For the past three weeks, we’ve been extolling the virtues of hiking in North Carolina. We’ve talked about all the great trails, from the coastal Neusiok Trail penetrating the swamp forest of the Croatan National Forest, to the 5.5-mile Black Mountain Trail, which ends 6,684 feet above sea level, the highest any trail can go along the East Coast. And we’ve talked about the great trails practically out your back door, regardless of where you live. North Carolina’s trails are diverse, they’re accessible, and they’re some of the best in the nation.

So why aren’t you hiking? Or hiking more?

We have some theories.

You aren’t sure where to go. Maybe you’ve heard of Umstead, or Eno River or another great state park nearby, and maybe you’ve even looked them up on the web. There’s a road map that takes you do the trailhead and even a map of the trails — but who can tell from an online map what the trails are like? Does it have lots of hills? Do you have to cross water? Is it nice and smooth or are there rocks and tree roots to navigate? What if I can’t deal it?

You’re intimidated by the wild. The thought if escaping your well-manicured existence is appealing but just how wild is it out there? Ticks bearing Lyme disease, rabid raccoons, venomous snakes — and every few years a bear wanders through the Triangle! How much risk can one person handle?

You’d hike with a group but what if they’re faster and you get dropped and you suddenly find yourself alone, in the woods, not sure where you are and not sure where to go? Being chosen last, being left behind (inadvertently or intentionally), having others hide from you, experiences that all leave a deep and sometimes indelible scar. Can I trust someone I’ve just met to take me into the forest and lead me back out?

Answers: You can. A lot more than you think. And, yes, because you’ll be with us. We answer your concerns with confidence because we’re going to go out into the woods with you — and not leave you high, dry and fretting.

Welcome to the first season of GetHiking! with Great Outdoor Provision Co. GetHiking! is a free program of weekly hikes and monthly seminars targeted to both beginners and to hikers who get out occasionally but would love to step up their game. Starting on Saturday, Sept. 14, local outdoor adventure writer and hiking coach Joe Miller will lead a weekly hike on a different trail in the Triangle. The hikes will be short (2-3 miles) and mellow at first, and grow in distance and difficulty as we progress into the fall.

Here’s what you can expect from our hikes:
• Custom maps. The week before each hike we’ll make available a custom map for the route we’ll take. The map will include at least two hike options: one for beginners, one for more experienced hikers. We’ll also include an interactive Google map to make it easy to get to the trailhead.

• No-drop hiking. Joe leads hikes from the rear, meaning he’ll almost always be with the slowest hikers in the pack. On occasion, he’ll advance to the front to make sure those folks are where they should be, but in general, he’s in the rear. This means you’ll have time to inquire about some of those fears, such as ticks (do a thorough tick check after every hike regardless of the time of year; remove them quickly and you won’t have a problem), rabid raccoons (extremely rare), venomous snakes (copperheads are the only ones in the Triangle; you leave them alone, they leave you alone) and bears (they do occasionally wander through the Triangle, but oddly they avoid the places where we hike).

• Mid-week and weekend hiking. Roughly half of our hikes will be on Saturday, the rest will be mid-week, after work. “But won’t it be dark after work before long?” you ask. Yes, which brings us to another cool feature of our program … .

• Night hiking. If you’re leery of hiking in broad daylight you’re probably thinking the notion of hiking at night is daft. In fact, being in the woods after sunset is a unique outdoors experience, and hiking under a headlamp is a good skill to have going into winter when daylight becomes scarce.

• Discover local trails. Hikers with some experience will benefit from learning of new places to hike. Our fall schedule (see below) includes 12 hikes on 12 different trails. We’ll hike at three state parks (Eno River, Umstead and Hanging Rock), a state recreation area (Falls Lake), a county park (Harris Lake), a nature preserve (Johnston Mill), a national forest (Uwharrie) and on a trail that runs the width of the state (Mountains-to-Sea Trail). We’ll hike on the weekends, we’ll hike after work, and we’ll share the thrill of hiking at night (under a headlamp). Further, we’ll expose you to 25 trails and trail networks in the Triangle alone.

• Monthly seminars. As you grow comfortable on the trail, you’ll want to know more about hiking. On the second Thursday of every month — in September, October and November — we’ll hold seminars at our stores in Raleigh and Chapel Hill. We’ll talk some about gear, we’ll talk some about trails to explore.

• Earn gear. Here’s something you won’t find in other hiking groups: the chance to earn gear. Each GetHiking! participant gets a punch card: attend three events (hikes or seminars) and get a GOPC Water Bottle, six events enters you in a drawing for a pair of Oboz Footwear, nine hikes earns a shot at a pair of Salewa footwear, 12 events gets you a 30 percent discount on Black Diamond trekking poles, and attend all 15 events and you could win a free Osprey hydration pack!

• Meet other hikers. Eventually, you’ll want to be out on the trail more than once a week. When that happens you’ll have a new collection of friends to hike with.

We’ll keep in close contact with you in three ways:
GetHiking! with Great Outdoor Provision Meetup. All of our hikes will be announced on our Meetup site well in advance (go there now and you’ll see all hikes scheduled for September). Join the Meetup (there’s no charge), find out the hike details, then sign up.

Facebook. We’ll communicate with you on the Great Outdoor Provision Co. Facebook page with photos on the past week’s hike and details on the hike ahead.

• E-newsletter. We’ll send a quick e-newsletter each week with information and a map of the next hike.

To register for our GetHiking! program, you can either join our GetHiking! with Great Outdoor Provision Co. Meetup group or stop by either our Raleigh store in Cameron Village or our Chapel Hill Store in the Eastgate Shopping Center and register.
You can also sign up at our GetHiking! kickoff Thursday, Sept. 12, at our Cameron Village store. We’ll go from 6:30 to 7:30, and everyone who attends gets a free pair of SmartWool hiking socks!
We’re excited about spending time with you on the trail this fall and exposing you to the wonderful world of North Carolina hiking!

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The Hikes

Here’s a rundown of hikes for fall of 2013. Detailed maps of the route, with information on getting to the trailhead, will be available online a week before the hike.


September 12 (Thursday) — Kickoff at Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Cameron Village
September 14 (Saturday) — Umstead State Park, Raleigh: Company Mill Trail. 8 a.m. Hikes of 2, 4.5 and 6 miles.
September 18 (Wednesday) — Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, Chapel Hill. 6 p.m. 3 miles
September 25 (Wednesday) — Umstead State Park, Raleigh: Sal’s Branch Trail. 6 p.m. 3 miles
September 28 (Saturday) — Harris Lake County Park, New Hill: Peninsula Trail, 8 a.m. 6 miles


October 2 (Wednesday) — Eno River State Park, Durham: Laurel Branch Trail, 7 p.m. (n) 5 miles
October 10 (Thursday) — Seminar in Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.
October 12 (Saturday) — Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Falls Lake: Rollingview to Little Lick Creek, 8 a.m. 8 miles
October 16 (Wednesday) — Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Falls Lake: Barton Creek Boat Ramp (n), 7 p.m. 5 miles
October 26 (Saturday) — Umstead State Park, Raleigh: Company Mill/Sycamore Loop option, 8 a.m. 6, 9 miles.


November 6 (Wednesday) — Eno River State Park, Durham: Pump Station Access, 6 p.m. 3 miles.
November 14 (Thursday) — Seminar in Raleigh, 7 p.m.
November 16 (Saturday) — Uwharrie Mountains, west of Asheboro: Birkhead Wilderness, 7.4 miles
November 20 (Wednesday) — Umstead State Park, Raleigh: Bike & Bridle Trail, 7 p.m. 4 miles.
November 23 (Saturday) — Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury: approximately 10 miles. 8 a.m. (carpool from the Triangle)