Entries For: June 2011
Has the Mountains-to-Sea Trail reached a tipping point? Have enough hikers heard of it that they're planning to hike it, even with 500 miles of road walking through North Carolina? I hope so.
Consider the following. Last year, three people completed the MST. The year before, five people completed the trail - the most that ever finished in one year.
But the tipping point theory says that there's a point at which an idea spreads like a virus. At that point, it becomes a trend - and that might be what is happening with the MST.
This year, Scot Ward and I have already finished and Friends of the MST has put us on their website. Thank you, Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the MST. But it's only the beginning of June.
I'm not privy to everyone that's on the trail. But I know that Matt Kirk is running the trail. Matt is an amazing trail runner, who has already broken a record for running all the South Beyond 6000 mountains. You can follow him on his website, when he has the time to update it.
Now I've heard that the Marines at Camp Lejeune are going to walk the MST as a relay. Here are their plans:
The idea is to start at Clingmans Dome on Sunday October 2nd, and finish at Jockey's Ridge on Sunday November 15th. We plan to break the trail up into legs with two Marines hiking as far as they can for seven days, then rotating out with another team of two. They will then continue where the others left off. This will give us a timeline of (43) days to collectively complete the trail.
That's over 20 miles a day - do they realize that? But they're marines, and they will be well-supported. No shuttling cars for them so I'm sure they'll do it.
And they have a PR machine that Sharon and I never had. I sent out informal press releases to about twenty people and got some blog entries from newspapers but not much print publicity.
Speaking of Sharon, she'll finish soon and so will Heidi, a nurse from Asheville. This is not just a virus, a tipping point; this is an epidemic.
I'm so glad I finished the MST before it got too crowded.
Superintendent Dale Ditmanson received several emails about Aunt Winchester, the painting hanging at the old Oconaluftee Visitor Center at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you're a regular reader, you know that I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago.
Superintendent Ditmanson shared his reply with me:
Thank you for your inquiry regarding the painting of "Aunt Winchester" and your request that the painting be moved to the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center. I appreciate your special interest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and in particular your personal attachment and concern regarding the painting.
The decision to leave the painting in place was made for several reasons.
First of all, the new facility includes the first dedicated cultural history museum at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a place that allows us to tell and showcase so much more of the human history of these mountains.
The painting of "Aunt Winchester" is one element of the Park's large cultural history collection. Many of those items have only been in storage and there are many families, with deep roots throughout these mountains, who have not had the opportunity for their family and heritage to be exhibited. Rotation of exhibits and artwork is a common museum practice.
In time the new museum exhibits will also be changed as we continue to highlight the stories, artifacts, and photos of other families and individuals. In the meantime, Aunt Winchester will remain in her place of honor above the fireplace in the historic CCC building. She will be there as the room comes to life in a different role, as a public space to be used for school programs, parks-as-classroom, training sessions and public meetings.
The administrative history further supports leaving the painting in place as the specific location was selected by the artist. Correspondence between the artist, Rudolph Ingerle, and Park Naturalist Arthur Stupka beginning in 1949, documents the offer of the gift and the artist's personal selection of the location above the fireplace for the display of the painting. While expressing great appreciation for the gift, the acknowledgment of the donation by Acting Superintendent Robert White, in a letter to Mr. Ingerle dated March 30, 1950, also states "... the Federal Government is not bound by any agreement regarding the care, display, or disposal of the property."
Recently, however, a descendent of Aunt Winchester, has offered new information through the following statements: ...my "Great Grandfather (who died when I was in my 20's) purchased the portrait, but soon realized that the portrait was too valuable for one man to own. He and Mr. Ingerle agreed the portrait should be donated to the park. An agreement was made with the Superintendent that the portrait would be named "Aunt Winchester" and that she would be publicly displayed as the "Matriarch of the Smokies." The individual also added: "My great-grandfather purchased the portrait then donated it to the National Park with the understanding that it would always be on public display."
We have asked for any letters, records or other supporting documentation regarding the donation, or involvement in the donation, of the painting by the individual's great grandfather. We have also asked for any documentation regarding the obligation by the National Park Service for the public display of the painting. As I stated, this is new information. The park accession record includes original correspondence documenting the painting was donated to the National Park Service by the artist Rudolph Ingerle in 1950 and as noted above includes a signed letter of acknowledgment.
We look forward to receiving any new documentation as it would be very beneficial in constructing a complete historic record and will certainly be considered in our decision process.
Thank you for your interest and understanding.
Dale A. Ditmanson
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Yesterday Lenny and I scouted the hike we're going to lead at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference Virginia Journeys. We'll be meeting at Emory and Henry College in Southwest Virginia.
Our hike goes from Massey Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park to Elk Gardens. After placing a car at Elk Gardens, we drive to Massey Gap and try to find the A.T. Finally, we look at the map yet again and realize that we need to take a connecting trail.
We walk the blue-blazed Rhododendron Trail for a half mile, then pick up the A.T. southbound. It's a beautiful open area with blooming purple Catawba rhododendrons and flaming azaleas.
Mountain laurel will open up in a couple of weeks. Gold finches flit through the bushes. Hay has been left for the horses
The trail leaves Grayson Highlands and is back in Mt. Rogers Recreation Area.
We come up two sets of horses, including colts still nursing. Unfortunately, a careless and slow hiker has let his dog run ahead and disturb the horse. The horses don't seem disturbed, actually, and rear up their hind legs to kick the dog but the dog runs away. The dog disturbs my picture taking.
The trail climbs on rocky steps and goes through through FatMan Squeeze Tunnel, a narrow passage way through rocks. Finally we reach Rhododendron Gap at 5,440 feet, a magnificent view.
We're rewarded by a flat stretch, a boulevard of beech and spruce trees with bluets carpeting the ground. It's a good area for camping though there's no water on the ridge.
At Thomas Knob Shelter, we meet two old guys on an overnight. One is dreaming of doing the A.T. in a couple of years when he retires. The trail enters the Lewis Fork Wilderness Area.
Soon we get to the spur trail up to Mt. Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. A group of college students from College of Lake County in Northern Illinois are on a two-week trip studying PE, biology and English. They all congregate on top of the mountain to eat lunch, though several students are struggle to get to the top.
They tell me that they're hiking every day and they have to journal and reflect on their hikes. For English they also read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. The author didn't finish the A.T. and annoyed all of us that did. They could be reading On the Beaten Path by Robert Rubin or Jennifer Davis' Becoming Odyssa but those books are not as famous as Bryson's.
This is not a trail for solitude. We keep meeting thru hikers and long distance hikers. After the turn-off to Mt. Rogers, the trail goes into the woods and keeps descending. It comes out at Elk Garden, also a beautiful open area and on VA 600 to our cars.