In today’s GetHiking! Southeast Podcast we scout a potential graduation trip route for our first GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking class in Virginia. In the podcast, we explain what, in our opinion, makes for a good weekend trip for first-time backpackers. That is, a trip that will get them hooked on backcountry camping.
On Monday evening, our GetHiking! Triangle group celebrated the start of Daylight Saving Time with an after-work hike at Eno River State Park. We had some new people on the hike, and it was clear that they were a bit tentative.
But, a mile down the trail, I noticed the steady buzz of happy hiker chatter. Our more experienced hikers had adopted the newcomers and were making them feel at home. When we finished our four miles and returned to the trailhead, it was near dark and the temperature was rapidly dropping, yet no one was in a hurry to leave. The conversation continued another 10 minutes or so until we had trouble seeing one another. I knew the newcomers would be back.
The forecast for the weekend is looking better than it has for a spell: some chance of rain (but mostly sunny) with temperatures in the 80s. Sounds like exploring weather to us.
As we do every Friday in this space, we offer encouragement and direction to get you out and about over the weekend ahead. First, we recommend the two venues shown in the video: Brumley Forest Nature Preserve, a Triangle Land Conservancy property between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough that’s surprisingly diverse (and flat, if you’re into that kind of thing), and Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area in Hillsborough. At 867 feet, it’s the highest point in the Triangle and has some surprisingly montane flora. Links below.
National Trails Day is Saturday, which means all sorts of NTD-related events across the land: nearly 1,000 events nationwide including 35 in North Carolina. One we’re particularly keen on is our GetHiking! Triangle hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake, a 6-mile saunter through edge forest, meadow, shoreline and along railroad tracks. Kind of a Huck Finn adventure. Learn more and sign up to join us, here.
Three other NTD events you might especially like:
Since I answer the question differently every time it’s asked, the notion of a classic hike, obviously, is difficult to pin down. In essence, I define it as a hike that you could do 100 times, and every time will yield a unique experience. Some of that has to do with the trail itself. A lot has to do with the season. A lot, too, with the weather.
When I first hiked the Mt. Sterling/Cataloochee Valley area in 2005 — Trips 17 and 18 if you’re following along in “Backpacking North Carolina” (2011, UNC Press) — it was on a late November day. There were light, indifferent clouds overhead, the landscape had turned from predominantly green to predominantly brown and gray. The landscape was stark, the air cold. The sky, while not threatening, suggested I not overstay my visit atop 5,843-foot Mt. Sterling. A decade later, I still have vivid memories of that trip, though not of the reality TV variety.
This weekend, I made my first return visit, with GetHiking! North Carolina’s Classic Hikes. This time it was early spring in the high country. Wildflowers were prolific. The hardwoods had budded in the valley but not at elevation. It was cloudy with a light rain falling most of the day, with late day reports of sleet and fat snowflakes from the summit. The world was a shiny, wet green, with flashes of color — blinding white dogwood blooms in the understory, the forest floor peppered with white, yellow and purple blooms — popping in contrast.
Memorable in a different way than my first visit. Not necessarily better, different. And, I’m sure, it will be different the next time I visit.
Despite the fact I use the word “classic” liberally despite an imprecise definition, it’s not a word I use lightly. Maybe I can’t define a classic hike, but I know one when I hike it.
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When Great Outdoor Provision Co. and GetGoingNC started the GetHiking! program in September of 2013, we did so on a hunch that more people would hike if they wouldn’t be left in the dust a mile down the trail. Thus, one of the key features of our hikes is that no matter how leisurely your pace, no matter how much you like to stop and smell the flowers, you’ll never look over your shoulder to find no one behind you.
The concept seemed to appeal: today, our Meetups in Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle have about 2,400 members.
Last year, we had a similar hunch about backpacking, so we started the GetBackpacking! program, a series of four training hikes capped by a three-day, two-night graduation trip to South Mountains State Park. We’ve done four sessions, all four sessions filled up.
Thus far, we’ve graduated about 40 backpackers through the program. Backpackers who are eager to keep backpacking. Today, we launch a series of monthly backpack trips throughout the region targeted to the emerging backpacker, but certainly suitable to those with more backcountry experience.
Here’s how the program will work:
Monthly trips. Initially, our trips will be three or four days: leave early Friday, return Sunday or Monday. We will post all trips on GetHiking! Triangle.
Destinations. Most of the destinations will come from my “Backpacking North Carolina: The Definitive Guide to 43 Can’t-Miss Trips from Mountains to Sea” (2011, UNC Press). We’ll also venture into neighboring states. Some trips will involve backpacking from campsite to campsite, for others, we will set up a basecamp from which we’ll do day hikes.