Our next adventure: New trail in the Uwharries

Little Long Mountain

This weekend is a hike we’ve been highly anticipating: on 6.2 miles of new trail in the Uwharrie National Forest.

This new stretch extends the Uwharrie Trail nine miles north, from the Jumping-Off Rock trailhead off Flint Hill Road. It includes two key features: the highest point on the Uwharrie Trail (King Mountain, at just under 1,000 feet) and Little Long Mountain (pictured, right), which offers one of the few sweeping views in the Uwharries.
Charlotte and the Triad will hike on Saturday, the Triangle on Sunday.

This week’s adventure: In our State Parks

Meanwhile, at the coast we refer you to some top opportunities at our regional state parks in the coming days. Attend the event, then stick around (or arrive early) and explore the park. Click on the link to discover what those value-added adventures might be.

  • Biological 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.
  • Palmetto Boardwalk Hike, Goose Creek State Park, Washington, Saturday, 10 a.m. Starting from the visitor center, this hike “gives you a close-up view of a hardwood swamp transitioning into a marsh. It also contains tons of wildlife, fauna and flora.” More info: 252.923.2191.
  • Carolina Bay Hike, Jones Lake State Park, Elizabethtown, Saturday, 10 a.m. Walk a long a Carolina Bay (Jones Lake), then learn what we know about these mysterious lakes that once numbered in the thousands along the East Coat. More info: 910.588.4550.
  • Winter Wonderland, Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, Seven Springs, Sunday, 3 p.m. “Come on out to the park and explore the beauty and importance of winter weather, even if there isn’t any snow on the ground. We will make our own snow to play with and discover some of the wonders of winter weather (pictured).” More info: 919.778.6234

Our last adventure: Hiking in the New Year

Shining Rock
Shining Rock

Forty-one hikers showed up to hike in the New Year on Thursday at Umstead State Park. (Curiously, 60 signed up, but early New Year’s Day morning there was a spate of cancelations due to the “flu.”) With clear (finally) skies and crisp temperatures, it was the kind of winter hike you live for.
We had a couple folks hike 2 miles, a couple more go for 3ish, one opted for 4.5, most went for the full Company Mill Trail at 6 and a goodly number went long, going for the 9-mile Company Mill/Sycamore loop. All 41 hikers returned, keeping our record of not losing anyone intact.
It was a hike, we hope, that encouraged our 11 newcomers to return and our veterans to stay on for another great year of hiking.
As I mentioned to some of you, we’ll be launching a GetHiking! North Carolina’s Classic Hikes series shortly. Twelve great North Carolina mountain hikes, one a month, beginning in February. We’ve started scheduling regional information meetings; the first will be Jan. 31 at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. store in Raleigh’s Cameron Village. Sign up for that session here. We’ll have dates for the Charlotte and Triad sessions soon.

Tip of the Week: Beware the rogue trail

On Thursday’s GetHiking! New Year’s Day hike at Umstead State Park, folks on the 9-mile hike who were doing the Sycamore Trail loop clockwise found themselves coming off a bridge, then suddenly on a horse trail that did not resemble the trail they were expecting to be on.
What happened? A rogue trail.
The 20-yard spur that lead up to the Turkey Creek Bike & Bridle Trail had been cut by hikers looking to unofficially bridge the two trails. By the looks of it, this had become a popular option; it was much more obvious than the hard right the Sycamore Trail took after departing the bridge.
Rogue trails are especially common on trails near neighborhoods. On the Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, for instance, where homeowners fortunate enough to back up to the lake-hugging MST have forged personal connector trails.
Fortunately, if you pick up a rogue trail it’s usually short, dumping you at a prime fishing spot or in someone’s backyard. Retreat, pick up your trail. On a longer rogue trail you’ll know you’ve gone astray when you stop seeing blazes. When that happens, retreat, look for connecting trail and the blaze you’re supposed to be following. Good incentive at the trailhead to take note of the blaze shape and color you’ll be following.

Resource of the Week: Download maps in advance

On a recent hike at Umstead, I showed up to find that the park was temporarily out of trail maps. I didn’t need one, but it reminded me you shouldn’t rely on fetching a map at the trailhead, especially with a trail you don’t know.
Fortunately, a lot of the places we hike have downloadable maps on their websites. North Carolina State Parks, for instance, have a pdf map that’s typically the same as the one you can pick up at the trailhead. Download it, print it, stick it in a Ziplock bag.
They aren’t always the most detailed maps, but they typically have enough info to keep you on track.

Gear I Like: Black Diamond Solution Jacket

KY9D_Solution_Jacket_mineral_201_50On Thursday’s GetHiking! New Year’s Day hike at Umstead State Park, a heated discussion broke out about trail jackets (see photo at bottom). As we took a break on the Sycamore Trail, we commiserated about how some jackets were too warm on the trail, some not warm enough, most weren’t waterproof, those that were were like sauna suits — you’d get wetter from your trapped perspiration than you would from invading rain. In the Three Bears scheme of things, our Goldilockian hikers wondered, isn’t there a jacket out there that’s just right?
There’s a simple answer: no.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t some decent workarounds. As far as the waterproof issue goes, always pack a rain jacket (I made my feelings on that subject known two weeks ago with a salute to the Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket). If it’s not raining, I’ve found a solution that works in weather down to around freezing with the Black Diamond Solution Jacket. It’s lightweight but form-fitting; coupled with the stretchy cuffs, it helps you retain body heat built up after five minutes on the trail. Ditto the collar, which is chamois-lined to prevent chaffing. The full-zipper front lets you zip down to vent excess heat, and with two side pockets and a chest pocket, you’ve got easy storage for snacks and a point-and-shoot. Zipped up over a solid base layer (see last week’s Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Crew), and you’ll stay warm into the low 30s — provided you keep moving.

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The above is from our weekly GetHiking! enewsletter, delivered fresh every Monday. Get the  enewsletter delivered directly to your electronic device by emailing joe@getgoingnc.com. Be sure to specify which enewsletter you’d like, GetHiking! Triangle, Triad or Charlotte, or GetExploring! Greenville.