AppX: App's Top Ten Outdoor Activities

Sit down with your host Liz Pope and her two guests, Carmen and Sam, to get the scoop on the Top Ten Things to do Outside in Boone!


  • Liz Pope: Hey everyone, this is Liz Pope. You’re listening to AppX. Today, I have with me Sam Jenkins and Carmen Montero, and we are talking about the top ten ways to take advantage of the outdoors in Boone.

    Carmen Montero: Hey! I’m from Atlanta, and I am a Cell Molecular Biology major with a Chem minor. I like to go outside a lot, so I like to go climbing, and biking, and swimming, I like to read a lot too.

    LP: So she’s in the right place. And Sam?

    Sam Jenkins: My name is Sam Jenkins, and I am from Macon, Georgia, which is a little bit south of Atlanta. I am a History major. I like to read, and I like to run a lot, and I like to bike, and I like to climb, and I like to sing songs.

    LP: So, as you can see we have two very outdoorsy folks here to talk about the top ten outdoor activities in Boone. So, first on the list we have hiking or running trails.

    SJ: I’ll take a shot at that. I ran a lot in high school, and then I haven’t run a lot in Boone. But, for the past couple of months I have been running a couple of times a week and I have just been getting out. I would say the best concentration of trails is definitely out on the Parkway, because there are just so many right in that area, and they’re all beautiful especially surrounding the lakes, like Price Lake trail is beautiful and a quick two mile jaunt. Boone Fork trail is great if you’re looking to go for a little more distance, it’s five miles. And then, what I think is the best part about all of them is that you can basically do these connections between all of the different trails via the Tanawha trail, which is a 14 mile trail that goes from Beacon Heights on one side of Grandfather all the way to Boone Fork trail on the other side. So you can use the Tanawha trail as this intermediary to get from say, Boone Fork trail to Price Lake, and then do a loop connecting those too. That’s what I like to do.

    LP: What’s the longest distance you’ve run?

    SJ: I actually just did the Tanawha for the first time last weekend, and that was 14 miles.

    LP: Nice! Jeez, that’s crazy. I have a fun fact about Carmen. On her 21st birthday, she ran 21 miles. Carmen where did you run your 21 miles?

    CM: It’s kind of embarrassing because out of all the trails in Boone that you could run 21 miles on, there’s this whole Linville loop and I think it’s 22 miles you could do and it’s a really cool trail. There’s the Tanawha which is 14 miles, but I chose the Boone Fork trail which is a five mile trail, and I just ran it four of five times. Which was nice, because I could always come back to this central area where I had snacks and a blanket set up, and I ran it with my roommate who was also turning 21 at the time, so it was kind of exciting, but at the same time I’m never super proud to say where I ran it.

    LP: Just a continuous loop. Well, you saw the roots and the rocks and

    CM: Yeah, I ran Boone Fork for the first time again since then a month ago and I was like, ‘It’s too soon’

    LP: Okay, so as far as hiking trails, what are y’all’s favorite places to go after school, especially last year and freshman year, after a long day we would just get in the car and go to the Parkway and just kind of take in the mountains. Where are y’all’s favorite spots to go?

    CM: Well, it’s not really one you could do after school, but a trail that I think is one of the coolest trails in all of Boone for me is the Profile trail over on Grandfather, but you can take the Profile trail and keep going past it and get all the way up to the swinging bridge, and you end up going on four ladders, lots of ladders, lots of stairs, you have to use ropes and stuff, so it feels more like an adventure than a hike, but you can easily do it in a day and get all the way up and down. But, if you have bad knees--like my knees hurt for a week afterwards, because when you’re hiking down it’s just so steep you’re just catching yourself every time. But, other than that I always like doing hikes to watch the sunset. Places that are cool to do that are like Beacon Heights.

    LP: Beacon Heights is perfect!

    CM: I think I did that one with you! And Caldwell has a really cool spot to watch the sunset, but you don’t hike, you pull up into a parking lot and watch. I did that last night, it was fun.

    LP: So, if you’re not feeling adventurous just head over to Caldwell Community College.

    CM: Yeah! Get some Cookout milkshakes.

    LP: Just take it in. Sweet! Alright number two is climbing, and I know you guys met through the climbing wall. How did you guys get involved with UREC over there?

    CM: I started off, summer before I came to school, I had a friend whose brother really liked to climb, and I always thought it was really cool. There’s a big gym in Atlanta, so I went once, and probably made a complete fool of myself, at the time I probably thought I looked really cool. Then, I went to the wall here on campus, and just thought it was really fun, and went all the time. There’s a climbing team, and that’s where I met two really good friends, and we all started climbing together all the time, and it just so happens that there were a lot of freshmen that all got into climbing at the same time so we all just started going together. It’s how we would spend our Saturdays going out to the boulder fields and climbing. It was how I formed my own community here at App, was by climbing, and through that you just get more and more excited about climbing. It’s just fun to have a common thing to talk about when you’re a freshman and you’re like, “what do we do?”

    LP: “Here we are...let’s go to the climbing wall!” How did you get involved, Sam?

    SJ: I get involved in a lot of things by researching it on the internet and deciding I want to do it before I actually do it. So, before I even came to App, I knew climbing would be something I would be interested in. I drove up to Atlanta from Macon, which is an hour, to climb the gym there, but when I got to App, I just started going to the gym most days, and continuing to do that, you just start to meet people, and people start to take you outside, and you are able to go outside on your own. You just progressively learn and learn, well, I just progressively learned and learned, and climbed more and more and more. I enjoyed it.

    LP: What is the climbing community like, if you could describe it in a few short words?

    CM: Really quirky.

    SJ: Yeah, quirky and psyched.

    CM: They’re pretty welcoming, they’re very excited to talk to people. Everyone I’ve met has just been ridiculously nice about being helpful. Boone’s weird because--I don’t know how much you know about climbing--but there’s usually climbing books for different areas, and that will tell you where to go and climb, and what to climb. But Boone’s unique because there is an absurd amount of climbing here, but there’s no book, because everyone wants to keep it local. But, if you come in as a freshman, you don’t really know where to climb at all. So, it’s really nice that a lot of the older people always take out freshmen, when it’s something that could be like, “Nah, I don’t want to hangout with someone so young.”

    LP: Alright, so favorite places to go? I know that’s a hard question for y’all.

    SJ: Definitely would say the Dump is one area. Carmen hates the Dump. I really like the dump, and I think a lot of people really like the dump, it’s just really small and concentrated. It’s out on 221, if you go to and search the Dump in North Carolina, you’ll find it, and it’ll have directions as long as with a list of every single climb out there. There are climbs of all levels. That was the first place I climbed outside, and it’s the last place I’ve climbed outside too, I went the other day.

    LP: And you don’t like the Dump as much, Carm, so what’s your favorite?

    CM: I think it’s terrible. I never go. But, I really like--it’s kind of not as well known, and one of the newer areas being developed in Boone--but also I switch a lot because it depends on what climbs I’m excited to go do, so sometimes I’m more excited to do this one climb in another area, so it’s hard to choose. But, right now I really like this place called the Watauga Boulders, and I think the main reason I like it is because it’s getting warm right now, and it’s on the water. So, I can climb in a bathing suit and then swim, and then go and climb, so you get the best of both worlds, and you just go up the whole river and you feel like a kid because you’re exploring. I’ve seen snakes out there and fish, and kayakers kayak the river so you’ll be climbing and kayakers will go by and you can be like, “Hey!”, and maybe later that night, if you know them, you can meet up and be like, “How was kayaking?” and they’ll be like, “How was climbing?” It’s fun. I was there on Saturday and there were a ton of people out there, and I think about 30 kayakers passed, and you just wave. It’s kind of like an outdoor fiesta.

    LP: That sounds so great, can I go?

    CM: Yeah, come!

    LP: So you’re in a bathing suit climbing, is the water right next to where you’re climbing?

    CM: So, when we went Saturday, since it’s been raining so much, some of our climbs we couldn’t do because the water level was too high, but usually you just throw your crash pads onto the sand or the rocks. But, you’re pretty close. Some of them you have a pad on one side but on the other side you might fall into the water. But, it’s water, so I mean, no harm in getting wet.

    LP: Sweet! Alright, great advice for everyone. Number three: slacklining. For everyone listening, slacklining is essentially...actually Sam you should explain this because I’m going to fail.

    SJ: Okay, so it’s basically a line put up between two stationary points, like trees, and unlike a tightrope, it’s like slack. It moves as you walk, and you try to walk on this line to I guess practice balance, or have fun, or do whatever! Some people can do tricks on it, some people can do it really high up in the air. I just do it a foot from the ground, and I just walk.

    LP: It’s good for balance! On Sanford on a really nice day, you will see plenty of slackliners lined up doing the most absurd things you’ve ever seen on a slackline, and it’s sweet...haven’t tried it. Carm have you tried it?

    CM: I tried it once, and really messed my knee up and I did it a year ago and it still hurts to this day. I don’t know! It’s always really cool, and I always thought it would be a super fun thing to do between class, because everyone looks like they’re having so much fun. And one day there wasn’t that many people out there, so I was like, “Alright I can try it, I won’t be too embarrassed if I fall” and I take one step and twist my knee. I think my knee goes to one side and I fall on the other side, it hurt so bad. I was laying on the ground and people came up to me and was like “are you okay?” and I was trying to act really cool, like, “Nah, I’m fine.” Honestly, my knee still hurts.

    LP: Alright, so use caution if you slackline. Alright sweet! Number 4: enoing. Carm has an eno.

    CM: I have one, yeah. One of my straps is broken, but I just use some webbing from my climbing rope, and it’s fun. It’s really nice to set up while you’re climbing because you can put it on a tree on the side and then just enjoy it. Or if you go on a river day at all, or any of the places that we mentioned for sunsets, or hiking. It’s nice to just have a seat, and it’s so easy to take because it’s so tiny.

    LP: You just pack it up.

    CM: Yeah, you just pack it up.

    LP: Enos are a must have, I do not have one, but I borrowed plenty, freshman year specifically. They’re nice to just take out on Sanford, and post up, do some homework, people watch.

    CM: You can nap! In high school we used to, me and my two best friends, we used to go home for lunch and we had enos set up in our backyard permanently, and I think we had an hour lunch and everyday we would come home, eat a grilled cheese, tomato soup, and I would just nap in the eno. I don’t know what they did, but they have their set up too. Probably just hung out around and read.

    LP: That’s so nice. So you can do that here, too! Sanford Mall? Perfect for it. They’ve got grilled cheese in Central and everything!

    CM: Yeah!

    LP: Alright, number five: biking.

    CM: So there’s people that bike on the Parkway too, but I mainly just mountain bike, and Sam does too.

    SJ: Cycling is cool, though. It’s one of those things I think I’ll get into eventually once I just look it up enough.

    LP: Yeah, once you Google it! Sweet, so where do y’all go when you bike?

    SJ: Definitely the most well traveled trail around here would be Rocky Knob, simply because it’s five minutes from campus, and that’s easiest when you finish your class, and you want to get outside in the afternoon, or in the morning. You just grab your bikes from home and go straight up to Rocky Knob, it’s about six miles of trails and you climb up, and go straight down.

    CM: Or more even! You can link up different loops, you can do one of the smaller two mile loops, and then get out there in 10 or 15 minutes, bike for maybe 30 and be back in time. It’s just a super short little excursion, or you can go and do the whole thing and take the whole day and do a day trip and pack snacks, it’s a lot of fun.

    SJ: It’s a great resource to have so close. And there’s also other great--I think Boone isn’t very well known for biking, in terms of other areas in North Carolina, and the US, but there’s definitely a high amount of high quality trails around here. There’s also the Kerr Scott trails over in Wilkesboro, it’s more than 30 miles of trails that surround this lake, and they’re number two in North Carolina or something. There’s also some really good trails down in Lenoir that I haven’t tried, but was looking up the other day. I think I want to go down there.

    LP: What to y’all bring on your biking excursions?

    CM: So, it depends how long the excursion is, and how prepared you want to be. You can always be way more prepared, but you can always bring things to change a tire, like a tube, an air pump, snacks, a lot of water. I went on Friday, I brought a liter and a half, but it was so hot and I did the whole thing, and ended up being out there long and got super burnt. When I came back I felt super dehydrated and had a headache, so lots of water is key, more than you think you need. I always bring a first aid kid, and when me and Sam go, I bring a whistle, too, because I’m not super loud when I yell. And so if I ever got hurt--Sam goes a lot quicker than me--if he’s way down the mountain and I yell for help, he definitely wouldn’t hear me. So I have a whistle if I ever completely wipe out and need help. I don’t know if that’s an everyone thing, it might just be a me thing.

    LP: That’s smart! That’s very good advice honestly.

    SJ: You can lose your voice, but you can’t lose your whistle! For your weekend trips, you can go down to Brevard, which is what I could argue--I mean I haven’t been everywhere in the US--but it’s definitely world class biking. There’s more than 300 miles of trails 20 minutes from Brevard, and it’s beautiful.

    CM: Yeah, if you’re biking, you need to go to Brevard and bike Ridgeline which is a trail that it’s famous for. It’s just the best trail in that area. It’s a lot of fun.

    LP: It’s so cool in Boone, you can just bop around to different places, because we’re just in the mountains, so you can just go around to Wilkesboro, Linville, we’re so close, so that’s sweet. So as far as on campus resources, what is it for biking? What can help students?

    SJ: UREC and Outdoor Programs have a program called BikeApp, and they basically try to get university students psyched on biking and I know that our friend Jackson does it, and some other friends, and they’re always giving clinics on teaching you how to fix your bike, how to be safe in road cycling and mountain biking, they’re doing free bike tune ups on Sanford multiple times a month, which is amazing because bike tune ups are expensive. I know there was also an Outdoor Programs trip over fall break that was a mountain biking trip to DuPont, which we were just talking about down in Brevard, which I wish I had signed up for. There’s also the club sports team, I know there’s a road cycling team and a mountain biking team and pretty sure they’re really good, and they’re welcoming to new people. In fact, I put my name on the email list, and I still get emails...I never went though. There’s a lot going on, I can tell you that!

    LP: Sweet! Alright number six, we have waterfalls. We have a couple in the area, Compression Falls and Trashcan Falls are some popular ones. Do y’all have any experience with either of those?

    CM: I’ve been to Compression, and it’s a blast. I love swimming, and just jumping off of waterfalls and things. They’re not super far, so they’re really nice to go to. Also, if you go to Linville, and you go to the Babel Towers trail, and you can get all the way down, you get to these towers and you turn left at the towers. I don’t know, that’s kind of hard to explain, but if you’re looking at a map, it will make sense. There’s this really cool watering hole. The hike in isn’t bad, and it’s only like a mile hike out, but it’s the steepest hike so you’ll be crying by the end but, it’s worth it. That’s a lot of fun because there are things to jump off and this little water slide you can go down, so I really love that. Winklers Creek has a watering hole that you can go in, and that has a rope swing on it. Watauga River, that place where I was climbing.

    LP: That sounds awesome! I would like to go there.

    CM: I just feel like there are an absurd amount of places to go swim in Boone. It’s like our own little swimming pools, and you can easily find a secluded area, and just spend the whole day there.

    LP: I have an interesting experience with Compression Falls. Whenever you do go, listener, don’t wear your Chacos when you’re jumping off because you will slip and you will fall, and you will hit the water and your friends will think that you’re gone. I’m going to scare everyone away from Compression falls. Yeah, so I fell off Compression Falls, but I’m fine, and it worked out, but it was fun.

    CM: The only thing I would say about hiking up to waterfalls and stuff is just to be super careful about jumping off. I brought my dad there, too. It was a disaster. He really wanted to jump off with me, and got really scared at the top, and it started pouring rain and thunder storming, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Compression, but there’s this rope on the side of it. God knows who put this rope up, but he decided that instead of sliding off the waterfall, he was going to climb down this rope on top of these jagged rocks. So I’m watching him, and he keeps slipping his foot and his hands are in the air. Me and my mom, we have our little dog who’s 80 hundred years old and hates walking anywhere, so we have to hike her up mountains because she’s so lazy. She’s looking at us like, “What did you get us into?” because it’s pouring rain, and my dad loves Facebook and Instagram, and he’s like, “Just film me! Film me jumping off!” So we’re waiting for 30 minutes for him to jump off, and he just climbs down this rope, and it was just a disaster. But I would say never ever climb down ropes or just grab random tree roots, because you never know how long the rope has been there, if the tree root is secure, just always trust your own footing and be careful about climbing up things, especially when they’re wet. I know people get there and they love to show off and do a lot of crazy flips and things, but I mean people get hurt all the time doing a simple jump. Be smart.

    LP: Be safe. Keep it safe. That’s hilarious about your dad. He would man.

    CM: Oh it was a disaster. It took him forever, I thought he was about to cry. I was like, “We can just walk down!” and he was like, “No, I’m going to do it.”

    LP: That’s how I felt! I was like, “I have to do this. I got here, I made the crazy hike, and if I don’t try I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life,” and then I fell.

    CM: That’s a good video though…

    LP: Yeah, and it’s on video…

    CM: It’s on video!

    LP: That’s the worst part.

    CM: I watched it this morning actually because it was on the page.

    LP: No!

    CM: I really did!

    LP: Reviewing Liz’s dark moments. Okay, jeez. We didn’t even say where compression falls is! It’s actually in Tennessee, because we’re so West, Tennessee is like 20/30 minutes away so, it sounds far, but it’s not really. Alright, number eight: camping.

    SJ: Camping, yeah! I think you can camp anywhere, and especially living in Boone, there are just so many places to camp. You have the entire Gorge, Linville Gorge. We’ve gone and camped at Table Rock, and I’ve camped at Table Rock a bunch of times with friends, and we hiked down into the Gorge and camped. The whole area is like, sleep where ever you want...and watch out for bears. We actually had a friend, Kyle McQueen, has a bear story from last week.

    CM: He had his eno up--so enoing, be careful--and camping in Linville, and this bear comes up bites the head of the eno, so it’s just gnawing on his pillow and all of these people screamed to get the bear to go away, the bear left, and Kyle is fine. I don’t know if they had a bear bag or something, but if you go camping, it’s kind of annoying to do, but bring a rope and maybe a dry bag and put all your food in the dry bag--

    SJ: Or even a trash bag

    CM: Yeah, or a trash bag. Walk a good bit, where you can’t even see your campsite and then throw it over a really high tree. Throw the rope over a really high tree, tie your bear bag to the tree and then pull it up. And it is kind of a pain, and an extra step to do, but if you’re in the middle of nowhere, bears can be kind of scary.

    SJ: I bet Kyle McQueen wishes he had used a bear bag.

    CM: Which we don’t know if he did or didn’t but…

    LP: Glad he’s okay. That’s insane. So what kind of resources can you get from the university if you want to go camping?

    SJ: Carmen is an expert at this.

    CM: I take things from the university all the time.

    LP: Take things!

    CM: Not take! I rent them! I rent them from the university all the time. Since, I work at UREC, I get to rent for free. We actually rented the paddle boards so much over the summer that I think as a collective group, our bosses said that we can’t rent paddleboards for free anymore to try and control the renting. It’s insane. You can rent stoves, backpacking backpacks, tents, sleeping bags of any temperature, sleeping pads. If you go in there and you talk to the people in there, you can even rent maps, and they’ll tell you where you can go camp. There’s a lot of trips going out where you can climb, or bike, or--the only trip I’ve ever done was a kayaking trip and I had a blast! You can rent everything there, they’re all at different prices, but they’re all very reasonable. Renting a paddle board for a day is $15, and then other than that I don’t know because I get them all for free.

    SJ: You can get a sleeping bag for a week for I think $8, or $10 or $12.

    CM: Yeah. And it’s not just limited to students, as long as you have an affiliation with the school, and you have an AppCard, you can rent it.

    LP: That’s awesome, that’s so cool!

    CM: I think you can even rent kayaks, too.

    SJ: Canoes! I know you can rent canoes.

    CM: You can rent so many things, and even faculty, or anyone who has an AppCard can go on the trips, too. Which are really discounted rates to go on these really cool trips. So, I don’t have any connection with kayaking, I climb and can do all that stuff on my own, but I don’t think I ever think I could go kayaking alone unless I bought a boat. So, I did this trip and it was really cheap to do a two or three day kayaking trip, and they teach you all the basics, they’ll give you food for the whole trip, they’ll outfit you, they’ll give you all the clothes that you need, especially with kayaking you need dry gear, or gear that doesn’t get wet. They’re great, everyone is super nice and encouraging, and I know a lot of people go on trips and then become friends with the trip leaders, and that’s how they get into a lot of these sports as well.

    LP: That’s sick, okay that’s perfect because number nine: kayaking, rafting, or paddle boarding. Did you go paddle boarding at all?

    SJ: No, never. I don’t really like water a lot, to be honest. I like being dry. It’s raining outside right now? I’m not going outside.

    LP: Yeah, it’s kind of brutal. I know you can take P.E. credit classes for kayaking, white water rafting, or paddle boarding as well…

    CM: And scuba diving!

    LP: And scuba diving! So if you want to get credit for those, you can take classes and get P.E. credit, that’s pretty sweet. Alright number ten: skiing or snowboarding. We are in the mountains, we got a lot of snow.

    CM: There are a lot of areas to go just here within 30 minutes of Boone. There’s App Ski Mountain, which offers student days, too, where you can ski super cheap, or snowboard. There’s Sugar Mountain which is a little bit further. Then the furthest is Beech, which is still only just 40 minutes away, and I would say Beech has the most extensive amount of slopes. Sugar is medium, and App Ski is the smallest amount. But, App Ski tends to have a really good terrain park, so if you’re doing tricks or anything that’s a really nice place to go. Plus it’s only a few minutes off campus, and the cheapest place to go. So, that’s where they do the classes, the ski classes at App, or the snowboarding classes. If you’re getting into snowboarding, I recommend buying a used board, I really don’t think there’s any need to buy a completely new one. I mean, I bought a used one, and I still have it three/four years later because I started in high school. It’s a blast! And you can go up to Virginia, there’s Snowshoe, and even up further north you can go. Me and one of my best friends did a road trip out to Colorado where we just camped in our car and snowboarded, and there it’s just fantastic because you can go off mountain, and here you can go off mountain when there’s a lot of snow, but I haven’t seen as much snow as there was my freshman year.

    LP: And you met the friend you went to Colorado with through UREC correct?

    CM: Yeah! Through UREC, we met through snowboarding actually. One of my friends who I climb with who I met through UREC, went snowboarding with her, and then this girl, Katherine, ended up coming snowboarding, too. So that’s where we met. Now she’s my climbing partner, we hang out all the time

    LP & CM: and they’re living together.

    CM: So, we’re kind of close.

    LP: Sweet! Do you snowboard at all? Ski or anything?

    SJ: I did take the class! I can attest to that, it was really fun.

    LP: There you go!

    CM: You took a snowboarding class? I had no clue!

    SJ: Yeah, my freshman year. It’s very fun. That was my stint of snowboarding.

    LP: So you can do it, you just choose not to.

    SJ: I mean, they teach you really well! It’s super cheap for how much you get to go out once a week, eight times. It’s only $150 or something or other. UREC doesn’t rent out snowboards, but if you take the P.E. class, rentals are included with the overall cost, which is nice! They really streamline the process for students, I think as a freshman. You also meet a lot of people doing it, as a freshman, I would definitely do it your freshman year.

    LP: It seems like being outdoors in Boone has really brought you guys your people in college. How many friends would you have if you weren’t involved in outdoor activities in Boone?

    SJ: Eight.

    CM: I would have...I would have Liz...I would have four friends.

    LP: Few but...good?

    CM: I would have acquaintances! Like I would see people from my classes and wave to them I’m sure. But people I would spend time with after class and just hangout with it would just be four. I’d hope I would find more, through other activities, but at the moment.

    LP: Carmen looks really sad when she says four.

    CM: You pointing that out makes me think I should broaden my horizons.

    LP: No! But it’s so clear that y’all love what you’re doing, and you love being outside, and the people you meet obviously are the best, so that’s great. Advice overall, get involved if you’re interested in the outdoors, go to UREC, that’s a great place to start. They have plenty of resources, they can teach you a lot, and you’ll meet some pretty cool people there like these two folks I’ve got sitting with me right here. So, Sam and Carmen, thank you guys so much for coming in, hope you guys have a great rest of your day.

    SJ: Thanks for having us.

    CM: Yeah, thank you!

    LP: This is Liz Pope, you’ve been listening to AppX.