The weather appears cooperative this weekend for a variety of pursuits, from stargazing to paddling to pedaling.
Among the coastal plains numerous outdoors attributes: less light pollution. That’s especially groovy if you like stargazing. If you’re not sure you like stargazing, find out Saturday evening at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park when park rangers encourage you to spread out on a blanket and learn the constellations and others things astronomical.read more
The three-day Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season. Kick it off early at the coast with a paddle down the Black River; kick it off with a rare, on-the-water look at a millpond; kick it off with three days of adventure kicks in Asheville. All are guaranteed to make it a memorable weekend.read more
Last July 23, a Saturday, I was standing in front of about 40 people in the parking lot of Historic Yates Mill County Park in Raleigh. It was shortly before noon, the temperature was 101, and Allen Davis and I were on a 12-week mission to lead these hikers to ultragreatness. But first, we needed to lead them on a mile and a half march around the lake.
“Follow me!” I yelled — and promptly led our charges down a dirt path that dead ended within 50 yards. “Follow Allen!” I yelled, pointing to the back of the pack, where Allen exhibited the international palms-up sign for, “Me? Where?”
It was an inauspicious beginning to a journey that would affect, to varying degrees, the 28 who would make it through basic training.
The group was the inaugural Raleigh contingent of Ultimate Hikers. Ultimate Hike is the fundraising genius of CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a non-profit that until recently relied on grants and philanthropic donations to raise funds for research into children’s cancer. Three years ago it started doing fundraising walks, then hit on the idea of the Ultimate Hike: Train for 12 weeks, then do a monster dayhike. In the case of the Raleigh hikers and hikers throughout the Southeast, a 28.3-mile stretch of the 77-mile Foothills Trail, which straddles North Carolina and South Carolina.
A few of the hikers who showed up that first day were of the hardcore variety, athletes in search of a good challenge made all the better by the chance to help a good cause. But the vast majority seemed drawn more out of curiosity: Could I possibly hike 28 miles in one day? Me? Most had never hiked more than 5 miles. For them as well, it was a test.
To get them down that trail, Allen and I led them on increasingly longer hikes throughout training. After our get-acquainted sweatfest at Yates Mill, we did 6 miles at Harris Lake, 10 miles at Umstead, 14 miles along the Eno River, 15 at Hanging Rock (our “elevation” hike) and 20 on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake. Allen would typically lead the adrenaline junkies off the front, I hung with my stop-and-smell-the-flowers gals in the rear. We’d swap Clif Shot Bloks (“Trade you a citrus for a strawberry”), “we” talked about how uncomfortable female undergarments could get on a long, hot hike, we stayed as a group when one of us was dragging and needed encouragement. I assume the folks at the front of the pack, who typically were driving home by the time we finished, had a good time. We had a great time.
When Oct. 1 and the Ultimate Hike rolled around, we were ready. We got up at 2:45 a.m., were on the trail by 4:30. The speedsters were done by 2 p.m. I came in with the last hiker just before 7 p.m., with precious little sunlight to spare. We partied that night (until 9:30!), we dragged ourselves to breakfast the next morning, we drove home. We’ve kept in touch.
It’s an experience I would repeat in a heartbeat. And lucky me, being the hiking coach for Raleigh, I’ll get to, starting two weeks from today with our first information meeting for the 2012 Ultimate Hike season. Here’s part of what we’ll be telling you at the five sessions slated for the Triangle (see details on each meeting below):
Sign up and you’ll get:read more