Friday, February 22, 2013

Holly Shelter, west end - MST Day 11

Holly Shelter boat launch facility at NE Cape Fear River

It's been a week and a half since my last hike -- been up in Maryland getting all my teeth ripped out -- finally!  But now I'm back in NC and eager to do some more Mountains-to-Sea Trail scouting.  For today's hike, I extended my coverage westward from where I left off on my Day 5 hike.

It was a gorgeous cool day with dry conditions and wall-to-wall sunshine.  I hiked the remaining length of Bear Garden Road through the Game Land ...
typical scene along Bear Garden Road
Interesting symmetry of pine stands on Bear Garden Road
Swamp beside Bear Garden Road near Ashes Creek bridge

... and then a section of paved Shaw Highway along which they had done a controlled burn back in January ...
Shaw highway looking north
Impressive pine with Spanish Moss, Shaw Hwy entrance to boat ramp

... and on down to the Holly Shelter boat ramp access road, then along a beautiful foot-only path on 'River Road' right on the banks of the NE Cape Fear River.  River Road is gated and no longer passable by vehicle.  The trail is on a narrow eroding embankment that separates the river from a deep, dark cypress swamp complete with Spanish Moss and plenty of cypress knees -- felt almost like walking on a bridge.
Boater, only one I saw, NE Cape Fear River, plus signs of spring
River 'Road' footpath beside NE Cape Fear River

You get to hike for nearly a mile along the river bank, then River Road takes a right angle turn and heads back to Shaw Highway running between two cypress swamps--game land property on the north, and a private tract on the south that was just shamelessly clear-cut, murdering hundreds of giant old cypress trees.
Clear cut swamp, private land cleared right up to Game Land boundary on River Road

Still, it was quiet and peaceful--a delightful 2 mile nature break that replaces 3/4 miles of walking on the shoulder of Shaw Highway, and some of the best concentration of watery scenery in eastern North Carolina.  It will be fun to revisit that clear-cut in coming years to watch how it begins to recover.

All in all, this walk along River Road in what's called the Greentree Tract of Holly Shelter Game Land is a must as an off-road routing for the trail.

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Below is a map of today's scouted MST route, part of the Cape Fear Arch proposed 'southern' route.


MST Day 11 - Holly Shelter west at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near Wilmington, North Carolina

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