There’s never been a better time to sample the breadth of great paddling to be had in the Albemarle Sound region.
Yes, we’re usually about hiking. But we’re always about exploring, and this three-day Year of the Trail celebration of paddling by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Hometown Strong initiative and local entities, you will get a good introduction to the joys of exploring this region. Among other things, you’ll paddle a mill pond (Bennett’s), take evening paddles on Pembroke and Queen Anne’s creeks, and explore the Roanoke River State Trail and the new Salmon Creek State Natural Area, the latter in Big Canoes, no less. We’ll also expose you to the newest park in Bertie County, where you can paddle, hike, and swim. And then there’s Saturday’s Sounds of Summer celebration at Colonial Park on Edenton’s waterfront, which features vendors, food and live music, featuring the Band of Oz.
The northern mountains of North Carolina have the least amount of public land in the high country, yet the few places that are open to exploring offer some of the best adventures in the state.
- Elk Knob State Park, for instance, located between Boone and West Jefferson, has one of the best mountaintop views in the state (see photo at top) from its 5,520-foot summit, a sweeping look east, north and west into Virginia and Tennessee. (And the 2-mile climb to get there is swell as well.)
- Mount Jefferson State Natural Area towers above the town of Jefferson, and if you’re not up for the 1,000-foot vertical climb to the top, you can drive to the top and hike around this 4,465-foot mountaintop.
- Pond Mountain. Love Mount Rogers in Virginia but aren’t crazy about the crowds? Pond Mountain, a joint venture by the Blue Ridge Conservancy and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, is a similarly open and exposed mountain that also has that wide-lonesome feel of the West.
- New River. One of the oldest rivers in the world and one of the most relaxing to paddle (you can even hike along its banks).
That’s just a taste of the adventure to be had at the Year of the Trail Weekend Festival in West Jefferson Aug. 4-6. The event is sponsored by the towns of West Jefferson, Lansing and Jefferson; Ashe County; the Blue Ridge Conservancy; the New River Conservancy; and, the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Hometown Strong initiative.
You likely can tick off all the great adventures you’ve had at the coast, in the Piedmont, in the mountains. But what about in the far northeast corner of the state, where perhaps the state’s most unique adventure challenge awaits — the Great Dismal Swamp.
Memorial Day weekend: Three days to get out and explore, three options for doing just that.
Despite its name, George Washington once referred to the Dismal Swamp as a “glorious paradise.” If you’ve only driven past, the rationale behind President Washington’s praise may escape you. But plunge into its lush depths on a kayak and the father of our country’s reasoning will be perfectly clear.
Explore the outdoors, discover yourself.