Saturday, November 5, 2022

Local adventures abound!

Welcome to blazeCLT; I'm glad you're here! For more than 5 years, I've catalogued active family-friendly adventures in and around Charlotte. 

While I've paused updates to pursue other interests, I hope you'll find what you're looking for in this rich archive of more than 200 suggested local outings. 

Consider this an enthusiastic invitation to get out, discover, experience and enjoy all the active, outdoor goodness that our area has to offer. 

Happy trails! 

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Northern Regional Recreation Center

Let's start with the slide. After all, it's one of the first things you see as you approach the entrance of Mecklenburg County's newest Park and Recreation facility, the Northern Regional Recreation Center, in Huntersville, about 25 minutes north of uptown. And it's also easily one of the coolest features among many very cool amenities this amazing place has to offer. Here are all the reasons you should go: 

The 3-story spiral tube slide begins and ends in the recreation pool area and takes a corkscrew trip outside in between. From the parking lot, you can see the slide, encased in an artistic silo to the left of the entry doors (one of several pieces of functional art around campus). Inside, the slide accompanies other play features (a smaller slide, a lazy river, fountains and a water basketball goal) in the leisure pool area. This was where we spent our morning when we visited for the first time the other day, but not before checking out everything else on site.

In addition to the family-friendly pool, there's an eight-lane lap pool, where folks can take swim lessons, enjoy water aerobics and exercise. 

In the non-aquatics department, there are cardio and weight rooms, fitness studios, courts (basketball/pickleball/badminton), and plenty of meeting space.

Northern Regional offers athletic programs including basketball, soccer, baseball, cheerleading, futsal, disc golf, football and martial arts. In addition to sports leagues -- and beyond the fun pool -- they offer tons for kids, including child watch, afterschool programs, camps, parties and preschool activities.

And then there's everything outside. Outdoor amenities include trails, water features, plant and animal wildlife and play fields. I understand that plans are in the works for horticulture classes and demonstration gardens. (I should note that one of my other favorite parts of the rec center is the expansive picture windows that allow in tons natural light throughout the facility.)

Northern Regional Rec Center opened over the summer and I'd hoped to visit sooner, but it was well worth the wait -- and now we'll be back frequently, for the slide and much more!

Note: The Meck Pass is among the best deals in town when it comes to family recreation. Mecklenburg County residents can get a monthly membership for $65, which includes the passholder, spouse and up to five legal dependents and grants access to all Meck County Park & Rec facilities, including Ray's Splash Planet. Otherwise, it's $8 for youth and senior residents ($10 nonresidents) and $10 for adult residents ($15 nonresidents). (Here are all the fees and schedules.) If you're looking for a gym membership and/or easy entertainment for the family, you can't beat it.

How to get there: 
Northern Regional Recreation Center is located at 18121 Old Statesville Rd., Cornelius, NC, 28031.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Biketoberfest 2022!

Biketoberfest 2022 is coming up and now's the time to get your tickets to this family-friendly urban adventure! The event, hosted by one of our favorite local nonprofits, Sustain Charlotte, offers participants the chance to see how easy it is to get around the Queen City by bike and foot -- and earn prizes along the way!

Biketoberfest is a scavenger-hunt-style ride or walk that begins and ends at Triple C Brewing Co. and explores neighborhoods in and around uptown. The route features protected bike lanes, greenways and quiet neighborhood streets, making it perfect for riders of all ages and skill levels.

Over the course of a 12-mile bike ride or 3-mile walk, participants stop at local businesses, organizations and restaurants to get their passport stamped. The more stamps you get, the more chances you have to win in the raffle at the after-party.
The fun starts with a packet-pickup party at Triple C from 5-7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 28, where there will be live music and you can try a new beer (named "Oh Shift!" . . . clever, huh?) brewed specially for Biketoberfest. Then Biketoberfest runs from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 30, and the celebration continues at Triple C Brewing Co. until 6:00 p.m., where prizes will be awarded.
You can register online now or in-person on event day (but the price, which starts at $25 per person, escalates the longer you wait).
In addition to being lots of fun, Biketoberfest is a fundraiser that helps Sustain Charlotte continue its advocacy work to make Charlotte a healthier and more equitable city with better transportation options, more accessible green spaces, and more affordable housing. It's also a way to support the local businesses that sponsor the event and have stops along the route.
Bonus: The event's proximity to Halloween means a perfect excuse for a costume dress rehearsal if you're feeling festive.
Our family is looking forward to exploring Charlotte on two wheels at the end of October. Join us! Hope to see you there.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Free N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Programs and Activities

When's the last time you did something new and adventurous? Played outside and learned a useful skill from a fun and knowledgeable guide? Spent time with your friends or family appreciating the beauty of nature? Local opportunities to do all of the above are easier and more accessible than you might think. 

A couple weeks ago we went river snorkeling at DuPont State Recreation Area. Before that, we took an intro-to-fly-fishing course in Pisgah National Forest. Last summer, our daughter participated in a kid's trout fishing camp along the Davidson River. Before that, we took a Hellbender salamander class at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education (now closed due to flooding). 

Fun, right? All thanks to the free public programs provided by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), a remarkable state government agency created by the General Assembly in 1947 to conserve and sustain the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use and public input. The NCWRC is the regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of North Carolina’s fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws.

As part of their mission, the NCWRC hosts many educational opportunities to encourage people of all ages to help sustain North Carolina's wildlife and habitats by learning more about them. The programs are offered at no cost and all gear and equipment is provided. Many are located in Western North Carolina, about a two-hour drive from uptown Charlotte, but the NCWRC operates statewide (here are interactive maps of descriptions and locations of many of the things the agency manages). 

So far, our family has focused on aquatic programs, but NCWRC provides a wide variety of activities and resources. Perhaps you'd like more information on birding. Maybe you'd like to go geocaching. Or how about getting involved in conservation programs? NCWRC is responsible for regulating, managing and teaching residents about hunting, trapping, fishing, boating and more. 

Now, our kids have their eye on a fly-tying camp. Meanwhile, I'm interested in checking out a virtual program on "how to take amazing fishing photos" and the "fish preparation and cookery" workshop. So many cool opportunities! 

Next time you're looking for a fun, educational, free (your hunting and fishing license dollars at work!) adventure, check out all that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has to offer. Not only are they doing good and important work to protect and preserve wildlife resources, but they're also giving us every reason to get out, explore, play and learn to appreciate the natural beauty of our delightful state. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Get to Know Human Powered Movement!

When the pandemic hit and we all found ourselves in lockdown, Adam Bratton, a marketing professional by day, decided he would set a personal challenge to bike every street of Huntersville, where he lives. He posted his progress on social media, largely to inspire others to get up, get out and get moving at a time when we were otherwise trapped at home. 

Turns out, lots of people found his challenge fun and inspiring -- so much so, that he realized there was something significant behind his notion. People were -- and still are -- hungry for encouragement to engage in physical activity and permission to have fun doing so. 

In May 2020, Adam launched the Human Powered Movement platform with a mission to facilitate greater human-powered experiences in all of us. The organization does that by offering novel events and challenges to keep people active, and by creating inspirational stories to keep people motivated. 

Take, for example, my first Human Powered Movement event: The South Fork Sampler. This scavenger-hunt-style adventure race had participants paddling, biking and running, all from a homebase at the Catawba Riverkeeper's Boathouse in McAdenville, NC, just 20 minuets from uptown. 

I have done a number of triathlons before, but this was a whole new experience. Mostly because it was engaging in different ways and, most importantly, just plain fun. Plus, it was accessible to people at all levels of fitness and competitiveness. Reflecting on the event afterward, I realized how long it had been since I went out and simply played. 

That's what you get with Human Powered Movement, which has a number of other events in the works. Next up: Rocky River Shiver, a mountain biking race, with a twist, of course, and Psychoactive, a last-runner-standing race through wildflower fields. Cool, right? 

"I'm not reinventing the wheel," says Adam. "My goal is to give folks an alternative to the typical, mainstream events and activities. I can set up a traditional 5k any day, and those are great. But Human Powered Movement is less about catering to the masses and more about creating an authentic community." 

Most of Human Powered Movement's events include both mental and physical dynamics (see: "last-runner standing") because it enhances the overall experience. 

"A lot of what I'm trying to do," says Adam," is pull that out of people. Whether you want to climb Mt. Everest or walk the dog around the block, there's meaning in being out and being active. People inherently and deep down like to go out and play. There’s something about that. I can’t explain it from a biological perspective, but it’s true." 

In addition to events, Human Powered Movement offers challenges, like the one our family did at the end of May, called Move Your Age. This free, virtual challenge was simple, but compelling: Find an activity to do for the number of years old you are. (Ex. Run 40 miles in one week, do 12 jumping jacks, or spend 25 minutes kayaking.) Everyone who logged an activity was eligible for prizes. (Our family won a gift card to Recover Brands. Sweet!)

Other upcoming challenges include Find Your Summit, where participants are invited to set a goal summit to virtually climb with any variety of human powered effort during the month of October, and Holiday Streaking, an invitation to complete a streak of 32 straight days of activity from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. 

A throughline to all of Human Powered Movement's work is a nod to playfulness.

"Everyone likes getting out and doing things," Adam says, "but without a purpose. It's all about life balance. And substantive interactions, not transactional." 

Perhaps it's not surprising that Human Powered Movement also embraces a very intentional and unapologetic promotion of sustainability and environmentalism. 

"It makes sense, right?" says Adam. "When we love to run trails or ride greenways, we don't want to dodge garbage. We've got to take care of the places we live and engage in recreation." 

In addition to aligning with outdoor-friendly supporters and sourcing their merchandise from eco-conscious suppliers, Human Powered Movement is a member of 1% For The Planet, a global network of businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations tackling our planet's most pressing environmental issues. Plus, many of Human Powered Movement's challenges and events go to support a variety of environmental non-profits throughout Charlotte. 

(Check out this video of Human Powered Movement's bike ride to pick up a shipment of DeFeet socks. Human Powered Movement also played a role in this Local Supply Chain video in partnership with Recover Brands.)

When I asked Adam how he came up with all of his ideas for Human Powered Movement, his answer was simple: "I like to explore, to see what's next. But I'm especially interested in thinking of ways to help others find their inspiration for human-powered movement." 

Hense, the title "Head Enabler," as Adam has officially dubbed himself. 

"At the end of the day," he says, "that's what this movement -- the Human Powered Movement -- is all about: To enable you to do these things that make you feel alive, and to help you meaningfully connect with others." 

Want to get to know Adam a little better? Check out the podcast he's co-hosting with Recover Brand's Bill Johnston, called Be the Impact. It's worth a listen!

Interested in joining the Human Powered Movement? Sign up for their newsletter to get a first look at journal entries and news and information about upcoming events, activities and challenges. 

And, of course, follow @humanpoweredmovement on social. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Mountain Creek Park

This past weekend, the Charlotte area's coolest new park opened to well-deserved fanfare. Mountain Creek Park, located at the northern tip of Lake Norman in Sherrills Ford, about 45 minutes from uptown, is 606 acres of recreation bliss. It checks all the boxes for family-friendly outdoor adventure fun. 

Parents with young children will appreciate the large, shiny, new playground and paved walking paths for strollers, scooters, skates and beginner bike riders. 

Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the pickleball courts, canoe and kayak launch and hiking trails. 

Pet lovers will be thrilled with the spacious dog park and shady walking paths. 

Fisher-people will like the fishing pier and waterfront observation platform. 

And mountain bikers rejoice: Mountain Creek Park features an extensive 19.52-mile network of trails, dedicated bike-only trails with countless route options, a pump track, a skills course and tool stations. (Here's a trail map.) 

There are also restrooms, plenty of parking, picnic shelters, an outdoor classroom, and a paved ADA-accessible trail that meanders through a quiet cove. 

Best of all, this Catawba County park is free and open to the public from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. 

Miss the grand-opening celebration? No worries. The party's just getting started. Mountain Creek Park will remain a worthy destination for years to come. Next time you're looking for a new place to play and explore, keep this recreation retreat in mind. 

How to get there
Mountain Creek Park is located at 6554 Little Mountain Rd., Sherrills Ford, NC 28673. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

Historic Brattonsville

There's lots to do and see at Historic Brattonsville, located in Rock Hill, SC, about 45 minutes from uptown. But this Juneteenth weekend, let me direct your attention to a new exhibit: "Liberty & Resistance: Reconstruction and the African-American Community at Brattonsville, 1865-1877."

This exhibition tells a powerful story of four "freedom seekers," who fled Bratton Plantation in search of freedom. If follows their journeys from escape, to military service in the Civil War, to civil rights advocacy to, in some cases, lynching. It's at once heartbreaking and inspiring, tragic and extraordinary, hard to reconcile and vitally important to acknowledge and understand. 

Brattonsville has long sought to tell the stories of the enslaved people who lived, worked and died there. But this exhibit, now part of the federal Network to Freedom program administered by the National Park Service, embraces a different perspective on the lives of some of those who courageously sought freedom and valiantly fought for civil rights. It is located in the newly restored Brick House. 

Historic Brattonsville features more than 30 historic structures and provides visitors the chance to see the evolution of Southern culture from the American Revolutionary War through the American Civil War. It offers an interesting glimpse of local history. Throughout the year, they host a number of events

And, if you like to mix education with outdoor recreation like we do, the site boasts a 6-mile network of hiking trails, full of historical significance and ecological diversity. We enjoyed this 3.9-mile loop. Note: The trails are only meant to be accessed with paid admission. 

Historic Brattonsville is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It's closed on Monday. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for youth ages 4-17, and free for kids 3 and under. 

Whether you head out there this weekend (there's a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or add it to your list of upcoming outings, go ahead and make time to visit Historic Brattonsville. It's a suitable outing for the whole family and an important chance to understand a significant piece of our shared history. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Skip the Car Trip Challenge and More

Looking for ways to do your part to combat climate change and make Charlotte the best possible place for all of us to live? Where to start? It can feel overwhelming, if not impossible. BUT, every little bit helps! Which is why I'm thrilled with the Mecklenburg County and Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) Skip the Car Trip challenge taking place this week. 

The event encourages and rewards people to minimize time on the road in a single-occupancy vehicle. Since the two biggest air quality pollutants in North Carolina are ground-level ozone and particle pollution, both of which are caused mainly by emissions from cars and trucks, choosing public transit or people-powered modes of transport can make a significant difference for our local environment. 

Skip the Car Trip emphasizes options like getting a transit pass, carpooling, walking and biking, and organizing "trip chains," which means bundling necessary errands into one outing instead of many. Other ideas include shopping local, working from home, and packing or preparing meals instead of commuting to pick up lunch or dinner. 

As if saving the planet isn't reward enough, this challenge comes with prizes. Between June 6 and June 12, whenever you engaged in a trip reduction activity, log it in this form. Then, you're eligible for daily prizes, like an electric lawn mower and passes to the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Win, win, win! 

While you're at it . . . 
You might also consider a couple other ways to participate in the decision-making process for a healthy, equitable, sustainable Charlotte for all. 

Vote in Participatory Budgeting, or PB Meck, a process that allows community members to determine how to best address the needs of their communities by turning ideas into actual project proposals. Check out the proposed projects for your district and vote here

Also, every five years, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation evaluates projects for funding in the Capital Improvement Plan Cycle. This is the process through which decisions are made about the addition, renovation or replacement of County-owned facilities, infrastructure, equipment, and land acquisition. Now's your chance to weigh in on what projects you'd like to see take priority! Weigh in on the public input form here

We'll definitely be participating in this opportunity. I hope you will, too. Lots of little steps can amount to big things!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Get to Know Catawba Riverkeeper and The Boathouse

How much do you know about the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation? 

A local, community-based group founded in 1997 that protects, preserves and restores the 226 miles of the Catawba River basin, which permeates 26 counties in our region, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation offers education, advocacy, monitoring, reporting and engagement to protect this valuable natural resource from threats such as development and poor water management. The organization's vision: To sustain plentiful clean water for generations to come. 

As if that important work isn't cool enough, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation also offers a ton of recreational opportunities, which you should definitely check out, if you haven't already. 

Their activity hub is The Boathouse, located in McAdenville, NC, along the banks of the South Fork River (the largest tributary of the Catawba), about 20 minutes west of uptown. Here, you can rent a kayak (single or tandem), canoe or standup paddleboard for a flatwater outing. You can sign up for several guided tour options. And, if you're not super confident on the water, you can register for private or group lessons.

When you're finished exploring, get a drink, snack and gear and apparel at The Boathouse. 

Boathouse hours are Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. All rentals are walk-up only Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Rental fees include the boat, paddle, safety vest, and instruction.

The Riverkeeper also hosts a number of activities and events throughout the season. Most offerings are good for most ages and abilities, but check the website for details.

If you really want to make a day of it, consider taking a paddle, then hiking along the South Fork River Trail (in the woods, out-and-back, 2 miles one-way) or the McAdenville Greenway (flat, paved, out-and-back, 0.8 miles one way). Both make for a pleasant stroll. 

There's no better way to beat the summertime heat than finding things to do on and around the water. The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation makes it easy to do so -- both by protecting our local waterways and making them accessible with lots of fun things to do!

How to get there:
The Boathouse is located at 115 Willow Dr, McAdenville, NC 28101. This is also the trial head for the South Fork River Trail. During weekend business hours, you can also launch from the 501 Lakeview Dr., McAdenville, just a couple minutes' drive from The Boathouse. This is also where you'll find the paved McAdenville Greenway.