Wilkerson Nature Preserve, Raleigh
*We have added Anne B. Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve to our list of Best Local Hikes in the Triangle Area. Though small it is also quiet, scenic and feels much larger, in part because its trails connect to the much larger Falls Lake area and the Mountains to Sea Trail.*
Not all the hikes we take are big ones. Sylvia and Brian often go far afield both in and out of their home state of North Carolina in search of great hikes, but we can’t always be away from home. We rely on smaller adventures closer to home to fill in the time between the big ones.
Plus, how else could we stay in shape for the bigger adventures? In fact, we think it’s critical to our physical conditioning, mental preparation and gear proofing. Without little adventures, how can you be ready for the big ones?
This has been especially true because we trying to get future sled dog captain and cash hound Fitz Roy ready for the big time. You have to build on small steps, not gigantic leaps.
The popular term for this is microadventure — short, local, cheap and accessible adventures. The term has been popularized by the English Adventurer/speaker/blogger Alastair Humphreys. It may have been Humphreys who coined the term, but he is certainly responsible for the growing familiarity of this neologism.
Humphryes, it should be pointed out, is not an adventurer of the micro sort. Among the bulleted points on his resume:
- National Geographic Society Adventurer of the Year (2012)
- Biked around the entire world (not including the ocean of course. This four-year pedaling odyssey is his greatest claim to fame)
- Walked across India, Iceland and the Empty Quarter of Arabia
- Rowed across the English Channel; apparently bored by this, he followed it up by rowing across the rest of the Atlantic Ocean
- Finished the 150 mile Marathon of the Sands, a foot face in the Sahara Desert considered to be one of the toughest in the world…with a broken foot.
Suffice it to say, Alastair Humphreys is very much a macro-adventurer. Yet he is also a strong proponent of smaller adventures as a way of keeping spirit of adventure alive even for busy people, as well as keeping average people active and healthy. It’s a good idea, and we follow his blog.
This past weekend, without really knowing it, our team embarked on a microadventure. We didn’t have time or budget for a big adventure, so we decided to take advantage of one of the smaller, local adventures the Raleigh area offers…this being Wilkerson Nature Preserve.
Officially called Annie Louise Wilkerson MD Nature Preserve, it is located very close to our house and very close to busy and heavily developed areas just off Falls of the Neuse Road in North Raleigh. Therefore it counts as an urban oasis.
For this hike we were joined not only by Fitz Roy, but also by Sylvia’s nieces Emily and Sayuri, visiting from Dallas. This made it our largest expedition yet, personnel wise.
Annie Wilkerson, by the way, was a doctor who deeded her 157 acre property to the city of Raleigh when she passed away at age 91 in 2006; she specifically wanted it used as a nature preserve. This was a woman with considerable foresight; left to itself, this tract would certainly have fallen prey to hungry developers.
The property feels MUCH larger than its 157 acres, despite the fact that development does encroach in places. One of the reasons for this is that the tract backs up to Falls Lake Preserve, a much larger wild area that itself surrounds a large man made lake.
Just off the visitor center parking lot is a very wide grassy area. The old Wilkerson homestead still stands here.
It’s also very dog friendly place.
We took the path that heads into the Forest. Appropriately, it is called the Forest Loop.
There is a huge tree here with a bench situated by it. I am not sure of the history of this tree but it is far larger and older than any others nearby. Usually, when you see trees like this in formerly cultivated areas, it was left standing because it was a boundary marker.
The Forest Loop is itself not a long trail, but midway along connects down to the lakeside and the Falls Lake Trail. This IS a long trail, being some 25 miles in length; plus, it’s also a part of the long distance Mountains to Sea Trail, which stretches some 1,200 miles from Coast to Mountaintop. We have hiked many parts of the Falls Lake Trail but have yet to hike all of it. And while we have many times on the MST, we have barely scratched the surface of it.
Yellow blazes mark the Forest Loop Trail
The trail soon leaves the preserve boundaries and enters the Army Corps of Engineers lands, where it soon reaches a junction with the Falls Lake Trail at a Kiosk. This is a section we have hiked many times…but Fitz and the girls haven’t.
The yellow blazes soon give way to the white blazes of the MST
One of the nicest sections of the Falls Lake Trail is where it runs along a small creek that flows into the lake.
Near here, we saw a deer, which was remarkably polite to pose for a picture despite the presence of an excited Fitz Roy.
After hiking all the way to Raven Ridge Road we retraced our steps back to the preserve, completed the loop and returned to the parking area. We passed some very fine bird feeders en route.
We ended up hiking about four miles in total, and despite the fact that it was an absolutely gorgeous weekend day – not too hot at all – we so almost no one else at all on the trail. Afterwards, Sylvia told Brian how impressed she was at the adventure, which we had thrown together with almost no planning, all just a ten minute drive from our house.
It was only later that Brian realized…Hey! We’d just had ourselves a Microadventure!
You can have one too. There are many ideas on Alaistair’s blog, but you can also check out our local hikes page or our past blog posts. We’ve done biking, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, trail running, swimming and bird watching within just a few miles of home.
You don’t have to go miles away from home to have an adventure…but even if you do, it’s the little adventures that pave the way for the big ones. We like to think the big adventures are in fact built upon a foundation of many smaller ones.
There are many parks where one can have a microadventure near Falls Lake, several of which form parts of either the Neuse River Greenway or the Falls Lake Trail or both. Check out Forest Ridge Park, or Blue Jay Point…or the Wilkerson preserve.
Have yourself a microadventure today – and maybe a macroadventure someday soon!