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 … .