Sunday, September 05, 2004

the great outdoors

so josh and i were inspired by this article in the local newspaper (raleigh news and observer, aka the 'N & O') to go hiking today. specifically, the weekend section from friday contained this cover-featured article raving about hiking in the months of september and october in the triangle*, since now the bugs are starting to die out and the temperatures are no longer in the stratosphere.

we read through the various local hiking options. we wanted a hike that was long enough to be a little bit challenging, but with pretty scenery and not too close to the highway, like john umstead state park in raleigh where you can practically hear cars whizzing past you as you enjoy what is otherwise a beautiful area.

we came upon the following description: "closest mountainlike hike without actually going to the mountains: occoneechee mountain state natural area, hillsbourough. occoneechee packs a lot into its 124 acres on the edge of hillsborough. start along the rhododendron and holly-covered cliffs along the eno river, then climb along three miles of trails through five ecozones to occoneechee's 867 foot summit. thanks to a long-abandoned quarry operation, you can see miles to the north and west on a clear, fall day."

so we went there.

the reality:
"closest hike to the highway with little resemblence to any mountain area: occoneechee mountain state natural area, hillsbourough. occoneechee packs a lot into its 124 acres on the edge of hillsborough, nestled snugly next to highway 85. start along the rhododendron and holly-covered cliffs along the startlingly muddy-brown eno river, then feebly stumble along nowhere near 3 miles of trails to occoneechee's 867 foot summit, where there is a verizon cell phone tower waiting to greet you in all of its majesty. you will also find an old fire tower covered in barbed wire! thanks to a long-abandoned quarry operation, you used to be able to see miles to the north and west on a clear, fall day at a nearby lookout point, but it is now closed to the public because of dangerous falling rock."

the sad thing was that we kept passing all of these hopeful-looking hikers who had also read the article and were looking around wistfully for the natural splendor that had been promised. the worst was when we were trekking down from the, uh, summit (ie cell phone tower) and saw people on their way up. i was so divided on whether to tell them what was up there and disappoint them, or let them find out for themselves. thanks, news and observer!

*triangle = raleigh, durham, chapel hill area