Haiku Hike, Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Eno River State Park, Durham. Literary hike / along the gorgeous Eno / read some, compose some. Learn more here.
Occoneechee Geology Hike, Saturday, 2 p.m. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough. The massive slash on the north face of mighty Occoneechee, at 867 feet the high point of the Triangle, means the pyrophyllite peak has few secrets to keep. But despite begin an open book, what does it all mean? Geologist Jean-Michel Margot has studied the mountain for decades, and shares his findings in this monthly gathering. Learn more here.read more
For the most part, I believe trails should be treated like a nice wine: savored and not rushed. But every once in a while you find one that begs to be consumed with abandon.
Two years ago we published five trails that we found to be especially speed-friendly, in large part because of their generally rockless and rootless treat. Today, we double the list, adding five more that we feel fit the bill.read more
It started as a mellow saunter, progressed to an up-tempo hike, then, on a modest downhill, evolved into a trot. It was one of my first hikes at the Triangle Land Conservancy’s new Brumley Forest property near Hillsborough, and the absence of rocks and tree roots coupled with the gentle flow reminded me of my bygone days of being able to run a 10-minute mile on trail.
For the most part, I believe trails should be treated like a nice wine: savored and not rushed. But every once in a while, you find one that begs to be consumed with abandon. Here are five trails/trail networks where speeding is understandable and should be tolerated.
1. Brumley Forest
There are about 15 miles of trail at Brumley Forest, half of which are open to mountain biking and have the best runner mojo. Wood Duck Way is a nice warm-up, connecting to the lengthy — 4.2 miles (more if you aren’t paying attention) — Springhouse Loop. You’ll find a few, brief rocky spots, engineered for the enjoyment of mountain bikers, but they break up the run with some focused tip-toeing. Throw in the whoop-de-doing Buckeye Loop and you’ve got 7.5 miles of fast, foot-friendly fun.
Two reasons to run this loop. First, it eschews the crowds that frequent the top of Pilot Mountain, where you can wait 30 minutes for a parking spot, and once you’re on the trail, you’re constantly dodging hikers. (You can begin this loop from the lonely Surry Line Road Access.) Second, it has it’s challenging moments (read: climbs) but none are severe and none last long. Plus, you’ll be spending your time in a nicely shaded hardwood forest, especially important on a summer run.
To indicate how threat-free most of this trail is, it’s one of the most popular cross-country courses in the region. It’s noted for its passing lanes, its push-me-but-don’t-break-me climbs, and its overall flow. As for the half mile or so that’s not part of the course, if you start from the gravel lot just inside the front gate and run clockwise, you’ll get it out of the way first, while you’re still fresh.
This multi-use network is shared by runners and mountain bikers, but the wide trails (in most spots) make it work for both. A traditional rating system for the mountain bikers makes it easy to see whether a trail is easy, intermediate, or holy-cow-how-did-I-wind-up-here? hard. Designed with mountain bikers in mind, the trail has good flow, and the compacted surface minimizes slippage. One caveat: while you don’t have to pay the Whitewater Center admission fee to run, you do have to pay to park: $5 a day, $40 a year.
The true joy of this hike isn’t the smooth running surface, or the absence of elevation. Rather, it’s the ever-changing scenery that makes this 5 miles fly by. You’ll run through a swamp, amid the longleafs of a pine savannah, along the lake, past a disc golf course — you’ll even catch a glimpse of the nuclear reactor over yonder. That smooth trail surface lets you enjoy the views and allows your endorphin-energized brain to emphasize the pure enjoyment of the run.
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.
It’s little surprise that there’s lots going on in the great outdoors this Earth Day weekend. Saturday alone (the actual Earth Day), the N.C. Office of Environmental Education lists more than 50 events on its calendar. Lots to choose from; here are some we especially like.
One way to approach Earth Day is to use it as an opportunity to visit a place you’ve yet to explore. Lake Waccamaw State Park, for instance. Lake Waccamaw is one of the few remaining water-filled Carolina Bays, the focal point of a 2,176-acre state park that sits off the beaten path in the southeastern coastal plain.
Saturday, the Lake Waccamaw Friends celebrates this gem with a day of fun, including a 5K and a cornhole tournament. There’s live music, kids events, food and more. And the chance to learn more about the lake.
Logistics: Lake Waccamaw State Park Friends’ Earth Day 5K and Cornhole Tournament, Saturday, April 22, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Lake Waccamaw State Park, Lake Waccamaw. $10 5K fee, $20 for the family. More info here.
Looking ahead: Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk, Saturday, April 29, Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. More info here.
What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a celebration of some new earth. OK, the earth itself isn’t new — it’s been around a while. But Brumley Forest is new earth in the sense that it’s a new slice of earth for us to explore, courtesy the Triangle Land Conservancy.
Brumley Forest brings to seven the number of TLC preserves open to the public in the Triangle region. Perched on 613 rolling, forested acres in Orange County (between Durham and Hillsborough), the preserve has 5.5 miles of hiking-only trail and nearly 9 miles of multi-use trail, the first trail in the TLC system open to mountain biking. Saturday’s festivities will include guided hikes and mountain bike rides, nature activities, yoga, food trucks, local beer — plenty to keep you busy during the 8-hour celebration, which kicks off at 9 a.m.
Logistics: Brumley Nature Preserve Grand Opening, Saturday, April 22, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Brumley Preserve, 3055 New Hope Church Road, Chapel Hill. More info here.
Looking ahead: Nocturnal Hike, Saturday, May 20, 8-9 p.m., Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle. More info here.
If you’re in the mountains and already have Earth Day plans, how about squeezing in an Earth Day Night activity? Mount Jefferson State Natural Area plans to celebrate the Day with with an Earth Day Night Hike, a one-mile hike on the ridge out to Luther Rock (and back). Check out the lights of town below, listen for owls and other creatures of the evening. Starts at 8 p.m.
Logistics: Earth Day Night Hike, Saturday, April 22, 8 p.m., Mountain Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson. More info here.
Looking ahead: Grandfather Mountain Wildflower Walks, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Banner Elk, hikes are ongoing, go here for a list of dates.
* * *
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).