Welcome to our latest effort in our quest to build a comprehensive list of places to play in North Carolina: Mountain biking.
North Carolina, if you aren’t aware, is a hot spot for mountain biking. Last year, Outside magazine named the Pisgah National Forest one of the top five mountain biking destinations in the U.S. Singletracks.com asked its followers to name the their favorite trails in the world, and four were in the state: Tsali, the Fletcher Creek area of Mills River, Bent Creek near Asheville and Overmountain Victory Trail at Kerr Scott Reservoir near Wilkesboro.
You want an epic ride? You don’t have to go far if you live in North Carolina.
Here’s our preliminary offering of 19 places to ride that we think are pretty swell. But we want to hear what you think. Think a place on our list is overrated and should be replaced? Let us know. Have we made a glaring omission? Fill us in. Or maybe we’ve omitted a key detail about one of the places that is listed. Tell us about that as well.
We’ll update the list periodically, and so you don’t have to go searching around the site to find, it will live permanently in the left rail of our home page. Scroll down to “Mountain biking,” click and you’re in business.
And send us your thoughts. Nothing like another good excuse to ride.read more
Even though we had discussed riding together a time or two, I was caught off-guard. I may have even blushed. Those first outdoors dates — be it for a backpack trip, to go climbing, to do a trail run — are fraught with tension. Are you as accomplished as you’ve let on? Can you really do 15-mile days in the Appalachians with a 35-pound pack? You may have done a 5.9 route, but that was 20 years and 30 pounds ago; can you do one today? And yes, you may have run 9-minute miles in a 10K — but that was on pavement, on a downhill course.read more
Last July 23, a Saturday, I was standing in front of about 40 people in the parking lot of Historic Yates Mill County Park in Raleigh. It was shortly before noon, the temperature was 101, and Allen Davis and I were on a 12-week mission to lead these hikers to ultragreatness. But first, we needed to lead them on a mile and a half march around the lake.
“Follow me!” I yelled — and promptly led our charges down a dirt path that dead ended within 50 yards. “Follow Allen!” I yelled, pointing to the back of the pack, where Allen exhibited the international palms-up sign for, “Me? Where?”
It was an inauspicious beginning to a journey that would affect, to varying degrees, the 28 who would make it through basic training.
The group was the inaugural Raleigh contingent of Ultimate Hikers. Ultimate Hike is the fundraising genius of CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a non-profit that until recently relied on grants and philanthropic donations to raise funds for research into children’s cancer. Three years ago it started doing fundraising walks, then hit on the idea of the Ultimate Hike: Train for 12 weeks, then do a monster dayhike. In the case of the Raleigh hikers and hikers throughout the Southeast, a 28.3-mile stretch of the 77-mile Foothills Trail, which straddles North Carolina and South Carolina.
A few of the hikers who showed up that first day were of the hardcore variety, athletes in search of a good challenge made all the better by the chance to help a good cause. But the vast majority seemed drawn more out of curiosity: Could I possibly hike 28 miles in one day? Me? Most had never hiked more than 5 miles. For them as well, it was a test.
To get them down that trail, Allen and I led them on increasingly longer hikes throughout training. After our get-acquainted sweatfest at Yates Mill, we did 6 miles at Harris Lake, 10 miles at Umstead, 14 miles along the Eno River, 15 at Hanging Rock (our “elevation” hike) and 20 on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake. Allen would typically lead the adrenaline junkies off the front, I hung with my stop-and-smell-the-flowers gals in the rear. We’d swap Clif Shot Bloks (“Trade you a citrus for a strawberry”), “we” talked about how uncomfortable female undergarments could get on a long, hot hike, we stayed as a group when one of us was dragging and needed encouragement. I assume the folks at the front of the pack, who typically were driving home by the time we finished, had a good time. We had a great time.
When Oct. 1 and the Ultimate Hike rolled around, we were ready. We got up at 2:45 a.m., were on the trail by 4:30. The speedsters were done by 2 p.m. I came in with the last hiker just before 7 p.m., with precious little sunlight to spare. We partied that night (until 9:30!), we dragged ourselves to breakfast the next morning, we drove home. We’ve kept in touch.
It’s an experience I would repeat in a heartbeat. And lucky me, being the hiking coach for Raleigh, I’ll get to, starting two weeks from today with our first information meeting for the 2012 Ultimate Hike season. Here’s part of what we’ll be telling you at the five sessions slated for the Triangle (see details on each meeting below):
Sign up and you’ll get:read more
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast, especially come summer. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease this trying transition, we’re running a new feature every Monday, at least during the summer, called 90 Second Escape. Essentially, it’s a 90-second video of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s in the sun. Or in today’s case, at least outside.read more
Recent snows, rain and cold weather (which keeps the trail from drying) have conspired to keep most mountain bike trails closed for the last month or so. That there even was a race Saturday was the doing of Amy Burke and her crew at Harris Lake. Race Director Chris White said Burke, who oversees trail maintenance at the park, had four people working on the trails full time last week and seven other employees pitched in when they could, building new boardwalks and infilling gravel in spots left perpetually wet by the recent snow and rain. The 8-mile course was soft in spots, but certainly rideable. Nice work by Burke & Co.read more