Ahhhhh, I remember the first day of summer. I packed up Eleanor the dog and my Innova kayak and cruised down to this boat launch in Pollocksville, North Carolina.
This is the closest boat launch to us and it provides easy access to a quick paddle or boat ride on the Trent River. You could paddle this all the way down to where it meets the Neuse River in New Bern and onward (a long way) to the sea. On this trip we just paddled down river a little and turned to explore a little of Mill Creek.
It was a quiet paddle this time, the only wildlife to speak of on this trip was the mutt on the bow (#alligators:). After an hour of exploration we turned back and called it a day.
Check out the map below if you'd like to explore the river as we did. Here's a few links for more adventure:
*A local kayak rental business, BearFoot Kayaks - they bring the kayaks to you (on the Trent River and beyond).
*A description of Living Waters, a photo essay of the Trent River written by Ben Casey.
*A link to the Trent River Campground, an upriver campground with paddling access to the Trent River.
~Paul & Eleanor ETC
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
Near our favorite Eastern North Carolina town of Beaufort, the Rachel Carson Reserve is a gorgeous group of barrier islands, the closest just a mere 5 min paddle from downtown. We explore Beaufort on the regular, mainly just to walk around the town pretending we could actually afford a house here! The seaside town is a booming with great local shops and restaurants, tons of sailing and paddling opportunities, beautiful historic houses, and some adventurous history (#pirates).
Town is quaint and amazing, and we'll definitely post more on Beaufort in the future (we have in the past), but the destination today is the reserve. Off we go. Paddle-paddle!
We set off from a little town boat launch in Grayden Paul Park, located along the downtown waterfront (map of park here). There is lots of parking nearby - paid close by and unpaid a few blocks off. There are even a few load/unload-only parking spots right next to the launch. It is a super quick paddle over to the trailhead on Town Marsh. We pulled our kayaks above the high tide line and hiked through the island, following the markers to the other side and on to Bird Shoal.
While we weren't planning on seeing any wild horses (we didn't want to get our hopes up), we stumbled upon a trail...of wild poop! As we rounded the island to return to our kayaks for lunch we lucked out and caught a glimpse of one of North Carolina's wild horses grazing near the shoreline.
After lunch we paddled back to the mainland and put the gear away. Since the park and boat launch is in downtown, you're just minutes away from refueling and grabbing a bite to eat if needed. Before heading home, we made a quick stop by the Old Burying Ground next to the Ann Street United Methodist Church. Historic cemeteries in the South like this one are always amazing to visit. Underneath the arms of these century old oak trees are the graves of Beaufort locals from long ago - including Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers.
We love the town of Beaufort. The Rachel Carson Reserve is a great paddle with lots of shoreline, trails, wildlife, and beach to explore. Its closeness to a great seaside town make the adventure even better. We highly recommend this trip! Questions about the paddle? Need help deciding on a restaurant for some post-paddle grub? Leave them in the comment section and we'll answer quick!
~Paul, Amber, Ann, & Eleanor ETC
Link to NC Division of Coastal Management info on the Rachel Carson Reserve
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