The following items are gleaned from our GetHiking! enewsletters for Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle, and our GetExploring! Greenville enewsletter. All enewsletters are delivered, upon request, to subscribers’ email boxes on Mondays. If you’d like to sign up for this free service, email

This week’s hikes: By night, by day

GH.EveningBy night: It’s been pointed out that we’ve been remiss with the night hikes of late. In our defense, let the record show that night hikes in 10 degree weather on ice rink trails tend not to draw well. However, hikes that start as the sun is making its farewell, when the trail is dry, and when you don’t need to bundle up like Randy from “A Christmas Story” to survive, tend to be well received.
The latter should be the case Wednesday evening when we hike an old favorite, the 2.2-mile (4.4 miles out-and-back total distance) stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake striking out from the Upper Barton Creek Boat Ramp off Six Forks Road in Raleigh. The hike starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Consult the GetHiking! Triangle Meetup site for more details and to sign up.

GH.EnoBanksBy day: Saturday. It’s our rescheduled visit to Eno River State Park for 7 miles of hiking on the Buckquarter Creek, Shakori and Holden Mill trails. These are rolling trails with some stout (but short) climbs that spend time along the Eno and atop the ridgeline. Expect to see some of the first signs of spring, including trout lilies and spring beauties (see below). The hike starts at 9:30 a.m. Visit the GetHiking! Triangle Meetup site for more details and to sign up.

By day: Sunday. Our GetHiking! Triad group will hike Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Specifically, they’ll head up the Cedar Ridge Trail to Brinegar Cabin, a distance of 4.4 miles with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet.   This is a great trail with several good views of Stone Mountain on the hike up, plus, the climbing is all in the first 4.4 miles (particularly the first mile or so). There is a nice overlook at the cabin and a good place to eat lunch.  Visit the GetHiking! Triad Meetup site for more details and to sign up.

By day, by wheel: Saturday, our GetExploring! Greenville cyclists will ride their second Bike and Brew of the young year, starting in the Five Points area of Greenville, riding 15 miles into the surrounding countryside, then lighting at the Duck Rabbit Craft Brewery tap room. Rides will be provided back to Greenville for those who catch multiple rabbits.
Interested in this no-drop ride that begins at 2 p.m.? Check out our GetExploring! Greenville Meetup site for details and to sign up.

Last week’s adventures: Umstead State Park

P1010130Twenty-four hikers (including two of the four-footed variety) made the drive to Raleigh Saturday for our 7.2-mile hike on the Sycamore Trail at Umstead State Park. The strong turnout shouldn’t surprise: sunshine and warm weather have been in short supply of late, and the opportunity to spend a day with some great folks was futile to resist.
The hike was in stark contrast to the previous week, when our hikers took on the nearby Eno River State Park in trails covered in several inches of snow: winter one week, spring the next.
“The trail had several elevation changes with a very nice climb to a panoramic cliff top view,” reports hike leader Sean. “We met quite a few other hikers enjoying the beautiful day and saw a few runners … . All in all a fantastic day in the outdoors!”

… the MST along Falls Lake

WIGO.OnTheTrailIf you were one of the 39 hikers on Saturday’s hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake, you quickly forgot that it seemed spring would never arrive. Under cloudless skies and a temperature that rose from the upper 40s to near 60, it was the long-awaited antidote to what seemed like an endless run of cold, ice and snow.
The group started at Pennys Bend off Old Oxford Highway in Durham (after a challenging shuttle). We hiked over a cattywampus foot bridge, through soggy wetlands, atop a bluff overlooking the Eno and offering great pre-leafed-out-forest views. And the group did a good job of following a trail that is well marked, yet still easy to get sidetracked on.
A little more than half the group stopped at the 4-mile mark, at the four-car access at Red Mill Road. The remainder continued on, walking along the south bank of Falls Lake for a spell, along rail lines abandoned and active, past farmland, also abandoned and active. The last mile or so began in a swampy wetland, which included a massive beaver dam, then climbed past a surprisingly large farm pond before the grand finale at Tom Clark and Redwood roads.
The hike was one of 11 activities on Saturday affiliated with the Triangle Land Conservancy’s Wild Ideas Goes Outside program, which was part of its Wild Ideas for Getting Outside program earlier in the week.

Gear I Like: Compeed

First, let me make clear that I can’t say I like this product because I’ve never used it. In fact, until a hike last Wednesday (yes, I played hooky on that 75-degree day) I’d never heard of Compeed. But hiking with my worldly hiking companion Alan, he mentioned using the stuff on a trekking trip last summer to Norway.
“It’s like moleskin, but it’s thinner and sticks better,” he said in prelude to a (much) more detailed evaluation of the product that kept him and his girlfriend on the move in often wet conditions.
Again, I haven’t used it, but it comes highly recommended, from Alan and from online reviews. For whatever reason, Compeed is not sold in the United States, but it is available online.

Tip of the Week: Spring wildflower spotting

spring beauties
spring beauties

Believe it or not, spring wildflowers will be starting to pop through winter’s leaf litter any day now. The first two that typically appear: trout lilies and spring beauties (both pictured below).
These are both small, delicate flowers and can be difficult to spot. The key: knowing where to look. To know where to look it helps to understand that these wildflowers bloom in spring because that’s the only time they have that vital combination of warmth and sunlight. The latter is

Trout lily
Trout lily

especially important: it’s crucial that these plants bloom before the tree canopy opens and shrouds the forest floor in darkness (or shadiness).
Thus, your best bet for spotting spring’s first responders is too look for areas where the forest floor is getting the most sunlight. See a spotlight of sun, head over and start looking.

Resource of the week: The Piedmont Almanac

Optimistically, early every February I dig out my copy of Dave Cook’s “The Piedmont Almanac” (2001, Mystic Crow Publishing). Cook, who lives in Carrboro, taps his lifetime as a naturalist to reveal week-by-week what’s happening in the natural world in the central Piedmont. Here, for instance, is what Mr. Cook has to say under the heading “Bloomings” for the second week in March: “Red maple, early saxifrage, green-and-gold, bloodroot, wild plum, wild cherry. Pennywort first emerges; the full glory of trout lilies.” (Results will vary based on weather abnormalities.)
He also covers insect, reptile and amphibian and bird activity, as well what we can see in the sky.
A great resource to help understand the world at your feet.