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We love hiking on our land trust properties, lands that have been deemed special, lands that have been saved by local land trusts, lands that have been opened to recreation, especially hiking. As Land Trust Day approaches (it's June 1), we're hiking more of our local land trust lands in recognition of the great work the state's 23 land trusts do. Sunday, we're going to love the Triangle Land Conservancy's Horton Grove Nature Preserve in northern Durham County. It's one of our Triangle area favorites, but we almost always hike it in spring, fall or winter. This time we see what the 700-acre preserve is like on the cusp of summer. We'll start on the Holman Loop to see what late-season wildflowers may be in bloom, then continue on the Hart Trail to the Justice Loop, perhaps our favorite part of the hike as the trail climbs high above small creek. We cross Jock Road for a long saunter on the Walker Trail with a finish on the Peaks Loop through a beech grove climbing an east-facing bluff. Total distance is about 4.5 miles. The terrain is rolling, with no steep climbs. There is brief exposure at the beginning; sunscreen and a parasol may be in order. Difficulty? Mmm, probably moderately easy, though it could be more challenging in heat and depending upon your condition. This hike concludes with a frozen confection at the finish.
Summer is nigh, time to do some Evening Wanders. This afterwork Wander finds us on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, ducking under Pleasant Green Road, then tucking into a mixed pine and hardwood forest as the trail rises above the Eno River. After a bit, it returns to the river, then loops around the old Eno Quarry (pictured), a popular cooling off spot on summer weekends. After circumnavigating the quarry, we return the way we came. Total distance is 4.3 miles. There are some very minor climbs on this hike, long flat stretches. I'd call it an easy hike (though, like most local state parks, the trail can be rocky and rooty; sturdy hiking shoes are advised). This hike concludes with a refreshing frozen treat of my whim at the time I visit the refreshing frozen treat dispensary.
You've been backpacking for a while, and while you love the group experience, part of the reason you got into backpacking was for the solitude. Yet you wonder: Do I have what it takes to be out alone, overnight? This class lets you find out in a safe setting with an instructor nearby. How the class works: Friday: Arrive at Wilson Creek Visitor Center at 4 p.m. We'll drive 20 minutes to the Huntfish Falls Trailhead and hike a mile to our camp for the night. On Friday, we camp together. Saturday: We will take a day hike up Gragg Prong, checking out the great falls and pools along the way, and practicing our water crossing skills. We'll return to camp around 2 p.m., break camp and move on to our destination for the evening, along the Little Lost Cove Trail. Along this 1.3-mile trail, each camper will be assigned her/his own spot. You won't be more than a couple hundred yards from your nearest classmate, nor more than a mile from the instructor. Between 7 and 7:30, the instructor will surreptitiously swing by your campsite to see if you need anything (you'll signal this by way of a glow stick). Sunday: We'll gather at 9 a.m. for breakfast on one of the best outcrops in the state and discuss our evenings. If time allows, we will do a four-mile day hike. What this course includes: * Planning meeting: Tuesday, May 28 at 7 p.m. at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Chapel Hill's Eastgate Village, 100 E. Franklin St. We will go over logistics of the weekend as well as aspects of a solo trip that make it different from camping with a group. * eguide with custom map of the route, camping spots, water sources, and tips on going solo. Class size is limited to 8 Cost: $95 A NOTE ABOUT REGISTERING: The growing popularity of our hikes, trips and classes has lead us to the following registration policy. Immediately upon signing up on Meetup, we will send you an invoice. Within two weeks, you may either: * Pay the entire amount, which is eligible for a full refund if you cancel seven days or more before the event, or; * Pay a $50 non-refundable deposit. The balance will be due two weeks before the event. If you do not pay by the two-week deadline, you will be moved to the bottom of the waitlist. If you choose neither option within two weeks, your name will be moved to the bottom of the waitlist, in which case you may not make the trip roster. If you have not been on a previous outing or taken a class with us and we do not have your email address — to send you trip information and an invoice through PayPal — we will send you a request for your email through Meetup (or beat us to the punch and just send your email address to [masked]). If we do not receive your email address within two weeks, you will be moved to the bottom of the waitlist. Thanks, Joe
Our basecamp for this weekend of exploring will be the Paddy's Creek Campground, from which we will launch into a weekend of hiking at Lake James and on the new Fonta Flora State Trail, intended to one day link downtown Asheville and downtown Morganton. There might even be some kayaking thrown in. About the campsite: It's drive-up — no schlepping gear — with tent pad, fire ring, picnic table, and individual bear boxes; the bath house is nearby. Each site will host two tents; we will reserve sites in close proximity to one another. About the adventure: Saturday, we will hike on the emerging Fonta Flora State Trail. Primarily a natural surface trail, it features gentle grades and views of Lake James and of Table Rock in the nearby Linville Gorge. Our loop hike will include a short segment of a connector trail for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which will give us a peek at the Linville River. Total distance: 12 miles. Sunday's agenda is more open, including more hiking, hitting the beach for a swim, renting a kayak/canoe/standup paddleboard (or launch your own), mountain biking, or fishing for large mouth bass and catfish. Located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, between the towns of Marion and Morganton, Lake James is 1,200 feet above sea level. The lake was created between 1916 and 1923 with the construction of dams across the Catawba River and two tributaries, Paddy Creek and Linville River. These impoundments were connected by a broad canal to form a 6,812-acre body of water. Named for James B. Duke, founder of Duke Power Company, Lake James has been a hydroelectric unit for the power company since the early 1900s. Lake James is one of the most recent additions to the North Carolina State Parks system. As a result of strong local support and the efforts of area legislative delegations, the park was established in 1987 by the North Carolina General Assembly. The lake alone is 6,812 acres. Your fee includes: 2 nights of camping Trail snacks Sunday morning pancake breakfast eguide with maps