In my last column, I wrote about a sleeper town called Morganton located in the Catawba River Valley. I focused on the breweries, distilleries, the spectacular food and seasonal events but I didn’t touch on the outdoor experiences that await you until now. Morganton is known as nature’s playground and it definitely lives up to its name. Let’s go exploring!
Having been craving some real excitement lately, I made my way to Thermal Valley Hang Gliding. Oh yes I did! I felt the fear (ok, the intense fear) and did it anyway. I cruised on up to 2,000 feet with my very sweet and patient pilot, Craig, and got a bird’s eye view on life below. What an absolute thrill!
Back on the ground I headed over to Catawba Meadows Park. The park is home to picnic areas, an 18-hole disc golf course, volleyball courts, baseball fields, a handicap accessible playground like I have never seen and the Beanstalk Zipline. The zipline is set up for all ages and has a tandem zipping for families. There is a climbing wall and a 15-foot free fall. From the park, I accessed the greenway and spent two hours getting lost in nature and my thoughts. I walked along the river where people were enjoying the beautiful day kayaking and tubing. I rounded a bend and walked up on a gold panning spot. Yep, you read that right, an actual spot for panning gold on the Silver Creek that has been designated for public panning for the past 200 years. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my pan with me but upon my return, you will find me out there prospecting.
Lake James State Park is just 15 minutes outside of town and worth spending some time there. There is something there for everyone to enjoy, including just relaxing. Lake James is 6,812 acres of an outdoor enthusiasts dream. If being on the water is your thing than there is fishing, kayaking, boating, and swimming. If you’re a landlubber than try out its 25 miles of hiking trails or 15 miles of mountain biking. Plan on spending a night under the stars at one of the 3 campgrounds or for a true Huck Finn adventure, paddle out to the remote campground on Long Arm Peninsula.
Now here is something you are going to want to check out: the Brown Mountain Lights. The first sighting of these ghostly lights was in 1913. They can be seen sweeping above and below the ridge of Brown Mountain with the best time of year to observe them being September through early November. No explanation for these lights has been found.
We are all so busy and mentally and physically affected by what life brings us on a daily basis so it is so important to unplug and hit the reset button. I can’t think of a better way than enjoying the outdoors in Morganton. See you on the trails!
Debbie Martinez is a Miami Dade resident and Travel Editor for The Florida Villager. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.