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

Mebane to Eno River State Park

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 9
Date: January 13th, 2018
Notes: Attempted to drop off the car at Eno River State Park but there was a gate and it didn’t open until 8:30a.m. We didn’t feel like waiting around another hour, so we back tracked to Hillsborough and parked in the parking deck there.  We then drove back to Food Lion in Mebane (EB 41.0) and aimed to get this hike in and shuffle the cars again and finish the day.

We started the day by pushing through some more road walk and as a note N. Efland-Cedar Grove Rd is some of the most traffic we’ve encountered on these road walks.  We keep thinking that surely there is another route that will take you on roads where the speed limit is 45 max.  Even though it was 2 miles, it seemed much longer.

We crossed back and forward under I-85 several times.  Finally we came across a highlight of the hike and that would be the Eno riverwalk.  Very beautiful walkways and greenways here in and around Hillsborough.  We stopped and had lunch at Hillsborough BBQ and will go back when we are back in the area for Segment 10.  We moved cars after we returned to the parking deck (near Weaver Street Market) and parked just outside Eno River State park on a little side road (more on that in a bit).

We met our friend P and the three of us continued on the path Ayr Mount Plantation and passed the Vietri outlet store (our friend P made note that the owner was a customer of his).  We came close to the historic Occoneechee (love to say that) Speedway via the Occoneechee trail and winded our way through the beautiful James M. Johnson Nature Preserve.  We climbed a steep embankment up to Hwy 70 where we once again had to endure a slog of a road walk on a very busy highway.  K separated himself from us and made a push for the last 4.5 miles to the car.

There he found a park ranger locking the gate and after a quick exchange found that the ranger told him not to park on this side road as it was not part of park property.  I find this out later and thought it was amusing that the park ranger was telling him where not to park outside of park boundaries.  Oh well, at least we didn’t get locked in for a night.

We finished the day having a meal at El Restaurante Ixtapa and recommend the fish tacos.

Lowlights: Busy roads.  Pure and simple.  It is only a matter of time before someone who is determined to hike this portion of the MST will find themselves in a bad situation on the side of the road.  Do any thru hikers find themselves faced with this?  Its very discouraging to say the least.

Highlights: Hillsborough.  Weaver Street Market, Hillsborough BBQ, Ixtapa, the riverwalk and of course James M. Johnson Nature Preserve
Total Miles: 20.16 miles

Greensboro to Mebane

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 9
Date: November 10-11, 2017
Notes: Dropped off car at Shallow Ford Natural Area around 6:45am, drove to Greensboro Bryan Park and departed at or around 7:30am.  Finished day 1 around 4:30 a.m.  Day 2 started later, after 8 a.m. and finished around 5:30 a.m.

Lowlights: Mostly road walk. There were some very busy sections of the highway, particularly around Elon.  Many vehicles were gracious and gave us room on a very tight shoulder.  A few cars gave us no room, honked the horn and not at all courteous. The shin splint injury resurfaced.  Thankfully received some Aleve and pushed through both days.

Highlights: The small town of Glencoe.  A hidden gem of a town that I would have no idea existed if it wasn’t for the trail. Meeting up with a childhood friend in Mebane, and having him join us for the walk on day 2.  Meeting Friends of the MST trail maintainers on day 2.  Thankful for their work as the trail in Alamance county was awesome!
Total Miles: 41.69 miles

Bryan Park in Greensboro to Mebane

This was mostly road walk, but with some great hiking along the Haw River Trail.  The Haw River is beautiful, and the trail is great way to see the areas along it.  The little mill village of Glencoe was the highlight of this area.  They have taken exceptional care with this little town, and I envy the folks that live there.  The homes are gorgeous.

We left Bryan Park, and it looked totally different from where we left off hiking there in Feb. 2016.  We had to drive around a little bit, because the parking lot where we left the destination car was GONE now!  There are soccer fields that weren’t there before, and a new parking lot for them.  I didn’t recognize the area, but we found good parking at the soccer fields parking lot.  Hiking on the road through Elon was an adventure with a ton of traffic.  Hiking on these roads really makes me miss the trails we’ve done along the Blue Ridge Parkway!  The worst of the road walk was near the destination car at Shallow Ford Natural Area.  We passed a school, and what had to be a factory at quitting time.  We were passed by a plethora of vehicles, with barely any shoulder to speak of to walk on.  We had to “ditch walk”!  Reminded me of Summerfield on an earlier hike.

The next day had more trail, with the Haw River Trail incorporated into the MST.  This was a pleasant change, but this hiking on and off trail and road takes much longer than just road walk.  It made day 2 a much longer day, and K, M, & P all got back to the destination car at Mebane Food Lion right at dark.  Luckily, the Town of Mebane had good street lighting.

There weren’t many places to stop on this route between Shallow Ford and Mebane.  We presumed there would be some convenience stores, but we found there really weren’t any to speak of…not without having to walk off the route out of the way.

After two days of mostly road walk, I sum this hike up as…”The agony of de feet”!!!  I need to invest in some more “cushiony” shoes for pounding the pavement, so to speak.  We have about 18 more miles to go to finish this segment and get to Eno River State Park.  Hopefully we can knock it out around the early part of 2018.