Saturday’s GetHiking! Winter Wild hike at the R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Lands near Yancyville was cold, really cold. But the brilliant blue sky more than made up for the 28-degree temperature. If I had a nickel for every time someone on the hike said, “What a beautiful day!”, I’d have a dollar thirty-five. A little sun can make up for a lot of cold.
Take the winter off from backpacking?
Not when you live in part of the country where you can experience a rare coastal forest escape, hike on the country’s most iconic trail, and explore a high country oasis all while enjoying the cold embrace of the season, minus the threat. Sure, it can get cold and there can be snow. But not to the extent you need extreme weather gear to survive. Rather, winter here offers a stark beauty that can be enjoyed in solitude. And if you really don’t like the “cold,” but can tolerate cool, winter backpacking at the coast offers an experience you can’t have any other time of year.
First thing: Saturday — Christmas Day — is the one day North Carolina State Parks are closed. All of them. So let them have their day of peace and instead take a hike on your own. And if you have little or no experience doing that, well, Happy Holidays, friends — we’re here to help.
On our weekly Tuesday Night Hike this past week we lingered at hike’s end to take in the three-quarternmoon that lit the tree-lined parking area. While our 3-mile night hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail was pretty great, we might have been just as content to hang out in the lot and bask in the moonlight. Imagine, I thought, being under a full moon and in an area with even more exposure.
A brilliant bluebird day without a cloud in the sky — yet not another soul is on the trail. Can this possibly be so? you wonder. And if it is, what price must be paid for the privilege?
How about just enduring a little cold weather.
We love hiking this time of year. The air is typically dry, the diminished foliage lets you see deep into the woods, the slanted winter sun seems to light the forest from the ground up. Yes, it’s cold, and perhaps you’ve shied away from hiking in the cold in the past. But not this year, not when you can escape the hordes of recent hiking converts and have the trail nearly to yourself.