Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Going to the Mountains!

(via Flickr)

I've been a bit negligent in updating the blog in the past couple weeks. I've been hiking like crazy, so I have plenty of material, but I've been occupied loading those hikes onto to participate in this contest. This weekend, E and I will be going on what I hope will be an amazing two-day hike on and around the Art Loeb Trail in the Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah National Forest. The hike starts at Graveyard Fields (where E and I hiked before; read about it here), climbs Black Balsam Knob, hikes along the Art Loeb Trail over a few balds, then turns around at Shining Rock, returning via the Ivestor Gap Trail and Graveyard Ridge Trail. Now, we just need to make sure we have good weather.

(via Flickr)

(via Flickr)

Monday, June 7, 2010

North Umstead Circuit

Hike: Sal's Branch/Pott's Branch Circuit
Location: Umstead State Park
Nearby Town: Raleigh, NC
Elevation (Max): 439'
Elevation Gained: ~270'
Mileage: 3.8
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Enter the park off Glenwood Avenue (US-70) between Ebenezer Church Rd and Lumley Rd. Follow the paved park road to the end for parking. Glenwood Avenue is accessible from I-540.
Web Site:

After going 4 months without taking a significant hike, I had some making up to do, so I did 3 hikes in 5 days for 14.3 miles. For this hike, I headed back to my old standby, Umstead, but for the first time, I went to the north portion of the park. This side of the park seems to have more amenities and activities such as a few campgrounds, a visitor center, several picnic shelters, and a lake with boat rentals. I planned to hike to Sal's Branch Trail (2.75 miles) loop, but after taking the short trail from the parking lot down to Big Lake, I decided I would explore Pott's Branch Trail too since it followed Sycamore Creek. So, I turned left onto Pott's Branch which parallels Sycamore Creek for a bit before turning left and rising above a smaller creek. When I went, the trails seemed to be undergoing some upkeep, and so they were rerouted away from their normal locations. Generally, I stayed left at junctions, which eventually returned me to the parking lot. I did not do all of Pott's Branch trail, but rather did the bottom half before taking the trail that cuts across the loop to the parking lot.

I walked across the parking lot again to the short trail down to Big Lake. This time, I turned right and walked along the lake a bit before the trail split to begin the loop. I looked at the map which seemed to indicate that the left branch of the loop followed the lake shore, and since I enjoy saving the highlights for the end of hikes, I went out on the right branch to save the views for the return. The hike out is pretty flat with only small ups and downs mostly in and out of erosion gullies. When I went, the ground was a bit soggy, but that probably would not be as much of a problem in warmer months. I encountered several other groups out enjoying the nice stretch of January weather, including some families, couples with their dogs, and what seemed like an introductory nature photography class.

The only confusing part of the trail I encountered was around the Visitor Center. The trail takes a hard right and then takes another right, but the map does not indicate any switchbacks like this, so I backtracked to make sure I didn't miss a trail. I couldn't find any trails, however, so I returned to the switchback and just decided to head for the Visitor Center since the map clearly shows the trail going curving toward it. This ended up working out as I quickly found the trail and continued onward past the Visitor Center and back into the woods. From the Visitor Center, it is a short jaunt to the end of the out branch where there is a trail junction with a spur to a campground. Keep left to finish the loop.

The return hike is very similar to the out hike, with maybe a few more hills (nothing serious, though). Unlike what the trail map seems to indicate, though, the return hike only provided views of the lake for the very end as I closed the loop--thick vegetation blocks the views for most of the return. After finishing the loop, just turn left on the trail on which you came down to return to your car. Sadly, I did not bring a camera on this hike, and I neglected to take any cell phone pictures so this post is visually lacking. The hike is a nice one, though, for an evening walk, and below is my GPS-generated route.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Laurel Bluffs Trail

Hike: Laurel Bluffs Trail
Location: Eno River State Park
Nearby Town: Durham, NC
Elevation (Max): 385'
Elevation Gained: ~220'
Mileage: 5.3
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: From Raleigh: Take I-40 W Exit 279B onto 147 N. Take Exit 16A to 15/501 N. Take Exit 108D, turn L onto US-70 Business/Hillsborough Rd. Turn R on Cole Mill Rd, turn R onto Rivermont Rd (gravel road). Park in the gravel shoulder just over a small bridge. From Durham: Take 147 N and follow directions above. From the West (Hillsborough, Mebane, Burlington, Greensboro): Take I-85 N to Exit 170 onto US-70 Business East. Turn L on Sparger Rd, R onto Cole Mill Rd, then quick L onto Rivermont Rd.
Web Site:

The day after my hike in South Umstead on the Company Mill/Reedy Creek/Loblolly Circuit, I decided to go out for another hike since it was still warm. This time I went back to Eno River State Park where, if you recall, E and I went on an underwhelming hike the previous summer. Everything I read about the Eno, though, talks it up quite a bit so I figured I would give it another try.

As I began the hike, it started to sprinkle, but it didn't seem like much to worry about so I went ahead anyway. The Laurel Bluffs Trail is an out and back hike that follows the Eno River to Guess Rd. before turning around. To begin, walk into the woods and follow the trail. A trail will go off to the left (the Pump Station Trail), which is a short loop so you can either take it or ignore it (I ignored it). Pretty soon after starting I came upon the remnants of what I guess was a mill as there was a broken dam and chimney along a tributary of the Eno. Not long after that I explored the eponymous pump station. This was pretty impressive--it was quite large and basically the foundation of a building made up of a bunch of compartments.

I returned to the trail and continued onward, eventually coming to what I believe was Bob's Hole, an area of the river where it widens and has rapids. The next prominent feature was Fish Dam Island, an island in the middle of the river in an area where the river makes an S-curve. I was pretty impressed by how evenly the water split around the island--it seems like, in my experience, rivers tend to prefer to go around an island one way or the other but this island split it 50-50. From the reunification of the river to the end of the trail at Guess Rd. there were not many more neat features.

A small tributary of the Eno

The trail goes through the largest ups and downs on the trail (but nothing major), crosses a few small streams that feed the Eno, and passes a breached dam. I reached Guess Rd., passed the only other people I saw on the entire hike--girls sneaking into the woods to smoke cigarettes, I'm going to go ahead and say they don't make the best life decisions--turned around and hiked quickly back to my car as the steady light drizzle that had been keeping me cool for the hike was now beginning to pick up. I took several pictures on my cell phone, but somehow I seem to have deleted all but one. This hike definitely redeemed Eno after the mediocrity of Bobbit Hole. The river is larger in this section and there are several more features such as the pump station, the remains of an old hunting lodge, and the dams to check out. I still have not made it out to the western portion of the park, which is far larger and has significantly higher terrain, so I anticipate my feelings about Eno will only continue to improve. Below is a GPS-generated track of the route.