October Mini Road Trip: OBX and Bear Island Camping

September and October turned out to be really busy, but in a good way.  I was able to go on my first ever backpacking trip to South Mountains State Park and also head out to the Outer Banks a few days later for a 3 night camping trip.   I'm not sure there's a single photo from the backpacking trip that's worth sharing (I only took my P&S), but I did take a few photos on my car camping trip that I'll post.

My trip was a big loop starting/ending in Raleigh (naturally).  I drove from Raleigh to the National Park Campground in Frisco, NC ($20). The following day I took the ferry (free) from Hatteras Village to Ocracoke Island.  I spent the next night at the NPS Ocracoke Campground ($23).  The next morning I took the Ocracoke->Cedar Island Ferry ($15) and then met G at the Hammocks Beach State Park visitor center.  We took the 3:30pm passenger ferry ($5/person) to Bear Island for an overnight ($10).  I was lucky to have perfect weather and finally knocked a few items off my camping wishlist.

I took lots of photos, but realized that I'm pretty rusty and making silly mistakes or oversights (like bringing my polarizing filter but forgetting to put it on for half the trip).  The much talked about OBX bugs (huge mosquitoes) were still active in October (can't imagine the summer months) and drove me into my tent pretty quickly so I only snapped a few night photos, which I regret now.



Ocracoke Sunrise

Ferry From Ocracoke to Cedar Island -- somewhere in the Pamlico Sound

Looking Toward Emerald Isle from Bear Island

Bear Island Campsite Behind the Dunes

Sunrise on Bear Island

I definitely want to go back to Ocracoke and I hope to make an annual overnight on Bear Island.  There is something very cool about sharing a 3.5 mile long island with only 20 or so people, getting to watch the sunset, the stars come out, a huge moon rise, and then the sun rise the next morning....all just steps from your tent. 



#2014Goals: August Update

I made some really good progress on the fitness front last month.! Three solid weeks of triathlon training using this plan (picking up at Week 4 since that matched the time frame left for my event) and not missing a workout. I also modified "up" in most cases, but I think it's a great plan for people who are starting from scratch.  

HOWEVER...a wrinkle has been introduced that competes and conflicts with another goal.  I have the chance to be part of a "Backpacking 101" group that does weekly hikes and info sessions and culminates with a 2 night backpack trip for Week 5.  It directly conflicts with the Chapel Hill triathlon.  Of COURSE, I just sent in my registration (and $80) before the Backpacking program was announced.  So I can eat another $80/skip the triathlon and do the backpacking....or the opposite.

I hate to put the triathlon on the back-burner again, but I know there will be plenty of other chances to do one next year.  I also know how to prepare for one.  I'm not as certain about the backpacking opportunities.  The fact that this one doesn't conflict with my on-call schedule is a minor miracle in itself!

I have all the necessary gear for backpacking at this point, so there are no obstacles (or expenses) there.  This Osprey Pack (Sirrus 36) is really on the small side for backpacking, but it was originally purchased to be flexible enough for long day hikes and the overnight we have planned for Bear Island. So we'll see how well it holds up for a 2 night hike next month.

At the info session last night, there was far more interest in the program than they were offering slots, so I  decided if I got picked thru the lottery drawing, then I'd take that as a sign.  I was picked.

So, revision to the triathlon plans it seems!  I think I'll drop that goal for this year, and then focus more on finishing the 10k training plan instead of fitting 2 sessions each of biking and swimming each week in addition to running.

UPDATE:  Before I even posted this, I ended up attending the first hiking/prep session and have decided I will for sure forgo the triathlon and opt for the backpacking opportunity.    Just couldn't pass it up.

Bear Island

It's been two years since I've made a trip out to Bear Island and we finally got a chance to make the drive down after two very rainy Saturdays that washed out prior plans.  What a beautiful place.  We made the walk down the beach to find our site (#9) that we have reserved for October.  There were campers on the site, so we didn't bother them to take a peek, so we walked into site #7 and kind of peered down towards our site.  Climbing the dune and seeing the interior marsh is gorgeous and always makes us say "oh wow". 

Bear Island Interior, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, NC

#2014Goals Update: June/July

I think I skipped posting after June, so here's another combined update.   

It's not surprising that if I didn't post, I probably don't have anything fantastic to report!  But it's not all bad either.  I haven't really increased my working out, but I'm still running each week at least once and getting on the bike here and there.  I've dropped off on my swimming a bit.

The good news is that I had a nice run this week and used a different neighborhood loop that I liked.  I want to try walking over to Lake Lynn, running the loop and walking back...a nice 5 mile loop that I can adapt to add more running miles as I try to increase distances.  I need to take advantage of the long daylight hours while I can.

So here goes:

  • Run another 5k:  Did not make it to the 5k on 2/22 (on-call work), looking at the Canes 5K in Sept.
  • Complete the Bridge to 10K Program: ongoing
  • Complete the Ramblin' Rose Super Sprint Triathlon: registered for the 5/18 event, but was unable to compete due to a direct work conflict which was really frustrating (given I wasn't on-call), I am planning to register for the October event in Chapel Hill.  I have not registered yet, but should do so soon.
  • Stop saying a particular expletive! still off that wagon
  • Give up caffeine: in progress
  • Get down to goal weight: well, this one is probably the most disappointing, having bounced around a little more and basically back where I started.  Nothing that can't be accomplished with the remainder of the year though.
  • Camp four places: Fort Pickens, Ocracoke, Lake James, Bear Island:  camped in Fort Pickens in April.  In June, I had ideas of camping in the Asheville area while combining a trip to visit my Mom, but instead we got super lucky to get the chance to stay at LeConte Lodge for an overnight in June.  As it stands now, I'm planning a "loop" in October that will include stays at Frisco, Ocracoke, and Bear Island -- and I really can't wait.
  • Day Hikes in New Places: The Alum Cave Bluffs trail would have to count for this, plus we rode on a brand new (to us) section of the Neuse River Trail.

And since no post is any good without a photo, here is a hummingbird from our feeder.   I'll have to try to get one when the light is hitting its back, this will do for now.

I had taken some yesterday with a really high ISO that was super grainy (plus it was thru a filthy window).  Since I was using ISO 2500 here, the shutter speed was only 1/800, so the wings were still blurred.  Today I just sat still on my deck in a chair and he returned within a few minutes.  

Canon 7D / 70-200mm F4 lens / ISO 2500 / f4 @ 1/800

Neuse River Trail: Sunflowers

Amazingly cool and comfortable mid-July morning for a bike ride!  We decided to drive out to a trailhead parking lot that's close to the Sunflower fields - we'd never seen them before.  We still can't get over how nice the Neuse River Trail is...what a gift to the people of Wake County.

sunflower fields between mile 23 and 24 on the neuse river trail

sunflower fields between mile 23 and 24 on the neuse river trail


We saw a few deer and a small group of Indigo Buntings.  This section was much more popular with cyclists than walkers/runners. After taking photos of the sunflowers, I realized I hadn't gotten a photo of the "trail" itself.  So this quick one will have to do.

Throwback Photo: Yosemite Sept '13

A few weeks ago our Cablevision went out due to a nearby lightning strike.  We decided to hook up the laptop to the TV and look at photos from our Yosemite and Yellowstone trips.  I came upon this photo and realized that I really liked it.  It was a smoky morning in the Valley due to the nearby Rim Fire.  We were so lucky to have a gorgeous day for our Panoroma/Mist trail hike just the day prior. 

On this morning, we were moving slow and really sore so we just puttered around the Valley and G fished in the Merced River.  I brought out my tripod and tried  taking photos here and there, but the smoke obscured any of the iconic granite peaks.  

But I like this photo for whatever reason.  It's not the greatest reflection, but nice enough.  And it includes the hazy/smoky atmosphere.

Merced River in Yosemite Valley, Smoky from Rim Fire

Last Minute 48 Hour "Vacation", Mt. LeConte

I have probably been thinking about making a hike to LeConte Lodge for 2+ years.  Actually, I'd probably been thinking about it longer than that, but thinking it was doable for the last few.  I actually made reservations for June 2013 back in October of 2012, but I realized how far out it was and that the odds of me picking a proper and doable weekend that far in advance (including the kids) was basically 0, so I let the reservations lapse.

Sometime this spring I realized that the Lodge announces last minute cancellations via Twitter and I thought that maybe this would work if we could be really flexible.  I decided if we could snag a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, we'd somehow make it work.  Meanwhile, we had targeted the end of June for a few days off (with no particular plans since we'd postponed our Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip until next summer). 

I called LeConte Lodge reservations to figure out the best way to snag a cancellation that overlapped with our planned days off.  They indicated that 10-15 days in advance is a good time to start calling...that's when people need to get their cancellation in before they are charged no matter what.  They said the twitter cancellations are usually REALLY last minute.  I called every morning...to no avail. 

Around 1pm on June 25th, I learned that there had been a cancellation for the very next night (I had set the LeConte twitter account to text me so I'd know instantly).   After a quick call to G, I called them to say we'd take it.  Decision made in about 10 minutes and now we'd have to head out a few hours later to get closer to the trailhead for our hike up the next morning.

After quickly packing...we headed out.  We stopped at a motel in Maggie Valley, leaving an hour or so to get to the trailhead the next morning.   We hit the Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead at 9:50am and made it up to LeConte Lodge Cabins around 1:30pm. 

It's a great hike...from the shady wooded hike along the Balsam Creek to the rocky narrow path that peeks out from the canopy...just a beautiful, uphill hike. 

I really wanted to bring my DSLR on this hike, but realized I didn't have a pack that would accommodate my clothing needs (rain jacket, change of clothes, extra layer), my water, and the other small items we were bringing.  I could definitely have lashed it to my pack, but the fear of rain and no where to stow it made me decide to just leave it at home.  I grabbed my Canon G12 instead.  Except I didn't charge the battery.   So...the photos are somewhat lacking from the upper portion and top.

Balsam Creek at Alum Cave Trailhead

Balsam Creek at Alum Cave Trailhead

Balsam Creek along Alum Cave Trail (lower portion)

Balsam Creek along Alum Cave Trail (lower portion)

Alum Cave Trail with Cables

Alum Cave Trail with Cables

LeConte Lodge is really a series of buildings and cabins that accommodate approximately 60 guests each night.  They provide dinner, breakfast, and clean bedding in your cabin.  There is no electricity in the cabin or main dining hall or office (which is supplied with tables/chairs/books/puzzle/games) so once the sun goes down, you are using oil lamps for light.  The fact that it didn't get dark until 9pm, coupled with a long day of hiking (we made 2 smaller hikes once we go to the top), left us going to bed pretty early.  We even forgot to go out and look at the night sky!

Our Cabin, 2 queen bunk beds inside

Our Cabin, 2 queen bunk beds inside

Highly recommended hike and experience.   Again we found ourselves hiking in a hurry (maybe that's natural) both on the way up and the way down.   We definitely stopped many times on the way up to catch our breath, but we didn't linger anywhere very long.  Maybe one day we'll change that.

View on hike to Myrtle Point, about 1 mile beyond the Lodge

View on hike to Myrtle Point, about 1 mile beyond the Lodge

#2014 Goals Update (April, May)

So, I'm a few months behind in getting an update posted.  It's been interesting (and maybe predictable) to see how my best month of working on these goals was January.  I guess that's typical, but for me, January is usually so busy, with so many working hours and deadlines that's it's really hard to commit to doing something at a certain time for a length of time.   I suppose the "New Year Resolution" countered that pretty well.

So not surprisingly the update isn't so great, haha.

  • Run another 5k:  Did not make it to the 5k on 2/22 (on-call work).
  • Complete the Bridge to 10K Program: paused to focus on Triathlon, however:
  • Complete the Ramblin' Rose Super Sprint Triathlon: registered for the 5/18 event, but was unable to compete due to a direct work conflict which was really frustrating (given I wasn't on-call), I am planning to register for the October event in Chapel Hill
  • Stop saying a particular expletive! Fell way off that wagon
  • Give up caffeine: in progress
  • Get down to goal weight: bounced around in April/May and am sitting around ~4 down since Jan 1
  • Camp four places: Fort Pickens, Ocracoke, Lake James, Bear Island:  camped in Fort Pickens in April and eye-ing an overnight in Western NC sometime this month
  • Day Hikes in New Places: I feel like we did this, but I can't recall where.  We also went on a few Greenway Bike Rides that were new to us.

So, on the workout/exercise front, not being able to do the Ramblin Rose in May was a huge bummer and in a small way impacts what I was going to focus on after it.  I've decided to do the October event in Chapel Hill, so I'll need to continue to bike and swim along with running.  I thought maybe I'd try to increase my running mileage along the way as well and shoot for a Turkey Trot in November which should be longer than a 5k (8k or 10k).  I should be able to pick up the Bridge to 10K at some point as I get back into a better running groove.



I did try biking to the Y and then doing laps in the outdoor pool one evening this week and that worked great.  The Y's indoor lap lanes are pretty busy in the evenings which left early mornings and weekends for swimming.  Being able to use the outdoor pool in the evenings (which isn't that busy) is a nice option.  The ride over is really short (~3 miles), but it's pretty hilly and I can always add some extra to that.