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

Remaining hikes of 2017

Our remaining hikes this year goes as follows:

  1. Graybeard Mountain Overlook (BRP) at MP363.4 and EB 49 to Black Mountain Campground EB 67.7.  Estimated miles: 17.7  We think this can be a day trip.
  2. Julian Price Park (BRP) EB 13 to Raven Rock parking area (BRP) MP 289.5 EB 27.9.  Estimated miles: 14.9  We also think this can be a day trip.
  3. Hiram Bare Road MP 250 EB 72.8 to Devil’s Garden Overlook (BRP) MP 235.7 EB 90.3.  Estimated miles: 17.5  We think this can be a day trip.
  4. Pilot Mountain State Park – Hauser Road EB 0 to Hanging Rock State Park Visitors Center EB 36.  This would be a total of 36 miles.  We are thinking this would be a hiking weekend.  Also to take into consideration: This is hunting season and I believe this portion is shutdown starting November 1st.  We may need to hike this one in the Spring.

So 4 more hikes this season for a total of 86.1 miles.  A little ambitious, for 5 days away.  I’m shooting for 3 days, so some of these hikes may need to be punted to next year.

Update: We’ve decided to just forgo these mountain hikes and save them for the Summer months of 2018.  Onward to Segment 9! (10/14/17)

Elkin Recreational Center to Pilot Mountain State Park – Hauser Road

Hike: Mountains to Sea Trail – Segment 6
Date: Sept 22nd-23rd, 2017
Notes: Dropped off car in Rockford at Yadkin Paddle Adventures around 6:05am, drove to Elkin Recreational Center and departed at or around 7:30am. Lowlights:All road walk. Both days around 10am, the sun beat down on us. Miserably hot and draining hike. Many cars passing and having to walk off the road to let them pass. Getting a shin splint on my left leg. Highlights: Meeting various people along the way. Passed by many homes where people would greet you warmly. Meeting a kind soul named Ray who offered us water when we passed his home further down. He greeted us in the driveway with some icy cold water. Offered all kinds of tid-bits of information about Surry county. Truly a trail angel. Ice cream at the Rockford general store on both days! Dinner in Elkin in between days. Lunch at Shorty’s on Saturday. While it was blistery hot, the warm hospitality of this section will be something we look back on very fondly. We love the people of Surry county!
Total Miles: 33.72 miles