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This summer we’re hosting a dozen hikes, in the Charlotte, Triad, Triangle and Asheville areas. Because summer is a time when families like to spend time together, our summer hikes are family-themed.

For instance, on August 15, Ranger Lance Huss will lead a hike exploring the Jacob’s Fork River at South Mountains State Park. South Mountains, the largest state park in North Carolina at more than 18,000 acres, is rugged in general but the mile or so of hiking required on this trip is on a flat, smooth gravel-surface trail. Expect to spend a lot of quality time, though, in Jacob’s Fork learning about mountain stream habitat. Sounds pretty good on a hot summer’s day.

We’re teaming with our friends at the Catawba Lands Conservancy for the third straight Hike NC session, holding hikes at Seven Oaks Preserve in Belmont (8/26). This Charlotte-area trail is part of the rapidly expanding Carolina Thread Trail, an ambitious effort to link 260 miles of trail in 15 Charlotte-area counties. It’s a great opportunity to learn about pieces of the Thread Trail near you.

Ask any 10-year-old to start naming critters and odds are they’ll start with the ones with the scariest reputations: bats, snakes, spiders … . These misunderstood denizens of the woods will be the focus of Ranger Sean Higgins’ evening hike at Umstead State Park. Come prepared to come away with a better understanding of these truly good citizens of the natural world.

The Triangle Land Conservancy dispels more myths about the animal world on a hike on the That Makes Sense Kids Interpretative Trail at its Horton Grove Nature Preserve. You’ll leave wondering where on earth the phrase “blind as a bat” came from.

Speaking of the misunderstood, let’s look at fire. We hear of the need to prevent forest fires, but did you know that fires play a vital role in the health of a forest? In fact, sometimes fires are intentionally set to benefit the woods. Learn why and explore an area that was intentionally burned — and discover its aftereffects — at the Fire Ecology Program at Pilot Mountain State Park.

Exploring the woods at night is an exciting prospect. It can also be a little daunting. That’s why our Near-Full-Moon Hike at Falls Lake’s Beaverdam area north of Raleigh on August 6 is on our list. Watch the moon rise over the lake and pick up tips on viewing the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21.

We’ve got more hikes scheduled, which you can read about and sign up for at gohikenc.com. Hikes in our Hike NC program are free and are led by knowledgable folks who can tell you a lot about the land you’re exploring. The hikes are beginner friendly — no matter how leisurely a pace you take, you needn’t worry about being left behind. Plus, every hiker gets a free, hiking-related gift!

Most important, though, the hikes are fun. Come join us and see.

For more information on Hike NC, visit gohikenc.com.

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