On Saturday’s final hike of our 2018-2019 Winter Wild hike series, we decided to add an extra mile or so. It was a mile of trail I hadn’t hiked.
As we made our way up the north bank of New Hope Creek, I could hear the gradient increasing upstream, the sound of water cascading over rock a bit more intense than we’re used to hearing in the Piedmont. As the noise grew, some mild scrambling was required; we shinnied up a rock outcrop overlooking the creek and emerged on a slab 30 feet above the water.read more
Every year, it’s the same thing. Memorial Day arrives with great expectations for an adventurous summer. Then, suddenly, it’s August and that longed-for adventure has not yet happened.
We’ve got some great adventures planned for August that will salvage the summer and then some. Put on your adventure face, it’s time to get out and play!
=&0=&, backpacking, Linville Gorge, Aug. 10-12. Three days in one of the wildest, most scenic spots in the East will salvage any summer. Our 22 miles in the gorge starts at Table Rock on the East Rim. The first night is spentatop Shortoff Mountain, with sweeping sunset views of the gorge. On Saturday, we’ll descend to the Linville River for our first river crossing, then head up over rocky terrain interrupted only by behemoth downed trees (this being a designated Wilderness Area, the management strategy is to leave ’em where they lay). Sunday’s hike out includes more traipsing in the wilderness. It’s a backpacker’s most excellent adventure.
=&1=&, Transylvania County (and surrounding environs), camping/hiking, North Mills River Recreation Area, Aug. 17-19. Appropriately, for the dog days of August, we spend this mountain camping trip in appreciation of water. From a base camp at the North Mills River Campground, we’ll do three hikes: On Friday, we start at Gorges State Park with a hike along the Horsepasture River to Rainbow and Turtleback falls; on Saturday, we’ll explore the waterfalls—some of them swim-friendly!—at DuPont State Forest; and on Sunday, we’ll hike along—and in, at some points—North Mills River to the Hendersonville Reservoir. And, to make things even more carefree for you, we’ll provide all the food.
=&2=&, backpacking, Eno River State Park, Aug. 18-19. Here’s your chance to have some fun and sow the seeds for a whole new life of adventure. If you’ve been curious about backpacking, this is your chance to see whether spending the day on the trail and the night in the backcountry is for you. It’s a minimal investment — not even 24 hours, and we provide the backpacking gear — that could alter the trajectory of your exploring life. We’ll get you fitted in a pack and get you packed, then hike in a couple miles, set up camp, cook and hang out. We spend the night in the great outdoors, then cook some more and hike out. Just enough of a taste to let you know if backpacking is for you; if you decide it is, you’ll get 25 percent off our more extensive GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking class in September.
=&3=&, west of Franklin in the Nantahala National Forest, camping/hiking, Aug. 24-26. When it comes to summer adventure, nothing does it for us like days filled with challenging, scenic hiking, followed by lounging around camp and trading stories. That’s what this Classic Escape is all about: Saturday, we hike an 11-mile loop that includes a stretch on the Appalachian Trail and tops out on 5,498-foot Standing Indian Mountain, with a large view to the south and east of rolling ridges of rugged green. On Sunday we’ll fuel you with a pancake breakfast, then hike a shorter loop that includes the Appalachian Trail. In between, we’ll loll in the cool waters of Kimsey Creek, which runs through camp.
Join us for a summer adventure to remember.
For details on the August adventures mentioned:
GetBackpacking! Linville Gorge Intermediate Skills, go here.
GetHiking! A Transylvania Waterfall Weekend, go here.
GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler, go here. Learn more about this class and our other GetBackpacking! programs here,
GetHiking! Classic Escapes: Standing Indian Area, go here.
That’s the story of summer, the 13-week run between Memorial Day and Labor Day when we pack in most of our adventures for the year. So we set out to pick some destinations that seem most worthy of summer fun. Here are a few places we’re headed this summer, and why:
Peaks of Otter
Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking
This especially adventurous trip combines hiking with a bit of history and a farm trip. June 6 marks the 74th anniversary of D-Day, and we’ll piggyback this hike with a visit to the National D-Day memorial in nearby Bedford, Va. After a tour of the museum Friday afternoon, we’ll continue on to our weekend basecamp at the Peaks of Otter campground. Saturday, we’ll hike three trails — 4.4-mile Flat Top, 3.3-mile Harkening Hill and 1.5-mile Sharp Top — and on Sunday we’ll make a return trip up Sharp Top to take in the sunrise. On the way out, we’ll stop at A Goode View Alpaca Farm.
Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking
Linville Gorge is one of the Southeast most iconic adventures. The Linville River drops 2,000 vertical feet on its 13-mile run through a gorge that’s 1,300 feet deep, creating some dizzying drops and heart-pounding climbs. The majority of the region is a designated wilderness, so you get little help in finding your way: no trail blazes and when a towering hemlock drops, no one moves in with a chainsaw to chisel a way through. It’s some of the best true exploring to be had in these parts. We stick to the east rim Saturday, hiking from Table Rock to Shortoff Mountain and back, then Sunday plunge into the gorge on trails out of the Visitor Center.
Pisgah National Forest near Mortimer, NC
June 29-July 1
Adventure: Backpacking Solo
For a summer destination, it’s hard to beat Wilson Creek, which serves as the drainage for massive Grandfather Mountain. Water worms its way every which way here, making for refreshing stream crossings, lots of waterfalls and delightful pools to cool off in. Wilson Creek itself can be overrun on a hot summer’s day, so we plan to hit the less popular, more challenging Gragg Prong and Lost Cove portions of this wild area on a trip that includes camping solo on a ridge ending in one of the best outcrop overlooks around; it’s an ideal locale for coffee and a Sunday brunch of oatmeal and Pop-Tarts. We hike out Sunday morning, with the option for a hike to South Harper Falls.
Nantahala National Forest near Franklin
Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking
We went to Standing Indian two years ago and loved it. From the group campsite we hike up Kimsey Creek to the Appalachian Trail, cross over Standing Indian, and return to camp on Lower Trail Ridge Trail, so we can loll about back at camp in the cool waters of Kimsey Creek. Sunday, we head up Blackwell Ridge to the AT, with a return down the Long Branch Trail, in an area of old growth woods. It’s the perfect summer send-off.
Pisgah National Forest near Old Fort, NC
Adventure: Weekend basecamp hiking
NOTE: This was actually going to be a sneak into summer this coming weekend, but a stormy forecast has pushed this trip to another weekend. We’ll let you know the new date! Curtis Creek became part of the nation’s nascent national forest system in 1913, becoming the first land in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. The area is so rugged that large swaths of land hadn’t been logged yet and weren’t likely to be. Our base for the weekend is the Curtis Creek Campground up the gravel Curtis Creek Road. Both of our hikes emanate from the campground: on Saturday, we’ll take the Snooks Nose Trail 4.1 miles up to the Green Knob observation tower, encountering old growth woods above 3,200 feet. A little off-trail hiking will be required to reach the most impressive stands of poplars in an area off Laurel Knob called the Pompous Bowl. Sunday, after a pancake breakfast, we take a shorter hike out of the campground up Hickory Branch to more old growth.
Learn how you can join us on these summer adventures by clicking on the links below.
Now, if there were only a dozen Classic Hikes in North Carolina, we could declare mission accomplished and be done. In fact, there are so many more than a dozen Classics in the state (I’ve written a book that documents 100, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina,” Mountaineers Books). And there are so many more Classics throughout the Southeast.
Thus, our mission continues in 2016, with the expanded GetHiking! The Southeast’s Classic Hikes series.
First, we’re not abandoning North Carolina. In fact, we’re only adding two out-of-state hikes in 2016, both in Virginia (a stretch of the Appalachian Trail near Lynchburg and the Grayson Highlands/Mount Rogers area). And while we are repeating two hikes from 2015 (Panthertown Valley, by popular demand, and Doughton Park, because it’s a good late winter mountain hike), we’ve got a North Carolina lineup that will expose you to even more great hiking than you thought possible. We’ll get to a full calendar of hikes, with descriptions, in a sec. But first … .
Why join this fee-based hiking program? We had about 90 hikers participate in the 2015 program, all with their own personal motivation. Basically, though, they boiled down to two key motivators: the challenge, and the chance to explore more of the state’s wild areas.
Right about now you’re likely thinking what most people are thinking on the cusp of a new year: how can I be more active in the year ahead? Hiking is a great option. First, just about anyone can do it, and unlike many other “active” options, it’s something you can be active at late into life. (Of our 90 or so 2015 hikers, at least half are over 50.) Hiking requires some basic equipment: hiking boots/shoes, good socks, a day pack, for starters. But once you’ve got the basics, it’s cheap fun: transportation and food are your key expenses.
If you’re new to hiking, you might be intimidated by the “Classic” designation, equating “Classic” with epic and visions of a death march rather than an enjoyable day in the woods. First, our hikes are actually two hikes, a longer hike and a shorter hike. For instance, our first hike, on the Neusiok Trail in the coastal Croatan National Forest, gives you the option of hiking the entire 20.4-mile trail, or a 6-mile stretch. Start with the shorter options, maybe you’ll want to go longer after three or four hikes. Plus, the monthly hikes are good incentive to do shorter, local hikes in the interim.
If you’re looking for an activity you can embrace for the longterm and one that doesn’t seem like work (as is often the case with a traditional “workout,” hiking is a good option. Likewise, if you seek a sense of accomplishment and reward, you’ll find it in a hike (just ask the folks who did our 13.4-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail north of Carvers Gap in September).
And if you’re worried about being left in the woods, don’t be. Our hikes are led from the rear, guaranteeing that no one, not the slowest hiker, is dropped. This approach benefits our more experienced hikers as well; with direction supplied before the hike, they become more confident in their ability to navigate in the backcountry.
Explore New Trails
Even if you’re an avid hiker, how many of the state’s — and region’s — trails have you hiked? Or are even familiar with? Drop down and take a look at our lineup for 2016: if you’ve hiked half of these trails, you’re doing pretty good. Odds are there are one or two you haven’t heard of.
We aim to expose you to the wealth of hiking opportunities in the Southeast. Take the October hike. Perhaps you’ve heard of, even hiked in the Shining Rock area. But
This weekend’s offerings are proof that adventure in North Carolina knows no seasons.
Every once in a while, the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge opens its roads allowing the public in to better explore this 8,219-acre refuge in Currituck County. To explore its low-lying freshwater and brackish marshes, it’s upland and lowland eastern pine hardwood forests. And this time of year, to be treated to a variety of migrating waterfowl (including snow geese and Canada geese) in addition to year-round residents such as the bald eagle and osprey.
That once-in-a-while is this weekend at Mackay Island, when the roads will be open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Learn more about the preserve here.
Saturday, I spent three hours in my kayak on Jordan Lake. The only thing that could make this better, I thought, would be if someone magically appeared and served breakfast. OK, I didn’t really think that, at least until I saw the post for this Saturday’s Kayak Breakfast on Belews Lake, sponsored by the Piedmont Environmental Center in High Point. Here’s the deal: Shove off at 7:30 a.m., pull over to the shore at some point for breakfast, then paddle some more, until noon. All the while learning about the natural world engulfing Lake Belews.
$50, $40 if you’re a member of the Piedmont Environmental Center. Details here.
can thumb through the book and remember a surprising amount about all 43 trips. Some, though, stand out more than others. One of those is the Standing Indian area southwest of Franklin, where the Appalachian Trail traces an oxbow ridgeline; coupled with the handful of trails that climb out of the Standing Indian Campground you have a number of loop options, unusual on the AT, which generally trends in a straight line southwest to northeast from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Katahdin, Maine. One of those loops is the objective of a group hike by the Nantahala Hiking Club this Saturday.
From the campground, the group will hike up the Kimsey Creek Trail to Deep Gap, where it Ts into the AT. From there, they’ll hike north to 5,498-foot Standing Indian Mountain, then head back to the trailhead on the Lower Ridge Trail. Twelve miles of great hiking, that you can be a part of by reserving a spot with hike leader Don Neil, at 828.586.5723.
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Those are GGNC’s thoughts for an active weekend. Find out other ways you can get out this weekend by browsing our super calendar, a collection of events calendars from throughout the state, below.
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.
Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.