Our two favorite times to be in the trail in winter: sunrise and sunset. They’re great year-round, frankly, but much more accessible in winter: Sunrise today is at 7:21 a.m., sunset at 5:34 p.m.
If you have to ask what’s so special about these two golden hours of the day, then you’re probably not a hiker. Or possibly in possession of a pulse. Personally, we love the moment-to-moment change as the sky evolves from yellow to pink to orange to crimson to purple. If we sense the conditions for a good sunset, we’ll dash to the local summit in town, Occoneechee Mountain, which affords an open view to the west: sunset over the Eno River Valley is one of the best. We’re pretty crazy about certain other sunsets as well: from Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge, from atop Shining Rock in the Pisgah National Forest, from Little Long Mountain in the Uwharrie National Forest, from Hump Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. We’ve even seen the queen mother of sunset phenomena: the elusive green flash, a prismatic neon burst that lasts just a second or two, which we saw over the Pacific Ocean years ago in Hawaii.
But really, a great golden hour can be had from so many places. The photo above? The sunrise Thursday morning on Hillsborough’s Riverwalk. It was stunning for about 10 minutes, but at its peak when we took this shot. All week the conditions have been right for stellar golden hours: crisp, cold, skies with a smattering of clouds.
And that should be the case for Saturday evening’s Sunset Hike at Eno River State Park. From the park office, a naturalist will set off at 5 p.m. down to the Eno to catch sunset (at 5:35 p.m.) over the Eno. The hike is about a mile roundtrip, is rated easy (there are some steps to navigate), and the payoff should be sublime. A few clouds in the sky, a temperature in the low 50s and sunset: as the ad says, priceless. And it is — priceless — though registration is required, by calling the park office at 919.383.1686.
Also this weekend:
Basin Hike, Sunday, 11 a.m., Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Kure Beach. One of our favorite gateway hikes in the state: do it and you’ll be hooked on hiking for life. Two reasons: 1. It’s pretty easy, a flat 2.2 miles round trip; and 2. It’s scenic. You start at the Atlantic Ocean, you hike inland through maritime forest, through back dunes, through a salt marsh. And, you visit a concrete World War II bunker that later, in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, was home to the Fort Fisher Hermit. Learn more here, sign up — it’s free, but registration is required — by calling 910.458.5798.
Winter Tree ID, Saturday, 1-3 p.m., Blue Jay Point County Park, Raleigh. Sometimes, you have a real thirst to improve your knowledge of nature. Not just gain a cursory understanding, but to really learn a thing or two that you can carry with you on future outings. Saturday’s 2-hour Winter Tree ID session promises to be just that. Why? One, because it’s two hours (most such classes are an hour at most), and two, because the class earns credits toward North Carolina Environmental Educator Certification. The session starts in a classroom, then heads into the field. Learn more about the class and how to sign up, here.
Bird Calls for Beginners, Sunday, 2:30-4 p.m., Kathleen Clay Edwards Library, Greensboro. Wish you knew a second language? Here’s your chance. Says the class description, “…discover some techniques from local birders to learn bird calls and songs.” Learn more here.
GetHiking! this weekend
What are our GetHiking! groups in North Carolina and Virginia up to this weekend? Plenty, thanks for asking …
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Madison’s Montpelier to Grelen and Back, Friday, January 24, 9 a.m., 11350 Constitution Hwy, Montpelier Station. Moderate. 6 miles. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Ceder Run, Hawksbill, AT, and White Oak Canyon Circuit, Sunday, January 26, 8 a.m., 4105 Lewis and Clark Dr., Charlottesville. Strenuous. 6 miles. Hike Highlights: Cedar Run Trail, Hawksbill Trail, 270 degree views from the summit of Hawksbill, Appalachian Trail, Ridge line views from the Appalachian Trail, White Oak Canyon Trail, Upper White Oak Falls, Lower White Oak Falls. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Appalachian Trail to Blackrock Summit, Sunday, January 26, 10 a.m., 1125 Emmet St., Charlottesville. Easy. 5 miles. Hike Highlights: boulder scramble, views from Blackrock. Learn more here.
Live the video
Today’s video is from Sunday’s hike at Little River Regional Park, a Durham/Orange counties joint north of the city of Durham. We hike 5 miles here (there’s another 8 miles of mountain bike trail), some through Piedmont hardwood forest, some along the sprightly, especially after a good rain, Little River. Learn more about exploring the park here.
More Weekend Options
Looking for more options for weekend adventure? Check out our GetOut! Find An Adventure resource page here.