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South Fork Trail reveals beauty of river

Can I tell ya'Il a secret if you promise not to pass it along?

I was ready to write off the South Fork Trail as a waste of my time and certainly not worthy of inclusion in our series on outdoor recreational opportunities in Gaston County.

The trailhead, located at 119 Willow Drive in McAdenville, is unpaved and more than a little rutty.

Immediately after leaving the parking area, the trail passes under an 1-85 bridge -loud, unattractive, muddy, and generally sketchy.

A railroad bridge comes soon after the 1-85 bridge, and I seriously considered turning around there and heading for a different location.

But then, the trail entered the forest and the noisy roar ofl-85 was replaced by the sound of the river flowing gently south.

But then, the river's water was sparkling in the bright sunshine of an early October morning as a kingfisher skimmed along just over its surface.

And then, the clincher. I heard the sound of wings and looked up to see an eagle with the wingspan of a 747 passing just above me and continuing upstream.

Wow! Double wow!

By the time I had completed the two-mile northward hike about 45 minutes later and had emerged into a quiet Lowell subdivision at the trail's northward terminus, I had fallen in love with the trail and could highly recommend it to anyone.

LOCATION: The trailhead for the South Fork Trail is located at 119 Willow Drive in McAdenville, just off Dickson Road. Google Maps lists it as being in Gastonia.

HOURS: Dawn to dusk, seven days a week. The trailhead parking area is unlighted, so I would take that dawn to dusk thing pretty seriously.

BACKGROUND: The trail passes through the 94.5-acre Pharr Yams Preserve, set aside by Pharr Yarns and protected by the Catawba Lands Conservancy. The trail is a part of the growing Carolina Thread Trail network and is marked at the half-mile, mile, and 1.5-mile points with Carolina Thread Trail posts.

FACILITIES: None. Nature's needs must be attended to before or after the walk.

FUN WITH FIDO: Your hounds are welcome on this trail so long as they are on a leash and under your verbal command. RIDE A BIKE: Mountain biking is permitted on the South Fork Trail but only when conditions are absolutely dry.

TRAIL HIGHLIGHTS: The overwhelming selling point for this trail is its proximity to the South Fork River. The river is easily in sight for at least 80 percent of the two-mile walk and "social trails" lead right to the waters' edge in numerous locations.

According to information provided by the Carolina Thread Trail organization, this is a historic trail that was originally used by Native Americans and then used by settlers for textile mills. Two mills were established along the trail, the Ferguson Mill and another nicknamed Pinhook.

The stone pillars of an old bridge near the Pinhook mill site are still standing, and a tall cedar tree rises squarely out of the top of the one closest to the trail.

MY VERDICT: A perfect trail for walkers of all abilities. It is flat as can be. After the first quarter-mile the river and the forest and the wildlife combine for a fantastic outdoor experience. My Fitbit recorded the trail as being 2.22 miles each way for a total distance of 4.45 miles and 8,979 steps. Taking my time to admire both the river and the water fowl, I completed the hike in just under an hour and 45 minutes.

Bill Poteat may be reached at 704-869-1855.