Canoe a swamp, hike two states and Boone-Roubaix

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).

Saturday at 2:30, take a guided paddle of the millpond with a knowledgeable naturalist and experienced paddler. The paddle will be preceded by instruction on the basics of paddling for you novices. There’s no fee, but spots are limited and pre-registration required, by calling 252.357.1191. For more on Merchants Millpond State Park, go here.

View from near the Ridgeline Trail in North Carolina.


Up for a long, serene hike spanning two states? It’s the second anniversary of the 12-mile Ridgeline Trail linking Crowders Mountain State Park with Kings Mountain State and National parks in South Carolina: to celebrate there’s a hike. At 9 a.m., hikers will set off from the Visitor’s Center at Crowders Mountain for the hike south. Lunch will be at the Boulders Access Area (home to the best legal bouldering in the North Carolina State Parks system). The trail begins with long, gradual climbs and descents and goes flat at the state line. The hike is scheduled to end by 5 p.m., and there’s a shuttle to bring folks back to Crowders Mountain. A good way to spend a day in April.

Again, this event is free but spaces are limited and pre-registration is required, by calling 704.853.5375. More on the Ridgeline Trail here.

A stretch of Boone-Roubaix (the snow should be gone Sunday).


Probably the most fun race in pro cycling — from a spectator’s perspective — is Paris-Roubaix.  The one-stage, 160-mile race would be grueling enough based  on its length. But the kicker for Paris-Roubaix is that a fifth of it is on cobblestones — not the most bike-friendly surface. It is affectionately known as “Hell of the north.”

Recognizing the obvious similarities between pictorial, pastoral France and Boone, Pirate Race Productions devised “Boone-Roubaix: The Hell of the High Country.” The Appalachian version of cycling’s Spring Classic is a race of 43 or 53 miles, with both routes including six stretches of pave — only in this case, instead of cobblestones it’s dirt and gravel road. Just what every road bike loves.

The race begins in Todd Sunday morning at 10. Registration is $30 online, $40 day-of-race. (On-site registration begins at 8:30 a.m.). For more information, call 828.719.8448, email or visit the Web site.

Photo: Kayakers at Merchants Millpound State Park.

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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.

Coastal Guide
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.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).


Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors
Searchable calendar lets you extend your reach to events throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast (or you can just limit it to North Carolina). Also lets you search a boatload of categories, ranging from Hiking, Mountain Biking and Climbing to Trail Running, Triathlon and Road Walking.

The Mountain Times
From the main page, click on “Calendars,” then Main Events.

Todd’s Calendar



Charlotte Observer events calendar
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including Nature, Recreation, Recreation & Wellness, Running

Charlotte Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar includes a Sports & Recreation category.

Piedmont Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including: Birding, Boating, Cycling, Nature, Rec & Wellness, Recreation, Running, Swimming, Tennis, Yoga.

Carolina Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.


Office of Environmental Education
One calendar for the numerous Environmental Education Centers statewide.

North Carolina State Parks
Lets you search for programs at the state’s parks, recreation areas and natural areas by location, by month, by topic. To reach the calendar from the home page, click on “Education,” then “Fun & Free Programs at Parks.”

National Forests in North Carolina
From the home page, click on Carolina Connections for news updates on the state’s four national forests as well as hints on recreational opportunities and a detailed rundown of recreation areas and the amenities at each.

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