This weekend: Check the change

Merchants Millpond: great for a paddle — or a cool-weather hike.

Fall has arrived, and you know what that means. Actually, it means two things (probably more, but for our purposes here we’ll stick with two): the hardwoods are starting to change color and the snow birds are changing locals as they relocate south. Both activities you won’t want to miss — and won’t have to thanks to various North Carolina State Parks programs this weekend.


You know fall has arrived when the coastal state parks start offering guided hikes. Snakes, bugs and other deterrents of summer keep warm weather activities along the coast limited to the water. But when the temperatures and humidity start heading south, it’s time to hit the coastal trail.

Sunday, the coastal trail to be hit is the two-mile Coleman Trail at Merchants Millpond State Park near Gatesville. Merchants Millpond is known for its swamp paddling amid towering bald cypress and tupelo, but its nine miles of trail explore this diverse habitat. Hiking with a ranger who can help make sense of this visual feast is a big plus.

Logistics: Sunday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m., Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. More info: 252.357.1191.

Sunday forecast: Sunny with a high of 68.

Fall color at Mount Jefferson.


It’s an exciting time of year in the bird world, what with the change of seasons and so many of our avian friends on the move. Too often, though, we look on in ignorant admiration of the passing flocks.

Get a better handle on who’s passing through your yard this fall by attending Sunday’s Birding for Beginners at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve near Southern Pines. Starting at 3 p.m., you’ll stalk birdfeeders for a while and discuss proper use of binoculars and tips on IDing. Then, you’ll venture into the woods to test your new-found skills.

Logistics: Birding for Beginners, Sunday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m., Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. More info: 910.692.2167.

Sunday forecast: Sunny, high of 68.

Cedar waxwing: What are you looking at?


Itching to get a jump on fall color? Your best bet is to head to the state’s higher elevations, where the color will begin cascading down any time now.

At Mount Jefferson State Natural Area near Jefferson, they’re anticipating the change of season above 4,000 feet with a Fall Season Mountain Hike this Sunday. A park ranger will take you to the best spots for viewing color and explain just who’s responsible for each flash of brilliance.

Logistics: Sunday, Oct. 5, 2 p.m., Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, Jefferson. More info: 336.246.9653.

Sunday forecast: Sunny, high of 59.

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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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