Journal/Blog

Goldsboro Hikes

posted Feb 11, 2018, 2:31 PM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 15, 2018, 3:30 PM ]

Saturday, Sandy and I took Alex for a couple hikes out near Goldsboro.  Sandy had to work in the evening so we left early, arriving at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park around 830.  It rained a bit on the drive down and was raining lightly when we started hiking, but fizzled out after twenty minutes or so.  After getting our stuff together, we swung by the overlook of the Neuse River, way down below at the base of the cliffs 90 feet below.


With the rain and warmer temperatures, the river was really steamy.  We started hiking the 350 Yard Trail along the rim of the cliffs.  I found one spot to go out with a view of the cliffs themselves.


Other than that, I think the only way to actually see the cliffs is from a boat on the river.  The trail then headed down to river level and I went out to a fishing spot.


The rain had picked up a bit and I couldn't see much on the river.  This is the the point where Mill Creek and Still Creek flow into Neuse River and there was a Cypress swamp here.


Finishing up this trail, we turned left and took Bird Trail.  At the split, there was a scenic little cascade on Still Creek.


This trail makes a half-mile loop around the creek.  Next we hiked Galax Trail, another half-mile loop and passed another Cypress swamp.


After finishing up this loop, we tried to get on the Lake Trail.  The park map shows a connector between Galax and Lake Trails, but not sure if we actually found it.  It's a short ways and we just bushwhacked down to the lake spillway and picked up the Lake Trail along the shore.  I first crossed the spillway on stepping stones and got some pictures of the lake.


With some fog, it was really beautiful.  Then we headed the other way towards the visitor center.  I spotted some interesting orange mushrooms along the trail.


And for the first time today, we actually saw other people out on the trail as we approached the visitor center.  Next, we crossed the street and took Longleaf Trail to the end and turned right on the Sand Path to the Group Camping site.  Then we made a loop around Spanish Moss Trail.


It's a short loop but rather steep as it goes up a cliff and then loops back around along the floodplain.  I followed a path out to the river.  It was very muddy but the foggy views of the river were great.


There were more cypress trees here - they were such a contrast with the steep terrain just feet away.


I thought that this contrast really made Cliffs of the Neuse a unique and interesting state park.  We finished back up at the parking and I stopped for one more picture from the overlook as the fog had cleared a bit.


Then we took off.  On the way out, we stopped at the visitor center.  Alex has been having so much fun hiking at state parks, I picked him up a NC Passport!  Then we headed back towards Goldsboro and went to Old Waynesborough Park.  This used to be a state park, but is now managed by the Old Waynesborough Commission.  Waynesborough was the original Wayne County seat.  With the advent of railroad, Goldsboro grew and many homes and businesses relocated.  The last of Waynesborough was destroyed by Union troops during the civil war.  We parked at the trailhead parking and started out on the Orange/Yellow/Blue Trail, hiking through some fields to Cogdell Cemetery.


It's a really pretty old cemetery and the only thing remaining of the original Waynesborough.


Continuing on the trail, we went all the way out on the Orange Loop to an overlook at Little River near the confluence with Neuse River.


Looping back around, we followed along the river most of the way back.


We could see and definitely hear, people riding ATVs across the river.  We also passed by another small cypress swamp before getting back to the cemetery.


Without the steep cliffs, this one seemed a little more expected.  Then we went out to the floating dock with nice views of a bend in the Neuse River.


We finished up the Red Loop and then took the combined trail to the Historical Village to see some of the old buildings.  Right in the woods was an old hay barn.


Then the trail opened up a bit more and there were several more buildings.


They're not from the original Wayneborough, but from throughout Wayne County.


There were a couple of one-room schools, a law office, a general store, a doctor's office and several homes.


It was a cool little village to walk through.


After some pictures of the old buildings, we headed back to the car.  We stopped at Cook Out before leaving Goldsboro to get lunch and a hot dog for Alex and then made the drive home.

Frozen Falls Lake

posted Jan 7, 2018, 12:04 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jan 7, 2018, 12:04 PM ]

Sunday, I was continuing my hikes along the Falls Lake Trail.  This week was Section 14 from Rolling View to Little Lick Creek.  It was very cold when we started just after 9 from the trailhead parking just before the entrance to Rolling View on Baptist Road.  We followed the blue-blazed spur trail to the MST and then headed westbound.  With the leaves down, we soon had views of the lake from the trail and it was frozen.  After a mile or so, the trail passed next to a small beach on the lake so we headed down to check it out.  And sure enough, the lake was frozen, pretty much solid.


I wouldn't have walked on it, but it looked thoroughly frozen.  George tossed a rock out on the lake and it made a weird echoing sound.  Further along the trail, we passed by a pasture where some horses were grazing.


They were wearing jackets too!  This section of the trail ends at Little Lick Creek where a bridge crosses the creek.  Past the bridge, an elevated boardwalk crosses a normally wet area.


The water level at Falls Lake is so low, this is all dry ground.  We took a quick break and turned around here.  Across the bridge, I went out on the normally submerged area to get a couple pictures of the bridge.


Heading back a little ways, I took an old road down to lake level to get a couple more pictures of the frozen Falls Lake.


I've been hiking here for years and this is the first time I've ever seen it freeze like this.

Snow at Eno River

posted Jan 6, 2018, 2:51 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jan 6, 2018, 2:51 PM ]

After the snow this week, most was gone near where I live in North Raleigh.  So on Saturday morning, I took Alex for a hike at Eno River State Park, hoping to see more snow.  We were not disappointed as there was a lot of snow on the trails and river.  We started at the Fews Ford section on Cox Mountain Trail, crossing Eno River on the suspension bridge.  At the split, we turned left to head up the mountain.


The trail has been rerouted in the last year or so.  Before, it was quite steep and headed straight up, but the slope had been reduced by adding switchbacks.  After passing near the summit, the trail heads back down and follows the river downstream.  Although not completely solid, the Eno was pretty well frozen.


I wouldn't have walked on it though.  We continued on the trail and at the next split, went left to follow Fanny's Ford Trail.  This trail passes the campsites and follows the river more closely.  We climbed out on the rocks at one spot to get some pictures of the rocks in the water.


Crossing back over the suspension bridge, we hiked north to Buckquarter Creek Trail and followed that loop.  On the way back, just before climbing some steps at the end of the loop, there was a cascade on the river.


It was flowing pretty well, but all covered in ice and just beautiful.  Almost back at the parking lot, we did a short loop around Eno Trace Trail to see the icy river one more time.


Alex really enjoyed getting to hike in the snow.


He's a husky, but living in North Carolina, he doesn't get to see snow much.

Redwood Road Detour

posted Dec 23, 2017, 1:13 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 23, 2017, 1:13 PM ]

Saturday, we took Alex for a hike at Falls Lake.  Last year on my Falls Lake hike, a sinkhole had formed in Redwood Road.  It was closed to traffic, but we could hike it to connect sections 17 and 18.


Since then, the road has been completely removed and there is no way to cross, on foot or otherwise.  Initially, there was a 7 mile road walk to detour around for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  Now, there is a 2-mile trail hike for a detour, so we went out to check it out.  We parked on Hereford Road at the east trailhead for section 17.  This section is a little over a mile and we came out at Redwood Road.  To the right, the road was barricaded, but a blue-blazed trail picked up across the street.  The trail was very well blazed and easy to follow heading upstream on Panther Creek.  About a mile up at the creek crossing, there was no reasonable way across.


So we bushwhacked upstream to just past an island in the creek and found an easy to cross and stay dry.  Continuing through the woods a short ways, we came to an old abandoned railway and turned right.  This old railway went all the way to Redwood Road on the other side of the gap.


Part of the way down, was the remains of an old bridge - much safer to just go around this one.


As we got to Redwood Road, I went out to the lake, since the water was so low to get a picture of Redwood Road.


We continued on sections 18 and 19 and went as far as the tunnel under I-85 before turning around.

Lower Haw River Hike

posted Dec 22, 2017, 3:45 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 22, 2017, 3:46 PM ]

I had Friday off for the holiday weekend, so Sandy and I took Alex to Lower Haw River State Natural Area for a hike.  We took US-64 west past Jordan Lake and once across Haw River, made a U-turn, crossing the river again in the eastbound direction.  A small pull-off was on the right immediately back across the river.  We parked here and followed a trail down towards the river and under the highway.  There's no official trail, but the "social" trail was very easy to follow the river upstream.  The Haw is very rocky and the water level was low so there were a number of spots to head out into the river for a picture.


Soon we came to the first of three tributary crossings.  The water level was low, but the banks were steep so we had to go upstream a little ways to find a way across.  There were a lot of downed tree over the trail, which I would have expected given the trail is not maintained.  But there's another reason there are so many trees down - beavers.


The beavers had clearly been busy taking down trees along the river here.  A little further up, we came to a real scenic cascades in the river next to an island.


Continuing north, we reached the last creek crossing at Pokeberry Creek.  Unlike the previous ones, this creek had a good amount of water.


We followed the path upstream a ways to where we could get down to creek level and rock hop across.  From here it was only another mile or so to the north trailhead in Bynum.  When we got here, we continued a little further to the Old Bynum Bridge.  In the past, cars could drive over, but the barricaded it so only pedestrians can cross now.  We went out on the bridge to where we could see the US-15/US-501 bridge over the Haw River.


A little further back, there was a nice view of the river where the road was not visible.


We had a snack and then started making our way back.  All three of us had worked up an appetite by the time we got back, so we stopped at Grill and Go and got lunch, including a hot dog for Alex.

Chainsaw Art

posted Nov 25, 2017, 3:25 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 25, 2017, 3:25 PM ]

Saturday, Sandy and I took Alex for a hike at William B. Umstead State Park.  From the last parking area on the Crabtree Creek side of the park, we went down towards the boat house and then hiked along the gravel roads to Reedy Creek Multi-Use Trail.  From here, we followed the multi-use trails to make a big loop around the park.  As we were finishing up at Graylyn Trail, we went left a short ways to see the chainsaw art.


After a large red oak had fallen, two artists from Gatlinburg, Tennessee came out and used chainsaws to make a beautiful sculpture from the enormous downed tree.  It's hard to believe such intricate detail could be carved with a chainsaw.


We got some pictures and then took Sycamore Trail back to the start.

Late Autumn Hike at Raven Rock

posted Nov 22, 2017, 5:20 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 24, 2017, 3:50 PM ]

Wednesday, I took a floating holiday for the day before Thanksgiving since Sandy had the day off and we took Alex to Raven Rock State Park.  Parking at the visitor center, we took the Raven Rock Loop Trail and then took the Fish Traps Trail down to the river.  The water level was up a bit, and we had to jump across just above a scenic cascades.


Once across, it was easy to get out into the middle of the Cape Fear River and take a short break.


Alex was really enjoying the view of the river out here.


Then we headed back to Raven Rock Trail and made a quick stop at the overlook, high above the river.


The trees near the river had lost most of their leaves, but further from the water, there was a lot of color.  I was surprised how the fall foliage had lasted so long into November.  We continued on and headed down to Raven Rock and stopped for a snack break.


It was a week day and we had arrived early enough to have the area to ourselves.  That's not too common at Raven Rock.  I walked around to get some pictures and then we headed back up.


We had gotten there at the right time as more people were arriving as we were heading up.  We took the Little Creek Loop Trail out again, further from there river here, there was some nice color.


Where the loop cut back around, we followed the Group Camp Trail down to the river.


Then we headed back taking Little Creek and Raven Rock Trails back to the parking area.  Just outside the park, we turned on the gravel Moccasin Branch Road and parked at the Overflow Parking and trailhead for Mountain Laurel Loop Trail.  This is the newest trail in the park and primarily for mountain biking, but also open to hikers.  We hiked the loop in the clockwise direction, opposite the bikers.  The total loop was a little over 6 miles and it was a nice trail.  True to its name, there was a lot of Mountain Laurel along the trail.  I imagine in early May, it puts on quite a show.  There was also a lot of nice fall color along the trail.


We really lucked out on our hike.  After finishing, we headed to Fuquay and had dinner at Aviator.  Alex had a couple tator tots with his dinner and he sure enjoyed them.

Milburnie Dam Removal

posted Nov 18, 2017, 2:53 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 18, 2017, 2:59 PM ]

The City of Raleigh is removing the old Milburnie Dam on Neuse River, so I figured I'd head over and get a couple pictures before it's gone.  I headed to Buffaloe Road Athletic Park to pick up the Neuse River Trail, part of the Capital Area Greenway.  Although November is more than half over, there is still a lot fall color along the trail.


It was about 3 miles or so to where a footbridge leads over the river just past the dam.  Although it's Saturday, there were doing construction work to remove the dam today.


I crossed the river and went down to the sandy beach in front of the dam for some pictures.


The original dam had been built of wood in the mid 1800s.  Around the turn of the century, the dam was rebuilt with rock and masonry.  It operated as a paper mill, a grist mill, and to generate hydroelectric power, operating until the 1980s.  Upsteam of the dam is an area of wetlands that had been formed by the dam.  With its removal, I could see the water draining from these wetlands.  I suppose this will revert back to floodplain forest.  Since the fall color was still nice, I stopped at North Wake Landfill District Park on the way home.  Climbing to the Top of the Hill, the leaves were really pretty around the Falls River subdivision.


Looking south, I could see the Raleigh skyline, but it was too sunny for a picture.

Las Vegas Strip

posted Nov 12, 2017, 4:37 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jan 19, 2018, 4:57 PM ]

Saturday, we were heading home, but our flight wasn't until later in the evening.  We had a really good, but expensive breakfast at Avenue Cafe in MGM Grand.  After getting our stuff packed up, I went out on the balcony to enjoy the views from the 36th floor one more time.


Then we headed down and checked out.  The hotel was nice enough to hold our luggage so we could spend the day walking around Vegas.  We first headed south a little ways to Luxor, my favorite of the Vegas hotels on account of the Egyptian theme.


Sandy wanted to get a souvenir glass so we headed to Excalibur next and got some daiquiris.  Then we started heading north along the strip, stopping to check out the casinos.  At one point, I could see the MGM Signature towers across the street and pictured us way up at the top.


Passing Bellagio, we stopped to see the fountains again and then headed inside.  The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens had some pretty displays of flowers in the shape of peacocks.


Sandy played slots for a little while and we checked out the stores at the Forum at Caesars Palace.  We went as far as Circus Circus and then started making our way back as the sun set behind the mountains.  We enjoyed the lights of the city for a while before getting dinner at Buca Di Beppo in MGM Grand.


After dinner we got our luggage and headed for the airport.  The flight home was uneventful and I slept the entire time.

Red Rock Canyon

posted Nov 12, 2017, 4:22 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jan 18, 2018, 2:13 PM ]

Friday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and checked out.  Leaving Springdale, we had to stop for the construction zone one more time.  While waiting, we spotted a mule deer along the side of the road.


Driving back towards Las Vegas, we headed to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  After paying admission, we stopped at the visitor center.  We first walked around the outdoor viewpoints - the panoramic views of the canyon and colorful rocks were beautiful.


The Calico Hills were very red and appeared to have stripes of color.


The bright red really popped against the desert landscape.


I was hoping to see the park's most famous resident - Mohave Max, a desert tortoise, but he has gone underground for the winter.  I spoke with a ranger and she suggested we hike the White Rocks Loop Trail after making a couple scenic stops.  So we continued on the one-way scenic drive around the canyon.  We first stopped at Calico I with closer views of the colorful Calico Hills.


Our next stop was Sandstone Quarry.  Here there was a nice view of the distinctive Turtlehead Peak.


The northern end of the Calico Hills were here and the red-striped rock was really fantastic.


Finally, we made one more short stop at High Point Overlook, the highest point on the scenic drive.  This overlook had great views of the entire canyon.


Looking to the west, I could see the White Rock Hills that we would be hiking around next.


Continuing on a short ways, we turned right on the road for Willow Spring Picnic Area and parked here at the end.  After getting our stuff together, we first did the very short Petroglyph Wall Trail.  This short trail led across the wash to a wall where some ancient petroglyphs and pictographs were visible.


We got a couple pictures and headed back.  Following Rocky Gap Road past the picnic area, we went just over a half-mile and turned right on a trail that entered La Madre Mountains Wilderness and we began the loop around White Rock Hills.


Despite the name, they weren't necessarily all white; there were some patches of red similar to Calico Hills.


I was surprised by the amount of green out here in the desert.  We did spot quite a few cacti though.


In about another half-mile there was a split.  First, we went left on La Madre Springs Trail.  Along this trail, we had more nice views of the not-so-white White Rock Hills.


In about a mile, we made it to the namesake spring.  The water level was low and the area had not had rain in months, but there was still some water flowing.


The area immediately around the spring was very lush - a stark contrast to the dry landscape elsewhere.  Heading back, we quickly returned to desert terrain and the lush green gave way to more cacti.


I was impressed with the spines on some of these cacti.  Besides the prickly pears, we also spotted some hedgehog cacti.


Following La Madre Spring Trail back, we turned left to continue on White Rock Loop.


The trail got moderately steep and headed up to a ridge where we had great views of the valley we had hiked up from.


The trail turned right to the right to loop around White Rock Hills, leading to a gap where we could see Las Vegas in the distance.


Past the gap, the trail gradually descended and we saw more interesting cacti along the trail.


Passing by the Upper White Rock parking area, we made a quick detour to White Rock Spring.


Unlike La Madre Spring, there was no water flowing here.  After a few pictures, we continued on the loop.  I spotted some nice silver cholla along the trail.


We continued heading south as the sun was getting lower in the sky and the wind picked up.


At one point, we had a very nice view of the whole Red Rock Canyon area, with the scenic drive below and Calico Hills across the valley.


At this point, the trail turned to the right one more time, passing the southeast corner of White Rock Hills.


Past the parking for Lost Creek Trail, we soon came back to Willow Springs.


At the parking lot, we got our stuff arranged and then headed back to Vegas to return the car.  From the rental car center, we took a cab to our hotel - the MGM Signature.  We had a room on the 36th floor, so the evening view over the strip was great.


In the distance, we could just see the sun setting over Red Rock Canyon where we had been hiking earlier.  After checking in, we got dinner and walked around the Strip for a while.  We stopped in front of Bellagio and watched the fountains a couple times.


The we headed back to our room.


Only staying here one night, I wanted to get take advantage and get some night time pictures of the strip from high above.

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