Have you checked out the NC State Parks passport? It's a great little book/guide leading you to all of the state parks in North Carolina. Grab a stamp for your passport at each park and feel the sense of accomplishment! (Luckily some parks have started offering sticker stamps too, just in case you forget your passport...like Captain Wifey does every time ha!).
We've been pretty successful knocking out the state parks around us - Fort Macon, Goose Creek, Hammocks Beach, Fort Fisher, Jockey's Ridge, & Lake Waccamaw. So, we moved inland this time, to Cliffs of the Neuse State Park near Goldsboro.
After checking out the visitor's center, we jumped down to the nearby lake trail and hiked through the woods, eventually making it to the 11 acre spring fed lake. We shall call it 'lake no-name'...'cause, like, I couldn't find a name anywhere.
Although you don't have to hike to the lake (there's parking right by it), the lake trail was a fun 2 mile-ish wooded walk with a few ups and downs but not too strenuous. How ever you get there, at the lake you'll find a swimming and diving area, a boathouse for paddleboat and kayak rentals, bathrooms, and a concession stand. Services and hours vary by season and you do have to pay to swim in the summer. We made a "I'll have two margaritas" joke to the concession attendant and I think we scared him.
One unfortunate thing for us is the fact that private boats (kayaks in our case) aren't allowed on the lake. It's clean, clear, and not very big so I can kinda see why...kinda. Also, you have to pay a fee to swim - that's also kinda strange - but I'm sure they have their reasons (hopefully good ones).
Finally, the cliffs! Or, rather the cliff overlook. Luckily I had searched for pictures of the park before we got there...because...well, you can't really see the cliffs unless you were down on the river. Although you can get down to the river via trails, you still really can't get a good view. I could get a great shot via my drone...but taking off/landing from the park is against the rules. Oh well.
The overlook is great, towering almost 100 ft over the Neuse River. Eastern North Carolina is so flat, so it's amazing to finally get a little height on the situation and look out over the forest and river.
Well, another stamp in the passport and NC state park explored. It's interesting to know that although the park is a little off the beaten path, there is a campground and cabins available for rent on site if you wanted to make a weekend out of it. Whatever you do, don't forget to bring your NC state parks passport (Captain Wifey!).
Paul & Amber (a.k.a. Captain Wifey) everyonestravelclub.com
Map of the park
As we keep adventuring around where we live, our exploration bubble keeps getting bigger. We've been to most hiking and paddling spots close to home so now we spread out a bit. That took us to Fort Fisher State Park and recreation area in Kure Beach, North Carolina.
The park consists of a historical center, short trails around bunkers and restored fence line, longer trails through a gorgeous salt marsh, a beautiful beach, a boat launch, and a (permit required) 4x4 all year round beach driving section. Here's a map of the park.
During the Civil War, Fort Fisher allowed the port of Wilmington to stay open to runners supplying goods to the confederacy upriver. This was an important, and one of the last, lifelines to Robert E. Lee (in Virginia at the time). It was cut off when the federalists attacked and took the fort in 1865. Once the fort was in the North's hands it was only a matter of time until the confederacy fell.
Can you spend a day here? For sure. A few things about our trip. We came from out of town which meant quite a drive through busy Wilmington and onto Carolina Beach (city traffic followed by tourist traffic). Once you get out to the Fort it's a great idea to bring a lunch and a cooler. Eating under the live oaks by the beach would be perfect. Even more perfect would be purchasing a daily 4x4 pass and taking to the beach via off-road vehicle (see the 4x4 beach entry pictures below). Other options include aquatic exploration from the boat launch, hiking the Basin Trail, or checking out the aquarium at the end of the island.
We loved it here. On our next trip we might look to stay a night close to the park to cut down on the Wilmington-traffic-driving, but what a picturesque beach and recreation area. Check it out!
~Paul & Amber everyonestravelclub.com
(Link to the official NC parks website for Fort Fisher)
Even though summer is in full swing here in Eastern North Carolina, it's not a bad idea to start thinking about some great off season hikes. When that pumpkin-spice aroma starts flowing and the first frost finally sends the mosquitoes into hibernation, it's nice to get back into the forest.
A great quick hike with easy access to the main highway (highway 24 in this case) is the Patsy Pond Nature Trail in Carteret County. Located near the NC Coastal Federation headquarters, this trail has 3 loop routes through a longleaf pine forest and around some small ponds (Patsy Pond is the largest). It's flat and the trail is well marked.
These photos are from hiking the trail in March. As I write this (in early July), the NFS has just completed a controlled burn in the Patsy Pond area - so if you head out to the trail now bring bug spray and expect some charred landscape (I think it looks kinda cool after a burn).
All and all, a nice and easy hike recommended for all!
~Paul, Amber, & Eleanor
P.S. - Be sure to check the hunting season if you want it extra chill on this trail (or at least wear orange!). The NCCF states that hunting occurs Oct-Feb & April-May. They have complimentary orange vests to borrow across the street at the NCCF building. Read more about this and the trail at nccoast.org.
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