North Carolina has three distinct geographic zones: the Piedmont, where we spend most of our time, exploring the rolling hills and rocky creeks; the mountains, where we aspire to go for the challenge and beauty; and the coast/coastal plain.
Most of us view the coastal plain as something to endure on the way to the beach. A big, open expanse of … well, we’re not really sure since we only pass through there. This winter, that changes. This winter, instead of the coastal plain being a blur through the windshield, we’re making it the destination. From November into March, we’re doing monthly adventures focused on the coastal plain, exploring bay forests and cypress groves, maritime woods and pine savannah, Carolina bays and coastal swamps. Our lineup includes:
- Jones Lake State Park, Elizabethtown. Friday-Sunday, Jan. 22-24. Camping/Hiking. An 8-mile hike around Jones Lake, a Carolina bay surrounded on one side by pine savannah and the other by dense bay forest, and through coastal woods at neighboring Turnbull Educational State Forest anchors this tips. We’ll also enjoy famous night sky in this area of minimal light pollution, as well as a shorter Sunday hike at nearby Suggs Millpond. Two nights of group camping, two guided hikes and a guide to hiking the area included.
- Weetock Trail, Croatan National Forest, Maysville. Sunday, Nov. 29. Hiking. This 11-mile hike begins with the order and clarity you expect of a trail — it’s blazed, it’s easy to follow. But somewhere around mile 6, things change and the Weetock devolves into a wayfinder’s wonderland, seeking clues of safe passage through a mature, sometimes jumbled coastal forest. Day hike, with guide to the hike included.
- Neusiok Trail, Croatan National Forest, Havelock. Friday-Sunday, Jan. 8-10. Our annual 3-day, 2-night backpack trip on this 21-mile trail that passes through the northern Croatan. We begin in a pine forest, end on the beach-like shores of the Neuse River, and encounter a surprising range of woodlands in-between. The perfect first backpack trip for 2021.
- Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach, Friday-Sunday, Jan. 29-31. Camping, Hiking. On Saturday, we’ll start the day with a 5.5-mile hike on five park trails, taking in a garden of carnivorous plants, a cypress pond, forested sand dune and maritime woods. In the afternoon, we’ll head a short distance down the road for a 2-mile hike through some of the most open land around, at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. Sunday, we ferry across to Southport for a hike at the New Brusnwick Nature Preserve before heading home.
- Goose Creek State Park, Friday-Sunday, Feb. 26–28, Washington. Camping, Hiking, Paddling. Over the course of the weekend we’ll hike the eight-mile trail network that probes this spit of swamp on the Pamlico River. We’ll also paddle a nearby creek.
Cost: $495. Includes camping and boat rental, where applicable; guide booklet (including maps, route descriptions, event overview and appropriate skill and gear tip sheets) for each event. A more than 20 percent savings over events booked individually. If spots remain for individual events, they will go on sale three weeks before the event.
Details for each event will be sent three weeks prior to the trip.