After a week of overnight lows, at least in our next of the Piedmont, in the low 40s and long-sleeve shirts reappearing during the day, we’re suddenly looking at temperatures as high as the low 90s in parts of our exploring area. read more
Last week’s post on trail etiquette prompted a reader to note we had neglected one particularly important area: dogs.
“Also, please leash your pets,” Jennifer commented on our Facebook page. “I know they love to run, but some of us have been attacked and this situation makes me a nervous wreck.”
To wit, six additional rules of etiquette pertaining to our four-legged hiking companions.
Leash your dog. A good place to start — thanks, Jennifer. Most places where we hike — state parks, municipal parks, national parks, nature preserves — require that your dog be leashed, and many require that they be on a six-foot leash, not a 16-foot retractable tetherthat can wreak havoc for unsuspecting hikers, cyclists, equestrians. The reasons for leashing are many. At the top of the list is that some hikers aren’t comfortable with dogs, especially ones that come bounding up to them in the wild, friendly though they may be. There’s also the matter of protecting the dog from—squirrel! Fido’s primal olfactory instincts kick in and he may never be seen again.
Keep the other end of the leash attached to you. Yes, it does need saying. At lease twice we’ve had loopholers let their dogs run free, the leash dragging behind them. We’ve since included this seemingly obvious aspect of the leash rule to our prehike instructions.
Pick up your pup’s poop. Everywhere you hike, this is the rule. But more than being a rule, it’s just common courtesy to your fellow hikers. Hopefully, we don’t need to elaborate.
… And take the poop bag with you. Well, yes, actually, we do need to elaborate: After you have bagged said poop, take it with you, do not leave it packaged by the side of the trail. We’ve heard more than one hiker say, “I’ll pick it up on my way out.” If this is the explanation behind every trailside receptacle of refuse we spot, then somewhere deep in the woods there are hundreds of hikers and their dogs wandering in search of the “way out.”
Seek permission before petting. I know: every dog looks like it wants to be petted. Even so, ask permission before taking a knee and diving into a rousing round of, “Who’s-a-good-good-good dog?” with a dog you don’t know — and, perhaps more importantly, doesn’t know you.
Know your dog. Not all dogs like other dogs. Or people. If your dog has an iffy history with other critters, avoid heavily trafficked trails at busy times.
One more etiquette addendum. Sharon wrote on our Facebook page to “tell mountain bikers that the rules for them are not suspended on Saturdays (or ever).” Her suggestion was based on a recent visit to DuPont State Forest, home to miles of multiuse trail.
“I encountered dozens and dozens of enthusiastic dirt warriors speeding in both directions and very few of them paused. They were eager to tell us how many more of them were behind us, however.”
That lead to a brief back-and-forth about multiuse trails, about how they tend not to work in places where recreationalists of different mobile persuasions aren’t used to coexisting. The 10,000-acre DuPont is an oasis of multiuse in a sea of mostly segregated trails in the nearby Pisgah National Forest. Thus, a couple etiquette suggestions especially pertinent to multiuse trails:
Hikers, stay to the right. Hikers should skew to the right of a multiuse trail. In part, that’s because it makes the next bit of etiquette advice easier …
On your left. We touched on this passing admonition last week for hikers and runners; it’s especially important when dealing with hikers and bikers. A biker coming up on a hiker should slow and issue the advisory no later than 30 to 50 feet before encountering the hiker. The hiker already favoring the right side of the trail need only take a quick additional step to the right to avoid conflict. A quick “thanks,” a quick “you’re welcome” and we’re good.
Additional cyclists? Sharon noted in her comment that the mountain bikers “were eager to tell us how many more of them were behind us.” That’s a courtesy, so the hiker knows that it would be good to stay on the right side of the trail until the announced number of cyclists have passed.
Observing a few simple, common sense rules of trail etiquette will come in especially handy over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when the trails will be packed. Be considerate, and have a great hike!
Speaking of a busy Thanksgiving weekend
In conjunction with our partners at Great Outdoor Provision Co., our GetHiking! chapters in North Carolina and Virginia will be sponsoring six hikes this Friday, known in retail circles as Black Friday, known at Great Outdoor Provision Co. as Chill Friday. Here’s a list of those six hikes. For more information on each, go here.
We head into the wayback machine again to revisit the timely topic of trail etiquette. The following first appeared here on March 19, 2010. It reappears today, with minor revisions.
Sunday, I was running the bike and bridle trail at Umstead when I came upon a sizable obstacle: a phalanx of hikers bearing backpacks spanned the width of the trail, spilling over onto the shoulders. The trail is quiet generous, a converted fire road that should be capable of handling boatloads of trail users without conflict. Provided those trail users are cognizant of other trail users. Which brings us to today’s topic:
It’s a particularly relevant topic considering highs reaching into the mid to upper 70s accompanied by ample sunshine are bringing legions of hikers into the woods. Warm weather, lots of sunshine, plenty of people on the trail. A few gentle reminders for making sure everyone has a good time out on the trail.
Pay attention. Even as runners, mountain bikers and other hikers took evasive action to dodge the aforementioned backpackers, the oblivious party continued to block the trail. I appreciate the group experience, but it’s just as easy to appreciate in blocks of two or three on half the trail. Hike/run/bike for a while with that group, then mix it up. But above all, just pay attention.
Be alert. Runners especially like to hit the trail plugged in to music. I’m quick to admit a recent addiction to Pandora; the unpredictable mix provides welcome surprises, especially on a trail I know too well. If you are plugged in, keep the volume low enough so it doesn’t block out the sounds around you. And keep to the side of the trail.
Share the trail. I touched on this a while back, but a quick reminder can’t hurt. When sharing the trail, mountain bikers yield to hikers and equestrians, hikers yield to equestrians. And runners? We’re quick on our feet: Don’t worry about us.
Uphill yields to down. If you’re on a steep, narrow trail, the downhill hiker/biker/runner should yield to the person laboring uphill. While this is a general rule, there are times on a mountain bike where both parties know instinctively that the downhiller should have the right-of-way. And frankly, it’s common practice that the uphiller is only to eager to cede passage — and take a rest in the process.
“Passing.” This mainly applies to mountain bikers: When you come up behind a slower trail user, announce your intentions to pass. Something simple, such as “Passing on your left” is good. Announce your intentions far enough in advance so that the person has time to react. A “Thank you” after passing a cooperative party is a nice touch. And if they’re plugged in, don’t hear you and continue to take up the middle of the trail, well, be patient, take a breath, remind yourself you’re on the trail on a gorgeous day.
Stop to the side of the trail. If you stop to take a drink, check a map, eat some gorp, step off the trail.
Don’t block the trailhead. Another annoying thing that happens at Umstead, at the Lake Crabtree neighborhood entrance: When people — runners and cyclists especially — finish their workout, some like to linger on the road and, based on how long they linger, discuss world politics. On my bike, I’ve actually made eye contact with folks blocking the road who STILL fail to move. Grrr. I mean, Grrreat that they’re so engrossed in what they’re doing.
Hello! Finally, would it kill you to say a simple, “Hey,” “Hi,” “How are ya?” A little wave, a quick smile, a peace sign. A simple sign of basic humanity goes a long way on the trail.
After a long spell of rain, you owe it to yourself to spend the weekend outdoors. The opportunities for doing so abound.
How many chances do you get to run a 5K through a swamp? Not too many.
Saturday, though, you have the chance at the Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk at Merchants Millpond State Park. The run is on park trail that winds through bottomland coastal forest and brushes against the park’s 760-acre millpond. It’s part of Millpond Day, a celebration that includes exhibits, programs, entertainment, kids activities, food and more. And, there’s always the opportunity to paddle the millpond in a rental canoe.
Logistics: Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk, Saturday, April 29, 8:30 a.m. Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. More info here.
Looking ahead: Carnivorous Plant Hike, Sunday, May 21, Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. More info here.
It’s early, but it’s worth the odds of catching the first bloom of mountain laurel in the state on Sunday’s weekly hike in the Eno River Association’s spring series. Mountain laurel, as its name might suggest, is typically found in the higher, cooler climes of the mountains. However, it’s also found in shaded, protected pockets of the Piedmont, including spots along the Eno River. One of those spots is on the appropriately named Laurel Bluffs Trail at Eno River State Park.
Sunday, the Eno River Association leads a hike on the trail in search of the lovely flower of the mountain laurel. The hike commences from the headquarters of the Eno River Association, at the corner of Guess Road and the Eno River, heads 2.5 miles upstream to the Pump Station Access, then returns.
Logistics: Laurel Bluffs Trail hike, Sunday, April 30, 2 p.m., Eno River Association office, 4404 Guess Road, Durham. More info here.
Looking ahead: Can’t make Sunday’s hike? There are three more in the spring series. Learn when and where, here.
You don’t often see a duathlon pairing whitewater kayaking and road cycling. But you do this weekend, at Jerry’s Baddle on and near the Green River of western North Carolina. Launched in 2006 to honor ALS victim Jerry Beckwith and to raise money for the ALS Association North Carolina Chapter, the event consists of 4 miles of whitewater paddling on the Green River followed by 26 miles of road cycling with 4,000 feet of total climbing. Note: the whitewater portion includes the Class V Narrows portion of the Green River Gorge.
Logistics: Jerry’s Baddle, Saturday, April 29, Saluda. $55. More info here.
Weird weather (Friday snow in the mountains?) precedes a mellow, springlike weekend. A weekend good for so many adventures, from heeding the advice of Edgar Winter and taking a free ride to gazing into the night sky.
A satellite view of the eastern seaboard at night is startling not so much for the artificial light that illuminates the region, but for the one spot that remains dark: far eastern North Carolina. A blink here and there, but mostly darkness. One night around 11, lying on a gravel road just outside Columbia, we saw the Milky Way with nearly the clarity I’d seen it years earlier camping at 9,000 feet in the Rockies.
Which is why Saturday evening’s Night Skies at Pettigrew State Park program is so appealing. Members of the Tar River Astronomy Club, with telescopes in tow, will be on hand to help decipher the brilliant night sky (with only a quarter moon’s worth of light to contend with).
Logistics: Night Skies at Pettigrew State Park, Saturday, April 8, 7-10 p.m. Columbia. Free, but preregistration is requested, by calling 252.797.4475.
Looking ahead: Flight of the American Woodcock, Saturday, April 29, New River State Park, Laurel Springs. More info here.
We once heard someone refer to a bike demo as “cheap fun.”
To the uninitiated, a bike demo occurs when a local bike shop teams with one of its bike suppliers to bring in a fleet of demo bikes for folks to take a free ride. “Free” my saddle sores! You take one lap on a bike so superior to yours that you can no longer call what you’ve been doing as “riding” and you wind up the day $3,000 poorer. But with a new bike!
Think it can’t happen to you? Then we invite you to check out Galactic Bikes of Greensboro’s Pivot Cycles Bike Demo Saturday at Country Park. Bring your kit, helmet and shoes (and pedals) — and your checkbook, if you dare!
Logistics: Pivot Cycles Demo Day, Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Country Park, Greensboro. More info here.
Looking ahead: Moonshine Still Hike, Sunday, April 23, Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap. More info here.
Another good excuse to visit Black Mountain: Saturday’s Black Mountain Greenway Challenge. The Challenge comes in two sizes — 5K and 10K — and celebrates the town’s greenway system with a run to and around Lake Tomahawk.
The Black Mountain News tells us the race is in its 10th year, and that the town’s greenway ”is now part of a much larger system, known as the Fonta Flora State Trail. That trail will one day connect Morganton to Asheville.” Cool!
In the meantime, we can think of few places we’d rather run than in Black Mountain (especially in a race in which the Pisgah Brewing Company is an active participant).
Logistics: Black Mountain Greenway Challenge, Saturday, April 8, 2 p.m., Black Mountain. $35 for the 5K, $40 for the 10K. More info and register here.
Looking ahead: 3rd Annual Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon, Saturday, May 6, Paynesville. More info here.
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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.
Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.
North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).
This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).