When I moved to the Raleigh area at the beginning of 1992, I spent a lot of time at Umstead State Park. It was a 10-minute drive, you could hike and mountain bike, and, lucky me, I happened to live on what I considered to be the most interesting side of the park, the Reedy Creek side, off I-40. Access to the mountain bike/equestrian trails was easier, you could pick up two long trails from the parking lot, even the physical facilities — the picnic shelters, the restrooms — seemed more inviting.
When National Trails Day got its start in the early 1990s, it was gauged by the number of events and participants.
“Media impressions,” of which there were more than 900 million in 2018.
For the past 25 years, the American Hiking Society has decreed the first Saturday in June to be National Trails Day, a day of celebration for our beloved hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Events around the country celebrate by holding trail workdays, hikes and various celebratory events. It’s a great opportunity to get out and let your local trails know how much you appreciate them.
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.
For the past 25 years, the first Saturday of June has been—by decree of the American Hiking Society—National Trails Day, a day dedicated to celebrating our nation’s thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails. Sometimes, that celebration takes the form of a hike, sometimes a bike ride. Often, it’s a trail workday, reminding us that the vast majority of our natural surface trails would not be possible without volunteers. A professional land manager may oversee the blazing and design of the trails, but when it comes to the work of actually clearing the paths— and maintaining them—that’s largely the work of volunteers.
For instance, on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail—which spans North Carolina from Clingman’s Dome in the west to Jockey’s Ridge on the Atlantic— all of the nearly 700 miles of trail that currently exist were built by volunteers. In 2017 alone, volunteers put in 36,000 hours on the trail, according to Friends of the MST Outreach Manager Betsy Brown. On the Appalachian Trail, the 2,190-mile length is maintained by 31 regional hiking clubs in 14 states. (See below for clubs in North Carolina and Virginia.)
We do love our trails. And Saturday is an especially good day to show that love by participating in one of the nearly 1,000 NTD events planned nationwide (including 55 in Virginia and 35 in North Carolina). Here’s a sampling of 10 in North Carolina and Virginia:
GetHiking! Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake
GetHiking! celebrates National Trails Day with a 6-mile hike on the MST through the Triangle. This particular stretch follows edge forest, passes old farm ponds, crosses meadows, explores Piedmont history dating back a half century and more.
Troutville Trail Days
Along the line of the big Trails Day in Damascus, Va., Troutville, also located on the AT, has it’s own AT celebration, with guided hikes, live music and a range of vendors.
Beyond the Trailhead
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For anyone who’s ever driven Skyline Drive and wondered what those trail signs were about, Shenandoah National Park and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Trail Patrol aim to show you with guided hikes.
Celebrate the Park
Newport News, VA
Mariners’ Museum hosts a trail extravaganza, with hikes, food and lots of stuff for kids to do.
National Trails Day and Clean the Bay
York River State Park, Williamsburg, VA
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
A clean-up followed by a Past Plantation Tour, hike of the Osprey Trail, and kids fishing tournament.
Uwharrie Trail Hike
Sponsor: Uwharrie Trailblazers hiking club
Six-mile hike that culminates with a climb to the top of Little Long Mountain, a cleared plateau that offers the best views of central North Carolina’s Uwharrie Mountains.
NTD at Durant Nature Preserve
9 a.m. to noon
Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks & Rec.
Get hands-on experience maintaining a trail. Rakes, pitchforks and wheelbarrows provided; you bring a water bottle, sturdy boots and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.
Take a Hike at Brunswick Nature Park
Winnabow (near Wilmington)
Sponsor: NC Coastal Land Trust
North Carolina’s land trusts play an often unsung role in protecting valuable natural areas and providing us with unique places to explore. This 2.5-mile hike lead by the NC Coastal Land Trust takes you through one of them.
Panthertown Valley Picnic and Expo
Glenville (near Cashiers)
Hike, bike ride
Sponsor: Friends of Panthertown Valley
There’s a picnic at Salt Rock Gap (one of the main entrances to Panthertown), followed by a hike. You can also learn more about mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing and more in the area.
NTD on the Carolina Thread Trail
Cramerton (Charlotte area)
Hike, kids activities
Sponsor: Hike It Baby
Some day, the Carolina Thread Trail hopes to link 15 counties in the Charlotte area with trails; this hike is on one of segment of that emerging chain — the 0.7-mile Goat Island Greenway and South Fork River Blueway (a paddle trail running 8.4 miles downstream; it is not part of the day’s adventure).
For more events in North Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere, visit the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day page here.
AT maintenance clubs in NC and Virginia:
North Carolina clubs are the Carolina Mountain Club, Nantahala Hiking Club and the Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers, and in Virginia, there’s the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club, Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club, Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club,
Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech
The photo was taken last August on a GetBackpacking! trip into Linville Gorge. It was a three-day, 22-mile trip that involved two crossings of the Linville River, a knee-busting descent into Chimney Gap followed by a calf-burning ascent out, navigating a river section that had little interest in being navigated, and this drop into the gorge on the Leadmine Trail—a path that looked relatively innocuous on the topo map. In reality, it’s a path best tackled by tossing your pack down the mountain first, then scooting down after it. You know how trails rarely look as steep in photos? Not this one.
The weekend was filled with moments like this—moments, when, had a plank been handy in this raucous assemblage of rock, rhododendron and roiling water, I might have been asked to take a walk.
Yet late Sunday afternoon, when we returned to the trailhead, the requests began: We gotta do this again! (Perhaps not immediately, but within a couple days.)
We gotta do this again!
Was it because we had great weather?
A month later at Wilson Creek, it rained most of the weekend. We saw the sun when we met at the Visitor Center, but it had disappeared by the time we reached the trailhead 20 minutes later, never to return. Yet same thing: We gotta come back.
Part of what draws us back is the promise of the truly memorable. On a trip earlier this year in the Uwharries, we camped in the clearing atop Little Long Mountain and watched day ever-so-slowly fade to night, then sat star-struck beneath a brilliant winter sky devoid of clouds and much light pollution. Likewise, a trip on the AT in February found us crossing Max Patch on a cloudless day, the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia sleepily rippling into the distance. If you’ve ever done the 14-mile stretch of AT between Carver’s Gap and US 19E on a sunny day, you know all about the truly memorable.
The evening campfire, the electronic detachment, the dehydrated meals that are the best ever, and the simplicity — wake, eat, walk, make camp, eat, sleep — make things like daylong rain and a sketchy trail seem a small price to pay.
Here on the cusp of the 2018 backpacking season, we are especially excited about the adventures ahead, which include: