By Bill Poteat firstname.lastname@example.org
Its proximity to two major highways makes it one of the more accessible parks in the county and its many amenities combine to make it one of the most attractive as well.
LOCATION: Rankin Lake Park is located at 1750 Rankin Lake Road, Gastonia. Whether heading north or south on U.S. 321, turn onto Tulip Drive at the QuikTrip. After less than 100 yards, turn right onto Rankin Lake Road. Lakefront entrance is to the left. The park is open from dawn to dusk each day.
WANT TO WALK? The Lake Trail, which circles the more than 100-acre Rankin Lake, is perfect for walkers of any age, shape, or physical condition. The loop trail is a hair under 1.6 miles in length and is basically flat as a board. If you want to avoid the one small hill on the trail, go right as you begin your walk.
WANT TO BIKE? Biking is permitted on the Lake Trail also, and it is certainly wide enough to accommodate both walkers and bikers, assuming both groups exercise courtesy and keep safety in mind. No on-site bike rentals are available.
WANT TO HIT THEW ATER? Neither swimming nor wading is permitted in Rankin Lake, but two-person paddle boat rentals are available during warm weather. The fee is $5 for half an hour and $8 for a full hour. In case you haven't done it lately, paddling one of those bad boys is great aerobic exercise.
FUN WITH FIDO? No dog park at Rankin Lake in which Rover can romp, but he is welcome to walk the Lake Trail with you, so long as he is on a leash no longer than 8 feet and is under your voice command at all times. By the way, if Lassie does her business on or along the trail, pick it up. "Doggy'' bags are conveniently located at dispensaries around the park.
DISC GOLF? An 18-hole disc golf course is located on the east side of the park, on the hill above the lake. This old fella knows nothing about disc golf, but the website, Disc Golf Course Review, reports: "Mostly open front nine, yet tight and technical, with OB affecting every hole. Back nine is mostly wooded, with several very tight fairways. Elevation and variety. Detailed color tee signs with hole layouts and tips. Seventeen concrete tee pads, and one brick tee."
BAIT A HOOK? Rankin Lake has two fishing peers and one designated area for bank fishing. Otherwise, fishing from the Lake Trail or the adjacent banks is prohibited. Those over 16 must have a valid N.C. fishing license.
FEELING HUNGRY? Rankin Lake has two huge, lakeside, corporate picnic shelters, as well as one large shelter and eight small shelters dotting the hillside through which the disc golf course runs. Shelters may be reserved by calling 704-866-6839.
WRITER'S CHOICE: Got to be the 1.6-mile loop Lake Trail around Rankin Lake. I visited the park on a recent weekday morning and the entire scene was just so beautiful. A clear sky, cool temps, and the sunlight shimmering on the lake's tranquil waters combined for an amazing walking experience.
Take the time to venture out onto the large fishing platform on the south side of the lake, or linger for a few minutes along the wooden bridge at the lake's west end.
As I stood on the bridge and looked back across the lake, an enormous great blue heron came gliding along, no more than a foot above the water's surface. Wow!
As I stated in the beginning, just an amazingly peaceful and tranquil place, with but one caveat. The sound of trucks rushing up and down both I-85 and U.S. 321 is ubiquitous. If you think that will bother you, bring some headphones.
The city of Gastonia also operates a gun range adjacent to the park, so at times the sound of gunfire can pierce the tranquility.
Bill Poteat may be reached at 704-869-1855.