This weekend: Several ways to enjoy two sunny days

The forecast calls for seasonal, sunny weather over the next several days, weather that won’t be around for long and that’s ideal for certain types of adventure. Paddling at the coast, for instance. Or hiking a mountain trail. Or discovering a place that you’ll want to discover again and again.

Coast

Merchants Millpond (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)
Merchants Millpond (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)

We’ve been working with our friends at Great Outdoor Provision Co. on a series of adventures to to help you Save Your Summer, in the event summer hasn’t lived up to your adventure expectations. In the category of summer paddling adventures, one of our five nominations is canoeing the blackwater swamp at Merchants Millpond State Park.

It is, we contend, one of the easiest, most accessible, and economical ways to explore a blackwater swamp. This Sunday, it gets even easier, accessible and economic when a ranger leads “Canoe the Pond,” an exploration of the 760-acre millpond. No need to follow the trail markers (just follow the ranger), no need to plunk down the already minimal $5 canoe rental fee (the trip is free), and no head-scratching over the abundant flora and fauna you’ll be seeing — the ranger will fill you in.

One easy adventure.

Logistics: Sunday, 1 p.m., Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. Free, but space is limited; register to secure a spot: 252.357.1191.

Saturday forecast: High of 87 and sunny.

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Looking ahead: Explore the marsh and sound at Hammocks Beach State Park on a free kayak trip on Friday, Sept. 11. More info here.

Piedmont

Medoc Mountain State Park (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)
Medoc Mountain State Park (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)

Medoc Mountain … Medoc Mountain … Medoc Mountain …

You can almost hear the gears grinding as the person chews on the words. Nope, they finally answer, can’t say I’ve ever heard of it.

Which is too bad and somewhat amazing. Medoc Mountain State Park sits an hour and a half northeast of the Triangle and offers 2,300 acres of exploring in forest on the eastern edge of the Piedmont. The home of the New World’s first attempt at winemaking, a long-abandoned Boy Scout camp, and a mountain range that once reached to the sky but now tops out at 325 feet, the park offers lots of opportunity to explore.

Those opportunities are the focus of a ranger-led hike on the park’s Discovery Loop Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Spend an hour or so learning about the park, then explore on your own.

Logistics: Saturday, Aug. 22, 2 p.m., Medoc Mountain State Park, Hollister. Free, but registration requested, by calling 252.586.6588.

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 87.

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Looking ahead: How well do you know the ecology of the sandhills region? You’ll know it a lot better if you plan to attend the “Introduction to Weymouth Woods and the Ecology of the Sandhills” presentation at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve on Sunday, Sept. 6. More info here.

Mountains

Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)
Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)

Ever see a guided hike and think, “Man, I don’t think I can hike that far”? Or, conversely, “I don’t know if I want to drive that far for a hike that short”?

There’s no such problem with Saturday’s G.R.E.E.N. Day hikes at Grandfather Mountain, lead by the Boone-based Chargers and Re-Chargers hiking club. The four hikes are all on the Profile Trail, snaking up the northwest flank of Grandfather Mountain, but are of varying lengths. At 8 a.m., hikes of 4.5, 5.5 and 7 miles will set off up the trail, with destinations of Profile View, Shanty Springs and Calloway Peak, respectively. At 9 a.m., there’s a 2-mile hike that sticks to the  towering hardwood forest at the base of Grandfather.

Lots of options, no excuses.

Logistics: Saturday, Aug. 22, 8 and 9 a.m., Grandfather Mountain State Park, Linville. Shuttle provided from the Lowes Foods at NC 105 and NC 184 in Banner Elk. For more information, visit the Grandfather Mountain State Park website and click on “Events / Free Programs.”

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 77.

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Looking ahead: Not crazy about some of the wicked singletrack you encounter in the mountains, but enjoy the scenery? Check out the Asheville Gravel Grinder on Sunday, Sept. 13, on the Biltmore Estate grounds. Forty- and 60-mile options; the first 6-8 miles is on paved surface, the rest on dirt and gravel paths. More info here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed 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 coastal 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

Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Calendar includes three weekly events for each of its seven markets: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Search by market.

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.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
Rundown, by month, of regular activities at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuges in North Carolina.

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