This weekend I got to do something that’s been on my want-to-do list for a while. I went on the guided Geology Hike at Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area in Hillsborough, N.C.
Geologist and author Jean-Michel Margot, originally from Switzerland and now retired, is a volunteer with the park and leads the hikes.
At 867 feet above sea level, the Occoneechee Mountain summit is the highest point in Orange County and is the highest point between Hillsborough and the Atlantic Ocean. The park encompasses 190 acres of land and includes over three miles of trails. It’s located next to I-85 and conveniently accessed.
What’s interesting about this park is that despite its name, it isn’t in the mountains. Hillsborough is located in the Piedmont section in the middle part of the state, over 100 miles from the Blue Ridge. It’s hilly, with lots of rolling farmland interspersed with flat parts but that’s about it. So to have a “mountain” here seems a bit out of place, but Margot says that technically this area is part of the Appalachian Mountains.
One hiker asked, “Is this a real mountain?”
“I learned geology in the Alps,” said Margot, with a smile. “To me, this isn’t even a hill!”
But he says you be the judge. He explains that Occconeechee Mountain is a ridge, with volcanic origins. It is made mostly of quartz — the same mineral whose crystals make up the sand on the beach. Learn more
The Geology Hike is offered once a month and lasts about an hour and a half. Normally attendance is around 25 but November’s hike was the largest group of participants to date, about 50. With the day featuring peak fall colors and beautiful weather, this was the place to be! Attendees included a cub scout troop and their parents, and other visitors of all ages.
If you’re looking for a wonderful park to visit that isn’t remote, and enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the natural environment, you’ll love this hike.
Here is my photo tour of the Geology Hike:
Want to visit?
For more information on this park and upcoming events, see http://www.ncparks.gov/occoneechee-mountain-state-natural-area.
To find out about other guided hikes in North Carolina, visit http://gohikenc.com.
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