This Hiking Life Blog
This Hiking Life is a mix of my hiking trips in the Southern Appalachians, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and recently, Le Chemin de St. Jacques. It also discusses outdoor and conservation issues. I hope these blog notes will inspire you to go and explore the mountains of North and South Carolina and beyond. Hope to meet on the trail! Danny
Yesterday (Sunday December 8), both scheduled hikes on the Carolina Mountain Club schedule were cancelled. Or to be more specific, the leaders of each hike, after careful consideration of the weather forecast and the location of the hikes, decided to cancel. There's no central committee that decides if a hike should be canceled. I'm sure that it wasn't an easy decision for either of them.
A hike leader for any organization gives back to the group by offering to lead a group into the woods. There's much more than just showing up on the day of the hike.
* A CMC member commits to leading a hike far in advance. For example, two months ago, I committed to lead a hike on Saturday March 29, 2014. It may be "show and go" for the participants but not for the leader. We put out a hike schedule, print it in Let's Go and publish it on the web. People outside the area plan their visits to Western North Carolina, partly based on our hiking schedule.
* The leader must get the appropriate map and scout the hike. Sometimes, as it happened on Lenny's Rough Creek Watershed, the hike needs to be scouted more than once. Other times, leaders create a new hike by exploring the park or forest before they even volunteer to lead.
* A week or so before the hike, a leader may get questions from newbies. What is the hike like? Can I do it? Where is the second meeting point? And my least favorite-when will we get back? My answer to that is always "My job is to get you back to the car before it's dark."
* I look at the weather obsessively for a few days before the hike. If it's a warm weather hike, I'll go regardless of the weather. Rain in June doesn't bother me. Rain in December when it's 40 degrees is a different story. Someone could get hypothermia.
* On the day of the hike, I show up at all meeting points. I greet everyone, help them meet others and into car pools, and explain the rules and regs. Even if everyone is experienced, I follow the same rituals: introductions of the group, remind them about contributing to the driver's gas and appoint a sweep.
* Once on the hike, I make sure that everyone is keeping up. A leader must have followers. I schedule trail and snack breaks. We have lunch at a scenic spot. I let people know a little of where they are. Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Dupont State Forest... The public land that we're walking on always belongs to some entity.
* When we get back to our cars, I realize that I've promised two people a map, three some information on a vacation and that I've learned about several new places to hike. This is the payoff of group hiking, the friends and connections I make.
* At home, I mail back the signup sheet and write a hike report.
Did I make this sound too difficult? I hope not. Without hike leaders, we wouldn't have a hiking club.
Third place again?
For the third year, I've entered the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail photo contest. For the third year, I've won third price.
I should be thrilled. The pictures entered were very good. You can see them all on this site.
But the expression "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" doesn't even apply to me. I'm the cousin once removed that they have to invite.
It's an impressive set of judges. So I'm glad I got third place and a gift certificate from Great Outdoor Provision.
My 2013 winning picture, above, is of Sharon crossing Deep Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In this photo, I've already crossed the stream in my boots. She's taken off her boots and is crossing with crocs on. We're in deep, deep forest, in a section not frequented much by the average visitor.
I think that's how I get my winning picture. I'm on the MST, far from a road. Maybe they're impressed that I'm even out there.
The picture on the far right is my third place winner in 2012. Lenny is hard at work on cleaning up waterbars on the MST located on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In 2011, I submitted this picture of a man I stumbled on at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is in Cape Hatteras National Seashore but doesn't allow cars on the beach. So he didn't think that anyone would be there. And here Sharon and I come walking up to him.
I don't do cute. I win on quirky.
I'll probably enter the contest next year. How can I improve my chances? How can I move up to, maybe, second place?
Think about entering next year's contest. If I can place, anyone has a chance.
The Montreat Wilderness offers 30 miles of trail so close to Asheville. The Montreat community has wisely permanently protected 2,500 acres of land, which will never be developed.
Yesterday I led a hike for Carolina Mountain Club that took in five of the seven sisters (peaks) and Graybeard Mountain. Eleven eager hikers came for the challenge. It was a beautiful warm day and I wore shorts. Yippee!!
Pine Mountain loop was billed as a strenuous hike, and for once, I agreed--9.5 miles and over 2,500 foot ascent. The climb came all at once in the first half of the hike. No matter where you go in Montreat, you have to climb out of the valley. I was concerned that with the short days, we wouldn't make it back before dark. Montreat is a great hiking area in the fall and winter, but was this hike too challenging for the short days?
Big Piney Ridge Trail took us from the Montreat residential areas to Big Piney, also known as Brushy Knob. The picture above was taken on the rock outcrop just before Brushy Knob. By then, we had climbed over 1,000 feet and were ready for a break.
Then we went up and down several times on the West Ridge Trail. The North Fork Reservoir was in full view below in several spots; that's where Asheville gets its water.
The seven peaks are known as the Seven Sisters. Because of the way we approached West Ridge Trail, we only did five of them--Big Piney, Unnamed peak, Forked Ridge Knob, unnamed peak, Big Slaty. But the numbering of the peaks was messed up. Big Piney was #4, then the Unnamed one was #3, and back to #5 for Forked Ridge Knob. And why unnamed peaks? Aren't there enough people and groups to honor? I suggest that they name the second unnamed peak at 4,830 feet, CMC Knob.
Graybeard Mountain, at 5,408 feet, is not one of the seven sisters. Maybe it's the benevolent mother. After we left Graybeard, it was down, down, down. We passed Walker Knob Shelter and asked who Walker was. We took the side trip to Graybeard Falls, really a cascade and enjoyed the new switchbacks down the mountain.
To my amazement and delight, we got back to the cars before 4 pm, in plenty of daylight.
Thank you, Montreat Conference Center, for allowing the public to hike on your great trails.
This coming Tuesday, December 3, is the second Giving Tuesday.
The day came to me as a surprise last year and, I confess, this year as well. The idea is this is the time to give time or money to your favorite non-profit. There are many, many worthwhile charitable organizations.
On Thursday, we cooked, ate and gave thanks and spoke of gratitude. Some skipped that whole thing and just went shopping. Remember that the stores wouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving day if shoppers weren’t willing to shop.
Shopping continued on Black Friday for shopping, mostly at the mall. This year, so much of Black Friday started on Thursday. I hope you got all you wanted at the big box stores.
We haven’t heard much of Local Saturday this year but it’s a great idea. Shop local!
Monday is CyberMonday. This dates back to the time when speedy internet access was only available in the office. Probably not relevant any more.
But Tuesday is the time that we give to others and support non profit organizations. We can give either time or money or obviously both. Don’t have time to plan on volunteering? Write a check or give on online.
Several outdoor organizations are worthy of our support.
Carolina Mountain Club - My local hiking club and the largest hiking club in Asheville
Friends of the Smokies - Which assists Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail - Which champions the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina
And many others as well. Which organization are you going to support?
PS nothing designated for Sunday. Maybe you're supposed to go hiking.
As I prepare for my talk on Le Chemin de St. Jacques (Monday Dec. 2 at REI/Asheville), people keep asking me what my next adventure will be. Without getting too philosophical, I ask "what is an adventure?" Is it a project, a trip, a goal out of the ordinary? Is it achieving something that most people haven't done? Or is it a goal that may not be reachable?
Whether it's the Appalachian Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, or Le Chemin de St. Jacques, my adventures require time and persistence much more than physical strength or skill. So with my next project--visiting all the park units in the Southeast by 2016. The year, 2016, is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
Park units include much more than just national parks. It's battlefields, monuments, seashores and everything else under NPS administration. Why the Southeast? That's where I live and where I want to understand my environment. It's also my next step to becoming a Southerner.
I'm not starting from scratch. I created a list of all the NPS units in the Southeast, as defined by the National Park Service. If a park unit spans more than one state, I only counted it one. The states include:
Alabama - 5 units
Florida - 11 units
Georgia - 11 units, including the Appalachian Trail. Yes, scenic trails count
Kentucky - 3 units
Louisiana - 4 units
Mississippi - 6 units including the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
North Carolina - 10 units including the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
Puerto Rico - 1
South Carolina - 6
Tennessee - 7
Virgin Islands - 5
That makes 69 units, of which I've visited 39 units over the years.
What do I mean by "visiting"? How much time and effort do I spend on each one? That might be a subject of another blog post.
The first time we hiked it, the Cherry Cove Trail, the only trail off the old roads, was completely overgrown. I blogged about it. I also found a Friends of the Rough Creek Watershed group on Facebook. With the wonders of Facebook, I shared my blog on their page.
A wonderful conversation ensued that you can read as comments on my last blog. But the bottom line is that the group went out and cleaned up the trail. Dave Tate, the leader of the group, wrote:
On 11/16/13, six volunteers spent 5 hours clearing 26 trees from blocking the trail, and weedeating all of the undergrowth on the trail. The trail is in great shape & should provide a stellar hike for your Dec. 1st hike!
And he was right. Look at the pictures of the great trail. Lenny is pointing to the fresh cuts.
Even more important to me, the maintenance group cleared Cherry Cove Trail of weeds and bramble. They may have even added a few new "red paw" blazes. It was now a pleasure to walk through. Thank you!
We followed Cherry Cove Trail up to the magnificent views and back down. See the photo above.
I had done this hike several years before. At the time, I remembered that we made a longer loop but I have a feeling that we were on a private road. This time, we had no doubt that the road through a subdivision, called The Glades, was private. Even so, we could see several mid-size houses on large lots. A quick web search revealed that they sold for about $300,000.
Have no fear, Glade residents. We have no desire or need to walk on your private road. In Western North Carolina, we're blessed to have thousands of miles of public trails.
Come and see the beautiful trail on Sunday December 1. If you're not a member, you need to contact the leader by going on the CMC website and looking at the hike schedule.
Again, thank you to Friends of the Rough Creek Watershed. You are friends, indeed.
What a beautiful November day to hike the Lake Shore Trail loop out of Bryson City in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a Friends of the Smokies group. OK. Most of us know it as the "Road to Nowhere" hike but we try to use the same terminology as the park.
Sixteen hikers went through the tunnel and walked about nine miles through pretty recent history. Most of the hikers had never been to this section of the park and I was thrilled to introduce them to such a historic and relevant place. I gave hikers an outline of the history of the North Shore Road saga. You can write a book and a PhD dissertation of the subject and I'm surprised that I haven't heard of anyone doing either, yet.
You don't really see Fontana Lake on this hike but you walk along Forney Creek for a while. This was also our lunch spot. We sat on the bridge talking and exchanging information about previous hikes and future dream trips. Our Friends hikers are a wealth of knowledge on traveling.
I was in front most of the time but I always let faster hikers go ahead of me and ask them to stop at every intersection.
Brent, the AmeriCorps Outreach Associate, working at Friends of the Smokies, and later, Gracia, took turns being sweep which means they stay in the back with the slower hikers. Thank you for sweeping.
The highlight for me was taking the group to the Woody Cemetery. We saw some evidence of Decoration Days and climbed the short but steep trail to a large cemetery. Only one headstone says "Woody" so we speculated as to why it's call the "Woody Cemetery". Maybe a Woody donated the land for the cemetery or maybe a Woody was the first person to be buried here.
The descendants are raising money to identify and place new headstones on the graves of almost forgotten people. Here are headstones waiting to be placed in the right spots.
After the hike, we congregated at Mountain Perks for a well-deserved hot drink. We feel it's important to support local businesses. Usually I introduce us as a Friends of the Smokies group. Unfortunately the young man making the drinks wasn't really interested in socializing. Holly Demuth came to meet the hikers and we enjoyed our drink.
December 17 Hike
Our next hike will be on Tuesday December 17. We'll walk the Old Sugarland Trail (Yes, in Tennessee) and pass through a CCC camp on our way to a cemetery. Then we'll shop local at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
To sign up, please contact Friends’ Waynesville, NC office at (828) 452-0720 or email Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last National Park for the weekend.
We headed to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Marietta, Georgia, 20 miles north of Atlanta. The park is the site of a Civil War battle on June 27, 1864. General Sherman attacked the Confederates on his way to capture Atlanta. Though the battle itself could be called a stale mate, Sherman's troops got closer and closer to Atlanta and finally entered the city on September 2, 1864. So Kennesaw was a decisive battle. But there's a lot more to Kennesaw.
The park is really in the Atlanta suburbs, and that's both good and bad. Though we stayed only ten minutes from the park the night before, we crawled through rush hour traffic, only to misread the sign and miss the turn to the visitor center--bad. When we turned around and had to make a left turn, polite and kind drivers let us in line--good.
The visitor center was supposed to open at 8:30 am according to the web but didn't open until 9 am.
So we climbed the mile up to Kennesaw Mountain and saw the suburbs below. See the photograph above.
We were joined by runners, walkers and dog walkers who probably had never gone into the visitor center. The fall colors were at their best on the way up. It was sunny and bright and we probably didn't want to go back into the visitor center.
We then toured Camp Brumby, a Civilian Conservation Corps site. The CCC boys built most of the 18 miles of trail in the park. The site became a park after 1935. Neither the ranger at the desk or the website seems to have a definitive date. That was disappointing.
The visitor center exhibits are almost all about the Civil War. But it recognizes that visitors come to run, walk and bird.
It displays three shoes: the Creek moccasin, the Jefferson Bootees for infantry men and last, the modern running sneaker. There's also a display of energy foods for these three groups.
Home now and back into the Smokies tomorrow.
Having gotten fully depressed at Andersonville National Historic Site, we moved north to Macon, Georgia to visit Ocmulgee National Monument. Ocmulgee means bubbling water.
Ocmulgee is the site of ten Indian mounds. That's what you can see but the area has evidence of people living here for 10,000 years. The earthlodge that was part of the Mississippian way of life (Mississippian Indians, that is) has been reconstructed but still has the original floor dating from a thousand years ago. It has been recreated so visitors can see the floor and seats around the perimeter. You can go in on your own or a ranger will give you a tour. Amazing!
The site has over six miles of trail which takes you to other mounds including the Funeral Mound. The trails also lead to a boardwalk and the banks of the Ocmulgee River. On the way, you pass swamp areas which attracts birds and otters, though we saw neither today.
What is also amazing is how few people we saw. The site is in the city of Macon with over 155,000 people. Where was everyone on a warm Sunday? Why weren't they walking the trails or exploring the mounds?
The visitor center is new and beautiful. Many of the exhibits on the archeology and the prehistoric people made me feel like I had learned this stuff in school but didn't remember it. So here goes:
Paleo-Indians Pre-9000 BCE
Archaic 9000 to 1000 BCE
Early and late Mississippians 900 to 1350
Then the Creek Indians who were eventually removed to Oklahoma.
But along with all this archeology and history, the visitor center threw in a food pyramid, comparing the foods we eat with the foods of the Mississippians. They point out that the Mississippians exercised for one to ten hours a day. So go walk a trail. They're short and flat.
We got there at 9 am when the park opened and we had the visitor center and the two rangers to ourselves. We toured the Earthlodge with a ranger, just the two of us. After exploring the trails, we came back with more questions. Although we did see a few people on the trail, the park was empty.
I left some money in the collection box, the equivalent of paying an entrance fee. We spent almost six hours in the park. When we left and said good bye to the ranger, he gave us each a Junior Ranger badge. He felt we had earned it. Amazing!
Andersonville National Historic Site in SW Georgia obviously didn't depress me enough yesterday. We went back today. Actually we went back because we had just scratched the surface; I have guidelines on how I see a national park unit.
If any one wanted to know what fun things we did on my birthday weekend (very belated birthday celebration), I can say that we went to a prisoner of war camp and a cemetery. We walked through the stockade that held more than 32,000 captured Union soldiers in 1864.
The signs, literature and plaques just hammered us about the terrible conditions in the camp. There was little food, water, sanitation or shelter. Over 12,000 men died in Andersonville. It was so bad that the Confederate Captain Henry Wirz was tried and hung in Washington for the way the prisoners were treated.
To prevent prisoners from escaping, the guards had created a line a couple of feet inside the stockade fence called the deadline. If anyone went past the deadline, he would be shot. Let's remember that original definition when someone complains about having to meet a deadline at work or school.
The camp wasn't depressing enough. We then went to the cemetery which holds the men who died in Andersonville plus more recent deaths. Andersonville is one of two National Park cemeteries that is still open, i.e. still buries veterans. Some graves are as fresh as last month.
After a picnic lunch, we headed north to Macon for another national park unit tomorrow. We had an hour to walk around downtown Macon, also preoccupied by the Civil War. But we also enjoyed a cup of coffee and a walk around the gallery at Taste and See, a modern downtown coffee shop.
I've only spent two hours at Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia but I'm already depressed. This is the site of the largest Confederate military prison during the Civil War.
The visitor center also houses the National Prisoner of War Museum. There have been POWs from time immemorial and the museum wants to give you a feeling of what it was like to be a POW. Former POWs of mostly the Vietnam war, Korea and WW II talk about how they survived. I walk through the gallery as if I was a POW. Rifles come out of the wall pointing at me. Lots of pictures of POWs and their families adorn the wall. And all of this before I've even gone to visit the prison site or the cemetery. That's tomorrow.
The closest "big" town is Americus, only 15,000 people.
But it is the international headquarters of Habitat for Humanity. The successful nonprofit was started by a couple who had lived in an intentional community around here, way before intentional communities were popular. Because Americus is only ten miles from Plains, GA, the home of Jimmy Carter, it made sense to ask him to become active in the charity.
More of Andersonville tomorrow.
I've been home for over three weeks, written three articles on Le Chemin de St. Jacques across France for National Parks Traveler and preparing for a presentation on my trek. It was time to rewatch The Way with Martin Sheen.
The movie brought fame and people to the El Camino de Santiago. What the movie didn't say is that you can walk it anyplace in Europe--and I chose to walk the French part. But still, having done a 440-mile pilgrimage, I thought it would be useful to see the movie again.
Coincidentally, the movie opened in France just as I was starting my trek at Le Puy. People were excited about it because it starts in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, the foothills of the French Pyrenees. And the movie crew did go on location in France. I recognized the train station and streets.
You can nitpick the way they portrayed middle-age hikers.
Tom, played by Martin Sheen, walks most of the trek with a woman and two men. All three smoked. On my French trek, I met only one man who smoked. Tom wore his dead son's backpack and presumably his boots. How did that all fit perfectly?I spent hours at Diamond Brand trying on packs and boots. But enough nitpicking.
The albergue in Spain where pilgrims stay were like gites on steroid. The largest gite I stayed in had about 30 beds in several rooms. The albergues were more like the large huts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Rows and rows of beds at two level.
One scene shows the four pilgrims walking through a vineyard, each picking out a row. Only Joost, the fat Dutchman, eats grapes out of hand. Are they kidding? Everyone would be gulping down the wonderful wine grapes.
But the biggest difference were the loud intellectual discussions. They discussed medieval history and Basque heritage at the dinner table. In France, we talked about food and wine (well, it was France) and why we're doing the Chemin. Also, there was much more discussion of religion. Maybe it's because the Spanish El Camino ends at the Cathedral of Santiago, where the remains of St. James, the apostle, are supposed to be buried.
I'll be giving a presentation at REI Asheville on Monday Dec. 2 at 7 pm. It's free but you have to sign up.
This movie inspired me to work on a web page on Le Chemin de St. Jacques. Check it out.
Burrs in my bra, twigs in my trousers.
That's what I picked out after a day at Rough Creek in the Canton Watershed. Lenny and I were scouting his hike for Carolina Mountain Club. The general plan was to go up the road and eventually up to Cherry Cove Trail. It had been a long time since we hiked Rough Creek and our knowledge was spotty.
The Rough Creek area had been Canton's watershed in the early 1900s. When it became too small for that purpose, the area was logged. It almost became a nuclear waste dump site by the US Department of Energy in the mid-1980's. These plans were halted when citizens from the area took samples of Rough Creek's water to Washington, showing the creek water's cleanliness and purity. It's now been put under conservation easement through Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
Protecting the land is one thing. Maintaining the trails is another.
After the second intersection, we continued up the left side of the trail. We climbed a steep overgrown bank and started clipping. After a short while and a few hundred feet up, we decided that we weren't on a trail; we were creating a trail. We turned around and went back down to the second turn and continued on the road. That was easy walking in the sunshine. Why couldn't we just continue on the road?
The map in the CMC database showed that we should take Cherry Cove Trail. Up we went. First the trail was even blazed with a red paw. See above. That was encouraging.
But after maybe less than a mile, the trail became overgrown with briars, brambles and blackberry stalks. But we were on a trail; we were sure of that. So we kept clipping even while I was being pricked by briars. I swallowed some clipping dust and started coughing. Even if we could go through this mess, would other hikers follow us?
Back down we went. We continued on the road loop. Just doing the loop road would not be an all-day hike. So Lenny came up with another plan. But it means another scouting trip.
The CMC hike is scheduled for Sunday Dec 1, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We'll have it all figured out by then. So plan to come and explore the Canton Watershed.
If you live in Western North Carolina, you've come across so many natural features called pigeon: Pigeon Gorge, Pigeon River, Pigeon Forge (OK, that's in Tennessee). All those places were named after the passenger pigeon.
This is not your ordinary street pigeon that you see everywhere underfoot.
The story of the passenger pigeon is unlike that of any other bird. With a likely population between 3 and 5 billion, it was the most abundant bird in North America and probably the world. Yet human exploitation drove this species to extinction over the course of a few decades. Hunters shot it to extinction, claiming that it was a pest which ate their crops. That was probably true as well.
Here's what John Jay Audubon said about the passenger pigeon"
The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse, the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose."...
But by 1914, the bird was extinct. The last bird had died. 2014 marks the centenary of this extraordinary extinction. An organization called Project Passenger Pigeon wants us to remember the pigeon and use it as a lesson in species survival and encourage biodiversity.
I learned about the exact date of the passing of the passenger pigeon at a Great Smoky Mountains Association meeting yesterday. GSMA manages the bookstores in and around the National Park. They want to offer something that will bring awareness to this extinction-a plush toy, maybe. I don't know how that will compete with the bears in various sizes that all the Smokies Stores have.
But you can't just forget about this pigeon. We have all these features in our area that keep reminding us that one hundred years ago, we still had passenger pigeons.
Admit it! You've always wanted to work for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They protect and maintain the 2,180 miles of the A.T. So the job isn't all hiking. But who knows. You might get on the trail and get paid for it. Here's your chance.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy's southern regional office is seeking a new Office Administrator. Click for the job description. It won't last long. The closing date is November 19th. If interested in applying, send your resume and a cover letter to email@example.com
Why don't the French gain weight? Some observations from my recent walk on Le Chemin de St. Jacques.
For years, the media has discussed why French people and particularly French women don't get fat. Careers have been made by writing books on this topic. There are lots of theories, mostly having to do with small portions and not eating between meals.
First we have to separate losing weight from not getting fat in the first place. Losing weight is hard and complicated. Not getting fat is easy but requires constant vigilance. I weigh myself every week; if I've gained more than two pounds, I cut back on food and add more exercise.
Too much emphasis is put on losing weight; I've not seen much effort in the media in staying at the right weight. When people talk about the French staying thin, they mean staying at the right weight all their lives.
Here's what I've observed.
While walking Le Chemin de St. Jacques, I had the opportunity to observe the French in action, so to speak.
Forget the Mediterranean diet we've heard so much about. Not in Southwestern France. Maybe it exists in Italy or Greece but here the food was heavy, meat-based with potatoes. Remember where French fries come from!
But everybody has to walk. When I walked through small villages, I noticed so many people walking to do their every day chores. Older people who live in the small villages are less likely to have a car. They may never have learned to drive. Old people go to the shops with a shopping bag in one hand and a crutch or cane in the other. They have to go every day because they can't carry much. In the U.S., these old folks would be considered disabled and have a scooter. I didn't see one mobility scooter, just a few conventional wheelchairs.
French bread is designed to be soggy after a few hours. More reason to go back to the shops.
Then these same old people have to walk to the garbage cans. In most villages, the garbage and recycling bins are located in one spot and there's no home garbage pick up.
These same people garden every day. They're watching their euro cents and grow tomatoes and other vegetables. Yes, they have to bend down, using their canes to right them up.
Even with a car, it is so difficult to park in front of stores or churches. I didn't see one drive-through, either for an ATM or fast food. In contrast, my local bank in Asheville only has drive-through ATMS, no walk-up on the outside of the building.
Yes, the French also smoke more.
When I got to Marseille, the second largest city in France, I stayed in a room in an old condo on the fifth floor. The building didn't have an elevator. Imagine trying to advertise a room on the fifth floor to Americans.
Catherine, the apartment owner, was a woman in her late fifties and thin. She was a teacher. On weekends, she went to the food markets with her shopping cart and carried her purchases up the stairs. Only one floor below, I met a couple with two small children who must have gone up and down the stairs numerous times a day.
That's how the French stay thin. Losing weight is a whole different topic, which I'll leave to the experts.
I spent Halloween in a cemetery. Brent, the Friends of the Smokies intern, and I scouted the Old Sugarlands Trail for the December 17 hike. Yes, the hike is on the Tennessee side of the park but Classic Hikes of North Carolina decided to venture out over the mountain. We chose this hike because it was simple, had lots of artifacts and will allow us to shop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center store.
The colors were at their peak--but I always say that. Sourwood trees showed off their best reds. Frazer magnolias had a perfect shade of yellow. We weren't just looking at the colors; we were in the colors.
As we turned right off the main trail to find the cemetery, we bumped into a group of seventh graders from a Gatlinburg school, along with their teachers and leaders in Parks as Classroom program. This particular program is sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association. Teachers bring their classrooms to the park to do cultural or natural history studies. Today, they were speaking of burial customs in the park--very appropriate for Halloween.
Brent and I spoke to Judy, a teacher, about the students today. She said that many children living in Gatlinburg has never been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The school has to take them. She also apologized for the noise.
"I'm delighted to have people on the trail--no problem," I said.
"Do you have ancestors buried here?" Judy asked. Both Brent and I assured her that we didn't.
But we did meet a man who found his great grandfather, A.F. McCarter (1887-1920). The visitors traveled from Northern Illinois and had never been to the Smokies before. He was ecstatic.
As I walked around and found a Parton relative, I mused on how the Smokies cemeteries differed from the ones I saw in France. I know that the French cemeteries are Catholic and here, we're looking at Baptist and Methodist cemeteries. Can you guess which is which below?
Most of these children searching for clues on gravestones probably didn't have a clue why we celebrate Halloween. It's the day before All Saints Day, mostly again a Catholic holiday.
The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on the Lake Shore Trail on Tuesday November 19. Sign up with Brent at 828-452-0720.
Yesterday Lenny and I scouted my Carolina Mountain Club hike in Dupont State Recreational Forest. We did one of my favorite hikes in the forest with five waterfalls (Hooker, Wintergreen, Grassy Ridge, High Falls and Triple Falls) and two cemeteries.
First the forest has been upgraded to a "recreational forest". I assume that this means that it's being managed somewhere in between a state park with its soft-core amenities and a state forest with its emphasis on logging and hunting.
The waterfalls are still there, falling as hard as ever but there's always something new.
After Hooker Falls, we walked to the Moore Cemetery. What is it so neglected? The weeds need to be cut down. Now they're obscuring the grave stones. Most of Dupont is taken care of by volunteers. Maybe they figured that most visitors aren't going to go there.
We continued on our walk and found this memorial table about half-way through the hike. The top of the table has a large plaque to "Murray Claydon 1927-2012". A web search gave me the impression that Murray was a long-time volunteer.
After Triple Falls, we walked back to our car. Instead of walking on the road as usual, we were able to cross Little River on a beautiful new foot bridge. See above.
So no pictures of waterfalls this time. Want to see the five waterfalls? I'll be leading this hike on Sunday November 25. See the Carolina Mountain Club hike schedule for details.
Wave goodbye to the last glimpse of fall color and make some room to pack on those Thanksgiving pounds with November’s Classic Hike of the Smokies, sponsored by Wells Fargo. Join Friends of the Smokies on Tuesday, November 19th for a hike along Lakeshore Trail.
I created this loop a while back to show off the Lakeshore Trail, the tunnel (yes, the Tunnel to Nowhere), Forney Creek and the Woody Cemetery. The hike is moderate (9.5 mile hike with 1,350 feet of ascent).
To register for this hike or any of the Classic Hikes held on the third Tuesday of each month, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-452-0720. For a complete list of hikes offered by Friends of the Smokies, visit friendsofthesmokies.org.
It's time to enter the annual Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail photo contest. Yikes, the deadline is Thursday October 31, around the corner. FMST is offering real cash prizes and gift cards for outdoor gear. But best is to show off your hikes on the MST.
In Western North Carolina, we're blessed with over 300 miles of trail in the mountains. But remember that the trail starts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and now has over 50 miles in the park. So all those shots you have of Deep Creek, Clingmans Dome, Enloe Creek would make wonderful entries.Photos will be judged in three categories by a panel of three prominent judges:
- The View from the Trail
- People on the Trail
- Youth Photographer (17 or under)
To enter the contest:
To see entries and winners in previous MST photo contests, please visit FMST’s photo contest Flickr site.
OK, the picture on top is not of the Smokies but it's on the MST. Would that win anything?
For the past couple of years, I've won third prize in this contest in the People on the Trail category. I've come up with quirky shots of people. My pics are obviously not art; that's reserved for first prize. But they've managed to get the prominent judges' attention. Can I keep up my winning streak?