As North Carolina's tricky spring started rolling out at the end of February, you know, the hot one day, cold the next, I knew it was time to get back out hiking. Obviously, if you live in this state and are a fan of hiking, your eyes will nearly always look westwards towards the mountains, and I would be the same way. But living in Fayetteville puts me too far away from the mountains for a good dayhike, therefore, I needed to find areas close by where I could at least satisfy my hiking desire and start losing some of that winter fat. Raven Rock is nearby in Lillington, but that is still a little over an hour away and I had been there weekly when I lived in Lillington. No, I needed something closer, and I found this at Jones Lake, a mere 25 minute drive with 0 traffic.
Jones Lake is one of the Carolina Bay lakes, bodies of water oriented from southeast to northwest. There are many theories on how they were formed. They are, except for one lake, highly acidic and while the water is clear, its a dark brown color because of all the tanins in the water. Because of its high acidity, fish don't thrive there as much as in other places, although, fishing is still fun there.
The park is comprised of two lakes, Jones and Salters lake. The park entrance is at Jones lake, with a really nice picnic area, sand volleyball and a small but nice sandy beach. Again, while the water is dark, its not cloudy. As the lakes are really shallow, the kids love this aspect. Within the park you have three distinct areas, the lake and its shore, the bay area directly around each lake, and the pine forest in between the lakes.
There are also only two trails at the park, the main trail, a five mile hike around Jones lake, goes through all three of these areas and provides a nice change in scenery in this short hike. Halfway into the Bay Trail, one can take a 1.75 there and back trail into Salters Lake, leaving the pine forest and entering the Bay and then seeing the lake. Added all together, this almost seven mile hike makes the time spent there more than worthwhile.
The trails are, of course, flat. But this is the only simple part of it. In the bay area, the trail is covered in roots and rocks, making one constantly be aware of where they are stepping. Once one clears the bay and enters the pine forest the path becomes sandy, and nothing is more tricky to someones fatigue level than a flat sandy trail. You get much more of a workout than one imagines at first.
Again, the variety in the scenery is really nice, but what Ive always enjoyed about this trail (I have returned on many occasions) is the fact that there is so much visible fauna there. The proximity of the water brings them all out. Birds are seemingly constantly flying about while frogs seem to only stop their song when you near their water hole. In my couple of hikes I have seen a Red Bellied water snake, a Copperhead and a Corn snake. Yes, I yielded to the Copperhead.
The main trail also has three overlooks, where the lake rushes into view from the dense bay brush, and also links up with the fishing pier. Its possible to see the fire watch tower from the fishing pier. I really need to find a way to get up there to take pictures. There is camping available there with showers and running water and one of these days Im gonna camp there to wake up at sunrise and get pictures of the sun coming up over the lake.
I have always been a mountain hiker, or at least hills. But I have begun broadening where I hike, and I look forward to checking out more trails along the coast and its coastal lands.
I do have one thought though. I enjoy biking as well. This park has service road that goes deep into the park itself, part of the bay trail goes on it. I could see them allowing bikes on that road and bringing in even more people. I wonder if anyone has thought of that or if there is a specific reason they don't allow it.
If you're ever down this way, check it out, its an easy dayhike with a picnic area available.
If you have been, Id love to hear what you think about this park.
|The pine forest. Such a dramatic change from the bay brush.|
|Fearless trooper. He still swears he sees a bear every time we go.|