Tag Archives: Hiking

Hanging Rock State Park: Hidden Falls

Hanging Rock State Park is located near Danbury in the northwestern part of North Carolina. Nestled in the Sauratown Mountains, the park is home to several waterfalls. While not the tallest falls in the state, they are certainly pretty. Unlike so many waterfalls that require miles of hiking to reach, the well known falls of Hanging Rock State Park are all short hikes from convenient parking lots. In addition to the five publicized waterfalls, my understanding is that there are a few other falls hidden away and requiring a bit of effort and adventure to find. The following are a few photos and a video of Hidden Falls. All photos were taken with a Canon 7D. The video is a combination of footage from the 7D and from my SJCam SJ 4000 action camera.

Hidden Falls -Hanging Rock State Park

HIdden Falls - Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury NC

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waterfalls photographs for sale

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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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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.

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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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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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Pinecliff Recreation Area, Croatan Forest: Neusiok Trail

The Pincliff Recreation area is located on the Neuse river, near the Cherry Branch ferry terminal. Part of the Croatan National Forest, it is the location of the northern most trail-head of the Neusiok Trail. It is, in my personal opinion, the prettyest section of the trail. Here the trail parallels the river for about 1.8 miles before cutting into the forest towards it’s Newport River terminous, 21 miles away. From the perspective of someone that enjoys avian and wildlife photography it is not the most productive location in the area, but there are almost always a few opportunities to take a shot. Common sightings include Red Headed woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Cardinals and other small birds. The occasional Belted Kingfisher and various shore birds can also be seen. Early spring through early fall Osprey are usually present. On one occassion I did watch a Bald Eagle fly over, though I haven’t seen it since and have no idea if it has a home in the area. Photographers into shoot landscapes or taking macro images will find this a very productive area. It’s also a great hike for nature enthusiasts.

A Red Headed Woodpecker along the Neuse river. Swamps and cypress trees area commong along this stretch of the Neusiok trail.

A squirrel with a nut enjoys a pretty fall day along the Neusiok trail near the Pinecliff Recreation area. Mushrooms, wildflowers and other interesting objects make interesting subjects for macro photographers.

A shorebird explores the edge of the Neuse river.

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Tideland Trail: Cedar Point, North Carolina

The Tideland Trail at Cedar Point, NC is part of the Croatan National Forest. It is located on VFW Road, just off of NC 58, 1 1/4 miles north of NC 24. The area includes a camp ground, a boat launch, a picnic area and two loop trails: 1.3 miles and .6 miles in length respectively. The trails meander through a salt marsh, along the White Oak River and through the woods. Wooden foot bridges provide easy access across wet areas. The trail is graveled and smooth. The site is wheel chair accessible. There is a flush toilet located at the trail-head.

This is an excellent location for viewing a variety of birds year round. The last two or three years there has been a nesting pair of Osprey on site Spring through Fall. Great Egret and Great Blue Heron are almost always present. Other commonly viewed birds around the salt marsh include; Red-tail hawk, Fish Crow, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-color Heron, Boat-tail Grackle, Red Wing Blackbird, and belted Kingfisher. Forest birds include: Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Wren, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker. Of course I’ve also seen Laughing Gull and Brown Pelican as well as Cardinals, Yellow Legs and others.

The site is popular with locals for dog walking, bird watching and fitness walks. Bird photographers should expect a lot of interruptions on weekends, especially during the summer months. Early weekday mornings during the cooler months are usually best if you want to avoid noisey hikers. The gravel covered trail is a bit noisey so approaching skiddish birds can be challenging. Many of the feathered residents are somewhat used to people and stay fairly calm when being photographed. This would be an excellent location for someone that photographs from a kayak. Bring bug spray in the warmer months. Be aware sighting a poisonous snake wouldn’t be impossible in this location.

For folks new to bird watching or wildlife photography it’s always a good idea to wear earth tones. Greens, browns, etc. will help you be less noticeable to the birds. Talk quietly and try not to scuff your feet to get closer veiws of the birds. There are a number of wooden benches set in place along the trail. In most cases the benches correlate with good bird watching locations.

Wooden bridges provide easy crossings throughout the salt marsh.

A Great Blue Heron searches for the morning's breakfast. A blue Jay perched on the sun bleached remains of a pine tree.

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Island Creek Forest Walk: Croatan National Forest

Island Creek Forest Walk Trail HeadI’ve been aware for the Island Creek trail for nearly as long as I’ve lived in eastern North Carolina but I’d never visited it.  Everything I could find online about it always said it was a 1/2 mile loop trail.  A 30+ minute drive always seemed a bit out of the way for a 1/2 mile hike. I was in the vicinity of this trail one day with a some time to kill so I decided to check it out. There is a lot more hiking opportunity at the site than normally reported. The site actually contains 4 loop trails plus to interconnecting trails. By walking the paremeter of the outer edges of the loop trails and the two connecting trails the reported hike is about 5 miles in duration. Now that’s a worth while day hike! Apparently the original 1/2 mile loop is the only segment managed by the Forest Service. The remaining trails are blazed and maintained by… well… I don’t really know. Perhaps a local wildlife club or some other organization. Regardless of who’s set it up, it’s all clearly marked and there are accurate maps available at the trail head.

On my first visit I explored part of Loop 1, the Interect Trail, part of Loop 2 and the Natcy trail. Accordingly to my pedometer I walked approximately 3 miles. It was a very picturesque and pleasant hike. The terrain and fauna is a bit different that I usually see in eastern North Carolina. It put me more in mind of the forests of the Midwest. Loop 1 and the intersect trails parallel the creek winding through a hardwood forest. There are some limestone outcroppings and bluffs along the way… A very unusual site for Coastal Carolina. Loop 4 runs through the more typical pine forest. It is not as well blazed and when I visited it, parts of it were under ankle deep water. I’d like to revisit that section after a bit of a dry period. To visit the Island Creek Forest Walk trail take US 70 S from New Bern to NC 1004. 8 miles to trail.

Maps are available at the trail head and are posted along the trail. The permanent trail blazes are very nicely done.

Loop 1 and the Interect trails meander along the creek. Another view of Island Creek

nature photos

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