With the highest mountains east of the Black Hills, 5 national forests covering nearly 3 million acres, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 34 state parks and 4 state recreation areas, and numerous additional lands held by various land conservancies, North Carolina is a top destination for hiking and backpacking. Explore your options at NCHikes.com.
In recognition of Mountains-to-Sea Trail Month, which was actually in May, all recommendations this month are on — or at least partially on — the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. At the coast, we recommend a true adventure for this time of year: a hike on the Neusiok Trail, which right about now begins to resemble a jungle in both weather and lush cover. In the Piedmont, we’re partial to a pair of long stretches in urban areas — the Triad, the Triangle — that make day-long escapes possible without a day-long drive. And in the mountains, we have recommendations on two stretches along the Blue Ridge Parkway: along the southeast flank of mighty Grandfather Mountain and on one of the highest stretches of the MST, in the Sam Knob area.
These are just a taste of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which now includes 620 miles of nearly all natural-surface trail. It’s present routing puts the MST at 1,150 miles; the remainder of which is on roads (catch up on the latest MST developments here). Learn more about North Carolina’s statewide trail by visiting the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The following post originally appeared on our sister site on March 6. I was reminded of it by the prospect of a cooler, albeit wet, weekend ahead suitable for a nice hike. It is rerun here, in its entirety.
I awoke to gray skies, a steady rain and temperatures in the upper 50s.
Perfect day for an off-trail hike.
Alas, only nine other folks shared my feelings for Rod Broadbelt’s annual Wilderness Hike at Umstead State Park. The hike, 98 percent of which is advertised as being off-trail, has in the past attracted more than three times as many hikers. Through the Raleigh Recreational Hikers Meetup alone, at least 25 people were signed up. Yet the prospect of 10 miles in the rain off-trail apparently dampened the spirits of the masses. The weather only made me that much more excited. There’s something more intimate about the forest when it’s dripping wet, especially in winter. The season’s drab brown leaf-littered floor takes on a coppery glow, gray tree trunks take on a metallic sheen and the close, wet air adds an intimacy, a coziness if you will that makes hiking the woods a more personal affair. Read on ...
For the traditional shuttle you need two cars; you can’t do a point-to-point solo. If there are just two of you, you both have to drive. That’s not only a waste of gas, it eliminates catch-up time on the drive (not that you won’t be talking on the trail). Setting up a shuttle also eats into valuable hiking time. And what if something happens to the shuttle car or driver? In November, four of us were hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail west of Mount Pisgah. As the trail crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our party suddenly decided he was through. He flagged a passing car and before we knew it he disappeared down the road — to his/our shuttle car at trails’ end. Now what? Read on ...
The next time I go backpacking alone in a swamp for the first time, I think I’ll go with someone. By day, a swamp isn’t much different than the rest of the outdoors, albeit a little wetter. But as the light begins its hasty retreat for the day (a retreat made all the hastier by the dense swamp vegetation: the dense canopy of a hardwood forest with its share of impressive beech trees, a dense understory chocked with bays) it’s amazing how much more amplified and primordial a swamp sounds. Ducks taking flight could be pterodactyls, squirrels crashing about in the brush take on the aural heft of eastern cougars, mischievous raccoons might as well be black bears (which do, occasionally, enter the park) lurking in the dark. Light (or the lack there of) and sound do wonders for time travel. Read on ...
Looking for a good 80-or-so-mile backpack trip through an urban wilderness? It could happen before long on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail through the Triangle. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a work-in-progress path across North Carolina. Starting atop Clingman’s Dome on the North Carolina/Tennessee border and ending about 1,000 miles later at Jockey’s Ridge on the coast, the trail, about half of which is done, would provide an opportunity to walk the length of the state. A key component of that goal: places to camp along the way. Read on ...
January 27, 2011 - A 20-mile walk in the woods with Rod Read on ...
February 17, 2011 - Take the back door into Middle Prong Read on ...
March 19, 2011 - The ... interesting life of a guidebook writer. Read on ..
May 9, 2011 - North Carolina State Parks gets an app. Read on ...
June 22, 2011 - Dig this: 300 continuous miles of MST. Read on ...
July 21, 2011 - In the woods a bridge is born. Read on ...
July 14, 2011 - 'Stories in Stone' a worthwhile wait. Read on ...
Coach's Corner: Long hike, achy feet
I coach Raleigh's Ultimate Hikers. Given a whistle and sweat shirt, I feel compelled to pontificate.
Nearing the end of Saturday’s 15.5 mile training hike at Falls Lake, I don’t think anyone among the 14 of us wasn’t buoyed by the prospect of getting off their feet. Sore feet goes with the territory of long days on the trail: with 19 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints and 107 ligaments per foot, there’s a lot that can go wrong down there.
Some of us, unfortunately, are more susceptible to sore feet than others. As we discussed previously, the right boots/hiking shoes and socks can help. One other thing that can help on the trail, especially if you’re susceptible to foot aches: Take periodic breaks, take your shoes and socks off, elevate your dogs and give ‘em a rest. This will be especially important to remember on The Big Day. If you suffer from foot woes, don’t hesitate to take a load off at the three rest stops and give your feet a break. The 10 or 15 minutes you invest here you’ll more than make up for on the trail with fresher feet.
At hike’s end, liberate your feet ASAP from the restrictive confines of your shoes and socks and elevate them. (Ever notice all the cars on the highway with feet sticking out the passenger window? Hikers.) The sooner you commence the recovery process the better. This is why on the evening of Oct. 27 — the day of our 28.3-mile Ultimate Hike — you’ll see me padding around the Holiday Inn Express in Lavonia, Ga., wearing a pair of bright orange, bouncy, airy Crocs.
More on the topic here.
Looking for a good granola recipe to fuel your next trip? Grace Duling won my tastebuds with this concoction she’s been refining for three years:
3 cups whole rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup coconut (shredded)
1/2 - 1/3 cup each of almonds, cashews, walnuts
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sofghum
Mix together; spread in Texas sheet pan.
Drizzle 1/4 cup 100 percent real maple syrup over top.
Sprinkle cinnamon over top.
Bake in oven @ 280 degrees for 30 minutes.
Take from oven and let sit. Add dried fruit if you like.
Lift from pan in chunks.