From an astronomical standpoint, fall doesn’t begin until the wee hours (3:50 a.m.) of September 23. That would be the autumnal equinox, that magical day when we have as many hours of daylight as dark.
In the psychic realm, however, fall begins with the passing of Labor Day, the traditional end of summer. Goodbye pool parties and cookouts, hello fleece and football. The trouble with the psychological version is that the heat tends to overstay its welcome, lounging about into mid-September, into late September, into October. Mentally, you’re ready for changing leaves and a chill heading out the front door. In reality, you’re still in flip-flops and shorts. read more
There’s a little rain in the forecast, but mostly sun. After recent events, you’re obliged to get out and make the start of our galaxy feel welcome. And there are events aplenty this weekend to help you do just that.
If you like your movement to have meaning, you’re in luck this weekend. In the Wilmington area alone, there’s the 17th Annual Son Run 5K (benefitting The Carousel Center, A Safe Place and Methodist Home for Children), Color Run 5K (childhood obesity), Cape Fear Buddy Walk (Down Syndrome), Wellness Walk (healthy living), Live.Love.Throw! Cornhole Tourney (New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Pink Ribbon Project) and the Wilmington Area CROP Hunger Walk.
Looking ahead: 19th Annual Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, Outer Banks region, Oct. 20-25. More than 100 birding, paddling, photography, art and natural history trips, tours and programs. Details here.
Are you ever torn between two adventures. Say, for instance, the forecast says you should get out in the woods and enjoy the emerging fall color on the trail. Yet you also hanker for something more physically challenging. Rock climbing, perhaps?
Slake both thirsts in one outing this Sunday, with GetHiking! Triangle and the Triangle Rock Club. First, at 4 p.m., GetHiking! Triangle leads a 4-mile hike on a portion of the Sycamore Trail at Umstead State Park in Raleigh. Then, the group heads 10 minutes down the road where the Triangle Rock Club hosts a couple hours of indoor climbing on its 13,000-plus square feet of wall (plus another 7,000 square feet of bouldering surface).
No experience? No problem. Plenty of helpful types will be on hand to help you enjoy both experiences.
Saturday is National Trails Day, a time when we pay homage to the more than 200,000 miles of recreational pathways across the land that deliver us from the challenges of day-to-day life. Be it a foot path, a bike path, a canoe trail or a horse trail, events nationwide will give us a chance to either celebrate our trails by using them, or honor them by sprucing ’em up.
The sponsoring American Hiking Society lists 31 National Trails Day events in North Carolina. From that list, which you can find in its entirety here, we’ve pulled three activities — at the coast, in the Piedmont and in the mountains — that we think you’ll find particularly appealing.
The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge occupies 153,000 acres of some of the most ecologically impressive terrain in North Carolina. Situated on a spit of rich organic and mineral soils on a peninsula between the mainland and the Outer Banks, the refuge is known largely for its diverse cast of critters, black bears, red wolves, coyotes and alligators among them.
But it also supports a range of ecosystems, including Atlantic white cedar forest, bay forest, brackish and freshwater marshes, cyrpress-gum forest, freshwater lakes and ponds, high shrub pocosins … the list goes on. It’s one of those places where you wish you knew at least a few of the key players.
That can happen Saturday, on a Plant and Tree ID Hike in the refuge. Local plant expert Bob Glennon leads a hike not only identifying plants but explaining the role they play in the overall scheme of things. The hike is on the half-mile-long, handicap accessible Creef Cut Trail.
Logistics: Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, off Milltail Road. For more information call 252.475.4180 or visit here.
Looking ahead: From National Trails Day this Saturday to National Get Outdoors Day next Saturday, the outdoors celebration continues. As part of NGOD, Dismal Swamp State Park is holding a Summer Paddle at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, all equipment included. More info by calling 252.771.6593.
Here in the U.S., we largely hike to forget. OK, perhaps “forget” is a little extreme, suggesting that we hike with a hiking staff in one hand, a bottle in the other. Rather, we hike to help cope with the stress of often chaotic lives. Put us on a trail, let our minds wander, we’re happy.
They likely hike for similar reasons in Germany and in the rest of Europe, but they also tend to hike with a sense of purpose, banding together into “volksmarch” clubs and hiking predetermined routes based on intriguing points of interest. And, they also like to get credit for their hikes, earning stamps, pins and patches on their merry, marching way.
A classic paddle adventure at the coast, a weather reprieve on hiking in the Piedmont and everything under the sun — which will be shining bright — at the Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville: get out and celebrate your freedom this weekend.
We may sound like a broken record, but one of the best adventure bargains going is canoeing at Merchants Millpond State Park. For just $5 an hour (and $3 for every hour thereafter), you can take out a canoe and explore this rambling, 760-acre millpond pocked with bald cypress, tupelo gum and the the assorted mysteries of a southern swamp.
It’s made even better Sunday afternoon when a park ranger leads Canoe 101. No paddling experience? No problem: the ranger will start you off with the basic strokes, then lead you on a paddle tour of this intriguing ecosystem. Best of all: there’s no fee. There are a limited number of boats available, though; sign-up ASAP to insure a spot (see below).
Logistics: Sunday, May 24, 2:30 p.m., Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. Free, but space is limited; reserve a spot by calling 252.357.1191.
Looking ahead: Historical Southport Bicycle Tour, Saturday, May 30, 9 a.m. $20/$25. More info here.
What to do on a sunny Sunday morning on a cusp-of-summer day when the daytime high will only reach the low ‘80s?
Take advantage of one of the last days amenable to hiking in the Piedmont before fall. Which is the plan for our GetHiking! Triangle crew as it takes on a 10-mile stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along the Eno River. The group will start at West Point on the Eno City Park in Durham, hike upstream through rocky passages, past signs of Durham’s past, around the inviting Eno Quarry and through a thicket of mountain laurel atop a bluff en route to the Pleasant Green Access.
Logistics: Sunday, May 24, 9:30 a.m., meet at the Pleasant Green Access to Eno River State Park. For more information and to sign up, visit GetHiking! Triangle.
Looking ahead: Volksmarch from the N.C. Museum of Art to Umstead State Park, 6.2 miles, Saturday, June 6, 2 p.m. More info here.
As Karen Chavez with the Asheville Citizen-Times puts it, this weekend’s 15th Annual Mountain Sports Festival “celebrates all-things outdoor-recreation” Friday through Sunday. Based in Asheville’s Carrier Park in the River Arts District, the MSF truly covers just about every active mountain activity you can imagine, from whitewater kayaking and cyclocross to Ultimate Frisbee, Inline Hockey and knot-tying. If you want to experience it, you can experience it here.
Check out Karen’s account of the event here. Then, check out the Mountain Sports Festival site below for more detailed information.
Looking ahead: Blue Ridge Bicycle Club’s Fletcher Flyer, June 7, 8 a.m., Oskar Blues Brewery, 342 Mountain Industrial Drive, Brevard. Full century, metric century, half century, and half metric rides; post-ride party. $45 until May 24, $55 after.
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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.
Learn your shorebirds at the coast, learn your wildflowers in the mountains. Meanwhile, in the Piedmont you can learn a new stretch of trail.
Friday morning, our friends at the North Carolina Coastal Federation, along with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours, are conducting a Coastal Birding Cruise. The one-hour boat ride, aboard The Shamrock, will explore the marsh and backwaters around Wrightsville Beach searching for shorebirds, from the pelican and black skimmer to (hopefully) the endangered piping plover (pictured). Guides will explain the area’s ecology as well. A great way to learn more about an area you may visit frequently, but likely don’t know well.
Logistics: Friday, April 3, 10 a.m., Blockade Runner Beach Resort Dock, Wrightsville Beach. $25-$35. More information: 910.509.2838 or visit here.
But investigate it we will, finally, on Saturday, with our GetHiking! Triangle group. We’ll meet at West Point at 10 a.m., shuttle to Penny’s Bend, hike upstream back to West Point. It’s a relatively flat stretch, this five miles that links 12 miles of the MST along the Eno upstream of West Point on the Eno, and 60 miles downstream, along Falls Lake.
There’s something about the Smokies and wildflowers that shouts great spring weekend in the mountains. Which is why we’re giving a shout out (Is that still hip to say? Are we trying too hard?) to Sunday’s