Your Weekend: Plunge, Meet the MST, Run for Chocolate

Reduce your bucket list with a mountain polar plunge, get up to speed on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, or run for chocolate: they’re all options this weekend in North Carolina.

Mountains: 4th Annual Polar Plunge

A solo plunger (photo courtesy Blue Ridge Outdoors)
A solo plunger (photo courtesy Blue Ridge Outdoors)

One of the iconic winter sporting events that might be on a bucket list or two is the polar plunge. If you find the prospect of immersing your already cold body into cold water intriguing, check out this weekend’s 4th Annual Polar Plunge Benefit-t-t-t-ing Kids in the Creek and Youth Education at Lake Junaluska benefitting Kids in the Creek and Environmental Education.

Participants get a free t-shirt to boast of their bracing bravado for all of eternity. Plungers will have two options: a spotlight solo plunge off the dock, or to be part of a group run into the beach. Costumes are encouraged, with prizes for best costume as well as for top fundraisers. Indoor changing and eating facilities will be available, as well as a bonfire!

Vital stats: 4th Annual Polar Plunge, Saturday, Feb. 6, 11:30 a.m., Lake Junaluska Aquatic Center, Lake Junaluska. $25, $10 ages 18 and under. More info: 828.476.4667, or go here.

Saturday forecast: High of 44 degrees and mostly sunny. Event happens rain or shine.

Looking Ahead: Valentine 5K and Kids Fun Run on Feb. 13. in Black Mountain. More info here.

Piedmont: Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Annual Meeting

MST at Shortoff Mountain overlooking Linville Gorge
MST at Shortoff Mountain overlooking Linville Gorge

Somehow, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail remains one of North Carolina’s best-kept secrets. Surprising, considering the trail runs more than 1,000 miles, linking Clingman’s dome on the Tennessee line with Jockey’s Ridge at the coast.

A good way to acquaint yourself with the MST is at this Saturday’s annual meeting of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Learn about the trail first hand, from keynote speaker Sharon “Mama Goose” Smith, who thru-hiked the trail in 2014. There also will be workshops on how to hike the trail, the trail’s marketing plan and trail work, and a panel discussion on how the trail can be used for education. Lunch included with reservation fee.

Vital stats: Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Annual Meeting, Saturday, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., Elon Univeristy, Elon. $25 for members, $15 for students, $50 for non members (includes discounted membership). More info: 919.518.1713 or go here.

Saturday forecast: A guaranteed 70 degrees and well-lit (since it’s indoors)

Looking ahead: Umstead Trail Marathon, March 5, Umstead State Park, Raleigh. More info here.

Coast: Carolina Chocolate Festival (and 5K)

-1We run 5Ks for various reasons. For some, it’s a carrot justifying the drudgery of daily training runs. Others are drawn by the pageantry of the event and, in most cases, the opportunity to help out a good cause.

And this Saturday, there is perhaps the best reason of all to race: a finish line dipped in chocolate. Chocolate cakes, tortes, bars, ice cream, pudding  — everything chocolate, at the Cocoa 5K/Fun Run, part of the Carolina Chocolate Festival, two days of chocolate-coated fun at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. Check the web site below for a complete rundown of events.

Vital stats: Cocoa 5K/Fun Run, Saturday, 7 a.m., Carteret County Community College, Morehead City. $25, $45 for a family of four. More info: 252.393.2011, or go here.

Saturday forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 38 at race time.

Looking ahead: Bird Hike, Feb. 8, Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach. 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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