For the sixth year in a row, some friends and I gathered for an afternoon hike on New Year's Day. This year we chose Umstead State Park. Umstead is fairly large, and there are entrances from both I-40 and Hwy 70. We'd done a hike on the Hwy 70 side before, so we tried the I-40 side, which enters off Harrison Avenue.
We walked the "Company Mill Trail" down to Crabtree Creek and a little beyond. The trail was rocky but well-marked. The air was cold and exhilarating. A nice start to the New Year. At the trailhead:
A sample of what the trail looked like:
Once down at Crabtree Creek, it's easy to see the ruins of the old dam that was in use at least as early at 1810.
There was also a grist mill in use at the site in the 1800s, and the old mill stone is now displayed beside the trail. The mill stone was thought to be lost, but in the mid-1990's it was found in the riverbed downstream from the dam and recovered. A National Guard helicopter helped pull it out of the creekbed and place it beside the trail.
Going along further down the trail you can see the old foundation of what was probably the mill operator's house. Also further down the trail--we didn't get that far--there is a bridle trail that is part of what was the "Durham Road" that is an old, old trail connecting Raleigh and Durham. Evidently an former stage road can be found bisecting this route too and I'd like to go back soon and find it. (This information is via Randy Johnson's Hiking North Carolina, a guide worth owning, in my opinion.)
There is a nice new metal bridge that crosses Crabtree Creek and another map on the other side of the bridge for checking your route. This section of the trail is nice for stopping and enjoying climbing the rocks, checking out the old dam ruins and the mill stone, and listening to the rushing water. The entire loop of the Company Mill trail is 4.8 miles. Down to Crabtree Creek and back is just over 2 miles.
I love to see the surprising green ferns peeking out of the brown leaves in winter.
It's a nice hike and closeby too. The park was very well kept with plenty of maps at the trailhead. A highly recommended afternoon hike.