Hiking out my backdoor

For a long time, I’ve wanted a place with trail out my backdoor. Saturday, I discovered I’m as close to that goal as I’ve ever been: I just need to walk past a Circle K, a McDonald’s and a Holiday Inn Express; commit minor trespassing (possibly); walk briefly along a busy, shoulder-less two-lane road (and under a major interstate). Fifteen minutes and I’m there.

In my fantasy, my backdoor trail supported a good day hike — maybe 10 miles of trail, or so. In reality, my trail is the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and it goes nearly 1,200 miles, or someday will, west to Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee line, east to Jockey’s Ridge, where North Carolina cedes to the Atlantic. I was tipped off to the connection shortly after we relocated to Hillsborough in September. I mentioned the proximity of Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area to our leasing agent, speculating it was maybe a 10-minute drive. “Oh,” she said, “I think one of our maintenance guys found a trail leading most of the way there.” After two scouting sessions, I discovered that indeed foot passage was possible — provided you didn’t mind that first 15 minutes.

Saturday morning I rose early to see what kind of hike I could put together out the backdoor, past the Circle K, over Occoneechee Mountain, through Hillsborough along the Eno River, around the Historic Occoneechee Speedway, and back. An 11-mile hike, it turned out, memorable in its own right. But made even more so by the fact I didn’t touch the car.

Here’s what a carless hike looks like … .

Fuel up before hitting the trail?
Technically, it says no hunting or fishing.
A short dash along Orange Grove Road and under I-85, and I’m at Occoneechee.
On the trail. Or at least off pavement.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs through Hillsborough.
Hardwoods on the south flank of Occoneechee Mountain, at 867 feet, the high point of the Triangle.
Occoneechee Mountain connects (again, with minor trespassing) with Hillsborough’s Riverwalk.
Yes, that’s pavement: I’m not going to let a little macadam ruin my fantasy.
Passing the dog park at Hillsborough’s Gold Park.
Farm pond at Occoneechee.
Straightaway at the old Occoneechee Speedway, a retired Nascar oval that where hikers can now take a one-mile lap.

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