Tag Archives: Triangle

Long Trails of the Triangle

The longest of the long: the 60-mile Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Sometimes you just need to stretch your legs — really, really stretch your legs. If you live in the Triangle and love a good, long stretch, you are in luck, because for an urban area it has more than its share of long trails. And varied long trails to boot. Some are paved and suitable for wheeled sports from cycling to rollerblading to stroller pushing. Some are a foot friendly, finally crushed natural surface, especially good for running. Some are the narrow, intimate singletrack perfect for hiking.
We’ve put together snapshots of five such long trails, ranging from the recently 7.1-mile Black Creek Greenway in Cary to the 60-mile section of the Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (which will soon connected to the Eno River section of the MST and does connect to the Neuse River Trail, which will soon run nearly 33 miles into Clayton). Check out the snapshots. If you’re intrigued, click the recommended link for additional information. read more

90 Second Escape: The boat (& board) demo

Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video or slide show of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
Today’s 90-Second Escape: The boat (& board) demo
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Top places to mountain bike in North Carolina

Welcome to our latest effort in our quest to build a comprehensive list of places to play in North Carolina: Mountain biking.
North Carolina, if you aren’t aware, is a hot spot for mountain biking. Last year, Outside magazine named the Pisgah National Forest one of the top five mountain biking destinations in the U.S. Singletracks.com asked its followers to name the their favorite trails in the world, and four were in the state: Tsali, the Fletcher Creek area of Mills River, Bent Creek near Asheville and Overmountain Victory Trail at Kerr Scott Reservoir near Wilkesboro.
You want an epic ride? You don’t have to go far if you live in North Carolina.
Here’s our preliminary offering of 19 places to ride that we think are pretty swell. But we want to hear what you think. Think a place on our list is overrated and should be replaced? Let us know. Have we made a glaring omission? Fill us in. Or maybe we’ve omitted a key detail about one of the places that is listed. Tell us about that as well.
We’ll update the list periodically, and so you don’t have to go searching around the site to find, it will live permanently in the left rail of our home page. Scroll down to “Mountain biking,” click and you’re in business.
And send us your thoughts. Nothing like another good excuse to ride. read more

The ultimate in hiking

The frustration of six miles on the trail, most of it in the dark, was beginning to show.
“Why does this trail have to be so hard?” Kathy yelled. “Why does it have to be such a struggle?” The rage I could handle. Then came the tears. Time to kick into “trail ambassador” mode.
“Hey, tell me again about that 12-hour training hike, the one that almost killed every one,” I said. This may be frustrating, but from what I’d heard of the aforementioned training hike, the one in these same mountains that ended three hours later than expected, in the dark, with one hiker having to be evacuated by an elderly couple that couldn’t hear and chewed tobacco, I knew it wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t. The diversion gave Kathy, who had quickly proven herself adept at telling stories, one after the other, something worse to focus on. Just like that, the frustration of this hard trail evaporated as she retold the story of a really hard day on the trail.
What a great way to spend a day in the woods.
Saturday was my second Ultimate Hike. I signed on last year to help coach the Triangle contingent of hikers. I was so taken by the experience, by the hikers and their commitment to the UH cause, that I couldn’t wait to re-up for this year.
The Ultimate Hike was dreamed up over two years ago by CureSearch for Children’s Cancer. Initially, CureSearch relied on grants and philanthropic donations to do its work, which includes connecting parents of kids with cancer into a vast network of children’s cancer specialists worldwide. Three years ago it started doing fundraising walks. Two years ago it hit on the idea of the Ultimate Hike: train for 12 weeks, do a monster hike, in the case of the Triangle hikers and other UHers throughout the Southeast, the westernmost 28.3 miles of the 77-mile Foothills Trail straddling the North Carolina/South Carolina line. In exchange for training and the fully supported Ultimate Hike, hikers pledge to raise $2,500 each.
Our group began training with a steamy 6-mile hike in August at Umstead. Every two weeks thereafter we did successively longer and more challenging hikes, along the Eno River, at Falls Lake, back at Umstead, at Hanging Rock and in the Uwharrie Mountains. We hit the trail well-prepared at exactly 4:30 Saturday morning under … well, under what kind of skies I do not know because for the first two-plus hours it was dark. (A good thing, actually, because the most severe climbing occurs at the beginning, and it’s harder to tell just how much you’ve climbed and how much more you have to go when your world is confined to the glow of a headlamp.)
Ultimate Hikers fall into three main categories: the uberfit looking for an extreme challenge, people with a direct connection to childhood cancer, and not-so-uberfit folks looking to truly test themselves. As their coach, as the person responsible for making it possible for everyone to hike 28.3 miles in one day, I wind up spending the bulk of my time with the folks at the back of the pack. Next to the hike’s ultimate goal, it’s why I coach.
About an hour into Saturday’s hike I came upon Nicole, who was struggling not because of a lack of preparation, but because her headlamp was woefully underpowered. I gave her mine, got out my spare and followed her. “This isn’t my cup of tea,” she observed at one point, referring both to night hiking and the fact that the occasional rock and tree root on the trail were buried in freshly fallen leaves.
An hour and a half later, with first light breaking through, we came upon Emily and Kathy. I’d hiked an 18-mile stretch of the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail with Emily two weeks earlier. Early on, I learned one especially interesting thing — that the soft-spoken Emily was a retired Carolina Rollergirl — and one thing that said a lot about her character: right before training started she took a nasty fall down the stairs at home, gathered up her little boy and drove to the ER. Luckily, she hadn’t broken anything but she was pretty bruised up. Suddenly I understood her hesitancy to descend steep, rocky stretches.
“I’m really slow,” she apologized more than once. Only on the dangerous stuff.
We picked up Kathy at the same time, and after her minor meltdown she stayed focused — or distracted — by telling me about her life as a mom, as an online English instructor for a college in Indiana, as a one-time PW (preacher’s wife).
Going into the hardest stretch of the trail, an 11-mile run along the Chattooga River, my fellow coach Brian and I picked up Heather. Heather was wearing Merrill Barefoot shoes. “Did you change into those at the last rest stop?” I asked. I was stunned that someone not 20 years old and who calls everyone “Dude” would attempt such a long and technically challenging trail in minimalist shoes.
“No, I’ve been wearing them all day. I’m hoping to get Merrill to sponsor me.”
She didn’t mean personally, as in scoring a bunch of cool outdoors swag. She meant a donation for the kids with cancer.
Tired and ready for the end, we were all pretty quiet for the last six miles. I thought about Christie, who nearly had to be evacuated from the Chattooga canyon last year because of severe knee pain. She somehow managed to finish, was on crutches for several days afterward — and was the first person from the Triangle to sign up for this year’s hike. I thought about Candi, who upon finishing the hike last year vowed never to even look at a pair of hiking boots again. I think she was the second person to sign up for this year. I thought of Kay, Monica and Rachel, who were the rocks of our back-of-the-pack 2011 group. Uncertain about whether they could raise $2,500 two years in a row, they instead volunteered their services for this year’s hike. They chauffeured us from Raleigh to the trailhead and back and they attended to our every need at the rest stops. It was killing them not to be on the trail, but they never let on.
The last hiker crossed the finish line right at 7 p.m., about 20 minutes after official sunset. By the time we got back to basecamp (a Holiday Inn Express, actually) for the victory celebration, all the good beer was gone.
Still, Coors Light never tasted so good. read more

Bike sharing comes to Charlotte

B-Cycles at a station.

Bike sharing, a transportation concept embraced around the world but only slowly making its way to the United States, has come to North Carolina. Charlotte B-Cycle began operating yesterday, with 200 bikes located at 20 stations in Uptown, including several along Charlotte’s Lynx light rail line.
Bike sharing programs offer the use of bikes to people who don’t have them. They’re typically intended to help people run errands or commute to work in urban areas. Bikes are parked at strategically placed stations around town. Participants in in the programs typically pay a usage fee. Generally, you can ride the bikes anywhere (they have GPS tracking), but you must pick them up and leave them at a station. (Lose a bike in the Charlotte system and it will set you back $1,000.) According to Wikipedia, bike sharing programs were operating in 165 cities around the world as of May 2011. France had the most programs, with 29, followed by Spain, 25; and China and Italy, both with 19.
The Charlotte program will allow riders 30 minutes of free use, making it an ideal option for quick trips in Uptown. Each additional 30 minutes is $4.Twenty-four-hour passes are available for $8 — perfect if you’re just visiting for the day — and annual passes, a good option for urban dwellers and downtown workers, are available for $65. Memberships can be purchased online or at the stations.
However, through Sunday the fee is being waived.
Bikes in the Charlotte program as in most bike share programs, are designed for short trips (see photo). All come equipped with baskets, lights and a bell. The bikes, which resemble beach cruisers, have three speeds and are equipped with tires somewhere between a balloon tire and a road tire.
Similar B-Cycle programs are in place in 12 other U.S. cities, including Spartanburg, S.C. An effort is underway to bring bike sharing  to the Triangle.
Charlotte’s B-Cycle program was launched with funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina’s new Get Outside North Carolina! initiative. That program promises to pump $4 million into bike and greenway projects around the state over the next four years. Two other programs in line for GO NC! funding include the two-mile Blue Loop greenway at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and the 15-mile Gary Shell Cross-City Trail linking Wilmington with the drawbridge to Wrightsville Beach. According to BCBSNC, every $1 invested in biking trails and walking paths can result in $3 in savings in medical expenses. read more