Elementary School. Taking a right will lead you to East John St., just under a mile away.

We took a left toward Matthews Elementary and were rewarded with a trip over several bridges and by a mini-park with a fountain rock feature. No matter which way you go, the greenway is full of wildlife, including birds, beavers and deer.

I found the Matthews Four Mile Creek Greenway to be a pleasant, peaceful natural getaway without much of a commute. Worth a visit if you're in the area.

How to get there:
Squirrel Lake Park is located at 1631 Pleasant Plains Rd., Matthews, NC, 28105. Park here to access both the playground and the greenway. Here's a greenway map.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Water and snacks: There's an impressive picnic shelter, so consider packing a lunch.
  • Comfortable shoes: You can hike the paved greenway or opt for the shorter, natural surface trail that encircles the small lake.
  • Bikes, scooters and helmets: The paved greenway is perfect for feet or wheels.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The park and greenway are only partially shaded.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Purser-Hulsey Park

I'll admit I'm easily excited by new places to explore. But some destinations leave me feeling particularly inspired. Such is the case with Purser-Hulsey Park in Matthews. I'd never heard of it until Rick, friend of the blog, sent me a note recommending we check it out. And I'm especially glad we did.
About 15 miles from uptown, it's a relatively short, easy drive to get there. It boasts plentiful parking, a large community garden, a little free library and, most notably, some really fun trails.

Here's why I recommend you make this your next local hiking destination:

The Painted Rock Trail is a 1.5 mile loop. This natural surface, gently undulating trail is heavily shaded and just the right difficulty and distance for a pleasant, manageable outing.
What makes it remarkable is the clever painted rock trail markers. In all our many hikes, we've seen countless blazes -- dots painted on tree trunks, flags wrapped around branches, printed signs stuck in the ground -- but never anything so creative and interactive.
You'll find the trailhead at the back of the parking lot, next to an information kiosk. Just inside the tree line is a large, instructive rock that explains the painted rocks and invites folks to engage with them throughout the hike.
Someone with notable artistic talent has painted at least a hundred rocks and placed them along the trail loop. All of them are beautiful, and some are especially witty. Visitors are encouraged to pick them up and leave them in a new spot along the trail as they hike (this is an especially effective motivator for young hikers!).
And, park visitors are invited to bring their own painted rocks to add to the mix.

Purser-Hulsey is a relatively new park -- the trails were only just finished last year -- but I can imagine a really fun, creative vibe taking root as more folks share their own creativity.
If you're up for a longer hike, the Enchanted Forest Trail offers an additional half-mile loop just off the Painted Rock Trail. As the name suggests, this sidetrack winds you through a pretty magical stretch of young, tall pines, where fairies might as well frolic when the sun goes down.
And, if you're up for an even longer option, the 3-mile backside loop is also accessible from the Painted Rock Trail. As with all the trails at Purser-Hulsey, this trail is open to both hikers and bike riders. At every turn, make sure you choose the direction that corresponds with your mode of transport (boots or bikes) for safety's sake.
You'll also find benches scattered throughout the park if you want to take a break and enjoy the peace this natural refuge offers.
Note: There are no restroom facilities at Purser-Hulsey Park, so plan accordingly.
How to get there:
Purser-Hulsey Park is located at 13201 Phillips Rd., Matthews, NC, 28105.
Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Water
  • Bikes and helmets
  • Bug spray