This weekend: From baby steps to bombing down a mountain

That's "NASTAR" not "NASCAR."

We start the year by offering something for a variety of ability levels. Been on the sidelines for a while but have vowed to move more in 2012? We’ve got a mellow, one-mile guided hike at Goose Creek State Park that’s bound to make you want to get out more and stay out longer. Already active but ready to up your game? At South Mountains State Park there’s a 7.5-mile ranger-led hike over hilly terrain that will test your fitness level. And for the active and competitive, there’s NASTAR.

NASCAR? How’s driving fast gonna get me more physically active?

That’s “NASTAR,” Bubba. Sit tight and we’ll explain.

Coast

Saturday at 2 p.m., Goose Creek State Park offers a hike ideal for the newbie hiker. For one, it’s short, just a mile. It’s at the coast, so it’s flat, and it lasts about an hour, so there’s no blistering pace to fret over. And, the compelling scenery of this coastal forest — with stately oaks dripping with Spanish moss, tanic swamps and an understory dense with ferns and shrubs — will be so compelling that that hour and that mile will fly by.

A boardwalk elevates you above the wetter sections of Goose Creek State Park.

Logistics: Meet at the last parking lot inside the park, which is southeast of Washington, N.C., on the Pamlico River. 252.923.2191 or the Goose Creek Web site for more info.

Saturday forecast: High of 62 and partly cloudy. Get the latest prognostication here.

Piedmont

Winter is made for long hikes. Cooler temperatures mean longer distances and more challenging climbs don’t seem as … long and challenging. Plus, the absence of leaves makes for long views you won’t find through the canopy of summer. All good reasons to check out Saturday’s Shinny Trail Extended Backcountry Hike at South Mountains State Park. This 7.5-mile hike is especially attractive as it takes in the park’s Disney attraction, High Shoals Falls, but also explores South Mountain’s more rugged, mountainous interior on the Shinny Trail. The hike is rated “strenuous,”  starts at 10 a.m., and is estimated to take 4.5 hours.

High Shoals Falls at South Mountains State Park.

Logistics: The hike is free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required, by calling 828.433.4772. For more on South Mountains State Park, including where it is and how to get there, go here.

Saturday forecast: High of 63 with partly cloudy skies. For the latest guess, go here.

Mountains

Actually, that NASCAR misunderstanding from earlier wasn’t that far off the mark. Think of NASTAR as NASCAR on skis with amatuers behind the poles. NASTAR is a citizen racing program held at various ski areas around the country, including North Carolina’s Sugar Mountain. At noon on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season, a slalom course is set up on the mountain’s Big Red (intermediate) run. Pop for $6 ($2 for each subsequent run; you must already have a lift ticket) and you can take a timed run and see how you stack up against the nation’s top skiers. And anyone can do it (I’ve done it!). Plus, mid-week’s cold temperatures are letting Sugar Mountain make lots of snow, so conditions should be decent (though judging from the weather forecast below, Sunday may be your best bet).

Logistics: More info on Sugar Mountain here, on NASTAR here, and on ski conditions throughout the Southeast, here.

Weekend forecast: Highs of 43 Saturday and 39 Sunday, with a chance of light rain Saturday afternoon. Find the latest forecast here.

* * *

Those are GGNC’s thoughts for an active weekend. Find out other ways you can get out this weekend by browsing our super calendar, a collection of events calendars from throughout the state, below.

Coast

CapeFearCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.

NCCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).

Mountains

Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors
Searchable calendar lets you extend your reach to events throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast (or you can just limit it to North Carolina). Also lets you search a boatload of categories, ranging from Hiking, Mountain Biking and Climbing to Trail Running, Triathlon and Road Walking.

The Mountain Times
From the main page, click on “Calendars,” then Main Events.

Todd’s Calendar

Piedmont

Charlotte

Charlotte Observer events calendar
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including Nature, Recreation, Recreation & Wellness, Running

Charlotte Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Triad

GoTriad.com
Comprehensive calendar includes a Sports & Recreation category.

Piedmont Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Triangle

Triangle.com
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including: Birding, Boating, Cycling, Nature, Rec & Wellness, Recreation, Running, Swimming, Tennis, Yoga.

Carolina Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Statewide

Office of Environmental Education
One calendar for the numerous Environmental Education Centers statewide.

North Carolina State Parks
Lets you search for programs at the state’s parks, recreation areas and natural areas by location, by month, by topic. To reach the calendar from the home page, click on “Education,” then “Fun & Free Programs at Parks.”

National Forests in North Carolina
From the home page, click on Carolina Connections for news updates on the state’s four national forests as well as hints on recreational opportunities and a detailed rundown of recreation areas and the amenities at each.

GetGoingNC.com

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