Consider the coming weekend as preparation for the winter ahead: high temperatures throughout much of the region won’t get out of the 40s. That makes it an opportune time to dig out your cold weather gear, see what works, see what needs replacing. Make good use of this test-run weekend and you’ll be ready for the winter months ahead!
Some events on tap that will keep you close to water:
=&0=&, New River State Park, Laurel Springs. Saturday, 9 p.m. Double your chances of staying cool by not only being near water, but exploring at night as well. Details here.
=&1=&, Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle. Saturday, 10 a.m. The phrase that hooked us on this event? “Please wear clothing and shoes you can get wet … .” The goal of this one-hour program is to see what lives in a creek. Details here.
=&2=&, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, Sunday, 8:30 a.m. “Enjoy this ranger-guided trip through the adjacent marsh water as we explore some of the ecosystems which make this part of North Carolina so special. Kayaks, paddles, and lifejackets will be provided.”
=&3=&, New River State Park, Laurel Springs. Sunday, 1 p.m. “Canoe the New River with a park ranger and learn the history of the river, and basic canoe instruction while you enjoy a leisurely trip down the river.” And yes, “Please wear clothing and shoes suitable for the water … .”
Search for your own adventure through one of these sources:
Take advantage of the wonderful weather statewide this weekend with a summer carnival in Cherokee, a hike at the coast (and earn prizes), or learning about the state’s birds of prey in Charlotte.
Coast: Hike at Merchants Millpond State Park
On Saturday a park ranger at Merchants Millpond State Park in Gatesville will lead a 2-mile hike on the Track Trail-certified Coleman Trail. Take a brochure on the hike, follow its directions, accumulate information, then enter the information on a website following the hike. Get enough entries and earn patches, note pads, backpacks and stickers! Not to mention the opportunity to get some exercise on a beautiful trail. Wear sturdy shoes and plan on the hike taking about 2 hours.
Vital Stats: Saturday Feb 20, 11 a.m., free. Contact: 252.357.1191 More info here.
Forecast for Saturday: Cloudy with highs reaching 66 degrees
Looking ahead: Clean the Queen – a shoreline cleanup, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, Feb. 28 10 a.m. More info here
Piedmont: Birds of Prey at Lake Norman State Park
Anyone know how many birds of prey call North Carolina home? Join a ranger at Lake Norman State Park to learn the answer, among many other things about each bird and how they thrive. After becoming a bird expert, take a hike within the park and see if you can spot any for yourself.
Vital Stats: Sunday, Feb. 21, 1 p.m., free. Contact: 704.528.6350. More info here.
Forecast for Sunday: Cloudy with a high of 69, although the event is occurring indoors.
Looking ahead: Volunteer Trail Work Day, Crowders Mountain State Park, Kings Mountain, March 12, 8 a.m. More info here.
Mountains: Cherokee Summer Carnival
If these temperatures have you missing summer, you’re in luck: Cherokee is holding a summer carnival this weekend. There will be a variety of vendors, karaoke, games, carnival rides, and of course food. The carnival will be occurring for multiple days. Come learn about Cherokee culture, and spend some time hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Vital Stats: Carnival begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21, and lasts until 11 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. Free. Contact: 843.385.3180. More info here.
Sunday forecast: Scattered showers, high of 60.
Looking ahead: Four Seasons Hike, Blue Rock Mountain, March 19, Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock. 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).
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.
Blue Ridge Outdoors
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
Come summer, with its 90/90 days (heat/humidity) the last thing on most of our minds is a long hike in the woods. Oceans of sweat, acres of trail-clogging cobwebs, no hydration pack big enough to sate your insatiable thirst. Very understandable, this hike aversion — if you don’t know where to go. For if you do, there are plenty of trails — from North Carolina’s steamy coast, to the stuffy Piedmont to the sun-drenched high country — ideal for summer exploring.
At the coast, you’re wise to incorporate a really large body of saline water in your hike plan. Water is likewise a key ingredient in the Piedmont, though the occasional alpine anomaly also offers relief. In the Appalachians, refreshing waterfalls and elevation combine to offer escape.
We’ve compiled a list of 25 hikes that are especially well-suited to a North Carolina summer, five at the coast, 10 each in the Piedmont and the high country. You can find additional information on each at the links provided and in the references mentioned, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina” and “Backpacking North Carolina.”
Let your summer hiking adventure begin here.