I had to run a few errands this weekend so there was no time for a long drive to the mountains. Had to make do with a few hours in Tanglewood Park, a mostly flat and only mildly interesting hiking locale with one major advantage: I can get there without burning an ounce of gas.

An escortAs it happened, the park drew a rather large crowed of gas-empowered citizens to the 45th running of the Tanglewood Cup, a steeplechase horse race last run in 2002. As this local blogger puts it: “The break was required to figure out how to keep spectators from getting too loaded and taking off their clothes.” Story of my life: I always get there after the Baring of Breasts has been banned.

I spent most of my time avoiding the Steeplechase, which required a minimum investment of $35 for the right to bake in the sun for several hours and watch maybe a half-dozen races that lasted about 4 minutes apiece. This could be amusing if an acquaintance were providing a proper supply of free beer and cheeseburgers; perhaps by the next running I’ll be able to find somebody gullible enough to supply these requirements.

I was fully prepared to come home with no race pictures at all but on my way back I heard somebody say the next race was starting in 15 minutes so I decided to hang around and hope none of the events staff noticed.

The race course

Here’s the back stretch of the course. The white tents are full of folks who paid buckets of cash for seats next to the course. The prime locations were near the jumps, which provide potential drama because the horses occasionally crash into them, sending jockeys hurtling to the green.

I remember seeing the Grand National Steeplechase on Wide World of Sports when I was a kid. It featured a huge thundering herd of thoroughbreds pounding their way down a long grass course and leaping over real shrub rows. Leaves would fly as the herd hit the jumps; jockeys would have agony-of-defeat face-plants if the horses mis-timed their leaps.

In contrast, the Tanglewood Steeplechase featured portable jumps decorated with plastic green pine boughs — think equestrian Astroturf. Maybe it would’ve seemed more dramatic if I’d have ponied up the cash for a front-row seat by the jumps. I snapped off a few shots as the field — maybe eight horses max — in the last race passed me in the first turn. Then I headed home before the event staff nabbed me.

Jockey warming up his horse

I did get a decent shot of a jockey warming up his steed just before post time.

Racing past

Two of the racers dash past.

OK, so that’s the last of the horse-race pictures. Here are some shots from Saturday’s stroll.

It's all green now

The stone-gray forest canopy of winter is shimmering green now that spring’s arriving.

Yadkin River

Winds create ripples on the typically placid surface of the Yadkin River. Someday I’m going to take a float trip on this river.

Crowds at the Tanglewood Steeplechase

Most days this is a big open meadow.

Pasture, horse

Tanglewood has a few resident horses and a stable where folks can rent rides on them. Off-duty horses hang out in these pastures, which have filled with little yellow flowers.

The swamp

The Swamp, my favorite place in Tanglewood. Best viewed from a distance to avoid close encounters with water moccasins and copperheads.

The pin

One of the many golf courses which hikers are forbidden to trod upon.


The park’s arboretum is ablaze with color, but it was too sunny and breezy yesterday to get any serviceable pictures of them. Direct sunlight bleaches flower pictures, especially ones with big blooms. I know, if I had real photography gear I wouldn’t have this problem.

So, nothing too sexy this week, but I’m looking at checking out South Mountains State Park next week. It’s only 80 miles away and has abundant hilly terrain and at least one awesome waterfall. Smokies Scout was there awhile back.