In our five-part Winter Wild monthly adventure series, we go off trail to explore some of the wildest places in the region. Our January hike will be to the Butner Game Lands, more than 40,000 acres of wetlands and bottomland woods on the north side of Falls Lake.
It’s a common challenge over the holidays: you have family and friends visiting from afar — now, what are you going to do with them?
Take them on an adventure! Or, rather, let us help you take them on an adventure!
We’ve got several outdoor adventures this holiday season that are ideal for getting everyone out of the house and showing off the region’s great outdoor attributes!
Fire, when it comes to the natural world, is often associated with loss — the loss of trees, of shrubs, of grasses, of animal life. But it also plays a key role in keeping the forest alive. This year, North Carolina is celebrating that role, proclaiming it the Year of Fire in its State Parks.
At a trip planning meeting for our backpacking trip on the AT this weekend, we were about to wrap up when one last thought occurred.
“Oh, and be prepared for the nights,” I added. “They can be long.”
Really, really long.
This weekend, for instance, sunset is at 5:44 p.m. where we’re headed. However, both nights of our stay we’ll be camped low on the mountain, meaning we’ll lose sunlight a good half hour earlier. Sunrise the next morning is at 7:39 a.m. — again, because we’ll be well below the ridge, let’s make that 8. That’s nearly 15 hours of dark — cold dark. If there’s enough dry wood and we can get a fire going, we can shave 2-3 hours off the front end of that. Still, that’s more than half of a 24-hour day confined to a space not much longer or wider than you are, and that you can barely sit up in. That’s why adding be-prepared-for-the-long-nights as an afterthought is more than a small oversight.
The first time I hiked Lake Mattamuskeet was on a late November day back in the late 1990s. I was heading back from the coast and only intended to stop for a moment, stretch my legs, see tundra swans, teals or widgeons had arrived for the season. I wound up walking one of the dirt access roads around the lake for a couple of hours. The snowbirds had yet to arrive from the north — or maybe some had and I just didn’t notice. Rather, I was taken by the sweeping view across the lake, the endless blue sky, the quiet. Ever since, when I’ve been to the coast in winter I’ve tried to spend time hiking Lake Mattamuskeet or one of the other National Wildlife Refuges along the coast.
Winter is a season disliked more in anticipation than in reality.
That dislike begins the first day of summer. Though we generally do spend the summer solstice reveling in the most daylight of the year — 14 hours, 35 minutes and 8 seconds — in the back of our minds we know that it’s all downhill from here. The day after the solstice we’ll be down to 14 hours, 35 minutes and 6 seconds, two seconds that we won’t actually notice, but two seconds that we’re shorted all the same.
Winter — such a misunderstood season. For too many, the notion of hibernation learned in elementary school seems to have stuck: it’s cold, hunker down, stay inside until spring. While that notion may apply to cold-blooded types in more northerly climates, hibernation isn’t an approved practice in North Carolina, where daytime highs around 50 and sunshine are common occurrences.