I spent a week in the Sandhills of North Carolina planning my upcoming year. Several evenings I took off for a little hiking. One of these evenings was the White Pines Nature Preserve which sits at the confluence of the Rocky and Deep River, between Sanford and Pittsboro in Chatham County. This is a unique 275 acres with a micro-climate that allows species of trees and plants that have long been extinct in other parts of the Piedmont of North Carolina to survive. The merger of the two rivers and the northern slopes of the ridges provide a cooling effect which I immediately felt when I stepped out of my car. It was around 5:30 pm, at the end of a hot and humid day. Although it felt cooler, it was still hot. Here’s my report.
I set off down the White Pines trail, which followed the ridge between the two rivers. I was curious about seeing a white pine, a tree that I knew well in Michigan and are only seen in mountainous areas in the South. A few hundred yards into my hike, I spotted my first white pine. The canopy along the top of the ridge is think, shading me for the sun and not allowing a lot of undergrowth.
In this land of long lead pines, the white pine stand out nicely. Shortly after seeing the first white pine, I come upon two hikers heading out. As there are two other cars in the parking lot, I assume I’ll soon be alone in the woods. The trail loses elevation as the ridge dripped down toward the confluence. There’s a nice breeze but I still sweat from the humidity. I take the River Trail, which drops off the ridge to the south, toward the Deep River. This is the lee side of the ridge and I no longer enjoy a cooling breeze. Coming alongside the river, the undergrowth is thick. I slap at a mosquito on the back of my neck as I am serenaded by a choir of insects singing their evening vespers. The trail parallels the river, a good ten or so feet above the water. There are a few places it would be easy to reach the water, which are probably used by fishermen, but most of the trail is separated from the water by a steep bank and a plenty of poison ivy.
|Bench at Confluence|
I pause at the confluence of the two rivers. Someone had built a nice log bench to site and enjoy, but the mosquitoes are bad enough that I decide to keep walking, heading up the Rocky River. In my youth, I paddled both of these rivers, but never had made it down this far, ending both trips at the 15-501 bridges. The Rocky River, if I remember correctly, was only runnable at high water and we ran it when the Haw River was well above flood stage and too danger to paddle in an open canoe.
The River Trail turns away from the Rocky and climbs the hill where I joins the White Pine Trail. Climbing the north side of the ridge, I notice more white pines along with maples, oaks, beech, American holly, hackberry, popular and even a cherry. The sun is dropping in the west and its rays come in at a low angle providing wonderful light. I take the White Pine Trail to the cut-off for the Gilbert Yager Trail, which leaves the ridge and funs along the flank of the ridge, cutting in and out of hollows that drain down to the Deep River. I spook up a couple of deer who run up the hills without pause. The trail is about a mile in length and drops me back at the far end of the parking lot. It’s almost 7:30. Time to find some dinner and prepare for a good night’s rest. Later that night, I would find two hitch-hikers from my travels (ticks) which I promptly dispatched down the drain. Thankfully, they hadn't yet dug into my skin.