It was a half hour before the Reedy Creek side of Umstead State Park was scheduled to open and I didn't feel like parking outside the gate and walking to the trailhead in the rain. OK, so I was there to run the Company Mill Trail and I was destined to get wet. But getting wet before the run as opposed to five minutes into it just didn't seem right.
View from the dash, before the dash: Parking, legally, in Umstead at 7:45 a.m.
Then I remembered that while the park officially doesn't open until 8, park officials had been opening the Glenwood Avenue entrance a half hour earlier. The move came over a year ago, when the state Department of Transportation abruptly shut down the popular neighborhood entrance at Graylyn Road. The Graylyn entrance was popular for a number of reasons, but it was especially popular among hikers, runners and bikers who, to avoid the heat of the day in summer or because they had to punch a clock, liked to get their workouts in early. Earlier, that is, than the official 8 a.m. opening. So the park opened the nearest main entrance a half hour earlier.
Today was the first day I'd taken advantage of the early opening. I parked at the bike & bridle trailhead about 7:45 and ran an abbreviated stretch of the 7.2-mile Sycamore Trail. About five miles. Now, 15 minutes may not seem like much, and in the time/space scheme of things, it's not. But that 15 minutes meant I'd finish running 15 minutes sooner, shower 15 minutes sooner and be at my desk 15 sooner. In short, by opening the park earlier, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation wasn't just letting one trail runner get his workout in a little earlier, it was boosting worker productivity and thereby ensuring North Carolina's competitiveness in an ever expanding global marketplace!
Which is a lot more than DOT can say.