I’ve had a dream to live in a place where I could walk out the back door and be on a trail. I’ve twice flirted with this dream: once living a quarter mile from a greenway network in North Raleigh, then living just above the headwaters of Swift Creek in Cary, where there wasn’t a trail per se, but there was some awesome floodplain to explore (under the right conditions).
But now, I have no qualifiers: I’m living the dream. Since moving earlier this year into a renovated mill in west Hillsborough, I have Occoneechee Mountain in my backyard. OK, I do have to walk out the front door (there is no back door), and there is a short stretch of sidewalk before reaching a short stretch of greenway, Hillsborough’s Riverwalk, before I get to Occoneechee’s back door and about 3 miles of the Triangle’s finest mountain hiking.
I make the trek over and around Occoneechee about twice a week, and I am smitten by the mountain’s many treasurers: it’s passage through Piedmont hardwoods on the Chestnut Oak Trail, it’s tease of Southern Appalachia — including mountain laurel, rhododendron and fragrant galax — along the Eno, it’s view from the overlook, where on a clear day you can see Efland.
It’s a hike I’ve kept to myself, but am finally ready to share. So Sunday at 11 a.m., I will. We’ll meet at my place for about a three-and-a-half-mile hike to and around Occoneechee and back. Refreshments to follow. Learn more about Sunday’s Occoneechee Mountain from My Place Hike here.
Also on tap in the coming days:
Winter Bird Hike, Saturday, Dec. 28, 9 a.m., Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle. At Pilot Mountain, it’s not all about the mountain. The River Section includes some of the same outstanding scenery as the park’s namesake peak, but without the crowds. It also provides a great opportunity to learn about the birds that winter in this popular area, which is the focus of this Saturday morning hike led by a ranger. Learn more here.
GetOriented! Finding Your Way in the Woods, Monday, Dec. 30, 1 p.m., Umstead State Park, Raleigh. Love the trail but uncertain about your wayfinding skills? This three-hour session goes over basic map and compass skills, then hits the trail to offer key tips on how to follow and stay on the trail, how to find it again if you stray, and how to explore off trail. But really, it’s all about being able to explore like a kid, but with the tools of a responsible adult. A great family activity, btw. Learn more and sign up here.
GetHiking! this weekend
What are our GetHiking! groups in North Carolina and Virginia up to this weekend? Plenty, thanks for asking …
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Austin Mountain – Brown’s Gap Circuit Hike, Saturday, December 28, 7:30 a.m., 400 Ray C Hunt Dr., Charlottesville. Strenuous. 11 miles. Hike highlights: Austin Mountain, Madison Run, rock slides and an easy stroll home via Brown’s Gap (Madison Run) Fire Road. Note: Hike optimized for SNP 500 hiker. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Bear Church Rock, Sunday, December 29, 8:30 a.m., 4105 Lewis and Clark Dr., Charlottesville. Strenuous. 11 miles. Hike highlights: Bootens Gap, Appalachian Trail, Laurel Prong Trail, Cat Knob Trail, Cat Knob, Jones Mountain Trail, Bear Church Rock. Learn more here.
Live the video
Today’s video is from the second of our seasonal Winter Wild hikes, off-trail adventures to some pretty wild places. What makes the series special is that it takes you places you likely wouldn’t go on your own, including spots like the Lower Haw River State Natural Area, this past weekend’s destination. While the Lower Haw is a State Natural Area, akin to Occoneechee Mountain or Weymouth Woods, it lacks the development of those better-known preserves. In fact, other than a trailhead, you won’t find much evidence that it is a recreational venue: no bridges, no blazes, and often only scattered bits of recognizable trail. Your best bet for learning more about the area is to visit the Friends of the Lower Haw River State Natural Area here.
That said, if you love the idea of exploring off-trail, you’re in luck! Our next Winter Wild adventure is in two weeks, on Saturday, January 11. We’ll be exploring the bottomland woods north of Falls Lake, an area well-known to birders, less so to the rest of us — the Butner Game Lands. Learn more and sign up to join us here.
More Weekend Options
Looking for more options for weekend adventure? Check out our GetOut! Find An Adventure resource page here.