Bridal Veil Falls at Dupont State Forest

While I don’t think anyone’s ever been married here, the waterfall certainly has quite a train of cascading water to go with the otherwise unassuming 4 foot drop at the top. Even better, this is the most explorable and interactive of Dupont’s available falls, and is less popular because it takes a lot more work than the main showpiece falls to reach.

Along with the waterfalls, this hike passes the horse barn, air strip, and Fawn Lake. The airstrip and barn date from a time when the current park belonged to the Dupont family and was used as a vacation retreat. The names of no longer resident horses are still on the stalls in the barn, and the old aircraft hanger and managers house still stand at the air strip. However, unlike the defunct film plant lying at the center of the park, these relics are accessible to the public, (though the managers house is now ranger housing).

Is it goat approved? Yes. I have blanket approval to hike as often as I want with goats.

How you get there: You want the Fawn Lake parking area off Reasonover Road.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is around 4.5 miles round trip out and back. It’s pretty easy going except a serious uphill on Airstrip Trail.

Best season to do this hike: Year around.


Trails to Take

 

Start out at the parking lot. Go out to the left up Fawn Lake Road (23). This trail goes up to Fawn Lake, a small pond popular with sunbathers and swimmers. Fawn Lake Loop (22) goes behind the lake and makes a good short cut around the more popular road when the park is busy.

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Fawn Lake

Past the lake the road meets up with Conservation Road (18) on the other side of the power line cut. Conservation Road runs up to the airstrip, airplane shed (redone now as a shop), and the managers cabin. The view off the airstrip is fairly impressive, but beware as this area is extremely popular with the less polite version of the common mountain biker. The rare German mountain biker may also appear in unexpected flocks in the vicinity in nice weather.

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The airstrip

Conservation Road crosses the airstrip, descends past the workshop and the gravel pit, and then runs past Bridal Veil Falls Road (6). Turn onto Bridal Veil Falls, and no shock here…you get to go to Bridal Veil Falls. The road runs past the horse barn too.

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The horse barn

The Bridal Veil Falls Road dead ends at a turn around, then a short stretch of trail leads to a viewing platform and eventually the falls themselves. You can walk up to the upper most 4 foot fall on the rock face by climbing down some boulders.

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The 4 foot upper falls and the start of the very long cascade

The way back is via Corn Mill Shoals (19) because by midday you do NOT want to go back down Bridal Veil Falls Road – the tourist horde will be approaching. The turn for this trail is between the falls overlook and the actual gravel Bridal Veil Falls Road.

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Pools on the Bridal Veil Falls rock face sometimes have tadpoles and salamanders in them

Corn Mill Shoals will dump out on Shelter Rock Trail (67). At this point, turn left, proceed across a few creeks and listen for the screaming. The way back to the parking area is up Airstrip Trail (1), the mecca of mountain biking for the park. The crazy wheeled nutcases come screaming down the trail at regular intervals and slide to a stop at the bottom. Can you go up this on foot? Yes. Should you? Well, that depends on how relaxed you are about confrontation and how fast you (and the goat) can get out of the way. I made it to the top, so you can too! The trail itself is rather fun to walk, and it comes back up at the, no shock here, airstrip. Then you can take Conservation Road and Fawn Lake Road back to the parking lot.

TRAIL MAP

Map

BE WARNED

  1. Parking fills up fast in reasonable weather. Come early to get your pick of parking!
  2. Bridal Veil Falls is popular with tourists. Don’t get trapped by hordes of small screaming kids.
  3. Airstrip Trail is very popular with screaming mountain bikers. Don’t get run over by hordes of screaming twenty somethings on mountain bikes.
  4. When the fourth person asks if they can pet or take a picture with the goat…the correct and appropriate answer is no. Embrace it. Own the “no”. It’s not rude, it’s standing up for your red blooded American right to be left the heck alone. If you don’t, you won’t get off the trail till after dark.
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Bridal Veil Falls Overlook

 

In sum:  

Life is better in the woods. Well, in the woods with a goat.

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NORTH CAROLINA: Mingus Mill and Other Ways to Get Off the Couch at the Cherokee Indian Reservation

If being inside isn’t what you really thought you were going to be doing on a trip to the mountains, first of all, you definitely have the moral high ground there, and secondly, here’s a list of some great FREE stuff to do that will get you and your non-hiking relations outdoors even if it is pouring rain and everyone else just wants to movie marathon at the cabin.

 


Working Water Without a Wheel: Mingus Mill

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The Mingus Mill, (built in 1886), located just up the road from the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in Cherokee, NC is a short walking trail and historical exhibit. Yes, the mill does in fact work, and it is in fact water powered. But you won’t see a water wheel! This mill runs on a much cooler historical turbine located under the mill itself, (you can walk underneath to see it). The turbine looks like a thick metal sewer pipe with a rod coming out of it that drives the classic stone grinding stones in the mill.

The turbine itself is driven by water just like a wheel. The water enters first via a long and high maintenance raceway and then falls into a very tall and frankly terrifying wooden square pipe known as a penstock. The pressure of all this water, (22 foot/pounds), inside this wooden pipe that I can’t believe isn’t leaking, drives the turbine and provides about 11 horse power. It’s a really cool and unexpected piece of engineering that I am really proud our park service had the foresight to purchase and maintain. Much of the land in this area that is park land was purchased in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression as low yielding farm acreage became extremely unprofitable. The mill met a similar fate – it was purchased by the park service, leased back to the operator, and when the operator died it was put out of service until restoration in I believe the 1960s.


The Mountain Farm Museum

The Mountain Farm Museum sits behind the Oconaluftee Visitors Center. Animal highlights include live pigs, (if you’re into that sort of thing), a flock of roaming chickens, and the huge field next door that is frequented by elk. The museum has most of the essentials of farm life, including a house, an orchard, a meat house, corn crib, lye production, sugar cane crushing, pasturage, honey bee hives made out of hollowed out logs, and this really awesome barn. Seriously, love the barn. It’s like my dream goat barn.

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Hunt Down Some Elk

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This picture is elk walking down the river in the middle of Cherokee (I do not own it, but I wish I did!)

Elk have been reintroduced into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park after over a century and a half of absence. Their original extirpation was by over hunting and habitat loss, sources of extinction that are no longer a major threat in the first world. Frankly, seeing an elk walk down the side of Big Cove Rd in Cherokee is incredible – they are easily 3 times the size of a typical white tail doe, and stand about as tall as a show jumper horse. These are HUGE animals, and incredibly beautiful. The privately funded reintroduction plan will put about 400 elk into the area by the time it finishes, making Cherokee and the surrounding area a mecca for wildlife photography.

Interested in seeing elk up close? The best locations are the grassy areas near the Cherokee Town School off Big Cove Road, the field near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, driving over to Cataloochee Valley (this is an all day trip – elk are best spotted in the early morning), and I found a few heading out of town on Hwy 19 towards Deep Creek.


Other Not So Free Options

Oconaluftee Indian Village – Save this for when it’s not raining and you will need to purchase tickets for this one. The village is a partially guided, partially wander around by yourself tour of historical cherokee dwellings, tribal buildings, and crafts. The blow gun demonstration is generally considered the highlight, but everything else is pretty good too. There is a small arboretum next door, but it has fallen into disrepair since my childhood. Instead, check out the Fire Mountain mountain biking trails if you brought a bike or walk up to the fire tower.

On To These Hills – An outdoor drama about the removal of the Cherokee Indians via the Trail of Tears. In general, pretty moving, but not suitable for extremely small children who won’t get what is going on. At the age of 8 or so I enjoyed it.

Cherokee Indian Museum – A good option in the rain because it is completely indoors, this museum centers around the history of the Cherokee from prehistory up to the 1800s. Big kid favorite overall, but be prepared for the very outdated CG in the intro movie.

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One of the dwellings in the Oconaluftee Indian Village

NORTH CAROLINA: Waterfalls of the Cherokee Reservation

 

Waterfalls aren’t really what you go to Cherokee for, but if you are interested in taking in a few the most reasonably nearby ones are Soco Falls between Cherokee and Maggie Valley on Hwy 19, Mingo Falls behind the Cherokee KOA, and The Deep Creek Trilogy of Indian Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls. All these falls are FREE to visit, open pretty much all the time, and are family and kid friendly.

Is it goat approved? The Smokey Mountains National Forest guys aren’t too big into goats I can tell you from personal experience. However, the Deep Creek Trail is partially on a horse trail, and if you are there in the winter when the tourist traffic is much lower you could probably get away with it.

 


SOCO FALLS: A Kid’s Waterfall

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Soco Falls

How you get there: 35.492680, -83.169191. The waterfalls is right off Hwy 19 between Cherokee and Maggie Valley. Parking is VERY limited and difficult because it is an unmarked heavily trafficked pull off on a bend in Hwy 19. All the warning you will get is one little sign about 0.5 miles from the pull off. This park is free and despite what it says online, there is no signage indicating that it ever closes.

Time for hike: There is a short and extremely vertical trail down to the falls. The trail itself is very worn as of my visit, making it exciting for kids, challenging for easily bored husbands, but probably not for your 90 year old grandmother or the arthritic 17 year old Labrador.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year, but probably not in a heavy downpour as the trail is very steep.

 


MINGO FALLS: The Falls of the Vomiting Bird

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Mingo Falls
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Chinese temple worthy stairs to the falls
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Note vomiting bird. Think it has something to do with the creek name…

How you get there: 35.531855, -83.275751. The falls are right off Big Cove Rd, the epicenter of the commercial campgrounds in Cherokee. Literally, drive down Big Cove till you pass the KOA and then hang a right across the river and you are there. The parking area is small and for a tourist site the visitor level is moderate on week days. This park is free and has no signs indicating it ever closes.

Time for hike: About 15 minutes out and back. The trail is maybe 1/4 mile if that, though that section of stairs at the front is soul sucking if you slacked off all summer hiking and are out of shape. Like Buddhist temple search for enlightenment by climbing the stairway to heaven kind of sucking. This is a great trail for families being close to the campgrounds and a doable climb.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.


JUNEY WHANK FALLS: The Baby Falls of Deep Creek

Juney Whank falls

The least impressive of the 3 waterfalls at Deep Creek, and the second most easily accessible, (Tom Branch is 1st), it is kind of like your own little put in your pocket and take it home kind of waterfall. Not too big. Not too small. But just about right.

How you get there: Google Deep Creek Trail Head in Deep Creek, NC. Now, there is a big campground and blah blah blah at this location. How you should get to this trail head is by taking Tom Branch Rd. This brings you in the back way – less traffic and less likely to be fees/etc associated with visiting. Tom Branch is gravel as you approach the trail head, but it is passable gravel even for your minivan with the dog and six kids loaded in the back. Just follow it in, cross the one lane bridge next to the campground, and the trail head is right in front of you. The parking area is small and based on the “drop off loop” I suspect during high season for tourists it is nigh impossible to park here if you arrive after 11 am. As an interesting side note – this is the one area I saw locals hiking. And speaking Cherokee, which was pretty cool!

Time for hike: The hike to visit all the falls is a loop of about 2.5 miles in total. Juney Whank has its own loop, but frankly Tom Branch and Indian Creek are more impressive, and the trail is very easy…so just do them all. Start on Deep Creek Trail, (this trail head is to one side of the parking lot), and follow this mostly flat trail out to Tom Branch Falls, then up a slight incline along the river to Indian Creek Falls, and finally about a mile on increasing but not crazy incline to Juney Whank. Then its down hill to the parking lot.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.

 


TOM BRANCH: Deep Creek’s Place of Meditation

Tom Branch

Tom Branch Falls is actually across the river from the trail and has its own seating area and spot to go down and play in the river. A good area to let the kids cool off or to relax and enjoy the sound of the water.

How you get there: Google Deep Creek Trail Head in Deep Creek, NC. Now, there is a big campground and blah blah blah at this location. How you should get to this trail head is by taking Tom Branch Rd. This brings you in the back way – less traffic and less likely to be fees/etc associated with visiting. Tom Branch is gravel as you approach the trail head, but it is passable gravel even for your minivan with the dog and six kids loaded in the back. Just follow it in, cross the one lane bridge next to the campground, and the trail head is right in front of you. The parking area is small and based on the “drop off loop” I suspect during high season for tourists it is nigh impossible to park here if you arrive after 11 am. As an interesting side note – this is the one area I saw locals hiking. And speaking Cherokee, which was pretty cool!

Time for hike: The hike to visit all the falls is a loop of about 2.5 miles in total. Juney Whank has its own loop, but frankly Tom Branch and Indian Creek are more impressive, and the trail is very easy…so just do them all. Start on Deep Creek Trail, (this trail head is to one side of the parking lot), and follow this mostly flat trail out to Tom Branch Falls, then up a slight incline along the river to Indian Creek Falls, and finally about a mile on increasing but not crazy incline to Juney Whank. Then its down hill to the parking lot.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.


INDIAN CREEK: The Generic Waterfall of Deep Creek

Indian Creek

My husband described this as the most boring waterfall on the loop for photography. It is big, has plenty of water after a rain, and is, okay, yes, a waterfall. But beyond that…nothing too exciting. Unless your husband does crane stance when he doesn’t realize you have the camera out.

How you get there: Google Deep Creek Trail Head in Deep Creek, NC. Now, there is a big campground and blah blah blah at this location. How you should get to this trail head is by taking Tom Branch Rd. This brings you in the back way – less traffic and less likely to be fees/etc associated with visiting. Tom Branch is gravel as you approach the trail head, but it is passable gravel even for your minivan with the dog and six kids loaded in the back. Just follow it in, cross the one lane bridge next to the campground, and the trail head is right in front of you. The parking area is small and based on the “drop off loop” I suspect during high season for tourists it is nigh impossible to park here if you arrive after 11 am. As an interesting side note – this is the one area I saw locals hiking. And speaking Cherokee, which was pretty cool!

Time for hike: The hike to visit all the falls is a loop of about 2.5 miles in total. Juney Whank has its own loop, but frankly Tom Branch and Indian Creek are more impressive, and the trail is very easy…so just do them all. Start on Deep Creek Trail, (this trail head is to one side of the parking lot), and follow this mostly flat trail out to Tom Branch Falls, then up a slight incline along the river to Indian Creek Falls, and finally about a mile on increasing but not crazy incline to Juney Whank. Then its down hill to the parking lot.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.

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In sum: 

If you wanted to get your hike on but you brought the kids, the dogs, the grandparents, and all the women who would rather go shopping, these are the waterfalls you can actually get them to go to before everyone goes out to shop for moccasins.

NORTH CAROLINA: The Poetry of Goats at Carl Sandburg

Like most men, Carl Sandburg’s estate came to be home to goats because of his wife. He might have been a famous poet and biographer of Lincoln, but lets face it, we don’t go to Carl Sandburg’s house to read poetry or devolve into discussions of the Civil War, (I mean, technically Lincoln was on the other side from our perspective anyway).

We go for the goats. Mrs. Sandburg raised Saanen, Toggenburgs, and Nubians for showing and commercial production. Now the park service keeps a herd of about 15 around the place for photo ops and keeping the kids entertained while their parents go on hikes and house tours. So stop by and enjoy some goats that you don’t personally have to feed, raise, and keep in the fence!

As an aside – this is also a great place to go enjoy the rapidly disappearing Eastern Hemlock. These trees line the drive way and there are numerous gorgeous specimens around the property.

Is it goat approved? This isn’t a BYOG. They provide the goats.

How you get there: Park here 35.273330,-82.444616. Then walk in!

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is at best 2.5 miles if you walk everything.  More of a fun day out wandering around than a work out except for 0.5 mile up to Glassy Mountain which is very vertical. Budget some extra time for goat hugs though!

Best season to do this hike: Any time of the year. Remember you get baby goats in spring!


Trails to Take

The paved walkway down from the parking area immediately brings you up to the property’s largest (but by no means only) pond. You can hike around the pond on either side, or continue past the +20yr old concrete bathrooms, across the wooden bridge, and proceed up the driveway to the house in the distance. The driveway is lined with hemlocks and is a climb. If you don’t want as much of a climb go around the pond then up the back trail which comes back around to the house.

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The climb up the driveway through hemlocks

The original farmstead sits at the top of the hill, starting with the main house, (which can be toured – talk to the park rangers hanging out in the basement). There are various outbuildings near the house that were originally slave quarters and later under the Sandburgs became an overflow library and a chicken coop.

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Slave quarters turned chicken quarters

Following the gravel drive another set of restrooms in a white wooden building comes up, followed by a wooden spring house and an equipment shed. Behind the hedges further on lies a classic in ground greenhouse behind a hedge.  Across from green house is a green house that was once the abode of the goat farm manager – because rich people throughout history have always been too lazy to get up and actually deal with the less convenient parts of livestock ownership.

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Next comes the garage and behind it the most important part of the whole trip – the goat barn, (not pictured today because they are in the process of restoring it). When not being restored it has a large open loafing area with hay mangers. The old milking parlor is out back, along with acres of gorgeous pasture that has been managed for grass…because the park service doesn’t really get into goat management, but they know a good looking green lawn when they see one.  It is pretty…

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Buck sheds and vegetable garden

Anyway, the most athletic portion of the trip can be found by taking the path past the garden plots and the buck sheds, through the old fruit tree orchard, and past a small dammed pond.

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First pond behind the apple orchard

The trail splits, so go right and climb up Glassy Mountain on a snaking gravel walk way that pretty much never relents till you get to the top. There is a nice pond about 1/3 of the way up to stop and rest at though.

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Glassy Mountain Overlook

The overlook gives you a good view of the Hendersonville diaspora…then its back to take selfies with goats. Which is what you really came for anyway right?

BE WARNED

  1. The parking is limited and far from the main house. Come early!
  2. While the hike is dog and kid friendly, only the kids can go in to see the goats.
  3. It’s not really a warning, it’s a suggestion – if you like baked goods hit the bakery in Hendersonville before you head home. And the Mast General Store for hiking supplies. It’s a good spot to go on a quick supply run before you head back to the house after a day of goats…

In sum: 

Carl Sandburg’s only known poem about goats, despite a life time of living with them. I get the impression he wasn’t much on the species…

The sober-faced goat crops grass next to the sidewalk.
A clinking chain connects the collar of the goat with a steel pin
driven in the ground.
Next to the sidewalk the goat crops November grass,
Pauses seldom, halts not at all, incessantly goes after the grass.

—Carl Sandburg
from “Suburban Sicilian Sketches”

“Goat Out” at Birkhead Mountains Wilderness

Ever wanted to feel like you’re visiting the mountains without actually doing all the back breaking willpower draining climbing up hill only to slide back down hill, (then find yet another up hill in front of you), that the Appalachian elevations force you to do? Birkhead Mountain Wilderness is your ideal place then. Take the goat out to enjoy some uphills that end before the challenge stops being fun and some downhills that stop before you end up sliding on your butt. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t laugh when the goat slides down on its butt when it misjudges the mud under the leaves!

As a nice bonus, if you start off at the Thornburg Trail Head you can visit most of the historical sites in the park. The Birkhead Wilderness once belonged to, no shock here, the Birkhead family, and they rented land out to tenant farmers. Therefore there are several interesting old sites to visit on this hike, and some old road beds to be seen.

Location: Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area in northern Uwharrie National Forest

Is it goat approved? Yes. I have written proof the really cool forest manager is okay with a goat on a leash. This wilderness area is hiking only  which means there are no bikes, no horses and no all terrain vehicles, so the only on trail obstacles are the occasional backpacker or light hiker, all of which seemed mildly amused at my fuzzy four legged companion. However, be mindful that wilderness area means minimal trail upkeep and more likely run ins with carnivorous wildlife (see Beware section below). Overnight camping is allowed in this wilderness area, which may add to the fun of a trip out to this awesome little slice of heaven.

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The parking area is fenced, and fairly small

How you get there: Oh lord. Just seeing this section makes me cringe. Getting here is a massive pain! You need to be on Lassiter Mill Road. What Google maps, paper maps, and directions online will do a bad job of telling you is that Lassiter Mill Road crosses Hwy 49 on a bridge rather than intersecting with the highway, which is a very unusual arrangement for North Carolina Piedmont roads. So how do you get to it if it doesn’t actually intersect with 49? Go down to Mechanic Road, and turn onto that. Mechanic Road dead ends into Lassiter, and if you turn right at the dead end you’re headed in the right direction. Look for the sign for the Thornburg Trail Head on the right hand side of the road. The parking area is on the left across from it.

Time for hike: The total distance is about 10 miles of wonderful up and down terrain, which I completed in about 3.5 hrs. This is a loop hike. 

Best season to do this hike: Winter, but not the hunting season (see Beware section). The trails and camping are supposed to be EXTREMELY popular in the warmer seasons, so if you want to enjoy nature and not spend all day answering questions about pack goats January and February are your friends.

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Camping is very popular in the park!

Trails to Take

Starting off in the parking lot you want to walk towards the green house. This house looks at first glance like it might be in good enough shape to be occupied, but it’s actually a historical site. There’s some fun signs around the house to read and some old buildings to explore that are worth checking out. If you grew up in the south it will feel a lot like visiting your great grandparent’s place. Though, my grandparents weren’t posh enough to have their well built into the back porch of the house like this one does!

The trail heads off down a large, old gravel road behind the house that is very obvious. First a basic warning – there are tons of side trails off this main road that you are on. Avoid them. They go out to wildlife management plots or dead end into the trees. Stick to the biggest and most obviously well trod trail, (though this can be confusing since they pull a farm implement called a disk that digs up dirt down the trail periodically to disk the wildlife plots. This makes a side trail look like lots of people have been trampling through the mud even though no one goes that way). Look out for extremely worn brown metal National Forest Service trail markers to help guide you in the right direction too.

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Bakri on the ‘it might not be here after the next flood’ bridge. Unleash your goat when trying to cross this one or you both might end up in the creek!

This gravel road leads down to a deep creek which has signs of obvious severe flood damage around it, (see Beware section). You can ford the creek, but if a more recent flood hasn’t finished it off, there’s a bridge you can go over on. After the bridge the trail continues along overgrown bottom land, then comes to a major intersection. You want the trail on the left! Take this and go up hill towards a big open wildlife field.

The trail will skirt the wildlife field, then go off through the woods. You will eventually reach a spot with confusing signs, just before the trail heads uphill again and past some rocks on the right. If you look, the signs have penciled in mileage around the original writing where prior hikers have tried to stop future hikers from being as stupid as they were. All these signs are telling you is that you have a long ways to go before you reach Robbins Branch Trail/Thornburg Trail intersection. Nothing else. They look like they are trying to indicate a trail crossing, but they are not! In fact, don’t even read the damn things and just continue along the trail. It’s probably less confusing that way. While you continue on your walk, keep an eye out for “trails” that seem to cross or come up along side the trail you are on. These are the remnants of old roads that once ran through the forest, back when travel was by horse and wagon. There are also old road beds visible when you hike Hannah’s Creek Trail later in the loop.

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The real Robbins Branch/Thornburg intersection sign, with Bakri standing on Robbins Branch Trail

 

You will eventually reach the real Robbins Branch Trail/Thornburg Trail intersection. To go around the loop like I went, go left here and down the hill instead of straight ahead. Almost immediately you will pass 2 stone walls next to the trail on your left, (this way you know you’re headed the right way!).

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One of the stone walls
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Bingham Plantation sign

The trail goes out through the woods, eventually meeting up with Birkhead Mountain Trail. Not long after you turn onto that trail you’ll pass a major campsite with a concreted fire back and a yellow blaze trail that heads down to the water access point for this campsite. This trail continues up and down through the hills, crossing some nice little creeks and club moss strewn forest.

Eventually you will pass a small metal sign for the Bingham plantation site, which was once the heart of the Birkhead lands. I couldn’t find much at this site except for some earth hummocks. But it’s interesting nonetheless. The trail heads downhill and goes BEHIND this sign, ignore the well trod trail to the left, which appears to lead nowhere.

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Chimney remnants

The trail continues to the intersection with Hannah’s Creek Trail. Turn onto this, and as you drop in elevation along the edge of the hillside, look to your right to spot the old road bed that runs down and then leaves the main trail. As you go along, look for a camping area to your left with a big pile of suspicious looking stones in front of it. These are the remains of a once standing chimney, and the camp site has incorporated some of the fallen stone into a fire ring.

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Goat and human rock climbing areas abound on this loop

After you pass the pile of rocks you’ll go through an area with boulders, many of which are quite nice for a climb. Beware, however, that you are approaching the Robbins Branch Trailhead, and there may be many other people out enjoying a bit of rock hopping. Next up is the intersection with Robbins Branch Trail, which will take you back to Thornburg. This trail is the most heavily trafficked in the park from what I can tell, so expect to meet your largest numbers of people here. When you make it back to the Robbins Branch Trail/Thornburg Trail intersection, go back on Thornburg and return to your truck/car/suv/goat powered helicopter.

BE WARNED!

  1. Hunting season is NOT the time to visit this place! There are significant signs of hunter presence, including a permanent tree stand I found that was set up to fire ACROSS the trail! Don’t go with a goat during deer season!
  2. I was stalked by something on the Birkhead Mountain Trail for a ways. Could have been deer because neither the goat nor I got a good look at it, but it could also have been coyotes. Take a heavy hiking pole for any eventualities and consider bringing a human friend to beef up security for your hamburger on four legs.
  3. Signage is sparse, and trail markers (which are white blazes on trees) are worn. Be careful when navigating! While getting around the park is very doable, the number of trees blocking the original trail and the presence of what looks like historical road beds in certain parts of the park can make the trail unclear in places. Note in the trail review that there are also side trails for game management or possible external access (?) that can be confusing at times.
  4. Access from the Thornburg Trail Head may not be doable in flood conditions because you have to cross a sizeable creek with signs of serious flood damage on either side.
  5. There is an abundance of tasty holly on this hike – make sure your goat doesn’t gorge itself silly and become too fat to get back to the truck!
  6. The parking area at Thornburg and Tot Hill Trail Heads (these are the only 2 I’ve visited) are small and FENCED. This means there isn’t a ton of parking. Plan accordingly since overnight campers and day hikers all use these areas.
  7. Be careful on the first part of the trail to stay on the main trail and not get lost on the side trails that go out into the wildlife management plots. Look for very worn brown metal forest service trail markers to help you choose the right way.

In sum: 

Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’,
Though the streams are swollen,
Keep them goaties rollin’, rawhide.
Through rain and wind and weather,
Hell bent for leather,
Wishin’ my dude was by my side.
All the things I’m missin’,
Good vittles, love, and kissin’,
Are waiting at the end of my hike.

Saddle Up for Saddleback Trail at South Mountains State Park

 

Every girl dreams of owning a horse when they are a kid. Otherwise companies would not make things like ‘My Little Pony’, rocking horses, or Breyers figurines because there wouldn’t be any money in it. However, when little girls grow up to be adults they realize that horses require big trailers and big trucks and big wide open spaces. So they settle for hiking horse trails with the much angrier and grumpier mini-equivalent  of the horse: a goat.

Location: Saddleback, Upper Falls, and Raven Rock Trails of South Mountain State Park

Is it goat approved? Yep. This park has phenomenal horse camping and riding facilities, and perhaps because they have such a wonderfully inclusive arrangement (with bikers, hikers, and horses sharing the trails) they were open to me bringing a pack goat. Provided of course, that I did a special activity permit. Luckily the day 2 weeks after the approval of the permit was a really great day to go out for a hike!

How you get there: Easy. Google it. You’ll be winding through a lot of back roads, so take a GPS or good written directions. You want to park in the horse trailer  parking, which is the first massive parking area to your left as you enter, just past the park office.

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View of parking area from road to horse campground

Time for hike: The distance is approximately 4 miles one way, so 8 miles total.This is an out and back hike.

Best season to do this hike: Winter. I went on a day that started in the 20’s and still met plenty of people and two horseback riders. I weep for the level of traffic you would meet during the summer!

Trails to Take

Starting off at the parking area for horse trailers you want to get on Saddleback Trail, (note in “Beware” section that this trail is closed during wet conditions). You can either get on Saddleback from inside the horse campground, (a small connector trail runs out from around campsites 7-4, but this is only usable when horse campers are not present), OR you can get on from the trailhead in the parking lot, which is near the trail kiosk. Either way, Saddleback is a continuous moderate climb the whole way, (but this means it’s also a nice descent when you come back tired).

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Split rails on trail

The trail goes out through the woods, crosses the river, and then climbs up the hill, with split rail fencing on the side of the trail in places. Just follow this trail for a little over 3 miles, till it intersects with Raven Rock Trail. An interesting thing about the trail signs in this park is they don’t really tell you what trail you are getting on…rather they tell you what direction you need to go to reach another trail or point of interest.

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Note the gate to close Saddleback in wet weather, and the highly confusing park signs

 

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Anyway, you want to go right at this intersection, and just as you do you will see a great overlook of the mountains that is an unexpected treat and photo magnet. After this overlook the trail will begin to descend VERY steeply. Once you’ve escaped the tendency to take about a billion photos here, continue down to the next trail intersection, where you want to turn left and go down hill. This is a mountain biking trail, so be wary. At the bottom of this trail is another water crossing.

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Bakri at the hitching post while I eat lunch in peace!

On the other side of the water crossing is a huge backcountry campsite. The trail continues through here, and up to the turn to go to the waterfall where there is a nice picnic area with a spot to tie up horses (or goats if no horses are present). If you are hiking with some buddies, consider stopping here for lunch, tying the goat up, and while your buddies eat/watch goat, hike the 0.5 mile strenuous trail down to the waterfall. I have it on my husband’s authority that the waterfall area is well worth your time, (if you have any to spare). However, the trail to the waterfall is way too tight to take a goat with you.

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High Shoals Waterfall with ice, courtesy of the husband

After lunch, head back the way you came, though getting up that hill again might be a trial with a full stomach!

South Mountains

BE WARNED!

  1. The entirety of Saddleback Trail is closed when it is raining or the ground is wet. Plan accordingly, and potentially call the park before visiting to ensure it is open.
  2. This park requires a special activity permit to visit with goats, but they are pretty cool about it. Park manager prefers that goats stay on equestrian trails, since most of the hiking only trails are very heavy trafficked (even in really cold weather). While it does curtail some of the fun, trust me, I sent a non-goat companion down one of these hiking only trails – they are not suitable for goat kind! They are very tight and very peopled.
  3. You will meet horses on Saddleback Trail. To avoid being trampled I’ve found that getting off the trail by several feet and holding still allows the horses the best chance to come to terms with the mini horse with the horns without freaking.
  4. The second half of the trail, as you approach the turn around, is very steep and very down hill. A goat that is not accustomed to doing 8 miles will struggle to reascend this area on the way back, so if you have a barn potato in tow, expect to have to stop and wait on them on this stretch. Also, a lot of this stretch is mountain biking trail, so keep an eye out.
  5. Water crossings are moderately shallow and may become deep at flood stage. Remember most of these trails are assuming you are on horseback, not on foot!
  6. Unleash the goat on water crossings if you don’t want a goat to accidentally plunge you into the river.

 

In sum: Lunch with a goat is a moral quandary. If I give the goat part of my snack bar…it will want more of my snack bar. And we all know what happens when you give a mouse a cookie…

Clouds and Cliffs at Pilot Mountain State Park

I once read that there is an old superstition that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London then Britain is doomed to be shortly wiped off the face of the map. Britons, being apparently as practical as Carolinians when it comes to this sort of thing decided to hedge their bets by clipping the wings of the ravens at the tower so they could not fly away.

Pilot Mountain State Park is best known for the towering spire of rock that is its namesake. This rock was historically a major landmark, being used as a navigational aid by Native Americans and later by local settlers. It is also home to a population of ravens, (which is a bit unusual for the area). However, given that no soothsayer has climbed Jomeokee Trail and proclaimed immenent destruction based on augeries of raven flight these intelligent little fluff balls of black feathers are still free to come and go as they please. At least until one of them poops on your head.

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Location: Pilot Mountain State Park and the Yadkin River Section of Pilot Mountain State Park near Winston Salem, NC.

Is it goat approved? Probably not, but I literally unloaded my goat right in front of the park ranger and they said nothing…so probably not but no one cares on a cold Saturday morning? However, you’ll have to pick up after the goat in the parking lot, and this destination is very popular with families and family camping trips so there is a lot of non-goat savvy traffic. Be especially careful about Jomeokee Trail and arrive early! The park opens at 8:00, I was the first person to park at the summit at 8:45 in 50F with misting rain, but by 10:00 people and kids were really getting on Jomeokee and a whole pack train of people where loading out down at the main park office.

How you get there: Take Hwy 52 out of Winston Salem and watch for the signs to Pilot Mountain. To get to the Yadkin River Section plan for some extra time. You can access this area from Hwy 52 as well, but you’ll have to wind out into the country after getting off Hwy 52. Follow the signs for Home Creek Living Historical Farm as this is on the same road just before the turn for Yadkin River, (there are tiny “Yadkin River” signs stuck on the top of the road signs that are easy to miss).

Parking at Yadkin River can be done off the paved road, (see maps below), or you can drive into the park and cross some creeks to get to other parking areas closer to the river. High ground clearance is recommended as these are rough car fords across the creek and the creek is prone to flooding during heavy rain, (and stranding people’s cars!).

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The sign and old building at the turn to access Yadkin River. If you want to park on the edge of the paved road that parking area should be just beyond this sign.

Time for hike: The distance is approximately miles 4.4 miles including the Yadkin River Section (about 2 miles) and the Pilot Mountain Section (about 2.4 miles).Pilot Mountain is a loop hike over strenuous terrain. Yadkin River is an easy out and back hike. Further mileage for those who really want to hike and not spend all day playing with their camera like I did in the fog can be easily added at both destinations.

Best season to do this hike: WINTER. WINTER. WINTER. Pick a misty, miserably cold day. Don’t pick a downpour or the Yadkin River Section won’t be accessible and the rocks at Pilot Mountain proper will be really slick! However, the water keeps the climbers away and decreases the traffic at this tremendously popular destination. Unfortunately, if you go in rough weather the Pilot Mountain rock spire may not be visible, and the views of the surrounding countryside, which extend out to the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves may be obscured. However, there’s still lots to see and visit even then.

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Trails to Take

Pilot Mountain Summit

To minimize the number of fellow hikers start off at Pilot Mountain State Park. Take the road all the way to the summit. While it would be fun to hike to the summit because of the time that requires and how many people would be at the summit when you finally get there, just bite the lame yuppie bullet and drive up. The drive is quite enjoyable, with twists, turns, and minimal guard rails.

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Fence to Ledge Springs

At the summit, you want to go down Ledge Springs Trail FIRST and then come back on Jomeokee Trail. Normally it would make sense to talk the highest traffic trail (Jomeokee) first, but due to the big, boring climb back up on Ledge Springs its actually still more fun to leave the busiest trail for last.

To get on Ledge Springs, walk across the parking lot to the cliff side, (away from the restrooms), which is mostly fenced off. Follow the wooden fence downhill through the picnic area and you will eventually leave the picnic area and get on the obvious Ledge Springs Trail, which wanders down to the bottom of the cliffs.

Ledge Springs eventually intersects with Grindstone, turn left to stay on Ledge Springs. The next half mile or so is stone steps and dirt trail running along the base of probably the best cliffs you can get east of the Appalachians. Mountain laurel and other plants more typical of the mountains are in abundance in areas that are not actively being climbed.

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Not long after leaving the climbing area, (there will be a sign), the trail goes down a section of stairs and intersects with the *unmarked* Jomoekee Trail. I can only assume that the traffic is usually so heavy on these trails that they felt it unnecessary to make very clear signage about what trails are what, (because there would always be someone around to ask).

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Ledge Springs/Jomeokee intersection

Turn right onto Jomoekee to go out to the rock spire that is the central show piece of the park. While the top of the spire is not accessible, (and climbing it is a misdemeanor), the trail makes a circle around the bottom. Accordingly, when the trail splits you can go which ever way you want – you’ll still end back up where you started.

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The bench at the base of the rock spire
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Supposedly there are ravens living in this area. Bakri seemed worried.

There are numerous benches and picturesque cliff sides to view, and I ran into a few deer grazing at the base of the cliffs as well. However, it is important not to linger too long on this trail for two reasons. One, the loop is popular with walkers/hikers/kids with an increase in numbers over time, and two, there is a tight stair going back up to the parking lot. Once the circuit of the spire is complete, you can continue back on Jomeokee Trail past where you originally got on it and the trail will return you to the parking lot. However, if you are late in heading back and the traffic is heavy the tight stone stair back up to the parking lot may be too full of people for a goat and hiker to use…which sticks you with returning via Spring Ledge Trail and taking that long boring climb back up to the top instead.

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The top wasn’t even visible in the fog!

 

Yadkin River Section Canal Remnants

I parked inside the park just after the 2nd creek crossing where there is a large field for group camping, a pit toilet, a trail kiosk, and a rough parking area. Parking is also available at the end of the road after the 3rd creek crossing and off the paved road just after the turn off to go into the park.

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Parking area and 3rd car ford

From my parking location, I headed down the road towards the river, crossing the 3rd creek crossing. For some reason as you top the hill they have “no horses” signs posted, and you want to stay on the gravel road to continue, (since there are no “no goat” signs posted). The road eventually ends at a loop parking area with another trail kiosk which sports a much better map of the area than that provided online.

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The entrance to the Bean Shoals Canal Trail is just behind the kiosk, (and easy to miss). Take this trail down hill to the railroad tracks. These tracks are active! So look both ways before crossing!

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Canal wall and Yakin River. Islands are in the background.

The trail joins a trail running along the river after crossing the railroad tracks. You can, in low water situations, wade this river, cross over the mid-stream island, and go hike the trails on the opposite bank from this point. If you aren’t into getting wet, go right and follow the trail as it winds along the bank. This will take you past the ruins of the canal wall. The rail line seems to have been built inside what would have been the canal’s actual waterway, (settling of the rail line at the far end of the canal demonstrates the issues with doing this!).

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Walking the rail line

The shoals the canal was meant to help bypass are visible in the river to your left, as are numerous islands. At the end of the canal walls the trail just sort of fades out, and you can turn around and head back the way you came or walk back on the railroad tracks, (again – this is an active rail line!). Then head back to the car or take another trail to extend the hike.

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Yadkin River Section Kiosk Map
Pilot Mountain State Park
Pilot Mountain’s Main Park Map

 

 

BE WARNED!

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Yadkin River Warning Sign
  1. Ice was present on the trails around Pilot Mountain even at 50F, so if you plan to hike in the true dead of winter when there’s lots of that frozen stuff on the ground and hanging off the rocks be careful that you don’t fall to your death or get impaled by a 6 foot long icicle.
  2. The Ledge Spring Trail is where all the cliffs that people can climb on are located. Watch for falling debris, climbers lounging on/near the trail, and dogs belonging to climbers that may be tied to trees. They aren’t supposed to have dogs tied up to trees, but what park rangers can do about it besides shaking their fists up at their aerial enemy half way up the rock wall I don’t know. If it is raining or the cliffs are really wet and cold there don’t seem to be any climbers around.
  3. Jomeokee Trail is the primary trail that goes out and circles the big rock spire that makes up the focal point of Pilot Mountain State Park. This is THE trail for families, small children, dogs, and also the super serious peak climbing monsters with hiking poles and packs to all come together on. Clear this trail before 10:00 AM if at all possible.
  4. If you are bringing along people or goats who are not from the various parts of the world where active railroad tracks are also the main highways of adolescence to reach the swimming hole, main street, or Walmart, you might want to remind them that trains can’t break quickly and to look both ways before crossing the tracks.
  5. The top of Pilot Mountain, (that is, the top of the stone spire), is not accessible so as to protect the rare plant communities that live up there. I too was disappointed about this, but conservation should come first!
  6. The road to the summit is twisty enough and tight enough to exceed even the expectations of those veterans who have conquered the Blue Ridge Parkway, the climb to Caesar’s Head, and the millions of gravel roads snaking through Pisgah. It will add time to your commute to the trail head, and if there’s a lot of black ice and your tires are bald you might not get up the road.
  7. The Yadkin River Section has parking off S.R. 2072 (that is “State Road 2072” for those not familiar with North Carolina’s unique nomenclature). If you want to park inside the park though, like I did on this trip, remember that you have to cross 2 car fords through the creek to reach the first parking area and 3 fords to reach the second and third parking areas. Based on the marks on the creek bank that sign really isn’t joking about getting your car stuck because the creek is too high to cross. Bring vehicles with ground clearance and leave BEFORE the heavy rain starts.
  8. Unfortunately, if you go in rough weather the Pilot Mountain rock spire may not be visible, and the views of the surrounding countryside, which extend out to the Blue Ridge Mountains and downtown Winston Salem’s skyscrapers may be obscured. Fortunately there is still plenty to see even if these vistas aren’t visible.
  9. You will be stuck picking up after the goat in the parking lot areas of Pilot Mountain proper.
  10. The park opens at 8 AM (Pilot Mountain) and 8:30 AM (Yadkin River). Make sure you get there early and you will have the trails to yourself!
  11. Climbing the main rock spire at Pilot Mountain is a misdemeanor.
  12. At flood stage the Bean Shoals Canal Trail will be underwater as it runs along the bank.

In sum: If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? If the fog is so thick you can’t see them…are there still actually ravens living in the cliffs here?

Urban Goat on the Go: A Wonderland of Art on the Raleigh Greenway

Even fancied tilting at a windmill like Don Quixote or wanted to be Lord of Some Giant Earthen Rings? Let your imagination run wild by exploring North Carolina’s Art Museum and adjacent cultural properties! Built on land that first held a juvenile detention center and then became a cow pasture for the nearby vet school, the Art Museum has grown over the years to include not just the main buildings, but also numerous outdoor art works worth visiting that you don’t need to fall down a rabbit  hole or speak to a drug addled caterpillar to enjoy.

Beyond the Art Museum is Meredith College, which includes student art works near the greenway trail, but also hosts a unique tunnel which is repainted to a new theme each year by the current graduating class. This year’s theme was the unusually nerdy choice of blending Alice in Wonderland, the circus, Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, and what I’m pretty sure was Disney’s Maleficent all onto two white walls and half a dozen poles. It is pretty surreal.

Location: Raleigh greenway trail system, including Reedy Creek Trail and House Creek Trail, starting at the North Carolina Art Museum

Is it goat approved? Only if the goat is on leash, you can pick up after it, and the goat is great with people, strollers, and bikes. I find this trip to be great for bomb proofing kid goats and a unique change from hiking in the woods, but it is not a low stress easy walk. Though those used to the overly inquisitive nature of people living in the Northeast will enjoy the significantly lower attention the goat attracts in North Carolina, where people are more into horses. As a plus, museum guards and docents seem to be cool with even visiting the sculptures near the main buildings with a goat in tow.

How you get there: Google.Then park in the large parking lot off Blue Ridge Road where the ugly grey building with the “we hoped it would make it less ugly but actually just draws attention to it” trellis in front of it is.

Time for hike:  4.8 miles out and back, but add another mile on for wandering around the ex-pasture that they have set up as a sculpture garden. This is an out and back hike. 

Best season to do this hike: WINTER. Gets hot in the summer and full of people when the weather is nice.

Trails to Take

*There are no pictures with goats in them for this hike because it is extremely difficult to stand still long enough to get a picture with a goat in it without being talked to death by other visitors or mobbed by kids.*

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Be Lord of the Earthen Rings

From the parking lot you want to go down hill on the paved trail between the windmill and the art museum’s pond. The trail comes up to the big earthen rings and splits. Go right, down the hill, until a small trail comes off to your left near a pillar made of rocks, (there is no understanding art, just accept that it is a weird pillar). Off this trail is another small trail to your right into the woods.

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What happens when artists build windmills
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House with pinhole camera

This trail goes into the woods, across a creek, then up to a small building that is actually a cool pinhole camera. The camera effect only works when the sun is very bright, and you have to close the door the whole way so it is really dark, then count to 20 for your eyes to adjust so you can see the effect. This building is small, so if you are hiking by yourself you won’t be able to fit 1 human and a goat inside of it comfortably…especially if other people want to go in at the same time!

Past this is another bridge over a dry wash, and then the trail winds up and dead ends into the greenway. You want to go left away from the parking area. Trail winds down into a bottom land area with the notorious biker destroying bridges, (see “Be Warned” section), then up a hill. At the end of the climb is the bridge across the highway.

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Highway Bridge

Once across the bridge bear right and you’ll pass under Wade Avenue through a tunnel. This tunnel is closed at dark! On the opposite side is Meredith College. The side of this tunnel that vehicle traffic uses is painted each year by the graduating class at Meredith. They choose a different theme every year and  it’s interesting to drop by and see what the new theme is.

Beyond the tunnel the trail skirts the edge of Meredith’s campus, which has some interesting architecture reminiscent of a late 1800’s manufacturing building style in the center of campus. As you near the dorms there are also sometimes small art projects in the woods done by the students. Eventually the trail crosses the entrance to Meredith college, past the track, and dead ends at the stoplight. I usually turn around here, but if you really want to go crazy about it, cross the stoplight and go up hill past the gas station. This will take you across a bridge over a rail line, then take your next left at the stoplight just beyond the bridge and you’re on NC State’s campus, which also has trails/buildings/swarms of students to explore.

Art Museum 1

Art Museum 2

Be Warned!

  1. Be careful of any biker approaching you in spandex with a serious look on his face. While there are defined lanes for traffic in parts of the greenway, the predominate way that cyclists navigate the hordes of pedestrians is by zigging and zagging at the fastest speed possible through them. Which looks like a lot of fun to me, but maybe not to the goat you’re with.
  2. The bridges at the bottom of the first hill as you leave out of the art museum area are slick, and it is very likely that the aforementioned high speed cyclist, if unfamiliar with these bridges, will wreck. So estimate where the carnage is going to happen, and how far the bike and rider will slide, then pick a spot out of the way to watch the ensuing mess. I’ve seen about half a dozen people wreck, (which adds up to at least 1 person every time I walk the trail).
  3. No water sources for goats. There is a dog watering station, but the goats are curiously uninclined to drink at it. Perhaps they don’t want dog cooties.
  4. You are committing to collect goat poop when hiking in town, so bring several grocery bags and some hand sanitizer.
  5. The tunnel under Wade Avenue closes at dusk to all traffic. Don’t get stuck on the wrong side!

In Sum: Dealing with hordes of curious humans all the time by visiting this location often may lead to enlightenment and greater understanding of the human condition. Or it may just cause you to go insane and start headbutting everyone who speaks to you.

Get Washed Away on Falls Lake Trail (MST)

 

It’s been raining. For days. Weeks. Possibly for eternity. You’re entombed in the house, where you are spending a boring afterlife watching reruns on  Hulu and surfing the web to read about other people hiking because you appear to be living through the Biblical flood and won’t be going out any time soon unless its via kayak. The goats are all huddled under the shed, (where they’ve been standing in the same spot for days), passing around the same flake of hay in the brain-dead manner of zombies eating brains.

Its time. Get the rain gear. Get the goat. And get out of the house come hell or high water!

Location: The section of the Mountains to the Sea Trail (MST) that runs along the edge of Falls Lake starting at the Rolling View division of the Falls Lake Recreation Area.

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Anti-hunter goat coat for the one that really looks too much like a deer

Is it goat approved? Yes, but bring a goat that can do at least short stretches on leash since there are some close passes to private houses. In the rain I met absolutely no one hiking this section of the trail. However, I hear that during less wet conditions the trail is very popular, especially in warm weather, and the visibility of the path suggests this to be true. Plan accordingly.

How you get there: GOOGLE Falls Lake near Raleigh, NC. Look for the “Rolling View Marina” which is a marina within the Rolling View division of the Falls Lake Recreation Area. The trail head is on your left within the park boundaries, off Baptist Road, but before the park gate, (saving you the entrance fee during the summer). Basic parking lot/trail head/trail kiosk present.

Time for hike:  7.8 miles round trip, a perfect distance for keeping goats in shape. This is an out and back hike. 

Best season to do this hike: Foul weather will keep the other trail users down, but you might want to avoid this hike in the dead of winter as the wind can be incredibly nasty in places.

Trails to Take

The great part about this trail is that it sticks to the lake shore for almost all of its length. You can’t get lost. You can’t get turned around. The only way you’re going to lose it is if you decide to start swimming to the opposite shore.

Start off at the trail head/parking lot outside the park gates for the Rolling View division of the Falls Lake Recreational area. Trail heads off west out of the parking area, crosses a slick-when-wet wooden bridge, then wanders off through the woods.

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Army Corps of Engineers high water mark on a tree. This is the highest that the dam operators are entitled to flood the lake. Note that the MST runs at a lower elevation than most of these markers!

At the intersection, take the trail heading off to your left and down towards the lake. The trail will climb several ridges and drop into small drainage areas and coves, many of which are full of water at flood stage, necessitating a bit of wading, hopping around, and detouring to continue more or less on trail. Look out for a nice stand of sycamores, (big white trees), in one of these drainage areas.

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Great views when the fog isn’t in the way!

The trail continues along the lake, gaining more and more height. Across a dirt access road the forest will begin clearing out, with great views of the lake when the fog isn’t so thick, (and some powerful wind)! The trail crosses over what other users have referred to as a small dry waterfall, but which is a nice little running waterfall in a rainstorm!

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Top of the small waterfall

At the end of the open forest the trail descends almost to what is probably the lake shore when everything isn’t soggy and flooded. Then it climbs up a set of treacherously slippery steps at the base of a rustic house with a large statue of a woman on the lawn. There is a large dog who lives here, FYI. The trail passes a second house, then heads back into the woods.

There are other houses, a horse pasture, and lots of opportunities to navigate your way around flooded out trail, (though most of the trail was wisely built above the typical flood plain). Signage indicating close passes near houses or other private property is well placed, though oddly I had one of these signs crop up, and no less than two minutes later I found myself directed by the trail signage to walk along a private road that I had just been told to stay off of?

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The private road, which looks a lot less flooded in this picture than it did in person

The aforementioned road may be a deal breaker at high flood stage, as it was precariously positioned during my visit after only about a week of on and off rain in the area. A couple of weeks of steady rain would probably render it underwater and annoying to cross on foot with goats who aren’t really water fans to begin with. Beyond the road is more houses, a jaunt across what is basically someone’s yard, and then the houses disappear and you’re back walking through the woods.

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Power line cut
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Dee Dee says “You weren’t actually planning to cross on the bridge today, right? Please not today?”

The trail crosses a major power line cut, then dives back down to the lake, though during flood stage continuing on the trail will require some sticker bush and tick infested off roading to continue past the power line area. A few minutes after you leave the power lines you’ll reach the bridge, (coming up on your right). Quick logic test: if the trail is flooded, and the bridge you want to cross is in a flood plain, what are the odds you can cross (or even reach) said bridge? The answer is “not good”. But it is still pretty cool to go see just how deep this flood plain gets underwater. Apparently there should be a boardwalk out to the bridge…which was completely under the waves when I came by.

What the crossing should look like when the water is reasonable

Be Warned!

  1. During high water periods, (i.e. after a couple of days of rain or worse), sections of the trail will be underwater, requiring detours. Further, if you are planning on crossing the Little Lick Creek bridge, just forget about it. Seriously – that water was deep!
  2. There are several close passes to private houses, some of which have dogs and signs of small children.
  3. Four wheelers and kids riding them. Need I say more?
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Swimming to the crossing not recommended!

 

In Sum: Unfortunately, after much thought, the goat has decided it cannot help you portage the kayak down to the flood plain to reach the bridge. It is sorry, but it has better things to do. Like eat your hat.

 

Rock the Quarry at Dupont State Forest

While Dupont is better know for its waterfalls, rivers, and general H2O content, it is also home to the only rock quarry in the area that is both open for public exploration and not filled with water. The commercial Vulcan quarry down the road may churn out truck after truck of gravel and granite, but this unregarded little blasting site is generally only used by the park service and is thus a quiet field of boulders and man made cliffs on the weekend, all ripe for goat exploration.

Location: Dupont State Forest near Hendersonville, NC

Is it goat approved? Yep. They do llamas and they do horses, so they do goats.

How you get there: The parking area to start from is off Cascade Lake Road, at GPS coordinates 35.172825, -82.638965. This parking area is very popular with mountain bikers, who have in recent years grown astronomically in number. So come early to make sure you get a parking spot and be ready to interact with the off leash trail dogs that the bikers like to bring.

Time for hike:  4.4 miles, but if you cross at the Corn Mill Shoals river crossing, Corn Mill Shoals Trail can be taken to Bridal Veil Falls for a total of 7.5 miles round trip, (which I have done before on horseback and on foot – it’s an easy ride/hike). This is mostly an out and back hike with a minor loop.

Best season to do this hike: Any day that the river won’t be at flood stage. Dupont doesn’t get super hot in the summer or insanely cold in the winter, but as a state park known for its water features water crossings are common and may be impossible when the river’s up

Trails to Take

Start off in the parking lot. Walk down Cascade Lake Road headed south. This takes you to Wilkie Trail, (#83) (which sometimes isn’t well marked, but you will see where the trail goes off into the woods). This a mountain biker style trail, so it winds up through the woods in a series of curves.

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Quarry debris

This trail dead ends into Micajah Trail, where you want to turn right. Continue until Micajah Trail (#48) dead ends into the obviously named Rock Quarry Road (#62), then go left up hill. The trail will take you into the quarry itself.

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Bakri surveys a quarry wall near a spot you can free climb up

Rather than continue to follow the trail you can spend a more interesting time exploring the quarry. While much of the original debris on the quarry floor has been cleared away compared with how the quarry looked even 7 years ago, (or how it looked when I first saw it over a decade ago), there’s still plenty to play on. The walls of the quarry are climbable without ropes or climbing gear in several places, though it requires quite a bit of skill, (my ninja of a husband can make it to the top but I’m more of a ground based human).

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Longside Trail and Corn Mill Shoals intersection. The parking area where the trip started is on the other side of Cascade Lake Road beyond the metal gate

Anyway, once you’re done enjoying the quarry take Rock Quarry Road back out to Cascade Lake Road. Since the hike into the quarry is so short and let’s face it, if you drove all the way out to Dupont you probably want to make a day of it, cross the road and walk south a short ways to meet up with Twixt Trail (#80). This will take you down into the woods.

Continue in the direction you are heading and merge onto Longside Trail (#47), followed by turning left onto Corn Mill Shoals Trail (#19). Stay on Corn Mill Shoals. You will pass several trails heading off Corn Mill Shoals, and eventually reach the ford over the Little River.

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Corn Mill Shoal Trail Ford

After crossing the ford, just continue on Corn Mill Shoals. It will eventually take you out to Bridal Veil Falls, which is a waterfall near the horse barn and the center of the Dupont property. You can walk to the top of the falls on the rock face when the water is low enough to leave dry rock. There is a small falls at the top, though the main cascade down the rock face seems to the source of the fall’s name. Once done here, you can turn around and take Corn Mill Shoals all the way back to the parking area, (it dead ends into Cascade Lake Road right across from the parking lot).

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Trail Map

Be Warned!

  1. If its been raining the ford at the Little River will not be doable. Watched a mountain biker try to cross at flood stage once…and he fell down, lost his bike down the river, and had to go on a trek to find it. While a bike might be salvageable after drowning, a goat is not.
  2. Get to the parking area early. It is very small, and very popular with mountain bikers. Though, come to think of it, what isn’t popular with mountain bikers around Dupont?
  3. It is advisable to not plan on having lunch at the Bridal Veil Falls waterfall as it can be fairly popular, (though not nearly on the scale of popularity as the larger falls in the park).
  4. Stay out of the pools of water on the rock face at Bridal Veil Falls. There are sometimes thriving colonies of tadpoles and salamanders here that would prefer not to be trampled.
  5. Watch out for wet rock at the ford and at the falls. I once helped out during a waterfall tour at Bridal Veil Falls. An older guy and his wife were taking pictures of the falls nearby while I talked about the park history, etc. The man stepped back onto some wet rock, not running with water, but merely damp. He fell like he’d stepped on black ice and hit his head so hard he blacked out, ended up bleeding all over the rock, and had to have emergency services and me carrying him back to the parking area. He ended up being okay, but the moral of the story is trust no rock surface that is wet in appearance to not be slicker than goat boogers on ice. If in doubt, coat your boot soles with sand before trying to cross.
  6. Lots of mountain laurel and rhododendron on this hike. Make sure the goat keeps it out of his mouth so he doesn’t end the trip poisoned!
  7. Corn Mill Shoals can be a major thru fare for hikers and other trail users in the forest. However, it doesn’t get a ton of use if the ford is too under water to cross…so be suspicious if you meet no one during the whole trip down to the ford. It may be too high to go over.
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You can cross at the Corn Mill Shoals ford on horseback. Did it many times. However, it’s not for the faint of heart or that princess pony that only knows the show ring! On foot when the water is up it’s probably not for the faint of heart hiker either. Bring a rope if you’re worried that can span the twenty foot or so river.

In Sum: If Monty Python used coconuts to mimic the sound of horse hooves, what item of produce would he use to mimic the treading of goats?