If fall is nature at its showiest, winter is nature at its most honest. Minus her canopy, her understory, her ground cover, she has little to hide. Stone foundations from homesteads long abandoned lie exposed. Distant mountaintops are revealed. Critters have nowhere to hide. It’s the perfect time to be in the woods, a time when you can peer deep into nature’s soul. Especially if you seek a more true form of adventure — the type of adventure that doesn’t exist on a blazed trail marked on a map. That’s why we go wild over winter.
In the early 1980s I lived in Loveland, Colo. On weekends, I would drive up U.S. 34 along the Big Thompson River toward Estes Park, into the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest. I would typically stop well short of Estes, sometimes not even making it to the tiny crossroads of Drake. I’d find a roadside pullout, get out and start hiking: there didn’t need to be a trail, as long as the terrain was passible. It wouldn’t be long, scrambling up the steep canyon walls, before I’d start fantasizing that I might be the first person to have ever made it to the ridge above. Hey, I was in my 20s. What did I know?
It’s the transition season in North Carolina: standup paddleboarding at the coast, skiing in the mountains and hiking in between.
The Surf to Sound Challenge at Wrightsville Beach typically marks the end of the standup paddleboard season at the coast — a late and chilly end, in most folks’ books. The two-day challenge features the 6.5-mile Surf to Sound Challenge and the 4-mile Harbor Island Outer Loop challenge on Saturday, and a new competition, the Surf SUP Competition on Sunday. If you’ve got the will and a wet suit, head on down to Wrightsville Beach.
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.