Mountain Views
Fox Trail
Night Sky

Weather: Sunny, 87°, 100% Humidity

This hike was the worst I have been on this year. The hike to the Fox Trail campsite was to serve three purposes. I plan this trip to hike two trails I haven’t taken yet (Fox and Lower CCC trails). I wanted to test out a camera lens and neutral density filter on the mountain views. This was to fix the issue with photos which usually ended up with skies that are way too bright with few details. I plan to try my hand at photographing the Milky Way.

I started the journey around noon. I under estimated the ratio between the weight of my backpack (45+ lbs) and the miles the first leg of the hike (7 miles) would be. When I reached 1600 feet and approximately 1 mile into the first leg I realized this. Unfortunately stubbornness took over and instead of turning back I forged ahead. I started out from the parking lot and took River Trail the .3 miles to the trailhead of Raven Rock Trail. I hiked Raven Rock for 3.4 miles to the trailhead of Fox Trail. Approximately a quarter mile from Saddleback Trial trailhead Raven Rock becomes a paved road. The north side of the road is the park’s boundary and on the south side is the private property of the Pine Ridge community. The trailhead for Fox Trail is situated on this pave road. It was another 3.3 miles to the campsite.

By time I arrived at the pave road I realize I was in trouble. I was bone tired and soar. The weight of my backpack rubbed welts into my shoulders. I pitched my tent about half way on Fox Trial to rest for a half hour before I started on the hike again. I arrived at the campsite at 6:55 pm.

The hike back to the parking lot the next day took me .4 miles to the Lower CCC Trail where I hiked another 1.9 miles to Headquarters Trail. I hiked 1.2 miles to the Shinny Creek Campsites to rest for another half hour and chat with a camper who arrived there at the same time I did. I finished my hike after 1.2 miles to the parking lot with a total of 5.1 miles this leg of my journey. I hiked a total of 12.1 miles for this trip. I hope I learned something from this comedy of errors.

Note: Click on the pictures for a larger view or here to scroll through the photo gallery consisting of 39 photos plus the map. The Photo Album will pop up in a separate window and there is a link at the bottom of the page in the navigation icon area to get back here but I suggest just closing that window. The link is provided for those who turned off allowing websites to open a separate window. These photos were taken with a PENTAX K-50 DSLR camera.
  • Raven Rock Trail Views

    I used a Hoya neutral density (NDX8) filter on a SMC Pentax DA f/1.8 50mm lens to take this view from Raven Rock Trail. I have taken this same photo without a filter and the sky was always ‘washed’ out. The filter fixed this issue. Compare the photo from the Raven Rock Hike on the Photo Album here. I am very pleased of the performance of the lens and filter. The clouds in the Raven Rock Hike photo had clouds much like in this photo but they are washed out by the brightness of the sun.

  • Trail Signpost

    I need to explain that the only reason I include photos of the trailsigns is for informational value only. The signs provide the trails distance to the next trailhead. For reference this sign appears at the trailhead of Saddleback Trail on the Raven Rock Trail. From this sign it is noted that I had 1.6 miles more to hike to the trailhead of Fox Trail. The signs at the Upper Falls Trailhead, which I did not include here because they are featured on the Raven Rock Hike here tell me I have hiked 1.4 miles from the River Trail which was .3 miles to the parking lot according to the signs at that trailhead. And you thought I was showing off my photography skills at taking photos of signs eh?

  • Raven Rock Trail Road

    About a quarter mile from the Upper Falls Trailhead Raven Rock Trail runs into a paved road. The road is actually access for the Pine Ridge Community which is on the south side of the road. Because of the roadway clearance this section of the trail is exposed to the sun and can be extremely hot.

  • Roadside Entrance to Fox Trail

    Which seemed like forever and a day I finally reached Fox Trail. It appears you can park off road here but I do not know if you can park here to go camping. I have now hiked four and a half miles with 45+ pounds on my back.

  • Fox Trail Views

    I took these photos at somewhere around 2400 feet on a peak just before the trail drops down in a valley to cross Nettle Branch creek. Soon after I pitched my tent to take a half hour much needed rest.

  • Almost There

    Despite the rest period I took I was beginning to doubt that I could make the campsite by nightfall when I reached the trailhead to Jacob Branch Trail. I was scoring the woods for a level area to pitch my tent and camp in the woods.

  • Crotts Cemetery

    Other than this being the Crotts Family Cemetery and there are 14 graves with only one marked, shown here, I know nothing about this cemetery. The area was fairly level and I thought twice about making camp here but pushed on which was just as well because the camp grounds was only an eighth of mile up the trail.

  • I Made It

    I have now hiked 7 miles with 45+ pounds on my back and it was now 7:00 pm. I have been hiking for six and a half hours. I was dead tired and very soar but I was also determined to take photos of the Milky Way come hell or high waters.

  • Short Video

    Pity this poor old man who hiked in 87° heat for seven miles with 45+ pounds of camping and camera gear on his back to set up camp with the goal of capturing Milky Way photos only to have his plans dashed upon the rocks of disappointment and ruin. Oh the humanity, the pinnacle of despair! Okay perhaps a bit dramatic but to sum it up…it sucked!

  • Drexel's Astronomical Club Sky Party

    The first sky party of the Drexel's Astronomical Club, of which I am the only member, was held that night. Here is a photo of a recognizable constellation which is known for its more common name of the Little Dipper. This is Ursa Minor in the northern skies at around 11:00 pm. Can you spot the major stars that make up the dipper? If not click on the photo to the left and then click the navigational icon for next (the hiker facing to the right) to see the stars highlighted. Over twenty years ago I was a member of the Auckland Astronomical Society in New Zealand. I took many photos with a Pentax 35mm film camera. None turned out as well as this one and it was my first attempt.

  • The one thing I forgot that I had learned from attending star parties back in New Zealand is the one thing that made this trip a failure. The moon is bright no matter what phase it is in so it is still bright enough at only a 30% crescent to wash out surrounding stars, including the Milky Way. The brightest and most colorful section of the Milky Way was behind and slightly lower than the moon. So I was unable to fulfill one of the goals of this camping trip from hell.

  • Cassiopeia

    Here is a photo of Cassiopeia. Notice that the sky is lighter than that of Ursa Minor photo above. This is because the area of Ursa Minor was shielded from the Moon’s glow by tall trees to my left. Cassiopeia, on the other hand, was directly opposite of the moon and there were no trees to block the glow. Cassiopeia is easily found by locating the ‘W’ that five of its brightest stars form. As above I provided a highlighted photo to identify these stars.

    Stars that form the ‘W’. Top to bottom on photo: Caph (Beta Cassiopeiae), Schedar (Alpha Cassiopeiae), No Name (Gamma Cassiopeiae), Ruchban (Delta Cassiopeiae), Segin (Epsilon Cassiopeiae). Stars are assigned Greek letters in accordance with its brightness in the constellation. Alpha being the brightest star.

  • Perseus, the son of Zeus

    Here is the constellation named after Perseus, the son of Zeus and slayer of Medusa. In that constellation are two naked-eye (can be seen without the aid of a telescope) clusters, which appears below what I call a neckless. They appear in the photo within the yellow circle. Star clusters are groups of stars which are gravitationally bound. A photo taken by Roth Ritter through a telescope and much clearer than what I took can be seen here which includes information about the clusters.

  • Last Leg Back

    The next day I struck camp and headed north to Lower CCC Trail and took the Upper Falls trail to Headquarters Trail and from there to the parking lot. This leg of the trip is also the same path I took featured on the Raven Rock Hike which can be read here. This leg of the hike was only 5 miles from the campsite.

    I stopped for a much needed rest and a cup of coffee at the Shinny Creek Campsite and took pictures of these butterflies show to the left. These are called Red-Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) a polytypic species of North American brush-footed butterfly. I chatted with a fellow camper there who observed me scurrying around trying to take photos of darting butterflies. Luckily he was a photographer and didn’t question my sanity.

  • South Moutain Park Trail Map

    Here is a map of the trail that was scanned from the official NC State Park map that can be found here. On the left hand side further down the page is a link to a pdf file with the recently updated park map.