Category Archives: GetHiking!

GetOut! Your Nudge for Weekend Adventure

After a dang cold week we’re heading into a darn nice weekend, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures, brace yourself, reaching 60.

So if you’ve been hibernating so far this winter, now’s your chance to emerge from your den for an adventure. An adventure such as: read more

A Winter Wild time Hiking off-trail at Hanging Rock

I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in Jim Plant when, during my interrogation of his intimate knowledge of Hanging Rock State Park, he said, “But then, I prefer to go off-trail.” Jim and fellow Friends of the Sauratown Mountains members Regina Rollins and Sarah Werner were standing on a rock outcrop with GetHiking!’s Alison Watta and me, surveying a vast stretch of undeveloped land in the 7,000-acre state park north of the Triad. read more

Warm up to the Cold 

The temperature was around 60, the sky as blue as it gets. It was a gorgeous day for hiking any time of the year, let alone the first weekend of January. And yet … .

“I could stand it a little colder,” Jenny said as we took a short break hiking the Buckquarter Creek Trail at Eno River State Park, our first GetHiking! Winter Program for Beginners hike. Her fellow sun-drenched hikers nodded.

Now, I love hiking in winter: I love throwing on layers, then peeling them off as I warm up; I love seeing my breath; I love steam pouring off my head when pull off my wool cap. But I was surprised that so many people new to hiking were ready for more of a nip in the air. I associate new hikers with spring and its allure of wildflowers and touch of warmth, and fall, for its color and retreat from summer’s stifling heat. And so it was wonderful to see that they are ready to embrace winter’s subtle charms. Here in the Southeast, especially, winter offers these delights:

=&0=&. Here’s a paradox: It’s the coldest time of the year, yet the time when we’re nearest the sun. On a cloudless day, the sun is more brilliant than it is in July. And in a forest without leaves, you can appreciate the sun’s brilliance all the more. During the week, you go into work as the sun is coming up and you go home around the time it sets, so the weekend allows for full appreciation of this burst of sunlight.

=&1=&. It’s quiet — and it’s not. In winter there’s less wildlife chatter, fewer noisy people in the woods. And while hibernation isn’t a practice in these parts, there’s less foraging going on. The noise you can is hear from a  distance, because dry winter air acts as a transmitter that’s especially effective in the absence of sound-muffling leaves. Stand still and just listen.

=&2=&. On Sunday’s hike, we followed a ridge above the Eno for three-quarters of a mile. In summer, you have no idea there’s a river below. On Sunday, we stood and watched the rain-swollen Eno course its way through a series of boulder fields, and listened to the dull roar of a river made too big for its banks. The elevated vantage point was almost better than walking along the banks.

=&3=&. In summer, we stick to the trail because who knows what lurks beyond: slithery creatures on the other side of a log, poisonous vines concealed in an ankle-high carpet of green. In winter, there are few surprises. For one, those slithery creatures aren’t likely to be out until the temperature climbs into the upper 60s and those itch-inducing leaves are in remission (though keep an eye out for fuzzy vines curling up tree trunks). The winter woods are open, the threats are minimal.

=&4=&. There are few, reason enough to love winter in the woods.

=&5=&. Winter gets a bad rap because it’s viewed as down time. This is especially true if you’ve migrated to the Southeast from the North or Midwest and are used to winter starting in mid-November and lingering through March. But here, winter soon reveals harbingers of spring. In late January, the first warm rain of the season queues a chorus of spring peepers. In early February, the woods start sprouting their first clusters of daffodils, a hardy ornamental planted by early homesteaders to brighten their lives. Then, in mid- to late-February come pairs of mottled green leaves poking through the leaf litter that soon give way to the delicate yellow and purple petals of the trout lily.

It may only be the second week of January, and just the third week of winter, but already, before the first peeper has spoken, we’re already getting nostalgic for the cold. Enjoy it while you can.

Happy trails,

Joe

Let us help you enjoy the season!

For a rundown of our winter hiking (and backpacking) programs, go here.

For our weekly GetHiking! hikes in North Carolina and Virginia, go here.

So many adventures, so few weekends

Peaks of Otter

So many adventures, so few weekends.

That’s the story of summer, the 13-week run between Memorial Day and Labor Day when we pack in most of our adventures for the year. So we set out to pick some destinations that seem most worthy of summer fun. Here are a few places we’re headed this summer, and why:

Peaks of Otter

Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

June 1-3

Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking

This especially adventurous trip combines hiking with a bit of history and a farm trip. June 6 marks the 74th anniversary of D-Day, and we’ll piggyback this hike with a visit to the National D-Day memorial in nearby Bedford, Va. After a tour of the museum Friday afternoon, we’ll continue on to our weekend basecamp at the Peaks of Otter campground. Saturday, we’ll hike three trails — 4.4-mile Flat Top, 3.3-mile Harkening Hill and 1.5-mile Sharp Top — and on Sunday we’ll make a return trip up Sharp Top to take in the sunrise. On the way out, we’ll stop at A Goode View Alpaca Farm.

Linville Gorge

Linville, NC

June 22-24

Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking

Linville Gorge is one of the Southeast most iconic adventures. The Linville River drops 2,000 vertical feet on its 13-mile run through a gorge that’s 1,300 feet deep, creating some dizzying drops and heart-pounding climbs. The majority of the region is a designated wilderness, so you get little help in finding your way: no trail blazes and when a towering hemlock drops, no one moves in with a chainsaw to chisel a way through. It’s some of the best true exploring to be had in these parts. We stick to the east rim Saturday, hiking from Table Rock to Shortoff Mountain and back, then Sunday plunge into the gorge on trails out of the Visitor Center.

Wilson Creek

Pisgah National Forest near Mortimer, NC

June 29-July 1

Adventure: Backpacking Solo

For a summer destination, it’s hard to beat Wilson Creek, which serves as the drainage for massive Grandfather Mountain. Water worms its way every which way here, making for refreshing stream crossings, lots of waterfalls and delightful pools to cool off in. Wilson Creek itself can be overrun on a hot summer’s day, so we plan to hit the less popular, more challenging Gragg Prong and Lost Cove portions of this wild area on a trip that includes camping solo on a ridge ending in one of the best outcrop overlooks around; it’s an ideal locale for coffee and a Sunday brunch of oatmeal and Pop-Tarts. We hike out Sunday morning, with the option for a hike to South Harper Falls.

Standing Indian

Nantahala National Forest near Franklin

Aug. 24-26

Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking

We went to Standing Indian two years ago and loved it. From the group campsite we hike up Kimsey Creek to the Appalachian Trail, cross over Standing Indian, and return to camp on Lower Trail Ridge Trail, so we can loll about back at camp in the cool waters of Kimsey Creek. Sunday, we head up Blackwell Ridge to the AT, with a return down the Long Branch Trail, in an area of old growth woods. It’s the perfect summer send-off.

Curtis Creek

Pisgah National Forest near Old Fort, NC

TBD

Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking

NOTE: This was actually going to be a sneak into summer this coming weekend, but a stormy forecast has pushed this trip to another weekend. We’ll let you know the new date! Curtis Creek became part of the nation’s nascent national forest system in 1913, becoming the first land in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. The area is so rugged that large swaths of land hadn’t been logged yet and weren’t likely to be. Our base for the weekend is the Curtis Creek Campground up the gravel Curtis Creek Road. Both of our hikes emanate from the campground: on Saturday, we’ll take the Snooks Nose Trail 4.1 miles up to the Green Knob observation tower, encountering old growth woods above 3,200 feet. A little off-trail hiking will be required to reach the most impressive stands of poplars in an area off Laurel Knob called the Pompous Bowl. Sunday, after a pancake breakfast, we take a shorter hike out of the campground up Hickory Branch to more old growth.

Join us!

Learn how you can join us on these summer adventures by clicking on the links below.

Peaks of Otter

Linville Gorge

Wilson Creek

Standing Indian

Curtis Creek

Happy trails!

Joe