About the only thing weather types know for sure about the coming weekend is that Sunday will be a wintry mess. Just how that mess will present itself is unclear: snow, sleet, rain, freezing rain, ice, freezing icy rain, all of the above? Don’t know. But something wintry this way comes.
Three hikes this Saturday at the coast catch my eye for several reasons. Mainly, though, because they celebrate the coast in a season when it most deserves to be celebrated.
True, most of us think of the coast mostly in summer, when it comes time for the annual week-long beach vacation, a time for heat, sun, surf and crowds.
Temperatures first thing in the 40s, rising only into the 60s during the day, plenty of sun: our awesome autumn continues. As do our thoughts on how best to make the most of it. If you’re looking for a guided hike, for instance:
Basin Hike, Saturday, 10 a.m., Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Kure Beach. This is about the time when we start getting excited about hiking at the coast. I know, we’re just hitting peak color in the Piedmont, but the cool temperatures and clear skies are made for a coastal adventure. And this hike is always the first one that comes to mind: the 1.1-mile hike starting on the beach, heading inland through salt marsh, past a World War II bunker that once housed something of a celebrity, and finally to an overlook overlooking The Basin and Zeke’s Island beyond. Some of the most wide-open space you’ll encounter on trail in North Carolina. Space is limited, reserve a spot by calling 919.458.5798. Learn more here.
Our favorite place in Eno River State Park is likely a place you haven’t been, let alone heard of. Rocky Creek has a short run in the park, running for not much more than two or three miles through an area devoid of trails called the Eno Wilderness. Most maps show it as a broken blue line — an intermittent waterway. When it’s running, though, Rocky Creek a sight as it works its way through a beech forest that’s tight in spots, widening just enough in others to accommodate a narrow bottomland forest. As its name implies, it carves its way rough and tumble through rocky terrain.
We live less than a half mile from Occoneechee State Natural Area in Hillsborough, and I either hike or run there a couple times a week. Though I generally like to mix things up on trail I do regularly — hiking clockwise one time, counterclockwise the next — I have the same routine at Occoneechee: I enter from the neighborhood entrance off Eno Mountain Road, then take the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, Overlook Trail and Chestnut Trail back to the Loop Trail, which brings me around the west side of the mountain to the Eno River for the hike’s highlight: a 75-yard stretch beneath a north-facing cliff that is perpetually green. Green with holly and ferns, which are common in these parts, but also with mountain laurel, with rhododendron, and even a narrow carpet of galax. For this brief stretch the trail leaves the Piedmont for the Southern Appalachians.