Onslow County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: March 1, 2008
Author: Shannon Dillmore

I've placed LiDAR data in the files section of the cohp-yahoo website (areas outlined in red – 174 feet). These are in jpg format, which is in some cases lower resolution than the pdf files I have. The pdf files were too big to upload to the yahoo group site, so if you plan on visiting these areas and would like pdf files, let me know. In most cases the contours are overlaid on a composite satellite photo/USGS topo map.

The LiDAR data has reduced Onslow from multiple large areas to two general areas with multiple small contours. For this county, the purple contours correspond to 112 feet, the orange to 114 feet, and the red to 115 feet. The elevation data isn't precise enough to meet the USGS standard for 1-foot contours, so we visited all the orange areas. The areas are numbered in the order we visited them and GPS coordinates are given (NAD27 datum) for what we thought was the highest point in some of the areas. I apologize for not having GPS coordinates for all the areas – I'm still not used to having one and I forgot to take readings in some of the areas.

I'd also suggest taking a look at Google Earth before visiting these areas. This satellite imagery is more recent and shows the roads more clearly and accurately.

From the last areas in Duplin County, we headed less than a mile further south on Summerlins Crossroads to a left onto Tram Road. We followed Tram Road for roughly 6 miles, then turned left onto NC 903/11, which we took for less than a mile before heading right (south) onto NC 111. We took this a few miles to a left onto Sarecta Road, which dead ends into NC 41. We took a left here and went a couple miles to Kirby Thigpen road, where we turned right. After about a mile, we hit the Duplin/Onslow county line where we parked for the first set of areas. The road name changes here from Kirby Thigpen to Potters Hill Road.

The terrain here differs from that of the satellite map (but matches Google Earth images) – we didn't find the dense vegetation suggested in the photo. I was to find out later (in Jones county) that Weyerhauser owns a lot of land in the area and they may have clear cut the area recently. We didn't find much rise along the border or in the larger middle contour. The rise may have disappeared along with the trees.

For the second set of areas, we headed 1.5 miles further south on Potters Hill Road. At this point we saw a sign reading "Coharie Farms C-11." We knew from looking at the map ahead of time that the areas were near a hog farm (and lagoon) so we turned here. This is the dirt road shown on the satellite map. Not surprisingly, we found this farm to be very heavily posted. This was discouraging but, much to our delight, we saw a dirt track heading southwest along the border of a crop field. We parked at the junction of the crop road and the hog farm road (the road is gated and locked ahead…we were later to find this area is used for hunting), left a note on our dashboard, and walked towards area 1. This road can be seen on the satellite image. It looks like it peters out when it enters the woods but, luckily for us highpointers, it doesn't. The road takes a left about a hundred feet before area 1. It's an unpleasant but not awful bushwhack to this area. When we were there a bit of flooding was present, which added a bit of an obstacle. The rise here wasn't terribly evident but we're talking 2-3 feet (34.95150º N, 77.66329º W). From there, we followed the road southeast.

After about 0.8 mile – and after passing a couple of old black and white I-95 signs – we hit the junction in the road just between areas 2 and 9. We took the dirt track directly south and headed into area 2 (34.94217º N, 77.65383º W) – a stand of pines with little undergrowth. The areas here certainly seem to be natural and are noticeable. We felt the LiDAR data matched the terrain very well here. We walked around area 2 for awhile, then headed south into area 3 (34.94186º N, 77.65382º W), another easy bushwhack. These areas were posted by a hunting club.

We approached area 4 from the road just to the south of the contours. This was a pretty nasty and thorny bushwhack, but short. The highest areas seemed to be among a stand of hardwoods (34.94125º N, 77.65317º W). We did detect a rise here.

For area 5, we located the track that heads through the northern part of the contour. The highest area looked to be south of the road in a diffuse wooded area. The pine forest here is pretty pleasant. To access area 6, we continued on the dirt track. At some point (probably where the dotted track lines noting a track on the USGS map ends) we passed through an unposted red gate. A small area containing area 6 looks to have been recently cut. We explored the open area until satisfied.

For areas 7-9, we retraced our steps to a faint path heading north. This path can be seen on the satellite image – it begins just west of the western edge of area 5. This path peters out quickly and some bushwhacking is necessary to reach area 7. Be prepared for thorns and crossing some blown-down trees. The area was maybe 50 feet from a ditch in a stand of trees and brush (34.94270º N, 77.65480º W). We retraced our steps on the path then bushwhacked east to area 8 through some brush that eventually gave way to pine. We continued on this path over area 9 and onto the dirt track east of areas 7-9, hitting some thick brush just before the dirt track.

For area 10, we proceeded north on the north-south dirt track shown on the map. We went through an unposted red gate and walked along the perimeter of an open field. The "finger" of growth shown extending from area 10 is no longer in existence and is probably close to a canal dug there. We tramped through some sparse woods until satisfied, then returned the way we came to avoid approaching the hog farm.

To hit area 11, we returned northwest along the path between the southern areas and area 1. We picked a spot that looked high (not terribly obvious) and jumped a water-filled ditch to some clearly higher ground in some brush. My dog refused to partake in this nonsense, so Brian and I alternated exploring the area until satisfied. We then returned to our car.

Overall, Onslow county was much more pleasant than I thought – maybe even enjoyable (at least for an eastern North Carolina county highpoint). We enjoyed the isolated area, the walking was made very easy by the hunters' dirt tracks and we never smelled the hog lagoon. I would recommend visiting these areas on a Sunday in winter after January, as the hunting season will be over and no hunting is permitted in North Carolina on Sundays. For the areas near the hog farm, we walked a total of 4.5 miles. We kept a brisk pace on the trails but bushwhacking ate up some time. We spent about 2 hours and 30 minutes here.