This weekend: Trees, stars, rocks

A learning experience at the coast, stargazing in the Piedmont, and in the mountains, drawing inspiration from some true rock stars.

What's the big tree on the left?
What’s the big tree on the left?


Can you tell an oak from a hickory, a beech from a boxelder? Maybe in summer, when a full canopy displays each tree’s distinctively shaped, tell-tale leaves. But in winter, when the leaves have vacated, identifying the dendrologic denizens of the forest can be more challenging.

All the more reason to take a break from the holidays and spend an hour on Saturday’s Winter Tree ID hike sponsored by Lake Waccamaw State Park in Lake Waccamaw. Says the park website: “Join a park ranger in using clues to identify trees by unique crown shape, fruit and/or their leftover containers, persistent leaves, live twigs and growth habit.” Conducted by a state park ranger but held at the Depot Museum in Lake Waccamaw (where you should plan to spend a little extra time learning about the human history of the area).

Sounds like a good investment of an hour, with takeaway benefits for subsequent visits to the woods.

Logistics: Saturday, Dec. 13, 2 p.m., Depot Museum, Lake Waccamaw. For more info: 910.646.1992

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 57.


Jumpin' Geminid! (photo courtesy NASA)
Jumpin’ Geminid! (photo courtesy NASA)

Wednesday night, on a GetHiking! Triangle hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake, we paused in a clearing, flipped off our headlamps and took in a surprisingly vivid night sky. Hiker Ron mentioned a NASA website where you can plug in your location and will give you the best opportunities for viewing the International Space Station. I mentioned that it appeared we had just missed the Geminid meteor shower.

Turns out I was wrong. Turns out the annual viewing of this night sky spectacular is his Saturday. And it turns out that you can catch this year’s show at Medoc Mountain State Park between Louisburg and Roanoke Rapids. It’s a great spot to catch the show: the huge grass field at the park’s entrance is about as removed from light pollution as you can get in North Carolina. (A viewing is also scheduled, from 8-10 p.m., at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area in the Triangle.)

Logistics: Saturday, Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m., Medoc Mountain State Park, Hollister. More info: 252.586.6588.

Saturday evening forecast: Clear, with temperatures in the upper 40s.


Solving a problem. (photo courtesy Triple Crown Bouldering)
Solving a problem. (photo courtesy Triple Crown Bouldering)

Historically, the Triple Crown Bouldering Series has had three fall events: in Boone; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and, Steele, Ala. This year, they’ve added a fourth, at Rumbling Bald in the Hickory Nut Gorge area near Lake Lure.

The series draws top boulderers — climbers without ropes, but only going about 15 feet off the ground (they fall, no biggie, especially since they land on a crash pad).  Between 600 and 1,000 competitors are expected this year.

We suggest this spectator event primarily because, with the new year approaching, many of us are in search of new pursuits, new ways to push ourselves. New ways to live. Check these competitors out. We promise they’ll inspire.

Logistics: Saturday, Dec. 13, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Lake Lure. Go here for details.

Saturday forecast: Sunny skies, high of 59 (perfect weather for climbing, btw).

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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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