Entries For: July 2011
We interrupt my travelogue to announce:
After 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes Jennifer Davis has finally finished the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail. She reached the end at 3:26 p.m. today.
She started South on June 15 and beat the record set by Andrew Thompson in 2005: 47 days 13 hours 31 minutes.
What is next for Jennifer Davis?
For a daily blog, see http://jenniferpharrdavis.tumblr.com/
Today we went to the Columbus Zoo. It may not be the biggest or the best zoo in the country but it's done very well.
My granddaughters got to feel a snake, look at a variety of fish close and personal.
They saw crocodiles, alligators and even a kiwi in the nocturnal section. And they got to feed lorikeets, an Australian parrot.
Where could they do this in the wild? Even if they went all around the world and found these animals, there's no way they could get that close. Will they say "So what. It's better at the zoo."
The conventional answer is that they will appreciate nature more if they are familiar with animals from a zoo or even a nature program but I wonder.
I'm off to Ohio to take my granddaughter to Family Nature Summits. It will be our second year at this great camp. The camp moves around each year and this time, it will be located at the YMCA of the Ozarks. Yes, it will be hot.
When I stopped at a Starbucks in Virginia on my way to Ohio, I met Linda and Ethan. See above. Linda was Ethan's grandma. I'm glad she told me because I wasn't sure.
Linda and Ethan were on a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to the east coast. They were stopping at various National Park Service historical sites. They were having a ball.
"You've got to take them," she told me. "You've got to get them out."
I'm leaving the history and culture to the parents. I'm more interested in getting my granddaughter out on the trail. But let's hear it for traveling grandmas.
Yesterday I went to the Greenbrier section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I planned to scout a hike that I'd be leading for Great Smoky Mountains Association membership weekend - Sept. 9 to 11.
I was asked to lead Grapeyard Ridge Trail to the engine remains and back. Only about 5.5 miles or so, but it had been a while since I hiked it. I was going to take out casual hikers, not Carolina Mountain Club members.
I started up the trail and reached the first crossing of Rhododendron Creek.
"Umm," I thought, "people will need to be careful as they go down to the creek and back up again." A few rattlesnake plantains were blooming.
The second crossing resulted in full boot immersion. It was hot and muggy and wet boots felt good. See the picture above.
By the third crossing, it was obvious that this was not appropriate for GSMA members. And, according to Hiking Trails of the Smokies, there were three more crossings coming up. Now what?
I turned around, got back to the trailhead and drove to Porters Creek. Maybe I could convince Marti, the staff member who is working on the hiking part of the meeting, that I should lead Porters Creek Trail.
I walked up that trail, past the intersection with Brushy Mountain trail and turned around. I had an afternoon meeting and still had to drive through Gatlinburg.
I talked to Marti and found out that someone else was doing Porters Creek. What about Old Sugarlands Trail? The last time I walked Old Sugarlands was when Sharon, SmokyScout, finished all the trails in the Smokies in April 2009. That was a long time ago in my hiking life.
I'm not taking any chances. I'm going to have to go out and scout this trail before I lead it.
I'm not one to look back. But when I heard about the two mass shootings in Norway, I was shocked. I've been to Norway three times, the last time only three years ago. It is the safest, most peaceful country in the Northern Hemisphere. Though there are unstable mentally ill people everywhere, the shootings were so out of character for this beautiful country.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called the tragedy peacetime Norway's deadliest day.
I remembered the trip we took with DNT, the Norwegian hiking club - their version of Sierra Club.
For seven days, we hiked from hut to hut in the Jotunheimen region, the highest mountains in Norway. We scooped water out from the lake and didn't have to treat it.
We were the only native English speakers in the group, though everyone spoke English.
The others were strong hikers, fun and friendly and most were half our age. Two in the group are my Facebook friends.
The most memorable part of the trip started one morning at breakfast when Erik nudged me and said "See that man sitting in the booth about two rows down?"
"The one with two other men and a woman?"
"Yes, that's our Prime Minister,"Erik said.
"What? No one else seems to have noticed."
"Everyone knows who he is. They just respect his privacy." No one approached the Prime Minister or took his picture, though I was tempted.
I was amazed that a head of state could have a hiking vacation in the mountains and stay in the same huts as the tourists. In the U.S., the hut would have been vacated for weeks, searched and bugged, if a President chose to stay here. Heck, they might have vacated the whole National Park.
Later Lenny and I sat on the steps of the hut to lace up our boots. The Prime Minister and the other two men and a woman, his bodyguards, left the hut, walked past us with their packs and strode out on the trail probably to the next hut.
I hope that Norway will stay free and friendly and that their Prime Minister continues to hike in the Norwegian Mountains.
Yesterday was another 90+ degree day.
I listened to the local news on WLOS, our local ABC affiliate and they were suggesting that we look in on the elderly and on pets. What elderly were they talking about?
I went on the Carolina Mountain Club hike on the Appalachian Trail from Jones Meadow to Allen Gap in Tennessee. We walked over 9 miles. The leader, Carroll, is 81 years old - that's the guy on the left with the bandanna on his head. All of us were over 50, some way over 50. So which elderly were they talking about?
It was hot and we were all dripping. Again the media told us to stay indoors and to curtail physical activities. It seems that the mainstream media tells us to stay indoors when it's hot, when it's cold, when the pollen is high ... But we kept on walking. Maggie was training for trip to Yosemite and carried a 30lbs backpack. She kept up with the rest of us.
We had lunch at Little Laurel Shelter and hit the real high temperatures in the afternoon. But the Turks cap lilies were magnificent.
We discussed whether we were seeing white bee balm or another member of the mint family.
At the end, Carroll and Jay, the other driver, had to pick up the car at the beginning of the trail. Carroll had brought cut-up watermelon in a cooler and we enjoyed it while they drove back up to Jones Meadow.
And we'll be back on the trail in a couple of days, no matter how hot it is.
Charlies Bunion was the perfect destination for today's Friends of the Smokies hike. It was cool and high.
Charlies Bunion is a classic hike. It starts at Newfound Gap and follows the Appalachian Trail for four miles to a rock outcropping. Unlike most hikes in the Smokies, it's so popular that it almost feels crowded.
Now as leaders, Holly Demuth and I have to make sure we don't lose anyone. But do you get extra points for getting new people on the hike? We started out with five participants and two visitors from Rhode Island joined us.
Holly gave out a lot of brochures, explaining the purpose of Friends of the Smokies and Trails Forever. Now Holly is a pro at this and explains the various projects of the Trails Forever program. I just tell people "Trails don't maintain themselves and the Smokies needs the money."
Rhododendrons were still in bloom. We also saw Bowman's root, rugel's ragwort, a rare but ugly plant, and one lonely Turk's Cap lily.
People were concerned about bears. Not with all this foot traffic. No self-respecting bear would show its face or rump on this trail.
The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be in early October. It is free for members of Friends. Watch your mailbox or email Holly Demuth for more information.
I've been in New Bern, again, on the North Carolina coast. I am taking part in a North Carolina Writer's Network Writing Resident. I've been holed up workshopping and writing for two days. Yes, I have ants in my pants.
We're by the Neuse River, a beautiful setting. Before the beginning of the workshop, I went to the New Bern History Center, a beautiful building that just opened last year.
The city is not shy about its royal beginnings. This is a royal seal.
I managed to not go into Tryon Palace again, the site of North Carolina's first capitol but I did go through the beautiful gardens.
As I went from the History Center to the Palace, all of two blocks, I encountered a driver who took visitors from one to the other. What is the matter with these people? Really, anyone who can go through Tryon Palace can walk the two blocks.
At the conference, I met two people who helped
National Park units are hidden every place. I set myself a minor goal to visit all the units in North Carolina. So on my way to New Bern, I took a detour to Moores Creek National Battlefield.
It was about 103 deg. according to my car thermometer when I arrived at the battlefield outside of Currie, in the North Carolina sandhills, about 20 miles west of Wilmington.
I knew I was on the right track when I reached Gen. Howe highway, NC 11. Gen Howe was the commander of the British forces in America during the American Revolution.
Moores Creek is a small park, about 88 acres but it makes the most to attract folks to this out-of-the-way park. Moores Creek commemorates a 3-minute battle (no typo here, three minutes) between the Loyalists and the Patriots on Feb. 27, 1776.
Loyalists marched to join the British who were going to sail into Wilmington harbor but to do that, they had to cross Moores Creek. They were arrogant enough to offer to pardon the renegades, the Patriots, and offered them an ultimatum. Disband and you'll be all right.
"No," said the Patriots and the next morning they set a trap for the Loyalists.
Over 30 Loyalists died and one Patriot. The one Patriot got his own memorial, shown to the left.
The mile-long History Trail has six memorials and a couple of cannons. And of course, you get to walk across a reconstructed bridge over Moores Creek.
There's also a memorial to two locals (shown to the left) and one to the Loyalists. That shows that we're so over the American Revolution. We're all friends now.
Larry, a volunteer at the Battlefield, wears a dark green polo shirt with the NPS Volunteers-in-the-Parks patch. I've never seen this VIP uniform so I took his picture.
So was it worth the detour? If you're into the American Revolution or into NPS sites, of course.
Sometimes I wonder if people are really concerned about the environment or if it's just hype and Ashevillians. Maybe not even Ashevillians.
Consider two cases.
Today I drove from home to New Bern, stopping at Moores Creek National Battlefield, a subject for another day. It's a long drive. I travel with a hot cup and a water bottle. My route took me to South Carolina where I stopped at a McDonald for coffee.
I handed my red hot cup to a sales assistant and asked for decaf. He proceeded to put the coffee into a disposable cup and said that I should pour it into my cup myself.
"But wait," I said. "Just give me the coffee into my mug and save a disposable cup."
"I can't do that," he said.
"Why not? Is it a McDonald policy?
"No,"he said. "Health department."
What!! I know it's not true in North Carolina because I get at Starbucks and local coffee shops with my mug all the time. They encourage it. On my way home, I'm going to stop in a NC McDonald and test it out.
Exhibit #2. Yesterday I took a good travel backpack back to REI.
"The pack is great," I said "but a buckle broke. Could you replace the buckle?"
After a lot of trying and looking, the clerk at REI could not find the same buckle. An 80 cent item but they couldn't replace it.
"You can return the pack," he said "and we'll give you a new one."
"A new pack for a broken buckle? It doesn't make sense."
So I took the pack home and I'm going to try to do without that particular buckle.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone really cares or thinks about the trash we're generating for no reason at all.
Back to the Smokies.
I'm leading a hike for Friends of the Smokies to Charlies Bunion on Tuesday July 19. It's a way of showcasing classic North Carolina Smokies and getting more Friends of the Smokies. Here's the press release.
Friends of the Smokies’ Members Only Hike Showcases Park
Cool breezes and hiking in July? Friends of the Smokies hosts a high altitude hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Charlie’s Bunion on Tuesday, July 19.
The hike is free to members of Friends of the Smokies. New members to Friends of the Smokies are welcome. Supporters of the park can join at any time with memberships starting at $25. Donations help many areas of the park including healing trees, protecting bears, improving trails, and educating children.
With more than 1,600 ft in elevation change over eight miles, members of Friends of the Smokies should be prepared for a moderately difficult hike. Most of this day long classic Smokies hike is more than a mile above sea level, with the highest peak at 6,122 feet, affording cooler temperatures and stunning vistas.
Hiking enthusiast and author Danny Bernstein will lead this hike.
Starting on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap, hikers can expect to capture views of Mt. LeConte, Masa Knob, Mt. Kephart, Jump Off and Mt Guyot as they traverse ridge lines. We'll pass Icewater Shelter, the highest shelter in the Park. See the picture.
Along with vistas, this hike is packed with Smokies history and lore that hike leader Bernstein will share along the way.
Some claim Charlies Bunion, a rock out-cropping, to be one of the best scenic overlooks in the Smokies.
For reservations and convening details, contact Friends of the Smokies at email@example.com or 828-452-0720.
Space is limited. For more information about the event, Friends of the Smokies, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park , visit www.FriendsoftheSmokies.org.
Specific information about helping to maintain and improve these special trails can be found at www.SmokiesTrailsForever.org.