Our GetHiking! and GetExploring! programs are throttling back through the holidays as we prepare for an adventurous start to the new year. Today, a few adventures at the coast, an advisory about “closed” parks, last-minute gift suggestions, and staying dry on a wet trail.

Play at the coast

Christmas Play Day, Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, Seven Springs, Friday, 10 a.m.
Cliffs of Neuse has lots of innovative programs; this is one of our favorites, which they do every year the day after Christmas: “Does your child have a new bicycle, remote control car or boat, or another new toy that they want to play with but you don’t have the room? We have the solution…bring it to the Park!” More info, call 919.778.6234.

640.17529Biological Wonderland, Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach, Saturday, 2 p.m. This popular park program explores the wide variety of plants that coexist on the peninsula. More info, call 910.458.8206.

Winter Treats For The Birds, Dismal Swamp State Park, South Mills. Saturday, 2 p.m.
Winter treats that you make! All ingredients provided. Hang your resulting feeder in the park or take it home. More info, call 252.771.6593.

All About Bears, Jones Lake State Park, Elizabethtown. Sunday, 2 p.m.
“Learn about the biology and habits of the king of the forest.” More info, call 910.588.4550.

Winter Waterfowl, Pettigrew State Park, Creswell. Sunday, 9:30 a.m. Lake Phelps, pictured, is the second largest natural lake in the state; thanks in part to its coastal location, it attracts a huge migrating waterfowl population, which you can learn all about in this program. Call 252.797.4475 for more info.

Tip of the Week: When a park is ‘closed’

Thursday, Christmas Day, North Carolina’s State Parks will be closed. That means the gates to the main parking and access areas will be locked. But, as many of you have discovered, most parks have secondary “neighborhood” entrances that cannot physically be closed. That makes an  impromptu visit tempting.

640.12746Here’s the deal, though. If you do enter when a park is closed and get hurt, it will take longer for aid to reach you. And when it does, it will be in the form of a park ranger who has been roused from her or his holiday, probably with family. You’ll still be helped in a courteous and professional way, but you’ll have the guilt of knowing the backstory behind your selfishness.

One other thing about entering a closed state park, as noted on the webpage of Crowders Mountain State Park: “Entering the park while closed is a violation of park rules and punishable by a citation of up to $215.00. A ranger will be on patrol to further insure public safety.”

A good day for a walk around the neighborhood, no?

Resource of the Week: Trusty’s last-minute gift guide

If you’re like us and going, “Dang! It’s Christmas Eve — better get with it,” then there’s probably no greater resource for you right now for your adventure shopping needs than Trusty’s Holiday Gift Guide 2014.

10846363_10152373724682132_8260402983048873564_nIn it, Trusty (that’s him with the nose) has saved you the anxiety of searching high and low by making recommendations in a variety of categories. Got a backpacker on your list? How about a quick-boiling Windboiler stove? Got a cold-blooded friend? How about the Patagonia Down Sweater? And who couldn’t use a pair of socks — a pair of Smartwool hiking socks!

Check out Trusty’s recommendations here.

Gear I Like: Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket

I refuse to let a little rain keep me off the trail. A lot, maybe, but the forest can be a remarkably intimate place in the woods. Some of my best hikes have been in a light rain, with the greens illuminated, the creeks lively, and my focus limited to my closest surroundings. Being able to savor the experience has a lot to do with having the right rain gear to keep the elements from dousing a good time.

83801_COCRThe problem with rain gear is that, despite advances in technology, few rain jackets, regardless of price, keep the rain out while letting your body breath. Too often, you get more soaked from your own sweat than you would from the rain (this is especially true when the temperature is much above 60). To date, this seems to remain true whether you spend $500 for the latest breathable technology or $100 for one of the many lesser technologies on the market. What I look for, then, in that lower/lesser end is a jacket with good vents under the armpits (they help cool your furnace), cuffs that can clamp down or loosen (again, to let cooler air in), and a hood that lets me see out whenever I turn my head. My current favorite in this category: Patagonia’s Torrentshell Jacket. It meets all the above criteria, with a suggested retail price of $129.

A worthy investment — or last-minute gift request — heading into our rainy seasons. And speaking of last-minute gifts, if you’re still scrambling for something for your favorite explorer, check out this handy Gift Guide from our friends at Great Outdoor Provision Co.

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