Published: October 2008Instant Adventures

East States

Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.

Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Biking: Ride the Foodie Tour

What do Burgundy, Provence, and Rappahannock County have in common? Former bike racer John MacPherson has ridden all of the cycling hot spots. But, he says, "cycling here in Rappahannock County is by far my favorite." MacPherson, along with his wife, Diane, lead three-day rides called Tour d’Epicure through Virginia’s sparsely populated wine country, starting from their country inn, Foster Harris House in Little Washington. As the name suggests, these trips capitalize on a cycling truism: The more you ride, the more you eat. Hence the Tour d’Epicure’s gluttonous formula: Ride 24 miles along the Hughes River, into the Blue Ridge foothills, and through grape country, then stop at a vineyard for a lunch replete with wine pairings by the vintner. The final meal is a blowout at the all-world Inn at Little Washington. You’ll earn it ($799; tourdepicure.com).

Get Swampy

Carl Hiaasen would approve of the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve. There it is, smack in the middle of the state, yet unsullied by theme parks, greedy developers, or even gator wrestlers. Its 109,000 acres host the headwaters of the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, and Peace Rivers, not to mention plentiful deer, sandhill cranes, wild turkeys, and black indigo snakes. A great way to venture in is along the Florida National Scenic Trail, which cuts through 13 miles of the swamp’s West Tract five miles east of Dade City (a cool little town in its own right) and traces the Withlacoochee. Since October follows the rainy season, the river should be flowing free and swift. You’ll walk through dense, dark oak hammocks, cypress dome swamps, and pine flatwoods en route to any of five evenly spaced primitive campsites (free; watermatters.org/recreation). The main attraction? A virtual guarantee of blissful solitude.

Hiking: Find an Adventure Town

When Jeff Alt hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1998, he reached Hot Springs and almost stayed put. Only after indulging in some hammock-based sloth did he continue on (and write a book about his trip called A Walk for Sunshine). At the 1860s Mountain Magnolia Inn he recalls soaking up the peak views "while swaying with the mammoth magnolia trees that encase the grounds" and soaking in the town’s eponymous springs, which inoculated him against aches and pains for many miles ($100; mountainmagnoliainn.com). The AT runs right down the town’s main drag; follow it 1.6 miles round-trip up to Lover’s Leap for a stunning view of the French Broad River and a squadron of big peaks—you’re right where the Blue Ridge and the Smokies intersect. The French Broad runs Class I to IV all month in glorious Indian summer weather ($65; huckfinnrafting.com). Another 6.4-mile hike on the Roundtop Ridge Trail off the AT leads past sleepy farms and into fall-colorful oak and hickory forests, after which you might want to join thru-hikers in a four-course vegetarian repast at Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn, a popular AT hostel.

Hiking: Trek to a Haunted Hut

AMC huts in the Presidential Range have long been a welcome refuge for weary, weather-hammered hikers. Turns out they’re favorite haunts of local spirits too, according to Marianne O’Connor, author of the new book Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire (PublishingWorks). Consider the Carter Notch Hut, 3.7 miles from the Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead in Pinkham Notch. It’s a fine base for hikes, such as the 1.2-mile climb to Carter Dome for views of a Technicolor New Hampshire. The smiling face in the photo that greets you in the hut’s foyer is that of an early 20th-century caretaker named Red Mac. Seems Mac told his kin that "his heaven would always be by the lakes in the deep forest of Carter Notch." And so it is. Mac’s a bit of a prankster, known to leave doors open on chilly nights, shine flashlights in unsuspecting eyes, or beat footsteps on the roof, especially when there’s just one human occupant. We suggest the buddy system ($30; outdoors.org/lodging/huts/huts-carter.cfm).

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