As I've embarked on the North Carolina Amazing Adventure Challenge this year, I lost about 2 months from the state shutdown in tackling the 41 parks throughout the state. Since the trails and visitor centers were closed, and it was advised to stay home as much as possible, I felt as though my schedule to complete these parks was doomed. It wasn't until recently that the trails began to reopen, and a plan was made to tackle the western side of North Carolina.
With Memorial Day creeping up, I had that Monday off, and I took an additional 2 days around the long weekend to obtain my goal to get through at least 11 of these parks. This felt like a crazy goal to have. That's a lot of driving and hiking in such a short period of time. To top it off, my partner and I brought along the dog Juno. She loves the outdoors, but tends to pull and veer off to greet every dog that passes her. This added a risk of injury as we maneuvered up and down hill, with roots and rocks sticking up. There were some blisters and turned ankles, but we survived the hikes. We ended up hiking over 20 miles during the Memorial Day weekend, and came home without any severe injuries. It was a great experience to become familiar with the western side of North Carolina, and to get out in the open air to see mountains, trees, streams, and rivers. It was great to be able to talk to different people as they shared tips and suggestions for which trails to take. This isn't a typical vacation for me, but it will go down in my memory for life as a favorite.
A few bonus parts to this trip was witnessing a couple of jet flyovers at eye level, and a waterfall at Stone Mountain State Park. One of my brothers met up with us at a few parks as we tackled some pretty steep hills and crossed over a small poisonous snake. We had the opportunity to visit the Ashe County Cheese company to pick up some cheese curds, and take a rest to see a bit of the town. Gorges State Park had a rushing waterfall. It was a long and rainy hike, but so worth it. Mount Mitchell ended up being my favorite park as we took a trail that reminded me of an enchanted forest. We referred to that one as a Hobbit's habitat. This park also brought us up to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
I know I've referenced the North Carolina State Parks in previous articles, but it is truly a great way to experience the state. If you're looking for a road trip that includes a little social distancing, consider traveling to these parks, and hike some of the trails. You won't regret it.