Sunday, June 1, 2014


The last few days have been filled with generosity from the kind people of Sampson and Johnston Counties, and so this post will be dedicated to those that made this portion of the trail so special...

Harmony Hall Historic Plantation Site - this is the main house - which I ended up moving late that night after I posting my blog...the rain had let up and the night air seemed preferable to the bathroom. The second floor balcony made a primo shelter
After my night in the storm at Harmony Hall, I awoke late, hoisted my pack filled with my water-logged tent and various other items, and began walking the steamy roadside feeling really rather soggy myself, when I came across Cain's Grill. Nothing like an egg and cheese biscuit, some tater tots, and a Dr. Pepper to lift your spirits. I also met some nice locals in here who were quite eager to hear how I had fared in the storm the night before. I told them my tale of the commode and then went about eating my breakfast in the crisp air-conditioned restaurant, the morning news on the TV before me. The grill cleared out and when I went to pay for my breakfast, I was informed by the nice lady on shift that it'd already been paid for. One of the men I had talked to had taken it about himself to treat me without ever saying a word. Thank you Richard Dunn, truly a humble good deed!

That day was a long day, 21 miles to be exact, but at it's end I was greeted by Roland and Mabel Hall of Roseboro. Kate Dixon again had connected me with these fine folks. I was escorted from the trail and whisked away to the comforts of a home. Here I enjoyed all the civilized luxuries such as a shower, laundry, and even a cold beer. We had dinner at the at the local Railroad Street Steakhouse and I was welcomed in like one of the family by not only the waitress but by Roland and Mabel's good friends we ran into there. Excellent salad bar and homemade treats such as blueberry crumble and pineapple casserole!

The next day Roland and Mabel slackpacked me, so I could enjoy the downtown Roseboro and neighboring Pondberry Perserve. That night, we headed to the pizza place, where I met more of their kind friends who wished me well on my way.

The remnants of an old Gristmill along the road just outside of Roseboro...with extra time on my hands I got to spend some time here taking in the scenery
Also, thanks to Roland, I will be featured in the Sampson Weekly, their local paper, next weekend! I'll be sure to put the link here for all to see.

Thank you Roland and Mabel for opening up your home to me! What wonderful company you were!

Roland and Mabel Hall
The next day, I made my way into Vann Crossroads and watched as the landscape began to ever so gradually change. I began to climb small hills on winding roads through thickly vegetated hillsides and tall leafy trees such as Sweet Gum and Oak.

Upon walking into town, a golf cart rolled up beside me... “Hello Heather!” I didn't know who the man was but he soon introduced himself. This was Bernie from the Vann Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department. Roland had arranged for me to stay here for the night. “I'll go unlock the station for you!” He announced.

When I arrived I was greeted by Bernie's wife, Phyllis and their grandson Reed. I also met Jamey Jones (Chief at the dept), Carmine, Jeffrey, and a slew of other friendly folks. The air conditioning was pumping and I had not only a kitchen to cook in but a big couch to sleep on and wifi. It was really quite cool to see the inside workings of an active fire station – the trucks, the fireman gear, the radio constantly chattering away. Phyllis warned me... “Now if the siren goes off, just stay out of the way!” To which I responded, “How often does the siren go off?” “Oh not too often, it's usually pretty quiet around here.”

Moments later, despite the big plans the station had with the Relay for Life event going on up the street, there was a structure fire at a large hog business in the town next door. All the neighboring stations were called. A flurry of men and jackets and sirens and trucks ensued. I stayed OUT OF THE WAY.

Three hours later, the fire was extinguished and all was well. I drifted off to sleep.

At 2am, from my dreams the sounds of a siren bleeded through. I awoke to the guys in the room again all in a flurry, I heard something about, “the hiker girl”...however I was so tired, I simply rolled over and went back to sleep. The guys apologized this morning and I honestly asked, “What for?” Maybe the miles are catching up to me!

I was invited across the street to the Hopewell United Methodist Church for the continuation of the Relay for Life benefit's breakfast. Here, I met more friendly folks, ate delicious homemade eggs and grits with lots of butter and was filled up with well wishes and prayers from the community. As I walked away several miniature train cars were being pulled by Carmine on a tractor and I heard voices shouting, “Bye Heather!” I turned to see them all waving. My goodness, what a special group of people.

Firefighter Mclamb, Phyllis and Bernie at breakfast at the Methodist Church
Thank you Vann Crossroads and Hopewell United Methodist Church for making me feel truly at home as I passed through town!

A green wetland cove along the roadside lying in the crook between two hills
As I walked, I watched as the roads continued to grow thick with lush greenery, with little wetland coves hidden between the lightly rolling hills. The waters were still dark, telling me I was still in the sandhills, but oh, I know what's coming! Interspersed were fields of tobacco and wheat...

A field of tobacco roadside
In the afternoon, I came across some cows. These cows seemed unusual as they did not run when I approached, also there were no tags in their ears like your typical beef cattle normally. In fact after taking some pictures, they proceeded to follow me from their side of the fence as I walked on. Next thing I knew, a man hollered to me from his drive, “You like my cows?!” and “Where are you walking to?!” I shouted back, “I love your cows! To Tennessee!” Soon I had met Dennis Smith, Windy Wainwright, and learned the names of all their pet cows. How wonderful to meet some cows that wouldn't be served for dinner! Not only did they make great pets, but they fertilized their nearby crops, some of which were corn grew for the cows, and then got to eat back all the extra greenies after the crops were harvested. Windy confided, she loved them dearly but it was really Dennis that couldn't bear to turn them into burgers. Dennis then proceeded to show me a baby pic of the biggest cow he had on his phone. Windy works for the NC Dept of Agriculture as well as with local college students at a small sustainably run farm and garden. Before I went, Dennis asked if I wanted to feed the cows their favorite treat? Hamburger Buns! Did I ever...this made my day.
Spread the word, Windy and Dennis, cows can be loved too! Meet Haze, Raven, Baby G, and calves Mack and Zack below...


Just another mile down the road, I stopped in at C.J.Flowers, a little grocery that had been functioning since 1941. No running water, no air conditioning, little wooden benches outside and old fashioned gas pumps. Here I believe I met a good portion of the town relaxing inside by the fan and outside on the benches. The kind woman working the register upon hearing what I was doing, promptly offered me a restroom break over at the fire station. Upon my leaving I met an elderly gentleman outside, his message was important, “You listen to me. You find yerself a good home, git in it, and don't leave!” he then added, “People'll kill you dead out here!” I informed him, I had met nothing but nice people like himself the whole way. He repeated his message not once but twice more. Truth is I find lots of nice homes out here...if I never left I wouldn't get the chance to find them. As I left, another older gentleman added, “Come back n visit us!”

Entrance to Howell Woods Educational Forest - owned and maintained by Johnston County Community College
And lastly, further proving my point to the elderly man, I reached Howell Woods. I could not find a single official person to ask about a designated campsite, nor any maps showing where to find them. A man named Michael hearing my plight, took me inside the visitor center where he was having a private celebration honoring not only his daughter's highschool graduation but his graduation from a master's program, and sorted through all the pamphlets he could find. Still no answer on camping, but that didn't matter as I was soon being invited to sit down and eat and engaged in conversation with the family. Turned out, several of whom were from Vann Crossroads and knew all the folks I spoke of spending the night with the night before. One of the men was the chaplin for Vann Crossroads Fire Dept and had once been the Chief!

Thank you Michael and family for the great food and company!

I never did find those designated sites, but this pond looked like an perfect spot to me- the stars were bright and I got to hear the splashes from the lil critters all the night long
Whew – that was a long one, but how could I possibly leave a single one of you out! One thing I'd like to note is that I repeatedly hear, “Aren't you scared of the people you'll meet out here?” What is there to be scared of, folks? A lil' secret for you...most of 'em are just like you. Thank you for filling me up with gratitude. Be good to one another folks, when you are, the goodness is spread exponentially.


  1. Find yerself a good home, get innit, and don't leave! 'Ats my advice...

  2. From what the Howell Woods staff informed me, they plan to allow limited tenting somewhat behind the visitor center.

    But the main campground is just off their Diversity trail. There is additional camping sites and tin shack shelters on the old roads going to the river.

    Last I heard some of the trails have been closed. But may be open now.

  3. Behind the visitor center would be great! I saw the other campsites on trails, but they were miles into the preserve...great for an overnight, not so good for the thru-hiker. Thanks for the info, Ben!