A day trip in Raleigh can mean market-fresh food, a walk in the park, and downtown dining. In a matter of hours you can experience Nature’s bounty (and beauty) and man’s take on a taco. That’s Raleigh – country-fied city living!

A day trip in Raleigh can mean market-fresh food, a walk in the park, and downtown dining. In a matter of hours you can experience Nature’s bounty (and beauty) and man’s take on a taco. That’s Raleigh – country-fied city living!

The weekend weather in the state capitol was turning out to be beautiful. The farmer’s market, for me, is like Disneyland and Raleigh is just a couple of hours away from our coastal home. So we threw the cooler into the car to keep our bountiful produce finds fresh, grabbed some bottled water and some road snacks, and headed up the highway.

The plan: Cabelas grand opening, Raleigh Farmer’s Market, Umstead State Park, and dinner downtown.

As expected, the Cabelas parking lot was packed. Men and women of all ages and all stages of camo gear headed to the front doors with eyes glazed-over, staring ahead with focus and anticipation. They were “in the zone.”

While we didn’t find the “deal of the century” among all our oohs and aahs and growing wish list of outdoor “toys”, we did get red licorice.

Next stop, the Farmers Market. Located just of Hwy 40 at the Lake Wheeler Road exit on Farmers Market Drive, it’s easy to find, easy to park, and has lots to choose from.

We got our fill of cucumber, blueberries, Mexican squash, avocados, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and few others garden delights which I’ll be juicing up this week. The prices were about half of what I would pay at the local store, so the trip was worth it.

With time to spare before dinner, we headed just a few miles up the road to Umstead State Park

This park is huge! With 5,579 acres of trails, streams, lakes, and natural beauty, you’ll forget the bustling capitol city, and growing suburbs of Cary and Durham are just a stone’s throw away.

We visited the Reedy Creek Section which is just off I-40 at the Harrison Avenue Exit. The exit is well marked. The 1000 acres that make up Reedy Creek were once reserved for African-Americans back in 1950. Today the entire park is open to nature lovers of all shapes, sizes and colors!

The sunny weekend brought out plenty of folks. Even though temperatures topped 80 degrees and carried a bit of humidity the trail was surrounded by tall trees. The protection from the sun was welcomed. So were the rays of light streaming through the green leaves. Beautiful!

We passed other hikers, runners, and leashed dogs, all enjoying the day. Other trails allow mountain bikes and horses so if that’s your interest go to the state park site to see which trails are best for your recreational activity of choice. Click here for the park map: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/wium/pics/parkmap.pdf

We chose the Loblolly Trail. It’s an out and back 5 mile trail. We weren’t dressed for “real” hiking. In fact, I had on flip flops! We planned for a partial stroll on the easy, dirt-packed surface of the trail. But as things go, we got curious, and then wandered off the main trail.

We knew Reedy Creek Lake was to the left of the trail. The main hiking trail didn’t go to the lake. Still, we were curious to find out if the lake had any fish. We crossed over Reedy Creek, saw small bass in the water, and then the quest began.

We followed a small foot path along the creek knowing it would lead us to the lake. It was here where we came upon a pool of water off the creek protecting thousands of tadpoles (probably from those hungry bass). What a treat!

Then, a few steps later, we saw this little guy hanging out on the banks of the creek. No bigger than the palm of my hand he stood patiently, allowing me to get close enough to see how beautiful he was. For a moment, I wondered if I should kiss him to see if he turned into a prince but chose not to…my prince was already with me.

We found Reedy Creek Lake. It looked like it used to be a summer camping spot for energetic kids. There were a few docks, a life guard stand, and lots of room for imagination, swimming, canoeing and everything else wild and free kids do in the summer once unleashed from the constraints of school and cold winter weather.

We saw a red bridge in the distance and no marked path to get there. We had a decision to make: Double back to the main trail, or keep moving forward in the direction of the bridge.

We chose to go forward. We climbed up the hillside and crossed a few watery inlets, but eventually made it to the bridge. Now, I wouldn’t suggest doing it in flip-flops, but I survived just fine. A quick left turn at the bridge brought us right back to the parking lot (and the restrooms). Our planned 30 minute stroll had turned into a 1 ½ hour hike (with stops for photo ops). Nice day!

After we cooled down, it was time for dinner. We planned to go to an Osteria in town but it was closed for a private event. We ended up at a Mexican food place nearby. The food was okay; the outdoor patio was perfect for enjoying the warm weather and people passing by; the green-tea margarita…refreshing! The lite fare of chips and seafood ceviche were perfect for a warm day.

With so many other things to explore in Raleigh, I’m sure we’ll be back. But for now, it’s back home to discover what I’m going to do with that Mexican squash. Hmmmm….