The Raleigh Naturalist

June 29, 2008

Lots to Lose – Lots to Save

Filed under: East Raleigh, Nature Lore, Pecans & Mistletoe — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 8:53 pm

This post was originally published Feb. 24, 2008.

This meadow off Sunnybrook is surely doomed, but it is sure fun to browse for now.  I have seen deer and gray foxes, lots of butterflies and a wonderful diversity of plant communities that range themselves around the various landscapes contained on this old farm.  It is the remnants of the very large farm bisected by the eastern stretch of the Beltline and displayed in all its historicity at Oak View County Park right across the highway.  This privately owned portion contains two ponds, one large enough to be called Jones Lake, an abandoned farmhouse, and a small grove of pecan trees.  The main pond is dammed at an unusually deep cut into sandstone that makes for an imposing ravine just below the dam, which then delivers the water to Crabtree, close by.  You can walk from the Sunnybrook meadow down a hill to the pipeline cut that parallels the beltline, and follow that water all the way to the pumping station , to see where those teenagers flung their Dad’s sports car over the guard rail, and you can see the memorials left at the site, which is still slightly blackened and scarred from the conflagration. This floodplain zone is wet and full of animal tracks.  The soil is sandy and obviously derived from the sandstone bowl which helps form Jones Lake. Or you can walk across the top of the dam, jump past the ravine, and walk around to the upper pond near Poole Road.  Here you see the pecans and the upland plants that are taking over from them.  Whatever subdivision gets created here will surely make some benefit out of the water holes and the many mature trees.  You would hope, at least.  I also used to park on Poole Road just past the fire station and walk in from that direction, but that end, between the upper pond and Poole, is now already under construction.  The clear cut for that part is not promising.  See below.


The meadow ends at the slope down to the creek that drains Jones Lake.

              The upper pond and pecan grove.

And the clearcut.

January 21, 2008

The Volkswagen boulders and winter findings

Filed under: East Raleigh, Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore — Tags: , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 3:47 am

At Buckeye Trail’s beginning there is a strange hill hump meadow thing that looks very out of place.  It is an old rather small landfill that must have served Raleigh a very long time ago, but recently enough to be mowed and monitored as landfills now must be.  It swells at the base of a ridge coming down from Peartree Lane across Milburnie Road into the Crabtree floodplain and diverts the waters coming down from Longview Lake into a deeply carved creek that parallels Milburnie and strikes Crabtree just north of the Bow Tie Club, where a very dubiously placed parking lot has been scraped out right next to the creek and seemingly in the water’s right of way.  Anyway, this landfill meadow hides a local kids’ landmark on its wooded northern slope: two huge boulders that must have been unearthed in the landfill’s operation. I mean huge! You know how big they are? Check the title!

 They sit in the middle of this woods in east Raleigh like alien monoliths. There just are no big rocks in this part of Raleigh – it’s either red clay or sand, but no rocks.  Before the greenway got built, I would go every few winters and make a ritual of being able to locate, once again, these well hidden icons of my childhood woodcraft.  Now, the cross-country trail which begins at the top of the landfill meadow takes me down the ridge to a spot where I can hop off and find them in minutes.   Which is cool, and I still go.  But only in winter.  There are large number of sewer line cuts and various off-trail adventures which poison ivy forbids from me most of the year.  But in the dead of winter, I can explore these spots with impunity – as long as I don’t grab any vines while hopping ditches!


 This stretch of greenway shows Crabtree slowing down and deepening as it winds through the marshy joining with Marsh Creek.  The quiet stretch below is just before turning at Milburnie to slide under New Bern Avenue and curve with the beltline toward the Neuse River junction at Anderson Point.  Another touchstone on this walk (available at all times of year, right next to the greenway) is the largest oak gall of which I know.  These red bugs (and I mean true bugs for those in the know) come swarming out of it dangerously early in the spring some years.

There are all kinds of nifty finds on this easternmost stretch of greenway.  Below are two interesting types of fungi: shelf mushrooms and slime mold.

December 7, 2007

Crabtree at the rocky overhang on Buckeye Trail

 This is the section of Crabtree my friend Bob Bryant and I used to run to straight after school in fifth grade.  We’d carve letters in the big beech that overhung the last big ravine before the creek, and slide down the same bank troughs as the beavers did at night.  This was the sixties and that section of Crabtree marked the city limit.  My Dad had brought me here first, 6 blocks from our house at the east edge of Raleigh, showed me the beeches and the rocky overhang, and promised death if I ever tried to cross the water.  That admonishment lasted quite some time, but became a motivating taboo later.  We played hard down on Crabtree, shot BBs, hauled in catfish and literally dreamed of what lay beyond the muddy banks that were then the city limit of Raleigh. On a nostalgic walk during early college years, I was astonished to see a construction project plowing through our old haunts. They had started work on the Raleigh Greenway.


Buckeye Trail is the oldest section of the greenway, running from Milburnie Road near Wake Med, upstream to Crabtree’s intersection with Capital Boulevard at the old Farmer’s Market.  It is considered the “birdiest” section by the Wake County Birders.  For example, I (no birder myself) have see all three of the woodpeckers likely to be seen – red-breasted, red-headed, and the crow-sized pileated – on this two and one-half mile walk. Below is the eastern beginning of the greenway – an old Raleigh landfill turned into a meadow – great place for seeing deer at dusk.

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