Did you know North Carolina State Parks celebrate 100 years of existance in 2016? Me either! But now that I know, I think it’s really cool.
North Carolina’s first state park was Mount Mitchell State Park (the highest peak in North Carolina) established on March 3, 1916. Since then, it’s expanded to 35 state parks, 20 natural areas, and 4 recreation areas.
Now you know how much I love state and national parks – I think they’re one of the best things the USA has done for preserving green space and nature for all of it’s citizens. It provides a place to go get fresh air, get healthy exercise, and I have some of my best conversations with friends (and myself, tbh) while wandering on trails. So I wanted to see how I could join in celebrating this centennial milestone.
That led me to stumble upon the North Carolina State Parks 100 Miles Challenge. Immediately excited – I love a good challenge – I created an account so I could start logging the miles I spend hiking. I grew up with Crowders Mountain State Park and when I lived in Raleigh I used to go running at William B. Umstead State Park, but looking at the list of parks, I realized there are so many I haven’t been too.
Which lead to me planning a Surprise Hike for Matt & Moose this morning at the Lake Norman State Park (50 minute drive North of our home). The park only has four trails, but one that caught my eye is the Itusi Trail – 8 loops ranging from 1 mile to 9.75 miles that are well known for allowing mountain bikers 30 miles to ride and explore. We saw a lot of mountain bikes today, which had Matt wishing he would have brought his.
My planned excursion was along the Lake Shore trail instead. A 6.3-mile loop trail that runs mostly along Lake Norman’s shoreline; we meandered along the footpath, taking plenty of stops for Moose to get in the water and drink. She basically just stands or sits in it, but it makes her pretty happy.
We arrived early in the day when there weren’t a lot of people on the trail (strongly recommend! Aim for 10am), so we were comfortable letting Moose off leash to play in the water. Parts of the trail aren’t very scenic, but we loved the little island/penninsula that was isolated and a great place for Moose to let off a lot of energy (see my mini-video of her jumping around on Instagram).
We packed a lunch of PB&Js and Gatorade’s to eat, and had an incredibly relaxing time. By the time we finished up around 1:30 in the afternoon, the parking lot was full and the trail was starting to get crowded.
We’ve decided to try to complete the 100 Mile Challenge by Christmas, and I would love to have any readers in the Carolina’s join me! Go to nc100miles.org to create your own account, and join my group to track our miles together. Also, share with me your recommendations for the best parks in the state – I am anxious to do some exploring of new spots!
I can’t wait to see you out on the trail!