Thursday’s announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper of a phased-in reopening of North Carolina included a lot of good news. Topping the list: social distancing and other measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus are working — the “curve” is flattening. As a result, aspects of the statewide stay-at-home order will begin lifting on May 8, two weeks from today.
It’s gonna be one summery weekend, with temperatures in the 90s throughout most of our adventuring region. Our recommendations for this weekend are with the heat in mind.
Stream Safari, Saturday, 2 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap. Water — clear, cool water — is a key component of this event, in which water bugs, water quality and staying cool are the focus. If you’re one of those folks who’ve always meant to visit Stone Mountain (but haven’t), here’s a good opportunity. And since Stone Mountain is likely a drive for many of you, we suggest also paying a visit to the park’s namesake, a 600-foot granite dome, via the 4.5-mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail (which also visits a 200-foot waterfall). Learn more about the hike here, the park here.
Our plan for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was to take a group of backpackers to the mountains for three days on the AT between Max Patch and Hot Springs. The goal was to give three-season backpackers a taste of winter. But when the forecast suddenly shifted and called for temperatures near zero and more than just an inch or two of snow, it was time to rethink our plan. Since that wasn’t what this group had signed up for or was properly geared up to do, we postponed the trip.
We’re all wondering the same thing: are my favorite places to explore open post Hurricane Florence?
Here’s a look at what I’ve found for our upcoming GetHiking! and GetBackpacking! adventures. Hopefully, my sleuthing can help you in figuring out your own upcoming adventure plans.
When: This weekend
What we learned: I wasn’t worried about the trail being flooded: it begins above 6,000 feet and stays high for much of its 13.7-mile run. Still, my first check was with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, whose Trail Updates page is a complete rundown of current closings, reroutings and other issues that may affect your hike. The North Carolina section (updates are broken down by state) listed no specific advisory for this stretch, though it did advise caution in general for downed trees and hanging limbs as a result of the storm. Of greater concern were the roads getting to the trailhead: Florence dropped some wet on the mountains, and landslides had been reported. But not on the roads we take, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Travel Information page and its interactive map.
Status: It’s a go
When: This weekend
What we learned: Virginia closed all of its State Parks in preparation for Florence, but all have now reopened, including Grayson Highlands. A look at the Grayson Highlands State Park page shows that only one park facility is closed, and it isn’t our group campsite. As for the Mount Rogers end of the trip, the USDA Forest Service site for both George Washington and Jefferson National Forests reported that all recreation areas were closed. That, though, from a post dated Sept. 12, before the storm. A call to the “customer service desk” for both forests indicated it might be faster to leave a message than to wait for a representative. It was also unclear whether the Virginia Creeper Trail, also part of the trip, was open.
Status: On hold, likely to postpone
When: Weekend of Sept. 28-30
What we learned: Curtis Creek is in the Pisgah National Forest. (In fact, it was the first tract of land in the Pisgah, back in 1913). It’s in a particularly narrow valley that descends from the Black Mountains to the Piedmont, and thus seems especially vulnerable to flooding. And while it, along with the rest of the Pisgah, was closed prior to Florence, it has reopened. Graybeard Mountain is rather unique in that it is part of the Montreat Conference Center’s 2,500-acre Montreat Wilderness. It remains open to hiking as well, according to the website.
Status: It’s a go.
A cool front moves in this weekend, a sign for you to get out and explore. Some thoughts on that front:
=&0=&, Friday thru Sunday, anywhere along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Help our favorite statewide hiking trail celebrate 41 years with a hike! Where? Well, anywhere on the trail. To help with that, we refer you to the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail website, here.
=&1=&, Saturday & Sunday, Moratock Park, Danbury. How about a hike at nearby Hanging Rock and some live music? Or a paddle on the Dan River and some crafts? We’re all about mixing action with relaxation, which is what this weekend’s Stokes Stomp in Danbury is all about. Details here.
=&2=&, Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Elk Knob State Park, Todd. More mixing of pleasure with pleasure at this annual celebration of Elk Knob. Live music, games, nature activities, hikes, wagon rides, craft and cultural demonstrations, hands-on activities, history and food. Details here.
You can find more opportunities this Labor Day weekend here: