Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jordan Lake--New Hope Overlook

Hike: New Hope Overlook
Location: Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
Nearby Town: Apex, NC
Elevation (Max): 400'
Elevation Gained: 575'
Mileage: 3
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: From Rte 64, go south on Beaver Creek Rd. Turn R onto Pea Ridge Road. Turn R on W H Jones Rd. Go past gatehouse, and immediately turn right to go to the parking lot.
Web Site:

Jordan Lake is a great place to hike, boat, swim, fish, and camp during the warm months. There is a $6/car entrance fee from Memorial Day-Labor Day. Luckily, I got this hike in just before Memorial Day so I got in for free. Park in the lot immediately after the gatehouse on the right. The trailhead is at the near left corner when entering the parking lot. This hike is of the Blue Trail (3.03 mi), but could be extended to include the Red Trail (total 5.4 mi), which is just an extension of the Blue Trail Loop. The trail is obvious and clearly blazed. The ground is mostly dirt, some beds of pine needles, and occasionally could be wet if going after heavy rains or when the lake is high (it was completely dry for me, but I saw some coves where the trail looked like it gets submerged during periods of high water. The trail weaves into the forest and out to the coves, which provides a nice varied experience. Another attribute; unlike Umstead or even Eno, which draw the crowds, I encountered only one other person on this hike and that was at the trailhead; as I was returning a woman was heading onto the trail.

The first cove

Another view of the cove
Soon after beginning the hike, you will come to Y, which begins the loop. You can go either way, but I went right. The trail then winds through forest for a while going over small ups and downs before eventually coming to the first cove, which provides nice views and birdwatching opportunities. Continue onward around the cove until you come to a T. The loop continues to the left, but you should go right down the short Overlook Spur that leads to a very nice wide view of Jordan Lake (with a bench to rest!). After you've soaked in the view, return to the trail to continue the loop. The trail will cross a gravel road with the New Hope Overlook campsite to the right down the road--the site looks nice with pit toilets and private sites each with tent pads and accesses to the lake.

Big Jordan Lake view

Red Piedmont clay

Cross the road to continue the loop. The coves on this side of the peninsula are more secluded and quiet so the odds of seeing some wildlife here, especially bald eagles, are pretty good. Walk quietly and keep your eye on the lookout. The bald eagles seem especially fond of the loblolly pines (the tall pines with large segmented shaggy bark). At one of the coves the trail passes, I went off trail a bit to try to get a nice picture of the cove, and in so doing scared a bald eagle out of the trees. Sadly, I couldn't snap a picture of it before it was gone, but I waited for about 15 minutes in case it decided to return. It never did, but a great blue heron flew into the cove while I waited, but I ended up scaring that bird off as well when I tried to photograph it.

The cove where I saw the bald eagle and heron

Continue around the cove. When I went there was a pile of debris on the edge of the cove so it looks like this is an area that floods at high water. Continue onwards staying left at each of the two trail junctions ahead if you only want to do the Blue Trail. If you want to add in the Red Trail to put an extra 2.5 miles on the hike then go right on the Red Trail. The trail will then cross the same gravel road as before, and soon thereafter you will complete the loop finishing the hike. Below is a GPS map of the hike.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rocky Neck

Hike: Rocky Neck Loop
Location: Rocky Neck State Park
Nearby Town: East Lyme, CT
Elevation (Max): 125'
Elevation Gained: 247'
Mileage: 2.9
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Take Exit 72 off I-95 and head south on the Rocky Neck Connector. Turn L on Rte 156, then take the first right into the park. Stay on the park road to parking at the end. Walk to the pavilion overlooking the beach and walk over the train tracks on the bridge next to the pavilion.
Web Site:

This is a fairly easy loop around the edges of Rocky Neck, which I did with my parents in early summer after enjoying a picnic at the large, stone, Depression-era pavilion. There is a fee to enter the park of between $6-$22 depending on weekday/weekend, resident/non-resident, after/before 4pm. Obviously, resident/weekday/after 4pm would be cheapest and non-resident/weekend/before 4pm would be most expensive. Rocky Neck has a color-coded trail system, and I would recommend printing out a map from the web site before going to the park.

Long Island Sound from the pavilion

The pavilion--a Depression project

This hike is the longest loop you can make in the park. You can either begin at the large stone pavilion or end there. We started there, crossed the train tracks, walked through an unused parking lot, along a paved road for a little while, then veered left into the woods on the Blue trail. Shortly thereafter, the Blue-Yellow trail breaks off the right to go to Backer's Cave surrounded by glacial erratics. The cave is a legitimate one tucked underneath a shelf formed by the rocks. I couldn't tell how deep it was, but it could make for interesting exploring. After checking this neat area out, we returned to the Blue-Yellow trail and continued onward to quickly rejoin the Blue Trail.

Small cliffs

Bakers Cave

The Trail has occasional views of Four Mile River below. The trail will join with the Red Trail briefly and split--at the split, go left on the Blue Trail. This will take you through Shipyard Field--an open grassy field. Be careful, though, there is a lot of poison ivy around. The Blue Trail then takes a sharp right as it approaches Rte 156, travels through a field, intersects with the Green Trail and Orange Trail, and then connects with the Red Trail. At this point switch onto the Red Trail, but the Red Trail also splits, so stay on the left branch to head toward Bride Brook.

Shipyard Field

Take the Red Trail to the Purple Trail, then the Purple Trail to the White Trail. Go right on the White Trail walking along the marsh of Bridge Brook. Remain on the White Trail until it intersects with the Red Trail where you should go left on the Red Trail to get back to the parking lot. Along the way, enjoy views of the marsh and ospreys, egrets, and herons. The trail crosses through open marsh at one point which provides nice views, and also the chance to watch fish and crabs in the water. Below is a GPS map of the hike.

Balancing rock