Friday, September 20, 2013

Enjoying ALL Seasons in North Carolina

Ok, so I'm a little spoiled. In California, you can camp all year round. Hiking is comfortable all year round and absolutely glorious most of the time. The mountains are majestic, the redwoods are awe-inspiring, and they write songs about the coastline. It's pretty freaking awesome. But we have three years in North Carolina and we want to make the most of our time here. North Carolina is also awesome. It's just a different kind of awesome. More subdued. The thing is, you can still enjoy the outdoors all year round in North Carolina.You just have to be more creative.

I'm back in Santa Fe for the next couple weeks, hoping to catch the aspens changing color for fall. This got me thinking about how incredible the fall is in North Carolina, which got me thinking about how much I love spring in here too. I decided I needed a blog post about the seasons in North Carolina to highlight some of my favorite outdoor things to do. I don't enjoy hiking and camping all year in North Carolina, but we've managed to find some great things to do during all the seasons.

I'm starting with Fall because I'm looking forward to its arrival in a couple days....

Fall is arguably the best time of year for hiking. The fall foliage is beautiful and lasts a long time in North Carolina. There are plenty of cool, crisp days with low humidity and still bright sunshine.

 Morrow Mountain State Park: Fall Mountain Trail (near Charlotte)

 Morrow Mountain State Park

Friends at the top of Stone Mountain

Fall is also a great time to head to the beach. North Carolina still has warm days through October, but without the humidity. And the crowds that make places like Myrtle Beach (technically South Carolina, I know) unbearable in the summer, are all gone after Labor Day. 

North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The water is still warm in September/October for surfers. 

Not my favorite season. Anywhere. Allyson says I'm solar-powered and that means I kind of hibernate in the winter. I'm literally ready for bed as soon as the sun sets. We lucked out last winter because we spent 3 1/2 weeks in New Zealand, where it was summer. This year we will not be so lucky. However, North Carolina's winters are short and rarely include snow (except in the mountains). We haven't made it up to the snow yet, but we're hoping to this winter.

I love Edisto Island, South Carolina in the winter. It's quiet. When we've been there, it's been clear and sunny and moderate temperatures for winter (50s during the day). We've kayaked and done plenty of beach walking. One especially cool place to check out The Boneyard at Botany Bay. We have always been visiting my dad and his girlfriend when visiting Edisto, so we have not camped. However, there is a campground right on the beach, which I believe is open all year round. Winter camping on the beach? Yes please!

I love trees. I love them most with leaves on them, but I also like the crunch of dead leaves and the views that open up when there are no leaves on the trees. There are plenty of trails close by in the Durham/Chapel Hill area, including Eno River State Park and Jordan Lake State Park, that are great in the winter (and free!)

Give me sunlight!

 Jordan Lake: Red Trail at New Hope Overlook (great for trail running too!)

I sure love spring. Spring in North Carolina essentially happens overnight. In one week, the trees will go from bare to green explosion. It's kind of awesome. And the flowering trees! I just love spring in Durham and North Carolina and it is another season that seems to last for a long time (like fall). The perfect spring day in Durham could include (and has included) the following outdoor activities: farmer's market, breakfast at Parker and Otis or Foster's Market, a drink on the patio at Geer Street Cafe, and a walk through Sarah P. Duke Gardens. (I will blog about this day soon).

Camping and hiking in spring are pretty great too, as long as you don't get a rainy weekend (even then it can be fun, as long as you have the right gear!) We had a great weekend of camping in Lake James State Park and hiking at Linville Falls and Linville Gorge in March.

 Sunrise at Lake James State Park campground in March

The beach is also fantastic in the spring. Basically, the key to the beach is booking a place to stay in April/beginning of May/September/beginning of October. Rates are way cheaper than between Memorial and Labor Days and there is nobody there! You have the beach to yourself (in April and October especially). We spent several days in Corolla, North Carolina on the Outer Banks this spring and had a fantastic time. 

 April in the Outer Banks. Bare feet, even swimsuits on a couple of the days!

 Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks

Allyson's spectacular shot

There is one theme with our summer outdoor activities, and that is water. Being by the water, or preferably on the water, seems like the best way for me to enjoy a humid, hot summer day in North Carolina. Also, June is usually still bearable and the mosquitoes aren't out in full force yet, so it's a good time to get outdoors and enjoy the summer sun without the other stuff getting in the way. 

We met our friend from Washington, DC in Crabtree Falls (Tyro, Virginia) in early June to camp and hike. The campground is right along the river here (like we were sleeping 10 feet from the river!) I recommend reserving one of the tent sites (T1-T5). A longer post about Crabtree Falls weekend will be coming soon. 

 Hiking the Priest Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, and Crabtree Falls

 One of many parts of Crabtree Falls

 Hanging out after a long hike at campsite T3

I recently shared our adventures on the New River in Todd, North Carolina. Also in June, the weather was outstanding and we found a great place to rent for less than week (which might not have happened in July). 

Crabtree Falls is a 3 hour drive from Durham and Todd, NC is a little less than that. When we are looking for something fun to do closer to home, we have rented canoes or kayaks from Frog Hollow Outdoors' Traveling Triangle Outpost. They head out to different places in the area every Saturday during the summer. Both times we did this, we were on Jordan Lake. It's a great way to spend a half day and an opportunity to see some wildlife (so many blue herons!) and go for a swim.

Jordan Lake

There is plenty left to do in North Carolina and surrounding areas that we haven't done. With fall arriving, I hope we can get a few hikes in up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I'd like to snowshoe up there this winter. We also plan to get back to the beach before we leave. Bottom line is there is tons to do in North Carolina and the season is never an excuse to stay inside. 

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