The first time I hiked Lake Mattamuskeet was on a late November day back in the late 1990s. I was heading back from the coast and only intended to stop for a moment, stretch my legs, see tundra swans, teals or widgeons had arrived for the season. I wound up walking one of the dirt access roads around the lake for a couple of hours. The snowbirds had yet to arrive from the north — or maybe some had and I just didn’t notice. Rather, I was taken by the sweeping view across the lake, the endless blue sky, the quiet. Ever since, when I’ve been to the coast in winter I’ve tried to spend time hiking Lake Mattamuskeet or one of the other National Wildlife Refuges along the coast.
Trouble is, I don’t get down there as often as I’d like come winter. But recently, I discovered that’s no reason to keep me from enjoying sweeping wetland views, endless blue sky and quiet closer to home. Recently, I discovered the Bunter-Falls Lake Game Lands north of Falls Lake in the Triangle. This sprawling, 40,000-acre refuge run by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission captures much of the experience offered at the coast, but three hours closer. Access is good, the trails (dirt and gravel roads) are well maintained — you just know where to go. Which is why we’ve added it to our GetHiking! Winter Wild Series in 2020. On Saturday, we’ll head off from the Butner Depot and hike about 5 miles. It’s flat hiking, easy hiking. And it’s like a winter visit to the coast, only you’re back by noon.
Learn more and sign up to join us here.
Here are some other adventures this weekend:
Hike to Tory’s Den, Saturday, 1 p.m., Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury. Looking for an introduction to Hanging Rock that doesn’t involve throwing elbows with the masses or risking a coronary? This 0.3-mile hike begins from a remote, secondary entrance to the park and heads to a cave and waterfalls. Peer into the cave as you learn about how British Loyalists used it as a hiding place during the Revolutionary War! Learn more here.
Wildland Fire Hike, Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap. You’re walking through the forest, you come upon a section that’s been burned. “Lightening strike?” you wonder. Actually, you’re told, it was set intentionally — by the park! Why? Why!? you must know. Come to this 1.2-mile hike through a prescribed burn area and find out. Learn more here.
Power Hike, Saturday, 9 a.m., Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, Chapel Hill. You think of nature preserves, you think of people standing motionless waiting for … nature! Not on Saturday morning at the Johnston Mill Nature Preserve. One of six preserves owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy, Johnston Mill has about three miles of trail that will be covered in this brisk (15-minute miles) hike lead by TLC volunteer Jon. Free but preregistration required, by going here.
GetHiking! this weekend
What are our GetHiking! groups in North Carolina and Virginia up to this weekend? Plenty, thanks for asking …
GetHiking! Charlotte: The Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain, Saturday, January 11, 10 a.m., Hwy 105 and Tynecastle Highway, Banner Elk. Moderately Strenuous. 8 miles. Hike highlights: Watauga River, Foscoe View, Watauga View. Learn more here.
Charlottesville: Disaster+Travel+Wilderness First Aid Course, Saturday, January 11, 8:30 a.m., 440 Pinnacle Pl., Charlottesville. Hands-on learn how to save life & limb, when mired in the wilderness of an urban disaster zone, travel or rural area far from hospital, or natural area miles from an access point, during the critical minutes or hours before ambulance arrival. Blend of classroom instruction and hands-on problem-solving rescue scenario practice. Come away with actual do-it-yourself care-giving skill and confidence, and 2-year SOLO certification. Counts as WFR Recertification, too. No prerequisites. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Peaks of Otter, Sunday, January 12, 8 a.m., 400 Ray C Hunt Dr., Charlottesville. Strenuous. 9.6 miles. Hike highlights: Sharptop Trail, Buzzards Roost, 360 degree views from the summit of Sharptop, Lake Trail, Flattop Trail, 360 degree views from the summit of Flattop, multiple viewpoints from both the Sharptop and Flattop Trails. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Fortune’s Cove Hike, Sunday, January 12, 10 a.m., 415 Ray C Hunt Dr., Charlottesville. 4-5 miles. Hike highlights: Coves, streams, picturesque cascades, viewpoint of the meadow below us and in the distance some of the taller peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Learn more here.
Live the video
Today’s video is from the first hike in our Winter Weries, aimed at keeping existing hikers moving through winter and providing a supportive starting place for new hikers (learn more about that program here). This hike is our traditional first hike of the series, covering the figure-eight loop created by the joined Buckquarter Creek and Holden Mill Trails at Eno River State Park. Learn more about those trails and the park here.
More Weekend Options
Looking for more options for weekend adventure? Check out our GetOut! Find An Adventure resource page here.