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

The Vatican is Awesome

That's Italian
That’s Italian

What are the three most popular Italian words?

According to Simone, our Vatican guide, these are Mafia, bankrupt (doesn’t sound too Italian) and nepotism.

We’re doing the standard tourist activities in Rome because we’re tourists. Today was the Vatican. We booked a tour with Rome Walks to avoid the long lines and to get more understanding than we could get you reading signs in broken English. You won’t get a history of the Vatican here …. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Over 2,500 years of Roman history can’t be told in one blog, especially one tapped out on an iPad. So be tolerant of mistakes.

We meet Simone at 9 am and he guides us through the Vatican Museums. When you visit the Vatican, you’re in the museums – marble busts, Flemish tapestries, sculptures of animals, and frescos. These galleries were apartments for various popes from the 1400s to the 1800s. About 800 people live in the Vatican, the smallest country in the world. But no one invited us to the current pope’s residence. We’re part of a very orderly crowd.


Finally the Sistine Chapel. No photos, no talking… and a lot of other rules. I sit quietly thigh to thigh next to others. People are looking at books, iPads and phones.  I try to take in all the images but I can’t absorb most of it. Some women came in with bare arms. Now they’re covering themselves with paper cloaks. Desperate guards yell Silencio.

It’s once in a lifetime experience. Imagine what it’s like for believers.

My feet are dead and I need them for tomorrow.

oh yes, nepotism.  The popes didn’t have official descendants. So they appointed nephews as cardinals. Nephew, nepotism.

p.s. I hope to get some comments on the blog because blogging on an iPad is very time consuming.



Rome is overwhelming

First day in Rome and I already feel overwhelmed.

Will the train ticket machine accept my new Visa credit card? Yes and it didn’t even ask for my PIN number?

Where do we pick up the bus to get to our hotel? We find the right bus number.  The instructions say that it ‘s the ninth stop. I hoped we counted right. More back and forth until we find the right street, the right piazza and then the right hotel. The elevator doesn’t work so up we climb.

This afternoon, we concentrated on setting up for our trip. First a phone. When I was in France, I installed a European SIM card  in my iPhone and got all sorts of messages I couldn’t understand. Same thing here when I bought a new phone but these are in Italian. Still I managed to make and receive a test phone call. The phone is an insurance plan, in case we get lost on the trail. If we never use it, the trip will have been a success.

Then my eternal search for a post office. I love to send post cards. What a great surprise to find a card with foreign stamps in your mail post! At the post office, I get a number and wait and wait while Italians transact important business that I can’t understand. I ask for ten post card stamps for America. I have bought the postcards and point to the stamp corner. The clerk understand. I’am not prepared for the cost. 2.59 euros for a postcard stamp to the u.s


Friends of the Smokies – Lake Shore Trail

Road to Nowhere
Road to Nowhere

Everyone who hikes around Western North Carolina has heard of the Lake Shore Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but few know where it is or how to get here.  Most also refer to the Road to Nowhere. No wonder that 28 hikers showed up to hike the Lake Shore Trail outside of Bryson City today.

20150512FOTSRoadtonowheresignAThis area is very historic, history that is still going on today. See my article on a recap of the situation.

I told the story of Fontana Dam and people having to move out in several pieces. If I told it all at once, no one would have been interested in hiking.

We reached the first historic artifact outside the park. If you look at a picture of this billboard in 2010, you’ll see that they spruced up the sign and in the meantime, put a random dash in No-Where. From the entrance to the park, it is six miles to the famous tunnel to “nowhere”. The pavement stops after going through the the tunnel and you’re on trail.

Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

Lakeshore Trail was just lined with mountain laurel. No picture does justice to the large bushes hanging heavy with pink blossoms. This is not an area lush with wild flowers but the mountain laurel made up for it.

We had lunch on Forney Creek Trail at Campsite #74. Holly Demuth of Friends of the Smokies talked about a Leave No Trace program for horse riders that is funded by FOTS.

But where is the lake on the Lakeshore Trail? Not very visible, unfortunately. But we made up for it by climbing to the Woody Cemetery. See the pictures on my scouting blog.

This is a hike that we’ll do over again eventually. No one gets tired of it and there’s always something new.



Greensboro North Carolina, then and now

I first went to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in December 2010 on my way to walk a stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I went back a couple of times but I never stopped in downtown Greensboro until last week.

ScuppernongbookstoreOn Thursday, I took a detour in downtown Greensboro on my way to Raleigh and a Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail board meeting. This time, I wanted to visit Scuppernong bookstore and see if it would be suitable for a book signing, next year. It’s a lovely independent bookstore with lots of book events. The coffee is pretty good as well.

I also walked the several blocks of downtown, past restaurants, and shops. Then I passed a long building with a Woolworth sign on top.

Of course! This is the site of the famous sit-ins, now a museum.

Greensborowoolworthcounter Here’s a quick synopsis from the Smithsonian website.

On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their passive resistance and peaceful sit-down demand helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South.

In 1960, I was in high school in Brooklyn. Of course, I read about this sit-in and many more but now I was face to face with the building. Completely coincidentally, I’reading a non-fiction narrative No Place Like Home by Gary Younge. The author is a Black British journalist who came to the U.S. in the late 1990s to retrace the Freedom Riders.

Younge goes to Greensboro and finds the Woolworth building but then, it was only a closed storefront. He spends a couple of days in Greensboro, then goes to Charlotte to talk to Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four. Younge now is based in Chicago, reporting for the Guardian. The book is fascinating in its contrast between the position of African-Americans in the United States and Black Brits. It’s also very funny. I’m going to look up his other books.