As we transition into spring, our hiking genes kick in. We think not only of our favorite two-hour hikes, but also of those hikes that present a greater challenge, that will prepare us for the epic mountain hikes we hope to take this summer, whether in our own Southern Appalachians or beyond.
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 or slide show 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.
What’s the best outdoor activity in cold weather? Taking a hike. This weekend you can do it in a swamp atop a gorgeous Appalachian Mountain and over two high points of the Uwharrie Trail.
The best time to hike in a swamp? Right about now, when the temperatures are keeping all the creepy, crawly, bitey critters at bay. And the best way to hike a swamp? Elevated, on a boardwalk.
When Don Childrey was a Boy Scout in Burlington in the 1970s, his Troop No. 73 frequently went backpacking in the Uwharrie Mountains.
“I didn’t realize at the time what a big deal it was,” recalls Childrey.
The big deal was that Asheboro area scout leader Joe Moffitt had grown weary of taking his troops to the mountains for their 50-mile backpacking badges. Shoot, we could do those here, he figured, what with the 51,000-acre Uwharrie National Forest in his backyard. So he set about, over just five years, to build a trail running from the Asheboro airport off NC 49 south to NC 24/27, distance of about 40 miles. (Additional trail on the southern end of the forest boosted the overall total closer to 50.) Moffitt worked with the U.S. Forest Service to blaze some of the trail, he worked with private land owners, primarily on the north end, to blaze more. Moffitt’s localness and ability to get along with anyone went a long way toward getting private landowners on board.
In the ‘80s. Moffitt’s handshake agreements didn’t always translate as land was handed down to younger generations. Increasingly, sections of the once legendary Uwharrie National Recreation Trail on private lands disappeared. By the early ‘90s, the trail was down to 20 miles, from Tot Hill Road south to NC 24/27.
For the most part, you can hike in the mountains year-round. Hiking in the Piedmont is enjoyable from October into May, and at the coast conditions are favorable for three, maybe four months of the year (the non bug-infested months). Winter, though, is the one time when all regions, from mountains to sea, are in play for a good hike. Here are our recommendations for hikes that seem especially well-suited for December.