Journal/Blog

Goose Creek Hikes

posted Dec 1, 2018, 4:43 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 3, 2018, 3:12 PM ]

Saturday, we took Alex for a day hike to Goose Creek State Park.  First, we stopped at the visitor center to get Alex's passport stamped.

The park had taken some damage hiking Hurricane Florence and the far end of Palmetto Boardwalk was closed.  So we did this one as an out and back.  The boardwalk leads through a beautiful swamp and then a more open marsh area.

At the caution tape was our turnaround point.  Since the boardwalk doesn't connect to the other trails we parked at Ivey Gut Trailhead and started hiking Tar Kiln Trail.  As the name suggests, the trail passes the remains of several old tar kilns. Some were hard to discern with all the newly fallen trees.  At the end we turned left on Mallard Creek Trail and went out to the overlook.

From here, we got on Live Oak Trail to head towards the beach on Pamlico River.  I think this is the nicest part of the park and that's saying a lot.

Live oaks with branches draped in Spanish moss hang over the Pamlico River.

We found a nice spot to sit and have a break enjoying the views.

Past the Swim Beach, we took Goose Creek Trail that parallels Pamlico towards its namesake.  Boardwalks traverse a gum and cypress swamp.

Although most of the leaves were down, there were still a few patches of color.

At the far end, there is a tree with the ground around it completely eroded away, but it's still standing strong - even with another tree haven fallen on it.  Past the campsites is a canoe launch for Goose Creek.

We backtracked a short ways and then got on Ivey Gut Trail.  We did the loop with a couple spots to go out for views of Goose Creek.

There was a lion's mane mushroom growing on the tree here.

Some of the boardwalks here had been damaged by the hurricane, but were passable.  This trail finished back up at our parking lot.  One the way home, we stopped at Flower Hill Nature Preserve in Johnston County, so Alex could get a hike for TLC challenge.

It was raining now, but only lightly.  We hiked out to the end of the property and back.  The south-facing bluffs along Moccasin Creek support an unusual population of Catawba rhododendron.

They weren't blooming now, but are still noticeable.  The only leaves that were still orange were the beech trees.

We finished the hike back at the car and drove the rest of the way home.

Thanksgiving at the Eno

posted Nov 22, 2018, 11:15 AM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 24, 2018, 2:22 PM ]

Thanksgiving morning, we took Alex for hike at Eno River State Park.  Although he's been here many times, this is the first time we remembered his passport, so stopped by the visitor center first to get it stamped.


Then we parked at the trailhead for Cox Mountain and started hiking down the trail.  Alex isn't a fan of the suspension bridge over the river, but he made it across.


At the trail split, we went left to begin climbing the small mountain.  The trail has now been almost completely re-routed.  The climb is much less steep as it takes a longer, switchbacking route up Cox Mountain.  Down the other side, the trail follows Eno downstream.  We could see Holden Mill across the river; the trail to it is currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Florence.


Continuing on, another trail reroute runs closer to the river until it reaches Fanny's Ford Trail.  We turned left here to follow the river around and then back to the suspension bridge.  Across, we followed the river upstream to Buckquarter Creek Trail and then Ridge Trail to a crossing of Buckquarter Creek.


The water level was high, but enough rock was exposed to get across with dry feet.  Turning on Shakori Trail, we followed Buckquarter Creek Trail further upstream.  The upper reaches of the creek were rather interesting.


Then we looped back around and got back on Buckquarter Creek Trail.  Following along the river, we saw a lot more people along this stretch of trail.


The cascades on the river were really raging.  From here, it was a short hike back to the car and then to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

Sandhills Hikes

posted Nov 22, 2018, 11:14 AM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 23, 2018, 4:36 PM ]

I took the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off so Sandy and I could take Alex for some hikes.  We headed south towards Fayetteville for our first hike at Carvers Creek State Park.  Our first order of business was to get Alex's passport stamped.


Then we set off on Rockefeller Loop Trail heading down the old gravel road.  I was surprised to see a fair amount of fall color down here in the Sandhills.


We didn't have much up in the Triangle and most of the trees down here are pines.  As we got towards the former millpond, there were a few old buildings.


The most impressive was the Rockefeller House.  It's not open to the public currently, but may in the future following restoration.


Next to here was the Spring House where water was stored and items could be refrigerated.


The millpond was no longer - flooding in 2016 had destroyed the dam and the millpond drained.  We hiked around to where the floating overlook had been.  It was completely destroyed.  There were still some cypress trees in the creek that fed the millpond.


A creek flowed through the middle of the former millpond but most of it had dried out.


There are plans to replace the dam in the future, so one day it will hopefully be restored.  Heading back, we went right on Rockefeller Loop.


Last time we were here, it was an out-and-back, but now it was a loop that ran along the property's edge right behind some private homes.  Near the visitor center, the trail cut back across, leading across the entrance road and back to the park office.  From here, we headed to Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve.  Parking at the visitor center, we got Alex's passport stamped.


Then we hit the trails, taking Bower's Bog Trail to Lighter Stump Trail and heading north through the preserve.  At Pine Island Trail, we went right and got on the Equestrian Trail to hike around the perimeter of the preserve.  Like Carver's Creek, there was a lot of fall color along the trail, despite being a pine forest.


Water levels were higher than normal for autumn and it was noticeable along the creek and at Moccasin Crossing.


Past the crossing we took Gum Swamp Trail past some shrubs with pretty red foliage.


Then finished up our hike on Pine Barrens Trail.  But we had one more hike for the day.  We made the short drive over to the Paint Hill section of the park as we had never visited here before.  Starting out on the Pyxie Moss Trail, it was too late in the year to see the trail's namesake, which bloom in spring.  But we did see some other pretty pine barrens gentians blooming in a couple places.


At the far end of the loop, we followed service roads to an old cemetery.  Two grave markers were readable - a couple born in the late 19th century.


We followed the service roads back to the main trail and followed to the end at Fox Squirrel Loop.


This short loop led back to Pyxie Moss Trail near the trailhead.  Leaving the park, we headed into Pinehurst and had dinner at Hickory Tavern.  They had a nice outdoor seating area so Alex could join us.  After dinner, we made the drive home.

National Take a Hike Day

posted Nov 17, 2018, 1:22 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 17, 2018, 2:22 PM ]

Saturday was National Take a Hike Day so we took Alex to Umstead State Park for a Hike.  It was a little chilly but had dried out after a very wet week and it was very pleasant hiking weather.  Hiking on Sycamore Trail, we descended to Pott's Branch, which had a lot more water than usual.


Most of the leaves were down, but the creek was really pretty on an autumn morning.  Where the trail split, we went straight and switchbacked down to Sycamore Creek.  A short detour led to the dam below Sycamore Lake.


In the high water, there was a nice waterfall flowing down.  We took a little break here so Alex could enjoy the views.


Back on the trail, we continued following Sycamore Creek downstream then back up the ridge.  At the Graylyn Trail crossing, we made a quick stop to see the chainsaw art.


The loop ended just past here and we finished the trail back to the car.

Yellowstone Falls

posted Oct 30, 2018, 1:11 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 2, 2018, 3:52 PM ]

Sunday morning, I broke camp after waking.  The rest of the group was unsure of their plans so I took off towards Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I managed to get a legal parking spot at the overlook; with little fall color left, Graveyard Fields wasn't as popular as usual.


Hiking down towards the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, I first stopped at Second Falls.  It was sunny and the lighting was poor, but it was really pretty in high water.


As this one is crowded, I moved on after a few pictures.  I finished up Mountains-to-Sea Access (#358B) and went right to go eastbound on MST.  In about a quarter-mile, I turned right off the trail to a campsite and headed down to the creek above Yellowstone Falls.  Crossing here was tricky in high water and I had to jump to avoid getting my feet wet.  Luckily, the rocks were dry.  On river right, a steep path led down along the falls.  It was little better than nothing and I had to crouch the entire way.  I first came out near the middle.


But there was more waterfall below and it got really steep from this point.  Monkey climbing down the rhododendron was the only way down to the base.


It was still sunny so not great for pictures but a little fall color was showing.  There was even a little rainbow in the spray.


I then made started making my way back.  I must have gotten off the path as it seemed to be even worse rhodos getting back up.  But soon I was back to the creek and then the MST.  My next stop was Bubbling Springs Cascade along NC215.  This is another great area for fall color, but most of the leaves had already fallen.  I climbed down from the road and rock hopped up to the base.


The water was way up, but the sun was shining right on it.  I then headed to the MST parking along NC-215.  Entering Middle Prong Wilderness, I followed Bubbling Springs Branch upstream, which was a little tricky.  I remembered this being easy in the past, but the water level was a lot lower.  Again, the sun was shining right on Lower Bubbling Springs Falls.


So I crossed the creek and climbed further up.  Most of Upper Bubbling Springs Falls was in the shade, so looked a lot better.


After a few pictures, I headed back.  I wasn't quite ready to leave yet, so hiked a short ways on MST eastbound towards Graveyard Fields.  The trail followed a small tributary upstream but it was too small for any major drops.  I took the Blue Ridge Parkway towards Asheville heading home and made a few stops on the way.  East Fork Overlook was right above Yellowstone Falls.


I could hear it down below but it was hidden from view.  Cradle of Forestry Overlook had nice views down the escarpment but color wasn't close to peak yet.


Mills River Overlook was similar.


I made one last stop at Bad Fork Overlook; at much lower elevation, there was little color change.


Then it was a long drive home.

Remote Nantahala Waterfalls

posted Oct 29, 2018, 2:20 PM by Justin P   [ updated Oct 31, 2018, 3:01 PM ]

This past weekend, I headed to the mountains with Casey and Team Waterfall to hit some remote waterfalls in the Highlands area.  I left Friday evening after work and drove to Lazy J's Campground in Rosman.  Christie was already here so we had a fire, but it started raining so went to back to our tents shortly.  Casey, Mike and Joy arrived later in the night.  In the morning, Badger and Kitty met us at the campground and we followed them to Nantahala National Forest and the trailhead for Cane Creek Falls off Whiteside Cove Road.  We started off hiking down gated Forest Road 2052.  A huge snail was along the road near the start.


In about a half-mile or so, we got off the trail and bushwhacked down towards Cane Creek.  It was easy at first but got real steep towards the end.  Coming out at Cane Creek downstream from the falls, we scrambled up the creek to the base.


Cane Creek Falls is a really beautiful waterfall.  But after some pictures, we headed back as there were several more on the agenda.  Driving further into the forest, our next stop was Little Creek Falls off Rich Gap Road.  A short hike up another gated road - FR-4622 - led to a sharp right where we got off the trail and bushwhacked down towards the falls.  As we got to the waterfall, we ran into Professor Scott as Team Waterfall was really coming together.  Bushwhacking towards the creek, we came to a spot in between an upper and lower section of the waterfall.  I first went to the upper section but it was difficult to get a good photo as there was a lot of branches and downfall in the way.


It was then a very steep climb down to the lower section.  I thought this was the most scenic part of the waterfall, with scenic little cascades just down from the falls.


Overall, I wasn't expecting to be impressed, but Little Creek Falls was a lot better than expected.  After a bit. we bushwhacked back to the road and cars.  Our next planned waterfall was Chasm Falls, but Badger and Kitty wanted to show us a discovery they had made first.  Driving into the Blue Valley area, we parked along Forest Road 79C, down below Glen Falls.  An unmarked tributary flowing down from Chinquapin Mountain had a waterfall and we could see it from the road.  But there was no trail so it would be all bushwhacking.  It was a real steep and overgrown bushwhack up the unnamed tributary.  As we got close to the falls, dense rhododendron prevented easy access.  Climbing up and around, we found a break in the bushes and got through to come out near the top of Chinquapin Falls.


Unfortunately, a huge tree had fallen down right across the waterfall.  That won't be going anywhere for a while.  Climbing down near the base of the upper drop, it was too cluttered for much of a picture.


We climbed down a bit on the other side and came out at another nice drop.  This thing kept going and going but it was too overgrown for a picture.  Crossing the tributary here, we were able to bushwhack back and find our way back down the mountain.  We had one more waterfall for the day - Chasm Falls on East Fork Overflow Creek and the trailhead was just a short drive past the Picklesimer Rock House Falls trailhead.  Spencer, Carlos, and Emily were here, quite the Team Waterfall meetup.  After greetings, we followed an old road led to the creek near the top of Chasm Falls.


The waterfall was quite impressive, as was the narrow chasm through which it flowed.  I decided not to cross the creek to the base as I didn't want to get my feet wet since it was getting late.  Probably a good idea as Emily fell in and had to be rescued by Casey.  After everyone was finished, we headed into Cashiers for dinner and then back to camp.

Early Fall Color in the High Country

posted Oct 21, 2018, 11:19 AM by Justin P   [ updated Oct 22, 2018, 3:59 PM ]

Saturday, we took Alex to the High Country for some early fall colors.  We left around 6 and made it to Elk Knob State Park before 930.  First, we got Alex's passport stamped at the park office then headed to the trailhead parking.


It was lightly raining when we started and very cloudy so didn't look hopeful for great views.  We hiked up the Summit Trail to the top of Elk Knob at over 5500 feet.  Although there was some color at the top, it was too cloudy to see much of anything.


There were a couple little flurries of snow mixed in with the drizzle.  At the south overlook, it was just as foggy and nothing to see, so we started hiking back down. Once finished, we made the drive over to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.  Again, we parked at the office and got Alex's passport stamp.


Then we started hiking up the Mountain Ridge Trail.  It was cool enough that the steep uphill didn't seem to bad.  In about a mile, the trail came out at Sunrise Overlook.  The clouds had cleared enough that we had nice views and sky was really cool looking.


Continuing on the trail, we roughly followed the road up to Jefferson Overlook.  This overlook had great views of West Jefferson below and the Blue Ridge Mountains all around.


At this point, we had to scramble up some rocks to continue on the trail.


Alex wasn't too pleased about this part, but he made it up and we came out at the upper parking lot.  From here, we took the Summit Trail up to the top, thought there aren't great views from Mount Jefferson itself.


Continuing on, the Rhododendron Trail led along some cliffs and out to Luther Rock, which does have great views.


It was still partly cloudy, but had cleared enough for some real nice views of early fall color.  Strange that over half way through October and the foliage wasn't yet peaking even here in the High Country.  We took the Lost Province Trail to extend our hike a bit.


At the end of the loop, Rhododendron Trail brought us back to the picnic area at the upper parking lot.  On the way down, I took a detour on the Spur Trail out to Sunset Overlook.


This one had similar views to Jefferson Overlook but from a lower perspective.  The spur was all uphill back to Mountain Ridge Trail, but then it was all downhill from there.  The clouds had cleared a bit more so I stopped one more time at Sunrise Overlook.


It was then less than a mile from here back to the car.  Our next stop was New River State Park.


We wanted to get another passport stamp but the visitor center was closed and I couldn't find an outdoor one.  Since we were here, we hiked the 1-mile Hickory Loop then took off.  Not wanting to leave without at least one waterfall, we made a quick detour to Riverview Falls.


It's pretty nice for a roadside waterfall.  There was a lot of downfall, but it had several sections as was better than expected.


After a couple pictures, we took off and headed home.

Independence Waterfall

posted Oct 19, 2018, 4:17 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 12, 2018, 5:13 PM ]

Saturday, we were flying home.  But before leaving, we had to get one last waterfall.  Independence's Waterfall Park was just a couple miles from the hotel so we headed there.  Despite the name, there's not a waterfall in the park itself, which is right on the lake.


We followed the Waterfall Park Trail south from the park to E Bluff Drive and walked in the northern lane, which is blocked to vehicular traffic.  It was just a short ways to the waterfall.


Right next to the road, it's very scenic though I think it's man-made.  Since one lane is blocked, you could only see it from a car driving eastbound on E Bluff Drive from the park.  After a few pictures, we hiked back.  I saw another Osage orange along the ground that we had seen in Sedan - a very strange fruit.


Back at the car, we finalized packing all our stuff and then drove to the airport to head home.

Ha Ha Tonka

posted Oct 19, 2018, 4:12 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 9, 2018, 4:37 PM ]

Friday, Lil made us a delicious breakfast and we chatted with her for a while before taking off.  After packing up, our destination for the morning was Ha Ha Tonka State Park and we parked at the trailhead Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Nature Area for Devil's Kitchen Trail.  It was lightly drizzling at this point but not too hard.  Heading out through the woods, we passed through an open glade and then back into the woods as the terrain became more rocky.  Soon, there was a crevice in the ground.

Past here, we came to the Devil's Kitchen, a shelter cave inside a sinkhole.

The crevice above was a chimney in the back of the cave shelter.  Continuing on the trail, we had to jump across a crack in the ground.

At this point, we had entered the Devil's Promenade, a massive concave bluff.

The trail then came out to the road near the old post office and crossed the street, heading down to lake level along the white connector.  A bridge crossed the shallow lake arm and we hiked the Island Trail.

The trail initially went up to the center of the island at Balancing Rock.

Past here it descended down towards the lake again where the water was a beautiful turquoise color.  The water cascaded over the ruins of an old dam.

Continuing on, the trail looped around the island.  I spotted some sulphur shelf mushrooms growing on a log.

We followed the trail around the island and back across, following Spring Trail to the Ha Ha Tonka spring.

The water came out of a cave and flowed into the lake, the source of the lovely turquoise water.  From here, we had to climb up a tall staircase up to the rim and followed Dell Rim Trail.

There was a parking lot here, and the Carriage House Ruins were right next to it.

We saw the other couple from Bridal Cave here and then an overlook to see down to Lake of the Ozarks and the island from earlier in our hike.

Just past here was the park's signature attraction - Ha Ha Tonka castle.

Built in the early 20th century, it had been destroyed by a fire and all that was left was the stone ruins.

But it was still really cool and seemed like it belonged in Europe, not Missouri.  Near here was a stone water tower, which also had been destroyed by a fire.

It was just a short walk back to the car, but first we got on the Colloseum Trail and hiked under the natural bridge.

There sure are a lot of cool geological features in this part of Missouri.  The Colloseum was a wide bowl of steep rock walls that the trail led around.

Finishing up the loop, we hiked back to the car and departed.  Driving north we stopped for lunch at New China and then continued to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park near Columbia.  The short Devils Icebox Trail led first to the Rock Bridge.

The creek made an impressive cave through the mountain and we climbed down to go under the bridge.  It's big enough that it was pretty dark in the middle.

Where the creek flowed in, there was a small waterfall right in the cave.  Continuing on, we climbed down to the entrance of Devils Icebox and Connors Cave.  Although visitors are allowed in the cave, we didn't have the right gear.

And with the light rain, the water level was up and would have been dangerous to go far.  But it was a really cool area.  Before leaving, we hiked the Sinkholes Trail.  Most of the sinkholes were dry and not real noticeable, but there were a couple wet sinkholes.

There was also an old tower and farm pond, evidence of the area's agricultural past.

We finished up the loop back at the parking lot.  From here, we headed back towards Kansas City and checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn at Independence.  For dinner, we had BBQ at Jazzy B's and then started packing for tomorrow's flight.

Tunnels and Caves

posted Oct 19, 2018, 4:11 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 30, 2018, 4:11 PM ]

Thursday, we made the short drive to Bennett Spring State Park.  There were a good number of people here, but they were all fishing.  Parking at the trailhead for Natural Tunnel Trail, there was no one else here so it would be a nice quiet hike.  Heading down the trail, it was a scenic stretch of woods along a mostly dry creek bed.  Like just about everywhere in Missouri, there were lots of rocky outcrops, bluffs and small caves along the trail.


At one spot, there was a really huge tree.  In just over three miles, we came to the tunnel.


At almost 300 feet long and S-shaped, it was pretty dark in the middle.  The other side had some broken concrete slabs; not sure what they were for.


We explored the tunnel and got some pictures before making our way back.


Sandy spotted some pretty Pennsylvania smartweed blooming in an open area.


Around half way back was a split and we made a partial loop to return to the parking area.  This part of the trail was on the ridge above where we had hiked earlier.  I found some cute little mushrooms growing along the trail.


After about 7 miles, we made it back to the parking area.  Before leaving the park, we parked at Bennett Spring to hike the short Spring Trail.  The other side of the river was crowded with people fishing, but it was just us over here.


There were a lot of fish in the creek.  I think the fish understood that fishing was prohibited on this side of the river as they seemed to be congregating on this side of the river.


Following it downstream, there were some nice cascades.


I also spotted some beautyberry blooming along the bank.


It was about a half mile to the other end where we turned around.  We spotted a plains garter snake on the hike back.


Before leaving, I went down to the concrete bridge for a view of Bennett Spring itself.


From here we drove north to Lake of the Ozarks to Bridal Cave, near Camdenton.  After paying admission, we started our tour with Sarah who was a really great guide.  One of the first sights was the Pipe Organ, a beautiful cluster of stalactites.


In the past, people would bang on them to echo throughout the cave, but this was damaging them so now it was prohibited.  The cave was just beautiful.


They claim that there are more cave formations in this cave than any other in the United States and I'd believe it.


Further on, we saw the Kissing Camels, a reference to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.


The rocks weren't yet touching, but in a few centuries, they'll connect and complete the kiss.  We continued on through the cave.


Another interesting stalagmite was the totem pole.


Another room had a large number of soda straws - thin cylindrical stalactites that resemble drinking straws.


Frozen Niagara was another gorgeous formation that resembled a frozen waterfall.


There was really no shortage of spectacular scenery in this cave.


And access was easy with concrete walkways, handrails and lighting.


It's hard to imagine what this was like to explore before all the amenities.  As we visited each room, there were more amazing sites.


At the end of the cave was Mystery Pool, a deep subterranean pool that mysteriously had a ladder in it.  It's not clear how that got in here.


This was our turnaround point, but before we headed back, Sarah offered to turn off all the lights so we could experience a few moments of absolute darkness.  Fortunately, she turned them back on for the walk out.  Before leaving, Sandy bought a salt lamp from the gift shop.  It was still too early to check in, so we headed to Marty Byrde's for dinner and drinks.


The bar is themed from the show Netflix show Ozark.  We started watching it since we were planning to come out here, so we had to stop by and the food and drinks were pretty good.  Then we headed to the Garden House B&B to check in.  It was a beautiful place to stay, right on the lake.  After getting checked in, we went down to the dock to watch the beautiful sunset over the lake.


It was very relaxing out on the dock and we enjoyed sitting out here into the evening.


Then we hit the hot tub in our room before going to bed.

1-10 of 303