A dozen summers ago I tried to hike a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail off Redwood Road in Raleigh and was quickly thwarted. About 20 yards in, the trail disappeared into a sea of summer growth, of saplings and grasses and ground covers all prospering in the heat of the season. I was bummed, because I’d hiked this stretch, Day-Hike Section P, of the MST several times, but, apparently, every time in winter, when the less hardy species had gone into cold storage. The problem in summer: no one hiked this stretch, in large part because not many folks knew it was there.
It was a Wednesday evening four years ago about this time and we were huddled in a splotch of shade just off the parking lot, waiting for the last hikers to arrive. It was a few minutes before 6; the temperature was trying to drop from the day’s high of 88, with a humidity that seemed to match. We hadn’t taken a single step, but already we were aglow.
With your world essentially shrunk to your neighborhood, there’s never been a better time to get out and explore your immediate surroundings. Our coverage in the spring of 2020 has focused on this topic, on how to help you sate your love of adventure — within 10 miles or so from home.
To hike, or not to hike. That was the question Monday upon waking to see that not only were Sunday’s 11 inches of snow still on the ground, but Mother Nature was adding another two. The second hike in our Tuesday Night Hikes series was scheduled for the next evening, on a stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake; looking out the window, I wondered if we could pull if off.
We love the idea of exploring the wild places out there. But actually doing it can be daunting.
The wildest place we know of in the Southeast is Linville Gorge. Most of the 11,651 acres is wilderness. The gorge is just three-quarters of a mile across, from rim to rim, and is as deep as 1,500 feet in spots. On its 13-mile run through the gorge, the Linville River drops 2,000 vertical feet. So inaccessible is much of the gorge that it contains virgin timber, a rarity in this part of the world. Trail descriptions are peppered with such phrases as “very strenuous,” “very primitive,” and “notoriously steep.” There is no “easy” in Linville Gorge.