Winter is the honest season. Stripped bare of busy ground cover and a blurring canopy, winter is incapable of keeping a secret. Stone foundations from homesteads long abandoned lie exposed. Distant mountain peaks are revealed. Critters have nowhere to hide. It’s the perfect time to be in the woods.
The first time I went to Umstead State Park in Raleigh was in January 1992. It was a bluebird day, the temperature around 30. I’d intended to hike for about an hour; I was there for four. I was smitten.
I’ve hiked, biked or run at Umstead more than 2,000 times since. While I have flash memories of several of those visits, it’s that first day in the park that bubbles to the top. That sense of discovery, the notion that a playground so vast could be right in my own backyard still makes me smile.
So much snow fell in the mountains last weekend — including a record 66 inches at Mount Mitchell — that not only is it now possible to snowshoe in the the Southern Apps, in some places it’s the only way to get around. Take advantage of this windfall snowfall on guided trips this weekend at Grandfather Mountain State Park.
In the last two weeks, the forest floor has, finally, come alive with splashes of color: carpets of delicate white spring beauties, patches of starburst white chickweed, bursts of purple periwinkle, flashes of yellow green-and-gold.
The spring show is in its prime, but it won’t last forever. Here are five spots where you’re likely to find the season in full flower for at least the next couple of weeks (longer in the high country).
This is a weekend for just about anyone. At the coast, take a mellow walk into the past in downtown Wilmington. In the Piedmont, brush up on your bird awareness for the upcoming census. In the mountains, strap on your crampons for a high country winter hike.