This weekend: Get a jump on fall 

Panthertown Valley: a great place to get a jump on fall

Technically, it may still be summer (fall starts a week from Friday, on Sept. 22), but the weather suggests the season is well underway. Sunny skies, dry air, temperatures in the 70s and low 80s: weather that beckons with a seductive come-hither finger to come outside and have some fun.


One of the outdoor pleasures we don’t indulge in often enough: paddling a coastal creek. There’s an odd intimacy in paddling coastal creeks as they meander through marshlands: wide-open, yet hemmed in by cord grass at the same time. There’s something especially enticing in such an adventure come fall, as the days for a warm-weather paddle begin to diminish.

Thus, our suggestion that you head to Bald Head Island Saturday for their Kayaking the Creeks program. A Conservancy staffer leads you through the marsh, explaining the intricate ecosystem that supports so much life. PFDs, paddles and double kayaks provided.

Logistics: Kayaking the Creeks, Saturday, Sept. 16, 4 p.m., Village Creek Access, Bald Head Island. $40 for BHI members, $55 otherwise. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 83.

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Looking ahead: Can’t make Kayaking the Creeks on Saturday? It’s offered at various times through October.

Paddle Bald Head Island;s salt marsh creeks (photo: BHI Conservancy)


Lake James: nestled at the base of Linville Gorge and feeding off the Linville River, is it in the mountains, or does its relatively mellow terrain at the base of the foothills put it in the Piedmont.

For the purposes of Saturday’s 14th Annual RiverFest on the Catawba River, we’re leaning Piedmont this time around. But you should go and judge for yourself, especially on a day that will feature music, food, educational exhibits, a live raptor release at 10:30 a.m., nature hikes, and the opportunity to take a  canoe or kayak for a spin, free. Lots of conservation groups, too, who can explain the importance of the river and what they’re doing to protect it.

Logistics: 14th Annual RiverFest, Saturday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Paddy’s Creek Area of Lake James State Park, Nebo. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 82.

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Looking ahead: Hawk Watch, Sunday, Sept. 24, Pilot Mountain State Park. Come check out the fall migration of hawks from Little Pinnacle. More info here.

Take a canoe for a spin, at RiverFest (photo:


If you were contemplating a trip to the mountains, but weren’t sure what lasting impact Irma may have had, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports: “The U.S. Forest Service has reopened most recreation areas and roads on the National Forests in North Carolina including Davidson River Campground, Lake Powhatan and the Cradle of Forestry.” (Learn more about what remains closed here.)

An area that is open for recreational business is Panthertown Valley, where 30 miles of trail take you past waterfalls, over rocky summits, through a lush valley. A gorgeous area, but one where it’s easy to get lost, which is why we suggest that you tag along with our GetHiking! Charlotte group, which will hike 7 miles there Saturday (possibly 8, if there’s interest in a side trip to Schoolhouse Falls. This hike offers good exposure to the essence of Panthertown.

Logistics: Panthertown Valley hike, Saturday, Sept. 16, 9:30 a.m., meeting at Mica’s Restaurant & Pub in Sapphire. 7/8 miles. More info and sign up here.

Sunday forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 74.

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Looking ahead: Fall Colors, Sunday, Oct. 1, Grandfather Mountain State Park. More info here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below. 


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