Northern Flicker

by Crystal Cockman

March 23, 2017

Photo by Jeff Beane

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is native to most of North America, parts of Central America, Cuba and the Cayman islands. They are one of a few species of woodpecker that migrate. Flickers in the northern part of their range move south for the winter. They are a medium-sized woodpecker, brown in color with black spots and bars on their body, and a white rump patch that stands out when they are in flight. They have a shock of red on the back of their heads, and males have a black (in the east) or red (in the west) mustached stripe at the base of their beaks.

In the east, the undersides of the wing and tail feathers are yellow. In the west, they are red. This is probably why eastern Northern Flickers are also called yellowhammer woodpeckers. There’s a classic Appalachian trout fly that used to use the feathers of northern flickers called a Yellow Hammer or Yellarhammer fly. It’s not legal to take a northern flicker, so there are synthetic feathers that look similar that you can get to tie the fly. You can read more about them and learn how to tie them in Roger Lowe’s Fly Pattern Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains. Roger is from Waynesville, NC. [Read more…]

A Couple of Good Loop Hikes

by Crystal Cockman

March 15, 2017

IMG_0441The past couple of weekends, I’ve hiked two loop trails, which means they follow a circle and so you don’t have to do any backtracking. One of these trails is in the Birkhead Wilderness Area, and the other is in the Badin Recreational Area. They are very different trails but equally enjoyable to hike.

The trail in the Birkheads starts at the Robbins Branch Trailhead on Lassiter Mill Road. The bridge is out just south of the trailhead, so if you’re coming from Troy, you’ll have to go a few extra miles up to Highway 49 and come back down to the trailhead. The total length of the hike is about 6.7 miles. You start out on the Robbins Branch Trail, which goes by a nice upland ephemeral pool where some salamanders are likely hanging out. It joins the Birkhead Trail after a big climb.

[Read more…]

Cedar Fever

by Ruth Ann Grissom

March 9, 2017

A band of light rain passed through the Uwharries on a recent Saturday evening. By Sunday morning, the sky was crystalline blue. Despite a lively northwest breeze, the temperature was unseasonably mild. I was out with the dogs, admiring the tawny field of native grass backlit by the unadulterated sun. Suddenly, a line of smoke appeared along the far edge of the field. The wind whipped it across the road. The smoke hit the base of Black Mountain and churned up the slope. In a matter of minutes, it dissipated into a uniform haze. For a moment, I wondered if I had conjured a fire in a field that’s due to be burned in the coming weeks.

Something similar happened to my parents a few years back. On a balmy winter morning, Mama was sitting on her back porch when she caught a glimpse of smoke. It seemed to be coming from the old farmhouse next door. She called to my dad, and they rushed to investigate. A neighbor driving down Ophir Road also noticed it. He stopped and met them in the driveway. They were flummoxed. They didn’t smell smoke or see flames. Then a gust of wind revealed the source of the smoke – the stately cedar just east of the house. The tree wasn’t burning, but it was clearly on fire – a male spewing its pollen into the air. [Read more…]

Fifth Annual Uwharrie Trail Thru Hike Dates Announced!

Uwharrie Trail Hike

The Land Trust for Central NC is excited to announce the dates for our fifth annual Uwharrie Trail Thru Hike backpacking trip, which will take place on October 12 – 15, 2017!

Have you heard of the Uwharrie Trail? At 40 miles, it is the longest single-track footpath in central North Carolina. The LandTrust and other conservation partners have been working for the past 20 years to reconnect this trail, and thanks to these efforts it can now be hiked in its 40-mile entirety. This Uwharrie Trail is known for its cultural and natural significance, including such unique features as old gold mines, rare plants and wildlife, ghost stories, and more. Join us for an awesome backpacking trip through some of the oldest mountains in the world, as we pay tribute to the trailblazers and uncover the secrets of the past.  [Read more…]

Densons Creek Trail

by Crystal Cockman

February 13, 2017


A few weeks ago I hiked along the Densons Creek Trail starting at the U.S. Forest Service Ranger station near Troy. You start out on the short loop and jump on the Densons Creek Trail not far in, following white blazes. You pass over Glen Road about 0.8 miles in, and then you have to pay attention to the trail to make sure you go the right way to stay on Densons Creek Trail instead of getting onto a spur trail that doesn’t go anywhere. The trail for most of the way is marked with orange and white paint.

You get to a gravel woods road 1.72 miles in and hike along it for approximately 0.2 miles. There is pretty good signage most of the way, and you’ll want to follow the signs that say they lead back to 24/27. Just past where the trail goes back into the woods off the gravel road, there is a concrete crossing on Densons Creek. We stopped here to take a look, as this is your first sighting of Densons Creek.

From here, the trail follows Densons Creek, which is a beautiful stream with large rocks and fast moving water. I am sure in the springtime there would be a plethora of lovely streamside wildflowers in bloom along this stretch. There was one footbridge that had been washed away enough to not be of any use, and so we had to scramble down the banks of the small creek and back up to the other side. Trekking poles really help out for crossing creeks.

We got off the trail near the end, as it wasn’t marked clearly, and followed alongside Highway 24/27 in the woods. I stepped in a hole fully up to my knee, but thankfully wasn’t hurt. We were able to connect with Glen Road, and the route planned for going up it anyway to connect back into Densons Creek Trail, so we got back on track there. From there it’s just a little over a quarter of a mile back to the parking lot at the ranger station. Total length of trail is 3.31 miles.

This is a short hike but perfect if you don’t have a lot of time but want to get out in the woods. The topography is not very challenging, but there are a couple of places with some small hills. It might be a good loop to run training for a trail run, as you could make pretty good time on it. It would also be a nice trail to hike in early spring, when the wildflowers are blooming and you might spot some critters along the creek. It will be one I am sure I will visit again.

Distances are courtesy of Don Childrey’s book, Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, available at