Little Cataloochee Hike on March 8

preview6As I look out the window now, it is snowing and very cold. But in the Southern Appalachians, spring will be here very soon. Time to make some hiking plans.

Sign up for the first of many Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday, March 8th. We’ll visit historic structures including the Hannah Cabin, Cook Cabin, and Little Cataloochee Baptist Church (see the photo above, right). You can even go into the church, which never ceases to amaze me.

Why did settlers come to Little Cataloochee? And in what direction did they come?

Today, how do you get to the Little Cataloochee area of the Smokies anyway? Though I keep saying that there are no secrets in national parks, some areas are harder to locate than others. And Little Cataloochee is tricky to find. That’s why you come with Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes.

Anna Lee discussing FOTS work
Anna Lee discussing FOTS work

I’ll be leading along with Anna Lee Zanetti, Outreach and Development Associate for Friends of the Smokies. Little Cataloochee Trail, 6.6-miles roundtrip, is moderate in difficulty with a total elevation gain of 1,450 feet. It’s a good start to a great year of hiking.

Monthly membership guided day hikes are $20. New members may join Friends of the Smokies and hike for $35. Donations benefit the Friends’ Smokies Trails Forever program.

You can register for all ten hikes for the price of eight by mailing a check for $160 to Friends of the Smokies, 160 S. Main Street, Waynesville, NC 28786.

Visit for additional information.

Undecided and new to our Classic Hikes? Experienced and want to reconnect with your  hiking friends?

Join Friends of the Smokies at REI Asheville for a Find Your Park presentation on Thursday February 18 from 6:30-8:00 PM to learn more about day hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s free but REI wants you to sign up. See you there.

Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Celebrates!

2016 FMST board
2016 FMST board and staff

It was the first week-end in February, time for the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Annual Meeting. Over 240 members came from near and far (Sylva to the Outer Banks) and out-of-state as well to celebrate the 18th annual meeting.

Just as a comparison, Jeff Brewer, the first president of FMST, said that the first meeting had twenty participants.

A few highlights:

fmstmeeting2016 029AKate Dixon, the Executive Director, gave a progress report, which included:

*The FMST website now has trail guides for all the trail sections. Whoopee! You can now follow the trail from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge and know that you’ve got the best turn-by-turn directions and information on what’s on the trail.

* You can paddle the Neuse River, if you want a multi-modal experience. You can! I like my feet firmly on the ground. In certain sections, you can also do the MST on a bike or on a horse.

Sharon "Mama Goose"
Sharon “Mama Goose”

I had the pleasure of introducing our keynote speaker, Sharon “mama goose” Smith, who talked about the importance of Warrior Hikes on transitioning veterans back to civilian life. They need to walk off the war.

One of the points she made that resonated with me was that in the old days, soldiers marched home from war and had the chance to process their experiences. Now veterans can have a traumatic experience on the battlefield on Saturday and be home with their families on Monday.

Sharon will be organizing a group of veterans to walk the MST in the fall. Shorter trails that may just go through one state keep the hiker-veterans close to home and give families a chance to visit with them from time to time.

Another highlight of the meeting

CMC members
CMC members

Three Carolina Mountain Club maintenance members came to present their achievement on the Waterrock Knob piece of the MST. So proud of them. From left to right, they are Skip Sheldon, Tom Weaver and Pete Petersen.

This piece of trail, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was such a challenge that it took six years to complete-all with volunteer labor.

Various speakers talked about  the importance of the North Carolina bond issue vote which comes up on March 15. We need to pass this bond issue, because some money  eventually will trickle down to the MST and other NC trails.

fmstmeeting2016KCB 027AKimberly Crest Books (that’s Lenny and me) was a exhibitor at the  meeting, along with much bigger groups such as REI,  Great Outdoor Provision Company and the Elkin Valley Association. They had many people staffing their areas, while it was just me. Still, I was glad of the opportunity to talk to people about the National Park Centennial.

When I donated a couple of books to the raffle, I asked “How many national park units does the MST go through? No one jumped up with the answer, so here it is.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  2. Blue Ridge Parkway
  3. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
  4. Moores Creek National Battlefield
  5. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The Ageless Adventurer Walks from Arles

Chris and Carroll
Chris and Carroll

“I don’t think I’m lost but I don’t know where I am.”
That’s a good indication how Carroll got along in rural France-without speaking much French.

At Monday’s Camino meeting, Carroll Koepplinger, the ageless hiker, gave a presentation on his walk from Arles to Oloron Sainte-Marie in Southern France.

The Arles route is one of several Chemin through France that eventually lead to the Pyrenees and into Spain.

Though the Camino Francais that takes you to Santiago is the most popular route, drawing thousands and thousands of walkers, you can walk from almost anywhere in Europe to Santiago where the remains of the prophet St. James are supposed to be buried.

20160201Caminomeeting 001AThe Arles route, GR 653, isn’t as popular as the Le Puy route that I took in 2013. Carroll said that he saw maybe ten to fifteen hikers a day while I must have bumped into almost a hundred.

Like me, Carroll stayed in gites (hostels) and some Bed and Breakfasts. Each gite was different and charming in its own way. He reported that the gites were clean, simple and most important, friendly. He loved picking and eating grapes along the way. It’s amazing that he didn’t get caught.

Carroll is known as the ageless adventurer because he just keeps going. At 86 years old, (yes, 86 – it’s not a typo), he walked up to 21 miles a day, with an average of 13 over 26 days. Like any real adventure, he had some challenges. He got lost. He found himself in tiny villages with only a can of sardines and a day-old roll for dinner. It was very hot when he first started in September.

“But whatever problem I had, I knew that people could help me out.” That’s the secret to Carroll’s success on the trail. He enjoys meeting people and they enjoy talking to him.

After a while, Carroll became “world-famous” on the trail. People would come up to him and ask:
“Are you the older guy?” “Are you Carroll?”

I wonder where Carroll will go this year.

The WNC chapter of the American Pilgrims meets the first Monday of the month. Come on out and dream!