A couple years back I was in need of a destination for our annual winter GetBackpacking! trip to the coast. Typically, the trip is on the 21-mile Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest near Havelock. Unfortunately, the Neusiok was closed, still feeling the wrath of Hurricane Florence’s visit the previous fall. People love backpacking at the coast in winter, and I needed an alternative. Scanning a map, I locked onto Merchants Millpond State Park.
Now, I’d paddled at Merchants Millpond several times. You can rent a canoe cheap and paddle the 760-acre millpond, following the paddle trail through cypress and tupelo gum on a journey into the darkest jungles (or so your imagination leads you to believe). And I knew they had a backcountry camp site and some trail — 9 miles worth, it turns out — but I’d never hiked there. So I took a scouting trip. And boy, was I surprised.
The trails at Merchants Millpond can, in one instance, take you beneath Spanish moss-shrouded cypress along a pool covered in alligator weed, in the next take you through a hardwood forest akin to what you’d find in the Piedmont. It was a warm February day, and the woods were alive with a chorus of frogs. I realized there was a lot more to this 3,250-acre park than just paddling.
You can come to this same realization on Saturday morning’s End of Winter Hike at Merchants Millpond. The hike is on the 2-mile Coleman Loop, with an emphasis on looking for critters. Saturday morning should be ideal for exploring Merchants Millpond, with a temperature in the 40s under mostly sunny skies. Learn more here.
Also this weekend:
Still Hike, Saturday, 2 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap. “Still Hike,” isn’t that an oxymoron? How can you be still and still be moving? Actually, the hikers aren’t the still ones on this “medium-difficulty half-mile” hike, which goes in search of a still, of which there are beaucoup in this 14,100-acre park snuggled into the rugged base of the the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Enjoy an off-trail adventure as you learn about Wilkes County’s moonshine history. Learn more here.
Twilight Walk, Saturday, 5 p.m., Annie Louise Wilkerson MD Nature Preserve Park, Raleigh. We’re always trying to get people to hike at night (we have one hike remaining in our winter Tuesday Night Hikes series; check it out here). But sometimes people just aren’t ready for a full-on night hike. They need to ease into it. With a Twilight Walk, say. On this hike, you’ll go out with a naturalist in search of animals that are particularly active at dusk, including deer, coyote and owls. $3. Learn more here.
GetHiking! this weekend
What are our GetHiking! groups in North Carolina and Virginia up to this weekend? Plenty, thanks for asking …
GetHiking! Virginia Beach: Disaster+Travel+Wilderness First Aid Certification Course, Saturday, February 29 – Sunday, February 30, 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., 4700 Powhatan Ave., Norfolk. 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! Triad: Disaster+Travel+Wilderness First Aid Certification Course, Saturday, February 29 – Sunday, February 30, 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Location TBA. 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: Thunder Ridge Wilderness, Saturday, February 29, 7:45 a.m., 400 Ray C Hunt Dr., Charlottesville. Strenuous. 10 miles. Hike Highlights: Petite’s Gap, Appalachian Trail, Thunder Ridge Wilderness, the
Petite’s Gap, Appalachian Trail, Thunder Ridge Wilderness, the Guillotine, Apple Orchard Mountain, 270 degree views, Apple Orchard Falls. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Charlottesville: Pleasant Grove Park, Saturday, February 29, 11 a.m., 271 Pleasant Grove Dr., Palmyra. Moderately Strenuous. 5 miles. Hike Highlights: grassy fields, deep forest trails, Rivanna River, 1854 Haden family home. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Triangle: MST “Section A” Day Hike/Falls Dam to Raven Ridge Rd., Sunday, March 1, 1 p.m., 12098 Old Falls of Nuese Rd., Raleigh. Moderately Strenuous. 7 miles. Hike Highlights: views of Falls Lake. Learn more here.
GetHiking! Virginia Beach: Newport News City Park, Sunday, March 1, 10 a.m., 13564 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. Moderate. 5 miles. Learn more here.
Live the video
Today’s video is from Sunday afternoon’s GetHiking! Sunday Afternoon Series for new and experienced hikers, on Day-Hike Sections Q, R and S of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It was a special hike, the graduation hike for our 8-week winter session (for information on our spring session, which begins March 8, go here). Learn more about exploring the Mountains-to-Sea Trail here.
More Weekend Options
Looking for more options for weekend adventure? Check out our GetOut! Find An Adventure resource page here.