Carl Alwin Schenck Memorial Forest

by - April 18, 2018

Growing up I hiked wilderness foot trails in Tennessee, and having lived in Raleigh, North Carolina since college, I find that most nearby parks have overly managed trails. By overly managed, I mean they are wide enough to allow park vehicle access, there may be a foot trail but it parallels a road for three-quarters the distance to the destination view, or there are so many people that you constantly hear, "On the right!" Schenck Forest is no wilderness, it is a teaching and research forest managed by NC State, but the forest floor down near the creek was teeming with native vegetation that I only imagine gets trampled by groups and dogs on more frequented trails. In fact, dogs have been banned from the forest since 2005, which I know breaks the hearts of local dog-lovers but is music to the ears of someone looking for a wildlife spot with crowd control. 

We went out on a Sunday morning and only came across other hikers once were well down the trail and into a beachy creek clearing. We parked near the entrance, walked down a gravel road to the picnic area then walked straight back towards the trees. We followed the trail down the hill, and shortly we transitioned out of the managed pines to hardwoods. I believe we saw markings indicating the edges of the old-growth forest. I couldn't tell you the name of the trail we took. Joe says we chose the trail that wasn't marked with blazes, however there were educational signs along the way. The path paralleled and occasionally crossed a winding stream that hugged a steep hillside that opened up in to a small open meadow area. 

The forest felt large and the boys enjoyed pushing out their boundaries. With permission to go off path, they took off up the tall ridge, hopped around a fork in the stream, balanced on fallen trees and searched for rocks in the upturned roots. Maybe two-thirds of the way to our turn-around point, we came upon what looked like the remnants of an old dam covered in moss. I'm sure someone out there knows and has documented all the historical features of the property, but I have not come across that yet. We stopped once we reached other hikers enjoying the sun. As we left, the boys and I set off to follow what we thought was the same branch of the stream we came in beside, but we ended up over another ridge and on a smaller branch with no site of a trail or of Joe. We called Joe on the phone and then "Hootiehoo!"-ed our way back to the trail we should have stayed on. I secretly delighted that we were in a place we could get lost if only for a moment.  

When we got back to portion of the creek with the steepest ridge on the adjacent bank, the boys begged us to stop walking so they could play in the creek and explore without feeling rushed. They needed a little time to slip into their imaginations, just as I needed time to document the plants. I get really excited seeing plants in the wild that I usually only see in plant nurseries. There were also several I figure are special but don't know what they are. 


Schenck Forest Trail Map, Source: Piedmont Forest Work Crew

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