North Carolina county #93 Uwharrie National Forest - Thornburg Tract
Yesterday I went to Uwharrie Mountains National Forest. This is a smaller National Forest, at around 51,000 acres, but it still dwarfs all of the state parks. These mountains are the oldest in North America, and sit a good bit east of the western mountains in North Carolina. They are actually in the Piedmont region, an hour east of Charlotte.
I’ve only been here once before, but I need to start coming back. The furthest parts of it are only one and a half hours from me and it is real wilderness; there is always a different feel to the well-marked trails in a park compared to trails in the wild, even when they are well-traveled. The area I went to in Randolph County is called the Thornburg Tract, presumably after the Thornburg homestead at the trailhead. It is part of the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness, which is a 5000 acre section of Uwharrie National Forest. Wilderness areas are a special designation meant for areas that should be “where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”.
As I mentioned, there is an old homestead at the start of the trail. At first I was unsure about walking the trail, because it looked like an inhabited house at first look. In the back are some old outbuildings with signs identifying them as a barn, chicken house, carriage house, etc., some dating back to 1900.
There was a light rain while I was there, and after the last incident with rain and my camera, I didn’t want to risk it. So I took my backup camera, which I now always bring along and has better weather sealing. Besides the rain, the temperature was cool and I was really loving the area. There was a lot of bird activity and I saw no one. Despite the rain and my lesser camera, I was able to get a few photos of birds.
There were a large number of White-throated Sparrows and American Robins around, generating a good bit of noise. I saw both species of Kinglet and four species of Woodpecker.
The Pileated is so amazing when you see him close up in the woods. He was quite a treat. I also managed to spy a Fox Sparrow, which is only my second ever sighting. I even saw a large flock of Double-crested Cormorants fly over. I would have stayed longer, but I was nervous because this area is hunted, and I had forgotten to bring any orange to wear. In fact, I was dressed in all blacks and earth tones, which is really not good for walking around the woods during hunting season. So I headed back after being only about a half mile in, whistling a tune as I went.
I did run into a hunter back at the parking lot. He seemed like a nice guy, and I thought I detected an Italian accent – not something you hear often in the middle of the Piedmont of North Carolina.
This is a great spot, and the trail goes on for miles. I would definitely come back and explore this area some more.