Saturday, February 9, 2013

Camp Lejeune, Stones Crk outparcel - MST Day 9

US 17 corridor thru Camp Lejeune.  Note military convoy at left.

Today's 16 mile out-and-back hike was a gem.  It took me through the 4.6 mile corridor where US 17 slashes through Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, then along High Hill Road with a delightful 1.5 mile excursion through an outparcel of Stones Creek Game Land on well maintained foot trail--not a vehicle track, a genuine foot path!  For those in a hurry, this arc of wild land can be bypassed by staying on High Hill Road between the two gated access points.  This saves about a mile of hiking, but what it squanders is far greater.  See later in this post for pictures.

Here's a map of this little excursion, courtesy of the NC Wildlife Commission.  The east-bound MST route (going north on High Hill Rd here) turns right on Hicks Rd (which seems to have been permanently gated for several years) then turns left at the red-marked gate and follows the dashed line trail back to High Hill Rd:

The contrasts in today's hike were extreme.  The hike along US 17 is on ample wide shoulder--not dangerous in the least -- but the hiker is constantly barraged by traffic noise.  Here's another view:

Then comes the left turn (for the MST east-bound hiker) onto the much quieter residential High Hill Road.  Camp Lejeune borders this road on its south side.  Traffic is fairly light and the grassy shoulder is abundantly wide, but the sound of heavy artillery fire was constant, even though it was a Saturday.  The Marines are not insensitive to their impact, as evidenced by this sign they erected along the road:

And to complete the day's contrast, there's the purely wild interlude through the Stones Creek parcel--entirely out of ear-shot of the Marine Base, and truly a little piece of NC Coastal Plain bliss.  Below is a sampling of the trail I encountered here, presented in the order that the east bound hiker would encounter it.  For my money this is a *must-do* for the MST:

grass covered Hicks 'Road', no longer used by vehicles
Left off Hicks Road at this gate, onto foot path
Minor stream crossing, just a hop--even after 2.5 inches of rain two days ago
Traverse through linear rows of trees in an old pine plantation
Stroll through the woods ...
... and headed back toward High Hill Rd.

There is even an opportunity to extend this off-road experience on a paved dedicated pedestrian/bike greenway through a residential development that may link to the Stones Creek Game Land via a side trail (photo at right).  I didn't explore this option today, but it just adds to the potential delight of this stretch of proposed MST.


The map below sums up the route that I took today, and includes more photos:

MST Day 9 - Camp Lejeune, Stones Crk at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near Wilmington, North Carolina

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