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Jan Thru Hike

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  • Jan Thru Hike

    Received an email today ( 14 Feb 17 ) from Chris Adkins of Holly Springs, NC who did a thru hike of the trail back in 2015. This is the sort of trip report I like to read as it contains the good and the bad.

    Edit: It's worth noting up front that the pump at the southern most shelter was not working as of this trip. The pump at the middle shelter was working and we didn't go by the first (northern most) shelter. There is a lot of other water along the trail, but it is discolored and filtering didn't take out the color.

    This weekend two friends, myself, and my dog went down to Croatan National Forest. Here's a quick report to share our planning, the results, and lessons learned for whoever finds themselves planning a trip on this trail in the future.


    The plan was to leave the Raleigh area around 4PM on Friday and arrive at the Northern trail head at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area sometime around 7:30 and hike in to the first shelter (marked here as a hiker). Based on what we had looked up mileage wise this would be about 4.5 miles and shouldn't be a problem to do via head lamp. We would then hike the rest of the trail the next day, dropping our packs at the third shelter (also marked by a hiker on that map – the second shelter is not on the map but is located between the highway 306 and 101 crossings, about 0.75 miles south of highway 101) and hiking down to Oyster Point and back with no packs, camping at the third shelter and hiking the length of the trail back out the last day. This would have us doing 4.5 miles on Friday, ~19 on Saturday, and ~19 on Sunday. It should be noted that we weren't particularly excited about the out and back trip, but we didn't want to drive two cars the whole way and we couldn't find a shuttle service (despite a mention of one that appears to have existed at some point).


    Day 1 (Friday, 16Jan15)

    So we started on a really good note – we were all able to get out of work early and we departed the Raleigh Area around 2PM and felt good about everything. We had checked the forecast and saw that rain was coming on Sunday morning. Knowing that the area had just had rain prior to our trip (and knowing how wet the trail can be) we wanted to avoid the rain as much as possible. We had a few conversations about doing some extra night hiking on the second day so we could get off the trail by 1 or 2PM on the third day.

    We stopped for some snacks and a bathroom break about an hour into our journey, and found that the car we were driving wouldn't start. We fought with it for about 20 minutes and with some engine starter and lots of gassing, we got the car to start back up. Unfortunately at this point we had no faith in taking the vehicle even further away from home, so we decided to turn back and take someone else's car. This set us back about 2.5 hours, so we ended up later than we were supposed to be. Oh well, we decided we would just hike later in the night that night so we would still be on track.

    After an uneventful (thankfully) rest of the car ride there, we parked at the Pine Cliff recreation area around 8PM and were one of two cars there. We excitedly began our hike with beautiful views of the stars and opposite coast line and various sounds from Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. We hiked for a few hours and expected to see the shelter at any moment. After hiking well past the point that we thought we would see it, we pulled out a phone (Verizon has really good coverage across the forest, AT&T is alright depending on your phone – an iPhone 6 got fine coverage whereas a Nexus 5 didn't) and checked some maps and realized we had passed the shelter by a mile or more. Lesson learned – off trail shelters are easy to blow past when there's no light. We immediately decided against hiking back to the shelter (we had plenty of water) so we started to look for a good camp site. After looking for ~15 minutes and observing the strong underbrush everywhere, we came to a section where the trail really opened up and we decided that would do – we made camp and crawled around 11:30 a brisk 30 degree night.

    I was testing quite a bit of new gear on this trip (Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack, Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp/NetTent, Western Mountaineering HighLite 35) and was curious how the HighLite would do in such cold temperatures – I was aware that WM rates their bags in a way that makes the rating conservative, but I wasn't sure how conservative. I slept in my convertible pants, Darn Tough socks, a t-shirt, Uniqlo Down jacket, Uniqlo gloves, and a toboggan (fold over bottom beanie for those of you not from the South). I was pretty chilly and struggled to get some sleep (so did the dog despite a sleeping pad, bag, and Fido Fleece sweater for him). After a while I added another pair of socks (my fresh ones for the morning) and the balaclava I had carried (my nose gets really cold) and adjusted my bags hood (first time sleeping with a mummy bag) and I was able to get some pretty decent sleep.

    Day 2 (Saturday, 17Jan15)

    We got up at 6 and broke camp and ate breakfast and were on the trail by 7 – largely driven by the idea that moving would warm us up quickest. We made excellent pace and enjoyed all the boardwalks that kept our feet dry. We crossed 101 and got to where a stretch of logging road served as the trail. While breaking at the trail exit onto 147 a guy in a jeep stopped and talked to us and told us that the trail intersected with 169 (which was what our map said) about a quarter of a mile down 169 (which was way less than what our map said – we thought it was closer to two miles). We were happy to have less boring road walking, so we hoped he was correct. After being on the road for a bit we found out our map was correct (my guess is drivers don't realize miles the same way that hikers do) – you can see an account of the “Road of Despair” at this account of running most of the Neusiok Trail. We made great time but found that the well packed road was much harder on our joints than the trail. Nonetheless we enjoyed hiking side by side and made great time.

    We finished up the road section and made it to the stretch of trail between roads 169 and 124 on the map and were quickly greeted with tons of “puddles” that spanned the entire trail. On some there were small side paths that had been developed, but on some our only option was to walk towards the edge, swing our packs into the woods/brush, and use our poles to stabilize ourselves. Using our poles we quickly found out that some of the puddle/mud mixtures went well over 2 feed deep. Of the three of us, only one had Gore-Tex boots, and his feet managed to stay mostly dry. I had on cheaper Columbia Hiking boots that I've done tons of hiking in – as much as I like them they are absolutely not water proof or anything close. My socks and feet were soaked from dipping into a foot of mud a few times (they don't call it boot sucking mud for nothing). After walking through a mile or two of puddles (at least 40 or 50 puddles – we were pros at finding ways through by the end, including some treacherous balancing acts on well placed logs in the middle of mud lakes) we came across a bridge that ironically covered a very dry section of trail – presumably it was worn out by hikers 10+ years ago and was at one point muddy but has since solidified. Right after the bridge is the crossing with 124 where we took a good break.

    After a few minutes there our friend in sneakers caught up and we found out he had taken off his sneakers and hiked in his camp shoes (Crocs) – it was then we found out that some of the mud holes went as much as knee deep! Should I ever do this trail again, I would strongly consider using the roads to avoid this section of the trail if it's as wet as it was during this pass through.

    We found at this point that our map was wrong – instead of having to hike down 124 to get to the next section of the trail, it was directly in front of us. Not sure when this changed or if the map was always wrong (we couldn't buy one of the official forest service maps because the rangers station doesn't open until later in January) but it was obviously the trail (had a forest service maps and multiple blazes visible from the road) so we took it. It was pleasantly dry and we made good time to the last road crossing (where you have to walk down the road a bit and take the trail back into the woods the same way you came out) and then to Oyster Point.

    After stopping to get some water we walked down to sit by the water and eat our first dinner (the second to come after a few more hours of hiking – it was only 4 at this point). We struck up a conversation with a couple sitting in front of the water and after talking about stoves, packs, and shelters (they did lots of camping – the husband was a stove expert and owned over 50 camping stoves!) they generously offered us a ride to the northern trail head on their way out. We graciously accepted (we weren't going to gain anything by seeing the same trail over again – like I said we were only doing that because we couldn't find a shuttle service to use. I'm a big fan of shuttles on one way trails – we used one for the Art Loeb trail and it's very convenient.) We arrived back at our vehicle by around 5 and made our way to Smithfields for dinner and then home.


    Overall the Neusiok is an awesome trail and has a very different feel and look than the other well known trails (Art Loeb, Linville, Uwharrie, etc) across NC that I've been on. Everything was really enjoyable except for the cold night (a bag liner would help) and the stretch of trail between 169 and 124 – I would not recommend doing that section when it's wet unless you just want a strong challenge and wet shoes.

    I'd be happy to answer any questions about the trail or the planning process. Once I grab the photos my friends took I'll upload a few of them.
    Mod Note...
    the first shelter (marked here as a hiker).
    links to a map where the hiker symbol was marking the trail, not the shelter. I always recommend testing gear at home before you go out on the trail and find out there are potential problems.
    Last edited by gunner76; 02-14-2017, 22:50.
    18 years old with 45 years of experience