PETTIGREW STATE PARK — Lake Phelps is outside of Creswell, North Carolina, in Pettigrew State Park, which is named after a family that once owned part of the property surrounding the park.
Their most famous family member is General James Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863), who was an American author, lawyer and Confederate general. He died during the Battle of Gettysburg and is buried on the Pettigrew property. We visited his gravesite in this blog post.
After the Civil War, the Pettigrews ended up going broke and had to sell their property. Eventually, the majority of the properties surrounding the lake came under state control and were eventually named a state park and state historic site, Somerset Place, which has a very extensive historical collection regarding slavery in eastern North Carolina.
I mention this historic information, because people living in the town I live in had dealings — both good and bad — with Lake Phelps. The history of both places are forever linked. A a knowledge-seeker, I would be remiss if I didn’t note this link somewhere.
But I’m here to talk about hiking around Lake Phelps, not economics in the 1800s. Recently, my family took on an almost 7-mile fall hike along the lake. When you get to the visitor’s center, which also serves at the camp check-in area, you can go left toward the camping area and Somerset Place or right.
This time, we went right. Right into an epic adventure.
Spring and fall are ideal times to visit Lake Phelps. The temperature isn’t too hot. You don’t have to deal with mosquitoes, though there are ticks. You get to see the changes of the season.
We came after a recent rain, so some of the areas near the lake were extra muddy and filled with water. But the path, no doubt created and maintain by the state, was muddy but manageable.
On the other side of the tree line, was a seldom-traveled two-lane road lined with a few single-family homes and farms. While walking past one of the homes, a pit bull-mix came across the road and joined us for our hike. Mountain Kid 3 named her Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is bigger than what we’re used to — we’re a dachshund family — but her enthusiasm was rather infectious. When she stopped to examine things, we took in our surroundings.
Did she find a deer track or other dog poop?
Watch out for the thorny bushes, Elizabeth.
This big puppy girl quickly became an extension of our family.
Along the way, there are markers noting various facts about the property. A series of canals once linked Lake Phelps to the Scuppernong River and eventually the Albemarle Sound, which is the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. You can still see part of the canal structures. There is also an assortment of plant varieties and animals that the park system wants to bring to your attention. The signs are a great break during the hike.
Eventually we made it to our turn-around point — Moccasin Overlook — a deck over wetlands that leads to a look-out. Elizabeth ran up and down the deck, almost falling over the edge a few times until a little lip on the edge broke her momentum.
It was rather funny and a bit scary having 100-pounds of dog run at you on this 2-foot wide span. But the view at the end and doggy kisses were worth the hassle.
On the way back, Elizabeth took the lead and went home. When us slower hikers came through, she sat in her driveway, looking at us. I think she was happy to be home, but also enjoyed hanging out with us. She watched us, but never barked, as we went past. Maybe she wanted to make sure we got home safety.
The park entrance is open from sunrise to sunset , and we ended up getting back just in time. We watched the flat farmlands turn various shades of red and purple under the setting sun. It was pretty awesome.
I would suggest bringing a water bottle and a snack or two any time you go on a hike. There are no bathrooms at Lake Phelps, except in the visitor’s center and camping areas. Also, check occasionally for ticks. Despite it being fall, we had a few hikers with ticks on them by the mid-way point.
Besides the route we took, you can go on a 14-mile hike one way, which takes you further around the lake. That was a little much for us, so our trail route was about 7 miles out and back.
Next time, we’ll head out a little earlier to avoid getting the gates closed on us at sunset.
Until next time, keep adventuring.