It’s never too early to start planning. Gear up for 2018 and beyond with this year-long calendar of must-do adventures in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Jackie Merritt, Atlanta, Ga.
Hails from: Middletown, Maryland
Would rather be: trail running
First ran an ultra: in 2009 at the JFK 50
Crushed the 2017 competition at: Mountain Mist 50K (first); Mount Mitchell Challenge (first); Quest for the Crest 50K (first); 2017 Georgia Death Race (second)
Works by day as: a physical therapist, neuroscientist, and biomechanist (PhD)
Run or hike the A.T.
Born and raised in rural Maryland just one-tenth of a mile from Washington Monument State Park, Merritt’s favorite section of the Appalachian Trail is the 15-mile stretch from her home to the C&O Canal. “I love that section of trail,” she says. “It plays to my strength with the downhill and the little bit of technical. It holds a special place for me. The JFK was my first ultra, and that’s always my bread and butter run whenever I go home.”
Grab a brewski.
Showcasing over 20 beers on tap and Mid-Atlantic food, Dan’s Tavern in Boonsboro, Md., is a great stop after a run on the Appalachian Trail.
Run the Mountain Mist 50K.
With nearly 4,000 feet of climbing crammed into just 31 miles, this race might not be for every reader, but if 2018’s the year you’re looking to step up to the 50K distance, consider heading south next January. Set amid the rocky terrain of Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Ala., this race is widely regarded as a butt buster. The course is muddy, technical, and steep, while the weather is unpredictable at best. Now heading into its 24th year, the Mountain Mist is a popular race with runners venturing from near and far.
Join the fun at the PHUNT 25K and 50K.
Organized by the Mid-Atlantic’s very own Carl Perkins, this race is the excuse we all need to stay active through the holidays. Located at Fair Hill Nature Preserve in Maryland, the course is relatively gentle with manageable, rolling climbs. The challenge here is the weather, which can range from 8 degrees and snowing to 42 degrees and sunny.
Get off the couch for GUTS’ (Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society’s) Atlanta FatAss 50K. Free for GUTS members, chili cook-off afterward.
Explore the trails at Stone Mountain Park.
Just 30 minutes outside of downtown Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park is home to 15 miles of walking and hiking trails. “I’ll go out there and do hill repeats or meet friends to run the singletrack trail loop around the base of the mountain,” says Merritt. If hill repeats aren’t for you, there is also a 363-acre lake and a treetop adventure course to explore.
Work Atlanta’s brunch circuit.
Get wrecked at Vogel State Park.
“The trails from there are incredibly challenging in terms of their elevation and the steepness of the climbs and descents,” says Merritt. Try the 12-mile loop, which features the punishing climbs of the Duncan Ridge Trail’s Dragon Spine. “Backpackers might spend the entire day doing this 12-mile hike, but we’ll go out and run it and it’ll still take a good three hours to do. That’s my go-to training trail. It’s beautiful up there.”
Chip Chase, Canaan Valley, W.Va.
First strapped on a pair of Nordic skis: in 1975
Always skis with: a camera
Shares: the shotski
Believes in: world peace
Prefers when the weather is: snowy
Get the kids geared up with cross-country skis.
Kids grow like weeds. White Grass Ski Touring Center has an exceptionally awesome program that lets families trade in and upsize their kids’ White Grass ski gear ever year as their children grow.
Rally for the Dolly Sods Groundhog Day ski.
Each year, the Tucker County, W.Va., crew sets out on skis for an epic epic (that’s right, a double epic). Make sure to bring extra food, layers, and a hefty dose of patience. Expect to get sweaty, cold, and bone-achingly tired, and all the meanwhile, says Chase, “discovering secrets of the rest of winter while getting semi lost…up and over crazy crooks and crannies.”
Get on board with Robbie’s Rad Adventure.
Every Sunday, and posse of regulars and out-of-towners alike crowd behind their fearless leader, Robbie Linthicum. “We eventually ski every trail in Canaan Valley and beyond with a traveling circus of friends,” says Chase, which does sound like a pretty rad way to spend a Sunday.
Drop knees at night on Timberline Resort’s slopes.
This down-home resort is the stomping grounds of many of the Mid-Atlantic’s best telemark skiers, and for good reason—the terrain and snow are some of the best in the region. Turn till your quads burn, and then hit Timbers Bar & Grill for the late-night party.
Summit Bald Knob.
It’s a challenge-by-choice ski to the 4,308-foot mostly treeless summit. You can take your time and weave gradually for miles before arriving on Baldie, or you can take the steepest, shortest, and most direct route straight to the top.
Snowshoe through Narnia.
Tucker County’s snow-laden spruce tree boughs set the stage for some of the most scenic snowshoeing in the region. Peaceful yet active, you can wander the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge trails yourself or let ol’ Chipper be your guide. The Sunday Nature Discovery Snowshoe Walks are free for all and explore the natural history and characteristics of the Valley.
Dance the night away.
The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, W.Va., has an impressively eclectic lineup year-round and is packed most every night of the week. Live music can also be found nearby at Mountain State Brewing Company and the White Grass Café.
Plan a President’s Day holiday ski trip.
Seem counterintuitive? Most people want to avoid the holiday masses, but you haven’t experienced Tucker County, W.Va., until you’re crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the White Grass lodge or throwing back a shot-ski with four of your new best friends in the warming yurt. If there happens to be a ski hash on the calendar, you’re in for one of the most memorable weekends of your life.
Just because it’s winter and there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground doesn’t mean you have to hang up the chamois. Ride a rental fattie straight out of Blackwater Bikes in Davis, W.Va., and hit the trails at Blackwater Falls State Park for a slip-slidin’ good time.