Just like there's nothing quite like filling up on turkey and stuffing there's nothing like a three day weekend for getting outside.

Last year REI announced that they would close on Black Friday and "#OptOutside" and they encouraged others to retreat from the bustle of shopping and commercialism and embrace some nature. This year #OptOutside is returning with more companies and organizations on board. Just as I opted outside last year with a backpacking trip on Art Loeb Trail and Cold Mountain, this year I'm opting outside because let's face it - do I really need an excuse to get outside? 😉

The only catch is this: wildfire.

As of this writing there are at least 17 active wildfires in North Carolina ranging from 104 acres to over 13,000 acres. Just last week smoke swept through the Triangle, blown in on a cold front from the mountains. As the smoke choked workers on their commutes to and from work and pushed runners to treadmill workouts that day, many residents of the Triangle realized for the first time that the mountains were burning from Georgia to Kentucky.

Map showing the location of some of the large fires in the southern states. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:22 am November 21, 2016. Source: http://wildfiretoday.com/tag/north-carolina/ 

Map showing the location of some of the large fires in the southern states. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:22 am November 21, 2016. Source: http://wildfiretoday.com/tag/north-carolina/ 

In the mean time hundreds of residents in western NC have been evacuated and hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to contain the flames. Every state park and national forest in North Carolina has an active fire ban and dry conditions continue to plague parks with fire risk and low water levels in lakes and ponds.

With rumors and allegations that some of these fires were started intentionally by individuals, it's more imperative than ever to ensure that when we go into Nature that we're respectful and practice Leave No Trace principles.

So if you're heading out this weekend to burn off some of that turkey or to #OptOutside, remember to stay safe and stay away from wildfires. And if you're not too keen on figuring out where and when to avoid fires in the mountains here are some of my favorite (fire free!) hikes in the Triangle area to explore:

1) Duke Forest

2) Jordan Lake

3) Occoneechee Mountain

4) Yates Mill

5) Harris Lake

6) Bond Park

7)  Carolina North

8) Neusiok Trail

Have fun exploring the great outdoors! Is there any place you're heading? Let me know in the comments!

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