Prickly Pear Rock  LbNA # 12940 (ARCHIVED)

Placed DateJan 2 2005
Location???, NC
Found By ???
Last Found Apr 29 2007
Hike Distance?

I have heard that there are native species of cactus in each of the 50 states. Sometimes they show up in unexpected places, as this location proves. It's definitely not a drive-by, so wear some sturdy shoes and be prepared to spend an hour or more enjoying the wonderful surroundings. Bring a compass for the final push to the box.

Somewhere between the Mountains and the Sea, there are 3 possible locations to disembark and walk to this unique site. If you're cravin' to find the box, my preference is to cut through the bull, so let's get on with it. The shortest (but steepest) route is the most overlooked. From the "south," it's about a 3/4 mile walk, from the "north," maybe just over a mile, and from the middle, less than half than from either end. Using a different perspective, "south" could be though of as "west," and "north" could be "east."

Whether South or West, just park at the gravel pulloff at the top end of a gravel road and bottom end of a paved road (you probably took neither of these to reach this point); and look through the orange and white gateposts toward a sign that eliminates your need for a compass at this point. Take a path leading uphill to the north and follow the dots. After some time you'll pass a low overhanging rock that juts out on the left and forms a small cave. A fallen oak stands(?) sentinel a little farther on, covered by small white shelf fungi. Then cross the base of a steep sloping rock face, with some nicely provided rock steps. Rock steps will lead you up and soon you'll pass another fallen oak with the same white shelf fungi covering every branch. Go up and over a rise, and down the other side you'll meet some of the lazier (no, I mean, "more pressed for time") box-seekers coming up. Keep straight ahead on your trail and try to keep connecting the dots.

Let's not overlook the real climbers at this point. If you're in this group, you left your vehicle (I just assume you were in one) between the hill and the valley; and with the ground generally sloping up to your left and down to your right, you crossed the road and found a small trickle with a path just this side of it, heading uphill. Within sight of your vehicle (still an assumption) there are some log-formed steps to carry you around a switchback. Then there will be two more switchbacks before you meet the rest of the seekers and dot-connectors. At that point, turn right and our first two groups are now one, although some have only climbed a hill, and others have already had more than half a mile of adventure.

From here, you'll soon cross the trickle on the way up. Be very careful here, as the trickle may try to cross you up and knock you down. Go around a bend and skirt the bottom of another large rock face. Keep your feet steadily on the trail, or you'll wind up like the trees below (Oh, did I say you were at the BASE of the rock? I'm sorry, I was wrong.) Just before the trail dips down again, note the graph paper tree to the left. You mean you didn't know graph paper came from a special wood? After the dip, log steps carry you out of the tree graveyard, and around the bend, what's this? A rock outcrop covered with prickly pear cacti! We're here!

Now what about those nor'easters who choose to blow in by the slightly longer, scenic route ("Bull!" you say.) Maybe you drove as much as 375 miles just to be here. What's an extra 1/2 mile in that case? Why, your legs probably needed stretching after that, anyway. The sign says civilization is eight miles away, but the homeplace of a former governor and senator is only 5 miles. You’re only going around the bend and up to the first switchback. Just before the U-turn there’s a small pulloff on the lower side that marks a trail crossing. A large flat boulder lies just below the little hiker, so follow his arrow and start connecting dots. (Note: Once in May I stood in one spot near the first bend of the trail and counted over a dozen lady’s slipper orchids blooming.) The trail starts gradually uphill but soon levels off.

You will go between two halves of a hollow log on the ground, then soon start down hill for a while. (Another note: if you ever come to the actual top of the ridge, then you went the wrong way at the road; so go back and cross the road and start over.) The trail continues down past a large rock on the right. Below you, take note of the large fallen oak with the twisted and split trunk where it broke off. Cross a small freshet on some stepping stones and start a gradual uphill climb again. When you eventually start down again, you may feel that you have earned your laurel wreath for a crown, but keep going. At the bottom, you’ll cross what could be called a small stream with two or three branches, depending on how wet it’s been. On the other side, here we go up again!

Cross a couple of rock jumbles, then thank the people who built the rock steps up around the bottom of a steep sloping rock face. What a job it was! (and all by hand!) A little further you’ll cross under a wooden squirrel bridge as you head across another jumble of boulders. Soon after the going gets easier, you’ll cross over a rock in the trail and go around a bend to the right, with a view to farmland below. Stop and enjoy the view, and then notice all the prickly pear cacti above and below the trail on the rock that the trail crosses. You’re here!!

So here we are all together, enjoying the little bit of view (better in winter and early spring) and the prickly pears, but where's the box? Okay, if you must know, go about 80 feet NE on the trail from the prickly pears, and come to where the rock spine of the ridge comes up through the trail. Stand here on the rocks in the trail, and face 103 degrees (remember the compass). Slightly downhill you’ll see a pock-marked stump about 6 or 7 feet tall, and a much larger stump about 30 or more yards downhill. Just below the first stump is a sapling-sized blackjack oak, and somewhat larger chestnut oak just below that. A jagged lichen-covered rock lies tilted up beside this lower tree. Under the lower end of this rock lies your prize, covered by a smaller rock to hold it in place.

Be especially cautious when retrieving and replacing this box, as it is very close to the trail, and its location should not be revealed to casual passersby. The original location was several yards directly uphill from this spot, but access to it was found to be blocked by a lot of poison ivy when the leaves came out in the spring. This didn’t deter the bear from finding it, however, and destroying the original container and plastic bag. Luckily, he/she left all the contents in good shape, and the box was replaced in this new location after some drying-out time for the log book.

Remember to use extreme caution when reaching into crevices and such, take away only photos, and LEAVE NO TRACE. This is a great hike at any time, but especially during wildflower season in spring and early summer. The prickly pears have been known to bloom in late May, through June, and into July.