Thursday, March 18, 2021

Riverbend Farm Trail

Years ago, we discovered Riverbend Farm for it's pumpkin patch and epic playground (Check it out: Our Favorite Pumpkin Patch). At the time, I noticed a Carolina Thread Trail sign by the farm and made a mental note to return to explore. Recently, we did and loved it.

Riverbend Farm Trail is an easy, 0.8-mile (one way) natural surface trail, good for all ages and skill levels, that circles the perimeter of the farm. A short distance from the trailhead is a canoe/kayak put-in.

To get to the trail, follow the gravel road to the right of the farm entrance. This will end at a gravel lot. The trailhead is marked with a sign. From the lot and the through first section of the trail, you'll be able to see farm animals grazing.

The trail, which follows the Rocky River, is quiet, peaceful and full of wildlife. We saw deer and racoon prints, heard frogs chirping and saw a number of birds. The trail ends on the far side of the farm at a large sandy area (insider tip: this is a great place to let kids play a while; pack a sand shovel if you think of it!). This section is downright bucolic.

Bonus, Riverbend Farm is a stone's throw from the Sundae Shop, a most excellent stop after a day on the trail. Everything you could ask for in a super relaxed, pleasant, family-friendly outing. 

Note: There are no restroom facilities at the trail; plan accordingly.

How to get there:
The Riverbend Farm Trail trailhead is near, but not at, Riverbend Farm, located at 12150 McManus Rd, Midland, NC 28107. Take the gravel road to the right of the farm entrance. This will end at a gravel lot. The trailhead is marked with a sign. Here's a map to the trailhead parking lot

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Water and snacks
  • Sand toys

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Lindsay Pettus Greenway

I love a good stroll along a lush greenway on a pretty spring day. The kids can ride their bikes, the dog can sniff out new territory, and I can enjoy fresh air and movement -- all in the context of nature. Now's the perfect time of year to take an urban creek-side excursion.

Good news, fellow greenway lovers: There's a fresh new option for your enjoyment a stone's throw away from Charlotte. Lindsay Pettus Greenway in Lancaster, SC, about an hour south of uptown, opened to the public in November 2020 and it is gorgeous.

This 1.8-mile (one way), paved trail is a segment of the Carolina Thread Trail. It's a perfect mix of urban development and nature, combined for a lovely trek through Katawba Valley Land Trust conservation area rich with hardwoods and wildlife.

In addition to the paved trail, there's a short, 0.3-mile natural-surface path featuring constructed wetlands and two creek observation areas. This is a lovely little educational side-jaunt.

Along the route, there are benches, a couple of large community swings, bike racks, and restroom facilities. The trail also cuts through two public parks and flanks the Lancaster's downtown district. At the easternmost end is a Kids in Parks Track Trail

What impresses me most about the Lindsay Pettus Greenway is it's boardwalks. Long stretches of the greenway are beautiful wooden bridges over low-lying areas. They add to the intrigue of the outing.

The trail is well marked with directional signs and mile markers and there are a couple of official trailhead parking areas (as well as some neighborhood entrances without public parking).

When we went, we parked at the designated lot across the street from the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. (Note, there's no public parking in the Chamber lot, but plenty on the other side of the road. Be careful crossing; there's no crosswalk!). That trailhead puts you at about two-thirds of the way through the greenway. Take a left to go 1.3 miles east and a right to go a half-mile west. Directly in front of this access point is the nature trail.

When we go again, we'll park at the other main trailhead parking area, located at 610 E. Meeting St. This is the easternmost end of the trail. Starting here allows you to enjoy the greenway linearly, point-to-point in it's entirety.

While the greenway is still relatively new, plans are already in the works to make it a true recreational, educational, and entertainment destination. Check the website for news and events.

Bonus: If you want to make a day-trip of your outing, you can throw in a visit to Andrew Jackson State Park, directly en route to and from the greenway.

How go get there:
There are two main trailhead public parking areas. 

Access the easternmost point of the greenway at 610 E. Meeting St., Lancaster, SC, 29720. 

Access the greenway at the nature trail adjacent to two city parks by parking at 459 Colonial Ave., Lancaster, SC, 29720 (NOTE: This lot is across the street from the Chamber of Commerce.)

Don't forget to take: 
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Bikes, scooters or other riding toys -- and helmets! 
  • Water and snacks
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Bug spray (in warmer months) 
  • Cash if you plan to stop at Andrew Jackson State Park ($3/adult and $1/kid)

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Day Trip: Thermal Belt Rail Trail

Want to go for a ride? Hop in your car and then hop on your bike for an outing on the Thermal Belt Rail Trail, a 13.5-mile paved greenway running through the heart of Rutherford County, about an hour and 15 minutes from uptown.

Wide, flat and super accessible, the Thermal Belt Rail Trail connects the foothill towns of Gilkey, NC at the north end and Forest City, NC at the south, with and handful of trail access parking areas in between.

From start to finish, the trail is well marked with mileage signs. It also sports a number of bike racks, bike repair stations, fountains, bathrooms, shelters, information kiosks and benches throughout.

The beginning section (starting in Gilkey and heading south) is more rural, traversing through woods and small neighborhood communities. It has little traffic and few cross streets. 

Miles 5 through 13 becomes more urban, winding through towns and passing by restaurants, shops, parks, sports fields and four libraries. There are two bridges, one at mile 12.5 over highway 74 and one at mile 13.2 over the railroad.

When we went, we started at mile 0 and rode bikes east for a couple of miles to the Bechtler Mint Historic Site Park. This was a cool, educational destination and made for a good stop and turnaround point for our young crew.

While we haven't ridden the trail in its entirety, several friends have told me it's a pleasant experience. When the weather warms, we look forward to checking out a longer stretch, maybe beginning at the other end and working our way back to the Bechtler park for another visit, a longer ride, and a picnic lunch. 

How to get there
There are a number of parking areas along the 13.5-mile trail. See options here. We began at the Mile 0 trailhead, which is located at 100 Oak Springs Rd., Rutherfordton, NC, 28139. To begin at the other end (mile 13.5), parking is available at 50 Forrest West Hunt Dr., Forest City, NC, 28043.