In the mid-1990s the Triangle’s greenway system wasn’t a system. It was a disjointed connection of asphalt strips scattered hither and yon. If you lived a block or two away from one of these strips, you probably paid it an occasional visit. If you didn’t live within a block or two, you probably had no idea the Triangle even had greenways.
North Carolina’s brilliant fall weather means all kinds of events and programs will be competing for your attention. This weekend, for instance, you can paddle a swamp, run 5 miles on a greenway that doesn’t yet exist or take a really, really (really) long ride in the mountains.
Last week, we published a list of municipalities in North Carolina that we knew had greenways. Turns out there was a lot we didn’t know.
Since we published that list we’ve heard from an additional 14 municipalities with greenways, from Whiteville’s four greenways totaling a mile in length to Rocky Mount’s 7-mile system to Pinehurst’s 11-mile. Not only we’re we pleasantly surprised that so many municipalities in North Carolina have greenways, but that so many have plans to expand. And not just the Raleigh’s, the Cary’s and the Charlotte’s. Havelock, for instance, will soon add more than 4 miles to its 1-mile system, Albemarle is working on a 3-mile rails-to-trails greenway that will connect its Rock Creek Park and Montgomery Park to downtown, and Sanford, currently with 2 miles, intends to build a 20-mile greenway that will run out to and along the Deep River.
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).
Sometimes all you need is a little extra incentive to get you out the door and into the wild.
Those are some of the incentives we’re offering as part of the Backpacking North Carolina Challenge 2011, which kicks off this evening at 7:30 at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. store in Raleigh’s Cameron Village.