Tag Archives: Southern Appalachians

This summer, hike the mountains of the MST

Back in January I got to thinking about where I haven’t been in too long and thus, where I would love to explore this summer. 

I didn’t have to think long: the mountain portion of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Now, I hike the MST nearly every day, since I can pick it up a couple blocks from my front door in Hillsborough. And while I never tire of this stretch, nor of the other 120 miles I hike with some frequency through the Triangle, there’s something about the MST’s nearly 350-mile run through the mountains that’s especially enchanting — and diverse, capturing both the rugged beauty of the Southern Appalachians and its moments of intimate calm. Here’s a look at three favorite sections, all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. read more

Spend this summer on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

A late spring day, temperature in the mid-50s under a cloudless sky, hiking down Yellowstone Prong east of Graveyard Fields along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was during that soft-focus, three-day flash that marks the transition from winter to spring, when the natural world is enveloped in pastel greens and yellows and pinks and oranges, the colors, I’ve heard, that the tress will revert to in fall. There was the slightest of breezes, just enough to make the budding trees whisper.  read more

When, where to find fall color

Editor’s note: This is a piece we run annually around this time. It has been tweaked, updated and massaged.

When it comes to fall color, outdoors types take the changing of the leaves pretty seriously.

How seriously?

Virginia has a fall foliage hotline — 800.424.5683 — that you can call for the latest breaking fall color news. Operators standing by; in our book, that’s quite serious. And, curiously, quite practical. read more

Piedmont fall foliage report: a flash of brilliance

The dogwoods and sourwoods were ablaze at Hanging Rock State Park two weekends ago.

Late last week I had a great idea. If you’re planning a trip to the mountains to catch the fall color, you check out the Weekly Fall Forecast and Color Report issued by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. There, you can find updated reports from throughout the mountains about what colors are popping where.
But what if you don’t have time to drive to the mountains? Or what about when the season has peaked there and is blooming closer to home (assuming that home is in the Piedmont)?
Why not do a similar report for the Piedmont? I thought. I could do it based on reports from the dozen or so state parks, recreation areas and natural areas spread throughout the Piedmont. What brilliant idea!
Apparently the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development thought so, too, because they’re already doing it.
From this week’s report, for instance, we learn that as of Monday, “you can see a small change in color with yellows being the most predominant” at Raven Rock State Park near Lillington. And as of Wednesday at Falls Lake State Recreation Area in the Triangle, “Hickories are a nice golden yellow, and sweetgums and poplars continue to turn yellow as their leaves fall. The oaks and maples are still holding onto their green colors but should start to transition soon.” Other reporting stations since Oct. 1 include Haw River State Natural Area, Pilot Mountain State Park, Crowders Mountain State Park, Hanging Rock State Park, Mayo River State Park, Kerr Lake State Recreation Area, Eno River State Park and Lake Norman State Park.
Personally, within the last week and a half I’ve seen the dogwoods and sourwoods add to the tableau at Eno River, Falls Lake and Umstead State Park with flashes of red and maroon. Color may not be close to peaking in the Piedmont, but it’s certainly starting to show. And based on the forecast for next week, there could be a significant uptick in color next weekend: temperatures are expected to cool significantly, with overnight lows dipping into the 30s. Cold snaps are one event that can significantly accelerate fall’s color display.
To recap: read more