Sunday, October 26, 2014

Occoneechee Mountain State Recreation Area (North Carolina)

The Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is recognized as one of the most important natural areas inside the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill Triangle in North Carolina. The Occoneeche Mountain State Natural Area provides great hiking through various habitats that support species that area rare and significant to this region. This area provides fun hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities for the entire family.

Directions to Trailhead: To hike in the Occoneeche Mountain State Natural Area, from I-85 take exit 164, turn north onto Churton Street, turn left at the stop sign onto Orange Grove Road, and turn right onto Virginia Gates Road and follow the signs all the way to the parking area. The address of the Occoneeche Mountain State Natural Area is 625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough, NC 27278. There is no cost for parking at the trailhead area. The park hours are as follows: November - February, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; March, April, September & October, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.; and May - August, 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. the park is closed on Christmas Day.

Description of Hike: The Occoneeche Mountain State Natural Area contains 190 acres of land and more than three miles of hiking trails. The area is situated around Occoneeche Mountain Summit (867 feet) which rises 350 feet from the Eno River and is the highest point between Hillsborough, North Carolina and the Atlantic Ocean. The hike Ashley and I completed was the Occoneeche Mountain Loop Trail which is 2.2 miles in length with an elevation gain of just over 300 feet. The Occoneeche Mountain Loop Trail is well marked and is easy to follow. The hike features hilly terrain through mature oak forests and goes along the Eno River.  There are several side trails, one we did was the rock quarry view trail below the rock quarry. The Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail is marked by red circles throughout the park. For a Occoneechee Mountain State Recreation Area park map, click Here.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed our hike in the Occoneechee Mountain State Recreation Area. We saw several other park visitors while were hiking there and we also got a chance to talk with a very nice park ranger. The summer weather was great with a slight breeze and temperatures in the mid 80s. While on our hike we saw fish, turtles, toads, frogs, a hawk, and several lizards. We found the hiking trails in the Occoneechee Mountain State Recreation Area easy to navigate and follow. The only minor downsides to this hiking area is the power lines running through a portion of the park as well as the close proximity to roads at times.

There are two little fishing ponds that are near the trailhead area where you can go fishing, if that is your cup of tea. The Occoneechee ponds are great for catching bass and bream on worms, crickets, and lures. The Eno is a great place for fly-fishing, casting lures, or baiting with the ever reliable worms and crickets. Most of the river can be waded and there are many openings for bank fishing. Commonly caught game fish include largemouth bass, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, and the feisty Roanoke bass. Roanoke bass, locally know as "red-eye" are found in only four river drainages in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. Chubs and bullheads add to the fishing fun. All North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission fishing regulations are enforced.

The Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area showcases a diversity of natural communities, and such diversity is found nowhere else in the Triangle area. The relatively undisturbed forest of the ridge top includes one of the best chestnut oak stands in the region. And, the mountain area itself, adjacent to the upper Eno River, is important wildlife habitat. The acorns and berries produced by the chestnut oaks and other area plants support a population of animals, including deer, groundhog and wild turkey.

The top of Occoneechee Mountain's ridge and northern slopes provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species that are typically found in the mountains, and some plant species reach their easternmost limits here. These include Bradley's spleenwort and wild sarsaparilla. Catawba rhododendron is present on the steep rock outcrop adjacent to the ravine, and a mountain laurel-galax community grows on the ravine's slopes. Sweet pinesap, another rare plant, also grows here, along with large witch-alder. Yet another mountainous species that grows in the natural area is the purple fringeless orchid.

In addition, several rare animal species found nowhere else in the region are present in the park. These include the brown elfin butterfly. Separated by more than 100 miles from other brown elfin populations in the mountains, the brown elfin butterfly is believed to have survived at Occoneechee Mountain since the Ice Age. Although the brown elfin is found virtually nowhere else in the Piedmont, the population on Occoneechee Mountain is quite large.

Researchers believe that the area's habitat has remained relatively unchanged since the last Ice Age due to the presence of brown elfin, a rare butterfly, as well as several unique plant species. The brown elfin is typically found in mountainous and northern areas, and the nearest brown elfin population to Occoneechee Mountain is more than 100 miles west. When the Piedmont's habitat underwent enormous transformations after the Ice Age, the area became unable to support the brown elfin and other species more accustomed to cooler environments. Brown elfins, believed to have once populated the Piedmont, were restricted to the state's mountains. However, the brown elfin butterflies at Occoneechee Mountain remained.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 300 ft. (Easy), Distance: 2.2 Miles Roundtrip (Easy)

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 2 hours.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eno River State Park

This past summer, Ashley and I had the chance to visit the Eno River State Park again, which is a fun hiking location right in central North Carolina.  As most of our readers know we visit North Carolina every summer. The Eno River State Park is located in Durham and Orange counties, northwest of the city of Durham. The Cox Mountain Trail is located in the Western portion of the Eno River State Park. The Cox Mountain Trail is a loop and is 3.75 miles round trip. The hike can be lengthened by adding the Fanny's Ford Trail loop, which adds another mile to the distance. For a detail trail write-up with directions and trail statistics on this hike, make sure to check out our write-up and click Here.

Ashley and I have always enjoyed hiking in the Eno River State Park while on our summer visits to North Carolina. While hiking here this past summer we had the chance to see deer, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife. Additionally, we had the trails mostly to ourselves which was great. The hiking trails here are always well maintained and the suspension bridge is always a highlight of this hike. Enjoy the pictures from our most recent hike at the Eno River State Park during the summer of 2014.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

OC Zoo's Halloween Zoo-Tacular Returns October 25


(Orange, Calif.) – OC Parks is pleased to present the annual Halloween Zoo-tacular at the OC Zoo located inside Irvine Regional Park on Saturday, October 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Families are invited to partake in a fun-filled spooky day of activities with the animals of the OC Zoo.

At Halloween Zoo-tacular, guests ages 12 & under will trick-or-treat through the zoo and take part in a spooky scavenger hunt. Kids of all ages can create Halloween and fall-themed crafts and enjoy festive face painting. The OC Zoo animals will participate in the fun and receive treat-filled pumpkins and special Halloween treats throughout the day. On October 25, the first 100 children ages 12 & under that visit the OC Zoo in costume will receive a special free holiday treat.

Halloween Zoo-tacular is a free event with paid zoo admission and open to children of all ages. Zoo admission is $2 per person (ages 2 & under are free). Parking at Irvine Regional Park is $5 per vehicle.

Come join in the Halloween fun at the OC Zoo in Irvine Regional Park on Saturday, October 25!

October 25 – Halloween Zoo-tacular
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free with zoo admission of $2 per person ages 2 & under are free)
Parking: $5 weekends
Location: OC Zoo
Address: 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869
Contact: (714)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

OC Parks October 2014 Calendar of Events

Here are some highlights from the OC Parks October Calendar of events, if you are looking for hiking ideas or other outdoor events in the month of October, make sure to check out some of these great events!

OC Parks OCTOBER 2014 calendar of events

October 1 -31 – Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch  
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Weekdays
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Weekends
Irvine Park Railroad’s ninth annual pumpkin patch is fun for the entire family! Activities include train rides, hay rides, a child-friendly haunted house, a hay maze, a moon bounce, face painting, picture stands, John Deere tractor races and a lot more.
Admission to the pumpkin patch is free. Prices for all other activities vary. School and group discounts available. For additional information and costs, please visit
Location: Irvine Regional Park. 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869 Website:
Cost: Free Parking: $3 per vehicle weekdays, $5 per vehicle weekends 
Contact: (714) 997-3968

October 2 – Fitness Hike at Dilley 
8:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Raise your heart rate and your spirits on this strenuous, fast-paced, 5.5-mile hike over steep and uneven terrain (900-ft. elevation gain) with Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteers. 
Location: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Cost: $2 donation per person Parking: $3 per vehicle
Contact: (949) 923-2235
Special Instructions:  Ages 15 and up. Reservations required, sign-up online: James Dilley Preserve (405 South to 133 South to stoplight at 73 turn-off; make a U-turn, go 1 block. Dilley is on the right). For questions, call (949) 497-8324.

October 2, 9, 16, 23, 31 – Tideland Tykes
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Join our preserve staff for a fun-filled parent and child experience that may include arts and crafts, storytelling, hands-on activities or outdoor nature walks. Come prepared for an exciting outdoor experience!
Location: Upper Newport Bay. 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Cost: $5 per student Parking: Free
Contact: (949) 923-2290
Special Instructions: Ages 2 to 8 years recommended. Space is limited and registration is required. Please call (949) 923-2275, or email to register.

October 3 – Explore the Plants on the Trail to Barbara’s Lake
9 – 11:30 a.m.
Join us on a wonderful morning walk to Orange County’s only natural lake while learning about our native California plant life. This 2-mile leisurely hike will be led by Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteer naturalists.
Location: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Cost: $2 donation per person Parking: $3 per vehicle
Contact: (949) 923-2235
Special Instructions:  Ages 8 and up. Online reservations required, sign-up online: Little Sycamore Canyon Staging Area/Nix Nature Center (west side of Laguna Canyon Road/SR-133, approximately 3.5-miles south of I-5/405). For questions, call (949) 497-8324.

October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 – Wild Tales
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Visit with Preserve staff for story-telling fun! After a story, learn more about the natural history of the Bay through crafts, hands-on activities and nature walks. Come prepared for an exciting outdoor experience!
Location: Upper Newport Bay. 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Cost: $5 per student Parking: Free
Contact: (949) 923-2290
Special Instructions: Ages 2 to 8 years. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Please call (949) 923-2275, or email to register.  

October 3, 9, 15, 31 – Bats, Cats & Spiders – Preschool Program 
10 – 11 a.m.
Come learn all about creatures that are associated with Halloween! Class includes hands-on learning, spooky crafts, and meeting zoo animals up close!
Location: Orange County Zoo. 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869
Cost: $5 per child (one parent included) Parking: $3 per vehicle
Contact: (714) 973-6846
Special Instructions: PHONE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. Call Marcy Crede-Booth, Education Coordinator at (714) 973-6846. For ages 3 to 4 years old. Parent must accompany child for duration of program. Additional parents/siblings/family/friends must pay admission fee to enter zoo.

October 4, 5 – Battle of the Paddle
7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle will bring paddlers from all over two full days of competition. Events will include kids, open and elite competitors, along with an expo and Kids Zone.
Location: Salt Creek Beach Park. 33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, CA 92629
Cost: Free
Contact: (949) 496-5517   
Special Instructions: Parking: Concierge shuttle service is provided free of charge to all spectators, competitors and exhibitors, direct to the event site. Shuttles will transport from parking lots at Dana Hills High School, Strands Beach Park and Salt Creek before, during and after. Visit for more information.
October 4, 18  – Redwood Hike
8:30 – 10 a.m.
Join OC Parks' trained staff on the first and third Saturday of the month for an easy 1.1-mile hike to the park's Coastal Redwood grove. You will use your 5 senses to engage with nature as you stroll to the Redwoods. You will also have an opportunity to learn about our native plants along the way. The hike begins each Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. from the park's Nature Center. Don't forget to visit our Nature Center when you are there, too!
Location: Carbon Canyon Regional Park. 4442 Carbon Canyon Road, Brea, CA 92823
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle
Contact: (714) 973-3160
Special Instructions: All ages. Participants should remember water, sunscreen, hat, hiking shoes. Meet at Nature Center located at east end of the park. Reservations preferred, please call (714) 973-3160 or email A minimum group of 5 or more is needed for a staff led interpretive hike.

October 4, 11, 18, 25 – Nature Walk 
9 – 10:30 a.m.
Join our Naturalists on a nature walk and learn about Trabuco Canyon animals and nature. Light to moderate walk on mostly paved roads. Meet at the Nature Center just inside the main entrance of the park.
Location: O’Neill Regional Park. 30982 Trabuco Canyon Road, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle
Contact: (949) 923-2260
Special Instructions: All ages welcome. Event is conditional on the weather.

October 4, 18 – Beginning Archery Class
9 – 10 a.m.
Join Park Rangers and volunteers for an introductory archery class at the brand new archery range at Mile Square Regional Park. This one-hour class will introduce participants to basics of the exciting sport of archery.
Location: Mile Square Regional Park. 16801 Euclid, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle
Contact: (714) 973-6600
Special Instructions: Participants must be at least 12 years old. Equipment is provided. Pre-registration is required, please visit  

October 4 – CPF Monthly Meeting 
9:30 – 11 a.m.
Interested in volunteering at Caspers Wilderness Park? Join the Caspers Park Foundation (CPF) for their monthly volunteer meeting held in the Caspers Wilderness Park Nature Center. This is a great opportunity to learn just what volunteers, do as well as meet others who love nature, the outdoors and preserving the park for all. 
General business meeting starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by an informative lecture presented by guest speakers at 10 a.m. October Guest Speaker - Michael Lindsey. Subject – Stories of the Santa Ana Mountains’ Past.  
Location: Caspers Wilderness Park. 33401 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Cost: Free Parking: Free
Contact: (949) 923-2210
Special Instructions: Ages 16 years and up. For more information, call the park office at (949) 923-2210.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cause of Silverado Canyon Fire Determined

As many of you recall, two weeks ago, the Silverado Canyon Fire broke out in Orange County. Thankfully, firefighters were able to get the matter under control and the fire only burned 1,600 acres and is now out. According to official reports, the fire started accidentally from metal sheeting used to protect a homeowner’s backyard vegetable garden, it focused the sun's rays, acting as a magnifying glass, to start the fire.

The following is a summary from a Los Angeles Times article: The homeowner had the metal sheeting around the outside of the garden to prevent small animals and rodents from chewing on vegetables in the vegetable garden. According to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi. “Unfortunately, over time, the sun had reflected off the metal,” and like a magnifying glass, the concentrated heat sparked a fire in the surrounding wood and leaves, which had become tinder dry due to drought-like conditions.  “The fire basically started to burn in the vegetable garden, spread, and ran up the hill,” Concialdi said. “The homeowner called 911, grabbed the hose, and other neighbors grabbed hoses and tried to help too.”  This type of cause for a fire is rare, but it does happen according to fire officials.  (Picture above from Los Angeles Times Article.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hike for The Cure (Saturday November 8, 2014)

Recently Ashley and I corresponded with Brett Turner who heads up the group called Hike for the Cure, which is devoted to raising funds for the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation.  This year is their third annual hike and it sounds like a great event to check out and participate in. It is hard to imagine a better opportunity for our readers to combine your passions for hiking/the outdoors with a great cause of raising funds for the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation. Below is a flyer for the hike as well as a message from Brett and a picture of his family. Please check out and like their Facebook Page. For those unable to join on the hike you can also make a donation to the Women's Cancer Research Foundation Here.


This coming November, we will be celebrating the third annual Hike for the Cure. Located at the Top of the World in Laguna Beach, the five-mile hike gives participants gorgeous views of open ocean and the coastal mountains. The event is free and typically draws over 200 supporters. Those who choose to donate, do so for a great cause. Each year, the Hike for the Cure raises over $14,000 for the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation.

For me, the cause is personal. Six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. After multiple invasive surgeries, three rounds of brutal chemotherapy, and the removal of too many organs to count, she was back on her way to a healthy life and ready to put the cancer behind her. To celebrate, my mother planned a bucket-list trip to summit Half Dome in Yosemite. That’s 17 miles, 5,000 feet of elevation, and 14 hours of climbing. Per the usual, her passion for the hike turned contagious, and what had started as a simple family vacation quickly grew into a 30-person parade through Yosemite.

The night before the hike, while trying to play hostess to the large gathering of people who had  assembled in Curry Village, my mother received a missed call. It was from her doctor. On a Saturday. She immediately knew what it meant: The cancer was back. Without telling a soul, my 60-year-old mother pushed through the hardest hike of her life. Not just physically, but emotionally. As she climbed the 5,000 feet from its base, the top of Half Dome personified itself into the cancer that was growing inside her. Conquering the mountain became conquering the disease. With heavy legs burning of lactic acid, she pushed through to the summit. It became a defining moment. Not just for her. For all of us.

I hope you come to the Hike for the Cure. If for nothing else, just to meet my mother Susan Turner. Despite the odds, she’s alive and hiking. Still living with cancer, hiking for her has kept its meaning. My mother, like many of us, uses the time to organize her thoughts, accomplish something physical and connect with a world she will leave sooner than she should. I hope you do too. The Hike for the Cure takes place on November 8th, 2014 at 9:00 AM from the Top of the World. Please visit our website at I look forward to seeing you there.

Brett Turner