Entries For: May 2011
Up in Ohio with the grandchildren.
Lenny and I took them up to The Wilds, a safari-like zoo in Eastern Ohio. The area is over 10,000 acres of fenced in fields where wild and exotic animals roam. After we parked, we boarded a series of buses which took us over hills and dales. It's like a safari experience but the animals are no longer wild because they can't catch their own prey; they're fed. As we were told, that's because they're a zoo and zoos don't allow animals to kill other animals.
Still we saw giraffes and camels up close. Wild horses scampered around and antelopes did play in the fields. American bisons off in the distance.
The Wilds is run by a nonprofit organization, which received the land from American Electric Power Company. The power company had strip mined the land and had taken out everything they could out of it, then turned it over to the nonprofit. The rolling hills were covered with grass with a few shrubs. There were few trees since the soil was a few inches deep. But it was a good use of land, better than a housing development. There's probably no market for houses in this remote part of Ohio.
The Carolina Mountain Club hike today (Wednesday) was an extended Coontree Loop in the Pisgah District of Pisgah National Forest. The hike was about 8.5 miles and 2,500 feet of ascent.
Like most of Pisgah, the area was logged. The trails are mostly those left over from logging days - logging roads and logging railroad.
There were the usual stream crossings but the bridges were very good; a sign that this area is a popular one. On sunny Sundays, the Coontree parking area on US 276 is full.
But we did more than the loop. We climbed to Bennett Gap and then on the Pressley Cove Trail. That's where we found a chimney.
It was well-maintained and even had a "don't destroy this antiquity" sign.
I've not seen this sign any place else, certainly not in the Smokies. It is assumed that you aren't going to deface or destroy an artifact.
So at least, the staff at Pisgah know that the chimney is there.
It was a very hot and humid day. We saw few flowers but we did see spiderworts which means that summer is really here.
At the Blue Ridge Bookfest on Saturday, I met Renea Winchester. She was one of the exhibiting authors and the author of In the Garden with Billy. She's also the great great granddaughter of Mary Ridley Winchester.
If you remember the old Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there was a large portrait of an old woman, Mary Winchester (1848-1942), commonly known as Aunt Winchester.
The picture above is the only picture I could find.
Aunt Winchester lived in the area and was painted by Rudolph Ingerle, a famous artist who loved the Smokies. The portrait hung over the fireplace. Every once in a while, a visitor would ask about the portrait.
When the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center opened, the old Visitor Center became a training center for employees. The public no longer has access to the building. Aunt Winchester still hangs over the fireplace, much to Renea's unhappiness.
She claims that the family bought the portrait from the artist and gave it to the Park. She says that the family expected the portrait to always be available to the public. According to Renea, the Park's answer is that the portrait has had a good run and it's going to stay where it is.
Though she lives in Atlanta, Renea is taking this on as a crusade. Sometimes local people forget that the Smokies is a National Park.
By the way, the Blue Ridge Bookfest in Flat Rock was a great success. I gave a talk about the great hiking around here, I networked with other authors, I talked to readers and I sold a few books.
Plan to come out next year!
Come to the Blue Ridge Bookfest on Friday evening and all-day Saturday. It's held at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock. It's a beautiful campus, worth a visit even without the bookfest. TheBookfest is free and open to all that love books and writers.
I'll be there along with 39 other writers.
Friday evening, there will be a reception for all the exhibitors and speakers. Ann B. Ross is the keynote speaker and will talk at at 6:30 P.M. She's the writer of the Miss Julia books, quite well-known in the South.
On Saturday, writers will be speaking about their books. I'll be on at 8:45 A.M. for 45 minutes. So come on by and visit me. At the same time, Ann B. Ross will be speaking as well - in another room. So I need all the audience I can get.
Not all writers will have speaking parts. Others will be exhibiting their books and give you a chance to talk to them. That's what I'll be doing the rest of the day, talking to visitors to come by.
So come by because it gets lonely otherwise.
The status of Dupont Forest is in question.
This beautiful forest between Brevard and Hendersonville will probably be transferred to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. And that could mean fewer opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding and open the forest to more logging.
The entire Division of Forest Resources, including DuPont, will almost certainly be transferred to the Department of Agricultural & Consumer Services on July 1, according to the House budget adopted May 4 by a veto-proof majority. Forest Resources has mandates to prevent forest fires, conserve natural resources, and manage timber — but none for recreation. Compare what it's like to hike in Pisgah Forest vs. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
But it's not all clear cut, if you'll excuse the pun.
Right now, Dupont Forest is open to multiple-use recreation such as hunting, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Over the past 10 years, the Division of Forest Resources was a part of the larger Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), the folks who run the state park system. Several years ago, a proposal was floating around that would make Dupont Forest a state park. It was opposed by many groups because that would eliminate the little hunting that there was in Dupont. The state park would also bow under pressure to build roads to waterfalls that we now hike to.
The four past presidents of Friends of DuPont Forest, have come together to make a simple proposal: We hereby request that the N.C. General Assembly statutorily recognize recreation as a primary mission of DuPont, together with the protection of its natural resources.
They propose making Dupont a recreational Forest. See their website and contact your North Carolina state legislature.
Yesterday, I went on a Carolina Mountain Club hike on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail. We started from Rattlesnake Lodge and walked westward to the Folk Art Center. Not too difficult, 10 miles and only 1,500 ft. of ascent.
The flowers were outstanding. Mountain laurel and flame azaleas were blooming. One of our hikers counted 63 different flower species.
It's a popular stretch of the MST because it's close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hikers can do just a couple of miles and be back at their cars.
This morning, I learned about a new craze - planking. It involves lying face down in a public place - the stranger the better - and posting photos on social networking sites such as Facebook. A planker lies expressionless with a straight body, hands by their sides and toes pointing into the ground.
Of course, I learned about it because someone had died. That's when the media picks it up. I'm not going to post pictures of this because I don't want to add to the publicity. You can google "planking" if you're curious.
The victim, a man in his 20s, fell from a balcony railing in Brisbane, Australia, while a friend photographed him, according to police.
What is the point of this stupid behavior? It's not athletic, it's not creative, it's just the Facebook equivalent of "Kilroy was here."
Let these folks come on the trail with Carolina Mountain Club and we'll photograph them and even put them on the club Facebook page. But will they be able to walk 10 miles?
Milestone Press has published another winning outdoor book.
Waterfall Hikes of North Georgia by Jim Parham documents 200 waterfalls in North Georgia in 60 hikes.
Every hike in the book includes complete driving and trail directions, distance and estimated hiking time, elevation profile, trailhead GPS coordinates, and photographs of each waterfall to be seen.
Some hikes include as many as eight waterfalls. Most hikes are short but some are rugged 12 miles hikes.
In addition, Parham discusses the history and culture of the area. I went immediately to the Edge of the World loop which inspired the book and movie Deliverance. The author explains the impact of the waterfall and the movie.
I also checked Anna Ruby Falls, since I'm planning a Carolina Mountain Club weekend this fall in Unicoi State Park. This is not a solitude hike; Parham got it right.
This guide is very user-friendly and will encourage you to make that trip down to Georgia.
I've been home a week after completing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I've done the laundry and cleaned my hiking equipment. I've caught up with my blog. I've filled out my MST completer's application.
One of the questions that was asked was: Did I want to recognize anyone who helped me with my journey? Of course, I did. I had to use an extra piece of paper to list them all.
No one does the MST by themselves. You need helper of all kinds. So here goes:
Sharon McCarthy, my hiking partner, without whom I would not have done the trail.
Scot Ward's hiking guide, The Thru-Hiker's Manual for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina without which I would not have done this trail. Scot's book never steered us wrong. See Scot's website.
Thank you to all the people who walked with me:
Don Gardner of Carolina Mountain Club for the Woods Mountain hike
Thank you to all the people who provided commercial shuttles (in west to east order):
Jonathan Creek Inn, Maggie Valley
Gabriel of Whippoorwill Inn, Danbury
Hank and Lynn Pownell, Glencoe Mill Village
Pete Farmer, PaddleCreek, Wake Forest
Janice Mines of Otway House Bed and Breakfast, Otway
Edwards Motel of Ocracoke
Sharon and Fred Williams, Sea Sound Motel, Rodanthe
Beacon Motel, Nag's Head
Thank you to those who provided information outside the guidebook
Kevin Fitzgerald, Deputy Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park for suggesting the Smokies route
Ian Fraher, 2010 completer who worked out a route through Eno River State Park
Kate Dixon, for updated route through Falls Lake
I couldn't have done it without all of you.
A long time ago, my husband, Lenny, asked me what I wanted to do for Mother's Day. "To hike, of course!" So that's what we did. We scouted out a hike he's going to lead for Carolina Mountain Club next month - only 7.9 miles on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The section from NC 151 to French Broad Overlook is gentle and well-maintained.
Still I hadn't been on a mountain trail for almost two months because of my MST project. No matter how many miles I walked on the road or beach, I was never out of breath but here I could feel the uphills.
The flowers were outstanding - dwarf-crested irises, lady slippers, a few trilliums and a lot of blackberry cane in flower. The trail crisscrossed the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple of times, so we asked a woman to take a picture of us.
I've got a little bit of the post-hiking project blues. I'm so glad to have completed the trail but I miss the excitement and challenge of planning the next segment.
Still The Mountains-to-Sea Trail was a great experience but I'm glad to be back in the mountains.
Starting with 955.6 miles, 94,950 ft. ascent
Otway B&B to Lighthouse Church
15.2 miles, 50 ft. ascent
I can feel the end of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
I have two more days of walking. I'm so lucky that Terry S. of Moorehead City is walking with me. Terry is on the Board of Friends of the MST and is responsible for all the MST from the New Bern bridge to Jockey's Ridge State Park.
Most of the trail is on either the road or the beach, so it's not as if he's weedwhacking his trail but he still wants to know what it's like to walk it.
This is oyster country.
We pass several old buildings that used to process oysters and clams. Now it seems like divers are independent operators.
They dive for shell fish and then sell to wholesalers who then sell to restaurants. Terry emphasizes that each operator has marked his territory and someone else had better not mess with it.
Each little town has a church, houses laid out on the road and not much else. We walk through Stacy (population 205) and pass several abandoned houses being swallowed by vegetation.
On the way back, Terry and I go through Beaufort, a historic small boating town. Several businesses offer boat transportation to Cape Lookout National Seashore - that's the only way to get there. I didn't leave time for Cape Lookout, so I may just have to come back.
Lighthouse Church to Cedar Island Ferry
14.2 miles, 200 ft.
We're getting away from the little civilization that we had. Much of the road goes through Cedar Island National Refuge.
Sharon and I first drove to the Cedar Island Refuge two weeks ago, though it now seems like two years ago. Then we had so much time that we stopped at the Refuge Visitor Center. This large Refuge is managed by one guy, Kevin K. He greets visitors, mows the lawn, patrols the road, and answers the phone.
And here he is, cleaning the road after a visitor who had not picked up after his dog.
"Hey remember me? My friend and I stopped at your visitor center," I say. Of course he does. How many visitors does he get who stop in and listen to his whole history lesson?
After we move on, I tell Terry that I've been here too long. "I know people on the road".
"Worse than that," Terry says. "They know you."
We walk into the community of Cedar Island and stop at the variety store to eat our packed lunches. I tell Sherman, the owner, about the MST which goes right past his store. It's only a mile to the ferry.
"Are you going to touch the water?" Terry asks.
"No because there's a fence, but I'm going to go as far as I can." And I do.
There's only one person waiting for the ferry and I get him to take our picture.
I'm done; I think I'm number 21, the 21st. person to finish.
I've completed the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Cumulative after 78 days, 985 miles, 95,200 ft. ascent
Starting with 940.1 miles, 94,850 ft. ascent
Graham Church to Otway House Bed and Breakfast
15.5 miles, 100 ft.
It's finally time to get back on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Sharon has long gone home and I need to get some trail help.
Sunday evening, I stay at Otway House Bed and Breakfast, run by Janice Mines. It is a lovely place right on US 70.
Janice breeds dogs – Labrador retrievers. She’s been doing this for 38 years. Her mother and sister are also professional breeders. At first, I was concerned about staying in a place with all those dogs but I should have not have worried. The dogs are fenced in a large run.
They run but don't bark all that much when I arrive. When I go back to unload my car, the dogs must have already figured out that I belonged there. She is a professional and the dogs are well-trained.
The next morning, Janice drives me down to the start of today’s hike, where I had left off almost two weeks ago just outside of Oyster Point. There John J. is waiting for me and we take off.
The trail takes us on Core Creek Bridge, part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. According to John, bridges on the Intracoastal have to be at least 65 feet high. So that's where I get my altitude for the day. I walk with my two hiking poles raised high like flags so that cars can see me. John, who is quite tall, walks behind me.
We stop at a BP station and sit down for a midmorning break. I'm just in front of a bank of newspaper boxes and I see the headline "Bin Laden Killed" on the front page of the New Bern paper.
What!! With no TV and internet at the Otway B&B and no radio while Janice drove me down here, this is the first time I hear about it.
We go through the community of North River with many abandoned houses, some that look quite solid.
Other houses are stacked up on a tall foundation to prevent more flooding. This area has lots of small communities that seem to be separated by inlets.
Few stores other than minimarts. This area seems to depend on fishing and oystering but right now, the waters are closed to oystering. Not a good situation.
Cumulative after 76 days, 955.6 miles, 94,950 ft. ascent
I have no idea who those children are. They piled out of a van at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, wearing vests covered with Junior Ranger badges. I was so impressed that I asked their father if I could take their pictures.
How does the National Park Service interpret a site when there’s nothing physical to interpret?
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site protects the site of the Lost Colony that landed here in 1587.
By definition, there’s nothing to show. On top of it, the visitor center is under repairs and there’s only a temporary visitor center where several posters have been hung.
I am on Roanake Island between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina mainland. This was where Virginia Dare, the first American child, was born in 1587. To interpret this site, it takes enthusiastic interpreters like Ranger Rob Bolling and Robin Davis of Eastern National, who has lived on the island for over 30 years. I'm the only person at the Visitor Center this morning and Robin takes me aside to tell me the story.
Sir Walter Raleigh sponsored several expedition into the new world. The first two Roanoke expeditions were expeditions of men. They were looking for resources and to raid Spanish ships and went back to England. Raleigh never came to North America because Queen Elizabeth I didn’t want to lose him.
On the third voyage in 1587, 117 people came to settle here including women and children. They were supposed to go to Chesapeake Bay but their captain said that he wasn’t going any further so they were dumped here.
It sounds like the equivalent of "You'll figure it out". But they were not self-sustaining and asked their leader, John White, to return to England to get more supplies.
When White returned after three years (1590), he found no one. Nothing but the letters CROATAN carved in a tree. Does that mean that the colonists went with the Croatan Indians? The mystery remains.
A short trail took me to Albemarle Sound with a small beach. I passed some earthenworks where archeologists are digging hoping to get some answers about the fate of the Lost Colony. I also passed the three children on a bench working quietly on another Junior Ranger badge.
Close by are the Elizabethan Gardens, 10 acres of beautiful gardens, immaculately manicured.
The gardens were started by a women’s garden club and officially opened on Virginia Dare's birthday, August 18,
1960 in 1960. It has an Elizabethan design with modern plants. That's Elizabeth, the First, on the right.
The Sunken Gardens is the center of the Elizabethan Gardens design, with the fountain in the center. It’s a cross design with an enclosed walkway. At the time, Elizabethan gardens were inspired by Italian designs.
I was there on the day of the Royal Wedding. I was conscious of the number of visitors with British accents but they seemed more preoccupied with the past than with the wedding that had just occurred. The only Brit I spoke to about the wedding was the woman at the Garden store.
All the comparisons were with Charles and Diana's wedding, 30 years ago. Diana would have been over 50 years old, Would she have tried to upstage Princess Katherine?