Coastal Hiking- Croatan National Forest

A cold front rolled through Greenville, NC last night causing a little December convection for the area. Ahead of the thunderstorms some beautiful Undulatus Asperatus clouds appeared! This type of cloud was recently discovered and it is characterized as wavy/spiraling shapes like pictured below:

Undulatus Asperatus in Greenville, NC.

Undulatus Asperatus in Greenville, NC.

In the wake of the passing cold front, eastern North Carolina was primed for a beautiful, sunny, dry day with highs reaching the lower 60’s.  I figured it was about time I  check out some NC trails. With a 7 hour drive back home to PA looming for me on Friday, I couldn’t justify rolling out west to hit the mountains. Instead I decided to track down towards the coast and hike in the Croatan National Forest.  Specifically, I decided to hike a section of the 21 mile long Neusiok Trail, which many consider eastern North Carolina’s premier hiking trail. This trail is also a part of North Carolina’s 938 miles Mountains to Sea Trail which stretches from Clingman’s Dome in the Smokey Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks, NC. Once I read it was a part of the Mountains to Sea Trail I was instantly hooked. I’m planning on thru hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail in the near future.

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My graduate school peers were a bit too busy with end of semester work so I decided to solo hike this one.

The coolest part about this section of trail is how it meanders back and forth from the beaches of the Nuese River to the inland forest of the park. The diverse landscape is truly breathtaking. This hike was quite easy which was actually an interesting switch up for me. I’m used to busting my butt to crush mileage and make it up steep sections of trail. One issue I have with that type of hiking is that it is so strenuous that a lot of times you become so focused on making it to the destination that you don’t even pay attention to the beauty around you. This hike allowed me to take my time and really appreciate the landscape change from beach, to thick forest, to inland marshes.

Beaches of the Nuese River.

Beaches of the Nuese River.

My lunch spot for the day. Beaches of the Neuse River.

Probably the most difficult part of this hike was the sand. Hiking on sand stinks. It just inhibits your motion so much. If I were doing serious beach hiking I would definitely wait until the tides switched before trekking along the ocean.

Inland section of the trail.

Inland section of the trail.

The trail’s blazes were quite interesting as well. They were pieces of metal nailed to trees. I have never seen blazes like this before. Because of this, I actually ended up making a wrong turn that took me to a fire road. Since I had never been here before I decided to walk the fire road. As I walked down this fire road I realized that I hadn’t seen a metal blaze in over a mile. I backtracked and found the correct path. I wasn’t mad however, as the path I mistakenly took led me through some beautiful section of trail.

Dope tree.

Dope tree.

After a great day I realized that coastal hiking can be just as great an experience as mountain hiking, and in fact can potentially provide you with a more diverse journey. I would highly recommend the Neusiok trail to anybody in the area. I only did about 3 miles of it, but these three miles were incredible. I am hoping to return in the spring and thru hike the entire 21 mile long trail.

I’ve decided It is time to start exploring this area as much as I can. I only have 1.5 years left here and I want to get out and experience all that the landscape has to offer. As my good friend Richard Lee says, “Life’s too short to not do awesome shit”. I couldn’t agree more.

Neusiok Trail

Neusiok Trail

 

Neuse River

Neuse River

Inland marsh.

Inland marsh.

My favorite spot of the day. I left the trail and headed towards the river only to find this secluded, beautiful spot.

After the hike, I decided to hit Atlantic Beach for a little bit. It was a beautiful December beach day and the waves were churning! I had originally planned on looking for surf this day, and Atlantic Beach would have been my destination.  Man do I wish I brought my board along with me. Hiking and than surfing. Now that would of been a kickass day. One of my mottos is, “Always make the journey.” I need to add in, “Always bring your board.”

Atlantic Beach, NC.

Atlantic Beach, NC.

 

 

 

 

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