This weekend: Short days hikes

As available sunlight goes, we hit our annual nadir on Saturday: the winter solstice, officially commencing at 12:11 p.m. The sun rises at 7:19 a.m. and sets at 5:06, with just 9 hours and 47 minutes of daylight in between. From Saturday on, gradually at first, the sun starts setting a little later every day incrementally increasing our daylight for play.

But let us not dwell on the future (beyond this weekend, that is). Take advantage of the sunlight we have by taking a hike: to look for birds at the coast, to look at a big rock in the Piedmont, to look at views seldom seen in the mountains.

Daylight is short, make the most of it.


The North Carolina Birding Trail links more than 300 popular birding sites across the state. The sites have been singled out because they tend to host an especially diverse population of birds, either year-round residents, migrants or both. Tomorrow at 8 a.m., birders from Halyburton Park in Wilmington will lead an exploration of one of those 300+ sites, at Brunswick Town. A great opportunity to learn the identities and habits of the avian world around you.

Logistics: Thursday, Dec. 19, 8 a.m., Brunswick Town. More info: 910.341.0075,

Thursday forecast: High of 61, sunny.

Stone Mountain (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)


Stone Mountain State Park is known for its namesake feature: a 600-foot granite dome that rises from the surrounding woodlands. How does a big rock like that happen? How does a feature that, says the park’s website, is “part of a 25-square-mile pluton, an igneous rock formed beneath the earth’s surface by molten lava,” come to be? Find out Saturday when a park ranger discusses Stone Mountain’s curious geology at “Geology of Stone Mountain.”

Logistics: Saturday, Dec. 21, 1 p.m. Free. More info: 336.957.8185

Saturday forecast: High of 58, cloudy.


It’s always good to know about a hike not many people may be familiar with: it gives you a sense of pioneering empowerment, akin, in a skewed, “I’m-a-lot-less-adventurous-than-I-think-I-am” way of viewing the world, to what Lewis & Clark might have felt. While most folks are familiar with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Carolina Mountain Club believes not that many know the 10-mile stretch between NC 80 and Woods Mountain. The CMC describes it as “a little-traveled section of the eastbound MST … with seldom-seen views of the Blacks [Black Mountains] and Mt. Mitchell.” Sunday, the CMC offers a chance to hike this stretch and acquaint yourself with the MST mysterious side.

Logistics: Sunday, Dec. 22, 8 a.m. (carpool from Asheville). More info: Hike leader Martyn Easton, 828.228.0136,

Sunday forecast: High of 58, fog and drizzle in the morning turning to rain in the afternoon.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed 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.


Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Calendar includes three weekly events for each of its seven markets: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Search by market.

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.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
Rundown, by month, of regular activities at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuges in North Carolina.

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