Tag Archives: 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.

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Autumn Hold Out

I visited the Pine Cliff section of the Neusiok Trail yesterday afternoon. It’s really amazing to see how hurricane Irene resculpted the landscape along that section of trail. While I have hiked a portion of the trail since the hurricane, I pushed further yesterday than I had before. Long sections of the trail that ran along the top of a bluff are now gone. Washed away into the river. In places you can find remnants of boats, broken and scattered amoungst the trees. It truely is astounding to see the power that nature has. While on the hike I noticed several hold-outs from autumn. There are still a few bright red and yellow leaves hanging on. While taking a detour from the old trail… since there wasn’t really a choice… and taking the beach for a ways I came across an old weathered Cypress tree laying on it’s side. I liked the textures of the wood and knew I wanted to make a photo using it. On the return trip I stopped and placed a red leaf on the log for a bit of photography. Below area a couple of the resulting images.

A hold-out from autumn, a bright red leaf rests on a weathered piece of dead-wood.

A red leaf on an old and weathered log.

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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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It’s All About Texture

With my favorite lens for wildlife photography out for repair I recently went on a search for macro subjects. However, this isn’t the time of year for finding a lot of wild flowers so I turned my lens towards something else. Lacking pretty blossoms to explore I concentrated on finding interesting textures and contrasting colors.

The circles in this stump adds a nice layer of texture to an otherwise simple photo of a yellow leaf.

The texture of the feather contrasts with the textures in this dead log.

Feathers can make fascinating macro subjects.
Weathered dead wood, mosses and lechins make an interesting background canvas for this photo of a feather.

Feathers are interesting studies in texture and geometry.

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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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