Hiking in North Carolina

As part of our GetHiking! program, which we introduced last week and will launch Sept. 12, we’re spending August extolling the virtues of hiking in North Carolina. Today, a look at why you love to hike and where you like to do it.

Many of you are fans of any trail with a waterfall. Good views are also a hit. And, frankly, you don’t mind having a little scare thrown into you as you make your way down the trail.

When we asked on our Facebook page why you love to hike and where you like to do it, we got some predictable — and some not so — responses.

“I hiked to the top of “Mt. LeConte,” wrote Debbie. “Awesome and a bit scary in places!!”

Ditto Stephanie, who wrote of hiking in Montana’s Glacier National Park, “Gorgeous hike….almost killed me but it was a GREAT adventure!”

For the most part, though, your responses struck a familiar chord.

“Waterfalls and blueberries,” wrote Eleni Karaganis-Gomez. “I need no more.”

Those two pre-requisites are only part of the reason her favorite place to hike is Graveyard Fields, off the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Mount Pisgah, where a pair of forest fires in the early 20th century have left an exposed — and slightly eerie — landscape that’s a popular roadside stop.

“The length is perfect,” says Eleni. “It’s 3.1 miles, I think, a moderate hike. And if you don’t want to hike all way you can turn back. It’s got a lot of diversity: blueberries, creeks, Yellowstone Rock, Upper and Lower Falls. It’s a challenging hike, but not too much so.”


Other nominees:

Linville Gorge: “So much to see and explore” — Justin

Grandfather Mountain: “…my favorite place to hike” — Rachael

Grayson Highlands/Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Va.: “Views are awesome, and it is just a unique area!” — Rocky

Stone Mountain: “…last fall we took 3 separate trips to hike and see as much as possible with the colorful leaves turning.” — Nancy

Eleni Karaganis-Gomez says she, her husband and her daughter got into hiking eight or nine years ago. Her daughter, now 16, still loves to hike with her parents.

“It’s so relaxing,” says Eleni of hiking’s allure. “If i could have done life over I’d be a rock collector or a geologist — I just love dirt!”

Jon Holliday grew up in Raleigh, fell in love with hiking as a Boy Scout, and hiked pretty much non-stop until a demanding work schedule sidelined him about seven years ago. Then, two years ago he decided to reignite his passion by signing up for the Ultimate Hike, a 28.3-mile fundraising hike.

That did the trick.

He and his wife started focusing their vacations on hiking national parks, and last year he started the Triangle Trail Hikers Meetup Group. Today, the group has 375 members.

“I worked from home and I couldn’t sit in the house day and night,” Jon says of his motivation to start a hiking club. “I created a Meetup to make new friends and have people to hike with.”

“I enjoy being outside,” adds Jon. “I like seeing nature. Exercise,” he says, “is pretty far down the list as far as motivation.”

Through his Meetup, Jon tries to share his love of the outdoors. He also thinks he knows why more people don’t hike.

Group hikes are a great way for newcomers to get introduced to the activity. “But the biggest fear of every one of them is that they’re not going to be able to keep up with people they’re hiking with. I tell everyone to hike your own speed. Most people can do the distance, but they need to do it at their own pace.”

So where does a hike leader who leads at least a hike a week prefer to lead hikes?

“I like Umstead,” says Jon. “But I won’t go there on weekends because of the crowds.”

Where does he go to avoid crowds?

New Hope Overlook, at Jordan Lake,” he says. “The trail is about as long as Company Mill [a popular Umstead trail], about five and three-quarter miles, but it’s got a lot less roots and rocks.” He reserves that hike for mid-fall, in part for the great color along the lake, in part because there’s no longer a $6 entry fee beginning in October.

Most of our hikers focused on the macro — the waterfalls, the expansive views. But pay close attention and you’ll never know what you’ll see at trail’s edge.

Jon saw purple mushrooms with white polka dots on a recent trip to the Nantahala National Forest. Thomas, a Facebook responder, saw a bear on a June trip on the Appalachian Trail. And on a recent Sunday hike at Umstead, Raleigh hiker Craig Jarvis saw nature in action.

“I’ve been hiking, running & biking in Umstead for 20 years now,” says Jarvis, “but today is the first time that I’ve seen a snake catch a fish. Right out of Sycamore Creek. That was amazing.”

“The lesson,” he adds, noting the more relaxed pace of his form of adventure that Sunday, “hiking is best.”