The Umstead Coalition 
Celebrating Umstead State Park since 1934!

Umstead Inspirations Blog

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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 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: Umstead State Park Ranger Billy Drakeford

  • 06/13/2019 4:57 PM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)

    Whitetail deer, a common sight among the paths and roads of Umstead, are the epitome of grace, alertness and beauty.  As a boy, growing up in the sandhills of South Carolina, deer were scarce.  I can still remember the year when me and a friend were canoeing down Congaree Creek and came upon what we thought was Deer Shangri-La.  We based this on the immense volume of deer tracks we saw all over the bank. 

    We got out to explore and followed tracks out of the woods into a meadow where about 30 goats, some with wicked looking horns, were looking at us.  They started coming toward us as one, slowly at first, then picking up speed.  If you have seen the start of the ride of the Rohirrim on the hill above Gondor, it was much like that. 

    We decided to retreat, running toward the safety of the creek, fully knowing they would catch us before we got there.  They caught us in short order and fanned out around us, slowing to match our top speed.  We started laughing and slowed to a walk, feeling foolish but enjoying the experience of being part of the herd. 

    If you see the deer here at Umstead, you might wonder about their life history, so here are some basics.  A deer’s primary task during the day (24 hour period) is eating.  A feeding deer will bite and tear off leaves, twigs or grasses, chew them briefly and swallow them.  It can take a deer approximately an hour to fill their ruminating stomach, (imagine a multi-chambered stomach) if there is a lot of food available.  The practical beauty of the ruminating stomach is that it can be filled up quickly and then the deer can go to a safe location to process (regurgitate and chew thoroughly) its contents called “cud.”

    The best time to see deer at the park is at sunrise and sunset with some bursts of activity around midnight and midday.  During the day, deer stay mostly in thicker cover, dividing their time with short excursions to gather food and back to the bedding area for resting, ruminating and grooming.

    From my tracking deer in the snow, their bedding areas seem to always to have a good view of the surrounding area like on ridges or slopes.  As night approaches, deer will move into more exposed areas to do some heavy feeding interspersed with more bedding and chewing their cud breaks. 

    Deer in general move between one and four miles a day, but as my Uncle Joe would say, they have rubber band knees, which means of course that they are flexible.  Strong weather patterns such as heavy rain, gusty or strong winds, snow and intense cold can limit their movements and have them bed in protected areas for longer periods.  I have also seen loose/wild dogs chase deer for miles outside their home range or through neighborhoods.

    Besides automobiles, deer have some predators that prey upon them in our park. Coyotes are the main predator, but they mainly prey on the young.  Some research from North and South Carolina have coyotes accounting for up to 50% of the fawn population but this could be habitat specific.  Attempts to control coyote populations through yearlong open seasons with no bag limits have been ineffectual.  Bobcats prey on fawns and foxes have been known to take a deer fawn as well, however infrequently. 

    If you are lucky, quiet and still you may see fawns together like I did playing a game best described by my father as “Grab Butt”.   It was a hilarious game of chase filled with tight circles, crashes into bushes interspersed with spirited jumps and kicks.  I watched them for about 15 minutes till I laughed out loud and ruined it.  (Check out fawns playing here).  Another time, I watched my son of six at the time and a doe at Mt. Mitchell State Park having some sort of bonding moment as she walked closer and closer to him and when she got within a foot of my son, he panicked and gave out a loud “Yahhhhhhhh!”, scaring the doe, me and effectively ruining the picturesque moment.   

    Good luck with making your own memories with the Gentle Ghost of the Forest!

    Know more to see more,

    Ranger Billy

  • 05/15/2019 4:04 PM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)

    The Silent One

    If you are like me, and love plants, you definitely have your favorites.  Hepatica and I have been friends ever since I saw them for the first time outside limestone caves of Santee State Park in South Carolina.  My Uncle Munsy turned me on to the caves, but the flowers kept me coming back every year to catch up.  Each year I would monitor the population, but mainly I would just sit, visit, and admire.  (Caution: Granola-head statement ahead!) Hepatica, with its amazing color and presence, made me feel it was sentient and had something to tell me.  I know how that sounds, but it just resonated with me, and I sat for a long time with them each year. 

    The Chippewa Indians called the plant gabisanikeag, which meant “it is silent.”  I liked that name when I read it; it felt right somehow, like they exactly caught the plant’s personality.  I know you might be thinking I am not just a plant lover but a flower child.  Seeing that I only lived three years in the sixties, it is a stretch.  On the other hand, perhaps that is all it took in those heady times. Nonetheless, I liked Hepatica so much that I wrote poetry about them.  I am, I assure you, valiantly trying to refrain from sharing. 

    Ephemeral flowers found at Umstead State Park such as Hepatica, Trout Lily, Windflower, Bloodroot, and Pennywort harken the lengthening daylight and seem designed to lift our spirits after winter.  Their lifestyle, however, is rather down and dirty, to flower before the trees leaf out, so they take advantage of the late winter and early spring sunlight to photosynthesize and build up stores of carbohydrates in their roots to last another year. 

    Spring ephemerals, however, cannot count on insects for fertilization due to the cold weather they often endure, so most of them, if not all, can self-fertilize.  These ephemerals evolved with ants in a relationship called myrmechory The seed of many ephemerals have elaisosomes, which is a nutritious addition on the end of the seeds that ants will take into their anthill and eat, discarding the rest of the viable seed on a trash heap, which provides a fertile and friendly place for a plant to start as well as giving seed predators less access to the seeds.  

    Hepatica and other ephemerals are found throughout the park, and a searching eye will find them on the stream banks or moist areas.  If you need help finding them, I will guide you to them.  If you don’t take to them like I did, I will try not to think less of you, but if that is indeed the case, it may be time for some serious introspection on your end. 

    I fought against adding the poem, but it overpowered me.  Circa August 1997, and before I knew its name. The silent one.  I will ask my parents if we have some Chippewa blood. 

                    From the cave flows a clear cold stream

                    With high banks growing and guarding the little green

                    Sentinels that signal Winter’s end.


                    They sing in whispers, slow but sure

                    Gently tickling my ear and spirit

                    The feather soft song of the Hepatica.


                    Gently blue, not quite of the sky

                    For wood wanderers and elves to know

                    Patience and many returns reward me

                    This bringing of spring to the land and my heart.


                    And from heart to you, and you, and you

                    The beautiful silent sharing.

                    The beautiful silent singing

                    The cloud soft song, of the Hepatica        


    Know more to see more,

    Ranger Billy


  • 05/03/2019 1:01 PM | Arianne Hemlein (Administrator)
    Winter Reflections in Umstead State Park by Arianne Hemlein

    Walking through Umstead State Park at dawn after a rainy evening, you are struck by the way the early rays of the sun are creating tiny rainbows in rain drops suspended from a low branch, so you snap a picture with your phone. Or maybe a few months ago, while hiking along Loblolly, you noticed a deer and her fawn along the riverbank, and you had just enough time to capture an image before they darted off into the cover of the woods.  Perhaps you photographed the stunning efeects of an early spring snowstorm blanketing the trails in white.  Photos like these are meant to be shared and appreciated, not hidden away in your camera, phone or computer.  

    The annual Umstead Coalition Photography Contest - “Catch the Spirit of William B. Umstead state Park” showcases local talent, both amateur and professional, and highlights meaningful moments and beautiful sights available to visitors to Umstead throughout the year.  Winning photos will grace the pages of the park’s 2020 calendar, which will be available for sale in the visitor center. 

    Delve through your photos to see if you have something to share. Submit entrees in one or all of three categories including, flora and fauna, park structures & history, and people engaged in park activities.  

    Youth photographers under the age of 16 are encouraged to participate as well and will be judged in their own categories. 

    Thistle in Umstead State park by Arianne Hemlein

    Remember there are 12 months to every year and 12 calendar pages dedicated to each month, so consider submitting pictures of the icy cold, and starkly gray days of winter as well as the sunny, active days of summer. Make sure that your image has a high enough definition to be enlarged without losing clarity and detail, because your image just might end up being selected to hang on display in the Visitor Center for all to enjoy before appearing in the calendar.

    If you don’t feel like you have any photos worthy of submission, why not plan a visit to the park with the sole purpose of searching out original beauty, interesting composition, color, and contrast.  I make a point of having my phone or camera on me every time I venture onto the trail.  You never know when you might stumble upon an amazing fungus, unexpected wildlife, or a misty morning of incredible beauty.  

    We’d love to see your unique visions of your backyard park and honor and share them. The deadline for submissions is May 26. You can see winning images from past year, find photo submission guidelines, and registration details here.

    - Arianne Hemlein

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

    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.  View this video for a fun look at snake names.

    Know more to see more,

    Ranger Billy

    How many copperheads do you see?
    Answer: Four

  • 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

    Online 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 | Anonymous

    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

The Umstead Coalition

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


The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.