On Nov. 14, 2021 I went hiking at Occoneechee Mountain (625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough, NC 27278). There were a huge number of people, and for good reason since fall had finally arrived after a considerable delay. While there, I saw a riot of color in the forest, a few glimpses of the Eno River, and a stunning sunset at the Overlook — one of the most impressive views in all of central North Carolina.
When I arrived at Occoneechee Mountian, the parking lot was so full there were park rangers at the entrance ready to turn me away. Fortunately, though, there were a few vehicles on their way out, which meant there was room for me to come in.
After parking, I joined Occoneechee Mountain Trail — a 2.2 mile loop that gives the grand tour — and was immediately greeted by a riot of fall color.
Within a tenth of a mile, I reached a clearcut, crossed it, and went up a switchback. After passing a few small groups of people, I set up my tripod and took a few photos.
Once done, I continued hiking and came to the first fork in the trail, where I took a left.
Soon the trail descended through pine trees. After a few hundred feet, I came to a scenic bend where a runner suddenly came up behind me. After he passed, I took a few photos.
Chestnut oak trees (Quercus montana) grow all over the place at Occoneechee Mountain — there’s one on the left in the above photo — and they’re one of my favorite things about the place.
Over the next quarter mile, I passed a few rock formations, reached another switchback, and came to the north side of the mountain.
In front of me, the trail snaked through the woods.
Soon I reached the Eno River.
As I bent down and took several photos, I realized how fortunate I am to live in a place where nature is still at least somewhat intact.
After a quarter mile along the Eno River, I climbed a flight of steps, passed a cliff on my right, climbed another flight of steps, then came to the steepest ascent at Occoneechee Mountain.
After climbing 250 feet, I came to a massive power line that straddles the trail and passed underneath.
Within a few hundred feet, I came to a fork in the trail and turned right onto Overlook Trail. In another few hundred feet, the Overlook finally came into view.
Up until now, I hadn’t been paying close attention to the colors of sky, considering all the colors of the forest. But the combination of fall color and sunset was simply jaw-dropping.
After soaking up the beauty for about fifteen minutes (which you can see more of in my YouTube video of this hike), I hiked the last leg of the trail and returned to the parking lot. And as I got in my car, I realized how thankful I am for life, for fall, for the beauty of a sunset, and for places in our world where nature can still thrive.