In March, I wrote about the joys of hiking in the rain — provided you have the right gear to keep you separated from that wonderful rain. I spoke glowingly of rain pants, of a rain hat, of water repellant boots, of wool socks. I was less ebullient about rain jackets. “Despite advances in breathable rain gear, I have yet to hear anyone rave about a particular garment,” I wrote. “If the temperature’s much above 60, there’s a good chance you’ll produce more sweat than any miracle fabric can vent.”
That led Mark Clements to write and ask if he could pen a salute to the poncho. Mark says he developed an appreciation for the poncho as a kid when the family would go on forced marches, downpour be danged. That he now represents McCampbell Enterprises, a maker of rain gear, put me in mind of George Castanza’s impassioned salute to the brassier when trying to land a job as a bra salesman.
And yet, there was a sincerity in Mark’s request. OK, kid, I said, you’ve got 300 words — make me a devout poncho wearer. So now, Mark Clement’s 300-word salute to the poncho …
“As a kid, I hated hiking. I always complained the entire time, and when it rained I had more to complain about. That is, until my mom busted out the rain ponchos. They kept us nice and dry, and turned my complaints back to the bugs. I’m really beginning to enjoy hiking, and on each and every trip I remember to pack a poncho. Here are the pros of packing a poncho in your backpack or back pocket the next time you go hiking.
“1) If it rains, you are going to get a little wet. No rain wear item is going to keep you perfectly dry, unless they create a personal bubble that blocks elements and lets you choose the temperature inside of your little environment bubble. Since that seems like it’s a ways off from happening, a rain poncho will protect you from the elements just as well as any other rain wear product. Our ponchos, and most ponchos, have a hood to protect your head, and they go down to the middle of your thighs. This enables you to move freely and stay dry in the process.
“2) No rain wear is going to be incredibly breathable. If they were, they wouldn’t be able to keep rain out. My recommendation is to keep a rain poncho in the package in your backpack, or back pocket and break it out only if it rains. If you need to wear the rain poncho during your entire hike, they are paper thin (yet durable), and have snaps on the sides that let you open them up for a little air. Typically when it rains, it cools down as well, so the chances of a thin poncho that weighs much less than a T-shirt making you sweat are very slim.
“Rain ponchos are an incredibly cheap option compared to some of the rain wear items I’ve seen on various hiking websites. Two hundred dollars for something to keep you dry while hiking?!? Purchasing rain wear from an online website like ours can run you about $6 for a reusable and durable PVC rain poncho. Enjoy the trails!”read more
“You came all the way from Cary?” the woman exclaimed. “That’s, like, an hour away.”
She and a friend were asking directions from a guy who seemed to be something of an impromptu trail ambassador when I walked up. We were standing at about the midpoint of the 4.25-mile Glencoe section of the Haw River Trail, just downstream of the NC 62 bridge. Although an hour didn’t seem like that far to drive for a hike, it did occur to me that it might seem far on a day when the temperature and the humidity were both in the low 90s.
“Have you been here before?” the trail ambassador asked?
“Oh, yes,” I said. “In more hospitable weather.”
The Haw River Trail is a 70-mile work-in-progress that will eventually link two state parks: Haw River State Park to the north with Jordan Lake State Recreation Area to the south. About half of the trail will be part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
At present, less than 20 miles of the Haw River Trail exists. One of the longest stretches is the Glencoe section, which runs from (and along) the Indian Valley Golf Course downstream to the Stoney Creek Marina. It’s an entertaining stretch, for several reasons:
Part of it is on a golf course. On the north end, the trail traces at least three fairways of the Indian Valley Golf Course. (Please observe golf course hiking etiquette, including: speaking in hushed tones when play is in progress and standing still when a player is putting. Also: There is icy cold water at the No. 5 tee box.)
In the gentrifying mill town of Glencoe, the trail does a horseshoe up Hodges Road and back down Glencoe Street, giving you the opportunity to check out the revived mill homes.
Also in Glencoe, the trail passes the Textile Heritage Museum, fascinating look at the local and statewide textile industry. A great diversion that’s free. Hours are limited, though: 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Just over a mile downstream from Glencoe is the old and abandoned Carolina Mill.
Just beyond that, the trail departs from the dense jungle along the Haw and quickly climbs into a drier oak/hickory forest typical of the Piedmont.
Stoney Creek Marina.
I would not recommend this stretch of trail in 90/90 weather. Even a stout breeze has trouble penetrating the dense foliage along the trail and the occasional stretches of open trail can be broiling.
I would, however, recommend it for more civil weather, such as the weekend ahead, when temperatures are expected to cool into the 80s. I recommend starting mid-trail in Glencoe (you can pick up a trail map at the paddle access at River Road and NC 62), doing an out-and-back (upstream to the golf course, downstream to the marina), then checking out the museum.
A good outing for kids, btw: The trail offers a jungle escape, the textile museum has toys circa grandma & grandpa.read more
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, 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 not under a fluorescent bulb.read more