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US Southeast Planning our first trip

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NJRadioGuy

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So enough YouTube videos and buying supplies. It's time to start doing this for real. I'm trying to figure out a good route for about a week give or take.

Living in Northeast New Jersey means a full day on the road to start out, and my thought was to go into the G.W. Nat'l forest around Flagpole Knob. I drove through the area about 6 weeks ago with Dusther210 but I didn't camp out. I plan to rectify that this time, staying for at least one night and probably two, and running some Jeep trails during the day. But I'm having a problem formulating a plan for after that.

I would like to incorporate some of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Boone and Grandfather Mountain area of North Carolina, before heading off east a bit to Uwharrie Nat'l Forest and another Jeep Badge of Honor trail (Dickie Bell). What I'm in need of here are some good wild camping options and some overall route guidance for those familiar with the region. I vastly prefer primitive campsites with only a fire ring and a nearby stream or lake, and far away from the Class As and 5th Wheel rigs. A bonus would be to maybe do part of this trip with someone else since as I said we're absolutely brand new to this entire thing.

I have the camping gear, my Jeep Grand Cherokee is armored and equipped with a winch and recovery gear, and we will be using a ground tent. I have to find my wife's work schedule this week but the plan is to do this sometime this month...July/August in NC is just too hot/humid for us northern types <grin>. I'd be extremely grateful for suggestions on choosing a route and sussing out some wilderness camping locations. Please and thanks in advance.
 

Old Tanker

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...I would like to incorporate some of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Boone and Grandfather Mountain area of North Carolina...
That's a great area to explore. There is a dozen or more spots along Old NC105 on the ridge west of Linville Gorge, and a half dozen along the entrance road for the Brown Mountain OHV. Many spots along the various forest service roads in between. Wilson Creek south of Mortimer is beautiful and well worth a stop and short walk down to the river. Old House Gap Road offers a more challenging ride than most of the gravel forest service roads in the area. The folks at Betseys Ole Country Store (near Mortimer) are friendly and memorable characters. The Pisgah Map Company map of the Grandfather Mountain District (check Amazon) is the best paper map I could find of the area.



 

NJRadioGuy

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This sounds like a great area and I will definitely incorporate your suggestions in my ultimate plan. Any GPX files that I could load into Gaia, since I have never stepped foot in NC (and only once in VA) and don't really know my way around? Are campsites there of the primitive style or will we be playing "dodge-the-motorhomes"?
 

Old Tanker

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This sounds like a great area and I will definitely incorporate your suggestions in my ultimate plan. Any GPX files that I could load into Gaia, since I have never stepped foot in NC (and only once in VA) and don't really know my way around? Are campsites there of the primitive style or will we be playing "dodge-the-motorhomes"?
The linked threads include a few gpx files for Pineola Road, Maple Sally Road, maybe a few others.

If you visit Betsey's Ole Country Store, you'll likely meet Bruce, and if Bruce sees your Jeep, he may send you over to Old House Gap Road. "Primeval" is how he described it to me. I would just call it rough.

Most campsites in the area are primitive. Some are little more than a spot for parking with a rooftop tent, while others have room for a few vehicles. For the most part, you won't have neighbors. This also limits capacity somewhat on busy weekends, when you'll drive along and see all the cool spots already occupied. I wouldn't drive around at dinner time on a weekend expecting to find a prime spot.

The Brown Mountain OHV has a few vault toilets, fire rings, and tables, and most campers there will have full-sized trucks towing a side-by-side for use at the trails. The only motorhome campground is the Forest Service campground north of Mortimer, which I think was closed for maintenance last month.

Little to no cell phone coverage, so download your maps in advance.
 

NJRadioGuy

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Sounds like what I'm looking for, indeed. If we go out for a week then we're bound to need places on Friday and Saturday (and probably Sunday), so what's the best way to ensure we're not stuck for a spot? That's honestly my biggest worry.
 

Old Tanker

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My wife and I are planning a weekend trip in early July and booked a local spot on Hipcamp just to be sure.
 

Junktj

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Hello njradioguy!
I live at the base of grandfather mountain, right outside of boone (foscoe community). I have lived in this area my entire life and have traveled every forest road and trail around here hundreds of times. I would be happy to point you in the direction of primitive camp spots in the Wilson creek area and also around brown mtn. Let me know if you have any specific questions about this area, and depending on when you will be in this area, I would be happy to show you the trails if you would like.
 

NJRadioGuy

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Hello njradioguy!
I live at the base of grandfather mountain, right outside of boone (foscoe community). I have lived in this area my entire life and have traveled every forest road and trail around here hundreds of times. I would be happy to point you in the direction of primitive camp spots in the Wilson creek area and also around brown mtn. Let me know if you have any specific questions about this area, and depending on when you will be in this area, I would be happy to show you the trails if you would like.
That would be wonderful! I'm at the point in trip planning where I don't even know what I don't know. It looks so easy on YouTube when you know where to point your vehicle, and doubly so if you're in a state that's made up of mostly public land. Coming from New Jersey and only able to go out for about a week to 10 days...is more challenging!

Our first night or two will be in VA in and around Flagpole Knob, but from there is where I'm not really sure of a good route or what we could do without rushing around like a couple of idjits :). The thought was to intercept the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit and take that through to the Boone area. Base ourselves there for a night or two, before heading east to Uwharrie Nat'l Forest, where I'm after a Jeep Badge of Honor on Dickie Bell Trail, if I can find another Jeeper to go with. Also intending to find a few of the best barbecue joints in the region--the ones that folks go out of their way to visit.

As an aside, I'm a huge fan of the "Outlander" books and TV series and I'd like get an idea of what the author of the series envisioned as being Fraser's Ridge, if you're familiar with the story. Communities in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.
 

Junktj

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That would be wonderful! I'm at the point in trip planning where I don't even know what I don't know. It looks so easy on YouTube when you know where to point your vehicle, and doubly so if you're in a state that's made up of mostly public land. Coming from New Jersey and only able to go out for about a week to 10 days...is more challenging!

Our first night or two will be in VA in and around Flagpole Knob, but from there is where I'm not really sure of a good route or what we could do without rushing around like a couple of idjits :). The thought was to intercept the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit and take that through to the Boone area. Base ourselves there for a night or two, before heading east to Uwharrie Nat'l Forest, where I'm after a Jeep Badge of Honor on Dickie Bell Trail, if I can find another Jeeper to go with. Also intending to find a few of the best barbecue joints in the region--the ones that folks go out of their way to visit.

As an aside, I'm a huge fan of the "Outlander" books and TV series and I'd like get an idea of what the author of the series envisioned as being Fraser's Ridge, if you're familiar with the story. Communities in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.
Boone is a fun town for a few days. You can hit old house gap and brown mtn. from the parkway on gravel roads. I would be happy to give you directions on how to get to them. Best BBQ in this area is woodlands in blowing rock and the peddlin pig in Banner Elk, or Boone. They are both excellent. I could also give you some tips of what is worth seeing on the parkway in this area.

My girlfriend is a big outlander fan. She told me that in the book Frasiers Ridge is located in the globe area (outside blowing rock), but the show has it closer to the base of grandfather. Driving up to the top of grandfather is worth the time if you have never been.

Also, if you need any info on uwharrie let me know. We spend 20-25 nights there every year. We spent 3 nights there 3 weeks ago, and have driven all the trails down there many, many times. Let me know what you would like to know!
 

NJRadioGuy

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Well the first big question is regarding primitive campsites and how to find them in peak season. I'm afraid of driving for hours only to find every spot full and then having to do the Drive of Shame to find a motel for the night. The next issue is concerning the back roads. Even though I have a fair amount of recovery gear, going out alone on a first adventure will be a bit unnerving--moreso for my wife than me, but I will need to answer her questions when she asks me whether we'll get in serious trouble being out there on our own, in a fairly big Jeep Grand Cherokee (as opposed to a nice little TJ or JK), and one with less than a foot of clearance at that. We took some heavy damage to the Jeep when we got caught between trees at an OHV park in PA, and I'm dreading being hip-deep in mud/clay. My ideal style of overlanding driving is forest roads that I can do mostly in 4-High and a couple of spots where low range is needed. I don't have a monster rig so I need to stay away from the serious 'wheeling trails.

Uhwarrie I will only do once I can link up with someone else who wants to run Dickie Bell with me, and hopefully spot my up Little Daniel. Ain't doing that solo!

I'm always open to learning about the area and seeing things that aren't tourist traps, that's for sure. I'd love to drive up to the top of Grandfather, that's for sure! As for Outlander, I just wish they'd have actually shot the NC scenes in NC and not in Scotland, damnit.
 

Junktj

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Well the first big question is regarding primitive campsites and how to find them in peak season. I'm afraid of driving for hours only to find every spot full and then having to do the Drive of Shame to find a motel for the night. The next issue is concerning the back roads. Even though I have a fair amount of recovery gear, going out alone on a first adventure will be a bit unnerving--moreso for my wife than me, but I will need to answer her questions when she asks me whether we'll get in serious trouble being out there on our own, in a fairly big Jeep Grand Cherokee (as opposed to a nice little TJ or JK), and one with less than a foot of clearance at that. We took some heavy damage to the Jeep when we got caught between trees at an OHV park in PA, and I'm dreading being hip-deep in mud/clay. My ideal style of overlanding driving is forest roads that I can do mostly in 4-High and a couple of spots where low range is needed. I don't have a monster rig so I need to stay away from the serious 'wheeling trails.

Uhwarrie I will only do once I can link up with someone else who wants to run Dickie Bell with me, and hopefully spot my up Little Daniel. Ain't doing that solo!

I'm always open to learning about the area and seeing things that aren't tourist traps, that's for sure. I'd love to drive up to the top of Grandfather, that's for sure! As for Outlander, I just wish they'd have actually shot the NC scenes in NC and not in Scotland, damnit.
I would doubt you would have any trouble on the forest service roads in this area or for that matter the "trails" in this area.
That said, old house gap is currently in the worst shape I have ever experienced it in. Not really rough, but if wet might be challenging. Even in peak season, I have always been able to find a camping spot in that area, I guess because I know where the ones not easily found are?

Little danniel is no joke when wet. This of course depends on your experience and vehicle mods. If you want to tell me about your truck, I can give you a little better advice about what trails I have experience with would be the ones to tackle.
Even if you don't have the opportunity to try little danniel, there are several other trails at uwharrie that are challenging for a mildly modified vehicle. Dutch John is fun, as is slap pile when wet.

My current truck is a mildly built 80 series land crusier. It's locked front and rear and on 35s. I have had to winch up the last part of little danniel when the trail is wet.
 

emonomics

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I have had decent success researching free camp sites dot net for backup spot planning. Hope this helps.
 

NJRadioGuy

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I have freecampsites.net bookmarked, and i have iOverlander in my tablet as well, so as long as I'm in cell range I can always check those I guess.
My Jeep is a 2018 Trailhawk edition Grand Cherokee. It's fitted with 31" Falken Wildpeaks (265/65-R18) with 1 inch spacers, a steel lower front guard, nudge bar, sump protection plate, and skid plates along the bottom, plus good quality rock sliders and a 10,000# Warn VR EVO winch. I have two off-brand recovery boards (X-bulls), tree saver, tow strap, kinetic rope, D-rings, two snatch blocks, a handful of small and large soft shackles, and a Viair compressor. The Jeep is equipped with air suspension so I can't put on a conventional lift, and I'm running the biggest tires I can without expensive mods. It has an electronic limited-slip rear diff and brake assist up front, along with the Quadra-Trac II drive modes. It's full-time 4WD and has a low range transfer case if/when needed. No aftermarket lights yet, nor a roof rack. That's next year.
 

Junktj

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I have freecampsites.net bookmarked, and i have iOverlander in my tablet as well, so as long as I'm in cell range I can always check those I guess.
My Jeep is a 2018 Trailhawk edition Grand Cherokee. It's fitted with 31" Falken Wildpeaks (265/65-R18) with 1 inch spacers, a steel lower front guard, nudge bar, sump protection plate, and skid plates along the bottom, plus good quality rock sliders and a 10,000# Warn VR EVO winch. I have two off-brand recovery boards (X-bulls), tree saver, tow strap, kinetic rope, D-rings, two snatch blocks, a handful of small and large soft shackles, and a Viair compressor. The Jeep is equipped with air suspension so I can't put on a conventional lift, and I'm running the biggest tires I can without expensive mods. It has an electronic limited-slip rear diff and brake assist up front, along with the Quadra-Trac II drive modes. It's full-time 4WD and has a low range transfer case if/when needed. No aftermarket lights yet, nor a roof rack. That's next year.
Definitely sounds like a well equipped truck.
I would never tell anyone to not try a trail, and see what their rig will do.
But to be as polite as I can possibly be, if your truck was mine, I would not attempt little danniel in it. This is in no way a slightly against your rig, or you as a driver, just my personal opinion of the ground clearance needed to drive the trail.
I honestly hope you have the chance to try Dickie Bell, and I would be thrilled to see video of you kicking it's ass and proving me wrong.
Please let me know if you need any more info about this area, glad to help out!
 

NJRadioGuy

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I wouldn't even begin to attempt Danniel, but what I've heard them call "Little Danniel," the controlling obstacle on Dickie Bell is very doable in a WK2, and that's what the Badge of Honor is for. And IIRC there's a slightly easier approach to it for lesser equipped vehicles. My best climb was another Badge of Honor trail at Rausch Creek Off-Road park called Crawler Ridge. It's not a trail I would want to run a second time, but the Grand had zero difficulty going up. But I've watched plenty of videos of Danniel and yeah, no way in heck would I even begin to attempt that one in my Grand!

Like I said, I don't really enjoy crawling all that much, I just want to add a few more badges to the fender for some bragging rights <grin>. I did Peters Mill Run in VA back in April and that was a thoroughly enjoyable trail that was only a bit challenging in one spot. If I can find a bunch of garden-variety dirt roads leading to scenic overlooks, interesting points of interest, dispersed campsites by streams or lakes--stuff like that--I want that all day long.

Finding those, though...that's the part I just don't know how to do. How do I know if that 4X4 trail or dirt road on GaiaGPS is just a boring road with no payoff, a technical trail with no way to turn around leading to a survival situation and four- or five-figure towing & repair bill, or a simple two-track to a stunning waterfall to have lunch by. This is where I'm hoping the good folks here on this group can help me fill in my knowledge.

Watching Famous YouTubers go out as a group to a lakeside camp ground makes it look so easy. The reality for a newcomer is extremely different!
 

NJRadioGuy

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Hey all,
I'm hoping to revive this thread if I might. Work commitments got the best of me all summer and I just couldn't get away. I have a (very) little time now, and I'm thinking about heading down next week (around Oct. 20th-26th, in that range) for a few nights of tent camping from my Jeep. Still hoping to get to Uhwarrie but, I'm more interested in making it down to see the Blue Ridge Parkway in full fall colors. I'd be mighty grateful if I could hit a couple of you folks up for specific suggestions for the region, what to see, what to studiously avoid, and just general tips to finding a good place to pitch the tent.

Thanks in advance.
 

YoKramer

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If you just want to get to the top of Daniel out at Uwharrie the backside which you can get to from the Rocky Mountain Loop isn't difficult to get to the top. They have flattened the approach to the main rock climbing portion which also has plenty of places to go around the tougher options. However the front side of Daniel I would avoid.

Heres a quick video of my Xterra and a buddies 83 Subaru GL going up the backside of Daniel.
 
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