Family picks

STAFF WRITERMay 1, 2009 

  • What: Clemmons Educational State Forest

    Where: 2411 Old U.S. 70 West, Clayton

    Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The forest is open from mid-March to mid-November.

    Who goes: All ages

    Cost: Free

    More information: or 553-5651

  • Bright Star Children's Theatre presents "The Adventures of Treasure Island," at 11 a.m. Saturday, but get there early for a pirate sing-along at 10:30 a.m. The performance is at The ArtsCenter, 300-G East Main St., Carrboro. Tickets are $7. Best for second graders and up. Call 929-2787 or go to for information.

    Get your tickets for two big kids shows headed to Raleigh in May. Broadway Series South presents "Thomas & Friends: A Circus Comes to Town" from May 15 to May 17 for five shows at the Progress Energy Center for Performing Arts. Go to Also note that the series' "Bob the Builder" show, also slated for this month, has been canceled. Those with "Bob the Builder" tickets can get a refund at the place of purchase.

    And "Sesame Street Live: When Elmo Grows Up" will be at the RBC Center from May 28 to May 31. Go to for details.

    To win Elmo and Thomas tickets, go to

    Smithfield's annual Ham & Yam Festival is this weekend in downtown Smithfield. The festival includes live music, a barbecue contest and more both Saturday and Sunday. Go to for a full schedule of activities and entertainment.

My preschooler loves the outdoors, but she's not the best hiker in the world. I wasn't sure how far we'd get on the trails when we headed off to the Clemmons Educational State Forest in Johnston County recently for a hike and a picnic.

But these trails are a little different. They have talking trees and rocks.

Tucked away off a country road in Johnston County, Clemmons Educational State Forest is home to the Talking Tree trail and Forest Geology trail (also called the talking rock trail). At points along the trails, which each are less than a mile, there are posts with recorded information about a tree or rock nearby.

Just press a button and you can learn more about loblolly pine or dogwood, granite or sandstone, for instance.

A longer demonstration trail, which we didn't explore, includes information about different forestry practices, including how forests are thinned, harvest techniques and how forest products are measured.

A fire tower is open to the public, though at 30 feet is shorter than the usual tower which usually extends 100 feet.

Clemmons is a working forest and part of the N.C. Division of Forest Resources' network of seven educational state forests across the state. There are similar trails and information at the Jordan Lake Educational State Forest on the west side of the lake, north of U.S. 64 off of Big Woods Road.

At Clemmons, timber is harvested when the trees are mature and need to be thinned, typically in the winter when the forest is closed. Controlled burns also are planned at the same time when needed. The forest is about 850 acres, though the public only sees a small portion of it.

Clemmons is one of the busier forests with school groups headed there about every day, says Chris Carlson, information and education chief for the N.C. Division of Forest Resources. It's also a popular place for scouts and families, especially on the weekends when the picnic areas can fill up.

On a recent weekday, there were a couple of buses of elementary school students, a handful of other people out exploring and plenty if open picnic tables.

The talking trees and rocks were enough to push my daughter forward along the trails. She liked discovering the buttons to push and finding the rocks or trees that the recording mentioned.

The forest includes some nice picnic areas. The restrooms are being refurbished, but there were some very clean port-a-potties and a handwashing station.

One word of caution: This is a forest and we picked up a tick while we were there. So just take appropriate precautions: long pants tucked into socks and bug spray. or 919-829-8983

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