Thursday, May 03, 2007

Uwharrie National Recreation Trail

I've been a bit frustrated by the distance from Wilmington to some of the better known hiking and backpacking locations, as well as the minimal opportunities nearby. So, I decided to try looking at a middle distance and found the Uwharrie National Forest. It was touted as clearly the best hiking destination in the Piedmont, the central section of NC.

The Uwharrie trail is in the Uwharrie National Forest, which is named after the Uwharrie mountains and the Uwharrie river, named by a local indian tribe, but no one knows what the word means. They say this mountain chain once made the Appalacians seem puny, with peaks around 20,000 feet, but they are so old they've eroded down to less than 1,000 feet now. Even so, they offered the chance to get away from the NC lowlands and do some real backpacking. Even better, no worries of running into a hungry bear.

The route I took covered the southern half of the Uwharrie trail and looped back in a figure eight on the Dutchman's Creek trail, all told, twenty-some-odd miles of relatively challenging backpacking. I say 20-some-odd, because various sources I read listed the trip between 22-28 miles, and I'm not sure which is right. One thing is for sure, I've gotten plenty soft sitting around Wilmington. Although there are no dramatic climbs, the routes include numerous peaks and valleys with elevation differences of 300-400 feet. Between the terrain, my conditioning and some mixups in my water supply I was pretty beat by the time I got back to my car.

Due to the heavy forest and relatively low elevation, there were no dramatic picture-taking opportunities of grand vistas, but I did take a few photos. Although I did see a few deer, squirrels, snakes and birds, I thought the lizard and butterfly shown below were most representative of the wildlife I saw.

There were lots of trails, creeks and flowers, but they all seem to look alike. One of the highlights of the trip was the mountain laurel, which was in full bloom and fragrant. So, here are a couple of representative pictures.

So there you have it, my first backpacking trip into the Piedmont. Not so dramatic, but challenging enough and enjoyable. I've heard about a few other trails, so hopefully I''l have the opportunity to try a few others in my time here.

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