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!

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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! 
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Just me working on some breakfast
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Athena loves her sticks
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Queen Athena lounging in the camp
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Hiking through the pines!
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Michelle towering over me from the top of the bank.
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Classic bench photo!
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The density and sharpness of this photo is amazing.
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Starting the climb of Medoc Mountain
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Going up Medoc Mountain. I played around with some angles in my editing software to increase the drama of this shot
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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

 

Athena’s Adventure to New Hope

This post has been a little delayed in reaching publication. Mostly, I fell into the age old habit of shooting some epic GoPro footage and then leaving it on my computer unedited for a couple of weeks. So, this morning I finally had some time to work on the photo and video edits. 

About two weeks ago, Michelle and I took Athena on a trip to Jordan Lake where we hiked the New Hope loop and let Athena go swimming. It was a beautiful and warm February day. You can watch the video of Athena’s adventure here.

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The past week has been unbelievably boring! We have gone on no adventures or even squirrel patrols around the lake. Both of my two-leggers just choose to lie around all day sniffling, coughing, and blowing their noses. The male two-legger who loves stealing my rope hasn’t even had the energy for that! I fear they may both be broken forever.

However, there seems to have been a change in their demeanor, recently. I noticed the change in energy on Friday night as my male two-legger started stealing my toys and throwing them all over the place again (he seems to find it highly amusing to THROW MY STUFF everywhere and watch me pick up after him). Then we spent all of Saturday napping on the porch swing in the sun. I made sure to sleep on top of both my two-leggers to guarantee that they wouldn’t abandon me like they do during the week.

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Some good action shots of Athena running through the water.

After a long week of minimal activity and a day of lounging on the porch, I was really beginning to grow restless. So naturally, I started stealing shoes and slippers and hiding them in my lair (underneath the coffee table). Sunday arrived with the sun shining, the earth was warm, and everything was starting to smell of spring (in February). I DESPERATELY NEEDED AN ADVENTURE!

I can only assume mom and dad knew this because after a Sunday afternoon nap on the swing the male two-legger asked if I wanted to go swimming. (I can only assume that stealing their shoes and slippers successfully communicated my boredom and will continue using this communication system in the future.) I LOVE SWIMMING! And I love car rides! And in order to go swimming, we needed to go on a car ride first!

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Athena blowing bubbles in Jordan Lake

The two-leggers loaded me into the adventure mobile and so I naturally posted up in the shotgun seat. Mom than told me to get in the back, but I didn’t want to sit back there so I ignored her. But then she tried to SIT ON ME! In order to avoid being crushed, I leapt into the back! I guess mom doesn’t know that I am supposed to ride shotgun in dad’s car. Oh well, I will just let them both pretend to be the alphas for this car ride. It’s good for their self-esteem.

After an eternity of driving we arrived at my favorite swimming hole: Jordan Lake. My two-leggers always bring me here during the summer to cool off. We started off down the New Hope trail and I immediately charged to the front leading the way as ‘first-leader.’ Now the two-leggers could ride in the back!

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Another sequence of Athena running through the lake.

Our first stop was a little off the beaten path. We veered right, then left, and every which way in between to navigate the brush. Mom, who was holding my tether, refused to follow my lead and kept causing us to get stuck around trees by going the wrong way. In the distance I could see the water getting closer and could barely contain my excitement. But, my two-leggers refused to free me from my tether. Oh, the torture!

They ordered me to sit, but I couldn’t with all of this energy building inside of me. The two-leggers were insistent, so I compromised with a wriggling-worm of a crouch. This seemed to appease them as I heard the blissful words, “Go play.”

And I was gone! The muddy sand flying all around as I leapt in the waves and excavated rocks. Dig, dig, DIG! Splash, splash, SPLASH! My forelges became a furry as I dug through the clay. Soon, my white spots turned to brown, but I would just wash the mud off with a run through the lake. I even made sure to include mom and dad by shaking the mud and water off next to them. I’m sure they loved being included!

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Athena digging for rocks

I thought this first swimming hole was awesome, but it was nothing compared to the second spot. We stopped at the New Hope Overlook where I tried to make some friends. They were floating on the water, but they wouldn’t bring their kayaks in to see me. No matter how much I begged. So, I decided to run alongside them as they drifted by me and I even thought about swimming out to see them. But, mom and dad said I couldn’t swim to see out there. Sadily, I had to just watch the floating two-leggers drift on by.

But, my sadness was short-lived as I began investigating the landscape of this new place. The lake had eroded the shoreline and turned the clay into a rock-like substances. Some parts were hard and rounded, while other parts were soft and malleable. There were even small fissures that one could pretend were canyons (if you were truly imaginative). My tail slowly started to wag as I knew what a dog must do here.

Flexing my paws, claws digging into the muddy clay I took a steadying breathe and took off! Running at a full sprint I climbed the bank and jumped the gaps, then landing at full speed on the other side. From the top of the bank, I would sprint down the slope and through the water just so I could one more charge back to the top. This time instead of running I decided it would be better to leap and fly from the highest part of the bank. Then, it was time for my best jump. I was sprinting towards the canyon when dad decided to stand directly in the center of my path. There was only once choice before me; I had to leap over dad, so I did!

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Athena thought it would be fun to hurdle me at one point. At least I got this awesome photo!

Before we could leave this swimming hole, I had to inform all it was mine. To do this meant I must destroy a stick. I found one buried in the mud and I bit down hard giving it a tug. But, the stick refused to budge! So I pulled even harder and let out a growl (letting the stick know that my will would not be thwarted), until at last it gave with a loud resounding CRACK!

After leaping dad and destroying my stick, it was time for us to hike back to the adventure mobile. But, I knew my two-leggers were tired from our adventures, so I made sure to stop for extra smells allowing them to catch their breath. Once we were home I immediately sought out my throune where I curled up to nap. And during my nap, I vaguely heard the tv getting louder as the two-leggers increased the volume to be heard over my snores.

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Athena zonked out immediately after we got home. She was so tired!

Nostalgia

When I first saw that the Tuesday Photo Challenge for this week was nostalgia my initial thought was ‘How am I supposed to capture a photo that makes one wistful for the past?’ But, then I forgot that this weekend I would be celebrating my 26th birthday. What more do you need to inspire feelings of reflection?

How about a camping trip in February! Yes, I said a camping trip in February. Here in North Carolina this has been one of the warmest winter months in history, so Michelle and I decided to go on a camping exploration to celebrate my birthday. Combine these two events together and you have the perfect recipe for self-reflection and longing for the past with simpler times.

Here are a few teaser photos from our trip (a full write up will be posted after I edit some video and photos) with a short poem.

For this post I decided to use three photos with three photo-filters applied. My first step in editing a photo is to apply an auto filter. This adjusts color, contrast, etc. After I get a feel for the photo after adjusting color contrast I begin to play with other filters. For these photos I felt that using a vignette or black and white filter best captured the feeling of nostalgia. I am constantly amazed at how applying simple filters can completely change the story a particular photo is telling us.

I hope you enjoy these photos and poems.

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My favorite part about camping is campfire coffee in the morning! There isn’t a better pairing of any two things!

Maybe I spoke too soon about perfect pairings. Can you really beat drinking a cup-of-joe while hanging in a hammock? Don’t forget the sun is shining and the birds are singing!

What is the one combination that is better than any cup of coffee? How about the great outdoors and a dog. Athena’s favorite spot was posting up outside our tent.

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Simpler Times

I long for simpler times,

Times free of burden,

Times free of worry.

I longingly look into my past,

Before Facebook

                     and social media.

A past filled with make-believe

                            and imaginary friends

Where my games involved the woods

campfires,

s’mores,

and trail rides.

I long for simpler times,

Where all I needed

was the forest

To feel God’s love

That is all around.

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Sadly, I wasn’t able to edit and post these sample pictures before the Tuesday photo round-up. Check out some of the great interpretations people had for the theme nostalgia! 

Occoneechee Mountain State Park Adventure

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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.

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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).

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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.