Cary, NC — One of the best-kept secrets of the Cary Greenway system is the White Oak Trail. I recently took a walk on the central segment and kept an eye out for its natural wonders.
What is the White Oak Trail?
The section of the White Oak Trail I walked is part of a 4.7 mile trail system called the White Oak Trail that, by 2018, will extend from the American Tobacco Trail in the west to Fred Bond Municipal Park in the east. It will also be a designated component of the East Coast Greenway.
This part of White Oak Creek is the central section of the complete White Oak Trail and is 1.85 miles in length. It is an older trail in the Cary system, but it has some of the most attractive scenery among Cary’s 82 miles of completed greenways, particularly along a creek-side corridor between Castle Hayne Drive and Parkscene Drive.
This greenway segment, in turn, has three different subsections. At the current east end is Davis Drive Park, and, at the other, NC Highway 55. The greenway is an excellent choice for walking, running, bicycling and strolling and is very popular with residents who live close by.
Passing Park Village & Davis Drive Middle School
The initial segment tracks behind backyards of homes in Park Village parallel to Davis Drive (Mint Hill Drive). The greenway turns westward along the south property line of the Davis Drive Middle school.
Here is a woody section with a fine wetland and a connection to the Park Village neighborhood. Loblolly Pines and Tulip Poplar trees are common here, and it is hard to believe that very dense development is a short distance away. The trail then opens to a field lined with Wax Myrtle, Sea Myrtle, Black Raspberry and Honeysuckle, which I think is sheer delight in the summer months when birds and insects are active.
Finally, the east segment turns towards a small pond adjacent to Castle Hayne Drive in the Park Village neighborhood. It is easy to find suburban-acclimated waterfowl, including Canada Goose and Mallard Duck.
Between Park Village & Parkcrest
Now we can appreciate the most breathtaking part of the trail.
To the west of Castle Hayne Drive the greenway closely follows White Oak Creek all the way to NC 55. Visitors can appreciate dense stands of Ironwood, Red Maple, Red Oak, Sweetgum and an astonishing number of River Birches lining the creek.
Here as well is a connection with the Park Village Greenway. It is a simple thing to get right up to the creek and take in splendid scenes of the creek. There is something to the thickness of the bordering trees and other vegetation and occasional burbling water that adds to the appeal. I am not alone with these thoughts! I often see children playing in these places, and even adults will get in the act! In this creekside corridor, it is very easy to find a number of bird species. In my walk, I noted Brown Headed Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, Chipping Sparrow, White Breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Robin, Red Bellied Woodpecker and Pine Warbler.
One can also catch a whiff of days long past on this trail segment. The crossing at busy Jenks Carpenter Road is an interesting place, not just because of a connector to White Oak Park on the southeast corner, but because it is easy to spot an old farm pond dam on the northeast corner that was once on the former Upchurch farm.
Nearing NC Highway 55
The trail changes character when one emerges from the woody Creekside and arrives at Parkscene Drive. Here, there is a very suburban feel as the trail runs between the Parkcrest and Parkroyale neighborhoods and reaches a junction of the farther extension of White Oak Greenway west of NC Highway 55 and the NC-55 Streetside Trail.
Take time to enjoy the creek widening on the west side of Parkscene. An overlook atop the culvert has been thoughtfully provided, and the under-appreciated vista is excellent for views of wildlife.
If You Visit…
The best parking choices to the middle segment of White Oak Creek Greenway are at Davis Drive Park, White Oak Park (off Jenks Carpenter Road) or along Castle Hayne Drive. The entirety of this greenway segment can be walked from west to east in about 40 minutes, or a bit longer if you stop to appreciate the little treasures along the way.
David helps us discover local greenway treasures! Here are some other adventures to try:
- A Day at the White Oak Creek Greenway
- Pedestrian Tunnel Planned for White Oak Greenway
- A Day at the Higgins Greenway
- A Day at Lake Crabtree
Story and photos by David Lindquist.