Jennifer Pharr Davis, Asheville, N.C.
First saw the white blaze: on Buck Mountain Road near Roan Mountain, Tenn. It was during a practice hike at Warren Doyle’s Appalachian Trail Institute.
Would describe ‘adventure’ as: always availing yourself to opportunity and finding the options that don’t readily present themselves.
Feels most at home: at home, or on a trail
Hikes because: it really is just the best thing!
Is currently reading: Tangled Roots by Sarah Meddlefehldt
Be a spectator at the Green Race.
For 23 years, this esteemed class V whitewater kayaking race has brought some of the best paddlers in the world to the mountains of western North Carolina on the first Saturday of the month. Hike in to see the carnage for yourself at Gorilla, or, if you’re no stranger to the Narrows’ turbulent, steep rapids, paddle in ahead of time and post up with a cowbell.
Run, crew, or volunteer at the Mountain Masochist.
This 50-mile trail race is a brute of a course, with over 9,200 feet of climbing in a 12-hour time limit. “This is the South’s premier ultra trail marathon,” says Pharr Davis, which makes it memorable no matter if you’re suffering on trail or supporting the runners themselves.
Drink your way through Beer City, U.S.A.
“Now that they aren’t overrun with tourists,” says Pharr Davis, “consider putting together a ‘brew-thru,’ an urban hiking adventure that connects several tasting rooms. You could get in several miles and space out your beers, literally and physically, by connecting some of the best breweries in Asheville such as Burial, Green Man, the Wedge, and High Wire.”
Pay back your local trails with sweat equity.
“November is a great time to volunteer on a trail crew,” says Pharr Davis. “Instead of sweating through the heat and humidity of the summer and consistently stepping off trail for hikers, you can build water bars and scatter rogue fire pits in the cooler fall temps. Contact your local trail club, such as the Carolina Mountain Club, for opportunities to give back.”
Thru hike a long-distance trail.
The South is home to some really quality but lightly trafficked long trails such as the Pinhoti, Bartram, Benton MacKaye, and Foothills trails. Take off for a week and get to walkin’ for a hefty dose of one-on-one time with the Great Outdoors.
Experience the Southeast’s biodiversity.
No place is better for this than the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, a nearly 30,000-acre oasis for migratory birds and habitat for the American alligator and bobcat.
Andrew Kornylak, Chapel Hill, N.C.
First picked up a camera: at age 16, when I swiped my brother’s Minolta SLR
Has yet to take a photograph of: a cat
Loves the South for its: undeserved humility
Has an absurd desire to: burn all my work and start over
Gets from one adventure to the next in a: #minivan
Ice climb Hogpen Gap.
Think you can’t ice climb in the Southeast? Think again. “When conditions are just right, the ice comes in fat at Hogpen Gap near Cleveland, Georgia,” says Kornylak. Situated right around 3,400 feet in elevation with plenty of northfacing cliff faces, this is a Southeast climber’s winter oasis.
Paddle the pristine Three Sisters Swamp.
Owned by the Nature Conservancy, this magical mire is secluded deep within the 70-mile Black River system near Wilmington, N.C. Some of the region’s oldest bald cypress trees live here, including Methuselah, a particularly ancient tree dating back to 364 AD, making it the oldest tree in the eastern United States.
Just because it’s December doesn’t mean the climbing season is over. While the rest of the region becomes capriciously cold and wet, the South’s weather can stay remarkably mild and sunny. “The famed Tennessee Wall just outside Chattanooga gets all-day sun and there is something here for every level of climber, from moderate splitter cracks to high-end sport climbs.”
Winter backpack the Middle Prong Wilderness.
Reset and kick off a new year in this nearly 8,000-acre Middle Prong, which is not quite as popular as its neighbor Shining Rock Wilderness to the northeast, but offers all of the primitive feel and grassy balds that are so beloved in Shining Rock. “This is a remote wilderness experience in Pisgah National Forest on minimally maintained, but established, trails with true backcountry camping,” says Kornylak.
Solve a problem at Rocktown.
It’s about a 45-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga to this rather secluded bouldering field. With over 500 established problems, boulderers of all ability levels will have plenty to keep them pumped over the winter. “Rocktown is a little more of a drive and more spread out that most southern boulderfields, so you’re more likely to have the place to yourself for awhile when the temps are good in winter.”
Surf Folly Beach.
If you can brave the temps, you’re in for endless sets of waves in one of the coolest beach towns this side of the Mississippi. The locals are pretty rad here, too, so don’t be afraid to ask for beta. “Get an Airbnb right on the beach and bring your 4/3 wetsuit.”
Catch sunset from Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.
The longest trail here is just two miles in length, so you won’t need to hike out too far in the dark in order to keep your front row seats for sunset. Bring a camera: the endless sea of North Carolina ridgelines extend well into Virginia and Tennessee.