Before our GetBackpacking! trip last weekend on the 22-mile Neusiok Trail, we had a little hygiene talk: Share a little less on this hike, I advised. Handle your own water, resist the urge to sample a fellow hiker’s Cherry Cocoa Nib dehydrated breakfast. But I also said we would be spending the weekend in one of the safest places around: the wide-open spaces of the outdoors: few people, lots of room to breath in peace. Our typically worry-free playground seemed even more so in these uncertain times.
We’re finally in full leaf-out and had our first taste of summertime temperatures. Some thoughts on how you can get out and enjoy.
16th Annual Paddle for the Border, Saturday, 8 a.m., Dismal Swamp State Park, South Mills. Picture one of those races where they release hundreds of tiny rubber ducks into a stream. Now, instead of tiny ducks, picture hundreds of paddlers. Crazy, no? That’s the craziness you’ll find this weekend as hundreds of paddlers make their way from the park up the Dismal Swamp Canal to the Virginia border. About a 7.5-mile paddle. Check it out here.
The weekend forecast calls for a little rain — but not of biblical proportions. With temperatures in the low 80s and upper 70s under mostly sunny skies, the weekend couldn’t be much different than last. So get out and enjoy.
First, though, before heading out on your own, keep in mind that some of our favorite outdoor playgrounds remain closed by Hurricane Florence. Check this post from earlier in the week about checking ahead to see what is, and isn’t, open. For instance, most North Carolina State Parks from Jordan Lake southeast to the coast remain closed (with the exception of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area).
Now, a recommendation or three:
=&0=&, Lake Norman State Park, Troutman, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Did we mention it’s that Saturday is the first day of fall? What better way to enjoy the debut of autumn than with a hike along the shoreline of Norwood and Hicks creeks in search of the first signs of fall color. More info here.
=&1=&, Dismal Swamp State Park, South Mills, Sunday, 11 a.m. On the second day of fall, take a ride on an open air wagon down Canal Road and “See the park’s liquor still [presumably retired] and lighter boat replicas … .” Then stick around and hike or bike on the park’s 16.7-mile trail network. More info here.
=&2=&, Crowders Mountain State Park, Kings Mountain, Sunday, 8 a.m. Our GetHiking! Charlotte group gets an early start on a 6-mile hike exploring Kings Pinnacle. More info here.
Plus, you can also find more adventures right here, at GetGoingNC.com.
We’re staring down the first steamy weekend of the summer. Frankly, I’m hard pressed to think of something to do outdoors that doesn’t involve water.
There’s swimming, of course. At your local pool (search for local parks and rec departments with pools at the North Carolina Recreation & Parks Association Web site), at a trusted swimming hole (find 76 in North Carolina at SwimmingHoles.org), at the coast (find Outer Banks beaches here, Wilmington area beaches here and assorted other beaches here.
There’s paddling. If you have a canoe or kayak, check out our list below of 21 state parks that have canoe/kayak access. If you don’t have your own boat, there’s always our trusty list of 35 Places Where You Can Rent a Canoe or Kayak in the state. If you’re up for a guided trip — from a quiet journey through a black water swamp to a rollicking romp down Class II, III and IV water, check out this list of outfitters statewide.
Or maybe you’re just looking for an excuse to go wading. Saturday, get your feet wet in the cool waters of the New River during and Aquatic Sampling program at 1 p.m. (336.982.2587 for details on this trip, which meets at the Wagoner Access Area), while Sunday at 2 p.m. at Stone Mountain State Park there’s Aquatic Wild, a chance to poke about the East Prong of the Roaring River for wet wildlife.
Whichever wet option you chose, don’t forget the sunscreen, a hat, protective clothing, bug spray, perhaps a snack or two. And fun, don’t forget to have fun.
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State Parks where you can float your boat
Eno River State Park – Canoe access, river fishing.
Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast, especially come summer. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease this trying transition from out-in-the-Sun-day to Mon-I-wish-I-were-back-in-the-sun-day, we’re running a new feature every Monday, at least during the summer, called 90-Second Escape. Essentially, it’s a 90-second mini-movie of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s out in the sun. Because there’s a good chance you might want to make such an escape yourself, we’ll include a resource list with each escape showing where and how to make it happen.
Today’s 90-Second Escape: Paddling Umstead State Park’s Big Lake.
As escapes go, this is about the cheapest 60 minutes you’ll find: At Umstead State Park’ Big Lake, $5 buys you an hour’s escape on the park’s somewhat whimsically named Big Lake. Whimsical because, at 55 acres, Big Lake is hardly that (nearby Lake Crabtree, for instance, is 520 acres, while Falls Lake is 12,410 acres and Jordan Lake is 13,900 acres). But it does offer surprisingly big escape, especially considering it’s in one of North Carolina’s most popular state parks and borders busy Raleigh Durham International Airport.
The boat house is only open weekends and only from the first weekend of April through the second weekend of October. Rental hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
And if you can’t make it to Umstead, chances are you can get a similar deal on an escape at at state park near you: Eight parks in the North Carolina system rent boats: Cliffs of the Neuse, Dismal Swamp, Hammocks Beach, Hanging Rock, Jones Lake, Lake James, Lake Norman and Morrow Mountain, while Hammocks Beach rents through an outside organization.
In the meantime, enjoy this week’s 90-Second Escape.