Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Urban Assault Ride

In the words of New Belgium Brewing Company; the Urban Assault Ride is, "a funky bike scavenger hunt."  The event occurs in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, September 18th.  Proceeds go to benefit the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance (CABA) and Trips for Kids.  This is the second year Charlotte has hosted this event.  It starts at 10 AM and most riders will be finished by noon.  Bikers will cycle through Charlotte going as far north as NODA and as far south as Park Rd. Shopping Center.  The course will cover around 20 miles depending on the route in which cyclists decide to take.  A party follows with games, food, and of course lots of New Belgium beer. 

This year the ride is being held later in the year because of the weather.  Last year it was held on Father's Day in late June.  Temperatures were in the mid to high 90's.  This year the forecast is for temperatures to be in the high 70's.  What a perfect temperature for a bike ride. 

This year I will be out of town celebrating my third anniversary with my beautiful bride Jessica.  I have several friends that are riding and I am very jealous.  If someone in Charlotte has no plans this Sunday they would be foolish not to come out to this event.  This event joins my two favorite things Cycling and beer.  

New Belgium History

New Belgium Brewing Company is based out of Fort Collins in the great state of Colorado.  Jeff Lebesch founded the company in 1991 after encouragement from friends and family.  His inspiration for brewing initially started during a mountain biking/beer tasting excursion he took to Belgium in 1989.  He came home with a few ideas for a recipe and not long later he came up with the recipe for the signature beer Fat Tire. 

Jeff and his wife Kim still run the company to this day.  The company is employee owned and in 1998, a unanimous vote by employee owners switched New Belgium to wind power. With this vote New Belgium became the first wind powered brewery in the United States.  I sure hope other businesses follow the great example of great businesses like New Belgium Brewing. 

Here are a few links to find more info about New Belgium brewing Company and the Urban Assault ride: 


Don't forget to check out the facebook page for this blog with extra pictures of all the places I have written about.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Ridge-Bandit/190721607643691

Sunday, September 4, 2011

McDowell Nature Preserve

Located in the far southwest corner of Mecklenburg County, McDowell Nature Preserve is as close to South Carolina as you can get in Mecklenburg County. The preserve contains 1108 acres bordering Lake Wylie.  It is the oldest park in Mecklenburg County. The preserve includes seven miles of trails and has been left 90% undeveloped.

This is a fairly small park with lots picnic areas and excellent peers for fishing.  The main attractions to this preserve are for the nature center, hiking trails, fishing peer, the many reservable picnic shelters and for the public boat access to Lake Wylie.

Because of the undeveloped nature of the preserve it is the perfect place to take a child on their first ever camping trip.  The preserve is close to nature, yet still close enough to Charlotte that if the weather or the trip in general turn for the worst you can easily pack up and go home.  The preserve includes 56 total campsites that can serve both RV's and tent camper's.  The camping area include's 13 RV sites, 26 car-camping sites, 10 primitive camping sites, one cabin and six 9X12 foot Rent-a-Tents.

The campsites are all reservable as are some of the picnic shelters. On most weekends it is a good idea to make reservations in advance. The best place to reserve for a picnic or party is the picnic shelter on Copperhead Island. This shelter is located at the end of Soldier Road next to the public boat access. The best parts of this park to me are the fishing pier, the picnic shelters and the hiking trails.  I enjoy the area most often for trail running and for an afternoon picnic with my wife.

The Nature Center at McDowell Nature Preserve is very active. It offers environmental education programs for scout troops, teachers, schools, and other organized groups.  They participate in the special events Earth Day and International Migratory Bird Day.  It includes an interpretive display observable most days of the week.

The next time you are looking for a place to go fishing, have a picnic, or just go for a leisurely stroll remember to go see McDowell Nature Preserve.

Don't forget to checkout the facebook page for this blog to see many more pictures of all the places I have written about.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Leave No Trace

Since I am writing about places to enjoy the outdoors. I feel obliged to encourage people to take care of these beautiful places we have to enjoy.  There is an organization called the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics that has set some standard's for how to take care of the places we enjoy.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is an organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.  Leave No Trace is a set of seven principles with the intent to take care of the world's natural spaces.  The center was formed in 1994, but the concept of Leave No Trace dates back more than 40 years.  It was originally a concept started by the National Parks and the Forest Service. The first formal training was out of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  The center is based out of Boulder, CO and includes several different tactics for promoting the message behind Leave No Trace.  Here is each principle with a brief description of how to apply it while you enjoy the outdoors.

Plan Ahead and Prepare 

In order to correctly do this guideline you must think ahead about the place you are going to and the things you might need.  Many of the things you need are good for safety as much as they are for leaving no trace.  Take for instance going on a hike.  If you bring plenty of water and food you will have plenty of energy to enjoy the entire hike.  That way if you are faced with an ethical decision you will be able to make the right decision.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

This can work in the front country as much as it does in the back-country.  Everyone at one time or another has been to a park that has a switchback that also has a second trail where people have cut through in order to make the trail shorter or to avoid a mud puddle.  The problem with this is that every time someone takes a step around something a new part of the trail is formed.  Over time this causes a three foot wide trail to turn in to a ten foot wide trail.  No one likes that.

Dispose of Waste Properly

This is one of the most straight forward ethical guidelines and it may be one of the most frequently abused.  Remember this saying, Pack it in, Pack it out.  A difficult part of this ethic is defining what waste is.  Is an orange peel waste?  Is poop waste?  Is a candy wrapper waste?  Those are all good questions.  The answer to the question, what is waste, is that anything not in nature before a human came in to that environment should be considered waste.  Even apple and orange peels should be carried out because they are not native to the ecosystem.  They can make the local animals sick if they eat something they are not used to.  Even worse it can make animals begin to relate people with food and that leads to many animal encounters among humans.

Leave What You Find  

This is another ethic that is very straight forward.  Leave everything that you enjoy while in the outdoors there for others to enjoy it in the future.  Now again these are not rules but guidelines.  When someone goes to the beach with a ten year old they should not be a bah humbug and not let them take any sea shells home.  At least get the children to understand why they should search all day for that one special shell and only take that one home.  Help them to understand that if they leave some for the future, they may be bigger or more beautiful when they come back next Summer.

Minimize Campfire Impact

With this ethic I always think of a camping trip I went on during the Summer Solstice.  We got done hiking and as normal got busy when we got back to camp.  My friends and I all immediately began searching for firewood, putting the tent up and cooking dinner.  We immediately started a fire and we did not realize that the sun was not going to set until after 9 PM.  We had a fire going for nearly 2 hours before the sun went down.  naturally we ran out of fire wood around 10 PM.  

Respect Wildlife

The important thing to remember with this ethic is that plants and animals both constitute Wildlife.  We should not cut down trees or feed animals.  We can enjoy animals and photograph them, but remember that we are visiting their home and should respect them. The more you respect wildlife the more likely you are not to have a problem with them.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

If you follow the previous 6 principles than you will be considerate of other visitors.  Remember that many people travel to the outdoors in order to get away from the things we have back in our daily lives.  A campsite is not the place to enjoy a new CD your favorite Rock-N-Roll band came out with.  Remember back to when you were a child going to spend the night at someone else's house and your mother told you to be on your best behavior.  That does not mean you cannot have fun, but it does mean you need to respect other visitors.

I hope this helps you understand how to better care for the places you enjoy.  Always remember Leave No Trace are a set of principles, not rules.  People should not be cops out there enforcing rules.  Try to help others enjoy the places we go to play. The more people that enjoy the outdoors, the more people will eventually appreciate the places we have to recreate.

Below are some websites to help you find more info about the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.


Don't forget to check out Blue Ridge Bandit on Facebook to see more awesome pictures of the places I have written about.


Monday, August 22, 2011

South Mountain State Park

South Mountain State Park is the perfect place in the Carolina's to get a true feel of the Appalachian Mountains, but stay close to the Piedmont region of the Carolina's.  It is nestled in the foothills approximately 18 miles south of Morganton, NC.  Some highlights of this park include the 80 foot High Shoals Falls waterfall, the hike to High Shoals Falls that is next to a creek nearly the entire time and the outstanding views that can be enjoyed at around 3,000 feet above sea level.  

South Mountain State Park has more than 40 miles of trails (17 miles of which are open to mountain bikers).  It includes 11 car-camping sites (one is wheelchair accessible), six primitive back-country camping areas with 20 individual sites, and 15 equestrian camping sites that includes a 33-stall barn.  The trails are allowed to be used for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.  Mountain bike access is rare in any state park and should be appreciated.  If you do choose to enjoy the park via mountain bike please follow the rules and thank the rangers for allowing mountain bikers access.

My favorite aspect of this park is its proximity to Charlotte.  It is only about an hour and a half drive, which makes it doable as a day trip.  The larger mountains farther to the west are closer to a three hour drive from Charlotte.  This means if you are traveling from Charlotte you really need 2 or 3 days to get away and enjoy those mountains.

The best part of South Mountain State Park is the High Shoals Falls Trail.  This trail leads to the 80 foot tall waterfall.  The hike to this falls is short, but the end can be strenuous.  The very end of the trail includes a few hundreds steps along the creek finally leading up to the overview below the waterfall.  The steps than extend above the waterfall to an area near one of the back-country group campsites.

Because of these group campsites this area is an excellent place for a beginning backpacker trip.  There are two areas for primitive group camping.  Reservations are encouraged because this is a popular destination for scout groups.

South Mountain State Park has enough trails to serve as a one or two night backpacking trip, but it is also small enough that hikers can rest assured they are not going to get too lost out there.  Because of this South Mountain State Park can serve as a great way to get used to hiking, backpacking, and navigating in a back-country setting.  Getting your feet wet in the back-country here is a great plan for someone aspiring to venture out into more rugged back-country in other parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


This is my first blog post that is not in the immediate Charlotte Area.  I figured I would start with what is closest to home since it is what I see most often and in turn know the best.  In the future I plan to continue writing about the outdoor recreation opportunities in the Charlotte area, but also branch out to places throughout the Carolina's and the Southeast.

Don't forget to check out the Facebook page I have created to go along with this page to see hundreds of photos of the places I have written about.


Below are some websites where you can find additional information about South Mountain State Park.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

24 hours of Booty

The 24 Hours of Booty is a cycling event that raises money for Lance Armstrongs' Livestrong Foundation.  In 2011 the Charlotte area is celebrating its 9th year of hosting a Booty ride and will also be raising money for the Levine Cancer Institute.  Plans this year are for there to be 1,200 riders and to raise more than $1 millon for cancer research.

The event is set up for participants to raise a minimum of $240 in order to participate in the event.  Once they have raised this amount of money riders can participate in the Booty ride in one of two ways.  First they can ride the 24 Hours of Booty and ride continuously for 24 hours, or they can participate in a shorter version called the reboot.  Participants than ride as many miles as possible for the given amount of time.

The route for the 24 Hours of Booty runs 2.97 miles through the historic neighborhood of Myer's Park, south of Uptown Charlotte.  This neighborhood is near Freedom Park and the stylish Dilworth neighborhood.  There are many old house's and some of the biggest trees in Mecklenburg County.  Bootyville, the center of the festivities, is situated on the campus of Queens University.  Some riders set up tents and sleep in between rides while others just take short breaks and keep pedaling right on through to the end.

Three of my friends and coworkers at REI rode in the event.  Ann Smith and Cliff Stoner both did the reboot and rode more than 60 miles each.  Ben Malmquist rode the whole 24 Hours of Booty and finished with 250 miles.  Wow!  Good job guys.

Every year this event is held the last weekend of July and raises lots of money for a great cause.  Keep it in mind next Summer if you are looking for a cycling challenge.  

Congratulations to my friends on team REI.

Don't forget to check out the Blue Ridge Bandit Facebook page at:


There are many more photos of all the places I have written about and links to other cool blogs you might also enjoy reading.

Below are some websites that can give you more information about the 24 Hours of Booty in Charlotte, NC and the groups the event supports.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Riverbound Race Series

The River Bound Race Series is a trail race series hosted by the U. S. National Whitewater Center. The series consists of an 8k, 10k, 15k and half marathon distances. There is a 5k option also available at each race (This is the option I have participated in).  The races are spread out over 7 months with a break of two months in between each.  In 2011 the races are held on March 12, May 21, July 16 and September 16.

The course runs through the mountain biking trails at the USNWC.  It consists mostly of single-track, with some double-track and gravel roads.  The race begins along the Wilderness Channel and first heads up towards the Mega-zip area.  Just in front of Big Drop at the end of the Competition Channel the course does a complete 180 and heads down into the deep pine woods.  The dirt on the trails consists mostly of red clay and many parts border along the Catawba River.

The course is steep for the Charlotte area and is a very difficult course.  You can expect to run a 5k two to four minutes slower than your normal time on a flat road.  The trail consists of several long gentle inclines followed by quick steep downhills. This is what makes these trails great for mountain biking, but makes them exceptionally difficult for trail running.

The groups associated with the race series include North Carolina Outward Bound, Dixon Hughes PLLC, Powerade, Jesse Brown's Outdoors, Mountain Khakis, Timberland, GoLite, REI and Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital.  The proceeds from this event go to benefit the North Carolina Outward Bound Veterans Program.  This program is  to help veterans adapt to re-entry in to life not in a combat zone.

This is an excellent event in a great setting that goes to benefit a great cause.  Anyone could finish the 5k race with a little bit of effort and training.  I have stayed to enjoy the rapids at the USNWC after two of the three races thus far.   So if you do not have any plans for the 16th of September than come join me.

For those wondering my time in the third race was 30 minutes 13 seconds.  I have improved more than 3 minutes from the first race in March.

Don't forget to like me on Facebook under Blue Ridge Bandit. Here you can find more photos of all the places I have written about.


Additional information about this event can be found at the following websites:


Friday, July 15, 2011

Crowders Mountain State Park

Crowder's Mountain State Park is the most popular destination for Charlotte City Dwellers that are looking for a quick escape to the mountains.  It is not as high as the mountains 2 hours to the west (only 1,625 feet in elevation), but at times it has many things an outdoor enthusiast can enjoy.  Despite its low altitude it does have a lot of elevation gain and the hike to the top can be as strenuous as you would like to make it. This large elevation gain makes it a good training place for hikers that are preparing for a trip to the Smokies or out west.  

The park includes 5126 acres and there are two main access areas.  One is near the visitors center and the other is called the Linwood Access area.  There are signs to both access areas from I-85 (Directions can be found from the websites at the bottom of this article). The park also includes three types of camping (RV, Car Camping, and Primitive Camping). The two primitive camping areas include 16 back-country camping sites.  These sites are a great place for a beginner backpacking trip.  They are also a popular place for scout troops doing shakedown trips in preparation for trips to other places.

Some names of the trails include the Backside, Crowder's, Fern, Lake, Pinnacle, Ridgeline, Rocktop, Tower and Turnback.  My personal favorites are Pinnacle, Crowder's and Fern.  The most beautiful parts of this park are the rock outcroppings at the top, the falcon habitat and the nearly twenty mile views from the top. Because of the low elevation the leaves tend to change at different times than mountains at higher elevations.  This makes Crowder's Mountain State Park best to visit early in the spring and late in the fall.

My favorite way to enjoy this park is to rent a canoe and have a picnic out on the lake.  They rent canoes and provide everything you need.  My wife and I have used this part of the facility numerous times.  I like to enjoy the park this way most because you can take just about anyone out on the lake. It is especially nice for people that are not in great physical shape. The hike to the best views can be very strenuous and could discourage someone from making a return trip to this park.  When people first enjoy the park via canoe they are more likely to enjoy it and return again.

Crowder's Mountain State Park is also a great place to experience a wide variety of challenging rock climbing routes.  They have a variety of terrain that is great for top rope, sport and traditional rock climbing. If you are looking for a group to lead you on your first outdoor climbing outing, Inner Peaks is a local climbing wall that leads trips to this area.  Also the UNC Charlotte Venture Club as well as Charlotte Outdoor Adventure Club lead trips for the public from time to time.  If you are not an experienced climber than always go with someone who is or a licensed guide until you can safely climb on your own.

Don't forget to check out the facebook page for this blog to see additional pictures of the places included in this blog:  


Below are many websites that are great resources for information about Crowder's Mountain State Park.  The next time you are looking for a hike remember to keep Crowders Mountain State Park in mind.