Capitol Area Greenway – Report Two: The Lake Lynn Trail 2.2 miles
For those visiting Raleigh or are new residents of Raleigh not be aware of the wonderful park system and the “Capitol Area Greenway.”
The “Capitol Area Greenway” is a project in process. Started in 1997 by the city council of Raleigh it has a master plan to make sure that there is open space for residents throughout the city. It is being built one trail, park and community area at a time.
Today the city boasts of at least 46 miles of trails connecting many of the 3000 acres of park land. Over the next few years I hope to follow all of these trails and share my impressions.
After a good start with the master plan, the parks and trails were damaged badly in 1996 by Hurricane Fran. Although a lot of clearing and rebuilding had to occur the years immediately after the storm the city is well underway on its project to create links between the various greenways. Though many of the trails are not yet connected, those that are create wonderful off road access to many parts of the city, especially for bikers and runners.
Lake Lynn Trail – Report Two
Lake Lynn Trail and park entrance is located on West Millbrook Road. The Lake is located between Lynn Road on the south; Leesville Road on the West; Strickland Road on the North; and Ray Road on the East. Residential housing borders the park within feet of the trail on both the east and west sides of the lake. The main Parking is on Lynn Road in a dip in the road between Leesville Road and Ray Road. The parking lot is a relatively small. A lot of the regular users of the trail live in the adjoining apartment complexes along either side of the lake.
Entrance to the trail can also be gained from a community center on Ray Road. There is a short trail from the community center parking lot to the Lake Lynn Trail. My best guess is this trail will add about six tens of a mile to the hike, coming and going. If you take this trail you will be starting at the north end of the lake, about a half mile south of Strickland Road.
My start point for this trail is the lower parking lot on Lynn Road. (Technically West Lynn Road) From the parking lot I can get to the trail either via a several small flights of steps or via a gradual inclined path. The two paths come together at the top of the stairs.
I chose to climb the stairs as it gets me to the trail faster. Two my left I see two women with strollers following the more gradual incline. There is a map of the trail near the stairs showing the trail’s outline. At the top of the stairs is an emergency phone and one of the many green trash cans the dot the trail. At one point on the trail I saw the normal dog leash notice with something special; free bags to help you remember to pick up after your favorite friend.
Located sandwiched between many apartment complexes, there are a plethora of dog lovers who frequent this park.
At the top of the stairs, I take a right walking across the top of the earthen dam that holds back the floods during torrential releases from the heavens. It is a dry, somewhat chilly day as I stroll across the wide paved path. The embankment looks like a clone of the one at Shelley Lake. The outlet is even on the Eastern side of the embankment just like the one at Shelley Lake. Other than the embankment layout the two trails are very different.
Lake Lynn has less in the way of steep hills making it a much easier hike for strollers and older folks. It also has a significantly larger portion of the trail over water on boardwalks.
The view from the embankment looking north toward the lake is very beautiful. This day it was sunny and the trees along the banks reflect clearly in the still waters of the lake.
Out in the center of the lake is a flock of Canadian Geese gliding quietly in neat rows moving toward some destination on the western shore.
Continuing east across the embankment I can see the trail turns north, into the woods. At this turn is a white X which to my mind’s imagination marks a great place for a parachutist to drop to earth. In truth I have no idea of the purpose, but given the trees around this location, I have misgiving that someone with a parachute is going to come flying in any time soon.
At the turn I am immediately above the outflow from the lake. To my right I see water shooting out of a shiny corrugated pipe, this mist dancing around it glistening in the sunlight. To my left is a huge concrete drain sucking just the right amount of water to keep the stream below gurgling and meandering toward Crabtree Creek or the Neuse River. (I’m not sure which or maybe both)
Going north I enter into a mixed wood of deciduous and evergreens. The trees here look younger, with some exceptions, than the trees around Shelley.
Immediately, or nearly immediately, I notice the first of many apartment building built along the east side of the lake. The boundary line from the shore to the edge of private property is not all that much.
The trail is however very well maintained, quiet and has enough nature to be pleasing.
Almost as quickly I notice one of the numerous seats set alone the trail. If you tire easily or need to rest for any reason, on this trail it is a short distance to the next opportunity to rest on your laurels.
Now I come upon a little covered deck. You know the kind you might see in a park, too small for a band but large enough for a small wedding. Surrounding by trees, with a moderate view of the lake, it would be a great place to be with your favorite person watching the moon rise over the lake.
Just behind this is a number of nice apartment building. That is one thing I notice, that though there is a lot of housing here, it is very nice, clean and attractive in design. This is definitely a great place for living.
As I stroll along, I notice a number of gaps in the woods where people put in there boats. This is another advantage to living here I would guess. I see a number of skiffs, canoes and an occasional rowboat as I proceed onward.
The trail meanders moving a little left then a bit to the right. I walk up and down small gentle hills. The water is to the left, visible but not right by the path. The housing is right just far enough back to maintain the park like effect of the trees.
I see squirrels and small birds foraging in the leaves strewn on the forest floor. As a dog comes by, suddenly the small creatures vanish only to reappear as the dog moves on.
As I come up to a bridge I see a pair of geese waddling their way down toward to shore line. The geese here are immigrants from Canada who came for a visit and discovered what a wonderful place this is. Like many of us, they are staying. These guys nest in some bushes near one of the apartment complexes. They just waddle down in order to be fed bread by children and elderly folks who get great pleasure feeding them.
Thanks to the generosity of some government program, they also have an abundance of fresh fish.
This first bridge I have come to is a favorite fishing bridge. Close to housing it is easily accessible by people who may not be able to reach more distance bridges.
Except for distance, the trail at Lake Lynn is exceptional in its accessibility. It does however lack any park facilities on the trail itself. The nearest facilities are at the community center on Ray Road.
The trail continues north across the bridge and my feet follow it without much delay. I have my camera with me, so I stop briefly from time to time to snap a quick picture.
Across the bridge, I notice that the apartment complexes have improved the paths from there facilities to the greenway since I last visited here. Some have replaced dirt paths with tar or concrete. In a way it is kind of a melding of the complexes into the greenway or vice versa. The greenway is a fantastic natural amenity for the people who live by the lake.
On the left, toward the lake, I see a picnic table by the shore. There are only a few of these around the entire lake. They are usually empty, so anyone wishing to have a picnic by the lake should be able to find an available one. Bring a blanket just in case would not be a bad idea.
I spy something in a tree that looks interesting. I think, with my wild imagination, it might be an animal of some sort. Maybe it could be a raccoon, porcupine or small bear. It turns out that my imagination is too large and my eyesight too poor. The cool animal is just a growth of some sort halfway up the tree. I take a picture of it and continue on my way.
My flittering between things I see along the trail is one of the main reasons my youngest daughter will no longer go on walks or hikes with me. I will stop to look at every interesting bird, leaf, bug or misshapen branch. She prefers to just go and keep going. I notice many of the runners and some bikers seem to be so focused on the end result. (A run of a certain distance) They don’t see the ducks, squirrels, birds, clouds, glistening water or hear the gurgling streams alone the way.
Finally I reach the wooden boardwalk that marks the northern most point in the trail. Here a little side trail goes to the community center on Ray Road. It is about three tenths of a mile along a pleasant wooded trail. They have bathrooms there but I don’t think they have food. They may have a machine there but I can’t vouch for that.
The wooden boardwalk here is at its widest point. It is a great place to see and feed ducks, geese and turtles. More recently seagulls have been trying to horn their way into the feeding opportunities. In the summer this area can be a bit of a bottleneck for runners and bikers.
Sometimes you can see Blue Herrings and egrets in the water here. I have seen raccoons and King Fishers in this part of the lake in the past. There are two kinds of turtles that occupy this lake. One type is some kind of common North Carolina turtle. It eats bugs and small fish which are readily available in the lake. These turtles have simple turtle like bodies and sun on the logs like stacks of pancakes spread out, one on the other, on the next.
The other kind of turtle is the infamous Alligator Snapping Turtle. (At least one to that variety) These turtles have a neck nearly as long as there shell. They look very strange when they are swimming, like the shell is up and the head down in the water. I didn’t know what these guys ate until I saw one in action. A duck swam by with her five little ducklings in tow. As they passed over one of these vicious turtles, one of the ducklings disappeared. It bobbed up a couple of times, but the turtle had it firmly. In a minute the duck only had four ducklings in tow. These turtles are not vegetarians.
Continuing my stroll along the trail I cross the northern part of the park on the boardwalk. I continue on the wooden decking going south in the direction of my end point.
The views of the lake on the western side of the lake are rarely obstructed. Much of the trail is on wooden planks over water. It is an incredible vista. The other fishing I see today is along the boardwalk on the western shore. Like other lakes in the city, the fishermen (fisherpersons?) are hoping to land catfish. I have the same doubts about this lake as other lakes due to runoff from the streets.
Going south I move quickly as there are only a few dog walkers today. This is often the most congested part of the route. There continue to be side routes into apartment complexes. Many complexes have signs hanging on the lake side hoping to entice folks to put down their roots and stay for a year or ten. If I didn’t already live in a wonderful neighborhood, this would be very enticing.
From the boardwalk I have the lake on my left and on my right across maybe twenty feet of water is the western shore. Along the shoreline are dozens of ducks and geese nesting on the forest ground among the trees. There are beautiful Ring Neck Ducks, smart looking Canadian Geese, African Geese, (I’m not sure where in Africa they originated) domestic white ducks, some grey geese, some other wild ducks I don’t know the name of and some birds that seem to be pretending they are ducks either for the food or the protection of the geese.
Now the boardwalk ends and I am back on a tar path. It isn’t far till I reach a wooden bridge. That flotilla of Canadian Geese is just reaching the bridge as I cross. They took their time gliding here from the lake’s center. It isn’t all that far across this lake. They are showing signs of having travel together too long. As they pass under the bridge some of the smaller geese (younger I think) peck at each other and fan their wings. The well organized flock appears to be fraying at both ends and in the middle.
A load honking by one of the larger geese and a quick commanding waving of its massive wings seems to bring quiet back to the flock.
I leave the bridge for the paved part of the trail. I notice on my right another one of those little covered decks. This one is adorned by a sign for Bridgeport Apartments. Across from this on the water side are a number of boats by the shore.
There are many nice vistas along the remaining trail as I travel south on the western shore. The trees are thin and I can see the lake both north of me and south.
I come out of the woods overlooking a bridge with a dock going out into a small inlet. (It’s a small lake, so the inlet needs to be small) In the woods behind the bridge are some remnants of small bridges that look a little out of place. During Hurricane Fran and the rebuilding that followed, some of the boardwalk routes changed just a little. Here the pieces that didn’t fit back in all that well, are still there, presumably in use.
Overhead you can see high tension power lines. This is the only place along the route you will see these. The power right of way just barely cuts across overhead here and then disappears into the distance both north and south.
As I pass this area and reenter the woods, I notice many small vines starting there way up the trees, getting a head start on spring. These trees have been thinned out over the years by storms; a very still have vines wrapping their way around the trunks into the canopy portion of the tree. It is very characteristic of NC forest to have vines climbing the trees.
Toward summer one beautiful and treacherous vine will visit these trees. This is the Poison Ivy vine. It grows incredibly well here alone the lake side. The leaves can be incredibly large. Although I am one of the fifty percent who are allergic to the leaves, I really love the beautiful display the dark shiny leaves of the plant put on as the wind their way skyward.
Now I’m getting close to the end of the trail, the parking lot, where I began my journey.
I come upon an older couple trying to coach a pair of geese closer together. The geese were having none of it. Each time they tried to get them to move together, one would move further apart.
Just above the couple’s heads, sitting on a knob, was a large fat grey squirrel that seemed quite bemused by the goings on. Striking up a conversation with the couple, I learned that they come out every day and feed the ducks and squirrels. They told me their favorite was an old grey goose with and injured leg, which begins hobbling up to the path as soon as it sees them coming in the distance. It is always first in line for snacks.
For these folks the park is a magical world of semi-tame creatures and love. It reminds me of the world the St. Francis of Assisi would have us live in. This couple has found it in this treasure of a park created by that plan the city of Raleigh hatched thirty years ago. St. Francis is probably getting a little smile each time these folks go for their walk.
For me this is the end point in my journey. There is just a small open area to cross and the four small flights of stairs and I am back at my car. The open area is often occupied by a person on two playing with their dog. Today it is empty. I cross and sort of skip down the stairs. It’s been a good journey.
I used my camera to document the things I saw but haven’t figured out the right names or how to describe them. I also use the pictures to refresh my rather faulty memory.
In my opinion, (as usual) I would recommend this trail for bikers (wide and paved), hikers (two mile distance), runners (short easy distance), strollers, roller skaters (relatively smooth), older/very young hikers (few mild hills)
Activities in the park other than the trail include the boats (private only), fishing (either from the fishing dock or the Eastern banking), Picnic (your own blanket and no fires), Kite flying and feeding the birds and turtles.
Lake Lynn is an isolated park with no connector trails to other parks or greenway trails.