Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holly Shelter Game Land Exploration

Ryan and I took advantage of a cooler, overcast morning and headed out to do a bit of exploring on the sand and dirt roads in the Holly Shelter Game Lands. This is a huge tract of land, managed for forestry and traditional uses like hunting, trapping, etc, with a large swamp in the interior and some immense long pine and pond pine forests throughout. We parked at the Bear Garden Road entrance outside of Burgaw and took off down the very flat dirt road for 3 miles before turning left to run a loop along the Hine Kiln and McKoy roads, and then making a loop on the other side of the road along the Wolf Den Loop before returning to the car. This yielded us 15.2 miles, and only scratched the surface of this one section of land.

It was neat to explore this fascinating, rather desolate, yet obviously utilized area, but it was really, really flat and I think it would have been unbearable had it been hot, as there was no shade anywhere with the wide open roads. The land, although not pretty in a traditional sense, was interesting and we ran through a fair number of burned pine sections regrowing with green undergrowth, swampy areas filled with bushy undergrowth, sections with lots of swamp laurel, blueberry bushes, swamp azaleas and big bushes that were obviously in the magnolia/rhododendron/laurel family. We heard a lot of bird call, but saw no wildlife other than a large black rat snake, one eastern box turtle and numerous Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies along the way. We also came across two hunters in their vehicles, one of whom stopped to talk to us for about 10 minutes - he was out turkey hunting, to no avail, and was very friendly and talkative. I imagine him going home and telling his buddies, well, I didn't find any turkeys, but I did run into these two kids out running 5 miles out on Bear Garden Road. Crazy! ;)

All in all, a fun way to spend a morning and always good to check out a new place!

The starting gate

Game Lands running

Sheep laurel

Hines Kiln Road

"Trail" sign

White swamp azalea

Palamedes Swallowtail on thistle

Eastern box turtle

Bear Garden Road junction (ie the middle of nowhere)

Dirt roads forever...

Clear cut area, heading onto Wolf Den loop

Burn area to the right, swamp to the left

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