Sunday, July 31, 2011

Overview: Lamm Rd & US-264 - Jockey's Ridge State Park

Overview: Intersection of Lamm Rd & US-264  - Jockey's Ridge State Park (273m)

Day 46: Lamm Rd &US-264 - Eureka Methodist Church (22m)
Terrain: roadwalk
Plants: Goosefoot (E), Blue Vervain (M), Hibiscus, Passionflower (E/M), Mountain Mint (E/M)
Points of Interest: Jameson Inn, Boswell Grocery, reroute leaving Boswell - ask at grocery, Black Creek Grocery, large swaths of farmland

Day 47: Eureka Methodist Church - White Oak Grove Baptist Church (27m)
Terrain: road
Plants: Wild Lettuce (E/M), Mulberry (E), Meadow Beauty, Poke (E/M)
Points of Interest: Doug's Grocery and Grill, roadside woods and swamp, nice grocery/grill in Shine, Food Lion in LaGrange, White Oak Grove Baptist's wonderful kindness

Day 48: White Oak Grove Baptist Church - Pilgrim Home Freewill Baptist (22m)
Terrain: road
Plants: Longleaf Pine (M), Mugwort (E/M), Elderberry (E/M), Orange Milkwort
Points of Interest: Norwood Grocery, farmfields, marsh, Pilgrim Home Freewill Baptist's generosity

Day 49: Pilgrim Home Freewill Baptist - Whaley's Grocery in Cove City (12m)
Terrain: road
Plants: Cat tail (E), Poke (E/M), Eastern Red Cedar, Common Pipewort
Points of Interest: Long flat wide road void of houses/businesses for 5 miles into Cove City, Whaley's Grocery with Roy and Geoffrey, White's Family Restaurant

Day 50: Whaley's Grocery in Cove City - New Bern (15m)
Terrain: road
Plants: Mugwort (E/M), Water Oak, Willow Oak, Butterfly Weed, Elderberry (E/M), Smilax (E)
Points of Interest: Long flat wide road void of houses/businesses for 12m, New Bern City outskirts full of every store/restaurant imaginable including Dunkin' Donuts and movie theatre, heavy traffic and lots of trash entering New Bern

Day 51: New Bern - Reelsboro Christian Church (12m)
Terrain: road
Plants: Passionflower (E/M), Blue Vervain(M), Cat tail (E)
Points of Interest: Historic downtown of New Bern with beautiful old buildings and nice little shops including Port City Java coffeehouse, park on edge Neuse River, Neuse River Bridge, Reelsboro Church only "selectively" open to, hikers and lawn full of red ants-watch food/crumbs in gear

Day 52: Reelsboro Christian Church - Copperhead Landing Shelter (24m)
Terrain: road and sandy woods
Plants: Daylily (E), Cat tail (E), Loblolly Pine (M)
Points of Interest: nice gas station with booths in Reelsboro, farmland, lots of barking dogs, Arapahoe Grocery, nice sandy path to walk leaving Arapahoe, ferry, salty Neuse River with jellyfish and dolphins, sandy hiking in Croatan, beautiful woods/marsh, nice lean-to's for sleeping in but with lots of bugs and unreliable waterpumps

Day 53: Copperhead Landing Shelter - Newport River National Park Campground (18m)
Terrain: Pocosin with deciduous and evergreen trees- dry when I went through
Plants: Nuttall's Lobelia, Sweet Pepperbush, Red Flowering Raspberry (E/M), Blueberry (lowbush and highbush) (E/M), Wild Ginger (E), Yellow Crested Orchis, Shrubby St.John's Wort, Goldenrod (M)
Points of Interest: Plank walkways, marsh, beautiful woods, well maintained/marked trail, 1 murky but freshwater stream not long after Copperhead Shelter, more nice lean-to's for sleeping/rest but with lots of mosquitoes and triangle flies, sandticks, deer, turtles, butterflies, unreliable waterpumps and lots of salt water, $8 pay campground with fresh water but no showers or flush toilets, watch for red ants and food again.

Day 54: Newport River National Park Campground - Woodville Baptist Church (15m)
Terrain: gravel road through forest
Plants: Hibiscus
Terrain: road
Plants: English Plantain(E), longleaf pine (M)
Points of Interest: Zingo's BP gas station and family restaurant with amazing pizza and nice place to sit, very welcoming Woodville Baptist Church

Day 55: Woodville Baptist - Diane Styron's in Stacy (18m)
Terrain: road
Plants: Mock Bishop's Weed, Bitter Sneezeweed, Pennywort (M), Bur Marigold, False Boneset
Points of Interest: roadside crabs, Otway Grill, long walk through expansive marshland, Davis Provisions with baked goods and espresso and nice porch for relaxing

Day 56: Diane Styron's in Stacy - Beach Comber Campground (15m)
Terrain: roadwalk through marsh
Plants: Firewheel (M), Saltmarsh morning glory, Pennywort (M)
Points of Interest: 11m roadwalk through expansive marshland, long bridge, ferry to Outer Banks, Villiage of Ocracoke complete with ice cream shops and cafes

Day 57: Beach Comber Campground - Frisco National Park Campground (21m)
Terrain: roadwalk and beachwalk
Plants: Sea Oats (E), pennywort (M), saltmarsh morning glory, cat tail (E)
Points of Interest: Ocracoke's empty beaches, ferry ride, Hatteras' busy beaches with enormous beach-houses and tourist vibe, Frisco's lovely campground with beach access- nice sites, showers, and flush toilets

Day 58: Frisco National Park Campground - Rodanthe Watersports Campground (30m)
Terrain: sandy trail through woods/dunes
Plants: sea oats (E), seaside gerardia, frog plant, live oak
Terrain: road and beach
Plants: bur marigold, blue vervain(M), pencil plant(M), sea oats(E)
Points of Interest: 2m of deep sand on trail and lots of bugs, beautiful shady woods on trail, Hatteras lighthouse (with $7 charge to go inside) and giftshop with great plant books, deep sand beaches with some incline/decline, town of Avon with lots of stores/ restaurants, Rodanthe with lots of stores/restaurants, beautiful views from campground and cheap sites with showers/toilets/wi-fi

Day 59: Rodanthe Watersports Campground - Oregon Inlet Campground (18m)
Terrain: road and beach
Plants: sea oats(E), pennywort(M)
Points of Interest: 12m continuous beachwalk on near empty beaches, 1 1/2m long Herbert C.Bonner Bridge with narrow shoulder and gorgeous views,  deep sand camping (requiring extra long stakes) with no shade however easy quiet beach access, marina with grocery nearby to campground

Day 60: Oregon Inlet Campground - Jockey's Ridge State Park (14m)
Terrain: trail through marsh
Plants: Seaside mallow(M), wax myrtle(M), Yaupon(M), Italian Pine x Loblolly hybrid unique to Bodie Island State Park
Terrain: beach and road
Plants: sea oats (E), pennywort(M), Fire Wheel (M)
Terrain: Dunes
Plants: wax myrtle (M), redbay(E/M)
Points of Interest: lots of mosquitoes on trail (do not brave w/o repellent), but also beautiful trail with ponds and many birds (including nesting osprey), Bodie Island lighthouse with nice visitor's center and informative staff (ask about the plants!), busy beaches with enormous beach houses, gas stations/motels/fast food on road, wide sidewalks, Jeanette's Pier with small museum/snacks/gift shop, Jockey's Ridge Visitor Ctr, poor marking to summit, deep sandy dunes/trail- no shade and hot sand but enthralling terrain and views, the summit!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Book, Upcoming Posts, and Venturing West


I would like to extend an enormous thank you to all my readers that followed along with me on my blog. You helped me to stay focused and creative while walking the long miles and hours. Your feedback and comments kept me inspired and moving forward. Thank you!


Now that I have completed the trail, so begins the research, compiling, and condensing of the journey. Every day of my trek I made a plant list of those that I identified, saw growing in abundance, and in what relation to other plants and the surroundings. I also kept a detailed daily journal of the terrain that I passed through, my experience with the natural world, and a whole lot about all the people I met and the highs and lows of the trail. I plan in the next year to bring all this together in book format. I am sure my vision will morph and change as I begin the process, but right now what I envision is a two book set. One will be the story of my journey compiled from my journal, the other will be a guide to the plants of the trail including how to identify them, use them, and where to look for them.


I will certainly post as this project progresses but I would love to a have list of my readers' emails so that I may contact you directly when the book is complete and ready for purchase. If you are interested in receiving such notice please send me your info to my email:  Also, in case you didn't already know, you can enter your email in the space on the righthand side of my blog that says "email" to receive my posts by email or just send me your email and let me know that you'd like to receive my posts as such and I'll do the process for you.

Also if anyone has any suggestions or connections as far as publishers go as well as any helpful publicity to offer, I am eager to receive it.


As for the blog, I will be continuing to post my hiking and botanical adventures along with info about individual edible / medicinals. I am currently in Asheville until the end of the week and will then be driving up to PA to my parents' house. On August 15th, my father and I are setting out in a drive cross country. We will be spending a month touring the national and smaller state parks of the west. I have never been west of Illinois and so this will be quite the adventure. We will be staying in plush accommodations in Colorado for 5 days, but beyond this we will be camping. Our days will consist of hiking, sight-seeing, and overall exploring. We have no set plan, but will rather create the trip as we go!

So I encourage y'all to continue to follow along, as I get to know the plants and landscape of the west. John Muir is my most cherished nature writer and so we will certainly be hitting many of his beloved sites. The mountains are twice the size out there and so I'm sure I'll be blown away, and once I know that landscape...I can prepare for my next big hiking adventure...

For those of you interested in the final overview of the miles and plants on the MST, that post is next to come, as well as a few final pics that I've been meaning to share.

Stayed tuned!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Summit atop the Dunes

Mountains-to-Sea Trail complete!!!

On Thursday, July 21st, I set out from Oregon Inlet Campground, made my way down the mosquito infested Bodie Dike trail passing wax myrtle and beach holly, glimpsing salt marsh ponds, a lighthouse in the distance, as well as an osprey nest perched atop a bare branched tree. Reaching the Bodie Island Lighthouse, I hit the beach, and this is where the party began. Donned in proper summit attire: bright violet beach shorts that showed off some killer tan lines, heart-shaped sunglasses, and a sparkly gold cowboy hat, all special items acquired during my trek, I did my 11m cat-walk with a permanent grin stretched across my face, waving to the many  beach-goers (some looking rather perplexed), and let the waves wash up over my shoes and ankles. The temps were the hottest they'd been since I hit the islands and the beaches were crowded, but the sand was nicely compacted, there was a light breeze, and I was in pure hiking bliss. Leaving the beach, I passed a Shell gas station and Taco Bell, rather surreal and again reminding me of how this trail is not only one of wilderness but of civiliazation and people. Around 2pm, I entered Jockey's Ridge State Park, met up with my friend Amanda and little girl, Claire, making my way 1/3 mile down a deep sand trail, and climbing the final summit of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

A family that joined in my celebration, offering me an ice cold bottle of water and cheering me on when I was just 5m from the end: (not in order) John, Jesse, Mickey, Marvin, and Patrick. What a posse of fine bronzed men to be surrounded by! Thanks guys!

It was around 100degrees, with the sand at about 130degrees and the sun beating down upon bare rolling sand dunes as far as the eye could see. Once atop the dune, the sound could be seen to the west and the ocean along with the town of Nag's Head to the east. Haze lied thick on the horizon but the blue water still shown in bright contrast to the white sands of the dunes. It was an appropriate end to the MST with no blazes or markers to guide the way and not even a sign atop the summit dune.

Climbing the dunes of Jockey's Ridge State Park - the biggest climb I'd done since the beginning of the piedmont.

Had it not been for an awesome ranger named Lora, my friend Amanda with daughter Claire strapped on back and I would have walked off into the sunset of the seemingly endless dunes only to eventually reach the sound. I felt blessed to have a dear friend with me for my final steps and thought back to my first steps for which my father had joined me. I'd made the trek on my own but with strong support back home and with many helping hands I met along the way.

Me and Amanda (and Claire on back)  toasting our Sonic Strawberry Slushies courtesy of Ranger Lora

Claire - this little girl had the endurance of a hiker, hanging out for 2 days and 2 nights at the beach...however some fun in the ocean certainly made it worth it

Ranger Lora and Me - Lora and I had communicated through email thanks to Scott Ward (author of MST guidebook) who'd put us in touch when I expressed to him my concern of places to stay on the Outer Banks - thanks Scott! Lora spotted me as I was approaching the park and with big bagpack and all, figured it must be me! Thank you Lora!
 And so in the course of  10 1/2 weeks, my feet carried me from rock overhangs 1000's of feet above the valleys below...

to Ocean level where the waves lapped at my toes...

I watched the plants change from mountain trillium to roadside wild carrot to beach evening primrose. I savored wild greens in the early spring, and when the bugs emerged in the piedmont made good use of spit&chew plantain poultices, and marveled at the alien (to me) plants of the shore. Along the way, I came to realize something I think most all of us know deep down but often fail to acknowledge, that beauty is medicine as well. Not only does the earth offer us plants and water and soil and shelter by which to sustain our existence, but it also offers us the beauty of its rocky mountains, rolling hills, setting sun, morning mist, and waving marshland grasses. We live in a society where so many of us have little daily exposure to nature's ever-changing ever-giving colorful canvas, that it can be easy to go without, not notice, yet still know there's something missing. I think that 'something' could be simply this natural beauty. The gasp and thrill and awe of something so real and so pure and so ever-present, not only around us but inside of us, the very stuff of which we're made.Stunning vistas, quiet wooded paths, and crashing waves are our reminders, lest we begin to forget. To be so intimately a part of such beauty, such raw reality, such life, well... it's pretty cool, eh?

Along the way, I was met with many questions from the the people I passed. "What compelled you do this?" , "How do you keep going?", "What's it like to walk 20miles a day everyday?", "Don't you get lonely?", and "Aren't you scared?", amongst many'll have to read the book (which I'll explain more about in the next post) to get the answers to all those questions...but really what I came to realize is that, hikers themselves or not, people are intrigued by the idea of long distance hiking. Not only are they intrigued, but for the most part, they are supportive. I think it comes down to the fact that to meet someone who is taking on such a feat is a testament to what we, as human beings, are capable of. We are capable of creating the life we wish to live, doing that which seems impossible, unusual, or just plain crazy if we believe in it enough, and we can not only endure the challenging but through that endurance, truly thrive, truly live.

I'd like to give a big thank you to Amanda Riley for coming out to both join me and pick me up from the coast, driving me back to Asheville. I'd also very much send out endless thank-you's to my parents, Pam and Doug Houskeeper, for their endless support and encouragement, always there on the other end of the line when I needed someone to gripe, share, or trill to, as well as getting me to the trailhead and shipping me some much needed gear items. I can't tell you the number of times I heard "We're real proud of you and if you need anything, remember we're only a 12hr drive away" - and they meant it, "only" 12 hrs. More thank-yous to Rachel, Robin, and Jodi, my support team back in Asheville, who provided me a place to rest when in town, sent me maildrops, and cheered me on. And of course, gratitude to all the kind people along the way who helped me along and made the hike what it was! Gratitude to the plants!!

****Please see the next post for info on upcoming book, future of the blog, and what's to come "next"!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

14 more miles to go!

jelly fish containing a setting sun

I am curretntly camped at the Oregon Inlet Campground with my amazing friend Amanda and daughter Claire who came all the way from Asheville to pick me up and drive me home. Thank goodness I don't have to walk back!

Sea Oats! (Uniola paniculata)

Beach walking has been a challenge. Some days- like today- nice and easy and beautiful, just watching the waves roll with hardly a soul on the beach for miles...and others incredibly challenging with deep sand and relentless sun.  But here I am, after hiking my longest continuous stretch on beach yet: 12m!

Ocracoke Beach

I stayed the last two nights at a wonderful little campground provided by Rodanthe Watersports. Because boats that charge through the water at high speeds as well as tippy boards attached to large kites frighten me just a bit, I did not make use of their wonderful array of surf boards, boogie boards, motorboats, kayaks and the like. See, I'm used to having my feet on the ground. But for an awesome price I got a simple site directly facing the sound, just feet from the water and got to watch the sunset two evenings in a row, as well as peer up at the stars before getting into my tent at night. This morning as I was leaving camp I also met a lovely fellow named Ron. Thank you Ron, you made me smile. Perhaps next time I'm in town, you'll have to show me how to kiteboard so it won't be so scary anymore! 

view from camp at Rodanthe Watersports

Besides the lovely campsite, I also decided to hang out a day in Rodanthe as I had done a killer 30m the day before to get there. The prices on the Outer Banks will break the bank and so I decided to do the miles to find reasonable rates. However on this 30m day I did stop to admire the noble Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Thank you Michael with the National Park Service for pointing out where to see the shipwrecks - I saw the smokestack of one today! Have fun snowboarding in Colorado, hope you get your mountain fix!

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

I also met another friendly fellow named Scott while I was sitting, hot and parched just before the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge (1 1/2m long) and trying to get up the mojo to cross it under the bright sun, high over water and amidst lots o' traffic. Fisher and swimmer passed by in droves, carrying coolers and grocery bags of drinks covered in condensation and my mouth watered...finally Scott arrived and said, "Would you like a cold drink?" Would I ever. Scott explained that while hiking the AT he often found himself in similar circumstances, so when he saw me with pack and sticks, he knew just what I needed. Thank you Scott! Swing by for some beers if not tonight, then tomorrow to celebrate!

And so that's all for now. I'll be sure to post my summit pic as well as an overview and some more info I've been wishing to get up as soon as I can. It's sure been one helluva trip!

Faces of Ocracoke

The village of Ocracoke proved to be one of the most welcoming towns I passed through on my hike. The folks here are laid back, friendly, and seem to appreciate the beauty in life, seeing the larger picture...basically: enjoy it! Perhaps living so close to the ocean, something with that magnitude and vastness, has something to do with it. I've seen the mountains have a similar effect on people.

I liked it here so much I decided to stay a second day and take a load off, besides I was also ahead of schedule by a day and needed to slow down. What a lovely place it proved to be in which to do so. However, I was stressed about spending yet more money at a pricey campground (prices are tourist rates here) and so after a friendly barista named Scott at the Ocracoke Coffee Company struck up a conversation with me, "Off the beaten path!" he exclaimed as I went to walk out the door, I thought I'd ask him if he had any suggestions as far as cheap tenting went. He simply said, "give me an hour, I'll find you place." Well, true to his word, little more than an hour later, I was cruising with Scott back to his house where I had the offer to stay the night on the back lawn or on the couch.

Clyde, Scott, Emily, and Michelle at the Ocracoke Coffee Company

Scott's family was in town and it was with them and Scott that I enjoyed my very first ride on the beach, bouncing along in Scott's rugged jeep, playing tunes and soaking up the breeze, as well as my first dip of this trip in the ocean!

Later that night, when I stepped outside to set up my tent, I heard, "Want a cold beer?" This question emanated from another tent that had taken up permanent residency for the summer, also in Scott's backyard. Here I met Lauren and Joe, as well as Lauren's brother Kyle and his friends, Noel and Danny whom were all visiting from Ohio. Lauren and Joy's lovely abode is no run-of-the-mill-tent but is complete with homemade wooden platform, solar panels, sink, and waterpump (not to mention a full bar). It was with these awesome folks that I got a taste of Ocracoke nightlife, going to hear a wonderful jazz band at Daijo and then back to the house for a fire in the backyard till the wee hours.

Noel, Danny, Lauren, Joe, and Kyle

I said goodbye that night, figuring it'd be the last I'd see of my newfound friends. However, there I was walking down the boardwalk, crossing from road to beach for the first of my beach miles, 6m from town, when I heard, "Heather?" It was the backyard posse! And so we got to hang out just a bit longer before my long miles of the day called me off.

And so I'd like to give a big-big thank you to Scott Gray for opening up his home as well as his fridge and for simply being the awesome person that he is! I'm so glad that I went to the coffee shop that morning! If you're ever in the mountains, give me ring and I'll show you some trails. Scott Gray's family: Michelle, Emily, and Clyde, it was a pleasure to meet you!

And to Lauren and Joe, Kyle and Danny and Noel, thanks for taking a hiker out on the town and showing her how the locals hang. I had a blast! Keep on keepin' it true to heart! The same foes for y'all if you're ever in Asheville and want to do some good hiking or see how the "locals" hang.

However the opportunities afforded at the Ocracoke Coffee Company didn't stop there. Below is a pic of two friendly folks, who if I'm calling my other friends the Backyard Posse, I should call these guys the Front Porch Fellas. I met Jim and Leonard on my first visit to the shop where we chatted briefly and I said I'd be hiking on the next day. However, there I was again at the coffee shop the next morning when I hadn't hiked out as quickly as expected, again saying hello to them. This time, however, I enjoyed their company for the morning. We also had the company of Scott's mother's dogs, Jack and Bella, whom kept us on our toes. Again, I got to feel like a local, welcomed in from the throngs of tourists. We had a good time chatting it up and cracking jokes. Jim even squeezed into the "local's line" for me and bought me a coffee! Thanks guys, for offering some good morning talk! It was pleasure to meet you! I know where to find you next time I come back to Ocracoke.

Jim and Leonard with dogs, Jack and Bella

As I made my way down Ocracoke's beach for the second time that day, this time for a 6m stretch, the beaches were no longer quiet and virtually empty as they had been that morning. Now they were full of colorfully clad beach-goers in chairs, under umbrellas, hanging out on tailgates, and little ones building sand castles. Many folks politely waved and smiled, and some simply stared and craned their heads as I walked by, but a few went out of their way to say hello and find out just what this crazy hiker-girl was doing!

One of them was Howard. Unfortunately Howard and I were too busy talking for me to think of getting a pic, but that just tells you how much fun he was to talk to. He had just gotten done doing his own epic journey- 36 days on a motorcycle and 8000miles all around the country. Thanks for the frosty Gatorade, Howard! It kept me hydrated all the way to camp!

Not long after meeting Howard, I came upon some more friendly folks. This time two families renting a nearby beach house. There I was hiking down the beach watching the waves when I heard, "Cold beer?" I didn't even take the time to answer, but simply changed direction and headed for the hand bearing the frosty beverage. They offered me a seat on a boogie board and I had a thrill answering all their questions about the trail as well as getting to know a little bit about each of them. Folks like you are what make the day interesting! Thank you trail angels: Donnie and Biz Cochran, Mike and Donna and Samantha Ornorff, and family!
The Ornoff and Cochran families - bearers of cold beer

And when I finally made it to my camp that night, at a late 7:30pm, I smiled back at all the wonderful folks I'd met in the last couple of days. I found myself a lovely spot between a live oak and eastern red cedar, made my way down a long boardwalk at sunset and finally went for a good long swim in the ocean. Thank you Ocracoke.

Coastal Plain Plants

Here's some more plant pics I've been wanting to share with you, taken from the Croatan to the Outer Banks. I've got some research to do before I'll know whether any of these are edible and/or medicinal. Please feel free to offer your input if you know!

Spurge Nettle (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) - I found this growing in dry woods admidst loblolly and long leaf pine in the Croatan. According to Wikipedia, the seeds are very tasty and were much appreciated by Native Americans; the root can also be eaten like a potato, "tasting like pasta", which I assume means simply starchy.

Frog Fruit (Phylla nodiflora) - this small flower (3-6" tall, each flower under a 1/4" wide) grows thick along roadside grasses as well as beside ponds.
Beach Morning Glory (Ipomoea sagittata) - this is a flowering vine with deeply lobed arrow-shaped leaves (see below). It perplexed me for sometime as it looked like a morning glory or bindweed but didn't really have leaves like either of these that I know. It can be found trailing in abundance along the roadside by both beach and marsh.
*In post: a week of marshland, bugs, and trail magic, I incorrectly refer to this plant as Pink Bindweed.

Arrow shaped leaves of Salt Marsh Morning Glory

Loblolly Bay ( Gordonia lasianthus) - this plant was growing in abundance along a long logging road still in use in the Croatan.

Carolina Yellow-Eyed Grass (Xyris caroliniana) - growing in a sunny patch amidst towering long leaf pine whose open canopy let in lots of sun, the ground very dry, in Croatan
More plant pics and info to come soon!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Outer Banks

My oh my! The last 81 miles of the trip! I'll do my very best to keep y'all posted in these last few days, however being that I'm out on the islands, the internet connection is dwindling. I am currently enjoying a lovely worn-out red suede couch at the Ocracoke Coffee Company, making good use of their free wifi, strong coffee and superb muffins. Oh, I do believe drinking coffee and eating pastries in quaint coffeeshops is my next favorite thing to hiking.

After leaving Davis Provisions, I entered the community of Stacy. Here I was invited into the home of Diane Styron - a most lovely trail angel. Here I met her husband, Steve as well as dog Jacob. I enjoyed homemade pizza and cucumbers in vinegar, and slept safe and sound from bugs and humidity on their couch. Thank you Diane and Steve!

Welcome to Stacy: population 205
Me and Diane - she's glowing like the trail angel she is!
Leaving Stacy, I had a 6 mile walk down a long flat road taking me directly through the center of expansive marshland, deep creeks running parallel on either side. Few cars passed, and with a brisk wind, I crossed several tall and long bridges taking in the surrounding views, marveling at the vastness of it all. Pennywort, Bur Marigold, Sneezeweed, and pink Bindweed complemented the green roadside grass and contrasted the forever stretching spread of brown marsh grasses blowing in the breeze.

bridge through marshland
view from bridge
view from the base of a bridge and a good place to take a snack break
helluva long flat road in the middle of marsh
After passing through marsh I entered into the town of Cedar Island. This was a quaint little fishing town and friendly folks yelled from the roadside offering me fish tacos. Fortunately they didn't take it personally when I explained I didn't eat fish. Quite the place in which to not be a fish eater! From here I caught my first glimpses of the ocean and took a 2 1/2hr long ferry 27m to Ocracoke island...

ferry en route to Ocracoke!
While aboard I chatted with lots of friendly folks, one of them Ralph who is busy traveling the world with his wife, and Tom a school teacher from Texas visiting friends on the island. It was a pleasure to meet y'all!

Once setting foot on this beautiful island, I was...overwhelmed. People everywhere, shop upon shop filled with all kinds of trinkets and food fare, as well as B&B's and motels with cars pulling in and out- all absolutely adorable- but a lot of stimulus. I made my way down the narrow winding roads, passing a multitude of smiling bicyclists, long boarders and folks on foot. I needed something to ground myself, something familiar and comforting...I headed for the ice cream shop...

this lovely lady saved the day with the most amazing (mind you $7) sundae, complete with homemade hot fudge, real whipped cream, and a cherry. Ice cream is an edible/medicinal right?
I snagged myself a campsite at the Beach Comber Campground and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening acquainting myself with the island. Today I will enjoy the villiage, get in some good swimming and hike on.

I project I'll be finishing on Wednesday as long as the beach winds, tides, and the tootsies agree with me! Nag's Head, here I come!

a week of marshland, bugs, and trail magic!

*this post is two days old

Oh, where to begin?!

En guard! These tough little guys have replaced the groundhogs and moles, living in the murky run-off ditches along the side of the road.

Well, first off...I crossed a 1m long bridge over the Neuse River out of New Bern and into Bridgeton. What a trip it was to be suspended high over the water for such length of time. The cars whooshing by hardly seemed to notice, but I sure did. A day later, I took the ferry 3m, again crossing the Neuse River. However once standing on the sandy shore on the other side, I found myself rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Not knowing that the Neuse River at this point is actually saltwater, I was surprised  to see dolphins diving and jellyfish swimming floating by carried by on little waves, a day later when I took the ferry 3m, again crossing the Neuse River.

Bridge over the Neuse River, connecting New Bern and Bridgeton.

The first of 3 ferry rides- this time en route to the Croatan

shore of Neuse River inside the Croatan National Forest

After taking this ferry, I entered the Croatan National Forest. I hiked on trail- so grateful - 25miles along beach, through pure stands of Long Leaf Pine, between thickets of blueberry bushes, and underneath enormous willow oaks and loblolly bay that speckled the trail white with its fallen petals. This area is considered a pocosin, or a place that periodically floods and is often very marshy. However with the severe drought, though there was an extensive network of plank walkways through the woods, much of the ground underneath was bone were the wells which I was supposed to depend on along the way for water (I don't suggest drinking swamp water but ya know, it does in a pinch, especially if you add some organic apple juice mix). It was a thrill to again be forced to stop every so many feet to examine a plant - so many new faces!

Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra alnifolia)

Umbellate Water Pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata)

Crested Yellow Orchis (Habenaria cristata)

Common Pipewort (Ericaulon septangulare)

boardwalks through dry marshland in Croatan Nat'l Forest

However, as you may have inferred from the water situation, the Croatan was definitely a challenge. With the sand, the abundance of little red ants that like to swarm your foodbag, backpack, and tent while you're sleeping, as well as the mosquitoes with 1/4"long stingers, sand ticks and every other kind of tick imaginable, and ground too hard to push tent stakes into...I felt like a fish out of water...or rather a hiker thrust from the mountains and into a strange new land. Check out my savvy improvised tent set-up inside this shelter (done in the wee hours with only a headlamp and some twine I found laying around - I could no longer take sweltering in my sleeping bag to avoid the nighttime bugs - once inside I was in bliss land- another shining moment)

A desperate maneuver to avoid the bugs while sleeping in the Copperhead Landing Shelter in the Croatan.

However to reward my efforts, I then met up with my friend Diane again and even took a day off! Diane picked me up just as I entered Bettie and we spent the night at her daughter, Jenna's house in Morehead City. I had the opportunity to meet some splendid yoga teachers who teach in Beaufort as well as take a class myself. It's only been 2 months! We dined at a lovely restaurant called Calypso and another called the IceHouse in Swansboro. We stayed up late into the night gabbing and laughing - so necessary - and I got a grand tour of several small port towns that just begged me to stay longer and lounge waterside at their cafes. Thank you Di and Jenna and Tom!!

I would also like to thank the man who offered his bodyguard services that I met in the family restaurant at Zingo's gas station. I know who to call should anyone give me any beef! More thanks to yet another church, the Woodville Baptist Church - you made a weary traveler feel welcome and gave her a safe place to rest - so much appreciated.

After my day was time to hike on. Luckily the temps have cooled to the 80's instead of the 100's and its been a trip to watch the scenery drastically change from farmland to expansive marsh, boating docks, and roads running waterside. The wind seems to always be blowing and on it comes birdcalls that make me giddy at their strangeness.

roadside beach
roadside marsh
marsh grasses that stretch on as far as the eye can see
And lastly, thank you to Mack and the girls at Davis Provisions in the community of Davis for providing me a lovely porch on which to do some blogging as well as delicious coffee and pastries. Mack even gave me a "mater" for my travels from his fruitful garden beside the shop!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Awesome People

I have met some of the most wonderful people in the last couple of days, being invited into homes and treated like one of the family. I tell you, folks, you're gonna make me lose my cred as a hardcore hiker "roughin" it" out here in the wilderness!

A happy hiker with Geoffrey and Roy Whaley
Hiking into Cove City, a small town of less than 500 people, however built around the railroad tracks and complete with grocery, library, convenience store, 1 restuarant, 1 grill, and post office, I made my way to Whaley's Grocery listed in my book as a good place to resupply. Here I was immediately greeted by Geoffrey, Roy Whaley's son, and welcomed into the store. Once inside I met Roy Whaley who told me, "take a load off and have a seat," followed with, "what can I do for you?" We got to talking and I asked if I could put my tent up behind the store for the night...well next thing I knew I was showered, fed, and lounging out on the couch watching TV and eating ice cream in the Whaley home. We also made our way into New Bern for some of the most fabulous tofu and broccoli in garlic sauce at the China Buffet I do believe I've ever had. If you're ever in Cove City and need some supplies - do stop at Whaley's as he has everything you could need from veggies to dairy to packaged goods and household supplies. Thank you so much, Roy and Geoffrey! It was a pleasure to meet you, hear your stories, and enjoy the company of such genuinely kind and good people. Oh and I can't forget Mack who kept me company that night...
Mack the cat
While walking down the road en route to Cove City that same day, I met a woman name Diane. She offered me a ride to the store if I needed one, and though I was good on that front, I asked her if she knew of any inexpensive places to stay in New Bern - the town just after Cove City, lovely and historic, but on the upper end of my budget as far as hotels and B&B's go. She responded with, "Oh! Well you can come home with me, yes, yes." Well now if this wasn't the perfect chance meeting.

Me and Diane
So upon reaching the town of New Bern yesterday, I found myself at Di's home, enjoying red wine, pita chips with homemade hummus and toasted black sesame seeds (I kid you not- I had been desperately craving this very snack just days earlier) with a view of the lake and twittering birds. Di and I hit it off instantly, Di being into all sorts of outdoor activities (though boating is her very dearest love), and after learning I was a yoga teacher, with she being an avid yogi, we had this to talk about as well. She served me whole wheat pasta with pesto sauce and to-die-for touboleh with fresh veggies for dinner and we chatted and sipped and ate into the night. What a thrill it was to meet you, Diane, and I do hope we meet up again soon!

Today, I am onto a church for the night and then onto a ferry and into the Croatan National Forest on trail for the next couple of days!