Monday, September 29, 2014
By Brad Wright, produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
The heat radiates off the dark asphalt as I make my way down Andrews Farm Road. I feel like I’m running inside a convection oven. My pace has slowed considerably since my youthful days on the Spartan High Cross Country team, and I am already sweating profusely to compensate. Treading carefully down the edge of Woodburn Road, I make the turn into the entrance of the Cottonwood Trail, an exquisite sanctuary nestled in the heart of Spartanburg’s east side.
The 85-acre preserve, also known as the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve, is one of the city’s finest natural offerings, where you can join Spartanburg residents who are jogging, walking or playing disc golf. Running parallel to the meandering waters of Lawson’s Fork, the trail provides a verdant corridor that provides an enjoyable respite from the drudgery of city life. The canopy serves as a shield from the relentless summer sun, and the cool breeze off of the creek’s water is a welcome contrast to the scorching black streets.
The Trail, with three entrances located within eight minutes’ drive of Spartanburg’s Morgan Square, has something to offer everyone. For those with a passion for active living, the three miles of trails provide ample space for running, walking and cycling. Bird and animal watchers are certain to encounter a variety of wildlife on any excursion. And to anyone who simply wishes to have a moment of tranquility removed from the rush of city life, the trail offers a perfect refuge. Maintained by the dedicated staff of the Spartanburg Area Conservancy, the Cottonwood Trail is a unique and marvelous resource that can be utilized by everyone.
In the summer of 2009 I had the good fortune to hike all 2,178 miles of the Appalachian Trail. While we can debate the sanity of such an endeavor, I think this is the quickest way to establish my bona fides as a lover of the outdoors. When you spend that amount of time in the wilderness it becomes a second home, and you find that not a day passes where you don’t long for a return. This estrangement is only amplified by the ever-encroaching suburban sprawl of modern America, where carefully manicured lawns and flowerbeds replace the unkempt majesty of the forest. Drives of two hours or more are frequently necessary to find the solitude that nature lovers like me seek. Standing in stark contrast to that idea, I say without equivocation that the Cottonwood Trail amply satisfies the needs of even the most ardent outdoorsman.
For such a small preserve in the middle of highly developed area, the trail offers rich and stunning biodiversity, with more than 50 species of trees, including the majestic cottonwoods clustered around the entrance to the wetlands boardwalk. You will almost certainly see the array of birds that thrive the area—wood ducks, woodpeckers and more—but you are likely to be surprised to share the trail with a deer or two. Considering the proximity to major roadways it is always an exciting sight to see a mother and fawn gorging themselves on the trail’s greenery. For the amateur herpetologists among us, the trail is home to several species of snake, many of whom enjoy sunning themselves in the middle of the trail, which can make running a heart stopping endeavor for some. If you are particularly lucky you’ll be witness to a blue heron gracefully gliding its way to the water’s edge, or a red-tailed hawk alighting on a perch in its quest for prey. And if you have built up some impressive karma you just might be fortunate enough to catch sight of the beavers and otters that call the creek home.
While it might not offer the open expanses of New York’s Central Park, the Cottonwood Trail is nevertheless Spartanburg’s premiere spot to escape the rush of urban living. Whether you are looking to exercise, view wildlife or simply enjoy spending time in a natural setting, there is no better place in the city than the Cottonwood Trail.
Enter the Cottonwood Trail off Beechwood Drive, Dupre Drive or Woodburn Road.
Brad Wright, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Brad Wright is a Spartanburg native and freelance dilettante, recently returned to the Hub City after an extended tour of the Southeast. When he’s not entertaining his lab Rex Banner you can find him volunteering at Hub City Bookshop and the County History Museum. He loves to discuss pop culture ephemera, the Appalachian Trail and his recent appearance on Jeopardy!