Closing The Loop on OBX

All Hallows’ Day dawned crisp and clear. Despite our anticipation and readiness for spooky hi jinks the night before, we were unable to conjure up any newsworthy phenomena. We loaded our gear on the motorcycles and rode a couple blocks down the street to the Ocracoke Coffee Company, a small shop we’d noticed the night before. A few cups of java and some giant muffins filled our bellies and opened our eyes.

Before we left Ocracoke, we cruised over to the lighthouse. If you’re going to ride the OBX, you gotta visit the lighthouses! Construction on the Ocracoke Lighthouse started in 1798 and took 25 years to complete. It is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina, and the second oldest in the country.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Island is only about 15 miles long, so it didn’t take long to ride to the north end. There are lots of things to see along the way. Lots of ocean to the right. Lots of sound to the left. Lots of sand dunes and sea oats and some maritime forest in between. We would appreciate it more later on when we were dealing with lots of lanes and traffic.

The ferry at the north end took us over to Hatteras Island. We were ferry-riding, island-hopping pro’s now, so riding on and off the ferry was no big deal. The Hatteras Lighthouse was our next stop. This 210-foot-tall brick lighthouse’s claim to fame is that it was moved 2,900 feet to it’s present location. In 1999, the shifting sand island had eroded (no surprise), leaving the lighthouse’s base within 15 feet of the Atlantic Ocean. In a remarkable feat of engineering, the 5,000 ton structure was jacked up and moved to a new spot 1,500 feet from the water. It is tallest brick structure ever moved, successfully.



Hatteras Lighthouse

Hatteras Lighthouse

From Hatteras, we continued riding northward. The unstable nature of these barrier islands makes it a real challenge to maintain something stable on them, like a paved road. Quite a bit of NC 12 has been “protected” by a 20-foot-tall man-made sand dune pushed up between the road and the ocean. Not exactly the most scenic stretch of road I’ve ridden. It did not help that the clouds started building and the wind picked up. The temperatures also started dropping.

Riding over the Bonner Bridge was interesting as it took us way up in the air over a lot of water. The open feeling of freedom while riding a motorcycle lets you better experience the vertigo of spots like this. Fortunately the wind was directly in our faces on the bridge, and not trying to push us around.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse

By the time we reached the Bodie Island Lighthouse, the cloud cover was pretty solid. Our breakfast muffins were also just a ghostly memory by now, so we turned west on US 64 and headed to Roanoke Island, last known location of the famed Lost Colony. The winds that were bringing in the cloud cover were coming from the north. That gave us a stiff side wind as we crossed the long exposed bridge to this island in the middle of the sound.

When you’re riding on two-wheels, side winds are something you have to get used to. You must lean the bike into the force of the wind to stay upright and steady. Works great, if the wind is steady and even. I’ve noticed that the bike and my body seem to react to side winds automatically, before the brain says “hey, you need to do something here”. I’m not sure if that’s an instinctual reaction, or I just have slow brain cognition. The good news is that it happens when I need it to, but my head always feels like it’s arriving at the party late. That results in a bit of panic adrenalin. With every gust. The wind-bike encounter may also result in some re-positioning within the lane. Stronger, sudden gusts sometimes execute a lane-change for you. That can be a little alarming. I was glad to ride off the far end of the bridge.

In my trip planning, I had run across the Full Moon Cafe, another perfect fit into our Halloween-themed adventure. It was a small pub, but served good food and fresh brew. This place was so tiny that sacks of grain for their brewery were stacked along the wall, the tanks were lined up in front of the bay windows, and there wasn’t even a proper sink behind the bar. The bartender simply dumped rinsewater into the floor drain. Good times!

Full Moon Brewing

Full Moon Brewery

After lunch we headed back across the bridge. The cross winds were coming from our left this time. Since we were riding in the right lane, the gusts were diffused a little by the time they hit us. Or maybe the extra weight in our bellies stabilized us more. We made it to NC 12 again and continued north along NC 158. We were going to stop at the Wright Brothers Memorial, but it was starting to spit rain. The entrance fee wasn’t worth the few minutes we would have spent there, so we rode on. Maybe next time.

Kill Devil Hills is home to Outer Banks Brewing. They were the first wind-powered brewing operation in the US. Brian is a professor in the renewable energies program at Appalachian, so we had to stop and check it out. The winds were continuing to pick up, so their windmill turbine was doing its thing!

We didn’t stay too long in Kill Devil Hills. Our route would take us to the mainland via the long bridge just north of Kitty Hawk. This bridge also runs east-west, giving the north winds another crack at us. By now the moisture falling from the sky had increased from spitting to something between a heavy mist and a light rain. The gusts of wind were stronger. Getting across this bridge required a bit of death-grip, hanging-on-for-dear-life, and some seat-puckering. I love it, especially when it’s over!

A dozen miles up a long peninsula took us by the Weeping Radish Farm and Brewery.  They claim to be the oldest microbrewery in NC, opening in 1986, after working to get NC law changed to allow breweries to sell their product on site.

The rest of the afternoon was just an exercise in cranking out misty miles. We rode by Elizabeth City, through lots of flat countryside, and eventually reached Merchant’s Millpond State Park. I hear the millpond is pretty neat, but we arrived just before dark and were mostly interested in pitching our tents and finding a hot shower!

The mist let up enough for us to cook and eat a camping dinner at our picnic table. I was prepared to set up my kitchen on the bathhouse floor, but it didn’t come to that. We toasted another memorable day of riding and relaxed for little while. It didn’t take long for us to have enough of that. Today’s miles and the intense focus and the death-grip riding had taken their toll. Sleep was well-deserved that night!

Sunday morning arrived partly cloudy. My house was a few hours of riding away. Brian’s was three hours beyond that. We decided this was not a day for relaxed touring. The last two days had been good. It was time to get home and back to reality. I had the GPS lead us to larger, faster highways, and we started busting out the miles.

The sun eventually melted away the clouds and made for a more pleasant experience slabbing it home on the interstate. It had taken us more than five years to get back out together on motorcycles. I’d be lying if I said it was worth the wait. The scariest part of this whole Halloween adventure was the realization that we could have been doing trips like this all along!

This is the last of a four-part series.

part 3 – Trouble in the Dark

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Trouble In The Dark

Brian and I stood on the tail end of the ferry and watched the last of the light slip over the western horizon. Our motorcycles swayed with the waves in the gloom. Halloween night officially arrived as our ferry docked on the dark shores of Ocracoke Island, former hideout of Blackbeard the pirate. Our adventure continued.

Night falls

Night falls

Sent off with a festive “land ho” and “off ye go” from the crew, our ride off the ferry was a little tense, but uneventful. I made a reservation at Teeter’s Campground earlier in the week, so that’s where we headed first. The campground was only a few blocks from the ferry terminal. The town of Ocracoke is small enough that most everything is no more than a few blocks from anything else. I think the “far side of town” is less than a mile away.

In the dark, we weren’t quite sure where to find the campground host. No office was readily visible. We walked through the RVs and campers until we found someone out and about. He didn’t know where the host was, but he did give us the bathhouse lock combination and showed us where tenters usually pitched.

The spot was close to the road, but there wasn’t much traffic and it was flat and grassy. A few picnic tables sat nearby under a row of cedar trees. We parked and shook off the day’s road dust. We figured we’d find the host eventually, or someone would come set us straight if this spot was wrong. Our first order of business was a toast to making it to Ocracoke. It had been roughly five years, three months, and two weeks since we last shared a motorcycle campsite. Cheers!

We started setting up our tents. A few seconds later my bike lay down for a dirt nap. I had put it up on the center stand, but the ground was just too soft to support the weight. The stand feet slowly sank into the dirt like they were on a zombie’s soft grave. With no support, the bike just fell over. Or maybe a zombie rolled over under there. It is quite possible that tent campers were put on the septic drain field. Fortunately the soft ground absorbed most of the shock of landing. My bike only picked up some dirt, no scratches or damage. A little poking around by headlamp turned up some spare boards that we put under our center stand feet to keep them from sinking in.

With camp set up, we set out on foot to find a restaurant for dinner. Being such hardy outdoorsmen, we didn’t bother turning on our headlamps. We could find our way along Back Road by the dim light coming from inside the adjacent houses. The cluster of restaurants in town was only a half mile away.

A few minutes into our semi-spooky walk down the middle of a road in the dark, I heard a curse word, some squealing tires, a thump, and a crash!

I scrambled to turn my light on and see what had just happened. A kid about 12 years old was sprawled out on a driveway beside us, tangled up in his bicycle. He had been riding down the road, also braving the dark without a light. At least without a decent light. The tiny light on his handlebars looked like one of those keychain lights that is bright enough to show you the doorknob, but not much more. He hadn’t seen Brian in front of him until he was about 3 feet away. I think the kid suffered more damage from his landing on the oyster-shell-covered driveway than Brian did from the glancing blow of the bicycle. The kid apologized and disappeared off into the night, After that we walked closer to the edge of the road, and I kept my light on.

We eventually reached the main road and spotted the Ocracoke Oyster Company. It appeared to be a decent restaurant, though not very busy for a Friday night. The restaurant was located on an island in NC, but the oysters were from Virginia. They were ok, but nothing spectacular, or even spook-tacular. At least the waitress was somewhat entertaining. She had started her partying, but then got called in to work for a while. We chatted with her about each other’s Halloween plans. She suggested we stop by the party at Gaffer’s Sports Pub down the street. After a relaxed dinner, we set off again to do just that.

What we could see of the revelers through the windows at Gaffer’s seemed festive enough. A few togas, some pirates, Boba Fet, and Elvira were hanging out by a pool table. The guys dressed as belligerent drunks outside the entrance, complete with shouted four-letter words, swinging fists and some bottle breaking, were just a bit too scary for us. Elvira wasn’t worth the risk of running that gauntlet to get in. We retreated back through the darkness towards our campground.

While researching the trip, I saw that Teeter’s Campground was beside the local cemetery. Sandwiched between the two was a tiny piece of Great Britain. In 1942, the British ship HMS Bedfordshire was helping the US defend our Atlantic coastline. German U-boats torpedoed and sank the ship, killing all 34 crew on board. Four of the bodies washed ashore on Ocracoke and were buried beside the local cemetery.

The tiny plot of land around the graves has been leased to the British government as long as the bodies remain there. The Union Jack flies over them. We decided to visit this British cemetery and pay our respects. I had to step inside the gate, just to say I’d been to a British territory on this trip, but that didn’t incur any ghostly repercussions, with or without an English accent.

The local cemetery was also fenced and gated. Since it was nearing midnight on Halloween, we decided to just stand on the sidewalk and check out the first few rows of headstones with our flashlights. Again, nothing unusual happened. Unless you count the few markers we saw with death dates prior to the birth dates. Believe me, we looked twice to make sure we agreed on what we were seeing. Of course I didn’t try to take a picture. That would have been too logical. We hung around for a few extra minutes just in case any spooky spirits were biding their time. They probably have more patience than us, having to deal with the whole eternity thing and all.

to be finished in part 4

part 2 – Slow Boat to Ocracoke

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Slow Boat to Ocracoke

After five long years without a motorcycle trip together, Brian and I finally rode away from my house on Halloween morning. The heavy traffic and straight roads in my part of the state are pretty high on Brian’s list of dislikes. I’ve learned to put up with it. I made sure our route started out on the right foot. The half mile of S-curves on Holly Springs Road was short, but it gave us just enough fun riding to kick-start our day like a good cup of coffee!

A few miles down the road we passed by a field full of ripe pumpkins. There must have been 10 acres of jack-o-lantern wanna-be’s out there. Halloween morning seemed a bit late for them to still be sitting in the field, but they were appropriately scenic for us in the crisp morning sunlight. It was too early in our day to consider stopping for photos. Is there a good helmet-mounted camera out there that can be easily triggered to capture these last-second sights as one rolls by? I probably need one that activates when my eyes suddenly open wide. Anything else would be too slow.

Our first checkpoint was Devil’s Racetrack Road, which turned out to be just an enjoyable rural road ride. Despite the name, nothing spooky or supernatural happened. Maybe mid-morning on a sunny day isn’t the best time to expect spooky? Google never returned any info on the origin of the road’s name but I did find a recent You-Tube video by someone trying to start a legend to go with the name.

Devil's Racetrack Road

Devil’s Racetrack Road

I was surprised when we rode by the entrance to Howell Woods Nature Preserve. There was a rest stop at Howell Woods on the 2013 CycleNC bicycle tour across the state. I didn’t even recognize the road this time until I saw their sign. That just shows how different the bicycle travel experience is from the motoring experience!

Not far from Devil’s Racetrack Road, we saw a sign for Crow’s Foot Road. Also somewhat Halloween-appropriate.

Crow's Foot Road

Crow’s Foot Road

Our next checkpoint was Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, a few miles south of Goldsboro. In keeping with the Halloween theme, we agreed the park’s name was a misspelling, at least for today. How could we pass up a stop at Cliffs of the Noose on this trip? Thoughts of a town of gold and a hanging were theme-appropriate. Besides, the location provided a well-timed pit stop.

Cliffs of the Neuse

Cliffs of the Noose

Heading further south, we kept to the back roads north of Jacksonville so we could pass through the community of Half Moon, NC. We pulled over at the local volunteer fire department and chatted for a minute with a fellow sitting outside. He tried to sell us a pumpkin. We were able to decline the offer based on the limited cargo space on our motorcycles. A few of their pumpkins were pretty scary, being well on the way to gooey compost already. We snagged some pictures with the witch full of hot air.

Half Moon VFD

Half Moon VFD

Half Moon witch

Half Moon witch. Not sure who looks more scared!

A few miles later we rolled into Pumpkin Center, NC. I’m not sure we saw any pumpkins there, but we did take a picture of the name on a sign as proof of our visit.

Pumpkin Center

Pumpkin Center

The next milestone on our trip was crossing the bridge to Emerald Isle. This event was significant not for any relevance to our Halloween theme, but because this was our first motorcycle venture onto one of North Carolina’s “outer bank” islands. We had both been to Ocean Isle Beach before, which is technically an island, but Emerald Isle is separated from the mainland by Bogue Sound, not just by the narrow Intracoastal Waterway.

At the far end of Emerald Isle we crossed back to the mainland for a lunch stop at Tight Lines Pub and Brewing Company in Morehead City, NC. I’m sure the owners had some kind of fishing or sailing jargon in mind with the name, but “tight lines” and “more heads” fit nicely with our earlier “noose” stop. The pub name was a bit of a misnomer anyway. It turns out they weren’t actually brewing yet, but the fish tacos were good!

Tight Lines Pub

Tight Lines Pub

An hour’s ride from Morehead City brought us to the Cedar Island ferry landing around 4:20 pm. The third and final ferry run of the day departed at 4:30 pm. As I rolled up to the ticket master’s booth, the attendant greeted me by my first name. That was a little spooky. But then I remembered making reservations and it turns out we were the only motorcycles expected.

We felt pretty special when they told us to pull all the way to the front of the #4 loading lane. Then we sat there while all vehicles from the other three lanes were directed onto the ferry. They waved us on last and had us park with our front tires pulled up against the tire rail along the side of the ferry. We put our bikes on their sidestands and a crewmember stuck a small wood block behind our rear tires. Just a few feet behind us was the nylon webbing “gate” strung across the open back of the ferry. Churning seawater lay just beyond that. That was just a bit scary.

On the ferry

Loaded on the ferry

The motion of the ferry on the waves caused the bikes to sway some. After a few tense minutes of watching the bikes bob, we decided it was just the rear shocks compressing and unloading as the weight shifted. We hesitantly agreed they were not going to fall over (and fall overboard) and we could walk around and find a place to get out of the chilly sea breeze.

Two-minutes of walking revealed all there was to see on the ferry. We found a couple of seats at a booth in the mostly deserted back end of the lounge. Brian plugged his phone in to charge and we tried to slouch down enough in the booth to get comfortable and catch a quick nap. The droning of the engines and sway of the ferry helped, but no good sleep was to be had.

Sunset at sea

Sunset at sea

Eventually we got tired of trying to rest. The evening colors started creeping across the sky so we went back out to watch the sun set. We were sailing off into the darkness on Halloween night to an island where pirates once plundered. As the daylight faded behind us, the shadowy shape of Ocracoke Island emerged from the dark waters ahead. Night fell thickly upon us as we passed very close to the spot where the infamous pirate Blackbeard was captured and beheaded. His body had been tossed overboard in these very waters. Pretty spooky, arrrgghh!!!

to be continued in part 3

part 1 – Getting on the Road Again

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Getting On The Road Again

Brian and I were somewhat shocked last year to realize it had been more than five years since our last motorcycle trip together. This was true despite seeing each other several times a year (he is married to my first cousin). There was no particular reason for our lack of trips other than time, distance, and life’s increasingly busy schedules. No doubt many well-intended plans fall victim to these common challenges. Or maybe it was because that last trip was so big (12 days, more than 5,000 miles) that it satisfied our motorcycle travel itch for a while.

Last motorcycle trip

Scenes from our last motorcycle trip

The shock prompted us to put more effort into making another motorcycle trip happen. My travel itch was flaring up. The same challenges still stood in our way, and there are so many destinations to choose from. But we kept talking about it and by October we finally found a few days both of us had free. We would ride together again on Halloween weekend! Cue some spooky, foreshadowing background music.

We agreed on a loop route through North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands. I had been chasing the goal of getting 6,000 odometer miles on my new-ish motorcycle by the end of the year. Riding the Outer Banks would definitely give me enough miles to meet that goal.

I volunteered to plan out the route details. Neither of us had really enjoyed the interstate riding we had to do on our last trip, so one of our goals this time was to avoid major highways as much as possible. We also agreed on a general counter-clockwise direction, primarily because that seemed to work best with the ferry schedules. The Cedar Island to Ocracoke ferry at the south end of the Outer Banks only runs three times a day this time of year. The ferry ride itself takes two and a half hours, so it has a big impact on a busy day’s plans.

Route idea

Our Outer Banks loop route idea

With these two goals in mind, I pulled up Google maps and started exploring. Poring over maps and trip planning are two of my favorite things. That’s probably why I enjoyed designing adventure race courses so much. Adventure races consist of a set of mapped checkpoints. Teams must then find their way to these checkpoints. A simple series of intersections to go find would have worked ok for our motorcycle trip, but going to interesting locations instead could make it a lot more fun.

The next county east from where I live is Johnston County. That’s where I spotted Devil’s Racetrack Road on the map. We would be starting our ride on October 31st. How appropriate was that?! We had to include this road on our route!

Once the Halloween theme suggested itself, similar interesting spots started jumping off the map. I soon had a couple days’ worth of theme-related locations mapped out and a route file loaded into my GPS. The pieces of our plan were coming together nicely!

A few days prior to our trip, there was still some doubt whether Brian’s schedule would interfere and keep him from going. I was determined to do the ride alone if it came to that. Fortunately Brian’s schedule cooperated and he rode down from Boone on Thursday afternoon.

We spent the evening checking out some of the local Thirsty Thursday specials within walking distance of my house. We hung out at a sidewalk table under the stars and people-watched as we talked about riding, camping, and tomorrow’s plans. But we didn’t stay up too late. We had places to go the next day!

Our bikes in the garage.

Our bikes in the garage before the trip.

continued in Slow Boat to Ocracoke

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Trail Areas of the Uwharrie, Part 3

This is the third of a three-part series about the different trail areas covered in the second edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide.

The guidebook is organized in sections, one for each geographic area containing trails. Sections are ordered alphabetically, making it easier to find a specific trail area when flipping through the book.

Morrow Mountain State Park is located along the west shore of Lake Tillery, where the Yadkin River and the Uwharrie River meet and become the Pee Dee River. Morrow Mountain State Park contains more than 37 miles of hiking trails. About 20 miles are open to equestrian use. Bicycles are not allowed on the trails, but the paved park road that climbs to the summit of Morrow Mountain is popular with road cyclists.

The park offers rental cabins, a campground, group campsites, and a few backpack-in campsites. In addition to a boat ramp, canoe rentals, and a pool, a small museum and several history exhibits round out the many points of interest in the park. The City of Albemarle and its numerous stores and restaurants are less than 5 miles from the park.

Trails at Morrow Mountain vary from level, sandy stretches along the lakeshore to a steep climb up the park’s namesake mountain. Several of the other mountains in the park are traversed by trails, providing the visitor with a chance to see a wide variety of environments.

Morrow Mountain State Park map

Morrow Mountain State Park map

NC Zoo Park is a new addition to the guide. The paved pathways through the NC Zoo exhibits offer a fair bit of walking mileage, but the Zoo is also developing a set of more traditional trails outside of the exhibit areas. Their trail offerings are still limited, only totaling five miles in 2014, but work to extend them continues. Access to these trails does not require a Zoo admission ticket.

The trails maintained by the Zoo are not all located at the main Zoo property. The Ridges Mountain property is home to some fascinating rock outcroppings. The Pisgah Covered Bridge property is a small park with historical significance and a short loop trail that showcases the creekside environment near the bridge.

NC Zoo trails map

NC Zoo trails map

Pisgah Covered Bridge

Pisgah Covered Bridge

Uwharrie Trail area is a corridor that runs through several of the areas described elsewhere – the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness, Morris Mountain, and Wood Run. A few other areas connect these larger sections into a corridor nearly 40 miles long. The Uwharrie Trail runs through it all, offering hikers the opportunity for fairly long-distance trips. Even though some of these areas are covered in other chapters in the book, the Uwharrie Trail section focuses on this one trail and presents data in a way most helpful for anyone hiking through on part or all of the Uwharrie Trail.

Wood Run Area is home to the southern end of the Uwharrie Trail and the Wood Run Mountain Bike Trail system. The bike trails and bikeable forest roads offer mountain bikers nearly 20 miles of backcountry fun to explore. Several miles of the Keyauwee Trail were rebuilt specifically to flow better for biking.

The popular figure-eight route formed by the Uwharrie and Dutchman’s Creek trails offers hikers and backpackers a convenient 20-mile loop. The numerous trails in the Wood Run Area can be combined to create hiking route loops from just a couple of miles long to forty miles or more. Many of these trip route possibilities are covered in the guide, with maps and mileages details provided.

Wood Run Area map

Wood Run Area map

Complete details and maps for all of the trails in each of these areas are included in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. If you don’t have a copy yet, please order one today!

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Trail Areas of the Uwharrie, Part 2

This is the second of a three-part series about the different trail areas covered in the second edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide.

The guidebook is organized in sections, one for each geographic area containing trails. Sections are ordered alphabetically, making it easier to find a specific trail area when flipping through the book.

Boone’s Cave Park is a small Davidson County park located on the east bank of the Yadkin River. The name comes from a small cave overlooking the river that was rumored to have been used by Daniel Boone’s family in in the 1750’s. The park features 3.5 miles of hiking trails, a nice picnic pavilion, campsites, and a 1740’s-style log cabin. The state’s tallest Cottonwood tree can be found in the park.

1740's-style log cabin

1740’s-style log cabin

Boone's Cave Park map

Boone’s Cave Park map

Denson’s Creek Area is located just east of Troy, NC. The collection of trails in this area are managed by the USFS and the Town of Troy. The longest trail is the Town Of Troy Nature Trail, which follows Denson’s Creek from the Roy J, Maness Nature Preserve to the confluence with the Little River. Parking is available at either end, as well as at the USFS Ranger Station.

The USFS and Town trails do not officially connect, but a gravel road crosses both sets of trails and offers an easy way to connect them. Several of the Trips detailed in the guide use this gravel road to create a loop hike.

Denson's Creek Area map

Denson’s Creek Area map

Morris Mountain Area lies in the middle of the Uwharrie Trail corridor, just north of highway NC 109. The USFS manages this area. The Uwharrie Trail is the primary trail running through this area, but there are several logging roads and old woods roads that create loop hike opportunities.

Two less-developed hunt camps, one on each side of the area, offer car-camping options to compliment the backcountry campsites along the trails. The West Morris Mountain camp does have picnic tables, tent pads, and vault toilets, but does not have a water source.

Morris Mountain Area map

Morris Mountain Area map

Complete details and maps for all of the trails in each of these areas are included in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. If you don’t have a copy yet, please order one today!

In the third part of this series, I’ll cover Morrow Mountain State Park, the NC Zoo Park, the Uwharrie Trail, and the Wood Run Area.

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Trail Areas of the Uwharrie, Part 1

Several of my recent posts have been about the Uwharrie Trail, with a focus on the newly reopened sections. New trail is exciting, but there are many other trails in the Uwharrie Lakes Region. This is the first of a three-part series about the different trail areas in the Uwharries.

The second edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide covers ten different geographic areas containing trails. The guidebook is organized in sections, one for each trail area. Sections are ordered alphabetically, making it easier to find a specific trail area when flipping through the book.

Albemarle City Lake Park is one of the smaller trail areas, but it is notable for its purpose-built mountain bike trails. The bike trails and a bike skills area were built as a cooperative effort between the City, a local bike shop, and IMBA. The park is located on the west side of Albemarle, NC, off of highway NC 73 and is managed by the Albemarle Parks and Recreation Department.  The park also has a few hiking-only trails, numerous lakeside picnic facilities, and a small amphitheater for concerts. The lake is open for fishing and non-motorized boating.

Albemarle City Lake Park area map

Albemarle City Lake Park

Badin Lake Recreation Area is the largest trail area in terms of trail mileage, and perhaps in acreage. This area is located northwest of Troy, NC along the east shore of the Yadkin River where dams have created Badin Lake, Narrows Reservoir, and Lake Tillery. The Uwharrie River borders the southeast side of the area.

Managed by the USFS, this area contains the only USFS campgrounds with hot shower/bathhouse facilities. The Flintlock Valley Shooting Range is here, and the Cove Boat Ramp and King’s Mountain Point picnic facility are along the shore of Badin Lake. The area is cross-crossed by several surprisingly long gravel roads. Several less-developed campgrounds can also be found throughout the area, as well as numerous pull-off campsites along the gravel roads. This area sees the most visitors of all the trail areas in the Uwharries, especially on weekends.

Within the Badin Lake Recreation Area are three distinct trail systems, some of which overlap. The hiking-only Badin Lake Trail follows the lake shore around the large peninsula on the northwest side of the area where several of the campgrounds, the boat ramp, and the picnic area can be found.

More than 40 miles of equestrian trails run through the northern two-thirds of the area, with the heaviest use seen in the upper part. The Canebrake Horse Camp was built for equestrians, with high-line posts and tack tables at each site.
The OHV trail system is spread over the southern half of the area. Five different parking locations provide space for trailer parking and built-in off-load ramps.

Hikers can hike on all of the trails in the Badin Lake area, with mid-week outings offering the best chance for solitude.

Mountain bikers can ride all of the trails except the Badin Lake Hiking Trail. I should note that the equestrian and OHV trails are not typical bike trails, so do not expect to find lots of continuous “flow”. You will find yourself pushing up a few hills, climbing down others, and dodging some horse manure. If you can deal with these intermittent features, you can look forward to mile after mile of trail through one of the most mountainous sections of the Uwharries. There is plenty of scenery to enjoy, challenging riding to test your skills and endurance, and seeing another mountain biker will be a pleasant surprise. Equestrians and OHV drivers are usually curious to see meet someone crazy enough to ride the trails on a bicycle.

Badin Lake Recreation area

Badin Lake Recreation Area

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness is located a few miles southwest of Asheboro, NC. With its federal “wilderness” designation, the trails in this area are only open to hikers. There are no campgrounds, bathroom facilities, water spigots or other features often found at more developed locations. You will find trails here, with trees, rocks, and streams in abundance. Perfect for a quiet hiking escape!

The Birkhead area is managed by the USFS and is only separated by a few miles of privately-owned land from other USFS-owned property. The Uwharrie Trail runs through that nearby USFS property, connecting it to several of the other trail areas covered in the guide book. The original historic route of the Uwharrie Trail ran through the Birkhead Mountains area as well, and hopefully it will again soon.

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness

Birkhead Mountains trail sign

Birkhead Mountains trail sign

Complete details and maps for all of the trails in each of these areas are included in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide. If you don’t have a copy yet, please order one today!

In the second part of this series, I’ll cover Boone’s Cave Park, the Denson’s Creek Area, and the Morris Mountain Area.

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Looking Ahead to 2015


What are you hoping to accomplish in 2015? Some of my goals for the upcoming year: be a better husband/father/son, sleep better, eat better, declutter, save more. You know how that list goes. Here are a few of my other goals.

Write better. I would like to improve my writing skills this year. How will I do that? Read more, for starters. Noticing how others write, especially when they do it well, is a good step towards learning how to improve one’s own writing. I want to improve my skill on both non-fiction and fiction. My engineer-brain likes to understand pieces and parts and how they fit together, so analytical reading should be right up my alley. Reading more on the topic of better writing will help too. helps me track what I’ve read and motivates me to keep at it. If you are a reader too, check out my author profile there and consider following and/or friending me.

Writing more is another obvious way to work towards my goal of writing better. Practice makes perfect, right? Write. Several book ideas have been sitting on my back burner for a while. I would like to complete one of them this year, and make serious progress on the others. More articles are needed for too.

Bike more.  This goal should be easy to reach, as long as having too many choices doesn’t hamper me. I can choose from my mountain bike, touring bicycle, and adventure touring motorcycle. Yes, I often refer to my motorcycle as a “bike” too, which I know can be confusing. Maybe that needs to be one part of writing better that I figure out sooner rather than later!

My larger goals for biking are to take several major two-wheeled trips this year. I really like cycling to a destination. Spinning for the sake of saddle time, or literally spinning in place on an indoor trainer, doesn’t motivate me. With several trips dangling in front of me like a carrot, trainer time and short local rides for fitness should be a bit easier to swallow.

I did my first bike overnight in 2014, so following that with a multi-day self-supported cycle tour seems like the proper next step. Perhaps I can spend a few days cycling along the outer banks before summer arrives. Or spend a few days cycling along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Other possibilities for biking are multi-day road trip to ride several of the mountain bike trail systems in NC, or spending a week in the Fruita, Colorado area to ride those amazing trails, or maybe spending several days exploring some of the gravel/back road Trans-Eastern Trail route in the Appalachians.

For motorcycling trips, I want to visit the remaining forty-four of one hundred counties in NC this year. With one overnight camp beside the river below New Bern and a long-way-home the next day, I can tag the remaining counties in eastern NC. Four or five days of riding through the western counties should finish the rest of the list. Riding the part of the Blue Ridge Parkway I have not seen yet should help me complete both of these goals. Beyond that, who knows. From my house, Canada is closer than Memphis. Just saying.

Back on the local bike scene, my wife starting cycling last year. There are lots of opportunities for us to spend time together on two wheels in 2015. Our local towns have done a tremendous job building and connecting greenways in recent years. These greenways are great for newer riders who not as comfortable or as willing to ride with motorists very much.

Spending time on two-wheeled trips should provide plenty of material to write about. How is that for setting two complementary goals?!

Exercise more consistently. Exercise and biking can be complementary goals too. Unfortunately, this exercise goal may be at odds with my writing goal. I’m not ready to try a treadmill desk just yet.

Including more hiking, running, and paddling activities this year should better balance the muscle groups used and help knock some dust off of my more-neglected gear. One special trip I have committed to this year is an 80-mile loop of paddling and backpacking in the Uwharries.

Although committing to run in a race is a proven way to motivate oneself to train more consistently, I find myself more motivated to train for an upcoming trip. I should certainly be able to leverage the anticipation of these fun trips to pry myself off the couch and away from the desk more often!

Watch this blog to keep up with my progress.

Best of luck with your 2015 goals!

Don Childrey

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Thanks Giving For Trails

With another Thanksgiving holiday nearly behind us, I’d like to take a moment to offer my thanks to those whose efforts over the years have made it possible for everyone to enjoy the trails in the Uwharrie Lakes Region (and beyond).

Trail builders definitely deserve thanks. Trails don’t come about or stay in place without the efforts of trail builders and maintainers. Especially those like Joe Moffitt, who years ago had the vision and wisdom to see that building a long hiking trail through the forest was as much a path to knowledge and maturity for his Boy Scouts and future generations of hikers as it was a path to get from one place to another.

Sign at Joe Moffitt Trailhead on Uwharrie Trail

Sign at Joe Moffitt Trailhead on Uwharrie Trail

Those Boy Scouts and the numerous volunteers and Forest Service employees who worked to put the Uwharrie Trail on the ground are just a small sample of trail builders. Numerous volunteer groups of OHV enthusiasts, equestrians, mountain bikers, and hikers have given sweat equity and more to build trails. Even a casual day hiker who throws a fallen limb off of a trail deserves a little credit for helping keep the trails open.

Trail advocates also deserve thanks. It takes more than axe and shovel labor to make trails a reality. People working for groups like the Greater Uwharrie Conservation Partnership, the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, the NC Zoo, and various trail clubs have supported the cause of trails and had great success in obtaining grants, easements or even purchases of land in order to provide protected spaces in which public trails can exist. The donors who contribute funding, in large or small amounts, to help preserve these open spaces or build and maintain trails are definitely trail advocates. Even the employees of the land managing agencies are trail advocates as they carry out their organizations’ responsibilities to protect the resources under their charge.

Trail users deserve thanks too. It might sound a little silly to say that someone just hiking or riding a trail has contributed, but if no one used trails, there would be no need for trail builders or trail advocates to do what they do. I’d also like to thank those friends who have shared trail experiences with me over the years. Those friendships are as much a benefit of trails as the scenery we’ve enjoyed along the way.

Obviously, a number of people fall into all three of these categories – trail builders, trail advocates, and trail users. That’s great! The more there are of each, the more trails there will be for everyone to enjoy.

I would also like to thank those trail users and readers and gifters who purchased a copy of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, especially the first edition published back in 1998. You proved there is a desire and need for these trails, as well as reliable information about them. I hope my guide has proven helpful in making your trail experiences in the Uwharries more enjoyable. The new second edition is even more helpful, with numerous updates and additional trails.

One of the best ways I can say thanks is to make it easier for you to get a copy of the second edition, whether you are are giving it as a holiday gift to a friend, or giving it to yourself! In the spirit of sale mania, I’m lowering the sale price of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide – Second Edition to $24.99.

Give the gift of trail fun!

Give the gift of trail fun!




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