This weekend: Short hikes, long views

You don’t always have to hike for half the day to score a great view. Options at the coast and in the mountains this week underscore that point — and offer great incentive for beginning hikers! Speaking of great views, you’ll find them Saturday when the sun sets at three state parks.


Basin Trail (photo courtesy Fort Fisher State Recreation Area)
Basin Trail (photo courtesy Fort Fisher State Recreation Area)

Sunday morning, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area in Kure Beach will conduct its periodic Basin Trail Hike. We’ve promoted this hike before, and for good reason.

The hike isn’t long, about a mile and a half, and it isn’t particularly challenging — there’s maybe a foot of elevation gain. Yet the esthetic reward is vast, starting along the Atlantic Ocean then ducking behind a dune and exploring a coastal marsh where the views are sweeping. There’s a small encounter with a maritime forest and a very unique bit of human history: about midway the trail passes the World War II bunker that later became the home of the Fort Fisher Hermit.

In short, it’s the perfect introductory hike for the person leery, but intrigued, by the notion of hiking. And you can follow it up with a day at the beach

Logistics: Sunday, July 19, 8:30 a.m., Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, 1000 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach. More info: 910.458.5798 or go here.

Sunday forecast: High of 93, chance of thunderstorms.

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Looking ahead: We’re back to Fort Fisher, where on Friday, July 24, a ranger will help you make sense of the shells you hike miles to score, with Beachcombing 101. 9 a.m., 910.458.5798, or go here for more information.


Pluto! (photo courtesy NASA)
Pluto! (photo courtesy NASA)

Pumped about Pluto? Who isn’t, with NASA’s New Horizons close encounter of the dwarf planet this week and the new information we’re learning about the little guy — like the fact he’s not as little as we previously thought. (Might planet reinstatement be in the offing?)

What better time to gaze into the heavens — which apparently is what our North Carolina State Parks are thinking: this weekend, stargazing programs are planned at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, Lake James State Park and Mayo River State Park. Come early and explore the great recreational attributes of these three facilities.

Logistics: The events are all on Saturday evening; go here for specifics for each viewing session.

Saturday evening forecast: Highs around 80, chance of thunderstorms into the evening.

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Looking ahead: Lost your way? Find it at the Intro to Orienteering clinic at Umstead State Park on Wednesday, July 22 at 2 p.m. More info by calling 919.571.4170.


View from Elk Knob (photo courtesy North Carolina State Parks)
View from Elk Knob (photo courtesy North Carolina State Parks)

We love opportunities where it’s possible to learn a little something, then explore on our own.

Sunday, a ranger at Elk Knob State Park leads the mile-long Woodland Walk on the Beech Tree Trail, where it’s promised you’ll “see the forest in various new ways.” Afterward, plan to hike to the top of Elk Knob on the 1.9-mile Summit Trail, which switchbacks its way through a northern hardwood forest of sugar maple, yellow birch, American beech and yellow buckeye to the 5,520-foot summit. There, you’ll be treated with great 360-degree views.

Logistics: Sunday, July 19, 2 p.m., Elk Knob State Park, Todd. More information by calling 828.297.7261 or visit the park website here.

Sunday forecast: High of 85, chance of thunderstorms.

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Looking ahead: This one usually sneaks up on us; not this year. It’s the Maggie Valley Moonlight Run & Fun Run on Aug. 22 from 8:30-11 p.m. at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. 8K road race and Kid’s Sunset Fun Run. $30 until July 31; $40 Aug. 1-race day.  More info here.

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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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