In December, a fire burned 1,050 acres at Pilot Mountain State Park. The Grindstone Fire was caused by a campfire run amok. While it caused no damage to structures, it singed a good deal of the 3,700-acre park north of Winston-Salem. And while the “damage” to the natural world may have looked significant, that’s not necessarily the case. Periodic wildfires are important to the health of any forest, which is the topic of Growth After Fire, an hour-long program at Pilot Mountain State Park Saturday at 2 p.m. “Join a park ranger to discuss fire’s effects on plant and tree growth after a fire,” according to the N.C. State Parks website. Learn more here. (Can’t make Saturday’s session? It will be repeated Sunday at 2 p.m.)
One of the reasons we like to do a GetBackpacking! trip to the Shining Rock area in April is because we get to revisit spring. Traditionally, we begin at the Shining Rock Creek/Big East Fork Trailhead off US 276, at an elevation of about 3,100 feet. Here, spring is well underway, with mid-spring wildflowers in bloom, the trees essentially leafed out. But as we climb, as we gain more than 2,400 vertical feet on a 4.3-mile climb up to Shining Rock Gap, time begins to reverse itself. Trees just beginning to sprout leaves, wildflowers of the early season sort. By the time we reach the top, the trees are winter-bare, first-responder bluets dominate the wildflower scene. A visit to Shining Rock is like going back in time.
Will it snow again this weekend? It looked likely at the beginning of the week, less likely as of today. So let’s go with the latest forecast, which calls for a mostly sunny weekend throughout the central Piedmont, with high temperatures in the low 40s. It’s a change in forecast that I’m sure the Triangle Land Conservancy is glad to see since it’s the first Saturday of the month, which means it’s time for their First Saturday Hike, of which there are two this month.
It’s looking like a pretty nice weekend to be out in the woods, with daytime highs into the low 60s both Saturday and Sunday. There’s a chance of rain Sunday; otherwise, a good-looking December weekend is on tap.
First, a couple of off-trail adventures, both intended to keep you off pandemic-popular trails.
It started as a mellow saunter, progressed to an up-tempo hike, then, on a modest downhill, evolved into a trot. It was one of my first hikes at the Triangle Land Conservancy’s new Brumley Forest property near Hillsborough, and the absence of rocks and tree roots coupled with the gentle flow reminded me of my bygone days of being able to run a 10-minute mile on trail.