Why put up with the hassles of traffic and pay $10 — the going rate based on a drive-by survey of Thursday evening’s State Fair preview — for premium parking to this year’s N.C. State Fair, which opens today and runs through Oct. 25, when you can park for free and encounter zero traffic? And, you get a 2.7-mile (one way) nature hike to boot. Here’s the deal:
Why would I want to do that? To avoid heavy traffic and pricey in-close parking charges, for one. But here’s an even better reason: Corn dogs, funnel cakes, deep-fried Twinkees. That, I would wager, is a typical meal at the Fair. Let’s take a look at that repast from a caloric standpoint.
Corn dog: 460 calories. (Source: Nutrient Facts.)
Funnel cake: 277 calories. (Source: Fitday.com)
Deep-fried Twinkee: 425 calories (Source: Fitsugar.com)
Total: 1,162 calories.
Now, let’s run the numbers on how many calories you might burn walking 5 1/2 miles (the round-trip distance). The following were derived from the Fitness Partner Activity Calories Calculator based on 90 minutes of hiking (a fairly brisk pace) for folks of three different weights.
150 pounds: 614 calories.
175 pounds: 716 calories.
200 pounds: 818 calories.
Pretty revealing, eh?
How you can hike to the fair on the Loblolly Trail: First, drive to the main entrance of Schenck Forest. From Wade Avenue, that would entail exiting at Edwards Mill Road and going 0.7 miles east, to Reedy Creek Road. Go left on Reedy Creek for 0.3 miles, take a left on State Farm Road. Go another tenth of a mile and park. Here’s a map.
Is the trail easy to follow? Sure. Just follow these directions, starting from the Schenck Forest gate where you park, walk down the dirt road for:
0.75 miles — (the dirt road ends in a turnaround loop at about mile 0.7; continue downhill on the narrow trail at the beginning of the loop).
1.3 mi. — Take a right turn, cross a small creek on seven stones, proceed through the left side of the pedestrian tunnel/culvert under Wade Avenue. (The tunnel is lit, but can be a little wet. Friday, there was no more than an inch in the deepest spot.)
1.7 mi. — You’ll see a cool bridge that you don’t get to go over on your right. Instead, walk another 30 yards and go left into the tunnel under Edwards Mill Road (this one’s dry).
1.8 mi. — Trail, which becomes paved on the other side of the tunnel, Ts into RBC Center Road. Either take sidewalk right or go right on the footpath just before the roadway. For our purposes, we’re sticking with the natural path.
2.0 mi. — Trailhead parking for Loblolly Trail. Go left on sidewalk along four-lane street, then go right at first right. This will spit you out onto Trinity Road at …
2.2 mi. — Go left on sidewalk along Trinity Road up to Youth Center Drive.
2.6 mi. — Cross Trinity on Youth Center Drive (but not before the State Highway Patrolperson says it’s OK).
2.7 mi. — Arrive at State Fair ticket booth.
See the map below.
Anything else I need to know? Yes. Though the tunnels are lit, the rest of the Loblolly Trail is not. Plus, technically, the trail closes at dusk. For the record, sunset today is officially at 6:37 p.m.; by the time the fair closes on Oct. 25 it will set at 6:26 p.m. Plan accordingly. Also, this is a fairly easy trail but the wet weather has made it a little mushy in spots. I did the trail Friday in a pair of low-cut hikers and my feet stayed dry. Good tread is important.
Enjoy the fair!