We’ve got another gift-of-fall weekend coming up. There might be some rain Sunday, but at this point Saturday looks ideal, with lots of sun and temperatures in the upper 50s to upper 60s. So many ways to take advantage of weather like this, weather that won’t be around a lot longer. And as today’s video shows, there’s finally good color moving into the Piedmont.
A little confession: this week’s video isn’t from this past week. It’s from a year ago, almost to the day. We share it again because it reflects the weather pattern from a year ago: rain during the week, then three days of sunshine and cold overnight temps. The perfect formula for letting loose the kind of color we hope to find in the woods on a fall weekend. The kind of color we expect you’ll find on this fall weekend. That said, some thoughts on how to best enjoy color on the weekend ahead …
Exploring by foot this weekend yields intriguing insights into a coastal island, a look at fall color where we often don’t look, and a double feature of geology and views on a unique North Carolina mountain.
We hike, in part, to explore (which is one reason the urge to go off trail can be so great). We love to see new things, love to see things that not a lot of other folks get to see. Hence, our recommendation for Saturday’s Jones Island Eco-Tour at Hammocks Beach State Park.
If you’ve spent much time in Swansboro, or explored the Cedar Point area of the Croatan National Forest, you’ve probably seen the forested, 24-acre island at the mouth of the White Oak River, just before it passes under NC 24. After a short boat ride, a ranger leads a walk around the island, which features various distinct habitats. “We will explore the island and the surrounding waters discussing about the wildlife and ecosystems of this unique island as well as its cultural history influences.”
Logistics: Jones Island Eco-Tour, Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m., Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro. Free, but space is limited and preregistration required, by calling 910.326.4881.
Saturday forecast: Temperatures in the low 50s under sunny skies.
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Looking ahead: North Carolina Birding Trail Hike, Halyburton Park, Wilmington, Dec. 15, 8 a.m. More info here.
We’re used to looking to the treetops for our fall color. But there’s often good color in the understory. And that will be the focus of Sunday’s Fall Paint Hill Hike at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve.
As the Weymouth Woods website puts it: “The pine trees” — Weymouth Woods is known for its impressive tract of longleaf pines — “may stay green year round, but there are still many plants in the longleaf understory that put on a nice fall show. Join us for a 1.5 mile stroll around the Paint Hill tract of Weymouth Woods to enjoy an autumn afternoon in the Sandhills.”
Logistics: Fall Paint Hill Hike, Sunday, 3 p.m., Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. More info here.
Saturday forecast: Clear, with hikes in the low 60s.
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Looking ahead: Occoneechee Geology Hike, Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough, Dec. 17, 2 p.m. More info here.
Back in the day, we heard of people who would buy a ticket to the matinee down at the Bijou, then, when that show was over, they’d mill about in the restroom for half an hour and sneak into a later show. Reprehensible behavior that, again, we’d heard other people who were not ourself had done.
We’re wondering if some of those same folks might have similar thoughts about Saturday’s back-to-back program at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area in West Jefferson. At 2 p.m., a ranger takes you on a hike through the geologic wonders of the mountain’s unique metamorphic rocks. Then, at 4 p.m., a ranger holds court atop the mountain, pointing out the surrounding peaks and talking local history.
Should you be inclined to double-dip, no one will look at you askance: both programs are free.
Logistics: Saturday, Geology Hike at 2 p.m., Vista Viewing at 4 p.m., Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson. More info here.
Saturday forecast: Afternoon highs around 50 under clear skies.
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Looking ahead: Loons of Lake James Boat Tour, Lake James State Park, Nebo, Dec. 4, 1:45 p.m. More info here.
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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.
Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.
North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).
This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video or slide show of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
Today’s 90-Second Escape: Shy Fall Color
Here we are, heading into the last week of October in the Piedmont — and where’s the fall color? Sunday, we saw a smidgen of oak yellow at the Triangle Land Conservancy’s Horton Grove Nature Preserve. Today, on a run at Duke University’s Al Buehler Cross Country Trail, we saw less than that.
Still, fall is certainly in the air. Saturday, on a hike at the TLC’s White Pines Nature Preserve, the temperature didn’t get out of the 50s, and all weekend the sky was a crisp blue — crisp, because there was precious little moisture in the air. All the components of fall, except the color.
Maybe next week?
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