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Goose Creek State Park

posted Nov 17, 2014, 8:03 AM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 21, 2014, 5:38 AM ]

This past Saturday, I headed to the coastal plain of eastern North Carolina for some hiking at Goose Creek State Park.  I met up with Jason, Anna, and Shawna in Durham at around 7 and we carpooled out to the park, arriving just after 9.  There was a trail race at the park and it was quite crowded.  The parking lots were full, so we had to park along the side of the road just past the picnic area then waited for a while at the visitor center for everyone else in the group to arrive.  Once everyone was ready, we headed off hiking down the Palmetto Boardwalk Trail.  This trail is only about a half-mile and nearly the entire trail is a boardwalk over a swampy area.

The trail race was almost finished, but we passed a few stragglers hiking down the boardwalk.  At the end of this trail, we turned left to start hiking the Tar-Kiln Trail.  This is the newest of the park’s trails and leads from the boardwalk towards Mallard Creek.  There are the remains of several old tar kilns along this trail.  At the first, we stopped for a few minutes and Bill gave a brief history lesson about how tar kilns work and the importance of the logging industry and specifically, tar and pitcth, to the area.  We also learned where the term "tar heel" came from.  From here, we continued on a to the end of the trail and turned left onto Mallard Creek Trail.  It was only about a quarter-mile to the end of the trail at its namesake creek, but it was a particularly scenic section of trail with the trees draped in Spanish moss.

The trail ends at an overlook on Mallard Creek with nice views of the wide marshy creek.  We returned on the trail and took the short Huckleberry Trail to Live Oak Trail, passing an old cemetery dating to the late 19th century.  Not much is known about the cemetery or those who are buried there, but it's believed that there was a disease outbreak across the Pamlico River and people buried there loved ones across the river to prevent the spread of disease.

Past the cemetery, the Live Oak Trail runs along the shore of Pamlico River and there were some beautiful spots along the narrow sandy beach.  Although it was a little cool out, the sky was clear and the river was beautiful from the beach, lined with Live Oaks and Cypress trees draped in Spanish Moss.

One tree had the beautiful orange leaves of autumn with much Spanish Moss draped in between - I had never seen the combination of fall color and Spanish Moss before and it was gorgeous.

We ate lunch at the picnic area here and then got on Goose Creek Trail heading northwest.  The trail was mostly a sandy path heading through a pine forest with a couple spots of boardwalk traversing black gum and cypress swamps.  As we approached the campground, we turned left onto Flatty Creek Trail and hiked the loop out to the overlook near where Flatty Creek joins Pamlico River.

Heading back, we turned left back on Goose Creek Trail and followed it to the end past the campground where Goose Creek feeds into Pamlico River.  There was a really cool tree here at the edge of the water.  Much of the earth that anchored the tree in place had eroded and the roots were clearly visible.  Vertical roots went straight down into the sandy soil and horizontal roots went across, connecting to the edge of the ground.  There was several feet between the river bank and the base of the tree where the roots emerged and we climbed up onto the tree.

After getting some pictures here, we hiked back along the campground road and turned left onto Ivey Gut Trail and followed this trail back to the start.  Where the trail crossed the main road, there were cute little stop signs at the trail crossing.

Back at the Palmetto Boardwalk, we turned left to follow this back to the visitor center and finish our hike.