Journal/Blog

Pettigrew Hikes

posted Apr 12, 2019, 4:04 PM by Justin P

Sunday, we woke up and broke camp.  It had rained overnight but was just foggy by morning.  The office is closed on weekends but they have pre-printed stamps for Alex's passport.  Then we followed the Lake Shore boardwalk back to Somerset Place and started hiking the Bee Tree Trail.  In about a half-mile, there was a parking area and a boardwalk went out to a view on the lake.  Looking northeast, I could see the boat ramp where I had watched the sunset the night before.  Back on the main trail, we came to the split shortly and went straight to the Bee Tree Overlook.  Unfortunately, there was construction and the overlook was closed.  So we went back to the split and turned right to hike to the Pettigrew Cemetery.  Then we headed back and picked up Mocassin Trail, going the other way along the lake.  Along the way were some nice views of the lake at a break in the forest.  Sandy had to be at work in the afternoon so we didn't make it all the way to the Mocassin Overlook.  We turned around at a nice spot on the lake where a large amount of wildflowers and daffodils were blooming.  After some pictures we headed back and made the drive home.

Jockey's Ridge Hikes

posted Apr 8, 2019, 2:01 PM by Justin P   [ updated Apr 14, 2019, 2:59 PM ]

Sandy had Saturday off so we took Alex to the coast for some beach hiking and camping.  We left early in the morning, arriving at Jockey's Ridge State Park just before 10.  The first order of business was getting Alex's passport stamped.

Then we started hiking the Tracks in the Sand Trail that led through a small maritime forest to the dunes.

This area is somewhat of a surreal landscape hiking across the dunes.

The harsh environment is mostly devoid of life.  For a moment, it was easy to imagine being in the desert.

The short trail turns around at the sound.

We saw a pair of ospreys in their nest over the water.

The trail led along the sound a short ways before looping back to the dunes.

Back at the dunes, we ran Alex around, up and down the steep sandy ridge.  He really loves playing in the sand, I think it reminds of him of the snow.  We also made a detour to go up to the highest point on the dune.

We could see the hang gliders and people flying kites and both the ocean and sound are visible.  Finishing up our hike, we headed to the beach access at Hollowell Street and went for a walk on the beach.  It was a really beautiful day at the beach, partly cloudy skies and big waves.

Again, we let Alex run and play in the sand and chase the waves.  He tried to get as close as possible without getting wet but a few sneaky waves got him.  We hiked north about a mile and a half and found a nice place to rest and enjoy the view.

Then we headed back.  Our next stop was the Soundside access back at Jockey's Ridge State Park.  It was about lunch time so we had a light lunch and then walked the short Soundside Nature Trail.  There were nice views of the other side of Jockey's Ridge from here.

At the far end of the loop there was an enormous live oak, sheltered by the massive dunes.

With the huge ridge in the background, the hike was reminiscent of a mountain hike, though we couldn't be further from the mountains.  Hiking back, there were some longleaf pine with their pollen cones formed.

Allergy season will be coming soon.  Although there were no views of the sound from the trail itself, a number of side paths led to nice views.

Swimming and other water activities in the sound are available from this end of the park.  The trail is short and we finished up soon.  After finishing the hike, we started making our way back to the mainland with a stop at Roanoke Island Marshes Game Land.  Most of this area is impenetrable marshland, but there is a 1 mile loop around an impoundment.   As we left the parking area of NC-345, there were a lot of yellow jessamine blooming along the canal.

Soon we approached the waterfowl impoundment.

Near the middle was a wooden overlook where we took a short rest to enjoy the views.

Just behind this overlook was an an enormous osprey nest in a tree.

The ospreys were flying around way above.  Continuing on, we could see the bridge connecting Roanoke Island with Whalebone Junction.

This area was really scenic, though it was too late in the year for many birds on the impoundment.

There was also some Canadian serviceberry flowering here.

We finished back up at the parking area.  After finishing, we continued west on US64 to the mainland and got takeout from China King in Columbia and had a picnic dinner at Pettigrew State Park.  We then set up camp and made a short evening hike to Somerset Place.

A couple goats were in a pen  - Alex was very interested in them so we kept him away.

Somerset Place is an old antebellum plantation near the lake.

Heading back, we took the Lake Shore Trail boardwalk.

A boardwalk went out to the swim area.

Then we went out to the boat launch for a nice view of the lake in the evening light.

Back at camp, we built a fire.  Right before sunset, I walked down to the boat ramp for some pictures.  It was a a really beautiful one.

Then back at camp, we enjoyed the fire before going to bed.

Wildflowers in Cary

posted Mar 31, 2019, 1:27 PM by Justin P   [ updated Apr 4, 2019, 2:35 PM ]

Sunday, we took Alex to go on some short wildflower hikes near Cary.  Our first stop was at Crowder District Park off Ten-Ten Road.  After parking, we hiked the Outer Loop around the perimeter of the park.  Near the pond, some cherry trees were blooming.


Taking the Inner Loop around the pond led to the boardwalk and nice views of Crowder Pond.


The pollen was starting to fall and it was all over the pond and paved trail.


Back around the pond, we took the unpaved Coopers Hawk Trail and connected back with the Outer Loop to finish up.  Next, we made the short drive to Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve.  This would be the sixth and final hike for Alex to complete the #hikeTLC challenge.


Right away, we saw a lot of spring beauty blooming and a couple wild geranium.


Hiking along the creek, there were a lot of wildflowers blooming though the water level was low.


We walked along the creek and then took the Stairway to Heaven up to the top of the bluffs.


There were some bloodroot blooming up here.


We also saw a little snail.


Back down the stairs, we started heading back to the car.  But the going was slow as there were lots of wildflowers along the Swift Creek floodplain.


The spring beauty were blanketing the forest floor in white.


A couple of trout litlies were blooming.


And Sandy spotted a single atamasco lily before we finished.


In another week or so, there will probably be a lot more.  From here, there was one more stop at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.  We first hiked the down the East Bluffs.  The steep north-facing bluffs support a population of Eastern hemlock, normally found further west in the mountains.


At the base, we took the Swift Creek Trail around and saw more wildflowers blooming along the boardwalks.  Then we hiked the west loop and took a break at the West Hemlock Bluffs Overlook.  A little Carolina anole was on a tree here.


We continued on the Chestnut Oak Loop Trail and made another stop at Chestnut Oak Overlook.


After finishing, we hiked down the Kildaire Farm Street-Side Trail to Swift Creek Greenway, part of the Carys Greenway system.  The trail followed the other side of Swift Creek and there were more wildflowers blooming here.


At Regency Parkway, the trail crosses Swift Creek on the sidewalk.


There were some eastern redbud blooming along the creek.


We turned around here and started making our way back.  At one point, we saw a water snake just off the trail.


Back at Kildaire Farm Road, we returned to Hemlock Bluffs and headed home.

Haw River Trail

posted Mar 24, 2019, 2:18 PM by Justin P   [ updated Mar 24, 2019, 2:19 PM ]

Sunday, I headed to Burlington to hike a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail following the Haw River Trail.  I parked at the Indian Valley Drive Paddle Access, the northern terminus of the trail.  The trail followed the river closely then led along Whispering Wind Road and then around the perimeter of a golf course.  After this, it came to Great Bend Park.  The river was really scenic.


Further into the park was the Glencoe Mill Dam, a beautiful old dam just upstream of Glencoe.


I walked the short Island Trail out to the end and then left the park.  From here, the trail led through Glencoe and then back along the river.  Some pretty bloodroot was blooming along the trail.


Past here, the trail crossed two streets and then along the shore of Stoney Creek Reservoir.


After the marina, I followed streets to a bridge over the river just down from another dam.


I got off the road one last time to head into the woods towards the Haw.


The next couple miles were more rural, staying close to the river and away from roads.  After going 6 miles or so, I turned around and headed back.

Pilot Creek Hike

posted Mar 19, 2019, 4:28 PM by Justin P   [ updated Mar 20, 2019, 4:48 PM ]

Saturday, we took Alex to get another stamp in his passport at Pilot Mountain State Park.  Since the last time we visited, another trail has opened.  We parked at the Pilot Creek Access off Boyd Nelson Road.  The Pilot Creek Trail leads three miles to the park's campground through the northwest corner of the park.  Right at the start, there were a number of daffodils blooming in an open area.


The trail crossed several little tributaries of Pilot Creek on its way to the main part of the park.


An old dilapidated cabin was just off the trail about half way.


Near the end, we saw the wheels of an old carriage of some sorts.


When we reached Grindstone Trail, I went left and ran to the visitor center to get Alex's passport stamped.


I caught up near the cliffs for rock climbing.  We stopped here for a snack break and to enjoy the lovely views.


After our snack, we continued to the top to the Little Pinnacle Overlook.  Beautiful views of Pilot Mountain and the Saurotown Mountains in the distance.


A couple more overlooks provided views of Pilot Mountain from different perspectives.


Then we made the hike back down the mountain.  It was all downhill from here.  We spotted some trout lilies along the creek.


Finishing back at the car, we headed for home, stopping for barbeque on the way.

Fayetteville Waterfalls

posted Feb 24, 2019, 12:22 PM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 27, 2019, 3:20 PM ]

Sunday, we checked out of the hotel and headed north towards Fayetteville.  We first drove to J. Bayard Clark Park and Nature Center and the Cape Fear River Trail parking.  After getting our stuff together, we headed into the park.  Clark Park Falls is right behind the Nature Center.


It's not a huge waterfall, but pretty impressive being in Fayetteville.  Right next to the nature center was a covered bridge.


Across the bridge, we could get to the other side of the gorge for some more pictures of the falls.  There was a lot of down trees in the gorge so hard to get an unobstructed view.


Then we set off on the Cape Fear River Trail heading north.  This paved greenway trail is part of the East Coast Greenway.  About two thirds of the way, the trail runs over a covered bridge under the railroad tracks.


After the railroad tracks, the trail crosses another bridge over Sandy Dam on a tributary of Cap Fear River.  There was another waterfall here.  The upper part is over a manmade dam but it was really scenic in high water.


Another unexpected waterfall in Fayetteville.  We followed the trail to the end at Jordan Soccer Complex and turned around.  Our next stop was at Methodist University.  Parking at the baseball fields at the back of the campus, we hiked the Pauline Longest Nature Trail system to another tributary waterfall.


This one fell into a small slot canyon.  Really scenic and out of the ordinary for here in the Sandhills.  After some pictures, we started making back and driving home.  Near Erwin, we parked at the Cape Fear River Trail Park.  A half-mile gravel road ran along the river parallel to the road and factory.  Right past the factory, a connector trail led to the Dunn-Erwin Greenway Trail.  The trail ended where a small tributary dropped into Cape Fear River.


And there was another small waterfall down here.  I found a way down to river level here.


It was tricky getting back up the tributary for a picture of the waterfall.


When we were done, we headed back to the car and finished making the drive home.

Lake Waccamaw and Lumber River

posted Feb 21, 2019, 4:46 PM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 23, 2019, 3:33 PM ]

On Saturday we headed to southeastern North Carolina for some hiking and umexpected waterfalls.  We first headed to Lake Waccamaw State Park, arriving around 10.  First, we got Alex's passport stamped.


On display in the Visitor Center was a whale fossil that had been discovered in the lake, evidence that this area was once a shallow sea.


Then we followed Boardwalk Trail 2 down to the lake.  It was lightly drizzling when we started but stopped shortly.  The boardwalk ended at a nice view of the lake.


Then we got on the Lake Shore Trail and headed south.


This trail leads about four miles right along the shore of the lake.  As it stays close to the shore, there are plenty of great views of the lake.  We spotted an interesting looking reindeer lichen along the trail.


Soon we approached Boardwalk Trail.


This one is longer and goes way out into the lake.


A little further, we passed through the campsites.  One had a yurt, for slightly less primitive camping.  After, the campsites, the trail continued along the lake.  At one point, the trail was surrounded on one side by the lake and the other by a swamp.


There were also several nice little beaches to stop for a break and enjoy the view.


We finished up at the small dam on the lake.


The trees around the dam were really covered in Spanish moss.


A recently completed boardwalk over the dam led to a parking area.


From here, we turned around to start heading back.  At the camping area, we took the Pine Woods Trail to make a partial loop back.  The trail first passes through an area where longleaf pine are growing.


Further on, it was through a more mature pine forest.


This trail made a nice contrast from the swampy and wet area along the lake.  Pine Woods Trail ends at Loblolly Trail, also passing through pine woods.


Leaving Lake Waccamaw, we headed west to our next stop, Princess Ann area of Lumber River State Park.  The park office is closed on weekends, but they have an outside box for stamps for Alex's passport.


We set off on the short Griffin's Bluff Trail that led along the bluff on the river.  There were nice views of the river from here.  The trail turned around at Griffin's Whirl, an interesting reverse flow section of the river.


In high water, it was obvious the main path of the river.


From here, the trail looped back around up along the bluff.  It was here that the community of Princess Ann was located, safely up on the bluff.  As railroad travel increased and river travel decreased, the town dwindled away and now nothing remains but the road named for it.  There was an old log from when this area was extensively logged.


This log was so big and heavy, it couldn't be moved; it was too big for even the sawmill.  Finishing up the loop, we went down to the boat ramp for a few more pictures of the river.


Then we took off and headed toward Lumberton.  We got take-out from Village Station and checked in to the Best Western, a dog friendly hotel.  It was Alex's first stay in a hotel and he enjoyed sleeping with us on the king size bed.

Merchants Millpond Hike

posted Feb 17, 2019, 4:16 PM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 18, 2019, 4:38 PM ]

Sunday morning, it was very cold when we woke up and it was tough getting out of the tent.  After we got our stuff together, we drove to the visitor center at Merchants Millpond State Park to park and hike the entire Lassiter Trail today.  First, we got Alex's passport stamp.


It was quite chilly this morning, but hiking at a brisk pace kept us warm.  We stopped again at the scenic boardwalk near the picnic area - I think this is the most scenic part of the trail.


After splitting away from the Fire Road, the trail led past Lassiter Swamp, where Merchants Millpond begins.


After this point, it looped back around and soon we were on familiar trail again.  Back at the visitor center, we headed down to the boat dock for a nice view of the millpond.


We couldn't paddle today since we had Alex, so got on Bennetts Creek Trail and followed it to a road crossing.  Across the road, the trail made a partial loop.  There was an overlook about half way through the loop with a view of the swampy Bennetts Creek downstream from the millpond.


The trail finished up back at the road and we crossed over the dam.


At the boat ramp parking, we hiked the Coleman Trail, another 2-mile loop.  We stopped for a break and spotted an interesting mushroom growing on a dead pine tree.


The trail led to another view point on Merchants Millpond.


After we finished the loop, we followed the road back to Bennetts Creek Trail and finished our hike back at the visitor center.  We were all pretty tired by this point and it was an uneventful drive home.

Flat Tire

posted Feb 11, 2019, 4:37 PM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 13, 2019, 5:02 PM ]

Sandy had this past weekend off, so we took Alexander out for a weekend of camping and hiking.  Our plan was to head out to Dismal Swamp State Park and then camp at Merchants Millpond.  We left early Saturday morning and about 30 minutes from Dismal Swamp, we got a flat tire, conveniently in the middle of nowhere.  I was able to change it out for the donut and we continued to the park, which is right next to a rest area so hopefully a better location to deal with our tire issue.  I went into the visitor center to get Alex's passport stamped.


Since I was here, I asked the ranger where we might get another tire since we couldn't make it back to Raleigh on a donut.  He suggested a couple places that might be open on a Saturday.  Alex was getting very frustrated being stuck in the car for so long, so before we left, we took him for a short hike around the Swamp Boardwalk trail.


It makes a figure-8 through the Great Dismal Swamp.


Then we headed back across the bridge over the canal.


This canal runs from Virginia south and is part of the intercoastal waterway managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.  From here, we headed to Tom Perry's in Sunbury.  He had a used tire that he put on the car that would get us home and was a real life saver.  By this time, we were hungry so went to China King for take-out and had a picnic lunch at Merchants Millpond State Park.  After lunch, we checked in and set up our tent at the family campground.  It was still early and Alex needed to get some hiking in, so we took the campground spur to Lassiter Trail.  The trail crosses a tributary on a boardwalk at one of the most scenic parts of the millpond.


Further on, there were some more scenic views of the swamp.


We would be hiking this trail tomorrow so, used the fire roads to mix it up a bit.


As we finished up the loop, the sun was getting lower in the sky.


The pond was really pretty in the evening light.


Lots of cypress knees all along the shore.


When we finished up, we started a fire back at camp.  It was nearing sunset so I headed back to the Millpond for some last pictures.


It got really cold after the sun went down so we made a big fire to keep warm.  Even Alex wrapped up in a blanket to sleep - not too often that he gets cold.

Birding on Clayton River Walk

posted Feb 2, 2019, 4:22 PM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 3, 2019, 3:56 PM ]

Saturday, we took Alex for a hike on the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse River.  This greenway is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and East Coast Greenway.  Parking at the Sam's Branch Greenway trailhead off O'Neil Street, we followed the trail along its namesake to the confluence with Neuse River.  There is a lot of development along the trail and we spotted a red-shouldered hawk in an open area.


The Butterfly Garden is near the end, with benches and bike racks shaped like butterflies, but it was too cold for actual butterflies.  At Neuse River, the trail led upstream to a big bridge over to the river left side.


Past here was the Covered Bridge Road trailhead.  With the leaves down, we saw a number of birds along the trail.


A male cardinal was pecking in the grass.


There were a number of robins out as the weather was starting to feel like spring.


A couple of cedar waxwings were among our most exciting find.


We hiked as far as the Wake County line, where the it becomes Neuse River Trail and turned around here.

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