“Where on earth am I?” is not a great way to start a conversation at a gas station.
But that’s what I kept asking people as I searched for two parks in the Sandhills of North Carolina.
I was on my way to Wilmington and looking for two state parks: Jones Lake and Singletary. You will be forgiven if you’ve never heard of them but they are now on the Coastal Crescent route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Once I left the familiar exits of I-40, I relied on my GPS and hoped it knew more than I did. It didn’t. Finally I found myself in Bladen Lakes State Forest but still no Jones Lake SP. I corralled a forest ranger, probably on his lunch break, and he directed me.
For a state park that is so difficult to find, Jones Lake was quite busy. Visitors were fishing, swimming, picnicking and boating. Range Lane Garner knew all about the MST and told me that it followed their bay trail. So in the blazing sun, I walked the four mile trail around the lake.
Lake – Jones and Singletary Lakes are not lakes like Fontana Lake outside of Bryson City or Lake Lure near Chimney Rock. They are shallow oval depressions; Jones Lake in particular is only 8.7 feet deep. The big practical difference is that these Carolina bays, as they are called, aren’t fed by streams or springs but depend on rain. The water is tea colored.
Still, it’s perfectly fine to swim or fish in Jones Lake. I should have done something around the water. Instead I walked and was attacked by mosquitoes. The worst was a bite on my ankle which is still red and swollen. I will be scratching fore-e-ver.
Singletary Lake SP was much easier to find and quicker to deal with. The public can only go into the park when they aren’t used by nonprofit groups. There’s not even a visitor center, just a park office. So I asked how I could see the lake.
“You can’t go in now” the park office manager said. “We have two groups camping.”
“What if I just leave my car in the lot and just walk?” I asked.
The answer was still no. But she was perfectly happy to stamp my NC park passport.
So where does the MST go? She really knew about the MST.
“The route is on the road, passing the park entrance,” she said. “And it’s the alternate route of the MST.”
Yes, she was right. Since State Parks hasn’t yet approved this route, it’s an alternate route. I was just happy that she knew about the details of the MST.
So that’s why I don’t have a single picture of Singletary Lake.