GetOut! 5 Adventures for the Weekend Ahead

There’s a pretty good looking weekend ahead, with a little rain possible Saturday, warmer temperatures on Sunday. Both days look good for getting out. 

Here are our 5 recommendations for the weekend.

Tanawha/Nuwati Wildflower Hike with a Park Ranger, Saturday, 2 p.m., Grandfather Mountain State Park, Banner Elk. This hike allots plenty of time (3 hours) to cover about 3 miles in search of spring wildflowers. You’ll want that time, too, to learn about the diverse terrain this hike covers along the southeastern flank of Grandfather Mountain. The hike begins at the Boone Fork Parking Area off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 299.9) and is limited to 15 hikers. Learn more here (including how to register). read more

Taking the mystery out of a snake sighting

Note: The following post originally ran May 7, 2010. It’s been updated, and the information on snake ID is as relevant today as it was 12 years ago. 

Wednesday, I was hiking along the North Prong of Shining Rock Creek, a lively mountain stream that plunges 2,200 feet in just three miles through a narrow, overgrown canyon. I was in a reveric trance, lulled in part by the rugged vegetation here in the Shining Rock Wilderness,  in part by the cloudless, 70-degree spring afternoon, when —
Whoa!
I like snakes, but their sudden appearance four feet away causes me to stop in my tracks and say, “Whoa!” Such impromptu meetups are common this time of year, as we humans hit the trail more and rising temperatures activate these cold-blooded critters. Being in the sun rejuvenates our spirit, it jumpstarts their system.
After catching my breath, I scoped out the critter, taking a couple of pictures, jotting some notes, searching my increasingly porous memory for clues about what kind of snake it might be. Not that my database was brimming to begin with.
When it comes to snakes and birds, I don’t expend a lot of my remaining gray storage memorizing types and species. Two reasons: One, there are thousands of species to begin with, and two, the same critter can look completely different depending on various factors: read more

GetOut! 5 events for a fine Spring weekend

In December, a fire burned 1,050 acres at Pilot Mountain State Park. The Grindstone Fire was caused by a campfire run amok. While it caused no damage to structures, it singed a good deal of the 3,700-acre park north of Winston-Salem. And while the “damage” to the natural world may have looked significant, that’s not necessarily the case. Periodic wildfires are important to the health of any forest, which is the topic of Growth After Fire, an hour-long program at Pilot Mountain State Park Saturday at 2 p.m. “Join a park ranger to discuss fire’s effects on plant and tree growth after a fire,” according to the N.C. State Parks website. Learn more here. (Can’t make Saturday’s session? It will be repeated Sunday at 2 p.m.) read more

GetHiking! 50+ 10 tips for older hikers

I’ve been leading hikes and backpack trips for more than a decade, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that most of my hikers were older than I’d expected. We’d have a few people in their 20s, then a big gap, then a whole lot of people in their 50s. And 60s. And 70s. It eventually dawned on me why: people in their 20s have fewer commitments and more time to play. Same with people who are done raising kids and are reaching retirement age.  read more

GetOut! Check out spring now (and a month ago)

One of the reasons we like to do a GetBackpacking! trip to the Shining Rock area in April is because we get to revisit spring. Traditionally, we begin at the Shining Rock Creek/Big East Fork Trailhead off US 276, at an elevation of about 3,100 feet. Here, spring is well underway, with mid-spring wildflowers in bloom, the trees essentially leafed out. But as we climb, as we gain more than 2,400 vertical feet on a 4.3-mile climb up to Shining Rock Gap, time begins to reverse itself. Trees just beginning to sprout leaves, wildflowers of the early season sort. By the time we reach the top, the trees are winter-bare, first-responder bluets dominate the wildflower scene. A visit to Shining Rock is like going back in time. read more

Explore the outdoors, discover yourself.