Weekend trail festivals — a weekend devoted to all things trails — are great fun. Trouble is, what trail festivals there are in the area — AT Trail Days in Damascus, Va.; NC Trail Days in Elkin — are few and far between.
Until this year.
This year, as part of North Carolina’s observance of Year of the Trail, among the hundreds of Year of the Trail events are 11 weekend trail festivals. Most will follow this format:
This week, it’s all about Sunday, New Year’s Day, and First Day Hikes — and First Day Outings. The latter First, first.
On Sunday in North Carolina we enter Year of the Trail, as deemed by the State Legislature. All year, we will celebrate trails of every stripe: natural surface, paved surface, equestrian, hiker, mountain biker, trails of blue. Even our cultural trails. We’ll get into all this in January, but for now we focus on Sunday. And first, those Outings.
I’m suddenly compelled to do 5 hikes by year’s end. Check that, 5 hikes by the end of New Year’s Day, because one of the hikes I know I’ll do on New Year’s Day, to kick off 2023 and North Carolina’s Year of the Trail.
The reason for this sudden compulsion? Probably the fact that December can be so busy it’s easy to not hike. And that’s trouble, because this is precisely when you need to get out and hike — to deal with the stress of the season.
The State of North Carolina has declared 2023 to be Year of the Trail, and there’s going to be a lot going on. For starters, the State Legislature has allocated $29.15 million in funding for the Complete the Trails Fund. That money will fund projects on North Carolina’s 12 State Trails, which you can find here. Expect a lot of “Excuse our Mess” signs in 2023.
In the 30 years that I’ve been either telling people about places to explore, or actually taking them there, I’ve had a singular focus: the trails less traveled. My very first piece, written for the Travel section of The News & Observer in Raleigh in February 1992, was about Raven Rock State Park. Scouting trail there on a cold but brilliantly blue Sunday afternoon, I hiked to the park’s namesake, a bluff 150 feet above the Cape Fear River, and saw nary a soul. The quiet, the view … .
Explore the outdoors, discover yourself.