Uwharrie National Forest
Our next stop was a perfect combination of location, camping spot, and plenty to explore. The Uwharrie National Forest is between Raleigh and Charlotte, roughly equidistant to both cities. For us this was the perfect stop between family visits. Two of Shane’s siblings live in North Carolina, a brother in Raleigh and a sister in Charlotte.
After our faster than normal travel it was nice to have a landing spot for a week . This turned out to be a dream spot. After doing some research online we found there are plenty of boondocking spots through out this forest right off the forest service roads. In addition, for those looking for a campground, Uwharrie has you covered in that department. There is a horse camp with showers and a dump station. Then two additional campgrounds both with showers, one with a dump station and some electric sites. But if you are like us looking for boondocking opportunities you can’t go wrong here. Upon arrival we parked Ralphie in a suitable spot and drove the Jeep to explore additional spots to camp. I’m happy we did because we found a fantastic spot on top of the small mountain. The site was spacious and near plenty of OHV and hiking trails.
This national forest truly has something for everyone. Badin lake offers fishing, boating, and kayaking. The mountain biker and hiker will be happy with the variety of trails to choose from. If you have an off road capable vehicle, there are trails ranging from easy to extremely difficult. Lastly, a shooting range rounds out the activities in this beautiful national forest.
Now that we finally had the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it was time to test it out on some of the easy to moderate trails. We did not attempt the difficult ones as our Jeep is all stock and has it’s limitations. After venturing into town to get our $5 OHV permit we went on our way exploring trails. I will admit to being a bit worried at first. The easy trail seemed more like a moderate one. I did not want to find ourselves needing a tow truck or messing up our daily driver. It didn’t take long to settle in and feel more comfortable with the off road action. Turns out it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. We did the Wolf Den and Falls Dam Trail . From there we took a part of the Rocky Mountain loop trail and attempted the Sawmill trail. However, our tail pipe is loose and caused some issues going over rocks. Plus we were losing daylight, no reason to attempt a brand new trail in the dark. Found a spot to turn around and looped back through Wolf Den and onto our home base at the top of the mountain.
I must say this spot was fantastic. Quiet, plenty of stars, and a nice sunset view through the trees. During our time here it was a bit cooler but overall pleasant weather. Nice for hiking, exploring, and sitting outside around a campfire.
While we were here we both got some work done and saved time to explore too. We did a shorter hike at Kings Mountain Point. A nice trail that went right along the Lake. If the weather were warmer we would have kayaked.
One of our favorite hikes took us by Nifty Rocks, large standing boulders in the middle of the forest. This was quite the treat. We actually stumbled upon this quite by accident. When we hiked out we thought we were on the trail leading to the Nifty Rocks. We continued on the trail down along the lake. As we circled back we inadvertently found the proper trail. It lead to these cool large boulders. We spent some time climbing on them and feeling lucky we found them. Turns out another offshoot trail was blazed taking you down to the lake. It looked like a main trail and we enjoyed that portion also. But I’m happy we actually found the big rocks standing in the forest.
To round out our stay we finished up with a hike on our last day, the Hang Glider trail. This was a beautiful and somewhat strenuous hike through the woods with some climbs up the hillside. But it was worth it for the view of the Uwharrie River and the valley below. (My phone wouldn’t capture this very well with the tree cover.)
Our time here was peaceful and full of plenty to explore. I loved our hikes. It felt wonderful to get out and stretch the legs again. Shane thoroughly enjoyed the off road time in the Jeep. He was like a kid in a candy store. Amazingly, nothing crazy happened on the off road trails. We did find a replacement grill for our Jeep on one of the trails, just lying off to the side. Now we have a proper grill without the one piece busted out. You never know what you may find during your explorations. On our way out I gave a silent thanks to the Uwharrie National Forest that we called home for the last week. It was a treasure and we will be visit again.
After departing Uwharrie we headed to the west side of Charlotte to visit with Shane’s sister and family. I found a Boondockers Welcome site just 15 minutes south of his sister’s house. The couple was very kind and welcoming. A big thank you to John and Lisa for hosting us for 2 nights. There was construction on the road in front of their driveway. Lucky for us it was clear by the time we needed to leave.
However, our plans for a visit with family were changed. Turns out their youngest daughter was exposed to Covid at school and tested positive. We had to scrap the plans to hang out with them at their house. Instead we stopped briefly at their house to say hello to their girls (from a far) and pick up our packages we had delivered. The parents both tested negative so we went out to dinner with them. We really enjoyed our brief but quality time with them for the evening.
Carolina Motorsports Park
Prior to leaving Indiana, friends of ours were discussing a track weekend down in South Carolina. It turns out the timing worked perfectly for us to stop in to hang out for the weekend as it was right on our path south. From the Charlotte area we headed south to the Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC. The weather was beautiful with warmer temps. The sandals were back on my feet and I was a happy camper.
We got some decent solar here when it was not overcast or raining. I cannot tell you how nice it was to have our windows open and a warm breeze on the skin. Shane had some work to do on the Jeep. He took advantage of the level ground to accomplish that job. I worked on some projects and enjoyed the sunshine. In the evenings we had the chance to hang with our friends from Indiana, Fargo, Bruce, Ryan, Clark and Mike. We even made new friends, Phil and Lucy. Phil owned the race shop at the track and was super friendly. He had moved down from Upstate New York and was now living on 12 acres of land nearby. He said he didn’t miss the high property taxes of New York. Lucy was his dog and she and Josie became fast friends. Plus Josie loved his golf cart.
We went out for dinner one evening with a friend who drove down to visit us from Rock Hill, SC. Our last evening there was special. Thanks to Bruce for cooking us all burgers. We all sat around catching up and enjoying each other’s company and stories. it was a great weekend stop over full of friends, some work, race cars, and warmer temperatures. We were finally catching 70’s!
The last two photos above, photo credit goes to Fargo. Thank you for the images to add to this post.
Francis Marion National Forest
Rounding out our time in the Carolinas we made our way toward coastal South Carolina and landed at the Francis Marion National Forest. It is located just north of Charleston. Throughout this forest there are a few established campgrounds, some primitive and some with electric and water. We stopped at Buck Hall Recreation area where they have a dump station, water, and trash. Here they also have a nice campground equipped with electric and water spigots at each site. After dumping and refilling our water we went on to our first option for boondocking (dry camping) . Upon arrival at the Santee Coastal Reserve Wildlife Management Area (WMA) mosquitoes were there to greet us. This area is near marshland so we decided to go with our second option and decline the invitation from the mosquitoes to stay for a snack (their snack that is).
Elmwood Recreation Area is a hunters camp just north of the Santee Coastal Reserve. Located 5 miles from highway 17 it’s far enough away from road noise yet close to the town of Georgetown for supplies and the seaside town of Pawley. And no mosquitoes, this was our spot. Nice quiet place tucked in amongst the large oaks draped in Spanish moss. There are no “designated” spots but plenty of space to spread out. Amazingly, this free campground came equipped with vault toilets and water spigots throughout. After selecting our site I was pleasantly surprised to find a water spigot located within filling distance to our rig. I turned it on and clean water poured forth. Testing out our hose length, we were set for refilling when needed without moving the rig. Major bonus and the first time this has happened. And free to boot, in the boondocking world that’s hitting the jackpot!
After settling in we toasted to our good fortune in having such a great spot to park it over the Christmas holiday and possibly through New Years. There were actually other campers here during our week stay. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Christmas holiday but it seems others had the same idea. Time in nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday craze. There were a couple of tent campers, a travel trailer, a pop up camper, and a Class-A parked in the open area collecting a nice amount of solar. For us this was not a great solar spot. The tree cover made it impossible to gather more than an hour or so of solar per day. We relied on running the truck from time to time to give our batteries a charge.
Remember how I mentioned earlier we found 70’s at the race track. Well that was short lived. The day we arrived it was warm and we worked up a sweat setting things up. But things quickly changed that evening and extended into the next 4 days. It seems the cooler weather tracked us down. I swear it doesn’t want to release it’s hold on Shamy. During this time we got some work done, picked up supplies, and went for a hike at the Santee Coastal Reserve. But the weather forecast was looking up come Christmas Eve and into the next week.
When we returned to the coastal reserve the next day for a hike, the mosquitoes were nowhere to be found. Cooler temps must have chased them away. There is a small campground located here that allows up to 4 days of camping. We were happy we selected the spot we did as we needed more than 4 days. After looking at the map of trails we decided on the Marshland trail complete with a boardwalk. This was a very nice hike through marshland, large oaks with spanish moss hanging from the trees and palms. This area is also home to alligators and wild boar. When we were near water we kept Josie by our side just in case, although we did not see alligators on our hike. However, we did hear some wild boar. Shane caught a glimpse of them while I was busy tackling Josie to keep her from going to investigate. The wild boar retreated further into the forest. I’m pretty sure we surprised them as much as they surprised us. After that we put Josie back on her leash to be safe.
With the colder weather (30’s F overnight) we took Josie for short walks down some of the forest service roads.
But on Christmas Eve we were gifted our highly sought after 70’s. Little did we know, there was another gift in store for us. We ventured out to collect firewood along one of the service roads we walked a previous evening. That all went well. Found a nice easy down log right off the road. Shane made quick work of it with his chainsaw.
From there we went exploring. We turned down a road that eventually ended near a waterway of some sort. For whatever reason, Shane decided he wanted to drive down instead of walking down to check it out. There our fun quickly ended. There was a mud pit that turned out to be much deeper than expected. Right away Shane knew he had screwed up. As he called it “a dumbass” moment. The tires sank instantly and we were stuck!
For awhile we tried unsuccessfully to get it out using some of the wood we just gathered. It was starting to make some progress but overall it needed a little something more. With daylight fleeting fast, I called it and said we need to start heading back on foot. Shane agreed. So we spent Christmas Eve trekking back on foot. About halfway back and an hour into our walk, a very nice Asian guy named John offered us a ride. He had been out hunting and was friendly as could be. We thanked him profusely for saving us from more walking in the dark. We got to work preparing Ralphie for the trek to retrieve the Jeep. That’s right we packed up camp, drove our RV the six miles back and hooked up the strap to the Jeep. Luck was on our side, the Jeep was just the right distance off the road for Ralphie to back up to it and pull it out with no problem at all.
After returning to our spot, we set everything back up and it was as if nothing every happened. Other than a bruised ego and no poke bowls for dinner as I was too tired for that meal. Shane had cereal and I had PB&J, a fancy Christmas Eve dinner indeed.
Then on the day after Christmas we drove over to Pawley’s Island for our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean in almost 5 years. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the beach was not crowded. Josie got her first taste of salt water and the look on her face was priceless. The three of us truly enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the beach. my happy place!
I realize this post is longer but I wanted to catch up to our current place and close out 2021. As I write this post we are an hour south of Savannah, GA enjoying warmer weather and the last remaining hours of 2021.
Wishing all of you a Happy New Year and a huge thanks to all of my followers and readers. I appreciate the likes and comments. I look forward to sharing more adventures in 2022.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a couple of short videos I shot on my phone.
One last note: January 1, 2022 marks 9 months on the road for us!