It took a little work, but Captain Wifey finally gave in to my pleading. "I'm going to be 40 before we get a fun car!" I would say. She finally caved and here we are. Proud owners of a hot little red Italian 4x4. Even though it's a stock Jeep - no big tires, big lights, and bars on the front - it's a far cry from 20 years of affordable and efficient compact Japanese sedans. Full disclosure: I still have one of those sedans and some wager it will outlast this new SUV...where's the fun in that?
The new SUV is the perfect ride to tour nearby Croatan National Forest. We live right up next to the 160,000 acre forest and have ventured along its long, straight, and bumpy gravel roads a few times before. With the added suspension, driving through the forest was a piece of cake (take that sedan!). The roads are pretty well maintained, lots of ruts though. If you stay away from a few optional off-road paths, four wheel drive isn't necessary - just stay on the mapped roads and expect lots of gravel.
We ventured to two of the lakes located within the forest - Great Lake and Catfish Lake. These Carolina Bays will be great places to explore by kayak in the future (fun fact: there are alligators!). We took a few quick pictures but kept driving across the forest toward the Neuse River Recreation Area, a.k.a. Flanners Beach on the banks of the Neuse River.
As you can see, for this post we actually made two trips to Flanners Beach (one sunny and one cloudy). There's wooded trails for day hiking, a managed campground (fee required), and a great Pacific-Northwesty sandy beach on the Neuse River. Like most NC parks, day parking is free.
All and all, a great little trip. On our way back we stopped by the Croatan National Forest Headquarters along highway 70 a grabbed a few maps for our next Jeep safari! Check out the map links below to plan your next adventures in Croatan!
~Paul, Amber, Dad ETC
Link to Flanners Beach trails and campground
Link to Croatan National Forest map
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