Mountain Birding, Mushroom Foraging and Trail Hiking Highlights of Upcoming Walks on the Wild Side Events 

Walks on the Wild Side collage
Unique wildlife and habitat opportunities are the inspiration behind North Carolina Wildlife Federation's upcoming Walks on the Wild Side events.

Join NCWF for upcoming Walks on the Wild Side

Learn how to forage for wild mushrooms. Spend the morning birding along the Watauga River. Explore the cultural and geological history of Pilot Mountain. Take a walk among butterflies, wildflowers and six-legged species. Watch wild salmonids in a streambed. 

Unique wildlife and habitat opportunities like these are the inspiration behind North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Walks on the Wild Side events. They’re a way for people of all ages to engage in outdoor adventures with experts and mentors who enjoy sharing their passion and excitement for the wonders of the natural world. 

Walks on the Wild Side events are free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. 

Mountain Birding on the Watauga River

8-11 a.m. Saturday, May 7 

Join us for a beautiful morning of spring birding in the mountains. Bring your binoculars and join NCWF with expert Merrill Lynch, a lifelong birder and field naturalist, on this birding adventure on trails along the Watauga River. Our guide has a background in professional land conservation, first as a biologist with N.C. Natural Heritage Program and then doing land acquisition with The Nature Conservancy. This work continues in contract work with natural resource agencies, land trusts and private landowners. He is a lifelong birder and field naturalist who enjoys international travel and fly fishing.

Pilot Knob Trail Walk

9-11 a.m. Saturday, May 21 

Join NCWF and Ranger Maggie Miller at Pilot Mountain State Park to walk on the Pilot Knob Trail (0.8 miles, moderate). The Pilot Knob Trail will lead us around the prominent pinnacle, a well-known feature of the North Carolina piedmont. We will learn about the cultural and geological history of the mountain and the native wildlife that occupies that land. We will take a short walk to the Little Pinnacle Overlook to see the big pinnacle from a magnificent and new perspective. Ranger Maggie is the Interpretation and Education Ranger at Pilot Mountain State Park. Her passion lies in protecting public lands, the wildlife that calls them home and providing education to visitors. 

Fungus Among Us: Wild Mushroom Identification Walk

10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 25 

Learn the basics of foraging wild mushrooms, including when and where to look for them, what to avoid, the mushroom life cycle, identifying and distinguishing mushrooms, types of edible wild mushrooms and preparation and preservation of harvested mushrooms. This event is appropriate for ages 12 and up. Our guide, Jon Wall, is an attorney with Higgins Benjamin, PLLC and an amateur mushroom forager. He started the Piedmont Mycological Association Facebook page in 2012 and currently serves on NCWF’s board of directors.

Where the Wildflowers Grow: Native Butterfly Walk

9-11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20 

Come to Pilot Mountain State Park to learn about native butterfly species with Ranger Maggie Miller. You will walk a mowed path that is part of the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail (approximately 1.0-miles each way). This path is an exceptional place to see native grasses, wildflowers and six-legged species. Spend the walk learning to identify insects and about an extraordinary migrator, the monarch butterfly. Ranger Maggie is the Interpretation and Education Ranger at Pilot Mountain State Park. Her passion lies in protecting public lands, the wildlife that calls them home and providing education to visitors. 

Fins and Fens 

10 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 4 

In the middle of Pisgah National Forest lies 100 private acres that have been protected for nearly 80 years. The property owner will take us on a walk that showcases the efforts of an individual who has devoted his life to protecting and restoring wildlife habitat. This hike is appropriate for ages 10 and up. Over a mile of pristine waters have been carefully managed so that once again, people may have the opportunity to see wild salmonids create their redds in a streambed. Mountain bogs were also commonplace for early pioneers but are now considered one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country. An elevated walkway allows visitors access to explore one of these sensitive areas, and there is an ongoing effort to restore the native flora and fauna within.

Along our path, we will also view century-old conifers in the surrounding forest, relax in a peaceful meadow, tour a historic log cabin (circa the 1850s), and enjoy many other special features unique to this property. Our guide, Chris Holler has a degree in fish and wildlife management and is a lifetime member of Trout Unlimited, N.C. Wildlife Habitat Foundation (lifetime), an N.C. Lifetime Sportsman and member of the National Speleological Society. He has been a fly fisher for nearly 50 years and has been instructing much of that time. 

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