Trip Report – three days in Piney Creek Wilderness

Gary on the Farm Track Trail at Piney Creek Wilderness – Piney Creek Wilderness – Day One. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

I crossed over Table Rock Lake by the bridge at Cape Fear Fair. I was headed towards Piney Creek Wilderness and a relaxing weekend by the lake at my favorite campsite. Looking at the lake, I realized that my trip preparation hadn’t paid any attention to the lake’s level. The put-ins were closed and underwater, and the docks were floating serenely, but completely inaccessible from the ‘new’ shoreline. I re-planned my trip as I drove down the snaking ridgeline road between Cape Fair and the Pineview Trailhead. I decided I would stick to my original plan to hike down the Farm Track Trail and see how far I got before the flooded lake stopped me. Then I’d either camp somewhere off the trail, or I’d try to bushwhack overland to my favorite lakeside campsite. I was confident that my campsite was high enough to not be in any danger of being flooded.

Day One

Arriving at the trailhead, there was one other vehicle present, and that belonged to a couple of local ‘detectorists‘ seeking treasure around the trailhead campsites. Their presence put me off my usual start of hike rituals, so I didn’t take my trailhead selfie until over an hour later. I ought to mention that today is Friday, and the office is closed for the July 4th weekend, but somehow I still ended up working until noon, so I didn’t arrive at the wilderness until gone one p.m. It was hot, in the high eighties, and rain was forecast throughout the weekend. That was good, I was looking forward to some down-time sitting under my tarp listening to the rain, and I had a couple of (electronic) books to keep me occupied if I got fed up with staring into space.

I was a fair way down the Farm Track Trail when I realized I hadn’t taken a start of trip selfie, so I stopped and took a picture of myself, and the trail too.

Gary on the ‘Farm Track Trail at Piney Creek Wilderness – Piney Creek Wilderness – Day One. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

The trail runs down a hollow following a small, mostly dry creek. There’s one section where the trail runs along the creekbed, and I had to take it very carefully as the creek was running — just — and the rock-slab creek bed was covered in slimy weed and very slippery.

Farm Track Trail at Piney Creek Wilderness – Here the trail runs along the creekbed. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day One. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Once you’ve negotiated the creek bed the trail climbs a bit and runs along the side of the ridge before dropping down to Piney Creek. I’d been listening to the sound of thunder for quite a while, and as I climbed out of the hollow the sky darkened, and I could hear the rushing sound of a heavy rainstorm approaching from the west. I put my camera and phone in my pack to keep dry. I was already soaked with sweat, so I decided to not bother with my rain gear. The storm was impressive. It was one of those storms where there is so much thunder it becomes a constant growl, which was accompanied by a loud rushing noise. I’ve no pictures for obvious reasons. The drop-down towards Piney Creek is very rough and rocky. The rain made the rocks slick, and not wanting to ruin my weekend before it had properly started, I took it slow.

Once down on the flat ground near the creek, I kept on expecting to meet the lake, but at its then level (it had been around five feet higher I later discovered), it reached just to where the Farm Track Trail met Piney Creek.

That’s the lake not the creek in the distance. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three (Sunday). Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

This meant that the first part of the trail across ‘Cat Briar Meadows’ wasn’t underwater. I set off towards Cat Briar Meadows, very quickly being reminded of how overgrown this trail gets. I couldn’t see the trail in front of me, and I was moving slowly checking for snakes. Before I knew it I was ankle-deep in water, and for whatever reason, I didn’t think to turn ‘inland’ but kept on going guessing where I thought the trail was. By the time the water was well over my knees the lake had finished off the job the rain and storm started and I was totally soaked. Coming to my senses, I realized I’d soon be swimming rather than wading if I didn’t change course. Now, with all this talk of hiking through the water, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a lakeshore. I was in thick brush and surrounded by trees. Turning inland meant negotiating my way through some nasty cat briars and dense underbrush. The underbrush slowly cleared and I came across an old fenceline — complete with fence — and what looked to be a game trail heading east. I had to adjust my course to avoid going back into the water in several places, but following the game trail made the bushwhacking a bit easier.

It was slow going, and a came across what, when it is running ought to be a nice set of falls. Despite the rain, which had let up for a while, but was now increasing again, there was only a trickle running over it.

Dry Falls – Pictured in the sunshine on Sunday. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

After a few hundred yards the underbrush cleared away completely and I could see light through the trees ahead. I realized I was at one of our old camping sites by the lake, and the water was lapping up around the fire ring.

I was now only a short distance to my campsite, and 15 minutes or so later I’d finished bushwhacking, and hung up my pack on a tree. It was still raining, and looking at the lake, the water was well up among the trees on the lakeshore. The lake water felt warm compared to the rain, so I hung my wet clothing out to dry (in the rain), and enjoyed a nice warm swim.

After my swim, I set up my chair and enjoyed a brief rest sitting in the rain. Deciding I ought to get something done, I set up my tarp (badly) so I could unpack my backpack in its shelter.

Temporary shelter – I quickly put the tarp up so I could get out of the rain. Quickly, but not before I had a swim. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day One. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Eventually, at around five, the rain stopped and the skies cleared. With the trees in the water and a steep drop off, I couldn’t find a spot for a sunset picture. Maybe I will have better luck tomorrow. I did swim out to the middle of the lake for a better view of the sunset but again no pictures for obvious reasons.

All the wood was soaked from the rain and high humidity, even the downed limbs that were not in ground contact. I collected a load of smaller pieces and stored them under the tarp, where they would not get wetter from any overnight rain, and hopefully dry out a bit. Despite the dampness, I managed to get my wood stove going to heat water for my evening meal.

All in all it had been a good hike and day.

Stormy sunset – Piney Creek Wilderness – Day One. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Day Two

Relaxing in Piney Creek Wilderness – Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Confession time. I put on clothes just for this picture. My shirt was still soaking wet from the previous day, and the shorts are a pair that were reserved for the drive home. Somehow they ended up in my pack instead of being left in the car.

With temperatures in the mid-eighties and frequent dunkings in the lake, who needs clothes anyway? And apart from Camp-chores and reading, sitting around was pretty much all I did all day. It was great.

Table Rock Lake from the water’s edge. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Camp Life. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Camped by Table Rock Lake – Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Evening light on Buck Hollow. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Sunset at Piney Creek Wilderness. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Buck Hollow in the evening light. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Campfire. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Day Three

Day Three morning tea. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Summer 2020 Backpacking cooking-kit.

My current cook kit looks like it’s a lot. .

  • Toaks 850ml Ti pot.
  • Firebox wood burner+ cotton wool & Vaseline fire starters.
  • Toaks 450ml double-walled Ti cup.
  • Pot cozy.
  • Ti long-handled spoon.
  • Small washcloth.
  • 12oz fuel bottle (I should probably carry a smaller 4oz bottle in the summer).
  • Fancee Feest cat-can alcohol stove.
  • Ti windscreen for the Fancee Feest.

But it packs down very small.

My complete cook kit, packed away. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

And as you can see, the wood burner packs away into its base, and most of the rest nests inside the the Cozy. It’s like one of those Russian dolls:

  • The Ti windscreen goes inside the Fancee Feest stove.
  • The fire starters and cloth go inside the Fancee Feest stove/Ti windscreen.
  • The Fancee Feest stove fits inside the 450 ml cup.
  • The cup sits inside the 850ml pot.
  • The pot goes in the cozy.

And just to show that the fire ring now looks like it is used, rather than being abandoned.

Campfire Ashes. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Hiking out

Bushwhacking my way out wasn’t easy. It took me three-quarters of an hour to hike less than a mile from my campsite back to the Farm Track Trail. Back near the trail junction, the lake had dropped enough for parts of the trail that had been underwater on Friday to now be visible again. Of course, the lower parts of the trail are still underwater (and yes you might have seen the pictures above before, I used them to illustrate my hike in when I couldn’t use my cameras because of the rain).

All of this was flooded on Friday. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Back at the Farm Track Trail, and I was already soaked to the skin in sweat. I was tempted to just dump myself in the creek to cool off (it wouldn’t be the first time).

Gary on the Lake Trail at Piney Creek Wilderness. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Continuing the tradition, I took a selfie by one of the downed trees on the Farm Track Trail. As I’ve pointed out before, this is not representative of what the best-dressed hiker/backpackers would be seen wearing, but my choice of clothing is comfortable in the 90°F weather I’m hiking in. And of course, as always, “It’s my hike.” 🙂

Not the same tree – but it is sort of traditional to take a picture here, somewhere. Note that my shirt is completely soaked again. Sweat, not rain this time. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Stock pond and pines. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Back at the trailhead, and I’m the only one here, though the trash scattered around suggests some uncouth people have been here while I was on my hike.

The only vehicle at the Pineview Trailhead. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
End of Trip Selfie – Changed ready for the road. Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Three. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

How did it go?

  • It was a great trip and just what I needed.
  • My food on this trip was quite different. I carried some canned food (beans and hotdogs). I took dehydrated potatoes and sachets of chicken and tuna. I had a Mountain House Egg and Bacon breakfast. I don’t know what it is about the Breakfast Skillet and the Eggs and Bacon, but both meals disagree with me. So, tasty as they are to eat, I’m not buying them again. The main issue with my food choice was that it was bulky and heavy. The empty cans, crushed, still took up a lot of space in my pack.
  • The Cat Can stove is growing on me. It is so light, small, and quick to use, it’s a great back-up to my wood stove, especially when conditions are really wet.
  • Sitting and relaxing was just what I needed. Being able to swim whenever I got too hot was great.
  • Despite the fact that no-one ventured into my little bit of Piney Creek, the noise from the boats and July 4th parties still reached me very clearly. At one point I thought a motorboat was in the creek area (motorized vehicles are prohibited, not that that stops anyone). I took a swim out to see where they were, only to discover there was no one there!
  • We’ll not mention the noise of all the fireworks.
  • Bushwhacking out, I got caught in some nasty briars, and had to cut myself out at one point. That sort of bushwhacking does not treat my gear kindly.

What do you think?

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