Category Archives: Hiking Trail

A Tale of Two Wheels

A few weeks ago I purchased a used bicycle. Several years ago, when I lived on the beach, I rode a bike almost daily. It was always a fun experience. I also saw it as a useful tool for exploring several of the forest service roads around the Croatan National Forest where motorized traffic is not allowed. And, to be honest, a little exercise wouldn’t hurt either. So I started watching Craigs List, local classified ads and checking area consignment stores in search of a bike.

The bike I settled on was a Trek 7200 Multitrack. A hybrid bicycle, it is a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. It’s narrow tires certainly aren’t suitable for hard-core trail riding. However it’s fine for putzing around forest roads and some of the easier sections of the Neusiok Trail. That’s exactly the kind of cycling I had in mind.

The day after I bought it I headed over to the Neuse River Recreation area (Flanners Beach) between Havelock and New Bern. The recreation area has a nice paved bike path that circles the campgroung, with a gravel loop that runs back into the forest. It seemed perfect for a trial ride on my newly acquired bicyle. The first lap around the perimeter was uneventful. I took the longest leg of the paved path, plus the loop through the woods to maximize distance. There is a section of the “natural surface” portion of the trail that drops down into a swamp, crossing over a wooden boardwalk. That boardwalk took some serious damage during last year’s hurricante Irene and has not been restored to original condition. Simply put it wasn’t something a novice rider wanted to cross on a bike. So I walked the bike across that section. For my second lap I decided I avoid that bridge by reversing my course and heading up the other side of the “natural” path, making a loop back rather than dropping down into the swamp. On that lap I managed to catch a limb between the rear derailer and wheel, breaking the derailer hanger. First trip and I had the pleasure of walking my “new” bike out! Ah well.

I did a little checking around and found a bike shop that would be open on a Sunday, loaded my bike and headed down highway 24 towards Cape Cartert. The employee working that day assured me there’d be no problem fixing the bike and that I’d hear from the mechanic in a couple of days. Instead I got a phone call from the same employee telling me they didn’t handle that brand and wouldn’t be able to fix it. Fair enough I thought. The first day I’d have to go retrieve it would be Wednesday. As I was enroute to pick-up the bike I get a phone call on my cell phone. It was the bike mechanic. “No problem Mr. Decker,” he said, “I’ll order the part and get it fixed for you.” I headed back home. The very next afternoon I come home to find a message on my answering machine from the shop telling me they couldn’t fix it. If I wanted to get a part off the internet or at a dealer and bring it to them they’d be glad to do the service but they couldn’t get the part. Really! A simple Google search of “Trek Multitrack 7200 rear derailer hanger” results in hundreds of choices. You could order them for anything from $10 to $40 with no problem. The bike shop couldn’t do this themself? Talk about poor customer service! My next opporunity to pick-up my bike was Saturday. I picked it up, head to Jacksonville to visit the dealer down there, bought a hanger and fixed it myself. Easy, peasy. Now I’m not going to mention the name of that bike shop, located on highway 24, in Cape Carteret (wink, wink). That would just be too crass. But I will say they’ll never see a dime of my money after a run-around like that. Heck, when I picked it up the owner was working and he didn’t even offer as little as an apology!

Since repairing my bike I’ve explored a few trails and forest roads. As I suspected it makes a great tool for quick exploration to find areas with potential for nature photography. It’s also a great deal of fun. When I’m just looking for a little exercise rather than exploration, my favorite ride is to hop on the Neusiok Trail where it crosses Alligator Tram Road (a forest service road). I head towards the trail-head at the Newport River. That stretch of trail is perfect for a hybrid bike with most of it being gravel surface and/or hard pack. It’s fairly flat and relatively dry. A round trip works out to be about 7.4 miles (per the bike computer). There are options to return via Mill Creek Road and/or Old Winberry Road if one doesn’t want to do an out and back route. It’s good exercise, a great way to get out into nature and one heck of a lot of fun.

Also posted in Bicycling, General Photography, Nature Photography Tagged , , , , , , |

When All Else Fails Get Creative

Yesterday didn’t go well as far as shooting days go. I forgot to set my alarm and over slept, so ended up blowing off the morning and running errands such as getting groceries and other necessities. For the afternoon I decide to head out on a section of the Neusiok Trail to see if I could find some interesting subjects. To be it was more a scouting trip than a trip where I had high expectations of getting some decent shots, but you never know. The hike was mostly uneventful without a lot of good opportunities to be found. I did, however, notice this plant with really large leaves and interesting patterns and textures in the leaf. I decided to try a few shots using my macro lens. Flat, natural lighting really wasn’t getting me the results I wanted so I decided to try backlighting it with the little LCD light panel I keep in my photo backpack. Sure enough the backlighting gave me the kind of results I had in mind. Depending on the distance I held the light away from the leaf, or the position under it, I’d get slightly different results. Below are my favorites of the leaf.

A backlit leafe makes and intersting abstract when shot with a macro lens.

Sometimes a little thinking and some creativity will result in a good image when nothing else is presenting its self.

Macro photography doesn't need to be restricted to pretty flowers.  The Croatan National Forest is full of excellent subjects.

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Neusiok Trail Report

I paid a visit to the Neusiok Trail a couple days ago. Starting at the trailhead at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area, I hiked to the Copperhead Landing camping shelter and back. That’s roughly a 7 mile round trip. I was thrilled to see tha the Forest Service and volunteers such as the Carteret County Wildlife Club had done a wonderful job of clearing the trail from downed trees, rerouting the trail where needed and replacing missing blazes. The Neusiok Trail has been restored to one of the primier outdoor opportunities along the crystal coast.

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I’m a Bit Spoiled

I can admit it, I’m a bit spoiled. No really. Within a few minutes drive of my home I can launch my kayak and surround myself with lots of photographic opportunities. Wading birds, shorebirds… even wild horses! The luxuray of being spoiled by plenty of fairly easy photographic subjects does have it’s draw backs. When I venture out to areas where subjects are harder to come by and patience is necessary I can become a bit frustrated. This morning I visited the Tideland trail at Cedar Point, NC. It’s a wonderful place for a nice nature walk but the wildlife is a little on the sparse side. Between the dog walkers, joggers and casual hikers the birds are a little bit nervous. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities to take some photos, just that lots of patience is required. It can be a great place to find and photograph small birds such as chickadees, cardinals, warblers, etc. Here’s a few shots of cardinals from this morning.

A Cardinal along the Tideland Trail, Cedar Point, NC.

Female Cardinal.

Tideland Trail cardinal.

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Island Creek Wild Flower

This is from a Friday morning hike in the Croatan Forest. The USFS claims a 1/2 mile forest walk at this location, the Island Creek Forest Walk… “locals” have blazed and mapped a very large complex of trials. If the work has been done by a club of some sort they stay anonynous. Regardless is a pretty neat area. There are usually maps available at the trail head. I’ve explored a fair share of complex last fall but darned if they haven’t blazed another trail or two! I had to make a return trip this evening to look for my lost wallet! Fortunately it was found right where I thought it might’ve lost it. Whew! Here’s a photo from Friday morning’s hike.

An unknow wildflower grows along the

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Fungus Among Us (I Know… an Old Pun)

I took a little hike along a section of the Neusiok Trail the other morning… specifically the section from NC 306 and heading towards the Pine Cliff Recreation Area. I turned just a little before reaching the shelter along Cahooque Creek… roughly a four mile round trip. It’s an interesting stretch of trail with a lot more decidious trees that I’m used to seeing around here. The one exception to that being the Island Creek Forest Walk trail, but that’s a topic for another day.

So far there’s not a lot of autumn color showing-up along the Crystal Coast. Perhaps in another week or two. There were, however, a variety of mushrooms growning and the side of the trail. Seemed like a good time to give my 100mm, f/2.8 macro lens a bit of a workout. The following are a few of my favorites from the hike.

A mushroom surrounded by pine cones in the Croatan National Forest.

This photo is kind of fun as it looks like the larger mushroom is sheltering the smaller one.

Three mushrooms grow along the Neusiok Trail, Coastal Carolina.

Wild mushroom and pine cones.

Two mushrooms in the Croatan National Forest.

A mushroom peeks out from beneath the leaves.

Also posted in Macro Photography, Nature Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Neuse River Recreation Area: Flanner’s Beach

The entrance to the Neuse River Recreation Area, Flanner's Beach.The Neuse River Recreation Area, locally known as Flanner’s Beach, is off of Highway 70 between Havelock and New Bern, North Carolina. Sitting along the Neuse River and part of the Croatan National Forest, this area features a beach, picnic area, campground and hiking/bicycling trail. I was going to be in New Bern yesterday afternoon and decided to visit this trail on my way home. It was a nice Spring day and we’d been having some plesantly warm weather, so I was hopeful I might come across some wildflowers. Apparently it’s still a little bit early.

The trail system at this recreation area consists of a loop around the campground with a couple of small loops off of that plus one fairly large loop out into the woods. The section circling the campground is paved, as are the two smaller loops. the longer loop is covered with fine pea gravel. The trails are open to bicyclists and hikers alike. Walking parallel to the river from the picnic parking area will put you on the trail. Taking the longer loop around until it meets with the campground route, then back to the parking area will net about a 2 mile hike. While not a huge stroll it is a pretty area with the woods being a mix of pine and hardwoods. The trail crosses a small swampy area via a boardwalk, adding to the variety of terrain. One big plus for this trail is that when everything else is wet, muddy and nasty it provides a dry and comfy trail for stretching your legs. While the Neuse River Recreation Area trail isn’t the longest or most demanding in the area, it makes a great place to take the family, introduce a “tenderfoot” to nature, or to incorporate a picnic with a little excercise. It’s definately well worth a vist.

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Patsy Pond Nature Trail Update

I visited the Patsy Pond Nature Trail last tuesday, March 23, 2010. I was hoping that the trend of nice weather might have triggered the wild flowers to start popping up. Unfortunately I didn’t see any wild flowers. However, I thought it might be worth mentioning that the back section of the Yellow trail is still underwater. There is an unmarked detour. Where the Yellow route turns left and runs behind the big pond, follow the unmarked path forward instead. There was a small tree with an orange and a blue ribbon tied around it at that junction. Keep bearing left… i.e. anytime the unmarked trails give you a fork or tee, go left. You’ll eventually meet back up with the marked trail past the other end of the big pond.

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Rare Winter Storm Hits Coastal NC

Precipitation has been the keyword for Winter 2010 in Eastern North Carolina. Rain, rain and more rain and now, a very significant snow fall! It’s almost unheard of… 4, 5, even 6 inches and more snow for Coastal Carolina! The snow cover certainly made for some unusual landscapes. Combined with all the rain, it’s also taking a toll on the accessibility of local hiking trails. Take the Patsy Pond trail for example. I visited the trail the afternoon following the snow storm and, fortunately, I’d made the hike wearing waders. About 1/2 the way around the yellow loop trail sections started looking more like a stream than a hiking trail. In fact I waded water that was over kneed deep! I’ve been visiting this trail for a number of years and have always considered it a great choice when the weather is wet. Below are a coupld of images from Febuary, 13, 2010 showing the snow storm. One shows the Patsy Pond trail looking like a stream. The other shows a marsh area bordering the Newport River and Neusiok Trail.

The yellow loop trail, Patsy Pond nature area, Croatan National Forest, looks more like a stream than a trail.

Marsh area leading to the Newport River and bordering the Neusiok Trail.

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Neusiok Trail: Mill Creek Road to Oyster Point

As I’ve mentioned before the Neusiok Trail section along the Neuse river is my favorite section however, the section that crosses Mill Creek road and leads to the Newport river is a close second. The portion that I enjoy runs from a bit beyond the Blackjack Lodge, crosses Millcreek Road, and terminates at Oyster Point on the Newport River. Unfortunately, unless one has come down the Neusiok from further above, or back tracks up to the shelter and back, it’s not a convenient day hike. From the road to Oyster point, however, the trail runs 1.7 miles and makes a nice hike. By using the gravel road that runs back to the adjacent campground you can enjoy a nice loop through the Croatan Forest. Look for song birds, raptors, wild flowers, deer and fox along the trail.

This sign marks the trailhead near the Newport River. Oyster Point is a 1.7 mile hike from Mill Creek Road.

A foot bridge has been washed sideways at a trail crossing point. A hand pump provides access to feshwater at the three camping shelters along the Neusiok Trail.

Three shelters exist along the trail to provide camping areas for backpackers.  The Blackjack Lodge is  about 2.5 miles before the southern most end of the Neusiok Trail.

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