Category Archives: Climbing

There’s a little Alex Honnold in you

Talking with author/climber Mark Synnott earlier this week about his new book, “The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan and the Climbing Life,” I was touched by something vaguely familiar. Vaguely, and weirdly, because the book is about one of the most audacious physical and psychological feats of our time: Honnold’s ascent of El Capitan, a 3,000-foot near-sheer rockface in Yosemite National Park — without any form of protection to save him should he slip from one of the wall’s precarious microscopic holds. What could possibly be familiar about that? read more

An evening of Peak Experiences


Sometimes we listen to the tales of others for inspiration, sometimes for same flat-out vicarious living.

Thursday evening, you’ll get both at Peak Panel: a Night of Stories at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Raleigh’s Cameron Village. Four North Carolina climbers will share their individual stories of conquering four of the world’s most captivating peaks: Everest, Denali, Rainier and Patagonia.

On the panel are:

=&0=& – On May 22, 2008, at 4:40 a.m., Ciprian Popoviciu od Raleigh summited Mount Everest, the highest point on the planet at 29,029 feet. Chip got the idea to climb Everest growing up in Transylvania (the Eastern European country not the North Carolina county) — so when he grew up, he did it. Chip was kind enough to share his story with us prior to a previous appearance with Great Outdoor, in May 2009. You can read that interview here.

=&1=& – John Wade was always into something: boxing, karate, mixed martial arts. Then he met his eventual wife, Anne, who was into cycling and running. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have something we could do together?” they thought. So they set out to climb 14,411-foot Mount Rainier, the highest point in the continental U.S. Read more about their story, here.

=&2=& – Matthew came onto Great Outdoor Provision’s radar last year as he planned his training for Alaska’s 20,310-foot Denali and shared that adventure with mountaineering folks in the effort to promote a greater awareness of the sport among the outdoor community in North Carolina.

=&3=& – In 2015, the Winston-Salem resident rode his bike 9,000 miles, from Key West, Fla., to Deadhorse, Ala’t ska, in a ride called Keys to Freeze. He decided to follow that adventure up with Greater Patagonia, a 1,500-mile adventure in the Patagonian wilderness. Learn more about Reese and his adventures, here.

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=&5=&Peak Panel: a Night of Stories, featuring North Carolina explorers Chip Popoviciu, John Wade, Matthew Miller and Reese Wells.

=&6=&: Thursday, Feb. 16, 9 p.m.

=&7=&: Great Outdoor Provision Co., 2017 Cameron St. (Cameron Village Shopping Center), Raleigh

=&8=& Catch the show on Facebook Live, at

=&9=& here.

The RDU Solution: Let’s think big

Crossing Reedy Creek at Umstead

Several years ago, when Keith Nealson was a ranger at Umstead State Park, I nearly had him talked into a canoe trip down Crabtree Creek through the park. Alas, he transferred (he’s now the superintendent of Eno River State Park) and the trip never advanced beyond talk.

But the idea has lingered. It’s come to the fore of late with talk of creating a Trails Center on about 600 acres owned by the RDU Airport Authority between Lake Crabtree County Park and Umstead. If you aren’t familiar with the area, it is a mecca for local mountain bikers and runners. There’s about 35 miles of legal trail in the vicinity, perhaps twice that if you throw in the … unauthorized paths. A year ago, RDU commissioned a study suggesting this land — including some of the legal trail at Lake Crabtree — might be put to more economic use by housing offices, apartments, retail. The local outdoors community has responded with a proposal to instead create a Trails Center that, in the words of Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, could establish the Triangle as the Boulder of the East.

Boulder of the East: that’s selling short the area’s true potential.


So far, the focus of this center has been on trail aimed at bikers, runners, hikers.

But the potential here is so much more. Take that canoe trip I didn’t take. Crabtree spends about an hour meandering through Umstead, a nearly pristine run through protected forest that includes old growth beech groves and bluffs of rhododendron and mountain laurel. After leaving the park to the east, at the Ebenezer Church Road boundary, the creek continues about 17 miles before feeding into the Neuse River. As many know because for 14.6 miles the creek is escorted by Raleigh greenway, it’s a diverse stretch: there’s some of the natural beauty found in Umstead, you can stop and shop at a mall (Crabtree Valley), you can lookie-loove the backyards of some of Inside the Beltline’s grand homes. There’s even a portage, at Lassiter Falls. Because of downfall strainers dropped over the years, Crabtree is only paddled as a lark, for quirky bragging rights.

And how about that greenway. On the Lake Crabtree end, trail connects with the Cary greenway system: Black Creek Greenway meets the White Oak Greenway in Bond Park, White Oak is just two short stretches shy of connecting with the American Tobacco Trail and a ride into downtown Durham. Heading east out of the park, there’s a short stretch of yet-to-be-built greenway before the Crabtree Creek Greenway picks up and begins its nearly 15-mile run to the Neuse. There, it meets with 32 miles of greenway running from the base of Falls dam to Clayton. A short distance downstream, you can ride up the 15-mile Walnut Creek Greenway and ride through N.C. State’s Centennial Campus to Lake Johnson.

In all, there’s some 200 miles of nearly connected trail, nearly all of which is paved (and what isn’t, in Umstead, is a crushed gravel surface friendly to most bikes).

Last summer I was at Umstead, waiting for a hiking group to show. A guy in running gear pulled up, hopped out, asked if I knew the trails. “I need to catch a plane in two hours,” he explained. “I’m looking for a 5-mile run.”


It wasn’t the first time I’d fielded such a question from a visiting business type. For a runner traveling for work, you couldn’t ask for a better amenity than Umstead. Made me wonder how a traveling mountain biker might respond should there be a quick and easy bike rental option near the airport.

The triumvirate of Umstead, Lake Crabtree and RDU makes for an ideal recreation hub exceeding that of even the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. Think about it: A Triangle Adventure Center that would:

  • Rent canoes and kayaks, and provide shuttle service, for trips down Crabtree Creek, either to the edge of Umstead, to various spots in Raleigh, or to the Neuse. (Or on to New Bern.)
  • Rent mountain bikes, do repairs, and offer guide service and skills training with access to 25 miles of single-track trail.
  • Serve as a bike touring center for cyclists skittish in traffic but eager to ride long — of 100 miles or more.
  • Serve as a hiking center to those interested in exploring the 20 miles (currently) of hiking trail in Umstead.
  • Serve as a nexus for runners, perhaps offering training packages to distance runners eager to take advantage of Umstead’s natural surface trail.
  • Attract folks who are into bouldering. (We’re not supposed to know this, but there’s a great outcrop on RDU land just up Crabtree Creek from Umstead.)
  • And what the heck, let’s throw in a climbing wall, maybe convince our friends at the Triangle Rock Club to build their first outdoor climbing facility.
  • read more

    Connect NC would strengthen, expand State Parks

    Lake James State Park would benefit from funding to build a 26-mile greenway around the lake.
    Lake James State Park would benefit from funding to build a 26-mile greenway around the lake.

    Tuesday, North Carolina voters go to the polls to vote on, among other things, a sweeping $2 billion bond package. About $75 million of  Connect NC would go to North Carolina’s State Parks.

    Today on the Great Outdoor Provision Co. blog we give an overview of that funding and talk to former State Parks Director Lewis Ledford for his take on how the funding would continue a job started in 1993 by a watershed $35 million State Parks bond package. You can find that story here.

    Here’s a look at the 45 State Parks projects that would receive money through Connect NC.


  • Eno River State Park – Visitor Center: $2,830,500
  • Falls Lake State Recreation Area – Beaverdam Community Building: $789,750
  • Jordan Lake State Recreation Area – Campground/Electric Hook-ups: $3,000,000
  • Lower Haw River State Natural Area – Bynum Day Use Development: $203,250
  • Raven Rock State Park – Campground Expansion: $1,125,000
  • William B. Umstead State Park – Community/Education Building: $1,725,000
  • read more

    This weekend: Worship the sun

    Photo courtesy National Down Syndrome Society
    Photo courtesy National Down Syndrome Society

    There’s a little rain in the forecast, but mostly sun. After recent events, you’re obliged to get out and make the start of our galaxy feel welcome. And there are events aplenty this weekend to help you do just that.


    If you like your movement to have meaning, you’re in luck this weekend. In the Wilmington area alone, there’s the 17th Annual Son Run 5K (benefitting The Carousel Center, A Safe Place and Methodist Home for Children), Color Run 5K (childhood obesity), Cape Fear Buddy Walk (Down Syndrome), Wellness Walk (healthy living), Live.Love.Throw! Cornhole Tourney (New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Pink Ribbon Project) and the Wilmington Area CROP Hunger Walk.

    Whew! That’s a lot of options.

    Logistics: Learn more about these events starting at

    Weekend forecast: Highs in the low 70s, chance of rain both days.

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    Looking ahead: 19th Annual Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, Outer Banks region, Oct. 20-25. More than 100 birding, paddling, photography, art and natural history trips, tours and programs. Details here.


    Are you ever torn between two adventures. Say, for instance, the forecast says you should get out in the woods and enjoy the emerging fall color on the trail. Yet you also hanker for something more physically challenging. Rock climbing, perhaps?

    Slake both thirsts in one outing this Sunday, with GetHiking! Triangle and the Triangle Rock Club. First, at 4 p.m., GetHiking! Triangle leads a 4-mile hike on a portion of the Sycamore Trail at Umstead State Park in Raleigh. Then, the group heads 10 minutes down the road where the Triangle Rock Club hosts a couple hours of indoor climbing on its 13,000-plus square feet of wall (plus another 7,000 square feet of bouldering surface).

    No experience? No problem. Plenty of helpful types will be on hand to help you enjoy both experiences.

    Logistics: Sunday, Oct. 11, 4 p.m., starting with GetHiking! Triangle at Umstead, followed by climbing at 6 p.m. at the TRC North Raleigh.

    Sunday forecast: Sunny and a high of 70.

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    Looking ahead: Basic Land Navigation, Oct. 25, Umstead State Park, Raleigh. More info here.


    Run. Bike. Run.

    Sounds like an elementary primer for the adventure set. In fact, it’s the 2015

    Dig the Du: WNC’s ‘Dirty Duathlon.” read more