Medoc Mountain State Park Adventure

This past February I celebrated my 26th birthday at a campground. Since I am from Michigan where winter is usually marked by snow and cold this was something unheard of to me. When Friday arrived it was a beautiful day with temperatures hitting the 70s and the lows only reaching the 50s. Perfect camping weather!

Michelle and I loaded the adventure mobile and hit the road. The chemistry department hosts Friday evening seminars (3:40 to 5 pm), so we did not get on the road until almost 6:30pm that night. The down side is that meant we drove while it was dark and missed seeing new scenery while driving through northeast NC, but the perk was that we also missed the insane rush hour traffic of Raleigh. Trade offs.

We reached the campsite fairly late, but between the headlights of the car and some flashlights setting up camp was extremely easy. The easy set up was extremely exciting since this was our first time using our new tent. After Christmas we had bought a new 2-person backpacking tent from REI for a couple of reasons: First, after almost freezing to death on a camping trip to Falls Lake we realized that we needed a tent that could trap our body heat better in colder conditions. Second, we are planning a two week camping trip out west this summer and we wanted a small easy to set up tent for the drive out. Our new tent met all of these criteria! The smaller tent was a huge success! It was super easy to set up and kept us extremely warm on the second night when the low’s dropped into the 30’s!

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Athena’s never been overly thrilled about mornings.

When I was growing up my family lived on a farm with a lot of access to wood. We even used a wood burning stove to heat the house. This meant that any time my family went camping, we could just grab wood from the pile to load the truck bed. But, now that Michelle and I live in the city we don’t have the same abundance of fire wood available and instead have to purchase our wood from the campground. However, if you arrive later in the night the park office is typically closed and you can’t get any wood for your first night at the campground. What a travesty! After a summer of arriving late to campgrounds, Michelle and I discovered that two of our local grocery stores sell firewood, so we no longer have to worry about arriving without firewood! All major crises can now be averted! Such as having firewood for a breakfast campfire in the morning!

mmmmm…campfire coffee

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day! The temperature peaked around 80 degrees and the sun was never hidden by any clouds. This resulted in the perfect conditions for lounging in hammocks and drinking campfire coffee! In my professional coffee drinking opinion (note, not actually a professional coffee drinker), the best tasting coffee always comes from a campfire (regardless of the coffee bean roast). Athena even spent some time catching up on rays in front of the tent as well.

After a long lazy morning lounging around the campsite, we decided that we needed to explore the hiking trails around the state park. We started out on the Discovery Loop trail which follows the Little Fishing Creek. Eventually, we reached a crossroads with a bridge that spanned the river and sent us down the Medoc Mountain Trail loop. Before starting the Medoc Mountain trail, we had to stop and let Athena go for a swim; it was warm enough that I even took of my hiking boots to play in the water!

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Getting my feet wet in Little Fishing Creek!

Once we finished our hike, we headed back towards camp and started racing the clouds. Throughout the day the weather had changed from cloudless and sunny to a dark horizon. The afternoon was spent watching the dark storm clouds roll in, until eventually the rain arrived in the evening. Athena, Michelle, and I hunkered down in the tent to listen to the rain patter on our rain-fly, with only a little worry about leaks from user error during setup. Luckily, there were no leaks. While hunkering in the tent there were fairly frequent flashes of lightening and booms of thunder that had us considering seeking a safer location in the car. Meanwhile, Athena slept through the storm.

Luckily, the storm only lasted a few minutes. This was long enough for Michelle to beat me in a game of cribbage and for Athena to rest up after an exciting afternoon, but it was short enough that we still had time for an evening campfire. We were celebrating my birthday this week and it would have been a shame to miss an evening campfire, hobo pies, and s’mores. This camping adventure made my 26th birthday a truly remarkable day.

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Toastin’ some mallows

You can watch video footage of our Medoc Mountain Adventure here.

These are some of my favorite pictures from our trip. I hope you enjoy them.

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This is my system for pouring coffee fresh off the campfire! Athena and I typically battle over who gets to keep the sticks
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Climbed a rock! 
Just me working on some breakfast
Athena loves her sticks
Queen Athena lounging in the camp
Hiking through the pines!
Michelle towering over me from the top of the bank.
Classic bench photo!
The density and sharpness of this photo is amazing.
Starting the climb of Medoc Mountain
Going up Medoc Mountain. I played around with some angles in my editing software to increase the drama of this shot
I thought this mini stream was simply beautiful
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Athena’s excited to go swimming!
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Athena found an even bigger stick!
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Athena contemplating life while wading Little Fishing Creek


Occoneechee Mountain State Park Adventure


When last Saturday finally arrived it must have been at the end of a long and slow work week because not even the threat of rain was enough to dissuade Michelle and I from wanting to find an adventure for the day. I thought about playing a good ole fashion game of Ultimate (nothing’s better than a game of sloppy muddy Ultimate), but Michelle doesn’t play and getting to the pick-up game at a reasonable time meant passing up on my morning coffee (it was nearing 10:30 am after all!). Obviously, Ultimate was out of the equation.

Then Michelle and I talked about hitting some singletrack, but after consulting Triangle MTB’s webpage we soon discovered that all of the local trails were closed due to poor conditions. Besides, the look of utter boredom that Athena gave us was a clear indication that she too was in need of an adventure for the day. But, where were we to go?

We wanted to go somewhere that was only a day trip from Cary and remembered our friends Matt and Amelia telling us about Occoneechee Mountain in Hillsborough. This was only about a 40-minute drive from the apartment and came with the world’s easiest to navigate directions (take I-40 all the way). After finishing a quick lunch, we grabbed the GoPro, loaded up the car, and were on the road. Our adventure was underway!

The Occoneechee Mountain State Park has about three miles of hiking trails with the longest being the Occoneechee Mountain trail. This trail circles the base of the mountain and will give you a great walk through the woods to the rock quarry and will connect you to the scenic overlook (I highly recommend pausing for a view at the bottom and top of the rock quarry). Overall, this trail is a pretty easy hike and doesn’t take too long unless you make lots of frequent stops.

One of our many stops along the trail using GoPro’s time lapse feature

Michelle, Athena, and I started on the Occoneechee Mountain trail and made lots of stops to simply enjoy the many views and climb the occasional rock (or two). The large rock formations gave us lots of opportunities to pose for dramatic photo shoots using my GoPro’s time lapse feature while Athena experienced the life of a mountain dog leaping from boulder to boulder. Unfortunately, this trail borders I-40 for a short period so we constantly heard the rush of traffic in the background, but once we made it to the other side of the mountain there was a soothing quiet and simplicity in the air (that is only produced by a woods in hibernation).

Athena enjoying the mountain dog life!

On this particular journey there was a hanging fog that clung to the trees and hid the top of the mountain from view. This mist added a surreal grace to the landscape that left us both breathless. Even with the landscape shrouded in fog you could still see for several miles overlooking the town of Hillsborough. I can’t wait to see this view on a clear sunny day!

After a short walk back to the trailhead we climbed in the car and drove to Hillsborough BBQ Company for some grub. We had just taken our jackets off and were preparing to sit down when the heavens unleashed a downpour (perfect timing for us!). Ordering an Irish coffee and hot totty we toasted our good fortunes at missing the rain. And yes, the pulled pork was delicious too!

You can watch the video of our Occoneechee Mountain adventure here.

An Old Tree in the Woods


This year during Thanksgiving REI created a media campaign, #OPTOUTSIDE, promoting time spent with family and friends in the great outdoors. This campaign recorded over 6 million people who choose to bypass the sales of Black Friday, flee the materialisitic desires of society, and spend a day on a hike, kayak, bike, or some other great activity amidst the natural beauties nature has to offer. 

On Black Friday, my family and I elected to go for a hike along the lake shore of Jordan Lake, NC on the New Hope Trail. During our hike we enjoyed a wonderful picnic (while watching the dog play in the water), searched for the world’s greatest walking sticks, and began to question our sanity as the expected 5 mile hike grew longer and longer (the overall distance walked is still subject to much debate). During this adventure, we found an old weathered tree that enraptured my imagination for the entireitity of our walk. This poem is about that tree. I hope you enjoy it. 

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Weathered and worn,

Tried and true.

Ages have passed by,

But still you stand

Firm and resolute.

As one walks by

One can’t help

But to wonder…

What sights have you seen?

What stories can you tell?

What mysteries do you know?

* * *

And, here you stand,

Deep in the forest

With Barren limbs,

Eroded bark.

Hollowed by the might’s of

              Ants and grubs.

Shell bleached by years

              Under the sun.

Roots tested and tried

              By unrelenting wind.

But, still you stand

Beneath the shade,

Cast by oak and pine.

Weathered and worn,

Tried and true

A witness of ages past

As you stand

Firm and true.

An old tree I found during a hike along the lake shore of Jordan Lake, NC