A Walk in the Woods



Growing up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, I loved being able to bike or jog 10 minutes from the center of town and find myself surrounded by nature far from civilization. Or you could drive a short distance in almost any direction, and there were an endless number of national forests, state parks and trails to explore. Although Charlotte has plenty of shaded streets and pleasant city parks like Freedom and Latta, it’s not quite the same.

To escape from it all in Charlotte, you need several hours or a day to spare for an excursion to Crowders Mountain or western North Carolina. So I was thrilled to discover a place less than 15 minutes from home that offers 2,300 acres of unspoiled natural beauty, including lakes, forests, rolling pastures, tent camping sites and a trail system that’s 35 miles long and growing.

The Anne Springs Close Greenway is a privately-owned recreational area just over the South Carolina line that’s easy to access for Charlotteans – driving south on I-77, you take Carowinds Exit 90 and turn left. Go straight for a few miles and the main entrance is clearly marked on the left side of the road.

My husband and I like to park near the 28-acre Lake Haigler and wear out our hyper five-year-old mutt with a walk around its perimeter, stopping at several points to let him swim (and get even more exhausted).

In other parts of the park, there are trails that crisscross winding creeks over swinging bridges. Setting out from the Dairy Barn entrance, you can walk past log cabins of early Carolinas settlers on the way to see the horses, sheep and goats kept in nearby pastures. You can even trace the path of the original Nation Ford Road, the ancient trading route along the Eastern seaboard that was traveled by the Catawba Indians and later used by colonial settlers and Revolutionary War armies.

Some trails are restricted to hikers while others allow horseback riders and bikers. The daily use fees are reasonable – $2 per person for hiking, $3 for cycling, $10 for horseback riding and $12 per campsite. Down by the lake you can rent kayaks by the half-hour.

Go on the right Saturday and you might just catch a special event, like the upcoming Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, September 19, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Dairy Barn.

When I need a break from city life, this beautiful greenway is just the ticket. For those of you who have been there, do you have a favorite trail or area of the park?