This weekend: winter curious?

Carolina Beach State Park along the Cape Fear River

The natural world presents many questions in winter. This weekend, you have a chance to learn many answers.

Coast

When you head to the coast, hiking often isn’t atop your list of things to do. It should be, especially this time of year. The bugs are at bay (or at least at a minimum), the temperatures aren’t stifling, and, perhaps most significantly, it is serene, the calm before the summer crowds descend.

And because it is the more temperate coast, nature is more alive than it is in colder reaches of the state.

Take Carolina Beach State Park, for instance, where the park's website states, “Several coastal ecosystems are present in the park. Forests dominated by longleaf pine, turkey oak and live oak occupy the dry, coarse soil of a series of relict sand dunes. Between the dunes are dense shrub swamps, called pocosins, populated by pond pines, loblolly and sweet bay, yaupon and evergreen shrubs. Brackish marshes consisting primarily of cordgrasses and sedges can be found beyond the relict dunes adjacent to the river.”

That’s a lot to take in on your own. Fortunately, the park periodically holds a Biological Wonderland Hike, the next one of which is Saturday. Let a ranger help you identify these adjoining ecosystems and understand how they interact. The hike begins at 2 p.m., from the Flytrap Trail Parking Area.

Logistics: Biological Wonderland Hike, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2 p.m., Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny with a high of 70 at hike time.

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Looking ahead: U.S. Open Fat Bike Championships, March 11, Blockade Runner Resort, Wrightsville Beach. More info here.

Along Greensboro's watershed lakes

Piedmont

One of the joys of winter in North Carolina is that it serves as the overwintering grounds for a goodly number of waterfowl. Most folks think this phenomenon is limited to the coast, where tundra swans, northern pintails and others by the hundreds of thousands spend the mild coastal winter in lakes, marshes and other wetlands. But the interior of North Carolina also gets its share of feathered visitors.

Learn about these migrants as well as the native avian population Sunday on a Waterfowl Birding Boat Tour on Lake Townsend in Greensboro. A naturalist leads this hour-and-a-half tour conducted on a pontoon boat.

Logistics: Waterfowl Birding Tour, Sunday, Feb. 26, 3 p.m., Lake Townsend Marina, Greensboro. $7. Learn more and sign on, here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny with a tour-time temperature of 58.

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Looking ahead: Not a boat person? Take in the lake from the Palmetto & Nat Greene trails on a March 4 hike, also sponsored by Greensboro Parks & Rec. $2. More info here.

Lake James (with Linville Gorge in the background)

Mountains

Are you taking the North Carolina State Parks 100 Mile Challenge? Are you aware of the Challenge?

The Challenge is N.C. State Parks effort to get folks to hike 100 miles or more in their great parks during 2017. Log your hikes, complete the Challenge, get a cool commemorative pin. Learn everything you need to know about the challenge here.

Intrigued? Start your march toward 100 Sunday at Lake James State Park with the Fox Den Loop 100 Mile Challenge Hike. Ranger Kevin Bischoff leads this 2 1/4-mile hike to help you find out what the park’s permanent residents are up to in winter. Complete the hike and you’ll be 97 and 3/4 miles closer to meeting the Challenge.

Logistics: Sunday, Feb. 26, 11 a.m., Fox Den Lopp 100 Mile Challenge Hike, Lake James State Park, Nebo. More info here.

Sunday forecast: Hike time high of 49 under sunny skies.

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Looking ahead: Streamside Hike, March 18, South Mountains State Park, Connelly Springs. 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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