A Day on the Mountain (Sort of)

Medoc Mountain State Park, Halifax, NC

**We have added Medoc Mountain State Park to the list of our Best Hikes in the Triangle Area. Okay, so there’s no actual mountain here…it’s still one of the best and least crowded outdoor getaways within an hours drive of Raleigh.**

For our first official expedition with new team member Fitz Roy, the captain of the future BecauseItzThere dogsled team, we chose Medoc Mountain State Park in North Eastern North Carolina.

img_7409.jpg
There is no dog sledding to be had at Medoc Mountain (or, to my knowledge, anywhere else in North Carolina.)

Medoc Mountain is not exactly what most people think of when they envision mountains. In fact, it’s not really even a good-sized hill. About 350 million years ago a formidable set of Volcanos stood on the spot of modern day Medoc Mountain. Only a rocky remnant of them remains. I guess you had to have been there about the time the Brontosaurs were to appreciate it.

Today, the ‘summit’ of the park sits at a lofty 325 feet above sea level — which would not even make it the highest ‘mountain’ in Florida. Needless to say, altitude is not a factor on any of the hikes in this park.

IMG_7386
There is no actual Mountain at Medoc Mountain SP but there is some interesting terrain…

What Medoc Mountain does have are some surprisingly big river bluffs and some surprisingly steep and rugged terrain for a location as far to the east in the Carolinas as it is. Most of what surrounds the park is flat bottomland forest or plain old swamp.

IMG_7387
…then again, ‘Medoc Interesting Terrain SP’ is rather an awkward bunch of words for a title.

Medoc Mountain is only about an hour from Raleigh, but nonetheless is quite off the beaten path; there is nothing of note around it except the small cities of Louisburg and Rocky Mount, NC. No one thinks to go east to a mountain, so it gets very little visitation compared to, say, Umstead State Park. This makes it a very attractive place to show a new teammate the ropes…or in this case, the leash.

We chose the Bluffs Trail which lived from near the picnic pavilion. We saw three other people and one dog in the parking area, but no one at all on the trail itself.
Fitz looked spiffy on his new green backpack and was ready to hit the trail.

010270c58ad7dafd987da650ecf03371caf1382782.jpg

The trail starts out in the piney lowlands near Fish Creek, which according to the park website is reputed to be ‘one of the cleanest in the area.’ Note that in Eastern North Carolina this is not saying a great deal; many of the creeks in this area are contaminated from close proximity to agriculture, mining or manufacturing. Fish Creek did look clean…looks of course being no reliable indication of how potable water is at all. No matter, we always bring our own water.

IMG_7388

IMG_7391
Many bridged crossings of small streams.

01facba9d401031c07c1139ba98cfdbf79fedf7ec3

0170b582eafcd1054c55d15eb24aa6e9c3673a4206
Well built staircases made climbing the bluffs easier and doubtless help control the erosion on these muddy riverside slopes.

It also rained on us almost from the beginning of the hike. Suffice it to say, dehydration was not a factor on this day. But hypothermia might have been…it was a balmy 36 degrees at the start of the hike. Despite this, the spring peepers were out.

01b5561d1161ec0cbc276f940e0bfdbc09052f5568

IMG_7396
An example of the very scenic bluffs along the trail

The ‘Medoc’ refers to grapes that once grew in the area which were cultivated for wine. North Carolina’s Eastern Piedmont does have a wine growing history, for those who do not know…though I would not exactly compare it to Tuscany, the Napa Valley or Alto Mendoza.

The trail soon rises on wooden steps to the first of several bluffs over the creek. These are surprisingly impressive, with fine views up and down the wide creek…helped by the fact that leaves are off, giving good visibility. The trail forms a loop just over 2.5 miles, and the trail sign states it requires two hours. Actually, it could probably be done by a fit hiker in one.

There are benches set along the way at some of the best viewpoints. Be prepared for some mud along this trail unless it is a dry season.

01419e19ee1f32aa3ea229acc7cda68b93c7657898

01103e058966ddd381226f63bc72c091376fc29aea
Bog bridges helped on some of the muddier sections, but the mud continued for a long way after the bridges ended.

In the clockwise direction, the trail out has all the best views of the creek. After reaching a road bridge it loops back, the return portion being just above the outbound leg. The return section is flatter and less interesting and has fewer views of the creek, besides which it is in close proximity to a road. But on the whole it is a nice loop. You can’t really get lost; just look for the red blazes at junctions, and don’t get distracted by the trails just to your right on the way back…it’s the same trail you came in on.

017e6b1e566139531711bf47de58806d1566d73170
The road bridge in the background marks the turning point of the loop, and the end of the most interesting section (or the beginning if you do it counter-clockwise.)
IMG_7390
A sure sign of bad weather is Brian in full ‘Galactic Emperor’ mode.

We arrived back at the cold, damp picnic pavilion for a meal of sandwich wraps and doggy treats, after which we left for home. Fitz promptly fell asleep.

The cold rain just kept pelting down, but it was a good hike. This is a great place for hiking with a dog…just bring the leash, it’s required. We enjoyed the hike and the park and will return here to hike the ‘summit’ trail next time. There’s no view but the woods are pleasant.

01c71f354c06ea626823e4015ad9f09b96ff444254

We may come back and do camping here one day, but not in summer…it would be too humid and buggy for us.

We would recommend Medoc Mountain State Park to Triangle Area dog walkers, hikers and trail runners. It’s a nice diversion from the beaten path, and is as far as we can see about as nice a park as W.B. Umstead, with one tenth the crowds.

Just curb your enthusiasm about the mountain part.

img_7286.jpg

Next up: We return to the Grand Canyon for the first post highlighting Brian’s North-South Traverse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s