The mucky weather and overcast skies synonymous with April and
May have finally left the High Country.
After record-setting rainfall and weather better suited for days spent inside, the clouds have finally parted. The time has come to dust off those old hiking boots and hit the great outdoors.
In conjunction with Gov. Pat McCrory’s recently proclaimed “Great Outdoors Month,” area state parks are hosting numerous outdoor-themed excursions to get the High Country reacquainted with nature.
From yoga atop Mt. Jefferson to special movie showings and late-night hikes, the state’s park service is ready to promote the outdoors and natural environment.
In Ashe County, Mt. Jefferson State Park is using a variety of programs to both entertain and educate the public about nature during the month of June.
Ranger Tom Randolph said the park will kick off summer in a nonconventional format, with special programs and outdoor excursions.
Hikers better bring flashlights for the June 7 hike, when participants gather at 8 p.m. for a night hike to Luther Rock. “Get ready for an adventure,” Randolph said.
The park will also hold a special screening of the movie, “Green Fire,” which highlights the achievements of environmental educator and steward Aldo Leopold, on June 14.
“Leopold had a forward-thinking view of the environment as an educator, and the movie talks about his life and his impact,” Randolph said.
Mt. Jefferson is also planning a historical nature hike at 2 p.m. June 8. Prospective hikers are encouraged to wear appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes.
Park rangers invite you to become one with nature in mind and body, with special yoga sessions at Mt. Jefferson at 7:15 p.m. June 13 and 27. Be sure to bring a map and water bottle, Randolph said. The program is for ages 12 and older.
Hikers are urged to slow down and smell the flowers for the June 22 Wildflower Hike that begins at 2 p.m.
Elk Knob State Park, one of the newer additions to the system, will hold the Great American Backyard Campout June 22 to 23.
The campout is geared toward families who have never tried camping — and all the activities it entails. Those include shelter-building, a camping equipment demonstration, a wildflower hike, campfire cooking, various workshops and the chance to meet some live owls, courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
The event is free and open to all, although children must be 6 or older and accompanied by a parent or guardian. Registration is also required by calling (828) 297-7261. For more information on Elk Knob or the campout, call (828) 297-7261.
On Saturday, June 15, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Grandfather Mountain State Park will host a volunteer trail workday, in which participants can join park rangers to help fix sections of the trails.
According to park officials, no experience or tools are required, and the park will supply all equipment. Volunteers should wear study, closed-toe shoes — no flip-flops or sandals are permitted — and bring work gloves, comfortable work clothes, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as bug spray, sunscreen and a rain jacket.
Work could involved digging, moving rocks, erosion control, building a rock wall and other similar tasks.
“This is a fun environment to work in and a great way to give back to the area you hike in,” a park official said.
Volunteers will meet at the Profile Trail parking area, just off N.C. 105 South and a quarter-mile north of the N.C. 184 intersection. Additional volunteer trail work days include July 20 and Aug. 17. For more information, call (828) 963-9522.
New River State Park in Ashe County is open during daylight hours and has amenities for overnight camping. The park, located along the South Fork of the New River, has multiple access points, including a U.S. 221 entrance. For more information, call (336) 982-2587.
In addition, June 8 is National Get Outdoors Day, during which state parks throughout the nation will host “special programs designed to enrich the experience of recreation and education in the outdoors,” according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
“Every day is a great day to connect with nature, but … National Get Outdoors Day offer(s) opportunities to simply celebrate our state, its natural wonders and its recreation opportunities,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director, in a news release. “I urge everyone to take the days to explore the state parks and spend time with family and friends in the special settings nature provides.”
For more information about National Get Outdoors Day, visit http://www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.