Hiking NC, Mountains to Coast

North Carolina’s hiking system is extensive, and its renowned Mountains-to-Sea Trail (or MST) is well-maintained and scenic, attracting millions of residents and visitors alike to its over 1,175 miles of diverse, picture-perfect countryside each and every year. From Clingman’s Dome, high in the Smoky Mountains at the North Carolina/Tennessee border to the path’s official end-point of Jockey’s Ridge of the Outer Banks – the highest sand dunes in the state – the trail is broken down by segments of 36 – 90 miles in length, which vary in difficulty from Easy to Strenuous.

Trail Segments

Some of the more interesting of these hikes traverse southern regions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Piedmont, Coastal Plain and Highlands ecosystems, as well as wildlife refuges and various historic towns and other areas throughout.

  • Segment 17: Down East North Carolina / 48 miles / Easy

Stretching from Morehead City to spectacular Cedar Island Ferry, this trail explores the Inner Banks, Croatan National Forest, Cedar Island national Wildlife Refuge and marshlands of eastern North Carolina. Several small fishing towns along the way including Smyrna, Davis, Stacy and Williston offer stunning views of the bays and wetlands of the area.

  • Segment 6: The Elkin Valley / 67 miles / Easy to Strenuous

This tranquil segment of the trail stretches from the hills of Pilot Mountain State Park to Devil’s Garden Overlook in Stone Mountain State park, the latter area being one of the most strenuous segments of the entire Mountain-to-Sea Trail. Here you’ll find waterfalls, trout streams, the 1,600-foot peak of Wells Knob and Surry County’s historic town of Rockford, with additional, optional excursions including a paddling route from Elkin to Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain horse trails.

  • Segment 2: The Balsams / 61 miles / Strenuous

The remarkable changes in elevation within this unique segment mean some portions of the trail are steep, difficult and more remote than other areas. The trail itself, interestingly, only crosses a paved road 7 times along its length. Since almost the entire trail is on federally-owned land (Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway), little to none of this pristine area has been developed. Hikers enjoy views from Waterrock Knob, popular Skinny Dip Falls, and beautiful Graveyard Fields, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Segment 11: Neuse River Greenways & the Let’Lones/ 65 miles / Easy

This relatively easy walk follows the Neuse River as it approaches Raleigh from Falls Lake Dam, past the city and on towards the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, in the southeastern corner of Johnston County. The popular hiking route, lined with descriptive signs of local surroundings, including wildlife, crosses back and forth across the Neuse River several times and offers wonderful views of the entire floodplain. Since the entire route is paved, it’s also a great pathway to explore either by bike or by foot.

Get Involved

Officially a part of the State Parks System, specific stretches of the trail are maintained by different agencies, local governments and communities, land trusts, volunteers and private individuals. To get involved in or to provide a donation toward the effort to help take care of or continue expanding the historic route, contact the non-profit organization Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at any of the venues or events found here – https://mountainstoseatrail.org/get-involved/

For more information on how to find the trail, what you’ll see along each segment, and how to prepare for your trail hike, visit either of the very informative sites below –





280 +/- Acres in Franklin County! Great Cattle Farm!!

Don’t miss this prime Land Tract in Beautiful Franklin County! Only 15 minutes from Downtown Louisburg, this Scenic Farm has IT ALL! (Can be purchased with or without 2 Homes!) Equipment Barn, Pasture Piping and Waterers, High Tensile Fencing, and all ready for animals! Call for details!

Property Groomed for Years for Cattle! Perfect Family Compound! DUCK SWAMP AND GREAT HUNTING! $900,000!

Check out 190 Old Express Road listing for 19 more acres and 2 homes! https://www.legacyfarmsandranchesnc.com/190-old-express-road-louisburg

Photo Gallery Touch on the first image to click through the pictures at your leisure.

Adding Some Warmth to Your Backyard or Patio

One of the most wonderful things about living in our state is the climate: an eternally blue sky, more sunny days, generally speaking, than not, and cool Carolina nights. We all enjoy spending time outdoors, and for some this includes hanging out with family and friends around an outdoor fireplace or firepit after the sun goes down – the perfect sort of relaxing end-of-day ritual.

Whether your dream outdoor fireplace is a traditional above-ground firepit or a more imposing stone fireplace with its own hearth, chimney and seating area, an ideal design is as much about adding a welcoming focal point to your back yard as it is about creating an actual source of warmth or light. An outdoor fireplace or firepit also allows us to enjoy our outdoor living areas for a longer period of each year than we may otherwise, giving a great reason to spend more time outside our homes in even the chillier fall and winter seasons.

The firepit or outdoor fireplace of your dreams

The options for an outdoor fire feature are truly endless and depend, for the most part, on budget, style of home and/or yard, space allocated for the outdoor firepit or fireplace, and amount of effort the homeowner is willing to put into maintaining and operating it.

A chiminea, affordable and portable, is a freestanding clay or metal fireplace with a round, bulbous base, a vertical chimney, or stack, and a large rectangular opening in front for adding wood. The chiminea creates a great deal of heat, and because of this, it is sometimes used not only for heating purposes, but for cooking as well. Due to its very vertical design, a chiminea is usually considered a much safer type of fireplace than a firepit, as smoke and fire are directed up and out in a more controlled burn than what a standard firepit can provide.

A traditional firepit, the most popular type of outdoor fireplace, is available in a variety of shapes, sizes and features.

The most common type of firepit is wood-burning and portable. The flickering light, crackling sounds and scent of smoke created by a wood-burning pit provide an ambience that is similar to that of a campfire, which, for most people, is the perfect addition to a warm summer or cool fall evening. The downside of a wood firepit is the fact that it must constantly be fueled with wood, cleaned and kept dry – chores some homeowners would rather forego in favor of a less labor-intensive firepit design.

Propane or natural gas firepits offer all the convenience and ease of use that a wood fireplace does not. Propane firepits, traditionally made of such materials as copper, faux wood, glass or stone, are portable and compact. Natural gas units require the addition of a permanent, natural gas line to your backyard or patio, but once a line is installed there is no chance, ever, that your firepit will run out of fuel. A propane or natural gas firepit is ideal for a homeowner who appreciates the convenience of being able to turn the pit on or off as necessary, and to transport it from place to place with ease.

An outdoor fireplace can add a dramatic focal point to a patio or backyard that otherwise might not be used to its full extent. The variety of designs for such a structure range from a more traditional, freestanding brick fireplace to an additional full-fledged outdoor area featuring fireplace, tables, chairs, kitchen and grilling area, and even artwork. Contemporary or rustic, simple or ornate, an outdoor fireplace can provide an interesting and inviting outdoor setting that not only provides heat but is perfect for entertaining and relaxation, too.

When all is said and done, the warmth and glow of a firepit or outdoor fireplace will provide enjoyment for most homeowners for years to come.

For some inspiring outdoor fireplace design ideas, check out –


The great debate: fireplace vs. firepit



The Ins and Outs of Purchasing an Investment Property

Investing in a property for rental or resale isn’t for everyone, but for those who are savvy about real estate (or, at least, willing to put in the time to become educated), know how to market a property effectively, can afford the financial investment, and have the means to maintain the property, the financial rewards may be great.

Why invest in real estate?

One of the most tried and true techniques, of course, when it comes to investing is the concept of diversification. By spreading financial resources across a range of investments, potential long-term financial risk is lowered. Real estate is often a strong component of a well-diversified investment portfolio. Property prices, too, tend to appreciate, generally speaking; a higher resale price or rental yield is an immediate gain for a real estate investor, whereas increased equity in the property will allow the owner to use that higher value to maybe purchase other investment properties or make improvements that will even further grow the property’s value. Finally, by purchasing an investment property, an investor is also purchasing a future, stable income stream; between 1997 and 2007, interestingly (go to https://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/11/key-reasons-invest-real-estate.asp), almost 80% of total real estate returns was due to income flow (property rent) vs. capital value returns. Income return in the form of property rent has been and will likely continue to be a very stable and attractive investment option.

What types of property do investors typically purchase?

When most people start thinking about purchasing a property for rental or resale, they think of a house, a vacation home or a fixer-upper. However, there are actually a variety of investment property types that, depending on the investor, his/her finances, and the economy, are appealing in a variety of ways. Several of the more common types of investment property are listed below.

  • A single-family investment property is a house or condo purchased specifically with the intent to rent it out to one sole renter, or to sell it. The goal, of course, is to purchase a property that is as undervalued or reasonably priced as possible with the greatest potential to either lease or sell.

The benefit of purchasing a single-family investment property over other types of investment properties is the fact that they are usually more affordable than other types of properties, and for first-time, more cautious investors in particular, this does make the choice seem just a bit safer. On the other hand, flipping a property – purchasing it, improving upon it, and re-selling – can be somewhat risky, especially when the buyer is not experienced in renovating a property or when the economy goes through downturns, making the home difficult to sell or rent out in the end. Finally, there are losses associated with a rental property that is left vacant for any period of time; even though no rent money is coming in, the mortgage, property management company, taxes, etc. on the property all still need to be paid.

  • A second home or vacation home is a house, condo, cabin, chalet, etc. that is purchased with the intent of renting out to multiple individuals over a period of time or as using as a family vacation property that is sometimes rented out when the owners are not themselves using it.

The additional income from renting out a property when it might otherwise sit vacant is a very positive thing, although, on the contrary, if the property is purchased specifically with the intent of leasing it when not otherwise occupied by the owners, the challenge of finding renters when demand may not be high due to weather, the economy, or something else might be too great for some investors.

  • A two- to four-unit house or building, or small multi-family investment property, is another common type of investment property for those starting out in the world of real estate investing. Since there is almost always a demand for housing, no matter what state the economy is in – all people need a place to live, after all! – vacancy issues for a property purchased in the right location and rented at a reasonable rate are unusual, as long as no more than one unit sits empty for any period of time. Despite the fact that building and property maintenance is a more major consideration with multiple units, and a higher than expected rate of turnover might have more a more serious impact on profits, the purchase of a small multi-family property is another very stable investment.
  • A retail investment property, for more affluent, serious investors, is a property that is made up of one or more retail businesses – a restaurant, clothing store, theatre, and/or shoe store, for instance – in one location. Typically, tenants sign long leases, creating stability for the investor(s), but there is some risk in the fact that long-term success overall of the retail property is closely tied to the health of the economy.

Which type of investment property is right for you?

As with any sort of investment, real estate investing involves a certain amount of risk-taking and a great deal of consideration given to A) the affordability of the property; B) the investor’s budget; C) the ability of the investor to secure financing for the property, if need be; D) the location of the property; and E) the amount of effort the investor is willing to put into marketing the property and maintaining it for its tenants. Any purchasing decision, whether it is to buy a home or condo for rental or re-sale or a commercial retail property for long-term revenue, should be made only after consulting with a competent financial advisor and experienced real estate agent.

For a complete list of income-producing property types: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/types-of-investment-properties-2124869

For more information on the benefits of investing in real estate:


Exploring the Caves and Caverns of North Carolina

May 20, 2019

The incomparable natural wonders of North Carolina include an astounding number of caves, grottos and caverns – over 900 of them! – dotted throughout the mountainous western part of our state. Although most are remote and often off-limits to visitors, several are suitable for exploration, including the largest of these: Linville Caverns.

The Art of Spelunking

Spelunking is the general term used in the U.S. and Canada for the sport of exploring caves. With levels of activity ranging from light (simply viewing a cave or cavern by foot) to strenuous (which may involve the use of ropes, lighting, special footwear, helmets and harnesses), the pastime is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people are seeking out new types of outdoor thrill and adventure. Although the experience of exploring such a diverse ecosystem may be difficult for some individuals with fears of enclosed spaces or darkness, for others spelunking is a challenging, educational and fun activity unlike any other.

Caving involves walking, climbing and sometimes crawling through a cavern or grotto along trails that can extend for a matter of feet or a matter of miles. Formed over the millennia by the flow of water as it runs, generally speaking, toward the sea, the walls of these caverns are often made of materials such as limestone and gypsum – substances that dissolve or erode over time in the presence of water. Incredibly, a space no wider than two or three feet may take over 100,000 years to develop.

Safety and Spelunking

Whenever there is activity involving exploration of the unknown, there is the risk that some people may venture outside the bounds of what is safe, or not utilize the proper equipment, or fail to pay attention to safety signage or tour guides. Small injuries – twisted ankles, scratches, bruises or scrapes – are not unheard of in the world of spelunking, as is the chance of getting disoriented or lost for those who push forward, unprepared, into a place in which directions are not always clear and a lack of light sometimes plays games with shapes and shadows.

The most important piece of equipment in caving, without a doubt, is a good source of lighting. As a rule of thumb, most spelunkers bring a minimum of three times the amount of lighting that they THINK they will need on a cave trek, in the form of headlamps, lanterns, flashlights and glow sticks. Night vision goggles, binoculars and monoculars are other items that are very commonly used, as are two-way radios, ropes, climbing harnesses, helmets and sturdy, waterproof boots.    


Stalagmites & Stalactites

In many caves, physical structures called speleothems – stalagmites and stalactites hanging down from above or extending upward from the ground in all sorts of other-worldly shapes and colors – grow together into vast, eerie columns stretched out between the floor and ceiling. Other interesting structures a spelunker might encounter include vertical flowstones with such odd terms as shawls, curtains, and “cave bacon” (sheets of stone formed of mineral deposits as they flow down the walls of a cave, often in varying shapes and colors); pore deposits such as cave corals (chalky and white with a surface that resembles popcorn); and pool deposits like lily pads or cave pearls, which are formed when glossy calcium salts build up around a nucleus. The variety and composition of speleothems within a cave system vary greatly.

Linville Caverns

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that a fishing expedition on Humpback Mountain, in North Carolina’s High Country region, discovered a small opening that opened up into a large recess we now know as Linville Caverns. One of the fishermen, likening the enormous space to an underground cathedral, described it as having a delicate lightness that was both miraculous and beautiful. Today, guided tours along lighted pathway systems provide a safe and educational experience for visitors seeking to learn more about the history of the region and appreciate some of Mother Nature’s most pristine works of art, including the “Bottomless Pool” and streams populated by the same species of native trout that original explorers discovered over 150 years ago.

Learn more about Linville Caverns here: http://linvillecaverns.com/






Exploring the Caves and Caverns of North Carolina