This weekend: Run the coast, paddle the Piedmont, hike the mountains

Sing the following to the tune of the theme song for “Car 54 Where Are You?”

There’s a 5K at the coast,
Umstead’s got a paddle trip.
They’ll be hiking up at DuPont
Where the views are bright and crisp.
It’s the first week-end in April,
Spring is firmly underway …
Plan to get out and pla-ay


I’ve always found that the more festive the 5K, the more enjoyable it is to run (and the better I seem to do). Sometimes mere size makes an event more festive: Did I ever tell you about the time back in ’84 I ran the Bolder Boulder with 20,000 other runners? (Since I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it a time or two, I’ll demur.) A 5K as part of a larger event also seems to make the run more fun and go  faster. The larger the event the funner and faster, which is the allure of Saturday’s 2nd Annual Cape Fear Volunteer Center/Big Buddy 5K, part of the 5-day 2011 North Carolina Azalea Festival, a celebration of the flowering shrub that defines spring for many North Carolinians.

All hail — and run for — the azalea!

Run the 5K — a 10K and fun run have been added this year — at 8 a.m., then stick around for the Azalea Festival’s parade, art show and sale, street fair, garden tour Cole Bros. Circus, boxing, shag contest (if your legs are still up for it) and the day-ending fireworks.

Race fee is $35 (the race benefits the Cape Fear Volunteer Center’s Big Buddy program); Registration is from 6:30-7:30 a.m. Go here for more information on the race, or to save $5 and preregister.


Warm weather heralds the return of one of our favorite activities — group paddling. Late Saturday afternoon on Umstead State Park’s Big Lake join a ranger for a tour of this lake off the park’s Glenwood Avenue/U.S. 70 entrance in Raleigh. Canoes, paddles and life jackets are provided, check the weather for appropriate dress before heading out. And, in a true sign of the budding season, the park advises that you bring insect repellent.

The paddle begins at 5:30 p.m., runs until about 7. It’s free, but limited to 10 participants: call 919.571.4170 to preregister for the Big Lake Boat-A-Bout.

DuPont State Forest. Photo by Nolan Jones.


Contemplating a hike through the 10,400-acre Dupont State Forest between Hendersonville and Brevard can cause a bodacious brain freeze. About 80 miles of pathways, mostly old gravel roads, explore the forest, most of which passed hands from the DuPont Corporation to the state in 1996. So many trails, so much to see. But what if you only have an afternoon?

That’s when you want to be in the company of someone who knows the lay of this diverse land (four major waterfalls, numerous exposed granite domes, lots of rugged land ranging from 2,300 to 3,600 feet in elevation). Sunday you’ll have two chances, one beginning at 8:30 a.m. on a guided hike that will take in three waterfalls and two lakes, a second commencing at 12:30 p.m. on FS 816 to Skinny Dip. For more details and directions on the 8:30 hike, call 828.698.7119 or email; for the 12:30 hike call 828.885-2152

GGNC’s weekend plans

If you’re in a chatting mood Saturday, head up to Mayo Park in Person County, where I’ll be holding forth on backpacking in North Carolina (as part of my current Piedmont tour promoting my new book, “Backpacking North Carolina”). We’ll start at 10 a.m. As enticement, I’ll be making camp coffee and serving a traditional camp breakfast of Pop Tarts.

If greenways are more your thing, then swing by the Wake County Public Library’s Cameron Village branch at 2:30 where I’ll talk about Biking the Greenways, specifically on the Triangle’s rapidly expanding greenway network.

* * *

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.

Photo at top: Paddling at Umstead State Park. Photo Courtesy N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

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