Temperatures in the 70s, mostly sunny skies — sounds like a weekend to get out and explore in the GetOut! universe. Some options for your adventure consideration:
High 5 @ Hanging Rock, Saturday, beginning at 7 a.m., Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury. Our friends with the Friends of Sauratown Mountains do a great job supporting both Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock state parks, the west and east endpoints, respectively, of the Sauratown Mountain range. They support the parks in a variety of ways, one of which is by funding some of the smaller park projects that might not otherwise get done. Where do they get their money? you ask. From events like High 5 @ Hanging Rock. The goal of High 5 is to hike all 5 of Hanging Rock’s key high points: Moore’s Knob, Cooks Wall, Hanging Rock, Wolf Rock and House Rock. Complete the circuit and get a patch! There are two rest stops along the route, foot trucks at the finish (get a $5 food truck voucher upon registration). Cost is $40, which, again, will largely go to benefit the parks. Learn more and sign up here.read more
Moving is good. Learning something while you’re on the move is even better. This weekend is a good one for learning on the move.
For many, the key to getting active is to resist the urge to overindulge at the start and expect immediate results. That’s why so many New Year’s resolutions go kaput before January is over: you expect to become Charles (or Charlene) Atlas in just two weeks.
That’s why we like events such as Saturday’s =&1=& in Wilmington. On this hour-and-a-half walk you’ll take a leisurely pace through the historic Forest Hills section of Wilmington, learning about “architecture and landscape design within the neighborhood, highlighting the economic, social, and community development. These tours bring attention to the special qualities of the neighborhoods and how they contribute to the city’s quality of life.”
Learning and moving. Pretty good combination.
Logistics: Guided Walking Tour of Forest Hills, Saturday, July 15, 10 a.m., Wilmington. $10. Pre-registration required, by calling 910.762.2511.
Looking ahead: Can’t make Sunday’s walk? It repeats on July 29. More info here.
Conquering our fears: that’s part of why we go outside. We hike at night to get past fearing a dark forest. We go off trail — with map and compass — to explore the less-visited and feel more comfortable navigating the woods. We embrace water crossings as refreshing rather than reject them for the possibility of getting wet.
And yet, we remain fearful of snakes. All snakes.
Sunday, take the first step toward getting past your ophidiophobia by attending =&3=& At Pilot Mountain State Park. Learn how to identify snakes (including the venomous ones), learn about their lives. Learn to appreciate them as one of one of your incentives for heading outdoors.
Logistics: Snakes!, Sunday, July 16, 10 a.m., Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle. More information here.
Looking ahead: Canoe the Yadkin, Thursday, July 27, 10 a.m., Yadkin River Access of Pilot Mountain State Park. More info here.
Hiking in the spruce and pine forests at North Carolina’s highest elevations is like hiking in a different world. Or Canada. If you’re accustomed to the ecozones of the lower Southern Appalachian hardwood forests, you likely find yourself asking, like a confused tourist, “What the heck is that?”
Find out “what the heck” on Sunday’s =&5=& hike at Mount Mitchell State Park. “Join a ranger to understand why the Black Mountain Range and Mt. Mitchell are so unique in North Carolina in terms of its ecology and wildlife,” says the hike description. Then, take a few minutes to head north on the Black Mountain Crest Trail to put your newfound knowledge to work identifying this curious land of boreal delights.
Logistics: High Elevation Peaks, Sunday, July 16, 2 p.m., Mount Mitchell State Park, Burnsville. More info here.
Looking ahead: Balsam Nature Trail Guided Hike, Sunday, Sept. 10, Mount Mitchell State Park, Burnsville. More info here.
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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.
Looking ahead: Can’t make Saturday morning’s Build-a-Boat? The event repeats Saturday, July 29 at noon. More info here.
D’ja ever wonder about the weather on top of a mountain? About the highest wind gusts ever recorded? Lowest temperature? Most snow?
Likewise, who hasn’t wondered how they record that information? Saturday is your chance to have these questions answered at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area. Setting out from the picnic area, you’ll make the short clime to MJ’s 4,683-foot summit, home to a North Carolina Climate Office data collection tower, where the mountain will reveal her climatological secrets during the Mount Jefferson’s Climate Tower program.
Logistics: Mount Jefferson’s Climate Tower, Saturday, July 8, 2 p.m., Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson. More info here.
Now, if there were only a dozen Classic Hikes in North Carolina, we could declare mission accomplished and be done. In fact, there are so many more than a dozen Classics in the state (I’ve written a book that documents 100, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina,” Mountaineers Books). And there are so many more Classics throughout the Southeast.
Thus, our mission continues in 2016, with the expanded GetHiking! The Southeast’s Classic Hikes series.
First, we’re not abandoning North Carolina. In fact, we’re only adding two out-of-state hikes in 2016, both in Virginia (a stretch of the Appalachian Trail near Lynchburg and the Grayson Highlands/Mount Rogers area). And while we are repeating two hikes from 2015 (Panthertown Valley, by popular demand, and Doughton Park, because it’s a good late winter mountain hike), we’ve got a North Carolina lineup that will expose you to even more great hiking than you thought possible. We’ll get to a full calendar of hikes, with descriptions, in a sec. But first … .
Why join this fee-based hiking program? We had about 90 hikers participate in the 2015 program, all with their own personal motivation. Basically, though, they boiled down to two key motivators: the challenge, and the chance to explore more of the state’s wild areas.
Right about now you’re likely thinking what most people are thinking on the cusp of a new year: how can I be more active in the year ahead? Hiking is a great option. First, just about anyone can do it, and unlike many other “active” options, it’s something you can be active at late into life. (Of our 90 or so 2015 hikers, at least half are over 50.) Hiking requires some basic equipment: hiking boots/shoes, good socks, a day pack, for starters. But once you’ve got the basics, it’s cheap fun: transportation and food are your key expenses.
If you’re new to hiking, you might be intimidated by the “Classic” designation, equating “Classic” with epic and visions of a death march rather than an enjoyable day in the woods. First, our hikes are actually two hikes, a longer hike and a shorter hike. For instance, our first hike, on the Neusiok Trail in the coastal Croatan National Forest, gives you the option of hiking the entire 20.4-mile trail, or a 6-mile stretch. Start with the shorter options, maybe you’ll want to go longer after three or four hikes. Plus, the monthly hikes are good incentive to do shorter, local hikes in the interim.
If you’re looking for an activity you can embrace for the longterm and one that doesn’t seem like work (as is often the case with a traditional “workout,” hiking is a good option. Likewise, if you seek a sense of accomplishment and reward, you’ll find it in a hike (just ask the folks who did our 13.4-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail north of Carvers Gap in September).
And if you’re worried about being left in the woods, don’t be. Our hikes are led from the rear, guaranteeing that no one, not the slowest hiker, is dropped. This approach benefits our more experienced hikers as well; with direction supplied before the hike, they become more confident in their ability to navigate in the backcountry.
Explore New Trails
Even if you’re an avid hiker, how many of the state’s — and region’s — trails have you hiked? Or are even familiar with? Drop down and take a look at our lineup for 2016: if you’ve hiked half of these trails, you’re doing pretty good. Odds are there are one or two you haven’t heard of.
We aim to expose you to the wealth of hiking opportunities in the Southeast. Take the October hike. Perhaps you’ve heard of, even hiked in the Shining Rock area. But
The passage of Labor Day means the crowds are starting to thin from the coast, making it safe to go back in the water. Meanwhile, while the calendar may say fall is officially a couple weeks off, Labor Day signals, to us, the start of the fall hiking season. We’ve got great options for the latter in both the Piedmont and mountains.
Ah, that first post-Labor Day weekend at the coast, when the crowds have thinned and it’s safe to go back in the water. For, say, a bit of competitive standup paddle boarding!
Sunday is the Second Annual Carolina Beach SUP Challenge benefiting Ocean Cure, a non-profit that provides free surf camps and lessons to medically-fragile at-risk youth and adults. The Challenge includes two races — 3 and 6 miles — on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Been paddling for a while and like a good challenge? Race organizers say this event is for you you. New to SUPing? Again, grab your board and paddle and come on down. Really new to the sport? There’s a 1-mile Family Fun Race in which pets are encouraged to participate. (Pets? We can see a dog digging the surf scene, but a cat? A ferret?)
Logistics: Sunday, Sept. 13, 8 a.m., Carolina Beach Yacht Basin and Marina, 216 Canal Dr., Carolina Beach. $25. More info here.
Looking ahead: Curious about the coastal environment? On Sept. 25 join UNC Wilmington faculty from the departments of biology, marine biology, geology and geography for a Campus Nature Tour. More info here.
Fall means the return of hiking to the Piedmont, and our GetHiking! crew is rarin’ to go.
Saturday at 1 p.m., we’ll hike a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake, from the Upper Barton Creek boat ramp to NC 98 and back. We’ll hike 2.1 miles out, 2.1 miles back, through a rolling riparian woodland. At the turnaround is one of the biggest white oak trees around. For a preview, check out this description of the hike on the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail website.
Sunday at 1 p.m., we’ll head to northern Durham County to explore the 708-acre Horton Grove Nature Preserve. Here, the Triangle Land Conservancy has built eight miles of trail exploring bottomland forest, mature hardwood forest, deep ravines and Piedmont prairie. Our hike will cover about five miles.