Saturday is National Trails Day, a day set aside for paying homage to the nation’s more than 200,000 miles of trail. In most cases, that involves grabbing a rake, a pickax, a shovel and sprucing up the trails that on the other 364 days of the year we love to death. It’s a day underscoring that without volunteer labor, our trail systems simply wouldn’t exist. Last year, for instance, 190,350 volunteer hours were logged at nearly 2,000 registered National Trails Day events. That represents roughly $3.9 million in labor that our cash-strapped federal, state and local land managers simply couldn’t afford to pay for.
It’s one of those weekends in North Carolina where you wish you could triplicate yourself … .
When anyone asks me for a good beginner canoe trip with great scenery, I never hesitate with the answer: Merchants Millpond State Park. For starters, it’s one of the few places in the state where you can rent a canoe year-round. Then, it’s only $5 an hour (that’s for the first hour; it drops to $3 an hour for the second and subsequent hours). But the main reason to paddle Merchants Millpond is the scenery. Paddling here is on a 190-year-old, 760-acre millpond peppered with bald cypress and tupelo gum trees draped in Spanish moss. The pond’s dark, acidic waters support floating mats of duckweed and water fern. It’s the quintessential swamp paddle minus the alligators (it’s been years since one has been seen).
Sunday, one of the kids asked how Daylight Saving Time came to be (a disgruntled kid, I should add, since she’d be waking for school an hour earlier the next morning). I spared her my discourse on a subject I’m peculiarly fascinated by and gave her the short version: Several countries adopted it in World War I as a way to save coal for the war effort. Most dropped it following the war, resumed it for WWII, then, to a large extent, stuck with it.
Wings Over Water, feet on cliff faces, heads in the sky and gorgeous fall weather. What better reasons for getting out this weekend?
If you’ve ever needed incentive to get outdoors, Wings Over Water is it. The appropriately acronymed “WOW,” in its 14th year, is a six-day celebration of the wildlife and natural history (as well as human history as it relates to the natural world) of Eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Beginning this past Tuesday and running through Sunday, more than 100 guided programs are offered covering just about every element of the natural world in this surprisingly wild oasis on the eastern seaboard. Saturday alone, there are birding programs at Bodie Island, South Pond, Old Oregon Inlet, Cape Hatteras and Portsmouth Island; a tour exploring the natural and human history of Portsmouth Island village; digital photography workshops; an owl prowl; a sunset canoe tour of the Alligator River; and a night tram tour of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.