Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

I love to hike. So when the weather turned cooler(ish), Sarah C. and I met in Cary to try out the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Imagine it: a nature preserve in the middle of Cary!

The Preserve is 150 acres that runs along Swift Creek. And, in case you didn't guess by the name, supports a population of Eastern Hemlock trees. Apparently that is rare for this area as this is about 200 miles farther than their typical habitat (the Appalachian Mountains). Conjecture, by scientists who tend to know their stuff, is that this happened during the glacial period about 10,000 years ago. Which means that Hemlock Bluffs is believed to be a "unique relic of the ancient past."

There are about 3 miles of trail throughout the Preserve. Here is a snap, in my topsy-turvy unlevel world, of what that trail system looks like:
A few of the trails have observation decks off of them. And I like that map because it tells you where the steps are (if you can blow up that photo large enough).

So yeah, some of the trails have steps. And also note that the trails are mulched or rougher. Which means you either need a hefty jogging stroller and to avoid the steps (so stick to Beech Tree Cove Trail), or you need a carrier. Or, of course, your kids can walk. Three miles isn't that long and, on top of that, you don't have to hoof all 3 of them if you don't want to. Pick the shorter, albeit step-heavy, Swift Creek Trail (which also happens to have the largest known breeding populations of several salamander species) if you are worried about distance. None of the terrain appeared too intense but we didn't get too far around the Preserve.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve also houses the Stevens Nature Center. This center is going to have your bathrooms (with changing table, and very clean!), a gift shop, and a public exhibition space. But there is also a classroom here and this is where the magic is. Stevens Nature Center offers fabulous programming for all ages throughout the year. Sarah and I can't wait to get our tots there someday soon to check out a class. We knew we were in when we saw outside the Center a children's learning garden that looks hands on and successful (you must be part of the class to head to the garden and play in the dirt).

But these classes are all about teaching kids how beautiful nature is. There are parent/child programs for kids ages 1 & up, Nature Nuts for kids 3-5, Curiosity Clubs for ages 5-8, and so on all the way up to age 18. And parents: don't fret! They have adult programs, too! There are photography classes, yoga classes, landscaping classes, organized hikes, and more. Beyond that, even, there are senior classes and family fun outings. They also offer Track-Out programs.

Some of these classes do require a fee and depending on what you do and if you are a member can run you anywhere between $8-$25. Honestly, the schedule is so diverse that you need to glance at it for yourself and pick your fun. Click on the link we provide below to get to the course offerings.

Picnicking is discouraged in the park. Ritter Park abuts Hemlock Bluffs and has a playground and picnic area. We'll be putting a post up about that very soon since we tried that spot out as well. We don't know of any way to walk to Ritter Park from the Nature Preserve (we need to figure out the Cary Greenway system a little better), but even if you get in the car and drive it is incredibly close.

This place looks beautiful and I can't wait to go back again sometime in the future with DH and a more-inclined-to-walk-further C. Or at least strap him in his Kelty and head out into the trees.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
http://www.townofcary.org/
or http://www.hemlockbluffs.org/
Open daily 9 am - sunset

Stevens Nature Center at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Parks__Recreation___Cultural_Resources/Facilities/Nature_Center.htm
919-387-5980


2616 Kildaire Farm Road
Cary


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