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Mining for hidden gems

What did you do this weekend?
The question echoes on Monday mornings in workplaces across the country. This week, when I told colleagues in the newsroom that on Saturday afternoon, my son Edik and I drove out to Eagle Point Nature Preserve by High Rock Lake and walked the trails, I got a response I didn’t expect.
To a person, it was some version of, “I’ve never been there.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve worked at the Post going on 15 years, and I had never been to Eagle Point. But I was, because the people who said it have all been here longer. That got me thinking the nature preserve must be one of the hidden gems in Rowan.
Eagle Point seemed like a good option last weekend, someplace we’d never explored. Driving out Bringle Ferry Road in eastern Rowan and turning onto the dead-end Black Road to get there, we saw no other cars heading for the preserve, which is overseen by the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The parking lot was empty, and as we set off on the first of three looping, interconnected trails, we quickly discovered that no human had been through for as long as it takes a spider to spin a web. There were dozens of them, maybe hundreds, spread across the walkway. After walking face-first into a couple, we resorted to swinging sticks in front of us to clear our path as we went.
The first trail is less than a mile and has signs identifying various trees and plants in the preserve, along with information about them. It’s interesting to learn new facts and be reminded of some you learned in elementary school when you had to collect leaves from different kinds of trees.
A walker can stay on that first trail, take the second, or hike all three, which we did. At a couple of points, the lake shore is just a few feet off the trail, a good place to stop and rest or have a rock-skipping contest. Edik believes he won ours, but the results are disputed and still under review.
We didn’t see or hear anyone else until we made it back to the parking lot. An older couple were just pulling in, about to take their own walk. They weren’t from Rowan, but were looking for a house to buy in the area. I couldn’t help them with real estate, but could share some other gems.
Whenever someone asks me what they have to do in Rowan County, I reflexively tell them to eat at Keaton’s Barbecue. Way out Cool Springs Road near the Iredell County line in western Rowan, Keaton’s is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, and it’s a cultural treasure. Founded in 1953 by B.W. Keaton and built on the taste of his own sauce, the business continues under his family’s guidance and has been spotlighted in magazines, on the radio and TV shows.
Keaton’s might be a good place to head for dinner after you hit the mountain bike trail at Salisbury Community Park on Hurley School Road. Local mountain bikers know about the zig-zagging trail with deep drops, but I mentioned it to a Concord bike shop owner once and he’d never heard of it.
The Kannapolis Intimidators’ CMC-NorthEast Stadium may not be hidden, but it’s typically not very crowded and it’s a great place to spend a summer evening watching a ballgame.
The list goes on: Dunn’s Mountain, Gold Hill, the N.C. Transportation Museum. And by the way, a group trail walk is planned for 11 a.m. today at Eagle Point Nature Preserve.
Those are a few of my gems. What are yours?
And what are you doing this weekend?
Scott Jenkins is news editor of the Salisbury Post.

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