Photos by Ashlie Acevedo.
Downtown Greensboro, for its shortcomings and tentative development plans, has enough things going on and places to go to make it so one never needs to really leave this part of the city.
Whether a person moves here for school, or if a local simply moves downtown to escape the suburban expanse, it can sometimes be difficult to conjure the desire to get out of downtown and see what else there is. Over time, some of the more unique and unencumbered parts of Greensboro worth visiting have either become commercial property or shut off.
While this may be an inevitable outcome for a town, some parts have remained. Sometimes it takes years of passing these places to even care about their significance. With that in mind and after hours of walking, cycling and driving around the city, AMPLIFIER has landed on a few locations worth discussing with full attention.
The Bog Garden
The Greensboro Bog Garden is perhaps one of the more obvious spots to discuss, but the serenity and effortless beauty of this place can simply not be overlooked. The 1987 melding of purpose between Greensboro Beautiful Incorporation and the Parks and Recreation Department resulted in the densely packed assembling of varied natural splendor that becomes more arresting the longer one explores it. This nature reserve can be easy to miss, as the entrance faces a busy street and it happens to be situated between the slightly larger and certainly more obvious Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden and a quiet suburban neighborhood.
The “obviousness” of this space as a unique location in Greensboro quickly becomes meaningless as soon as one enters the garden. Walking through the garden feels at times like playing Donkey Kong Country. A primary wooden path gives way to abrupt offshoots that are sometimes helpful and other times seemingly meaningless to the experience, leaving one to wonder whether there is some off-colored secret passage that has been missed beneath the soft dirt floor. The overall layout of the garden is somewhat horseshoe-shaped with essentially a stream in the center, which later pours out into Benjamin Lake and a natural retention wall called Melvins Mountain, that encloses the whole right side of the reserve. The last and perhaps most important part of the garden is the paths between the thickets of bamboo lining the exit/alternate entrance of the place.
Michael Weaver Bridge/Nat Greene Trail
The Nat Greene Trail is not an ideal location to visit during or around a rainstorm, please believe. This watershed trail, one of the oldest in the city, is like traversing 3.6 miles of soggy Cheerios if wet, or like walking through a literal Thomas Kinkade painting in pretty much any other type of weather. Similar to the Bog Garden, the Nat Greene Trail is a combination of winding boardwalk, dirt and the occasional overturned tree, but with the additional payoff of culminating in a sort of eerie yet idyllic bridge that sits above Lake Brandt. The bridge itself, a 140-foot expanse that is part of a once functional railway line, is completely devoid of frills or ornament.
“These locations operate within the city as a method of escape—a way of separating oneself from the pace and concrete of the city and university setting.”
The simplicity of the bridge itself allows the natural spectacle of both the lake and tree-lined coves to sharpen; it is all just about enough to make the visitor ignore the awkward Dasani-sponsored ice blue bench that stands at the front of the bridge. This area is serene: situated in the northwestern side of Greensboro just a spitting distance from the Summerfield line, it is quite possibly the most relaxed section of the city. Here, if lucky enough, one might spot bald eagles, blue herons, egrets and ospreys; without luck, there will likely be an encounter with a goose or two. This trail cannot be missed for anyone who needs a break from the downtown life.
By all accounts Hamilton Lake (which exists within the larger neighborhood of Hamilton Lakes) is the smallest of the three places looked at in this article, but that does not make it any less interesting to visit. Situated in the heart of an odd assembly of natural beauty, recreation and middle to upper class housing, Hamilton Lake is an ideal place to take a date or read a book without fear of being asked to leave. Likely the most interesting aspect of this place is the rather large dam and accompanying bridge tucked off to the side of the lake. The fieldstone masonry of both the bridge and dam, arranged with so many imperfectly jutted tufts of rock, makes what would otherwise be a placid body of water much more affecting.
The actual bridge itself acts as sort of an amphitheater for the water plummeting off the lip of the dam, where a visitor can go under the bridge and sit on large stone slabs situated at the base of this makeshift waterfall. The takeaway of this area, with Nürburgring-esque roads and lush walking trails, is that this place was intended to be a sort of hidden oasis among the otherwise standard housing developments around the western side of the city. Basically, if spending a nice fall afternoon having a picnic by the lake admiring some pretty top notch architecture or jogging through likely the nicest residential trail around here are things that seem interesting, this place is worth checking out.
Despite the perhaps obvious theme of nature plus bodies of water, each of these places has its own unique qualities and personalities that make it stand out. These locations operate within the city as a method of escape—a way of separating oneself from the pace and concrete of the city and university setting.