This weekend: Paddle a swamp or run through one, but be sure to Get Outdoors!

We have a swamp theme at the coast and (near) Piedmont this week: paddle one (and perhaps see a ‘gator) at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge near Manteo, or run through one on the Wilson Swamp Stomp. Meanwhile, Saturday is National Get Outdoors Day, and while its website lists only four locations in North Carolina with events scheduled (see below), truth be told there are several North Carolina State Parks holding NGOD events. We tell you about the one at Chimney Rock State Park; you can learn about the others here.


Heading out onto Milltail Creek, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Come summer, we tend to loosen our definition of “weekend.” Shoot, lots of workplaces do the same, ceding employees a half-day head start on Fridays, knowing full well lots of us will be slinking off anyway.

That said, a great way to spend the Friday part of your summer weekend is on a guided canoe tour at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge between Columbia and Manteo. Every Friday afternoon from 1-4 p.m. between now and August, the refuge will lead two-hour tours, all equipment provided, on Milltail Creek, taking you “deep into the heart of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Paddle the shady blackwater canals; learn about the history of the area. Watch and listen for the Refuge’s secretive wildlife.” We can’t guarantee a gator sighting, but in hot weather odds are good you’ll spot one lolling along the banks.

You bring a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and water, the NWR provides the canoe, paddle, pfd and wisdom.

Logistics: Fridays from now through August, 1-4 p.m., Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, off U.S. 64 between Columbia and Manteo. $40 for adults, $25 for kids 12 and under. Meets at the end of Buffalo City Road off US 64 west of Manns Harbor. Call 252.216.9464.

Friday forecast: Sunny, high of 85.

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Looking ahead: Let’s look way ahead to an event that always sneaks up on us, Wings Over Water. This six-day celebration of the coastal wild includes all sorts of programs, from canoe and kayak trips, to birding expeditions, to talks about nature and more. This year’s Wings is Oct. 20-25. For more information, go here.


Stomping through a swamp, Wilson style (photo courtesy Wilson Swamp Stomp)
Stomping through a swamp, Wilson style (photo courtesy Wilson Swamp Stomp)

Perusing the North Carolina Running Calendar, a pretty comprehensive account of the Tarheel race scene, we were stopped by one entry in particular: The Wilson Swamp Stomp. This year’s Stomp, the third annual, pledges to spend more time in the swamp, ensuring its spot in our weekly recommendations.

Held at Gillette and Toisnot parks in Wilson, the Stomp includes 5K and 8K versions, and, say race organizers, “Both courses are 65% in the woods or swamp.” They’ve even thrown in a few obstacles for those who don’t find running in a swamp challenge enough.

Awards, prizes, hoses at the end for contestants to tidy up. All proceeds benefit Hope Station, Wilson’s food pantry and homeless shelter.

Logistics: Saturday, June 13, waves of runners are sent off every 15 minutes between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sign up by the end of today and it’s $65 for the 5K, $75 for the 8K; register race day and it’s $75 and $85. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny with a high of 95, perfect swamp running weather.

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Looking ahead: Citizen science: you probably associate it with annual events such as the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count. But it happens every Saturday at the N.C. Museum of Natural Science’s Prairie Ridge EcoStation in Raleigh. A different project every week in which you — and your kids — can help make a difference. Learn more about the program here.


The view from atop Chimney Rock (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)
The view from atop Chimney Rock (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)

Last Saturday was National Trails Day, this Saturday is National Get Outdoors Day. Mission of the latter: “… reaching first-time visitors to public lands and reconnecting our youth to the great outdoors.” Missions that mesh with our own.

Get Outdoors Day events are planned at more than 200 locations across the country,  including four in North Carolina. One of the four is Chimney Rock State Park, where from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. they’ll be doing all sorts of NGOD activities. According to the park’s synopsis: “See live critters, learn how to responsibly enjoy the outdoors with Leave No Trace, take a climb with Fox Mountain Guides, meet renowned Appalachian photographer Tim Barnwell and learn about N.C. State Parks Junior Ranger Program.”

Sounds like a jam-packed four hours and a good opportunity for connecting kids to the outdoor and introducing more folks to public lands.

Logistics: Saturday, June 13, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock. There may be costs associated with some events. More info here.

Saturday forecast: High of 85, mostly sunny.

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Looking ahead: If you’re the type that loves a good fireworks display, then think hard about the July 4 Independence Day Fireworks Hike to Sunset Mountain hosted by the Swannanoa Valley Museum. At 6 p.m., hikers will head out from Black Mountain on a “moderate one-mile hike” on the abandoned road that, a century ago, took travelers to Mount Mitchell. Then, catch the fireworks in the Swannanoa Valley below. More info:; 828.669.9566; or at the Swannanoa Valley Museum website.

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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 coastal 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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