Much as I love snow, and we’ve had more than our share so far this season, the attendant cold and gray that often accompanies it gets old after a while. I can’t do anything about the cold, rather than bundle up. But there is a place or two where I can battle the gray. One of which is the Little Creek Trail at Raven Rock State Park near Lillington.
I stumbled upon Little Creek Trail shortly after moving to North Carolina in 1992. I was actually looking for the towering bluff that overlooks the Cape Fear River when I took a wrong turn and found myself following Little Creek, a rocky drainage gradually making its way down to the Cape Fear. What struck me about the trail on that cold January day was that unlike the stark, gray oak/hickory forest I had been hiking through, Little Creek was awash in green: green holly, green rhododendron, green mountain laurel and occasional splashes of green Christmas fern on the forest floor. Save for the bite in the air, it could have been summer. Although it only lasted three-quarters of a mile or so (the 1.5-mile loop trail returns along a long-abandoned roadbed through that gray deciduous forest), it left its mark. Every year I try to make the pilgrimage when the weather is at its coldest, the sky its blandest, the landscape its most desolate.
And because I’m not inclined to drive an hour for a mile and a half of hiking, no matter how spiritually uplifting the trail, I usually add at least two trails to my Raven Rock visit: The short spur that takes me out to Raven Rock, my original destination 19 years ago, and the 5-mile Campbell Creek Loop, which includes similar passages of green and is perhaps the least visited of this popular park’s trails.
Take a quick hike with me on this slideshow.