Marcy and I weren’t looking for a marathon hike (we’d done that a couple weeks earlier, to mixed reviews) and that made the Blue Ridge Parkway a perfect destination. This linear National Park that links the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddling the North Carolina/Tennessee line, is best known for the 469-mile two-lane road that takes motorists through some of the Southern Appalachians most stellar scenery. But you’ll find more than 100 hiking trails along the way, the vast majority of which do not fall into the marathon category.
I’m back to remind you that Saturday is National Trails Day, a day when we celebrate the more than 200,000 miles of trail that help us escape the oppressive monotony of day-to-day existence and recoup our souls.
OK, maybe that’s a little strong.
But trails do play a vital role in our physical and mental well being. So in honor of National Trails Day, pay a visit to your local trail. You can either give something back (in the form of a workday) or you can celebrate their existence. And while you’re at it, celebrate the essential role that you, the people, play in blazing and maintaining the nation’s trails. To wit, another account of the vital part volunteers play in our trails, this one in regard to the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest.
“You ask about the vital roll volunteers played in the trail,” says Sue Huntsman. “There wouldn’t be a trail without them! The Carteret County Wildlife Club — specifically my husband Gene Huntsman — conceived of the trail in 1970. With the advice of the USFS district ranger Ed Grushinski, the trail’s 22-mile course was determined. For the next decade, the members of the club donated untold hundreds of man-hours, blood and sweat roughing out the trail’s path in sections then connecting and refining the sections. Finally, (and still on-going) boardwalks and bridges were built to protect wetlands and ease hikers’ passage.”
While the U.S. Forest Service now does most maintenance on the Neusiok, the club continues to improve the trail, building additional boardwalks in perpetually wet areas, as well as shelters and fire pits for backpackers. In addition, the club remains busy building another trail in the Croatan, the Weetock, and also built a third trail, the two-mile Sea-Gate Woods trail for the Coastal Land Trust. All this from a club whose membership is largely over 55 years old.
The Carteret County Wildlife Club plans to celebrate National Trails Day on Sunday with a cookout Sunday afternoon. Show up between noon and 4 p.m. to hike, paddle the Neuse, fish or whatever (“The afternoon activities are unstructured,” advises Huntsman), the cookout commences at 5 p.m. (bring a side dish, barbeque will be provided).
For a rundown of other National Trails Day events, check out the GGNC post from last Thursday. In addition, Tim Lee with TORC fills us in on this late-breaking NTD event at the growing Briar Chapel trail network south of Chapel Hill.
NTD @ BC
10 a.m.-noon — Guided mountain bike rides (RSVP required at site below).
12:30pm — Free lunch, including Carolina-style BBQ with burgers, hot dogs, drinks, more.
1-4 p.m. — Party.
More info here.
If you’ve ever hiked at Crowders Mountain State Park, you may have encountered a challenge or two — tripped over a tree root or scrambled over a rock face. But it’s a good bet you haven’t come across trash or lost your way because the trail wasn’t well maintained. To a large extent, you have your peers to thank for that. Peers such as the ones who will gather June 5 as part of National Trails Day to make sure Crowders Mountain’s trails remain challenging and invigorating, yet safe and fun.
Wednesday, I was hiking along the North Prong of Shining Rock Creek, a lively mountain stream that plunges 2,200 feet in just three miles through a narrow, overgrown canyon. I was in a reveric trance, lulled in part by the rugged vegetation here in the Shining Rock Wilderness, in part by the cloudless, 70-degree spring afternoon, when —
I like snakes, but their sudden appearance four feet away causes me to stop in my tracks and say, “Whoa!” Such impromptu meetups are common this time of year, as we humans hit the trail more and rising temperatures activate these cold-blooded critters. Being in the sun rejuvenates our spirit, it jumpstarts their system.
After catching my breath, I scoped out the critter, taking a couple of pictures, jotting some notes, searching my increasingly porous memory for clues about what kind of snake it might be. Not that my database was brimming to begin with.
When it comes to snakes and birds, I don’t expend a lot of my remaining gray storage memorizing types and species. Two reasons: One, there are thousands of species to begin with, and two, the same critter can look completely different depending on various factors:
While fitness and health experts would like you to get an hour’s exercise a day, they’ll tell you that, above all, the key thing is to just move. With that in mind, here are a number of Earth Day “just move” events this weekend. (Yes, technically Earth Day isn’t until Thursday. But Thursday doesn’t fall on a weekend, this Saturday and Sunday happen to.)