If fall is nature at its showiest, winter is nature at its most honest. Minus her canopy, her understory, her ground cover, she has little to hide. Stone foundations from homesteads long abandoned lie exposed. Distant mountaintops are revealed. Critters have nowhere to hide. It’s the perfect time to be in the woods, a time when you can peer deep into nature’s soul. Especially if you seek a more true form of adventure — the type of adventure that doesn’t exist on a blazed trail marked on a map. That’s why we go wild over winter.
Winter Wild, to be exact.
For the last several years we’ve celebrated winter with a series of monthly hikes in a series called Winter Wild. In some instances, we head to places you’ve likely heard of, but explore parts of those places didn’t know were there. In other cases, we take you places you didn’t know were there, or if you did, never thought of exploring. Places such as:
Eno Wilderness, Eno River State Park, Durham. Eno River State Park holds a spot dear to many in the Triangle area; on fall weekends in particular, the trails from the Fews Ford Access are packed with hikers seeking fall color. The first half mile of our adventure experiences those crowds. Then, we head down a long abandoned and don’t see anyone for the next three hours as we pass old homesteads, walk along a rocky creek through a beech forest, climb a remote peak and basically lose ourselves in the 820-acre Eno Wilderness.
Lower Haw River Natural Area, Bynum. Few people know there’s a a state natural area running along the Haw River between Bynum and US 64. Fewer still know there’s a 4-mile trail that runs its length. Though the land has been part of the N.C. State Parks system for 20 years, it remains undeveloped and a mystery. A mystery because there are only a couple months of the year when the overgrown banks die back enough to allow access to the surprisingly diverse — from bottomland forest to outcrops tumbling down to the Haw — terrain.
Birkhead Mountain Wilderness, Uwharrie National Forest, Asheboro. Yes, an actual federally designated wilderness area in the heart of the Piedmont. Through a mix of existing trail, old roadbeds and off-trail adventure, we explore the northern half of the wilderness, which includes ridgeline rambling and passage past remnants of the pre-wilderness past, including a gold mining operation dating to the 1800s.
Three Sisters, Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury. You know popular Hanging Rock, where everyone from the Triad and Triangle goes on a fall weekend. But very few know the park’s Three Sisters, a trio of peaks on the park’s east end, and marking the eastern extent of the ancient Sauratown Mountains range. The same great views, plus some rock scrambling that will take you back to childhood. You won’t see another soul on this hike.
Caswell Game Lands, Yanceyville. Game lands? Aren’t those for hunting and fishing? Yup, and they’re also for hiking — if you know where to go. And a great place to go is the R. Wayne Bailey – Caswell Game Land area of Caswell County. With more than 18,000 acres, there’s plenty of room to explore here in the Piedmont plateau. On this hike, we’ll visit old farm ponds, walk along a rocky creek, and enjoy a rare adventure in the north-central part of the state.
We’re not looking past fall, no way. As we’ve said in this space over the past few weeks, it’s the best time of year to explore in the Southeast. But we also won’t be blue when it cedes to winter and that season’s own unique draw, the draw of the wild.
Go Wild with us
Here’s the quick skinny on our 2021-22 Winter Wild Adventures. All hikes start at 9 a.m.
- Eno Wilderness, Eno River State Park, Durham. Saturday, November 20, 6-7 miles. 4 hours
- Caswell Game Lands, Yanceyville. Saturday, December 18, 7 miles. 3 hours.
- Three Sisters, Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury. Saturday, January 8, 6-7 miles. 5 hours
- Lower Haw River Natural Area, Bynum. Saturday, February 5, 7 miles. 4 hours
- Birkhead Mountains Wilderness, Uwharrie National Forest, Asheboro. Saturday, March 12, 8 miles. 5 hours
We have only 10 spaces for each hike. If you sign up for the series, you are guaranteed a spot on each hike. In addition, if you sign up for the series, you get our GetOriented! Finding Your Way in the Woods class, a three-hour map and compass class that starts with a 30-minute introduction to using a map and compass, then spends two and a half hours putting those skills to work in the field. The series also includes tip sheets for water crossings, hiking in the rain, hiking off trail. Cost of the series is $195.
Any spaces remaining for a hike will be offered a week before the event, for $45.
For more information and to register, go here.