For the most part, I believe trails should be treated like a nice wine: savored and not rushed. But every once in a while you find one that begs to be consumed with abandon.
Two years ago we published five trails that we found to be especially speed-friendly, in large part because of their generally rockless and rootless treat. Today, we double the list, adding five more that we feel fit the bill.read more
Finally, some fall-like weather! The weather unpleasantness that blew through late in the week has been replaced by seasonable temperatures. Meaning if you head out for a hike early Saturday, you better be packing fleece — it could be in the upper 40s.
That said, a few thoughts on the weekend ahead:
GetHiking! Triangle Fleece Hike at Horton Grove, Saturday, 9 a.m. Horton Grove Nature Preserve, Bahama. We aren’t about to pass on our first opportunity of the fall to hike in fleece! Expect a temperature around 50 when we hit the trail on this 6-mile hike. Starting from the old white barn on Jock Road we’ll hike a loop composed of the Jordan, Walker, Peaks, Holman, Hart and Justice trails. Because of its elevation and location on a high plateau, it should be comparatively immune from the drenching rains of Michael. Learn more and sign up here.
Big Canoe Program, Saturday, 2 p.m., Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville (northeast corner of the state). We’re intrigued by the simple program description: “Come to the visitors center at 2:00 p.m. for a canoe program in large canoes.” Large canoes … hmm. It’s free, and while these are large canoes, seating is limited, preregistration is required, by calling 252.357.1191. Not much more information here.
=&2=&, Sunday, 1 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap (west of Elkin, which is northwest of Winston-Salem. If you’re new to hiking, this is a great starter hike: from the Lower Trailhead Parking Area, it’s a short hike (a half mile overall) to the Hutchinson Homestread, long enough to see some emerging fall color, learn about the homestead, and see the massive moon face of Stone Mountain (and likely some climbers working their way up the smooth face). Moreyinfo here.
You can find more opportunities this weekend here:
North Carolina State Parks have a variety of adventures planned for the weekend. Check those options here.
North Carolina Environmental Education Centers has an extensive calendar of what’s happening at its affiliates; check it out here.
After a teasing blast of fall early in the week, we’re back to the realities of July in the Southeast this weekend. Not a bad thing, just something to take into account as you plan your weekend. We share our thoughts on what might make for a grand weekend of adventure below.
In early December, we’re doing a GetBackpacking! trip on the 21-mile Neusiok Trail. It’s a two-nighter, with a 2-mile hike in Friday evening, 8 miles Saturday, an 11-mile hike out Sunday. Pretty good distances for a backpack trip.
It also makes for a great day hike — a great long day hike.
When the weather turns cold and daylight is diminished, we tend to abandon thoughts of a long hike. But why? That cold air is ideal for staying on the move, and while there is a premium on sunlight, we’ve still got a minimum 10 hours of serviceable daylight to work with. (Not that we should be limited to daylight with 200 lumens at our immediate and affordable disposal.)
The key: you just have to know the right place to take your long hikes. That place being the warmer, flatter coastal region. As luck would have it, there are some great long-hike options along the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. Another reason to give these a try in wintry weather: it’s the only time you won’t be joined by flitting, biting, slithering, stalking creatures who keep a low profile below 60 degrees.
Some of our favorites:
=&0=&, 21 miles, Havelock, N.C. Part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, this hike has a ripple or two on the northern end; otherwise, it’s smooth, flat sailing on a mix of trail and sandy roads penetrating pine savannah and the occasional bay bog. The ripple at the north end? The trail begins beneath a stout bluff overlooking the mile-wide Neuse River, then rolls through seemingly displaced terrain that includes a run of holly and a patch of galax, among other Appalachian flora you don’t expect to find at the coast. Keep an eye peeled for the rusted stills that once bolstered the local economy. More info here.
=&1=&, 11 miles, Maysville, N.C. Ever wish you lived back when the very first human explorers reached the coast? When everything was a mystery, when there were no maps and no blazes to help you make your way? Well, good news, friend — the days of true adventure live on on the Weetok Trail. The Neusiok’s lesser-known Croatan cousin, the Weetok starts marked (there’s event a sign!), and then … . After that, here’s hoping you have a good map, a compass and the skills to use them. (Good indicator of the trail’s navigability: the 2014 Weetock Trail Race gave participants engraved machetes.) The easiest (possibly only?) place to pick up the trail is from the Haywood Landing Boat Ramp off NC 58; details here. More info here.
=&2=&=&3=&10 miles, Gatesville, N.C. We’d been paddling at Merchants Millpond for 15 years before we even knew the park had hiking trails. But trails they have, and by looping together the Bennetts Creek, Coleman and Lassiter trails, you can loop together a 10-mile hike through very gently oscillating terrain that includes a brush with Lassiter Swamp, the 760-acre millpond for which the park is best known, to a rich ecosystem thick with pines and lowland hardwoods conjoined at the trunk via a dense web of understory. A great spot for birding and wildlife viewing in general. More info here.
Great Dismal Swamp NWR=&5=& 80 miles, Suffolk, Va. Look at the trail map of the Great Dismal Swamp NWR and the ruler-straight trails occasionally teeing into one another or meeting at right angles may not seem all that appealing. But for sheer escapism on a winter’s day, it’s hard to beat these gravel roads that demand little attention and allow the mind to drift in whatever direction it chooses. These long corridors through the 175-square-mile swamp invite a variety of wildlife sightings, from the more than 200 species of birds that either reside permanently or visit for the winter, or, if you’re fortunate, a black bear. More info here.
After a long spell of rain, you owe it to yourself to spend the weekend outdoors. The opportunities for doing so abound.
How many chances do you get to run a 5K through a swamp? Not too many.
Saturday, though, you have the chance at the Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk at Merchants Millpond State Park. The run is on park trail that winds through bottomland coastal forest and brushes against the park’s 760-acre millpond. It’s part of Millpond Day, a celebration that includes exhibits, programs, entertainment, kids activities, food and more. And, there’s always the opportunity to paddle the millpond in a rental canoe.
Logistics: Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk, Saturday, April 29, 8:30 a.m. Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. More info here.
Looking ahead: Carnivorous Plant Hike, Sunday, May 21, Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. More info here.
It’s early, but it’s worth the odds of catching the first bloom of mountain laurel in the state on Sunday’s weekly hike in the Eno River Association’s spring series. Mountain laurel, as its name might suggest, is typically found in the higher, cooler climes of the mountains. However, it’s also found in shaded, protected pockets of the Piedmont, including spots along the Eno River. One of those spots is on the appropriately named Laurel Bluffs Trail at Eno River State Park.
Sunday, the Eno River Association leads a hike on the trail in search of the lovely flower of the mountain laurel. The hike commences from the headquarters of the Eno River Association, at the corner of Guess Road and the Eno River, heads 2.5 miles upstream to the Pump Station Access, then returns.
Logistics: Laurel Bluffs Trail hike, Sunday, April 30, 2 p.m., Eno River Association office, 4404 Guess Road, Durham. More info here.
Looking ahead: Can’t make Sunday’s hike? There are three more in the spring series. Learn when and where, here.
You don’t often see a duathlon pairing whitewater kayaking and road cycling. But you do this weekend, at Jerry’s Baddle on and near the Green River of western North Carolina. Launched in 2006 to honor ALS victim Jerry Beckwith and to raise money for the ALS Association North Carolina Chapter, the event consists of 4 miles of whitewater paddling on the Green River followed by 26 miles of road cycling with 4,000 feet of total climbing. Note: the whitewater portion includes the Class V Narrows portion of the Green River Gorge.
Logistics: Jerry’s Baddle, Saturday, April 29, Saluda. $55. More info here.