One of the first paddle trips I took east of I-95 after arriving in North Carolina in the early 1990s was to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d driven past the 154,000-acre lowland several times on my way to the Outer Banks, but for some reason never thought to bring a boat. Then I saw that the refuge was leading weekly paddle trips, so I signed up. As we were paddling the expansive Milltail Creek east toward the Alligator River, someone in the group asked why we weren’t seeing the refuge’s namesake reptile.
The ranger leading the trip told us to raft up and watch the river bank to the south. The bank was dominated by three-foot-high reed grass and what appeared to be fallen logs in the water.
“Watch,” he instructed. We did, and before long we noticed that the logs were blinking.
I tell this story a lot when explaining the allure of exploring Eastern North Carolina. There is so much to see east of I-95, it sometimes just takes a little extra patience and perseverance. I’ve since embraced that approach in telling the adventurous story of Eastern North Carolina, a story that’s yet to be fully appreciated by a larger audience.
We hope to change that in the months and years ahead. One way is by teaming with our friends at Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Greenville to form GetExploring! Greenville.
Our goal is two-fold:
One, to expose the already adventurous to the multitude of opportunities east of I-95. For instance, the region includes more than 2,500 miles of mapped paddle trails. There are 10 National Wildlife Refuges protecting 365,000 acres and a national forest, the Croatan, covering 160,000 acres. Local land trusts lead by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust have protected another 60,000 acres, much of which is open to exploration. You can take a long hike (the 20-mile Neusiok Trail), you can go backpacking (Merchants Millpond State Park), you can go mountain biking (The Bicycle Post trails northwest of town).
- We also want to provide a supportive and instructive environment for fledgling adventurers, those folks who are intrigued by the notion of outdoor adventure but haven’t taken those first footsteps into the wild. We’ll show you where to go, we’ll go there with you, and we’ll hang with you so you don’t feel abandoned.
You can learn more about the GetExploring! Greenville program in a post we wrote for the Great Outdoor Provision Co. blog. You can learn about our adventures, including a kick-off gathering Thursday evening at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. shop in Greenville, on the group’s Meetup page.
We’re looking forward to exploring more of Eastern North Carolina. We hope you’ll join us on the adventure.
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