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.
It was a mileage marker by the side of the greenway. Having spent last week hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was accustomed to seeing mileage markers in the form of the parkway’s knee-high stone obelisks that tick off every mile. And I have seen them before on greenways, but never with such a high number. Rarely, in fact, in double digits.
The Triangle is two ramps away from having a 60-mile hiking trail.
Just before Christmas, contractors using a really big crane lowered a steel bridge onto concrete footings spanning Little Lick Creek at Falls Lake. The bridge will join Sections 14 and 15 of the Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and will make it possible hike undisturbed from Pennys Bend on the Eno River in Durham County downlake to the Falls Lake dam in Raleigh — when it’s completed.
“When it’s completed,” because there’s still the matter of those two ramps. While Little Lick Creek lives up to its name, it’s in a floodplain that is wide. Thus, the bridge’s deck sits about seven feet off the ground, and lead-up boardwalk ramps are required.
“The contractor has until February 10 to install the ramps,” Friends of the MST Executive Director Kate Dixon said yesterday. “But I think it will be done before that.”
Initially, the plan was to save money by having volunteers build the bridge. (Except for more involved projects such as this, the 1,000-mile-long statewide trail, a little over half of which is completed, is being built by an army of volunteers.) But Dixon said they had money left over from the two grants used to fund the bridge — $150,000 from the state’s recreational trails program and $55,000 in Durham open space funds — so they decided to hire the work out.
A formal dedication ceremony is scheduled for May 19.
While the 60-mile trail will be one of longest urban trails in the nation, it’s just over a third of what the trail eventually will be. On its journey from 6,643-foot Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee border to Jockey’s Ridge on the Atlantic, the MST will spend 150 miles in the Triangle, running from Clayton in Johnston County to Hillsborough in Orange County. That entire 150-mile stretch could be completed next year.
A progress report, from east to west:
For those of you who like to stand on formality, the official opening of the first stretch of the Neuse River Trail is Wednesday at 3 p.m. For those of you who like to stand on accuracy, the trail clocks in at 6.46 miles, not the 8 that I have previously reported.
Raleigh voters’ approval of a $40 million transportation bond last week means the entire Walnut Creek Greenway should be completed by the end of 2013. The greenway would run from the 28-mile Neuse Trail greenway, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012, west along its namesake waterway to N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, a distance of nearly 11 miles.