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Thru Hike

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  • Thru Hike

    I arrived at the Pine Cliff Recreation area and the northern trail head of the Neusiok Trail on Sunday morning. Thankfully, it had a toilet I could use, because the coffee I had on the way there had the expected effects. It was a beautiful *cough* 83 degrees as I started the trail just shy of 9am. There are three shelters along the trail, and I intended to just wing it and see how far I could get along it’s 21.7 miles.

    The beginning portion of the trail is beautiful and enjoyable is it winds along the Neuse River and up and down short hills. My biggest issue by far, and this would continue for the duration of the trail, was the spiderwebs. My having treated my clothing with permethrin and used picaridin lotion, the mosquito ad deer flies weren’t all that bad, but I ended up spending a good portion of the trail with a trekking pole upright in front of me to catch the webs. I should have taken Gunner’s advice and done this in the fall.

    I reached the first shelter/water source about 3.8 miles in I believe, but my memory could be wrong. It was clean, well maintained, and in a really stunning location. I filled up on water and took a quick snack break before moving on.

    The trail continued to be enjoyable as it traveled in the darkness provided by old growth. With a lot of the trees in coastal Carolina being obvious logging areas, you don’t see them get this big and tall often. I traveled along many well made boardwalks through what could easily become very swampy areas. Note to others, some of the older ones are slick with age and use. Take these slowly and carefully to avoid ending up on your backside.

    The second shelter snuck up on me a bit. You have to keep an eye out for blue trail markers and a sign at the end of the access trail. It was another great spot to fill up on water and take the opportunity to take care a hot spot on my foot and each a quick lunch. I will say, that due to its proximity to a road crossing, this one was more heavily used and there was some trash and beer bottles, etc. Unfortunately, people are inconsiderate and left it and didn’t refill the jugs with water that are necessary to prime the hand pump. Luckily there was a bucket filled with some rain water that got me up and running. I also found an entry in the shelter log from our very favorite Hickory Brothers Shug and Hickery. “Long live the Maple King”

    At this point I was comfortable but it was still early in the day, so I pressed on. I soon regretted that decision. The next section was through an area that had be clear cut at one point and lead to the most miserable 2.5 miles or so of the trail: the road march. I hit the road just about 3 pm and was happy to be away from spiderwebs. I soon realized that the sun was very near directly overhead, there was no shade, and my watch read 100 F. All I could do was keep the arms and legs pumping and get through to the trail. I could faintly see “the boat” in the distance. Anyone who hikes this trail will know what I mean. It never seemed to get closer. Alas, I finally passed it and think I am almost there. I couldn’t be more wrong.

    Note to others: coming out of the woods and onto the road, it may be hard to tell which direction you need to go. Luckily, someone was kind enough to add a wooden arrow to the trail sign that points to the left. Do that. Also, just before reaching the road, there is a red post at one of the turns in the trail. Maybe Gunner can help me, but is that the halfway point?

    Finally I reach the woods and sit down to cool off a bit. My feet are hurting, my knees are hurting, and I’m a bit dehydrated. I eventually get off my butt and start moving on. Back to the spiders. I wish I had taken more pictures in this section because for me to really explain it, it would help. Of all the boardwalks in the trail, this was probably the section that needed them the most, and yet they were nowhere to be found. The trail was out to get me. Hidden under a loose layer of fallen pine needles and leaves was a good mile of ankle deep mud. Thankfully, it’s been dry-ish for a couple weeks. I can’t imagine what it would have been like otherwise. I’ll tell you, just commit to it and go. There’s no use fighting it. Wear gaiters and let it happen and you should be fine. I was hot, tired, sore, and frustrated. This third shelter just never seemed to arrive. I actually nearly missed it, but saw the sign as I stood next to it. Thank goodness. I was down to a liter and a half of water and could use a refill. Unfortunately, the pump is either not working or has been shut down. I am not really sure, but I had no water access there. Definitely sucks. But I was planning on finishing the last three miles or so the next morning and set up camp here anyways. Set up the hammock, made some tacos for dinner, and let the sound of the birds and bugs send me to meet the sandman.

    The last section of the trail is actually super beautiful as it follows the sound in a long loop and gives you some really amazing views of the water. It ends at the Oyster Point Campground which has water and seems like a really nice place to car camp, if you’re interested in that.

    This whole trail is also part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, so don’t get too confused by different trail markers and signs.

    All in all, the beginning and the end were the best parts of the trail. The best shelter, in my opinion, was the first one (Copperhead Lodge I believe). I highly recommend NOT doing this trail on Labor Day weekend. DO it when it is cooler and the spiders are done for the winter. I look forward to hiking this trail again. Also, my GPS clocked it at 22.3 miles, not 21.7, but that could have been for a bunch of reasons. Definitely bring a map with the shelter locations marked and trust that rather than the signage. I think that’s everything I have to say, but will add more if I think about it.

  • #2
    Great trip report. I agree, don't hike the trail in the summer time...too hot and humid.

    The first shelter you came across is Copperhead Landing, the next one is Dogwood Camp and the last one is Blackjack Lodge. Dogwood Camp is close to the halfway point on the trail.

    There were a few signs ( trail makers ) along the dirt road but they seemed to vanish about a year ago when the Forest Service did a bunch of work along this road clearing brush on each side.

    The section of trail between Deep Creek Rd and Alligator Tram road could use a lot more boardwalks but the Forest Service has placed new restrictions on the building of new boardwalks ( and repairing old ones ) as to getting approval and design issues that have to be followed