Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walking the Greenways

I just spoke with my sister-in-law, Laura, on the phone yesterday. She is six days into her AT hike and called to report that all of the gear we sewed back in February has performed exactly as hoped! That was gratifying to hear. I think of her often and am excited about her goal of walking the entire AT this year.

I have a much less ambitious goal, inspired by my walking s-i-l and by a recent walk with my students, led by a birder from the Audubon Society. That walk, along the Four Mile Creek Greenway, got me interested in finding out more about the greenways around here. So, I did a bit of research and found that there are 180 miles of greenway in our area, covering a wide variety of habitats and settings, from the wooded areas along the Mallard Creek Greenway to the center city.

For our first Greenway walk, I chose the McAlpine/Campbell Creek Greenway. 

"Charlotte's original Greenway Park, McAlpine Creek Greenway, built in 1978, was the first public greenway trail ever acquired and built in the western piedmont of North Carolina."

Seemed like the right place to start!

The first section of our greenway walk was flat and pretty open.  The trails run near, but not right next to, McAlpine Creek.  On the opposite side of the trail, it looks like the city has put in sewer lines and has cleared the trees from a fairly wide swath beside the trail.  That makes the walk feel very open.  With few leaves on the trees when we walked, it was very sunny.  I was expecting more shade and more of a wooded walk.  That is NOT what the first section of McAlpine Greenway is (from Sardis Road to the park).  For people who live in the adjoining neighborhoods, the greenway is an excellent way to walk or bike to the park.  If I lived in that area, I'm sure I'd use it frequently. 

The start of McAlpine Creek Greenway along Sardis Road

When you get into McAlpine Park you have the option to branch off onto the trails that go around the pond and the wetland area.  These trails are used for cross-country races and are well maintained.  They go through more wooded areas.  Along the trail near the wetland, you're likely to see herons.  If you take this walk in the morning, there are lots of birds - bank swallows, tree swallows, swifts, belted kingfishers, red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers, and more.  Coty and I did do the loop around the cross country course and added about a mile to our greenway walk.

The pond at McAlpine Park

When you leave the northern end of the park, you cross over Campbell Creek and the greenway name changes to Campbell Creek Greenway.  This section of trail is what I expected, closer to the creek and more wooded.  Just after you cross Margaret Wallace Road, you pass the remains of a turn-of-the-century grist mill.  Charlotte was a very different place when that grist mill was in operation, that's for sure.  

The Campbell Creek section is a pleasant walk, once you get away from the noise of Independence Blvd. near Margaret Wallace.   It ends rather abruptly along Harris Boulevard, where a set of steps leads up to the streetside sidewalk along Harris.  We turned around there and headed back a mile to where our car was parked along Margaret Wallace Road.

Bridge over Campbell Creek

Coty receiving a birthday phone call
 at the end of the Campbell Creek Section

We walked a little over six miles, from the start on Sardis Road, adding the cross country loop in the park, to the end of Campbell Creek Greenway and then back to our car at the parking lot on Margaret Wallace.

I enjoyed the walk, especially since I got to do it with my sweetheart on his birthday, but I can't say that it's a walk I'd go back to unless I was going birding.  For people who live near this greenway, it would be an excellent place for walks and bike rides away from the busy streets, but it wouldn't really be a destination walk for me, except for birding purposes in and around McAlpine Park.

Next walk: Little Sugar Creek Greenway 

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