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50 at 50 | January 5

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, January 4, 2018

This week’s visit is to the park I call “my state park” - William B. Umstead right here in Raleigh.  And if I think of it as ‘my state park’, yes, I have been there many times before.  But on January 1st as a First Day Hike participant, I got to experience many "new to me" parts of the park and I want to share my adventure with you.

In 1774, land grants opened the area for settlement and forests were cleared for agriculture.  While early farming efforts were successful, poor cultivation practices and one-crop production led to depletion and erosion of the soil.  In 1934, under the Resettlement Administration, federal and state agencies united to buy 5,000 acres of this submarginal land to develop a recreation area. The Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as the Works Progress Administration, helped construct the site.Four camps along with day-use and picnic facilities were built and the park opened to the public in 1937.  Originally two parks, in 1966, the Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek areas were united under the same name; William B. Umstead State and encompasses just over 5500 acres.  

At 9 am on Monday 1/1/18 at a temperature of 17 degrees,  I honestly thought there would only be a few people crazy enough to bundle up and head outside for a 2-hour hike.  Well, I was wrong and that made me smile.  I was one of about 40 people ready to explore Umstead.  In the parking lot, we got our instructions and headed off on the Company Mill trail. I have hiked this trail many times before, but not with Ranger Billy Drakeford.  Although he has only been at the Umstead for about 1 ½ years, I found him to be very knowledgeable about the park and it was evident he had done his research..  

He took us to see several millstones that were works in progress and probably never made it to the mill.  We were introduced to an old Boy Scout camp council circle and learned how it is currently used for educational programs. While in the camp circle, we even sang a camp song.  Then our hike took us to the largest rock outcropping in the park.  Having hiked back to the point where we would return to the parking lot we were given the opportunity to extend the hike and visit a few more ‘hidden treasures’.  Next, we visited a stone building previously used for dynamite storage, the rusted out frame of an old Model A or T, the remnants of a building once used for smoking tobacco and wilderness survival shelters recently built by homeschool students.  I was impressed by the research current and former Umstead staff have done to collecting stories and information from descendants who once lived on the property.   

When the hike finished around 12:30 pm, I had forgotten how cold it was at the beginning.  Maybe because it was now 28 degrees or because I had such a fun time hiking and learning.  Either way, it was a great way to start my New Year and I’ll be looking to participate in future programs led by Ranger Billy.  

If you are looking to prepare for your #FirstDayHike 2019, consider taking part in some of the great hikes that will be offered through Hike NC a program of which NCRPA is a partner.  Hikes are scheduled to begin on March 20 - the first day of Spring.  If you are interested in hosting a hike this Spring, look for information coming out from NCRPA later this month.  

For more information on William B. Umstead State Park visit 

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Tags:  50at50  first day hike  hike  parks  recreation 

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