We've hit a major milestone: Piper is big enough to fit in our baby carrier, which means hiking is back on. Rejoice! After a "swing-and-a-miss" moment on a local trail (I'll report on that soon, so you don't make the same mistake), I was glad to find a short trail system my preschool-aged girls really enjoyed that didn't leave us lost and covered with mystery insect bites.
Our hikes often involve serious whining with a side of bribery (skittles, jelly beans, lollipops). The girls get crabby. I get disappointed when my nature propaganda isn't effective. But in a convenient twist, they love the Piedmont Nature Trails, which are adjacent to Chapel Hill's North Carolina Botanical Garden and consist of two pretty, shady, intertwined paths. Several bridges, steps and views of Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek along the two miles of trails add interest for kids. (Aside: best creek name ever.)
The .5-mile Streamside Trail is an easy loop. The connected .75-mile Oak-Hickory Trail is hillier. You can check out the trail map here. Maps and interpretive brochures are available at the kiosk near the entrance. The girls had fun finding the trail markings coinciding with the map descriptions. The trails seem well used but not crowded, and I would personally feel comfortable using them alone.
Cricket begged to go back for a second time in one week, so she could bring her drawing supplies to take advantage of the well-placed benches for sketching. Of course I agreed.
Parking logistics & hours: You can park in the North Carolina Botanical Garden parking lot near the Education Center, but be mindful that the gates may lock when the garden closes. Check out garden hours here. There is some parking on the grounds but outside the gates if you plan to use the trails before or after hours. Walk through the Children's Wonder Garden and use the gate to enter the trails during garden hours, or follow the Pedestrian-Bike Path from the far side of the parking lot. (See map).
Strollers: The trails are not suitable for any type of stroller (too many roots, rocks and steps), but manageable for preschoolers to walk.
Bathrooms: Yes. There is an outdoor entrance to the restrooms at the Education Center next to the Children's Wonder Garden.
100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Everything and nothing feels different the third time around. Eat, play, sleep. Eat, play, sleep. Cry. Blow out of diaper. Eat, play, sleep. Developmental milestones, like smiling and rolling over (she's so close to rolling over!), are just as exciting to witness; they're just less surprising than they were the first time around when you can't imagine your tiny newborn will ever be able to do or say anything.
At 3 months, Piper continues to be relaxed and happy. Nothing thrills her more than playing with her big sisters or catching a glimpse of the beautiful and hilarious mystery baby in the mirror. Who is that girl anyway? She's also Miss Grabby Hands. Don't think you can get near her and then retreat with your hair intact. Everyone takes one look at her now and simply says, "Jeff."
This month I thought I'd capture some of those lovely rolls before she gets mobile and they melt into muscle. And I couldn't forget the balding pattern in the back. It's too much. Too much!
My talented friend, Kelly, made the gorgeous quilt Piper is lying on six years ago in preparation for Cricket's arrival. The pink tutu was a gift for Piper from Cricket's beloved preschool teacher, Ms. Hailey.
When a place describes itself as a "tranquil escape," I think twice about bringing my rambunctious family. So the first time I visited Chapel Hill's Honeysuckle Tea House, I just went with my sister. Fortunately what we found was a family-friendly place, complete with a playset, bamboo-enclosed hammock area and organic gardens for milling around. (Beware of the pond with little ones.) The vibe is yoga meets dreadlocks meets Costa Rica, and I dig that.
The tea house itself is open-air, so best enjoyed during pleasant weather. The breeze flowing through feels amazing after wandering the sunny gardens. Last time we visited, blackberries were ripe for picking and a food truck was pulling up just as we were leaving. In addition to tea and a small assortment of organic snacks and smoothies, you can also find yoga and plenty of live music (but don't go looking for espresso drinks). Even the meandering drive through the countryside from Pittsboro was idyllic.
You can learn more about the tea house's interesting origins here.
I'd consider "tranquil escape" an accurate description, but don't let that scare you off from bringing your family along. You can sip your tea and have a quiet moment staring off into the garden while your kids tear it up on the swings.
Parking logistics: Parking is abundant and obvious in a gravel lot in front of the tea house.
Strollers: The gravel parking lot and grassy garden paths are suitable for a jogging or all-terrain stroller, but not an umbrella-type stroller.
8871 Pickards Meadow Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Seasonal hours: March-November
Sun - Thurs 9am - 9pm | Fri & Sat 9am - 10pm
Not sure if it's open? Check their Facebook page or call 919.903.9131.
I had a moment of crazy while working on this post of Piper at 2 months old. As I was reviewing the final selection, I got to thinking I was looking at photos of her big sister, Cricket. Then I scrolled down to the image of Cricket, my photo assistant/laugh producer, with Piper and remembered these were Piper pictures. Oh my word. It's a little scary how strong Jeff's genes are, especially around the eyes. (I'll admit the chubbiness is all my family.) The last photo probably most resembles Cricket; I swear I have the exact one of her at this age.
But back to Piper. She continues to be an angel baby. This time around, however, we are experienced parents of the 5-and-under set, so we know she must have tricks up her sleeve, hidden beneath the silly smiles and her recent discovery that she controls her voice and can make us laugh by joyfully shrieking like a maniac.
Remember the time (last year) I started the Pittsboro-Chapel Hill Outdoors series, and I actually posted a few entries? And then remember when Baby #3 decided to wake up and become mobile, and I never wrote another series post? Well I'm not making any promises on whether I can actually find the time to revive the series, but here's an attempt.
I wrote this post after we went blueberry picking last year, and then somehow I never actually posted it. But you're in luck, because this year I remembered to post it just as the short blueberry-picking season is starting.
I'm sure there are pick-your-own blueberry farms closer to where we live now, but we've been going to Herndon Hills Farm (Durham, NC), a family-run, certified-organic farm, every summer for several years now, and we'll keep going as long as they'll have us.
Parking logistics & hours: The parking lot is a large grassy field, which can get very muddy. The farm is small, so the blueberries are not far from the parking. The fields are wet in the mornings; wear boots or sneakers. It can get crowded, so get there very early. We've never braved it on a weekend, but even on weekdays it draws a lot of blueberry and blackberry lovers. Days and hours change depending on how many berries are available, so be sure to check for updates on their Facebook page before you go.
Strollers: Hmm...the rows are probably wide enough for a stroller, but it would have to be all-terrain.
Bathrooms: I'm pretty sure there was a portopotty set up last year, but don't quote me on it.
7110 Massey Chapel Road/Barbee Rd
Here is a previous post I wrote about blueberry picking at Herndon Hills.
Looking for more family-friendly outdoor activities in and around Pittsboro and Chapel Hill, NC? Click here for more Pittsboro-Chapel Hill Outdoors series posts. Click here to learn more about the series.
Sometimes I get funny looks when I tell people we spent the morning or evening wandering around Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, NC.
Then they ask: "Isn't that a retirement community? Or a wedding venue?"
Well, yes and no. It's home to a lot of retirees and does host weddings, but it's also a pleasant and family-friendly place to relax. Fearrington Village was built on an old farm. It has a variety of restaurants and shops, which you can learn more about here. But I'm just going to focus on a few things we like to do there in the summer. It's the kind of place you could spend 10 minutes or a few hours milling around.
Pizza night: First things first. Let's talk about wood-fired pizza, wine and music nights at Roost Beer Garden. The pizza is cooked in a tiny house, then a server grabs it through an open window and delivers it to your picnic table on the patio. Locals bring their dogs, kids play around the garden, a low-key band jams on the porch. And did I mention the wine? Because there's always wine. Yes, it's as idyllic as it sounds. And yes, you should check it out before Roost shutters its doors for the season. (Be sure to look at their Facebook page or call before you go: 919.542.2121. Pizza and music may be canceled for inclement weather, but they are typically open April-November during the evenings on Thursday-Saturday "when music is playing.")
Barnyard: The kids love to check out the black and white belted cows, fainting goats and chickens in the barnyard right at the entrance. When we visited last week, there was a young calf in the front pasture with its parents and a brand-new baby goat across the driveway. Beware: much of the fencing is electric, so keep those little ones close.
Walking: We are walkers. Or, more accurately, I'm a walker and I force my family to walk with me or ride in the stroller while I walk. When we lived in Cary, I felt very safe walking alone on just about any trail in Raleigh and Cary. Since we moved out here, I feel a little uneasy alone on some trails; I'm just not as familiar with the area yet. Walking around Fearrington feels safe. There are friendly people out and about, but it's never crowded.
There are sidewalks throughout the village, so you can take a nice long walk if you meander around. They pass through neighborhoods and around pastures, where there are often cows and donkeys grazing. (If you're standing facing The Goat, turn left, walk past Roost, then turn right and follow the sidewalk on either side of the parking lot/street to head toward the neighborhoods.) There is also a gravel trail around a pond, which is suitable for a jogging or all-terrain-type stroller. (To get to the pond, which also has some random sheep statues to play around, walk past Roost, cross the parking lot at the crosswalk, turn right and follow the sidewalk until it hits the park and pond area.) The grounds of The Fearrington House Restaurant and barn are also usually open unless an event is taking place, so you can wander through the gardens.
Coffee: I'd be lying if I said I didn't always stop at The Goat for an iced mocha before setting out on a morning walk around Fearrington. It's still considered exercise if you're drinking a coffee the size of your head, right? The Goat has signs up indicating there may be nuts in their goodies, so we haven't tried any of their pastries or gelato (peanut allergy here!). But you should.
Books: Just next to the animals near the entrance, McIntyre's Books is a small, quaint, independent shop that hosts a lot of book readings and also offers a children's story hour. They have a cute children's nook filled with picture books and toys, but it's not large enough to hold the kids' attention for long.
Playground: Fearrington does have a small playground across the road, Village Way, from the main village. Because it has signs saying the playground is for residents only, I'll leave it up to you to find it if you're so inclined.
Bathrooms: Fearrington has nice, clean, indoor bathrooms. You can access them from a separate door between McIntyre's Books and The Granary restaurant.
Parking logistics: Parking is abundant and obvious. There are several paved parking areas around the village as soon as you drive in, and we've never had trouble finding a spot at any time of day. We have, however, witnessed some "interesting" driving antics. Please watch out for drivers who may not be as attentive as they should at crosswalks.
2000 Fearrington Village Center
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Map of village area (does not include neighborhoods or the path around the pond).
For more photos of Fearrington, check out Nora's 4-year-old lifestyle portrait session.
Click here to learn more about the Pittsboro-Chapel Hill Outdoors series. Click here for more series posts. The next installment will feature the Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill.
I'm Julia Soplop. I've spent my life documenting the world around me in writing and photography. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.