Camping from the Mountain to the Sea

In October we were able to do some camping and actually cross something off my bucket list. I have wanted to go camping on the beach since I was in undergrad so I was excited to do that this fall. But before we get to the beach, we have to go to the mountains.

Mountain Camping

Ryan did some research and found Lake James out near Ashville. We booked a lakefront campsite and headed out. If you ever camp at Lake James, it is important to know that there are two campgrounds. We found this out the hard way. Unfortunately, the office was closed and there was no one to give us information. However, we managed to catch someone as they were leaving for the day and he sent us to the right part of the lake. The benefit of going to the wrong site was that we discovered the park was hosting a triathlon the next day. We had brought our bikes and planned to ride their trails the next day. With the heads up, Ryan was able to do some research and find a great alternative.

When we finally found our campsite, we learned that you could not park near the sites. Since they were on a peninsula, you have to carry all your gear in. Fortunately, the campsite manager had a wheelbarrow we could borrow to roll everything down. Between the tent, the grill, and all the necessary items, we had a lot to move. We were able to get the tent up before sunset and get a fire going. Ryan made an awesome dinner of steaks and jalapeño poppers. It was a lovely evening. Especially compared to our previous experience.

The next day we made eggs and sausage balls that I had made previously. We needed to fuel up for our big ride that day. Ryan had found a place where they had taken the highway and turned it into a bike trail in Nebo/Old Fort. We made our way to the end of the road and parked in this little state park and unloaded the bikes. The trail is 3 miles straight up the mountain to an overlook. It was beautiful with the leaves changing and the wooded vistas.

I had to stop twice on the way up as I’m not as in shape as Ryan when it comes to bikes. I really wished I had a GoPro on my helmet to capture all of the beautiful views and Ryan flying down the road. When we made it to the top we talked with another couple who had summited also. They made some suggestions for rides in the Raleigh area. We spent enough time for me to get a few photos and then flew back down the mountain. Ryan made it back down much more quickly than I did because I can’t bring myself to let go of the brakes.

On our way to park for our ride, I had seen a sign for a historic geyser. When going to visit UNCW for the first time, my dad had us stop in Maggie Valley to go to a geyser. It turned out to be a pipe sticking out of the ground spraying water everywhere. It became a family legend. So, I asked Ryan if we could check this one out. It was a slightly nicer pipe in the ground but worth the 5-minute drive.

To celebrate the great ride, we headed to one of the local wineries. Silverfork winery is nestled in the mountains. They had a band playing what was supposed to be bluegrass but wasn’t. However, with our bottle of wine and the lovely view, it was a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

After dinner, we packed up almost all of our gear because the radar called for rain all night. We didn’t want to have to drag everything up in the rain. We ended up being very lucky as it didn’t start raining until we had folded up the tent, packed up, and on our way the next day.

Beach Camping

The next weekend we headed down to the beach. We were excited to try out the 4Runner’s sand capabilities again. We found two sites together and set up the tent. I bought a rug to put in front to try to keep the sand out and it worked pretty well. Once we got the tent up, my friends Kat and Dan and Owen arrived.

While they were setting up, we went for a drive to the end of the beach. It was quite exciting as the tide was coming in and we got a little tilted to one side. I was nervous about ending up in the ocean but Ryan had everything under control. When we got to the end of the island, we learned why it was so busy. There was a jet ski event happening. There were all sorts of tents and RVs and jet skis everywhere.

The weekend was pretty relaxing. We had sparklers and bonfires. On Sunday morning we watched the sun come up as I had to be in Raleigh early for data collection. We also watched a pair of horseback riders on the beach. They had a drone following them which was pretty interesting. After we watched the sun come up and managed to get everything loaded into the car, we set off back to Raleigh. It was really great to do some camping this fall. Is there anywhere you’d recommend as a “must camp” spot?

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