Opt Outside at Johnston Mill Nature Preserve

It’s really hard to beat a sunny day off spent in the great outdoors that ends with a gently snoring, happily tired dog curled up next to me. In fact it is my goal for this Friday November 27, the day after Thanksgiving, to repeat this lovely scene.

On Black Friday, if you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina, there are numerous natural areas where you can “Opt Outside,” foregoing chaotic stores and long lines to instead spend the day getting fresh air and a healthy dose of vitamin D. After my latest weekend adventure, I highly recommend a visit to Johnston Mill Nature Preserve in Chapel Hill, one of six beautiful nature preserves owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy. These preserves are open to the public for enjoyment through low-impact activities, such as hiking, birding and photography.

With red trail markers to guide us along, we took a leisurely pace on the leaf-littered Robin’s Nest Trail, a 1.5 mile path that connects the preserve’s two entrances. As the trail is mostly flat and easy to walk on, it would be an excellent choice for people of a range of ages and abilities. It parallels New Hope Creek the whole way, with several benches offering nice views of the water. Recent rains had given a little more volume to the creek, such that it softly gurgled over the rocks in some sections.

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We took Robin’s Trail, which follows New Hope Creek, to traverse the preserve.

During the spring and fall bird migrations, many species stop through Johnston Mill, which boasts over 125 species observed there. Currently the migration is coming to a close, but I still spotted plenty of year-round and winter residents flitting about the naked tree branches. As I looked toward the sky, I noticed that the sycamore trees looked brilliantly white in the sunlight, starkly contrasting the clear blue sky and darker brown branches nearby.

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The ferns and fungi looked extra vibrant after the recent rains.

In addition to the fascinating biota, a careful eye can spot reminders of a time gone by. Two hundred years ago, the Johnston family established Green Hill plantation on this land, and you can view the mill site, where still are the remains of old walls and the home-stead foundation.

So, this Friday, Opt Outside and take this guide with you to Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, or find the Triangle Land Conservancy preserve closest to you! Wherever you live, seek out some urban green space, a state or national park, the preserve of your local conservancy, and have an adventure for Black Friday. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Beautiful wooden bridges ease creek crossings along the trail.

Want more?

Get to know the Triangle Land Conservancy on their website, by reading their blog, The Dirt, and by visiting their gorgeous nature preserves. 

Also, learn more about REI’s revolutionary Opt Outside campaign on their website!

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