Thursday, July 23, 2015

An evening hike in the Sandhills of North Carolina

Ive been gone for the past weeka nice break as I stayed at my grandmas empty home (its between tenants) for a week doing some writing and planning and a lot of reading.  I also had a chance to sees cousins and to reacquaint myself with the Sandhills of North Carolina from where Im from even though we left there when I was six.   One evening, I decided to check out WeymouthWoods.  I havent been there since I was probably twenty.  It was a good walk, about 4 miles, as the shadows of evening grew. 




I set out on the Lighter Stump Trail at 6:30 PM.  It's still hot, in the low nineties, but thankfully there is a light breeze.  The trail runs slightly south of the ridge of sandy soil, though an area that has been recently burned.  Longleaf pines, which cover the flanks of the ridge, thrive on fire and the preserve regularly burns the underbrush.  The burn areas are still black and gray but already plants are sprouting up through the ash.  When I leave the burnt area, the growth underneath the pine's thin canopy include wire grass along with sassafras, blackjack oaks (some with leaves almost as big as a catcher's mitt), huckleberries, sumac (not the poison variety) and in one place, a healthy stand of poison oak with fresh green berries.  My ankles itch just thinking about stepping amongst them, but I stay to the sandy path.  Sure enough, after a quarter mile or so, I pass a number of old "lighter stumps."  These once supported stately longleaf pines that were cut down years ago.  The "lighter wood" in the stumps contains so much pitch that theyll burn like kerosene, giving off a quick hot smoky flame.  Growing up in these parts, finding lighter wood was always a priority when camping, especially when it was raining.  You wouldn't want to use this wood for cooking (as it didn't make good coals), but it helped dry out damp wood and to start a fire in rainy weather. 


In a half mile, the trail follows the ridge line as it drops down into a lowland swamp.  Here the long leafs give way to loblolly and other shortleaf varieties, along with a variety of hardwoods: gum, bay, hickory, oak and popular.  There's also a few cedars and American holly and a variety of thick brush that close in the landscape.  Along the edge of the wetlands are dogwoods and persimmons (it is sad to go to my grandma's house and there not to be any persimmon pudding).  As I walk across the boardwalk,  I no longer feel a cooling breeze.  The air is still, moist and warm and my shirt is soaked with sweat.  A few mosquitoes buzz around along with a sole deerfly that annoys me to no end.  I cross a tributary to James Creek and am startled by a squirrel jumping between trees.  A hundred yards later, I cross the creek itself.  Standing on a wooden bridge, I pause to look down into the shallow water.  Where it flows fast, it is clear with a sandy white bottom, but in places where a fallen log acts as a dam and slows the water, decaying leaves gather on the bottom and the water appears dark.  I imagine there are some crawfish and salamanders in these waters, and maybe even a small jack in some of the deeper pools. 

Climbing up out of the bottom land, I take the Pine Island Trail over to the Holly Road trail and head northwest, making a big loop.  At the far end of the preserve, I look at the clock on my cell phone and realize it is now 7:15 PM.  I step up my pace and take the Gum Swamp Trail over to the Pine Barrens Trail that runs higher on the ridge from the Lighter Stump Trail.  The sun is dropping lower in the sky and the insects are singing loudly in anticipation of nightfall.  I make it back to parking lot five minutes before the gates are scheduled to close (at 8 PM).  


After stopping for dinner, I am driving back to where I am staying and notice the new moon on the Western horizon.  Just below it, there are flashes of lightning from over the horizon, promising a storm to cool the earth.  

53 comments:

  1. Wow, sounds like a perfect place to take a quiet break, to read and write and reflect. It's a lot simpler than New York, your last trip I believe, (almost hard to keep up) things have been hectic in my world too. Funny I too have a quiet few hours with the place to myself, well and three dogs and a cat! But hey, it's a mini vacation! The mosquitoes are really up to no good around my place, I'm sitting here bit up just from a short stay out watering once I got home! Weymouth Woods sounds so familiar maybe from reading your posts, or is it home to something know?

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    1. I actually had my daughter with me--she was doing summer reading for school and working on college essays and we seemed to work well together as I blocked out chunks of time for work, eating, visiting or walking.

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  2. I am happy that you got back before they closed the gates!!

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    1. Hopefully they wouldn't have locked me in!

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  3. It looks immensely tranquil, Sage. Thanks for showing us.

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    1. It is a nice spot--such places are necessary to restore one's soul.

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  4. I get a similar state of mind when I'm able to visit Huntington Beach State Park down around Murrells Inlet, SC.











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    1. The food would have been better at Murrells Inlet! I have been to Huntington Beach.

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  5. Lovely. There are few things better for the soul than a walk in the woods.

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    1. I would recommend the book work of Bill Bryson but I see he's already on your shelf over there.

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  6. This was great. Makes me want to sneak away from work and go for a hike in the woods right now, in fact.

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    1. Just don't let me get you into trouble! :)

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  7. I've come to the conclusion that to photograph trees one either does it from the floor or the air. But those shots of yours are very sweetly done.
    Those boardwalk things have become a feature over the last 15 years or so. Never quite sure how I feel about them, personally. But one thing they've achieved here is get those with limited mobility right into the depths of the wild places where their minds can fly, even if they've arrived on a wheelchair.

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    1. This boardwalk keeps your feet dry and also keeps from packing down the earth in the bogs.

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    2. That's what they're used for here too. Some of them are atop mountain ridges. This one I did every Sunday for two years in the 2000s.

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    3. http://ie.geoview.info/spink_boardwalk,2249229p

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    4. That's beautiful, Vince. The alpine setting would be trampled if too many people walked on it without the boardwalk.

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    5. Yes, the walkway is over an upland blanket bog. And there the track is doubly important for the bog is a unit and people walking and compressing it would cut it leaving the part overhanging the lake unsupported.
      That's Glendalough (Glen of the two lakes) btw, Abbey of Kevin, a contemporary of Columba.

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  8. I love boardwalks. We often have them in marshy areas here. That looks like a wonderful hike. My son just returned from a week in NC, but in one of the cities. He was surprised by the heat.

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    1. Yep, it's hot in the southeast now, but it seemed a bit cooler for me (and it was, a degree or two cooler than Savannah)

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  9. Lana and I got up early and had a nice walk this morning. Down here in the summer you either go early or late because of the intense heat of the day.

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  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Sage! I am never happier than when I am in nature, and I always want to know the names of the trees and other plants around me. I appreciated the details!

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    1. Thanks for visiting... I enjoyed reading your blog post about Nova Scotia and Northern Ontario

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  11. Its always enjoyable seeing and reading the beauty through someone else's words and photos. Beautiful post, I am most certain while taking your hike you not only took in the beauty you gathered words along the way that made up the beauty you experianced.

    Thank you for this beautiful share, makes me want to pitch a white tent, and paint it's beauty with words of poetry in how it inspired me.

    Thank you for your visit sage, so nice to meet you.

    Fondly,

    Dore

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    1. The Sandhills need another poet. Sam Regan was from the Sandhills, but he's now dead. I'll share part of this poem of his, "Sandhills Summer": They say the sea was once here,/ And sometimes at night/ When the wind is rising/ I can hear the sea's surge/ In the sound of pines..... Ending: "I sleep under the shadow of ghost winds"

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  12. Yes, Sage, a wonderful and finely observed post. I wondered if Sandhill Cranes came from this area, but I'm guessing they don't. I have always wondered what huckleberries are like ... I guess from my readings of Mark Twain. Thank you for your kind comment.

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    1. they are a small shrub/plant that doesn't grow very tall and have small berries (like blueberries, but much smaller)

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  13. Those are crazy beautiful pictures. Sounds like you had a good time.

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  14. What beautiful place Sage and what nice have a time for read a lot:)
    I have 3 books in my roomtable and at night only I can read for a while sigh!
    Love these pics!

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    1. I often read at night and am thankful I have a position that allows me to take a couple weeks a year for study and to get away and expand my mind in a different setting.

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  15. I've got my boots ready for that hike. Looks perfect. How lucky we are to have such beauty to walk in and to inspire us.

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    1. No boots needed for these trails. These sandhills paths can be hiked in sneakers or running shoes as there are no rocks and boardwalks where you might get your feet wet!

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  16. my goodness… sounds heavenly :-)

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    1. Yes, but one of a multitude of heavenly places on this incredible planet we call home.

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  17. NICE! I'm not much of a hiker...I do love long strolls through the woods, though. That looks breathtaking! SO peaceful. As long as there are no bears.

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  18. What a gorgeous walk/hike and great way to get some exercise. I really enjoy getting away from it all as a matter of fact I find it a necessity.

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  19. Agree, it does help to get away from it all on occasion!

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  20. You use such vivid imagery to describe your walk. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. Place like this are always very refreshing.. hope you had a great time!
    Thank you so much for your valuable comment at my blog, Have a blasting Reunion..

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  22. eveing is a lovely time for a walk. Glad you made it back before they shut the gates

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  23. North Carolina has so many hidden beautiful places and so many mountains to visit. I been to Grandfather Mountains near Linville NC and Chimney Rock.

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  24. I enjoy your tales and always wish I had half your knowledge of nature.

    However, this sweating standing still weather has got to go.

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  25. I've always wanted to go to North Carolina and have thought about moving there. I just love the nature that state has. I love to go on hikes and follow trails. That trail looks like one I'd enjoy.

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  26. It's like walking with you - reading this. So glad you could have this time. It looks and sounds lovely!

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  27. What a beautiful place to walk and explore. I've never really been in the woods. Some parks I've gone to have trails through trees, but it's not the same since a few minutes away there's city life.

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  28. It really looks calm and peaceful. I would like to explore it in a nice crispy fall morning.

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  29. Looks like a really nice place to explore.

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