Paddling Lake Lucas

by Crystal Cockman

I was given a few days off this week for working a couple of weekends, so I took the opportunity one day to paddle a new location with a friend. We went to Lake Lucas in Asheboro. Lake Lucas is under the authority of the City of Asheboro and is operated by Asheboro Cultural and Recreation Services. It is a beautiful lake and much smaller than Lake Reese, which I paddled for the first time earlier this summer. In about 3 hours, we were able to paddle around pretty much the entire lake at Lake Lucas.

Lake Lucas is located at 3158 Old Lexington Road in Asheboro. It is open March 1 through November 15 from 7:00am to sunset, but is closed on Wednesdays. From November 16 through the end of February, it is open 8:00am to 5:00pm, and is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. To launch a kayak here, there is a daily canoe/kayak launch fee of $3.50 for nonresidents and $2.50 for city residents with a rec card. We brought our own kayaks for this trip, but if you don’t have your own, you can also rent canoes and kayaks at this location at a rate of $6 for a day for a city resident with a rec card and $10.00 for a non-resident. read more…

The Suther Prairie is Now Protected

by Crystal Cockman

Back in 2007, I visited for the first time a very special place in Cabarrus County known by local conservationists and biologists as the Suther Prairie. This property has been in private ownership by the Ritchie and Suther family for over 200 years. The reason this site is so significant is because it is one of few, and perhaps the only, remaining natural Piedmont Prairie known to exist in our state.

Now this unique site has been formally protected through a partnership between the landowners, Cabarrus County, and the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. The prairie itself covers only about 8 acres, but the drainage area to the site was also an important part of the purchase, which in all was about 78 acres. read more…

A Saturday Spent Avoiding the Rain

by Crystal Cockman

A few weekends ago, we got the first rain we’d had in a while in this area. Unfortunately it was on a day that I’d planned to be outside for both a hike in the morning and a paddle in the afternoon. Fortunately though, the rain stayed just to the east of where I was planning to be outside. It was cloudy and even a little bit drizzly, but somehow miraculously the exact locations where I planned to be did not see the downpours the surrounding area did.

My best friend who lives in Florida had come back to North Carolina for a couple weeks, and as usual we had planned a small adventure together. Her eldest daughter is now almost 8 years old, and she was excited to go with us this year. We decided we would climb Little Long Mountain, which is only a short hike, maybe 30 minutes round trip, but offers great views from the top of the mountain.

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A New River Access Point

by Crystal Cockman

On Saturday July 21, I was able to enjoy a paddle on the Uwharrie River from a new access point that was made possible by a project that I was a big part of – the Capel Property, now owned by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). This property was initially purchased by The LandTrust for Central North Carolina through private donations and grants and eventually transferred to WRC for use as a canoe and kayak access point and game lands.

This access is located at 300 Dennis Road, Troy NC. The access officially opened on June 30th of last year. The parking area and fishing access were funded through fishing license receipts and Sport Fish Restoration Program Funds. The land was acquired by private donation and a Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant written and administered by The LandTrust, along with State Wildlife Grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Searching for Snot Otters

by Crystal Cockman

This past week, I spent the whole week volunteering with North Carolina State Parks searching for hellbenders in the New River in Ashe County. Each year they host hellbender week, which is a week dedicated to looking for these fantastic critters in the mountains of North Carolina. They also go by the name of “snot otter” due to their sticky, slimy skin.

Each morning at 9:00am, we met at the New River State Park US 221 Access. Ed Corey, Inventory Biologist with State Parks, led the effort and started with introductions. There were a variety of people there each day, some of which were there for the whole week and some for just a day or two.

We headed out from there in a caravan to the section of the river we’d be searching that day. Each day we went to a different stretch of the South Fork of the New River. The first day, we had to walk downstream a ways to then come back up searching upstream as we went. The current was pretty strong in places, and the water got fairly deep in spots, so it wasn’t always easy going.

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New Section of Uwharrie Trail Now Under Construction

by Crystal Cockman

July 6, 2018

Several years ago, The Land Trust worked with the North Carolina Zoological Society to protect a property that adjoins High Pine Church Road that will become the Walkers Creek Trailhead on the Uwharrie Trail hopefully later this year. The acquisition of this tract makes it possible for the trail to be re-routed through the Walkers Creek section of U.S. Forest Service Land between High Pine Church Road and King Mountain Road. This results in approximately 2.1 miles of new trail.

The original alignment for this section of the Uwharrie Trail went from the Luther Place to Pisgah Covered Bridge Road and then north to cross over High Pine Church Road. With this reroute, the trail no longer continues on these state roads but instead goes north through the forest on a hiking trail. read more…

Taken for ‘Granite’: Flatrock Species of North Carolina

by Lizzy Nist

June 22, 2018

prickly pear

Last week I had the privilege of joining Crystal Cockman from the Land Trust and Nell Allen from the North Carolina Zoo exploring the flora and fauna on a property just east of Salisbury, NC. Now covered with trees and luscious foliage, this property was once the site of old forgotten granite quarries, which have left the property hilly and with large exposed granite rocks. At one point on the property, we stumbled upon an especially interesting habitat: granitic flatrock.

Though the granitic flatrock we experienced and flatrock in general might seem like a landscape inhospitable to plant and wildlife, it in fact fosters an abundant community of diverse flatrock species, some of which we encountered on our visit to the property. A granitic flatrock community is characterized by large slabs of granite overlaying soil, and is home to many different species of mosses, lichens, cacti, and other plants that thrive in low soil levels. Though historic quarrying on the property disturbed and likely changed the level at which the flatrock resided, we can be sure the granitic flatrock community was natural because some of the plant species we encountered only grow on exposed flatrock and not surrounding woods. read more…

A Botanical Adventure

by Crystal Cockman

June 11, 2018

Carolina thistle

On Sunday May 29, I had the opportunity to go on a botanical adventure with Bruce Sorrie, botanist, retired from the NC Natural Heritage Program. The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program is a program of the Division of Land and Water Stewardship within the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Bruce has over 30 years of experience and is an expert in his field, and can name just about any plant you can point out. He has written “A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region,” which also has many plants you’d expect to see in the Uwharries. His guidebook is arranged by habitat, and features over 600 wildflowers, flowering shrubs and vines.

Bruce allowed The Land Trust to auction off a morning with him looking for unique plants as part of our fundraising event, RiverDance, last year. The winner of the botanical tour brought along a friend and we met at the Eldorado Outpost Sunday morning on our adventure. read more…

How to Save a Girdled Tree

by Ruth Ann Grissom

June 5, 2018

I saw it coming. I knew the tree was going to die, sooner rather than later, but I didn’t do anything to save it. Every time I saw the cable wrapped around that oak, I’d throw up my hands and think, Too late now! (A phrase made famous in our family by my husband’s father, which I jokingly attribute to his Sicilian fatalism.) For years, the oak has anchored one end of a cable we’d strung to serve as a gate. As the trunk expanded, it bulged around the cable. The oak had slowly succumbed to strangulation. Last spring, it didn’t leaf out. Now, poison ivy creeps up the trunk, hiding my shame.

To appreciate the damage wrought by a tight constriction, it helps to understand a tree’s vascular system. The outer bark protects the tree from external stressors such as predators and fire. Underneath, there’s a layer called the inner bark or phloem. Here, sap flows down from the leaves, supplying the branches, trunk and roots with sugars and nutrients. Next comes the microscopic cambium, a thin layer of growth cells. Deeper into the trunk, there’s a layer known as sapwood or xylem which houses the thick-walled cells that transport water and minerals up from the roots. At its center, a tree is composed of dead heartwood.

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3rd Annual Congress of Herpetology

by Crystal Cockman

May 29, 2018

On Friday through Sunday, April 27 – 29, 2018, I attended the 3rd NC Congress of Herpetology Meeting at the NC Zoological Park, Asheboro, NC. This was a joint meeting between the NC Herpetological Society and NC Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

There were a great variety of interesting speakers at this event. The first speaker spoke about results from a decade of Hellbender surveys and conservation efforts in North

Carolina. This was information from Lori Williams, with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and John Groves, with the NC Zoo (retired). Hellbenders are large salamanders present in cool water streams in the mountains. They presented results from 263 snorkel surveys. They found that 127 streams did not have hellbenders present, and 136 did. 101 streams were surveyed, and 481 hellbenders were found. read more…



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