GetHiking! Winter Wild: Exploring Off Trail the Places You Most Love to Hike

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Winter is the honest season. Stripped bare of busy ground cover, an obscuring understory and a thick canopy, winter is incapable of keeping a secret. Stone foundations from homesteads long abandoned lie exposed. Distant mountain peaks are revealed. Critters have nowhere to hide. It’s the perfect time to be in the woods.

Especially if you head off the beaten path.

That's the aim of our new Winter Wild hike series. We'll take you to five places you may well have hiked, but explore portions of them where we're pretty sure you haven't set foot. In most cases, we'll start out on trail, but we won't stay there for long. We'll spend most of each hike using abandoned roadbeds and game paths to discover the hidden secrets exposed by winter.

There are five hikes in this series. Each his is $35. Or, pay $100 for the entire five-hike series (a savings of $75). When you sign up, please indicate whether you are signing up for the series or just for the first hike at Umstead on Dec. 29. We will post a new sign-up for each hike.

Each hike is limited to 12 participants.

Prior to each hike, you will receive an eguide for the hike covering where we plan to explore and what we're looking to find. We'll include a little history to put our trip in perspective. You'll also receive a custom map of the hike, identifying where we'll be hiking and what we'll be looking for.

Map and compasses skills are recommended but not required. If you're interested in obtaining said skills, sign up for the series and get 20 percent off the cost of our GetOriented! Finding Your Way in the Woods course, which teaches basic map and compass skills, then takes you down the trail, and off, to test those newfound skills.

Here's where we'll be hiking:

* Umstead State Park, Raleigh, Saturday, Dec. 29, 10 a.m. Objectives: a mature beech grove, the park’s CCC camp, a short-lived Boy Scout camp. 6-8 miles.
* Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury. Saturday Jan. 5, 10 a.m. Objectives: Backside of Hanging Rock, a 1963 plane crash. 7-9 miles
* Eno River State Park, Durham. Saturday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m. Objective: Eno Wilderness. 6-7 miles
* Uwharrie National Forest, Asheboro. Saturday, Feb. 16, 10 a.m. Objective: Birkhead Wilderness. 7-9 miles
* Raven Rock State Park, Lillington. Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. Objective: The North Side of the River. 8 miles