The Umstead Coalition 

Celebrating Umstead State Park since 1934!

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Umstead Inspirations Blog

With over 1.6 million visitors last year, Umstead State Park is certainly well used and well loved by the surrounding community.

This park is not only a safe haven for a variety of species of wildlife and plants, but it also supports the health of the surrounding community by providing a respite from the daily grind and an opportunity for communing with nature and exercising the body.

Want to know more about what’s happening in the park? Our biweekly blog , Umstead Inspirations, is designed to entertain, educate, enhance appreciation, and encourage involvement in upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

We’ll tell you what to look for on a seasonal basis including blooming wildflowers, activities of animals, and weather effects. This is your park, and we welcome your ideas regarding the blog.  Please share the posts to encourage others to visit and enjoy. See you on the trails!

Blog Administrator: Ranger Billy Drakeford

  • 04/22/2019 1:52 PM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)

    Our Venomous Snake of Umstead

    Snakes have an extreme biblical bad rap; mentioned over eighty times in extremely negative connotations.  After all, it was a serpent that offered Eve the “apple” in the Garden of Eden and caused the curse on all snakes followed by the subsequent curse on humanity for eternity.  Imagine, if you will, carrying the weight of the downfall of humanity on your back.  That is bad press on a level that is almost impossible to come back from. 

    As an example, my Grandmother Jenny was a saint and should have been canonized, Catholic or not.  This angelic woman of such a gentle, sweet, kind, compassionate and loving nature would turn into a murderous hoe-wielding ninja in the presence of snakes.  She would chop any snake in half, quarters, eighths and sixteenths with a vengeance and feel justified like she had done the community and the world in general, a favor.  For her and countless others, killing snakes was the unspoken 11th commandment.

    Here at Umstead State Park, we are trying to buck the tide of negative press and look charitably and dare I say admiringly, on our legless friends.  We will look at the only venomous snake found in the park, the copperhead, which also is the most common venomous snake in the majority of North Carolina. 

    The copperhead, as well as the cottonmouth and rattlesnakes are all pit vipers with movable fangs in the front of their mouth that actually fold against the roof of their mouths when not injecting venom into prey.  What makes these snakes state-of-the-art is the pits that look like holes between the eye and nostril.  These pits are heat sensing organs that sense infrared radiation which is the heat produced by their prey.  The downside of these amazing organs is that snakes probably have the shortest game of hide and go seek imaginable. 

    To identify a copperhead, look for a heavy bodied snake with a light brown body and darker hourglass shaped crossbands (some say they look like large Hershey kisses.)  The top of their head is normally a solid coppery brown.  In leaf litter or grass their coloring is extremely effective.  Copperhead babies look like the adults but have a yellow tip to their tail. 

    Copperheads are found in the majority of terrestrial habitats and eat a wide variety of prey that consists of mice, voles, other snakes, frogs, lizards, birds, and even insects.  

    The bad news about copperheads is that they are responsible for about 80% of the snakebites on any given year in N.C.  The good news is that most of those bites are avoidable when you simply leave the copperhead alone and do not mess with it.  Their bite is rarely ever fatal to humans but very painful.  Perhaps more painful is the medical bill if you have to get antivenom which may take six to eight vials at $2000 to $3000 a pop.  Ouch indeed.

    It is time to stop hating on our snake friends and appreciate how awesome they are.  With a little awareness and restraint, we can all get along.  Go to for a fun look at snake names.

    Know more to see more,

    Ranger Billy

    How many copperheads do you see?


  • 03/29/2019 10:54 AM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

    At sunrise on an upcoming April morning, volunteers will gather in a grassy meadow near Umstead State Park to erect an entertainment stage, festival tents, educational displays, and a finish line with flags waving in the breeze. Musicians will begin to play as the first cars arrive. Soon the meadow will fill with over 400 walkers, runners, and cyclists of all ages and abilities waiting for the signal to make their way into the park on bike and bridle trail. 

    This is the Walk/Run/Bike for Umstead, taking place this year on Saturday, April 13 from 8am-1:30pm. This is also your opportunity to enjoy outdoor group exercise, arts and entertainment, delicious food-truck fare, and the chance to win numerous prizes — all while supporting your backyard park. 

    There is definitely something for everyone at this annual event, whether you choose to get a little exercise or not.  You can choose to walk or run along the beautiful four-mile course; or if cycling is your thing, join the 12-mile intermediate mountain bike ride. Triangle Off-Road Bike Club (TORC) will also offer a guided 4-mile ride designed for beginners. Prizes will be awarded to the top four finishers in several age categories in the walk/run event, with top finishers winning $100 gift certificates.

    Once you cross the finish line, there’s much more to enjoy.  If you’ve worked up an appetite, you can snack on complimentary hummus and pita bread, trail mix cookies, fruit, vegetarian protein bars and more. Then shop for hand crafted pottery, jewelry, and original art. While enjoying the educational exhibits, make sure to listen for your names as dozens of door prize winners are announced. You will also have the opportunity to bid on gift cards for dinners, pet sitting, ballet tickets, artwork and much more in the silent auction. To see a listing of prizes, vendors, and entertainers, visit the Walk/Run/Bike event page.

    Register by Sunday, April 7 to take advantage of the early bird registration discount. Not only will you support the park with your registration fees, but funds raised will go towards restoration of the historic cabins and mess halls, invasive plant control, and environmental education for your wonderful state park.

    by Arianne Hemlein

    Register Here

    Early Bird Registration Discount through Sunday April 7

    On-line registration through Thursday April 11.  On-site registration Friday April 12  (5-7pm) and event day April 13 (8-9am)

  • 03/26/2019 10:18 AM | Nancy Pekarek (Administrator)

    Rod Broadbelt is a legend among Umstead hikers. For two decades, he’s led long hikes — up to 20 miles — through the ruins in Umstead State Park, encouraging and challenging outdoor enthusiasts to learn about and enjoy the history and beauty of the place.  Now there’s a park bench dedicated to Rod at Reedy Creek Lake — a well-deserved honor for a true “Friend of the Forest.” 

    The 80-plus friends and family who gathered for the bench dedication took photos, shared hugs, and traded more than one story about Rod’s legendary speed on the trail.  Ranger Billy joked, “I’m thinking all these pictures, Rod, are probably because they haven't seen your face very much on your hikes, as much as your backside and your elbows.”  Fellow hiker Pete Vandeberg quipped: “I just remember: ‘Five minute lunch, then you got to get moving again!’” 

    Rod acknowledged his need for speed, even when he was by far the oldest person on the hike. “I think I’m actually a frustrated want-to-be drill sergeant,” Rod said. “I like to holler at people: ‘Pick up the pace! Move it! Move it!’”

    Rod came to North Carolina in the late 1990s from Pennsylvania, and searched for a good hiking club. He couldn’t find any that did more than 6.5 miles, so he began leading his own 20-milers “because nobody else was doing it.”  He was determined to share his love of the forest with others.

    Joe Miller, Chief Exploration Officer at and former N&O “Take It Outside” columnist, remembers one hike a couple of years ago. 

    “It was raining hard the morning of his 8-mile, off-trail hike,” Joe said.  “Rod was ecstatic; even though it was pouring, there was no lightening in the mix (that was the only thing that would scuttle a hike: lightening). Three people showed up expecting a hike, and by gum Rod was going to take them on a hike.” 

    In part because of his unbridled enthusiasm, Rod’s hikes became wildly popular.  But as Pete says, “More than leading hikes, he led people to the park.”  Rod would recruit people from anywhere — the gym, his church, his neighborhood, the trails — and get them out into the woods.

    “I want people to grow in their outdoor concern and their physical, spiritual and mental health,” Rod said.  “It’s been a real pleasure and privilege for me to learn about people who could only do a five-mile hike to begin with who ended up doing 15 or 20 miles. It’s a real pleasure to see them develop and grow, and learn to appreciate God’s beautiful creation out here, and what a wonderful park we have. To me this park has been like heaven on earth.” 

    Rod’s favorite areas of the park are the CCC camp, the Boy Scout camp, and the Genevieve Woodson Log Cabin Theatre. He loved the daffodils that mark the old homesteads, the ruins that dot the landscape, and the natural beauty of it all.  As Ranger Billy said, Rod “opened a lot of doors to the beautiful parts of this park to a lot of people.”

    Rod’s advice to future hikers?  “Keep on moving. Use it or lose it. Onward and upward.”

    So come out to the park.  Move it or lose it.  Enjoy the daffodils.  Learn about the ruins.  And after you’ve been hiking for a few miles, head over to the bench at Reedy Creek Lake, take a (short) rest, and say a word of thanks to Rod Broadbelt, “Friend of the Forest.” 

    by Nancy Pekarek

    Photo credits:  Gil Johnson

    Rod, his wife, and family and friends celebrate Rod's newly-dedicated bench at Reedy Creek Lake. 

  • 03/13/2019 10:37 AM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)


    My highest aspiration as a young boy was to be like an Apache scout, looking at one track and being able to tell the animal, the sex, how long since the animal came by and what the animal was doing.  Growing up in the sandhills in S.C, identifying animal tracks, trying to follow them and deciphering their movements became part of my DNA. 

    My knowledge of tracks was hard earned with more unsolved mysteries than solved.  Some mysterious tracks and signs took years to decipher, but my base of knowledge grew by watching animals and then going over to look at their tracks as well as reading all animal and nature books available.  Learning this way, you don’t forget things, which is why I am highly dubious of all the iPhone apps that make it too easy/quick to identify birds, plants, and tracks. What is learned so effortlessly is quickly forgotten. (Stepping off my soapbox now) 

    My best friend and I would track each other, doing our best to lay down a confusing trail which would throw the other off.  We soon upped the ante by trying to ambush one another with a well-placed BB gun shot while the other was following the trail. This game did wonders for paying attention to the terrain while tracking.  The few times that it snowed in S.C., we tracked and harassed all the local wildlife, finding their dens and lays and feeding areas.  It was almost too easy, those wonderful days. 

    Then in 1978, Reader’s Digest did a condensed version of The Tracker, a true story of Tom Brown Jr, a man who had lived my dream as a child and was trained  to track by an Apache.  To say I was inspired is an understatement on the level of saying Yellowstone National Park is a so-so place to visit. I vowed, much like Scarlet O’ Hara in the fading evening light, that as God is my witness, I shall meet this man or die. 

    It took me about four years to make this happen when I attended Tom Brown’s school at the age of 18 up in Asbury, New Jersey.  He was an enigma and not Mr. Friendly, but the real deal when it came to tracking.  My passion for tracking only increased during the week I spent at his school, though it was a little surreal to be surrounded by a group of people who were into all the things I was and who looked at me as normal.  It was a nice contrast to my brother’s girlfriends who looked at me like a two-legged, hoofless pig when I came in from tracking.  

    Now skip some 30-odd years and I am still tracking.  Umstead State Park has a lot to offer in that department.  On a 70-yard stretch of Crabtree creek, I saw these tracks. Enjoy the pictures, make a guess of what they are, and check your guesses with the answers at the bottom.  Most importantly, get out tracking yourself.  There is no better way to connect with nature. 

    Please email me at with any pictures of tracks that have stumped you, or if you want to find some good places to go tracking. One warning though: it can be highly addictive. If you want to see great trackers in action, go here:   

    The more you know, the more you see,

    Ranger Billy






    Otter with 13 inches gait

    Otter Roll Area

    Great Blue Heron

    Beaver Tracks

    Beaver Again

    Beaver Scent Mound

    Grey Squirrel



    Frog unknown species

    Can you see the muskrat, coon, and coyote tracks?

  • 02/28/2019 6:25 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

    "100 miles provides the ability for me to push myself physically, mentally and emotionally. Everyone’s journey is different and even mine is every time I run it. Being able to experience this with others and everyone being so positive is why I keep coming back again and again." - Randall "Woody" Woods, a repeat finisher at Umstead100

    "If you can plan for, train for, and finish a 100 miles; you get to see that no matter what life throws at you, it can be handled the same way you finished the 100, one step at a time." – Rhonda Hampton, Umstead100 Race Director

    Starting at 6am on Saturday, April 6, 250 courageous runners will attempt to power their bodies through 100 miles of multi-use trail winding through the woods of William B. Umstead State Park in less than 30 hours. What will they get for this superhuman feat?  A belt buckle.  Who does it? Why do they do it?  Can you do it?  First, experience the Umstead 100 for yourself either by volunteering or by visiting the park during the run.  

    In order to better understand this race, let’s go back to the beginning twenty-five years ago.  The late Blake Norwood conceived of and founded the race with three goals in mind: to “conduct a quality, runner oriented event; to encourage the growth of ultra running in North Carolina and the Triangle area in particular; and to produce a race that offered first time hundred milers a reasonable chance of success. These have remained the guiding philosophy of the Umstead 100 to this day.” Read more here.  Current race director, Rhonda Hampton, says Blake Norwood would also want it known that the race "could not have made it off the ground without, his running buddies - Tom Newnam, Jerry Dudeck, Charlie Barnes, and Blake’s wife, Myra Norwood".

    According to the race website, this ultra run is unique, because it provides an opportunity for new ultra runners to make the leap to long distance runs without “the difficult terrain, heat, and more challenging cut-off times of other endurance events.”

    So you might be curious. Who is the typical Umstead 100 runner? That’s easy - there is no typical runner. Of the 250 runners, most are over the age of 40 with the oldest runner being 78 and the youngest runner 22 years of age this year.  Thirty-three states are represented and 4 countries.  Some participants are repeat offenders, having run it a number of times, while others are first timers (86 of the participants this year). There is no doubt that someone running this distance must be in excellent physical shape, but a lot of the required attributes are mental, including determination, attitude, willpower, and stamina. 

    Race director, Rhonda Hampton, says anyone can do this race.  When I look at her skeptically, she says, “If you can run one mile, you can run two. If you can run 5 miles, you can run ten. If you can run a half marathon, you can run a full; and so on. It’s about time on your feet.” 

    Why do they do it? The buckle is nice, but I don’t think that’s the reason. Finisher Randall Woods puts it this way, “There’s a certain rush, some might say borderline craziness, to submit myself to such pain and suffering. There’s just something about being able to push through all of that and finishing 100 miles.” I must admit, when I first saw the participants on a cold and dreary Sunday morning in the park, I wondered what they were running from. It is true that running can provide relief from drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and traumatic life events, but ultra runners would likely say they are running towards something: towards their highest potential, peace of mind, a relationship with nature, health, and community. 

    Ken Bell, Umstead 100 finisher, puts it simply, “Training for ultras helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle - eating well, exercising, and managing sleep and stress. ”  Race director Rhonda explains it this way,  “It’s like rebooting a computer.  If your mind or body is not running right, a hundred mile run will certainly reset it.”  

    Can you do it?  After getting the green light from your doctor, Rhonda suggests simply increasing time on feet.  You don’t have to be fast.  She says you can finish the race in 24 hours by maintaining a 15-minute per mile pace (that includes rest breaks, etc.). She says the key to successful training is balance, moderation, core work, and listening to the body. You can find more useful tips on training for your first endurance run on the race website.  

    Not ready to run 50-100 miles?  Volunteer or crew.  The race prides itself on treating volunteers like gold.  It is part of the mission.  Volunteer opportunities include food prep, cleanup, traffic control, equipment moving, and pacing. You can register here.  David G. describes the volunteer experience beautifully in his post here. In it he says, “It was such an honor to work alongside a great group of volunteers who were out there for one reason, to see runners succeed”. 

    If you choose to get right into the thick of things as a volunteer pacer, be prepared to do whatever the runner needs you to do.  Your runner may suffer from mental and physical exhaustion, dehydration, and digestive problems as the miles pile up.  Your job is to keep them going. Asked for tips for pacers, Ken Bell, ultra runner and Umstead 100 finisher says, “We all have different needs at different times during a race, so good communication is important.  Always stay positive, don't take anything personally when your runner is tired and cranky, and lie liberally about how good your runner looks!”

    If you are entertaining the idea of running the race yourself, get out there and start running. Your one mile might just turn into 100, and one day you might sport a fancy Umstead 100 belt buckle.  Whether you are a runner, a devoted Umstead State Park visitor, or dedicated volunteer, come out to the park on April 6-7 to witness an incredible physical and mental feat.  

    Let’s end with a few words of encouragement from Cash Coyne (yes, his real name), the 2014 Umstead 100 runner who collided with a deer between miles one and two, got up, and still finished the 50-mile option: “If you can’t be first in a race, be memorable. When you get knocked back, you just have to keep moving forward.” 

  • 02/17/2019 12:11 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

      You can’t go to any of our ponds here at Umstead without seeing signs of North America’s largest native rodent, the beaver. These signs can include their large tracks, downed trees, stripped limbs around their feeding areas, scent mounds, dams (there’s a 4000 ft. long one in New Hampshire), and trails that lead up to 100 yards from the water.  Don’t bother looking for beaver lodges here at the park, because all of our beavers use bank lodges with underwater entrances.  

    The healthy population we have now is relatively recent as the beaver was trapped out of most of the East coast by 1900 to feed the fashion frenzy for beaver hats.  Growing public concern for the decline of the beaver and other wildlife populations pushed recovery efforts that included live-trapping beavers and successfully reintroducing them into most of their former range.  On a fun note; in some western states like Idaho, their reintroduction plans included parachuting beavers to the backcountry in boxes designed to break open upon impact.  See the classic 1950 style documentary involving this here.

    The Beaver is truly a marvel with its adaptations for aquatic life.  Its head and nose are higher up on the skull than other mammals, so they can see and breathe at the surface of the water with minimal exposure.  The nose and ears have membranes (think ear and nose plugs) that close off to prevent water entry.  The eyes have clear nictitating membranes (think of built in goggles) that close over the eye when under water. Their hind feet are webbed (built in flippers) and it has lips behind its incisors, so it can carry sticks in its mouth without water going down the throat. The tail serves as a rudder (a built in paddle), as a warning device that slaps the water with incredible volume, and as fat storage for the winter.  Trappers used to relish fried beaver tail back in the fur-bearing days. In the 17thcentury, the Catholic Church declared that the beaver was a fish due to the scales on its tail, which meant it could be on the menu during Lent.  As for its diving ability, the beaver can stay under water for about 15 minutes and has been documented to swim about a half mile while underwater.  This sounds like a long time, but one man just recently broke the human record by staying underwater for 24 minutes and three seconds.

    Beavers are social animals consisting of a family unit: a male and female with offspring from two breeding seasons.  At the end of the second year, mom and dad drive the two-year olds away, and they are homeless for a while until they find their own area.  This is a very vulnerable time for these young beavers, and mortality is highest during this time.   A beaver’s day, in general, seems to revolve around feeding, dam repair, and preparing to feed by cutting trees down or harvesting aquatic plants.  Beavers can literally eat themselves out of house and home by harvesting all the suitable food from 300 to 600 feet from the water.   They then abandon this area and usually move upstream or downstream. 

    To see these amazing animals at the park means putting in early morning and late evening hours — or you can look for upcoming trail cam footage on our Facebook page.   

    Ranger Billy

    Beaver Scent Mound






  • 02/04/2019 1:20 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

    by Arianne Hemlein

    I don't know how to describe's just pure fun running through huge puddles and crossing swollen creeks.” – Stéphane Daniel, Organizer for the Raleigh Trail Runners

    Umstead provides a variety of possibilities including hiking, running, and biking in a natural setting that is conveniently located right in town.  All of these things can be enjoyed without the worries of traffic, noise, or pollution; or being stuck in a gym.” – John Berar, outdoor exercise enthusiastic and frequent visitor to Umstead

    Committed to improving your fitness this year? Lucky for you, you can meet your green exercise goals in the free outdoor gym sitting in your backyard – William B. Umstead State Park. Green exercise refers to combining fitness with a love and appreciation for natural outdoor spaces. It’s not surprising that recent studies indicate a clear link between improved mental and physical well-being and outdoor activities. 

    These benefits include convenience, a connection with mother nature, reduced depression and anxiety from the release of beneficial “mood elevating hormones,” a vitamin D boost, and a lack of membership or entrance fees. Click here for the science. Simply put, being out of doors is good for body and soul.  

    Whether you are just starting a fitness routine, looking for a quick bike, run or hike, or training for an endurance event, Umstead State Park boasts miles of groomed multi-use and single-track trails convenient to metropolitan areas as well as a variety of outdoor-oriented social fitness groups. These exercise support groups provide camaraderie, accountability, increased motivation, and encouragement. You can find Umstead based activities listed on the Meetup app (see links below).  

    Explore the beautiful wooded trails with one of several active hiking groups including Triangle Hiking and Outdoors Group, Life is a Hike, and Umstead State Park Support, among others.   The recommended pace and fitness level are usually listed in the event posting.  Umstead State Park Support also occasionally offers senior hikes, history walks, and newborn-stroller hikes. If the popularity of these events is any indication, these outings must be enjoyable.   

    If you’re looking for even more of a challenge, and are interested in running on the single track trails, check out Raleigh Trail Runners. This group is devoted to running “off the beaten path” on rugged trails like Sycamore, Company Mill and Loblolly, so be prepared for the challenge of roots, rocks, and elevation changes.  RTR organizer, Stéphane Daniel, says new members should be able to run four trail miles prior to joining an event.  Organizers will encourage newcomers and do their best to accommodate a variety of paces. 

    Asked what he enjoys about running in the park, Stéphane says, “trail running is much easier on the legs and feet than running on pavement, and you'll very likely avoid all those road running repetitive injuries.  But the biggest draw is running in the forests and being one with nature.  You never know what surprise you might come upon in a trail run like the very common sightings of creatures.” 

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

    The multi-use trails are also perfect for bike rides. The elevation changes, particularly on Turkey Creek trail are sure to give you a cardio work out. 

    If you are goal oriented when it comes to exercise, consider training for one of the annual fitness events held in Umstead:  The Umstead Marathon on March 2; Walk, Run Bike for Umstead on April 13; or the Gravel Grinder 50/100 mile bike race   Maybe you’ll even find yourself so enthusiastic about green exercise, that you’ll sign up for the Umstead 100 mile race.  Don’t get any crazy ideas just yet. Registration for the 100 is closed this year, but plenty of volunteer opportunities remain for you to dip in and test the waters.  The race director, Rhonda Hampton, says volunteers who pace other runners often end up as future participants.  I’ll tell you a lot more about this race in my March post.  

    Want to check off two of your new year’s resolutions at once? Combine fitness with volunteer work with the park staff and Umstead Coalition events, also listed on Meetup.  

    With these groups you can find social connection, support for your goals, accountability, camaraderie, and safety. Shared fitness goals are successful fitness goals.  Ultra runner, Rhonda Hampton, says she receives at least one “biological gift” on each visit to the park whether it’s running across an old friend on the trail, sighting wildlife, or a beautiful wildflower. So head, out to your backyard park to make friends, stay sane, shed pounds cheaply, and smile more all while staying fit.  

    Note:  The multi-use trailhead access from the North Harrison Avenue (Cary) entrance is now open.

    Raleigh Trail Runners

    7miles by 7am on Thursdays and Fridays

    9am Saturday Trail runs with varying mileage

    Umstead State Park Support

    Feb 14, 20 10am Senior Hike

    Feb 25 3pm Newborn Stroller hike

    Life Is a Hike

    Check the schedule for upcoming events

    Raleigh recreational hikers

    Sun Feb. 10 8:30am Old Reedy Creek Trailhead

    Triangle Hiking and Outdoors Group

    Check the schedule for upcoming events

  • 01/03/2019 1:28 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

    -by Arianne Hemlein

    It's the beginning of a new year in Umstead State Park, and except for a few stubborn beeches, the trees are bare.  Since January is a time for reflection on the past and resolutions for the future, let’s take a quick look back at the history of our park.

    You’ve probably seen some of the most obvious reminders of the past - the family graveyards and the millstone, but did you know that there is also an outhouse, a rusting shell of an automobile, and crumbling brick home foundations within the park?

    The next time you walk along the Company Mill trail, envision fields of struggling cotton plants, modest homes, and a busy grist mill along the riverbank.  As you cross the green bridge spanning Crabtree Creek, imagine the sound of boys laughing and splashing in the water at the nearby site of the Camp Craggy Boy Scout camp, demolished in 1938. The stone steps still remain.

    At one time, these woodlands were home to three grist mills, struggling farms, and a number of families. In 1934, federal and state agencies bought this submarginal land to create the park.  With the labor provided by The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration, the park opened to the public in 1937. From 1950-1966, segregation extended to Umstead with two separate areas for whites and African-Americans.

    Want to know more about the past? You can read Joe Grissom’s account of growing up on the land hereWhile Stories in Stone is currently out of print, you can learn a lot by listen to WUNC’s discussion of the book featuring Joe Grissom and the Umstead Coalition’s Jean Spooner.  Then head out to the park to see what you can find. Winter just happens to be the perfect time to explore without the nuisance of insects and humidity. As for a resolution for 2019, consider spending more time out-of-doors in nature and helping the Umstead Coalition (insert link to Umstead Coalition) to protect our park for future generations to enjoy.  Did you know that Amazon will donate .5% of eligible items purchased by you to the Umstead Coalition? All you have to do is click on the link on the Umstead Coalition homepage. It’s really simple and costs you nothing.  

  • 11/07/2018 4:46 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

    - by Arianne Hemlein

    It's early November and the flora and fauna of Umstead State Park are preparing for winter.  The rays of the rising sun warm the crisp autumn air, lifting tendrils of fog from the pond on Loblolly Trail.  Acorns and leaves rain to the ground along the shore.  As you enjoy the park this fall, look for signs of seasonal change.  It's a treasure hunt of sorts.

    Of course, changes in leaf color are the most obvious and anticipated indication of the seasonal shift.  Take time to notice which tree types are first to color and and drop their foliage, and be aware of those that retain theirs well into winter. Beech and oak leaves are those you see still hanging on when the snow falls.  You might even have a contest to see who can find the most beautifully colored leaf or try to catch one as it falls - it's harder than it sounds.

    Breath in the earthy scent of fallen leaves.

    Notice all the tree nuts falling to the ground, thereby providing sustenance for deer, squirrels, and other woodland animals.  Watch the squirrels scrambling around to add to their winter stores and build nests.

    If you hear honking, look up to see geese migrating south in wobbling "v"-shapes like arrow tips pointing in the direction of their winter homes.  While you are looking, observe the deeper blue of the autumn sky.

    Fall walks are filled with treasure.  I make goal of discovering at least two interesting finds on each walk.  While searching like a nature detective, I tend to see and appreciate things I might otherwise overlook.  Interested in adding excitement to your next fall hike?  Try one of my suggestions below.  Click on these links to learn more about the seasonal leaf cycle and why the sky appears more blue in autumn.  Whatever you do, take time out to enjoy the seasonal beauty of your park before the real chill of winter sets in!

    Suggestions for fall treasure hike activities for all ages:

    • Pinecone Bird Feeders
    Collect pinecones to make into bird feeders.  Simply attach a string to the pinecone, spread peanut butter or lard over the surface, roll in birdseed, and hang from a tree in your yard.
    • Leaf Print Cards
    Gather fallen leaves to create leaf print cards.  Just paint a leaf while holding it by the stem, press it to cardstock, cover with newspaper and gently rub.  Remove paper to see your print.
    • Magic Wands
    Search for smooth, bark-free sticks to use as "magic wands". Add glitter paint or wrap and tie bright ribbons to the end.
    • Nature Detective Scavenger Hunt
    Make a list of things to look for on your walk such as hickory nuts (which can be floated like boats), squirrels, mushrooms, and star moss.

  • 10/17/2018 12:10 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)

    -by Arianne Hemlein

    When Umstead Park Ranger Billy Drakeford was a child, he loved being in the woods.  He couldn’t have imagined a better job than one in park service, and that hasn’t changed one bit.  

    The fact is, there is no “typical” day. While each ranger is responsible for different facilities and focuses on different areas of park service, some general responsibilities include education and outreach to schools through program offerings, trail maintenance, light law enforcement, medical response, and keeping abreast of the plants and animals (including non-native invasive species). The lack of a steady routine is one of the positive aspects of the job in Billy’s opinion.

    Getting kids and adults excited about nature is another perk.  Billy feels strongly about the importance of allowing kids to play in the great outdoors, getting muddy in the streams, identifying plants, and searching for animal tracks.  He says, “You can’t expect kids to care about the environment unless they get that connection as a kid.”  Not only will they learn to care about and protect wilderness areas, but nature will give back to them as well.  If you are interested in the benefits of exposure to nature, he suggests reading, Last Child in the Woods.

    Maybe your child is interested in becoming a park ranger. The Junior Ranger program may be for them. Billy urges kids to attend one of the educational programs offered by the park staff. They can even earn a badge by participating.

    If you have always harbored a secret dream of being a ranger, as I did, Billy says a degree in the biological sciences is preferred, but not required.  A familiarity with tractors, chainsaws, and basic tool use is important, along with excellent interpersonal skills for positive interactions with park visitors and program facilitation.

    If you just love spending time in the park, you can get a taste of ranger work by participating in ongoing volunteer opportunities with the park staff or with the Umstead Coalition. You can help to build a trail, for example, and feel a pride of ownership next time you take a hike.

    “This park is your big, beautiful backyard,” Billy says.  Bring your kids out to play and encourage their love and appreciation of nature. After all, they will be the future stewards of this park.

    Park Ranger Billy’s Interesting Facts and Suggestions for Visitors

    Did you know?

    ·       All rangers and the superintendent live within the park.  Billy’s house was built in the 30’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and used to be the visitor’s center.

    ·       Much of the park used to be bare, cleared farmland.  Billy suggests reading Stories in Stone, a history of Umstead and the Cedar Fork Township community.  Knowing the history will give you a deeper experience of the park.

    ·       Yes, coyotes live in the park, but most people will never see them.  They tend to steer clear of humans.

    Suggestions for being a good park owner…

    ·       Keep your dog on a leash.  Many people are frightened of dogs.  Being approached by dogs off leash is the number one complaint the staff hears.  Rangers can and do give citations for dogs off leash.  The fines and court costs can be upwards of $300.

    ·       If a trail has been closed and rerouted, there is a good reason. Usually slopes have become too steep and unstable due to erosion.  Please follow trail reroutes, and allow the old trail to recover.

    ·       Respect park hours, and make sure you have enough time to complete your hike and return to your car before closing.  The rangers have to deal with visitors in the park after hours as much as twice a week.

    ·       Join the Umstead Coalition and support various initiatives.

    ·       Volunteer to help maintain park trails and structures.

    ·       Explore the park fully, appreciating all of the plant and wildlife it offers.

The Umstead Coalition

We are dedicated to preserving the natural integrity of William B. Umstead State Park and the Richland Creek Corridor.