Every Monday, our GetHiking! hikers in Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle receive our weekly enewsletter, including details on upcoming hikes, a report on the past week’s hikes, hiking tips and resources. Every Tuesday, we will recap information here in the Great Outdoor Provision Co. Blog. To get the enews delivered fresh to your computer every Monday, drop a line to joe@getgoingnc.com.

BCBSNC.WilkersonThis week’s hike: Raleigh’s Wilkerson Preserve

Good things do come in small packages, which you’ll discover on Saturday’s hike at the Annie Louise Wilkerson MD Nature Preserve.

The 157-acre tract was bequeathed to the City of Raleigh by Dr. Wilkerson in 2006, with the requirement that the land be converted into a nature preserve. Located not far from Falls Lake, the small preserve includes open meadows, a farm pond, mature hardwood forest and a section of rock outcrop not unusual to the fall line that delineates the Piedmont from the coastal plain, but cool all the same.

The park’s three loop trails cover two miles, perfect for the hiker strapped for time by the holidays. Up for more? A connector trail links with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which runs 60 miles along Falls Lake, and another 15 miles to the north into Orange County and 32 miles to the south, to Clayton in Johnston County.

A perfect post-Thanksgiving Day hike, for short and long hikers alike.

GH.BirkheadOur last adventure Birkhead Mountain Wilderness

The forecast called for rain, lots of it. The weather radar, a melange of green and yellow, indicated it was raining — in buckets.

Yet Sunday’s hike in the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness of the Uwharrie National Forest was surprisingly dry: a little rain at the very beginning, a little at the very end. Otherwise, a gray-sky hike with splashes of clinging fall color that captured the transition from fall to winter.

The hike included the classic 7.2-mile Birkhead Mountain/Hannah’s Branch/Robbins Branch loop, with the 2.2-mile spur to the Tot Hill Road trailhead tossed in. That 2.2-mile spur adds a more alpine feel to the hike, gaining more than 300 vertical feet in the first mile and a half. The rocky ridges and views of surrounding ridge lines are more suggestive of the Southern Appalachians than an isolated mountain chain, the Uwharries, that once topped 20,000 feet but over the millennia have been weathered to less than 1,000 feet.  A hint of the mountains in the heart of the Piedmont.

Tip of the Week: a hike … or a walk?

Is it simple semantics or something more important to the psyche, this matter of “hike” vs. “walk”? I’ve always leaned toward the semantics side of the boat, that it’s personal preference, that, after all, both boil down to putting one foot after the other over and over and over. But to some this perceived misspeak is a slap in the face. The definition I’ve always gone by is that a walk is on on paved surface, a hike on natural surface. The doesn’t necessarily mean a walk is easier; the trek from the parking lot to the UFO observation deck atop Clingman’s Dome is paved, but the steep grade (along with the 6,700-foot altitude) will keep you huffing and puffing. Still, a hike is typically viewed as packing additional bragging rights. This point was driven home by one of our hikers who bought her first pair of bonafide hiking shoes recently and in so doing mentioned she was buying them in preparation for a 17-mile hike at Doughton Park. Said the sales associate as she was checking out, “Have a nice walk!”

Walk! she bristled. Of all the …  

I doubt the sales person meant anything disparaging. In fact, in more traditional circles “walk” is often the term common to describing a long escape in the woods. Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” was about hiking (or attempting to hike) the Appalachian Trail. At 2,175 miles and with more than a half million feet of total elevation gain, that’s hardly a paved stroll in the park. And the bible of hiking and backpacking isn’t called “The Complete Hiker,” Collin Fletcher (later with Chip Rawlins) unflinchingly titled it “The Complete Walker.”

I wouldn’t tell someone who asks where my next “walk” will be to take a hike. But I do understand the sensitivity, especially by those new to hiking who feel, rightly, a sense of accomplishment after hiking 17 miles on the rugged Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Walk? Hike? As long as you’re getting out on the trail, does it matter?

Resource of the Week: Reads about “walks”

51K9PQ93JRL._SL500_AA300_Scratching your head over “A Walk in the Woods” and “The Complete Walker”? Take the holidays to familiarize yourself with both books critical to your development as a hiker.
When “A Walk in the Woods” was published in 1998, purists pooh-poohed Bill Bryson’s comically failed attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail as blasphemous. Those of us who could identify with Bryson’s multiple comic missteps couldn’t put it down. Soon to be a major motion picture, fyi, starring Nick Offerman (who else) and Robert Redford.
“The Complete Walker IV,” by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins. Got a question about any aspect of hiking or backpacking? Odds are you’ll find the answer in “The Complete Walker.” First published by Fletcher in the 1960s as the most comprehensive source of information on hiking and backpacking, it has somehow grown even more so. And with Rawlins aboard for the most recent update in 2002, it remains current (well, as of 2002). No word on when or if TCW is coming to the big screen.

Gear I Like: Hiking shoes and (or) boots

firebrand-IIA new GetHiking! enews feature as we enter the holiday season: ‘Gear I Like.’ I’m not saying it’s the best gear, just gear I’ve gravitated to over the years and feel comfortable recommending.

Hiking shoes or hiking boots? It’s largely a matter of personal preference, of what your body needs. Personally, for most hikes — excluding those in wet or snowy conditions — I prefer low-cut hiking shoes. They feel faster and don’t rub my bony ankles. And the hiking shoe I’ve come to love is the Oboz Firebrand. Look at that grippy, wrap-around sole and you’ll understand the main reason why: this shoe gives one mountain goat prowess even on sloppy/steep/rocky terrain. They’re pricey ($135), but can you put a price on comfort and confidence?

Sp14-Vasque-Breeze2.0GTX-280x182For backpacking, speed is less a concern (or option) for me. Rather, I need a little extra support. Not the extra support of those concrete blocks that masqueraded as hiking boots in the 1970s, but something lighter that offers more ankle support. My current boot of choice is the Vasque Breeze 2.0. The upper offers added stability when I root I wasn’t paying attention to threatens to topple me and my 35-pound pack. Classic Vibram sole grabs the trail and a Gore-Tex upper offers waterproof protection and support with minimal weight penalty, which is important, because when you’re already wielding a 35-pound pack, who needs extra weight?

Looking for a gift for your favorite explorer? Check out our handy Gift Guide.