West Point on the Eno (Eno River) to Hickory Hill Boat Ramp (Falls Lake)

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 10
Date: June 30th
Notes: We started our second day on this segment as early as we could.  We knew it would be another scorcher, so we lined up our cars bright and early (just after 6 a.m.).  We made a quick breakfast run at the Bojangles around the corner from the hotel.  Drove the short distance out to Hickory Hill Boat Ramp, well we tried to, the road leading to the parking area was closed.  We were curious if we could still reach it, but alas we could not.  We did see where the MST came out of the woods, but this gave us a short scramble on what to do next.  We back-tracked some and discovered another route to the parking area.  Then we drove back to the amphitheater parking area in Durham.

What a difference a good nights rest means.  We hiked along Eno River for a good long distance, going in and out of woods and a lot of times wading into knee to thigh-high weeds.  Keep moving and the ticks won’t get you (more on that later).  We came across Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve.  Beautiful portion of the trail in the Eno River area.  Whoever maintains this did an absolutely great job and it was a joy to get out of the weeds.  We crossed Old Oxford road (a little bit of confusion in this area about how to get to the trail.  We figured it out and got back on our way, and more high weeds.  Then the heat got us.  We were getting that mid-morning heat, and it was miserable.  We also hit a stretch where we were in the sun a lot while crisscrossing power line areas.  Not at all a problem, just hot.

We found ourselves back at the car by mid-afternoon.  Heat exhaustion was hitting us hard.  I drunk down a Cola and had a small snack then changed into driving home clothes.  I noticed a tick bite with the tick grabbed on pretty good.  Maybe I shouldn’t have done this, but I yanked him off.  He came off cleanly.  I then used an anti-bacterial wipe and cleaned the area (later back home found another tick on the back of my calf, but got this one off pretty easily).

Ended up going to the doctor later in the week with an inflamed tick bite area.  Not the one I yanked off surprisingly.  Be careful!  The ticks are bad.  I’m soaking my clothes in permethrin before getting back out there.  You should too!

Total Miles: 17.47

Eno River State Park Pleasant Green Road to West Point on the Eno

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 10
Date: June 29th
Notes: We departed our homes mid-day and drove directly to Durham.  It was HOT!  94 degrees at the start of the hike.  We took plenty of water and tried to hydrate before the hike.  We started approximately at 2pm and followed the footpath around and along the Eno River.  At some point or another, we found ourselves at a massive popular quarry site full of young folks swimming and getting sun.  We continued on our journey around the quarry thinking if we had time it would be nice to float around and cool it!  At some point, someone resting along the quarry asked us if we needed anything water?  How considerate!  But we were good.  We did miss the trail around the quarry, probably because our attention was divided.  We soon found our error and continued along.  I grabbed a photo (see below) of a young adult carrying their massive pink floater back to their car.  lol

The rest of the day was uneventful.  The bugs were not too bad, maybe the mosquitos, but I feel like the high intense dose of Off I took before leaving helped me fight them off.  We kept moving and made it our destination, a city park in Durham called West Point on the Eno.

We spent the night at the Red Roof Inn, located a local friend for dinner (Peter), and called it a night.  I crashed hard.  Apparently, there were several arrests made at the hotel that evening.  Didn’t hear a thing!

Total Miles: 10.65

Miller’s Campground (BRP) to Devil’s Garden Overlook (BRP)

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 5
Date: May 23rd
Notes: Middle of the week hike, day 2. We had a leisurely morning and had a morning breakfast of eggs and bacon. We broke camp and packed all our gear and set up the cars. We left mine at the overlook which brought back a ton of memories. Way back in 2015 we started this adventure, and I’m surprised that we are continuing. We only have two more hikes after this one in the mountains.

We drove back to Miller’s Campground and set out for a full day. We did not go fast on this hike. We took our time and paid attention to nature and the things that the trail was giving us.

We had some steep climbs, one being Bluff Mountain just outside of Doughton Park. It was worth it and we had beautiful views. We also had wonderful memories of camping at Doughton when we were younger. I also enjoyed looking at the old and forgotten picnic tables throughout the park. Remnants of the past.

We finished our day strong and while it seemed like the last mile or two took forever, we finally came out of the woods descending upon Devil’s Garden Overlook. Segment 5 is in the books!

Total Miles: 13.66

Hirim Bare Rd (BRP) to Miller’s Campground (BRP)

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 5
Date: May 22nd
Notes: Middle of the week hike.  We drove up to Miller’s Campground and set up at the site.  Let me tell you, this was one of the nicest campsites we’ve been to.  The people who run this place are really friendly, and we had no problems at all checking in and finding our reserved site.  After getting settled, we drove down the road (not far) and departed from Hirim Bare Rd, a few roads down from Hwy 18.

It was dark and gloomy and we knew that it was going to rain.  Before leaving the campground, we packed our rain gear.  About a mile or so in the hike it started sprinkling rain and finally, it was coming down pretty good (not as bad as when we were at Julian Price that one time) but enough for pack covers and rain jackets.  The rain eased up about 15 minutes or so, and in about another mile we took off our rain gear all together.

We did miss the turn not long after getting off South Laurel Fork Rd.  It was minor, but we did get pretty muddy staying on the main trail and not following the MST.  We corrected and found ourselves back on the Parkway again in short order.  We crossed over 18 and passed some restaurants that we were looking forward to try.  Sadly, they were all closed.  We turned up Miller Road and had to deal with a nasty growly dog.  He was scared of us, but it didn’t prevent him from coming up to us and growling and barking.  We kept walking and spoke nice words to him (didn’t help).  We turned into Miller’s Campground and climbed the short hill up to our site.

We ended the day by eating steaks with peppers/onions.  We were prepared to eat.

Total Miles: 3.2 miles

Julian Price Park (BRP) to Raven Rocks Overlook (BRP)

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 5
Date: April 21st, 2018
Notes: We got an earlier start than usual and made it up to Raven Rocks Overlook bright and early on Saturday morning.  As we passed several overlooks along the way we noticed many people were out and had their cameras set up for a morning sunrise.  Raven Rocks was on the other side of the parkway away from the sunrise, so we were the only car there.  We left a car and departed for a fairly short drive down the parkway to Julian Price Park.  We left our car exactly where we parked it back in the Fall of 2016.  It took about a mile to get to the MST, and we set off for a fun day hike.

And it was fun!  Some of the most beautiful trail we’ve been on.  Two of the highlights was hiking through the Boone Fork Trail area.  There were a few creek crossings and river views.  We climbed with the aid of wooden steps and got to see several cascades.  Very beautiful and we had time to record these.

Another highlight was the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.  After the rugged area of the Boone Fork Trail and the steady climb up up and up (500 feet in elevation in just under half a mile) we reached the top of the carriage trail system and began walking the Rich Mountain Trail.  The trail or road or whatever was easy going and a gentle grade.  The uphills did not seem like uphills and we made great time in this area.    We took a break at the manor house and passing the carriage house.  It was a great time for a break and we had a quick snack while people watching.  Wanting to get some more miles in and not get too lazy, we got back up and continued down the road.

We crossed over US 221/321 on the Parkway, again a small and tight bridge made it scarier than it needed to be.  After a few hours, we made it to the top of a small meadow looking down to Thunder Hill Overlook (BRP).  The GPS said we were less than a mile, but looking down the path from the overlook I knew we had longer.  A small bet about dinner with K we set off for the cars.  Up and over and around the bend we made it back with about 4 hundredths of a mile over.  My bet was safe and secure.  We each bought our own dinner.

Dinner was enjoyed in Blowing Rock at the Speckled Trout.  I highly recommend this as a dining destination whenever you are in the Blowing Rock area.

Total Miles: 16.29

 

Pilot Mountain State Park (Hauser Road) to Hanging Rock State Park

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 7
Date: March 24-25, 2018
Notes: Arrived early on the morning of March 24th and dropped off car at Brim Grove Parking area east of Pilot Mountain.  We departed at or around 7:40am from Hauser Road and started hiking the Connector trail.

The trail was very nice and it was rather warm compared to what we believed it would be.  We stripped out of our layers and tried to get in some good miles.  It quickly became cloudy and a mixture of rain and sleet greeted us just as we entered the park.

We passed an exhuasted looking boy scout or church boys group.  They grunted some hellos as we passed.  Just ahead we came across a controlled burn with smoldering wood and ground cover.  It was smoking heavily in spots and in a few spots we noticed a bright and active flame.  We continued down the path and took a small break at the visitors center – it was raining and snowing off and on.

We continued outside the park and crossed under Hwy 52.  By then it was snowing pretty good, but not sticking to the ground.  We finished day 1 on the road and made it back to the car at Brim Grove around 4:30 p.m.

We spent the night in Pilot Mountain and had dinner at Tlaquepaque.  The wait staff was extremely helpful and we had a very delicious meal of fajitas.  The snow was falling, but not accumulating and we woke Sunday morning from our accommodations at Econolodge to tackle day 2.  But first breakfast at Cousin Gary’s.  We’ve had the breakfast buffet before, and it is everything and more with a typical southern breakfast fare.

We drove out to Hanging Rock State Park and had to make some several maneuvers to get past the blow down trees that crossed the road.  Another thing we noticed, the guys who work hard to clear the roads do a phenomenal job.  We made it to Hanging Rock and dropped off a vehicle to a crowd of about 20+ hiker/runners ready to get out on the snowy trails.

Making it back to Brims Grove we struck out on a day of slipping and sliding up and down the path.  We also got a late start, as we departed at 10 a.m. and looked to get in about 18 miles.  We pushed all day to keep our time reasonable and making sure we had the ability to get out of Hanging Rock State Park before 9 p.m.

I guess one of the biggest disappointments was the various closings of the Sauratown trails.  We had to take multiple road walks and detour around the established trails.  Very disappointing.  I am thankful that the detour was clearly marked, but the road walking was something that I didn’t count on.  Maybe it was a good reprieve from the snowy trails?

We did have one obstacle that is not noted in the trail guide.  A river crossing that we were not prepared for.  Hurting and knowing we had to continue to make time, we crossed the river slowly on a small log crossing.  The river was flowing and it was quite deep there, but we made it and bounded up the mountain, but it did take a lot out of us.  Probably more stress than anything knowing that if we slipped we would have gotten extremely wet with about 8 or so miles left.

In the end, we made it to Hanging Rock around 7:45 p.m. – it was a fun day and there will be many memories of years to come of our journey from Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock.

Lowlights: Snow hiking on day 2 was very difficult and used muscles that I typically do not use hiking, due to Sauratown Trail closures we had a lot of road hiking, was not quite as busy as we have hiked various road sections before

Highlights: Controlled Burn in Pilot Mountain State Park, snow falling as we neared the end of day 1, overcoming a difficult river crossing that was not documented in the trail guide
Total Miles: 36 miles