Category Archives: Night

Predator! (Or pussy cat?)

Alan stopped dead in his tracks. I nearly ran into him.
“What is that?” he whispered.
His headlamp was fixed 30 feet up the trail and maybe 10 feet to the right. There, two bright green eyes starred from the brush.
We were on the Falls Lake section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on a seven-mile night hike, and I thought of the two things it could reasonably be: a fox or a bobcat. The eyes were the critter’s most easily identifiable feature, but we could also make out a rough outline of its head.
“It’s ears seem a little small for a fox,” I whispered back.
“Could it be a bobcat?” Alan asked. Suddenly, we both sounded like Marlin Perkins.
A month earlier, in the middle of the day, I’d inadvertently treed a bobcat on the Bartram Trail in western North Carolina. It had behaved the same way: holding its ground and holding eye contact even as we eased closer.
“Take two steps,” I said, nudging Alan up the trail. Now I was like Marlin Perkins using Jim Fowler as a protective shield. Alan, apparently unfamiliar with the Wild Kingdom dynamic, took two steps forward. The eyes held their ground.
“Take two more steps,” I whispered. Alan hesitated, then took two more steps. The eyes remained fixed.
We were nearly perpendicular to the critter. I flashed the critter from a side angle and my headlamp caught it in a revealing side profile.
“It’s a cat,” I said.
“A house cat,” Alan clarified. Indeed, it was a handsome, healthy Tabby. “What’s a house cat doing way out here?”
“Probably came from up there,” I said, turning and pointing up the slope where, not 30 yards away, sat a spacious, well-lit home, one of many that dot the trail along the 26-mile stretch between NC 50 and the Falls Lake dam.
We stared at the cat for a few more moments, it stared back. Finally, in silence, we moved on.
Such is life in the Wild Kingdom of the Triangle.
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Don’t let the fun set at sunset

Mountain bikers, lights ablaze, head down a local trail.

We were on a post-sundown training hike for the Ultimate Hike last month when a beam  of bright light began gaining on us from behind. I turned and saw two headlights bearing down on us, still maybe 75 yards down the road.

“I’ll do the talking,” I said, since I was the hike leader and since I may have forgotten to mention to my fellow hikers that, technically, we were trespassing. We were hiking on a gravel road in a local forest where — again, “technically” — the gates close at sunset. I quickly relied this information to my hikers — then we waited a surprisingly long time for the two beams of light to reach us. When they did, they split, passed us on either side, and continued on their technically illegal way. It wasn’t a park ranger on patrol in a pickup; it was a pair of mountain bikers. read more

Gimme shelter, win a reflective vest

In my previous running life — in my 20s, in the ‘80s — I found myself on two occasions in New Orleans, covering conventions. On both visits it rained, and even though I’m a wimp when it comes to running in wet weather — soggy shoes, chaffing in especially sensitive places, I wear glasses, shall I go on? — I was able to put in my usual five miles thanks to a word of wisdom passed along by a hotel valet: read more

Enjoy the night with a hike

An hour or so into the hike, the lightbulb went on for Alan. “Now this looks familiar.”

The problem up until now? We’d been hiking in the daylight.

Alan Nechemias and I had probably hiked this stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake — sections 10 and 9 — a couple dozen times over the past three years. But we could only recall hiking it once in daylight. The other times had been under conditions much like this: cool to cold late fall and winter nights once the sun had long since set. read more

Weekend plans? Three suggestions … or find your own

A run, a hike and a sunset are three of the numerous ways you can get out and explore this weekend.


It can be hard to find a foot race once sweltering summer settles in — but it’s not surprising that if there’s a race to be found, it’ll be at the coast. A breeze (hopefully) coming off the water and a flat course help compensate for the heat. Two reasons you might consider the 28th Annual Tri Span 5K and 10K Saturday in Wilmington. Starts at the Wilmington Hilton on Water Street, goes through downtown, hangs a right across the Memorial Bridge to US 421, crosses back over the 3rd Street Bridge to Front Street and eventually back to the finish. $30 for either race. More details here.
Oh, and another reason to run: the 7:30 a.m. start time beats the heat. read more