This Hiking Life

I’m a hiker, hike leader and outdoor writer.

I blog abEdgy in Montreat Wildernessout my outdoor life, mostly in the Southern Appalachians and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina and our national parks.

I’m writing a book on visiting all the national parks in the Southeast – the battlefields, monuments, historic sites as well as the traditional national parks. My book, titled Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, will come out next year, 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

I’m involved in outdoor and conservation issues. I hope these blog notes will inspire you to go and explore the outdoors, wherever you are.

See my bio if you want to know more.

Hope to meet on the trail! Danny

Potluck: A book review

Potluck Final CoverAI first heard of the rendezvous between journalists from North Carolina and Tennessee at Clingmans Dome from Bernard Elias, photographer and hiker extraordinare.

I had the good fortune to interview Bernard  for the Carolina Mountain Club eNewletter when he was in his eighties . He recalled that when he was ten years old, the Asheville Times (the precursor of the Asheville Citizen-Times) organized a ten-day expedition into the Smokies. They took homing pigeons with them to bring back the news of their progress.

“I couldn’t wait for the paper to be delivered,” Bernard said. He followed this expedition daily.

In the book that bears its name, Marci Spencer tells the story of Potluck, the youngest and least experienced of the pigeons.

It seems that J.R. Horne, a local farmer, loaned his homing pigeon, Potluck, for the expedition. After the journalists shook hands across the stateline on Clingmans Dome, they released Potluck to carry their goodwill message home. Both states had come together in a spirit of friendship to protect their precious forests.

On the surface, the book looks like a children’t book. It has full color pictures and block writing, which should appeal to kids. But it’s also a book that adults will love, with historical information, including letters from the current Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Asheville Citizen-Times about the hiking journalists of 1929.

The pictures are more accurate and less fanciful than a traditional children’s book. It’s historical accurate. Memories from old timers and old photographs add a lot to the story. And as far as I know, it’s the only modern retelling of this event.

Marci Spencer is a retired nurse practitioner. As a certified NC Environmental Educator, she offers presentations in natural history for classrooms and community events. Raising ceremonial white doves (homing pigeons) to release at special events is a favorite hobby. Marci is author of Clingmans Dome: Highest Mountain in the Great Smokies and Pisgah National Forest: A History, both published by History Press.

The book is published by Grateful Steps and is $14.95.

NC Hunting Laws for Hikers

Hunting season on the MST
Hunting season on the MST

On October 1, that’s yesterday, North Carolina made it legal to hunt on Sunday, but only on private land. The main reason I’m writing this post is to dispel rumors and false beliefs about the new law. So hikers aren’t supposed to be on other people’s private land, anyhow, so no worries there.

Hunting is still illegal on public land on Sunday.

But hunting season is around the corner. So while I’m here, a recap of our hunting laws might be useful.

Hunting is not allowed

  •  The Appalachian Trail, though a National Scenic Trail, follows the laws of the managing agency, i.e. Pisgah National Forest, so you’ll have to pay attention there.
  • In state parks. So don’t worry about Mt. Mitchell State Park  or any other state park. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, though a state trail, doesn’t have that protection since it takes on the laws of the land it’s on, just like the A.T.
  • Dupont State Forest is a recreational forest, but it does allow hunting in a very limited area. You’ll see signs when you enter the hunting zone. Check out the website for all the rules and regs.

So where do you have to wear orange in Western North Carolina? Basically in national forests such as Pisgah National Forests and Nantahala National Forests.

When do you have to start worrying? Here’s the link to the dates on the NC Wildlife Resources Commission site.

For Western North Carolina, bear season is Oct 12 to Nov. 21 and Dec 14 to Jan 1.

Deer season has three types of weapons

  1.  Archery Oct 11 to Nov 22
  2. Black powder Sept 28 to Oct 10
  3. Nov 23 to Dec 12

If those dates are too complicated, remember that bear or deer season lasts until January 1, but not on Sunday.

Warrior Hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Postponed to Oct. 24

Sunrise at Cape Hatteras
Sunrise at Cape Hatteras



On Saturday, October 3, I’ll be speaking at a fundraiser in Brevard for Warrior Hikers.

Here’s a little synopsis of the Warrior Hike program:

In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II. Four months later, Earl Shaffer became the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Following in Earl Shaffer’s footsteps and in recognizing the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking, Warrior Hike has created the “Walk Off The War” Program which is designed to support combat veterans transitioning from their military service by thru-hiking America’s National Scenic Trails.

But now, the program isn’t just about the A.T. They have several trails including the Arizona Trail, the Ice Age Trail and the Florida Trail.

Next year, they will include the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina.  It looks like new trails aren’t added all that often. The Warrior Hike organization provides logistical support as well as other help. So including the MST is a big deal.

The fundraising event will be on Saturday from 2 pm to 8 pm, featuring bands, beer and barbecue — and me.  It’s at Atagahi Park, in the Connestee Falls estates. Just getting in to see these falls is probably worth the price of admission.

Again, see all the details here.

Everest – the Movie

Not on Mt. Everest

A few days ago, I went to see Everest, a gripping film about the 1996 climbing disaster.

Eight climbers died in two days when an unexpected blizzard came in. At the time, the events held me spell bound. I read and watched everything about it. The book at the time was Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, still one of my favorite books of all times.

You don’t have to have remembered the incident to find the movie fascinating. It was the beginning of commercialization of mountain climbing. Companies like those owned by Rob Hall of New Zealand and Scott Fisher of the United States took anyone they saw fit on the mountain. A quick scene shows a guide teaching his clients how to put on crampons. Most hadn’t had climbing experience; they were “treadmill fit.”

The preparations and life at Everest base camp are well depicted. They show the acclimatization (even the word is hard to write and say) climbs, the partying, and the packing of oxygen tanks. The doctor gives a lecture, where she says that people are not meant to climb this high.

Professional reviews stress the beauty of the filming in 3D over the human aspects but they are wrong. Sure, Keira Knightley plays the teary pregnant wife back in New Zealand. But the struggle of the clients and leaders against the mountain are heart-breaking. They made mistakes in an environment that allows for none. And they never used the word “issue” when they had a problem.

But it’s the cold that seemed so visceral to me.

Like many others, inquiries about climbing shot up. Even I looked into what it meant to attempt to reach the top. Hah! Two years later, I completed the Appalachian Trail, a much-more achievable goal.

Panoramic Photographs at the Sevierville Visitor Center

Stan Jorstad photographs
Stan Jorstad photographs

I feel like I’ve just discovered something that everyone else has known for years. Tucked away in a corridor inSevierville, TN, there are wonderful pictures of our national parks by Stan Jorstad, a leader in panoramic photography.

Now notice that I didn’t say “hidden away” or that it’s a secret that I’ve just uncovered.

I don’t want to be like that joker who said that he just discovered the abandoned houses in Elkmont. And the mainstream media jumped on it.

No, anyone can admire these Jorstad photos for free, without being a national park insider. The exhibit is at the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) visitor center in Kodak, Tennessee on TN 66 (3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway, 1.25 miles from Interstate Exit 407). The GSMA visitor center and bookstore shares space with the Sevier County Visitor Center on one side of the building.

The twenty-four panoramic photographs are hung in the hallway between those two organizations. They were at the Sugarlands visitor center before that, but I didn’t pay attention, then.

Bears at a GSMA visitor center
Bears at a GSMA visitor center

Jorstad was friends with Ansel Adams and Elliot Porter. He was the first professional photographer to capture the breathtaking beauty of every one of our national parks. How lucky we are to have those, but I wonder how many people have seen them.

I love to discover something like this, tucked away and hiding in plain sight. I had been to all the GSMA visitor centers but I went to the one in Sevierville, years ago before I was on the board of directors and before I really paid attention to what was in these spaces.

So go to the GSMA visitor center. Buy a bear or a book and take the time to look at the Jorstad photographs. If you’ve seen the pictures, let me know.