This was my first time back to Ft. Bragg in close to 20 years. (I’ve been to Charlotte many times for Endurance Karting races.) I don’t recall exactly when I last passed through Bragg, or what for. After I ETS’d from active duty in September, 1984, it was either on my way to a deployment (as an activated Reservist), returning from a deployment, or attending a school, such as the Civil Affairs Officers Advanced Course (38A).
Civil Affairs is a trip. CA units are so officer heavy, that Captains are more like Sergeants or Staff Sergeants in other Army units. Most officer advanced courses are for senior 1st Lieutants or recently promoted Captains. In our class, taught at John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School — commonly referred to as “Swik” — we had everything from PFCs to a full Colonel.
On one of my early karting trips to Charlotte, I met up with my old platoon sergeant, Dave Frazee, and his wife Pah, for breakfast. Also, for a brief period in the early Aughts, I kept in email contact with my old roommate, John Wiegman. But other than that, I had not heard from any of the guys from my old unit: TACCP, Alpha Company, 50th Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade … AIRBORNE!
About five years ago, Sergeant Frazee arranged a reunion which, for some reason, I could not attend. (Probably a family obligation, or I would have been there for sure.) The guys even bought a paver brick commemorating the unit. I think it was installed at one of Ft. Bragg’s museums. This time around, I cleared my calendar to be there.
My wife Bernie & I had a short turn around from last week’s trip to the North American Federation of Celtic Supporters Clubs convention in Las Vegas. (Nevada: The Las Vegas in New Mexico is not an international destination.) In the four days we had at home, I wrote a 1500 word blog, a hike description and a triplog; edited a GPS route; edited over 100 pictures; and produced three videos (totalling 18 minutes). It was Hammer Time. 😅
But I got the work done, and off we went went, Bernie treating us to 1st Class round trip to North Carolina. (Beats choking on nauseating engine fumes in the back of a bouncing C-130 loaded with 64 sweaty paratroopers, that’s for sure!)
I wasn’t sure where, or when, we would all hookup, other than it was at the Fayetteville Hampton Inn. Bernie and I were checking in on Thursday evening, when I looked over, and there was Dave Frazee, Pah and Danko shooting the breeze over pizza. We joined them for a couple of hours. I had forgotten my nickname was “Gazoo”, after the green alien on “The Flintstones”. 🤔
Friday morning, a few more TACCP folks showed up for breakfast at the IHOP, including Wade Miller, who stuck around the area, and is now a minister in Spring Lake. (Spring Lake has really changed, especially with a freeway which now bypasses blocked off Bragg Blvd.) After breakfast, Danko, Streib and I retired to the Hampton Inn pool. My loving wife was kind enough to pop out for some six packs.
Eventually, we were joined by Ranger Rob, Holden, Kenny Roberts, Dirty Ernie, Graves, Molina, a couple of other folks, and a lot more beer. Some of you might actually remember Molina:
That’s Molina at the end wishing 1SG Norman W. Governor “good morning”. 😆
The party grew and moved indoors, getting louder, until the hotel staff eventually asked us to move back outside. Soon after, having had more than enough to drink over the previous 10 hours, I bailed to my room.
On Saturday, we had a more sedate gathering in one of the meeting rooms, where we were joined by Rose Motoxen, David Cushing and several more wives. Rose was in multichannel platoon, but was married to a TACCP soldier, so she has always been family.
Unfortunately, my old roommates Tony Lemieux and John Wiegman didn’t make it. Neither did Sgt. Link or Bob Muirer, who were on my TacSat team in Grenada. Maybe next time!
Sunday morning, everyone else having called end-X, I went for a hike at Raven Rock State Park, just west of Lillington.
Upon arriving at the visitor center, I turned on my crappy Garmin 62S GPS. While waiting an eternity for it to locate satellites, I realized it was down to two bars of power. (The scale seems to be logarithmic, so two is only a tiny fraction of the full four.) Worse, I had forgotten my little pocket accessory bag I take on hikes, and which contains two spare AA batteries. No way I was going to be able to do both the Campbell Creek Loop and the Raven Rock Loop. Further, even with two bars, I would very likely run out hiking just one of the trails.
I chose the Campbell Creek Loop.
The Campbell Creek Loop is a five mile lasso from the Raven Rock State Park Visitor Center. It is marked by a blue disk. The trail is wide, of hard packed sand, and sometimes Carolina red clay. There are only scattered roots and golf ball sized rocks, so footing isn’t an issue.
There’s a jillion little side creeks, typically five feet wide and 2-3″ deep. Almost all of them are crossed by a small “bridge” or walkway, except near the far end of the loop, near the Lanier Falls side trail. The longest bridge crosses Campbell Creek at the beginning of the loop portion of the lasso.
I hiked counterclockwise. The footing is iffier after the pit toilet, but still not bad. Also, fewer of the side creeks are “bridged”.
There’s a couple of rest benches along the way, which I did not utilize as the hike is short and I was trying to beat my dying batteries.
There’s lots & lots of green on this hike: Leaves, trees, vines, ferns. All kinds of green plants. But almost no flowers. I only recall seeing one small set of yellow blooms, and forgot to photograph them as I was distracted by a mold. There’s quite a few molds & mushrooms, but still not as many as you would expect given how moist the ground was. (Or the air, for that matter: The humidity was extremely high.) Some of the molds were truly spectacular. 😳
Hiking counterclockwise, the trail follows the west bank of Campbell Creek. Two miles into the hike, there is an unnamed side trail that continues along Campbell Creek as it empties into the Cape Fear River. Unless you want to explore, you should instead turn left. Campbell Creek is about 30 ft. wide and up to 6″ deep, with 10 ft. banks of slippery clay. Flow was audible, but not heavy.
A quarter mile after the false turn is the Lanier Falls Trail. The quarter mile, one way, side trail to Lanier Falls is marked by a red triangle. Don’t get lost. 🙄
Also, mind your footing, as there is a lot of slippery clay and boulders near Lanier Falls.
Lanier Falls was nothing spectacular — more like a small rapids — but moving a lot of water. (Including the water bottle that fell out of my back pocket.)
It was the only water bottle I had. Considering the humidity, two would have been more appropriate. Instead, I was rationing, and lost half of my water. I had to finish the hike dry. I was pretty thirsty by the end.
A quarter mile past the Lanier Falls Trail is a pit toilet, the only facilities on the Campbell Creek Loop. You otherwise will need to risk ticks peeing in the woods. Speaking of ticks, I was very careful to avoid brushing against greenery, but still had my wife inspect me afterwards. I guess the Off! helped. 👍
My GPS batteries died near the pit toilet. Just past the pit toilet, the trail splits again: Right is a service road. Go left.
Campbell Creek Loop is a popular trail. I saw two trail runners, nine hikers, and a platoon of Boy Scouts returning from a camp out.
What little elevation gain there is, is small up & downs. The only “climb” is on the return, ascending the lasso’s handle 200 ft. back to the visitor center trailhead. By the time I was finished, my clothes were soaked through with sweat.
After refreshing at the visitor center, we headed back to Fayetteville, stopping along the way in the far outskirts of Spring Lake. Being that it was Fathers Day, seeing the duplex where I became a father, for the first time in 34 years, was pretty cool.
GPS File: Campbell_Creek_Lanier_Falls
Distance: 5.00 mi.
AEG: 550 ft.
Time: 2h 00m