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?
After a dang cold week we’re heading into a darn nice weekend, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures, brace yourself, reaching 60.
So if you’ve been hibernating so far this winter, now’s your chance to emerge from your den for an adventure. An adventure such as:
I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in Jim Plant when, during my interrogation of his intimate knowledge of Hanging Rock State Park, he said, “But then, I prefer to go off-trail.” Jim and fellow Friends of the Sauratown Mountains members Regina Rollins and Sarah Werner were standing on a rock outcrop with GetHiking!’s Alison Watta and me, surveying a vast stretch of undeveloped land in the 7,000-acre state park north of the Triad.
This weekend appears to be a carbon copy (here’s a history lesson, kids) of last weekend: lots of rain during the week, lots of sun on Saturday — and this weekend, Sunday, too. That being the case, some thoughts on how to spend a sunny first weekend of 2019:
- ERA Sunday Hike Series: West Point on the Eno city park, Sunday, 2 p.m., Durham. The Eno River Association kicks off its popular Sunday afternoon Winter Hike series with a 4.5-mile hike up the Eno from West Point on the Eno to Guess Road and back. One of the flatter hikes around, with open views of the Eno and a visit to the rock-bound pool called Sennett Hole. More info and sign up here.
- Good Night Monadnuck, Sunday, 4:30 p.m., Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough. One of our favorite hikes is to ascent mighty Occoneechee, the highest point in the Triangle at 867 feet, and catch the sun setting over Efland at dusk. More info here.
- GetHiking! Winter Wild: Off Trail at Umstead, Saturday, 10 a.m., Umstead State Park, Raleigh. We launched our Winter Wild program last week in the Eno Wilderness (check out the video) and are extremely excited about it. We take you to the places you thought you knew, and show you things you haven’t seen before on a hike that’s mostly off trail. Saturday’s hike will be about 8 miles. Learn more and sign up here.
- GetHiking! Winter Program for Beginning Hikers, Sunday, noon, Eno River State Park, Durham. Another new program that we’re excited about. If you’ve vowed to give hiking a go in 2019, this is the place to start. Sunday’s hike will be a mellow mile-and-a-half introduction; over the course of the next 8 weeks we’l build up to 4 miles, on trails around the Triangle. Learn more and sign up here.
As always, you can find more opportunities this weekend here:
=&4=& have a variety of adventures planned for the weekend. Check those options here.
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