fall color

In search of fall color

Saturday, our Gethiking! Triangle crew will hike a 5-mile stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail north of Durham. Known as Day-Hike Section S, it’s one of our favorite stretches of the MST through the Triangle because of its ecological diversity: it spends time skirting edge forest, it sidles up to Falls Lake and a large farm pond, it passes through emerging hardwood forest and mature bottomland woods, it takes advantage of long abandoned farm roads.

As such, it’s an ideal location for spotting the early advance of fall color through the Piedmont because, for various reasons, those attributes make for good fall color viewing. Edge forest, emerging hardwood stands, roadways and stream banks and lake shores tend to have more of a mix of trees, which leads to a variety of color. Bottomland and more mature woods create more monochromatic, but massive displays.

That’s where we’ll be this weekend. Where we’ll be over the next month will also be informed by the quest for color:

fall color
Fall color last year and at the same time this year, on the way to Mount Mitchell. (Photo courtesy romanticasheville.com)
  • GetHiking! Classic Escape to Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains, Oct. 19-21. Camping/hiking weekend. You might think, “Mount Mitchell, won’t the color be gone by mid-October?” Not according to Romantic Asheville’s Fall Color report, which on Wednesday reported: “Fall color is running a week late due to record warmth (sic) temperatures. At Mt Mitchell today … it’s still mostly green with a few pops of color. Usually, areas like this above 6,000 feet elevation would be at peak color now.” The photo above demonstrates their point. There are two hikes on this weekend trip: one between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, the other along the Black Mountain crest. Expect good color on both. 
  • GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler, Oct. 20-21, Raven Rock State Park. Meanwhile, in the Piedmont, more fall-like temperatures in the next two weeks should help this park on the cusp of the coastal plain get to mid-October form. We take the Campbell Creek Trail to our backcountry site; the trail that’s thick with hardwoods and spends time along both its namesake creek and the Cape Fear River. We’ll also make a trip to the top of 150-foot Raven Rock for a colorful view of the Piedmont to the north and west.
  • GetBackpacking! Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock/Citico Creek Wilderness, Oct. 25-29. Wilderness backpacking weekend. The delayed color in the mountains benefits this trip as well: though the mountains here are rugged, they top out around 5,300 feet, and spend a goodly amount of time in the 3,000- to 4,000-foot range. The big draw here is the old growth forest: the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is renowned for its virgin stands of yellow poplar, and much of the adjoining wilderness was also deemed too rugged to log. 
  • GetHiking! Classic Escape Weekend: Outer Banks, Nov. 2-4. Camping and hiking maritime woods. We have a habit in the Piedmont of thinking the fall color show is over once it exits, state east, the Piedmont. In fact, it continues to roll east, to the coast. On this weekend trip we will explore one of the largest remaining maritime forests (Nags Head Woods Preserve) on the East Coast, and one of the oldest stands of coastal hardwoods in the state (Pettigrew State Park). And it will all be in early bloom for our visit.

Enjoy a colorful month on the trail!

Joe

Details, details

For details on the hikes described above:

  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Day-Hike Section S, Durham, Oct. 6. Details here.
  • GetHiking! Classic Escape to Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains, Oct. 19-21. Camping/hiking weekend. Find details here.
  • GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler, Oct. 20-21, Raven Rock State Park. Find details here.
  • GetBackpacking! Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock/Citico Creek Wilderness, Oct. 25-29. Wilderness backpacking weekend. Find details here.
  • GetHiking! Classic Escape Weekend: Outer Banks, Nov. 2-4. Camping and hiking maritime woods. Find details here.

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