Friday, January 28, 2022

Park Road Park

In Charlotte, some parks have been around so long and have been such fixtures in my growing-up years that it doesn't occur to me to spotlight them for the recreation jewels they are. But then I'll discover a new angle to an oldie-but-goody, and it reminds me that these places are too cool not to share. 

A good example: Park Road Park. This 72-acre greenspace, chock full of amenities, is situated in South Charlotte between Park Road, Tyvola Rd. and Archdale Dr., a little more than a stone's throw from South Park Mall.

In contrast to the mini retail metropolis that surrounds the mall, Park Road Park is an urban oasis, complete with a pond, quiet footpaths and an impressive playground. 

What drew me to the park most recently was a visit to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway to check out progress on the stretch between Brandywine and Tyvola (getting tantalizingly close!). I decided to take a southbound stroll while I was there and detoured toward the park along the path just beyond the water treatment plant. Isn't it a treat when greenways lead so magically to destinations like this? 

At Park Road Park, you'll find a small pond, surrounded by a smooth, paved walking path about (approximately 0.75 miles around), brand new picnic shelters with restroom facilities, a sprawling and engaging playground area, six ball fields, full-court basketball courts, beach volleyball, lighted tennis courts and two horseshoe pits. 

The park also makes for a great starting point for a nice long greenway ride all the way to Pineville (take the Tyvola to I-485 and I-485 to President James K. Polk State Historic Site segments). Someday soon, you'll be able to start here and head north toward uptown and beyond. 

There's plenty of parking throughout the sprawling park. It is worth noting that getting out of the parking lot entrances, which face Park Road, can be challenging during rush hour traffic, so plan accordingly. 

South Charlotteans already know what a treasure Park Road Park is for the area. I'm glad to have rediscovered it myself and invite you to check it out, too.

How to get there:
Park Road Park is located at 6220 Park Rd., Charlotte, NC, 28210. You can also access the park via the Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Revisiting the Pump Track at Colonel Francis Beatty Park

About a year ago, we discovered a new natural-surface pump track at Colonel Francis Beatty Park in Matthews. Imagine our delight when we went back a couple of weeks ago and found that the pump track, which was already very cool, has gotten a pretty epic makeover! 

Named "The Colonel," the new and improved pump track, designed and built by Tarheel Trailblazers, offers about a quarter mile of bike riding fun. The name of the pump track is both a nod to the name of the park and a theme. There are three routes within the track, each of varying difficulty: Original Recipe, Extra Crispy, and Gravy. (Hello, KFC.)  

A pump track is a cross between an obstacle course and a roller coaster for bikes. They are called pump tracks because very skilled riders can "pump" their way around the course using momentum without peddling. But, they are every bit as much fun for even the most tentative riders among us.

The easiest route consists of a series of rollers and berms. The more advanced routes throw in jumps and other technical features. Choose your experience carefully; it's all fun and games until you take a big spill. 

Helmets are a must. And the pump track is closed after rain. It's important to respect this rule; riding on a muddy surface can be dangerous and can damage the track.

We visited one weekday morning not long ago and had the area to ourselves. I imagine it could get more crowded on a pretty weekend day. But even still, the space is large enough to comfortably accommodate a small crowd (remember to ride in the designated direction!).

Colonel Francis Beatty Park is huge and has lots of amenities. You'll find the pump track next to the tennis court parking lot (take your first left after the entrance). Whether you're a biker or not, this park is a fun place to spend some time playing outdoors. And the pump track is an especially exciting feature for folks who like to ride.

How to get there:
Colonel Francis Beatty Park is located at 4330 Weddington Rd, Matthews, NC 28105. The pump track is located next to the tennis court parking lot.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Day Trip: Cowpens National Battlefield

This weekend, Cowpens National Battlefield will hold a virtual celebration of its 241st anniversary (on Facebook; here's the link), which might offer an easy activity option if Charlotte weather is more sloppy sleet than fluffy snow.

We happened to visit Cowpens on this weekend last year and were able to see the event, which commemorates a pivotal turning point in the Revolutionary War with reenactments and educational displays and presentations, in person. While an online version won't be able to do justice to the musket fire, it may offer a helpful preview of what you can see and do when you get a chance to visit.

The Battle of Cowpens in 1781 was a defining moment in the American Revolution, a backcountry engagement that ignited a chain of events that led to the Patriots’ victory at Yorktown. Today, this historic site is the National Park Service Cowpens National Battlefield, a fun destination for both education and recreation. Located in Gaffney, SC, it’s about an hour and fifteen minutes from uptown.

As one might guess, Cowpens is named for the pastureland that blanketed this area at the time of the war. And, for those familiar with the area, it provided the ideal backdrop for the civil war that unfolded between the Patriots and the Loyalists. Read about the battle here

Even if you’re not big on American Revolutionary War history, you’ll appreciate the relics, reproductions and documentary videos on display at the museum in the Visitor Center. The park also periodically hosts other special events and rangers and volunteers are often on hand to share more.

The big draw for us, of course, are the trails and outdoor recreation options. There’s the Battlefield Trail, a 1.2-mile self-guided walking tour of historic landmarks within the park. (You can also take the Auto Loop Road, a 3.8-mile paved road that offers something similar by car.)

We enjoyed the Nature Loop, the trailhead for which is at a large and impressive picnic area located a short drive from the Visitor's Center. This 2-mile trail meanders through the woods and is well marked.

Here's a park map.    

Cowpens National Battlefied is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. year-round (with the exception of New Years Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President's Day, Indigenous People's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day), but there's trailhead parking on the eastern boundry of the park that's open from dawn until dusk for pedestrian and bike access before, during and after business hours. Admission to the park is free and open to the public, as are all programs. 

Interesting note: Cowpens National Battlefield is part of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution Parks in South Carolina, a group of parks that all tell pieces of the Southern Campaign story. These include Kings Mountain National Military Park, Ninety Six National Historic Site, and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. Each location marks a military event that influenced the American victory in the Revolution.

Cowpens National Battlefield makes for a fun day trip from Charlotte. You might consider tuning in for the online celebration event this weekend if you're looking for something to do, but do go ahead and add this to your list of outings for the next time you're looking to explore. 

How to get there: 
Cowpens National Battlefield is located at 4001 Chesnee Highway, Gaffney, SC, 29341. You can also access the park before, during and after hours by foot or bike using the trail accessible from the parking lot located at the corner of SC Highway 11 and Hayes Rd. (GPS coordinates: 35° 7.864' / -81° 47.824')