Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video or slide show of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
“Do you know how far this goes?” the grade schooler on the Razor scooter asked as he scouted the greenway.
“It goes five and a half miles,” I said as I wrestled my bike off the roof rack.
“Five and a half miles?!” he repeated. “Wow!”
I caught myself as I noticed his mom standing nearby before adding, “And if you don’t mind breaking the law, you could go another five and a half.”
We were in a gravel parking lot off North O’Neil Street in Clayton, the trailhead for the Sam’s Branch Greenway. The 1.2-mile Sam’s Branch runs south, then east to the Neuse River, where it connects with a 4.3-mile stretch of now-open greenway that reaches the Wake County line, for a total run of 5.5 miles. There, a sturdy 3-foot-high wall of orange No Trespassing webbing emphatically blocks the trail, which was paved as far as the eye could see (about 200 yards).
That stretch marks the beginning of Raleigh’s Neuse River Trail, a partially completed work-in-progress that eventually will run upstream for 28 miles to the base of the Falls Lake dam. The 5.7-mile stretch runs from the Johnston County line north to Auburn Knightdale Road. It’s scheduled to open in October.
For those of you without calculators, that would be 11.2 miles of continuous greenway when the finished Auburn Knightdale stretch links with the Johnston County greenway.
This section will be especially enticing for greenway users seeking solitude. Unlike the northernmost 6.5-miles stretch of the Neuse Trail, from Falls Lake dam downstream to the WRAL Soccer Complex, which opened last October, the southern segment travels through more rural, less-developed country.
Check back Monday for a quick video escape down the new Johnston County stretch. And return next week for more updates on the Neuse River Trail and on Raleigh’s House Creek Greenway.
View Clayton/Johnston County Greenway in a larger map
Within two years, here’s how your day on the Raleigh greenways might look.
You start out on a bike ride at Lake Johnson. Park at the boathouse and take a leisurely (except for the hills on the lake’s south side) lap around the lake before heading down Walnut Creek through N.C. State’s Centennial Campus taking note of all the new construction. Stop at the Farmer’s Market to see if the strawberries are in yet, then continue downstream on some of Raleigh’s oldest greenway. Pass the abandoned E.B. Bain water treatment plant, swing by the Walnut Creek Wetland Center, pass through Worthdale and Walnut Creek parks and head on down to the Neuse River.
Three and a half miles of the Neuse River Trail is expected to open in August, another 8.7 miles in October and 7.0 more miles in November; coupled with the 6.5 miles opened last fall, the 28-mile greenway running along its namesake river from Falls Lake south to the Wake County line will be more than 90 percent done, at 26 miles. The entire trail, according to Raleigh greenway planner Vic Lebsock, should be done by mid-July 2013.