First trip to Hanging Rock State Park


This turned out to be a weekend of firsts for me.  It was the first truly warm weekend in a long time with temps going into the 60s, it was my first back to back hiking day since getting serious about it again a few months ago, and it was my first trip to Hanging Rock State Park a place I have been scoping out for some time now.  I made the trip with two local friends, Josh and Srinu.

From a fitness perspective, I knew this one would be a good test for me.  Distance does not prove to be too difficult for me, but long steady elevation climbs wear me down quickly.  On the previous day I did an easy 3.8 mile hike at Raven Rock State Park which only had minor elevation changes in relation to this.  In training for a multi-day backpacking trip I thought it was important to try to log some miles before heading to Hanging Rock.  Perhaps, next time I’ll try the easy trail on the second day.

I found the park to be very nice with lots of room for activities and a beautiful mountain lake.  The park itself definitely exceeded my expectations.

Hanging Rock Visitors Center

Hanging Rock Visitors Center

We got a fairly early start so despite the awesome weather the park was not quite full when we set off on the trail.  We planned on hiking up to Hanging Rock first hoping that it would not be as crowded.  Not a big fan of the concrete at the start of the trail, but by the time we got in a ways it picked up and the real hiking began.  It was definitely a good work out and I was pretty winded about halfway up.  As the picture below shows, its it definitely not all fully manicured.

Hanging Rock Trail
Rocky Outcrop

Hanging Rock from Below

View of Hanging Rock from Below

One group was leaving just as we arrived so we were fortunate enough to have the rock to ourselves for awhile on this beautiful day.  I was determined not to let my fear of heights ruin this experience.

Hanging Rock Trees

Hanging Rock Trees

Hanging Rock Ledge

Hanging Rock Ledge

We had plenty of time for pictures and rest at the top of the rock as planned the return hike and subsequent hike along Moore’s Wall and up to Moore’s Knob which can be seen from the summit near Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock View of Moores Knob

Hanging Rock View of Moores Knob in Distance

The decent from Hanging Rock was much more enjoyable than the accent.  After we got back tot he parking lot we took an opportunity to shed some extra clothes since it was really warming up.  The trailhead for the Moore’s Wall trail ended up being about a mile from the parking lot we were in, down past a mountain lake.  The lake was beautiful and partially frozen which amazed me given that it was about 60 F.

Hanging Rock Mountain Lake

Hanging Rock Mountain Lake

When we picked up Moore’s Wall Trail it was much different than the Hanging Rock Trail.  It was much narrower and not quite as manicured which is a sign that it is not as heavily traveled.  Given that it is a pretty long loop with steady elevation gains I guess it is not for the faint of heart.  Even with it being in the dead of winter I found the trail offered lots of interesting things to look at.  I would say this is my favorite trail to date.  There are a number of rock outcroppings on the path up to the summit and we stopped to rest on them twice.  This accent definitely took a toll on me after the previous day’s hike and the trip to Hanging Rock earlier in the day.

Eventually we made it to the top and were rewarded with some of the best views in central NC.

Moores Knob

Moores Knob

Moores Knob NW View

Moores Knob NW View

Moores Knob West View - Pilot Mountain

Moores Knob West View - Pilot Mountain

Moores Knob Tree

Moores Knob Tree

Moores Knob Tree

All told it looks like we climbed about 800 feet twice with Moore’s Knob coming in just higher than Hanging Rock.

Moore's Knob elevation check

Moore's Knob elevation check

The decent down was good.  It felt good to conquer the mountain that day, the weather was great, and I had some good friends with me.  Before we even got to the bottom we were talking about schedules and a trip to Stone Mountain.

I still need to post the gps output, but if I remember correctly we came in at about 8.4 miles.  Until I get that, here is a highlighted version of the trail map for the trails we followed.

Hanging Rock Highlighted Map

Hanging Rock Highlighted Map

I think Hanging Rock State Park is a fantastic park and I will definitely return.  I would like to try Moore’s Wall Loop again along with the Cook’s Wall trail and Wold Rock trail.  Perhaps I’ll get a chance to do some camping here this spring or summer.

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First trip to Umstead State Park


Today I made my first trip to Umstead State Park.  One of the hiking groups I lurk around has been scheduling some trips out there so I figured I would have a look.  It is really close for me, only about a 10 minute drive.  For the most part, I really don’t like city parks because they are crowded and not very challenging.  Looking at the website there are plenty of trail miles so I figured it was at least worth a shot.

I used the Reedy Creek entrance and chose to hike the Company Mill Trial which is 5.8 miles rated moderate along with a few small side trails and an extra trip along the company mill site.  I’m really not sure why it was rated moderate, it was really easy and the path is so well traveled that it was all but manicured.  There really wasn’t all that much elevation change either.

At less than a third of a mile in I realized this wasn’t quite what I was looking for so I decided to pick up the pace a bit to try and get a bit of workout out of it.  This ended up taking a toll on my feet, and for the first time I actually had foot pain.  Normally my feed are solid, but I found myself trying to push off the inside of my right foot and my big toe was feeling strained.

It also didn’t take long to realize that trail runners outnumbered hikers about 15 to 1.  I think if I was a trail runner this would probably be a great spot for me, but for hiking this really wasn’t for me.  The Company Mill was really the only interesting area to look at on the trail so it was definitely a bit of a let down.

Hiking Goals for 2011


Since I wasn’t an avid hiker in 2010 I’m not sure what kind of pace I’m going to be able to keep up with.  I’m mostly worried about my schedule, but as I write this it is during the winter doldrums with parks closing at 6pm which makes weekday hikes next to impossible for me.

Ultimately my goal is to hike at least once a week for an average of 5+ miles which is 260 total miles.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss some weeks, and the weather has already had an impact on me this month.

I also hope to take at least four backpacking trips, though most of them will likely be quick overnight trips.  I’m hoping those trips help boost my mileage numbers.

I’ll be sure to update this post throughout the year with my progress as well as my most memorable trips.

Eno River Redux


Today I had a chance to visit Eno River State Park again.  This was my first hike of the year since the area was hit by bad weather the last few weeks and I also had a few other trips scheduled for work.

With the recent weather I wasn’t sure how the trails would be.  There was still some ice on the roads on the back roads leading to the park.  Overall I found the trails were in pretty good shape, but they were definitely better in the first half when the ground was still firm.  By the time I left with temps approaching 50 some sections were very muddy and up to five inches deep.  I had one bad slip that nearly sent me rolling.

On the previous trip we started on Buckwater trail and then ran out of time before we could tackle the Cox Mountain trail.  Because of that, and since Cox Mountain was supposed to be the hardest I started there.  The footbrige is pretty interesting and adds some character to the trip.  The trail starts off pretty tame and then there is a turn off toward the “mountain” with a pretty steep accent.  On the map it shows close to 700 ft, but I didn’t show more than 500 on my watch at each of the apexes.  The first half of the trail was ok, but not a whole lot to see.  After you hit that power line section the sights start to improve.  The hike wasn’t difficult, I think the Ridge Trail we previously hiked was harder and we were on a slower pace.  After completing the Cox Mountain trail I then took that Buckwater trail which led to the Holden Mill Trail.  That trail was rated as moderate, but it was pretty stout with some interesting sights.

All told my hike was about 8.25 miles.  My feet were hurting a tad more because of the more extreme descents, but it wasn’t bad.  Even with the slightly cool temps, I ran out of water with about 1.5 miles left.  I will not to that again.

At this point I have hiked all of the main Western trails at Eno River.  My favorites are the Ridge and the Holden Mill Trail.  Given that there is a series of loops, there are a number of options for linking together hikes of varying lengths.  There is decent elevation change (for central NC anyway) which provides a bit of a cardio workout.  I think this is really a great park, and I look forward to seeing it in its full glory this spring.

Eno River


This was my first trip out to Eno River State Park, and in fact it was the first time I ventured to past downtown.  I found the park a real surprise with a great selection of trails and some decent scenery given its close proximity to Durham.  This was also my first trip out with Josh Carlisle a local friend and fellow consultant.

The temp was around 40 with a bit of a breeze, but the sun was out and the hiking was good.  We parked on the west side near Buckquarter Creek Trail.  We ended up walking the Buckquater Creek Trail, up to the Ridge Trail, then the Shakori Trail and then back on the backside of the Buckquarter Creek Trail.

Eno River from Buckquarter Trail

Eno River from Buckquarter Trail

The Buckquarter Creek Trail is a pretty easy trail that follows the Eno River for a bit.  Its a nice easy stroll with some nice opportunities to grab some pics on the rocks.  About halfway through the path there is a bridge across Buckquarter Creek which leads to the Holden Mill Trail.  We didn’t try that trail this time, but definitely on a future trip.

18th Century House

18th Century House

We hiked on until we reached the Ridge Trail which heads north.  There are a couple of 18th century homes still in the area and made for some real points of interest.  When the Ridge Trail turns back to the Buckquarter Creek we find a rock crossing.  Despite the colder temps and Josh carrying a really nice calendar we crossed the creek and kept on the path up the trail.  The rest of the Ridge Trail and the Shakori trail create a loop near the creek crossing.  There is a bit of elevation change on that side and they are rated as “strenuous” on the park maps.  It didn’t seem overly difficult, but it did get the heart pumping a bit.  One of the nice things about being over there is that the crowds are definitely a bit thinner than the rest of the park.

Ridge Trail Creek Crossing

Ridge Trail Creek Crossing

After completing the loop we headed back down the Ridge Trail back to the Buckquarter Creek trail and completed the high side of the loop there.  Those trails total about 4.5 miles and offered a nice hike with decent elevation changes of at least a few hundred feet.

After getting back to Fews Ford we spent some time walking down the Eno River on an unmarked path that is supposed to lead to a suspension bridge.  We walked for about a third of a mile, but we hadn’t quite reached it yet.  We were running short on time by then so we decided to turn back and head there first on the next trip.

All told, we ended up walking only about five miles and had a lot of fun.  The next trip we will head to the unmarked suspension bridge that leads to the Cox Mountain Trail which offers the highest elevations of the park and a longer hike.

Note:  All photos by Josh Carlisle

Raven Rock – Lillington, NC – Dec 2010


This was the first scheduled hike that I signed up for with the Cary Hiking Meetup Group. While Raven Rock State Park is a bit of a drive from Cary, many have spoken highly of this park. There are a number of trails offering about 12 miles, most of it rated easy.

Unfortunately on this day the temps were in the upper 30s and it started raining shortly before the scheduled meeting time. I decided to go anyway hoping that a few brave souls would still make the journey. Unfortunately I didn’t end up meeting up with anyone from the group. I decided to hike anyway so I grabbed a copy of the trail guide and went on my way. I chose to take the Campbell Creek Loop Trail which is 5 miles rated moderate. At the far end of the loop there is also a short side trails that leads to Lanier Falls which offers some great views.

Despite the temperatures I really enjoyed the hike and was perfectly comfortable. I chose to go clockwise around the loop which had me start off walking through the woods. There was some light elevation changes and a few small streams to cross. Along the way I found this really cool spot. There is a giant rock shelf with a waterfall.

Raven Rock State Park - Cave

Raven Rock State Park - Cave

About the halfway point through the loop I took an opportunity to walk the side trail to Lanier Falls along the Cape Fear river. The trail leads down about 100 feet to the river. With it being wet I had trouble finding a good spot for pictures, but there is a small waterfall and then a decent size island that is about 100′ by 100′. If it were summer and a bit warmer I would have liked to try to see if I could have reached the island. I’m sure the views are great from that spot.

Raven Rock - Lanier Falls

Raven Rock - Lanier Falls

About 3 miles into the hike I’m really hitting my stride and feeling good. It really is a good day to be on the trail and I am really glad that I didn’t back out.

The remainder of the Campbell Creek Loop Trail follows Campbell Creek back to the starting point. It is an interesting creek that feeds the Cape Fear River and offers a number of rock embankments. Here are some additional pics I captured where the creek meets the Cape Fear river.

Raven Rock Cape Fear

Raven Rock Cape Fear

Raven Rock Cape Fear

Raven Rock Cape Fear

Raven Rock also offers a number of primitive camping options.  One of the sites is off of the Campbell Creek Loop so I plan on returning in the spring to try out some new gear before I try and of the bigger parks up in the mountains.

I really like this park and plan to return.  It is a nice place for a workout and offers some nice sights.

Hemlock Bluffs – Cary, NC – Dec 5th 2010


Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is a local park run by the Town of Cary. While it is surrounded by residential areas, it is in a unique spot with unique features. There are a couple of loop trails rated easy that offer a nice experience for hikers of all ages and experience. There are a number of observation areas near the bluffs that offer some great scenic views.

Since this was a winter hike it surprised me that the parking lot was full. It was a great day for a hike though and I walked each of the loops totaling about 3 miles.

Hemlock Bluffs

Overlook on 12/5/2010