Entries For: August 2011
We're in Hunstanton on the eastern coast of England and will be starting the Norfolk Coast Path tomorrow. This three-day walk (47 miles) will follow the coastline to Cromer.
This is also a National Trail but will be so different from the Cotswold Way. Hunstanton is like Coney Island or Myrtle Beach with gambling. Lots of ice cream shops, Bingo halls, coffee shops and one street of stores. People are friendly and casual and all English. We may be the only international visitors in the town.
Old Hunstanton has been around since 855 when St. Edmund visited the area. Of course, he wasn't a saint then. But he was brutally killed by the Danes for believing in Christianity and was made a saint. He was the patron saint of England until St. George came along.
We walked a little and passed the remains of St. Edmund's Chapel. We also went in the current St. Edmund Church, which seemed very Catholic to me, complete with the stages of the cross.
But the most famous sight of Hunstanton are the striped cliffs. See the picture at the top. Various stones and chalk combine to produce the striped effect.
It's cold here. Some people are wearing down jackets. But I'll be in shorts tomorrow on the trail.
We finished the Cotswold Way on Friday in Bath. The last few days were just as beautiful as the first, even if we finally had some rain. What is England without rain?
The sound of the trail is the wood pigeon, cooing constantly. It’s a large pigeon with a white band around its neck. The views that will stay with me were of us walking through fields of sheep, scattering as we passed them. We also traversed cow fields which we sometimes had to shoo to find the exit gate.
We met few walkers. The most interesting was Becks, a college student, walking from John O’Groats in Scotland to Land’s End on the Southwestern tip of England – about 1,000 miles, tip to tip through Great Britain and camping along the way. We met her twice on the path, once with her sister, once with her mother. What a fine thing to do on her summer vacation. I gave her my email address, told her about Jennifer Davis and encouraged her to hike the Appalachian Trail. Got to encourage these Yo’ung Ones.
Throughout the walk, we stayed in Bed and Breakfasts, each different, each with its own quirks. The rooms are small and the bathrooms are even smaller. It’s obvious that the bathrooms were added on so they could call it an “en suite”, that is, with a private bath. England is a crowded country. Even in the countryside where the properties have lots of land, the living areas are not spacious.
The best place was Orchardene B&B in a small, working-class town of King Stanley orchardene.co.uk. The owner, Leslie, was very active in her community and was an elected member of the county council. She was interested in talking to us and answering questions about the social system. She called herself a Green Socialist. Could you imagine anyone in the U.S. calling themselves a socialist – except real socialists?
Breakfasts were all the same and all huge. You could start with cereal, fruit and yogurt. All cold cereals, I’m afraid. The days of making porridge (oatmeal) are gone. Then a cooked breakfast of eggs, breakfast meats and mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans. All topped off with toast and coffee or tea. It was much too much for me, so I enjoyed the cereal course – what they call the Continental breakfast.
As we got closer to the city of Bath, the Cotswold Way signs became poorer and private property signs got bigger. Most people who walk the whole trail start at Chipping Campden so it’s busier on the northern end.
Once in Bath, the signs stopped all together. From the guidebook, we learned that the trail ended at Bath Abbey, close to the tourist office. By then, it was raining hard and we just wanted to get to the end. There was no sign that we were at the Southern terminus of the Cotswold Way. We stumbled into the tourist office and asked to have our picture taken. No book to sign, no patch to buy. Another trail on our hiking resume.
We spent two days as tourists in Bath, including taking the waters – going to a thermal spa. Now we’re in London getting ready for another shorter hike.
We just finished Day 5 on the Cotswold Way, one of Britain's National Trails.
This is the land that brought us English ivy, honey-suckle rose, multi-flora rose and many other exotics that we're fighting. So it was good to find the beautiful and invasive Himalayan Rose. It has taken over swamps over here.
The walk is taking us over hills and dales literally. It doesn't take much altitude to get spectacular views. Lenny calls it right when he says that it's a beautiful hike with minimal effort. The land is very open and trees are at a premium. Here, sheep are laying under a tree.
The path, as they call it here, takes us through wooded areas, dominated by oaks and majestic beech trees. Because there are so many sheep and cattle farms, woods are much more precious here than in the U.S. In our part of the country, we want to savor views where here they seem to want to save woods.
Flowers are mostly farm and country road flowers - Queen Anne's lace, chicory, harebells, yarrows and gigantic thistle.
The most different aspect of walking in Great Britain is that almost all the trails are on private land. There is almost no public land, in the way we know it in the United States. The country is too crowded to have taken the land from private owners and put it the public domain. But with the concept of Right of Ways and Right to Roam laws, landowners must allow walkers the right to, well, roam on their property.
We're on the Cotswold Way in picture book England. This is the first wifi I've found so I'm taking the opportunity to blog about it.
The trail goes from Chipping Campden to Bath, basically west of London - 102 trail miles which we're walking in 8 days.
The terrain is undulating, up and down a couple of hundred feet. We're walking through pastures, past sheep and cows, old ruins and small villages. Cotswold is the England Americans imagine, with tea shops, women in large shopping bags going from store to stores and pubs - lots of pubs. We're staying in Bed and Breakfasts and small hotels, all organized by Contour Holidays.
It's a national trail, so the markings are very good so far. Still yesterday we managed to get royally lost, trying to find our lodging at the end of the day. What was going to be a reasonable 13-mile day ended up a 16 mile day and we stumbled into our room at 6:30 P.M.
We're starting Day 3. More when I find wifi again.
If it's possible to miss someone you've never met, then I miss John Denver. I liked his music, even if it wasn't really country music. Denver died in a private plane crash in 1997. And I still sing Rocky Mountain High, when the mood strikes me. So I'm intrigued about the effort to have Mt. Sopris, a Colorado peak, named after him. It won't be easy.
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names says that federal policy is to avoid adding names to peaks in federal wilderness areas.
Mount Sopris, a majestic volcanic summit west of Aspen, is in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, managed by the US Forest Service. At least they didn't try to rename a mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.
But still it's a problem. The geographic board's executive secretary, Lou Yost, said that under the board's interpretation of the Wilderness Act of 1964, applying new names to features in wilderness areas detracts from the wilderness experience.
Some people want another mountain named after Denver and still others oppose because they don't like his music. Guess what? None of this matter. It is not a popularity poll. The geographic board will make the decision and I have a feeling that it will be "no".
Still Denver's music goes on. Rocky Mountain High is Colorado's state song and will be my song when I go to Family Nature Summit next July.
...rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
Not every hike is a 10 mile all-day hike. My son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters are visiting us for a few days.
Lenny corralled our son, Neil, to help clear our piece of the Appalachian Trail. I took Yi-Ting and the two girls to Mt. Mitchell. We drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping regularly to look at the views.
We stopped at Craggy Garden Visitor Center so Hannah could stamp her National Park Passport. You would think that the Blue Ridge Parkway would have one stamp for the whole BRP unit, but it seems that all the visitor centers have their own. Great Smoky Mountains National Park also has different stamps at the various visitor centers. That makes for more stamps - at this rate Hannah is going to run out of room in the Southeastern section of her book.
We were lucky that we had an outstanding day. We drove to Mt. Mitchell State Park and walked up to the Mt. Mitchell tower. The little one could have walked up but it might have taken all day. So we pushed her in the stroller. I showed them the Mountains-to-Sea Trail sign and white circles.
Both Yi-Ting and Hannah were impressed by the fact that Mt. Mitchell was the highest point east of the Mississippi. And after visiting Jefferson National Expansion Memorial right on the banks of the Mississippi River, Hannah knows where the Mississippi is.
The tower is about two years. It was built partly to make it easier for people to walk up the short ramp up to the tower.
Still people in flip-flops and sandals complained about the "hike". And one man made a snide remark about my ability to walk fast while pushing a stroller.
The whole site is extremely child-friendly - if you can get the adults to walk up to the tower. Isa, the younger grandchild, ran around in circles at the tower, stopping once in a while to look through the fencing. Hannah used her new compass to check the directions with the compass directions on the floor of the tower.
Even the museum seemed to be childproof. The younger one pushed all the buttons, turned all the cranks and yelled at the bear in the display case without anyone or anything being worst for the wear. Nowadays, you call it child-friendly but I call it childproof.
On Thursday, August 11th,will hold its 17th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon.
The telethon will be broadcast on WBIR-TV Channel 10 in Knoxville, TN and WLOS-TV Channel 13 in Asheville, NC from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM.
Let's watch it and more important, donate. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park needs all the help it can get.
My laptop died while I was at Family Nature Summits in the Ozarks. It was frustrating not to be able to blog or to download my pictures. Now I'm back and I'll do a summary of the highlights of the Summit.
Who would have thought I would go to the Ozarks in Missouri for a week in August? Family Nature Summits are just as much about the people and their interaction with nature as it is about the actual place. Even so, without FNS I would not have discovered the rocks and caves or Missouri.
I joined a trip to Elephant Rocks State Park, which are as awesome as they sound - see above.
The weather was very stormy but I managed to get a picture of these weird rocks.
More rocks at Devils Toll Gate, a sight on the Ozark Trail. It's Missouri's state trail, which will eventually wind from St. Louis to Arkansas. I hiked a small section on a rocky trail. Our section started at the highest point in Missouri at 1,772 feet.
One afternoon, I wandered through the YMCA site and found myself at the riflery range. The last time I touched a rifle was at a fair when I was ten years old. That was a long time ago. I was given instructions, seven bulllets and I managed to hit the paper twice. Not bad.
Jessica, a long-time summitteer, went on the ropes course and I tool pictures. That was heart-pounding enough - thank you.
And of course, skits on the last night. It is camp after all. Here is Hannah's group, the Chickadees, singing and flying away.
At the end of last year's summit, my granddaughter, Hannah, asked if we could come again. This year, she just assumed we were going back to Family Summits. It will be at the YMCA of the Rockies, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park - July 7 to 13, 2012. Come and join us.
Today we rode a van to the YMCA from St. Louis. From the moment Hannah and I met the group at the airport, it was like meeting old friends.
A couple of older girls took Hannah under their wing. This is Hannah between two older girls on the short ride to the car rental site.
We're staying at a residential YMCA. It's a huge place with an awesome lake. The picture above is from our deck. This "Y" spreads out with buildings, trails, several beaches, boating access - you name it. Think of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain without the mountains and multiply it by 2 or 3.
Hannah reunited with her best Family Nature Summit friend, Alexa. All is well.
Of course, the scenery is not as awesome as the Blue Ridge. The highest point in Missouri is 1,772, as they proudly state. But the thing about Family Summits is that people come back every year regardless of where it is.
The first to remember about visiting Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is that it is in downtown St. Louis. Lots of people use it as a city park. So when my granddaughter, Hannah, and I got to the arch on a hot Sunday afternoon, the visitor center was crowded.
After flying to St. Louis on the way to Family Nature Summit, we jumped on their amazing Metro city and rode to the Arch. When you're standing under it and look up to the stainless steel arch, it beats all the pictures you've seen of it. At 630 ft., it is the largest built structure in the U.S.
It's on the banks of the Mississippi River and represents America's westward expansion. In particular, it celebrates the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806) which started here and took them on the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast. There's surprisingly little about the two explorers in the Museum of Western Expansion.
We really should have had a day to explore the whole site, instead of a short afternoon, but we took in a lot. We went in the Old Courthouse, a county courthouse where Dred Scott and his wife sued for their freedom in 1846. The case when up to the Supreme Court but they lost. Beautiful building which would be worth a trip on its own.
The Museum of Western Expansion is an open-plan museum which goes from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to the 1890s, the end of the frontier.
But the whole point of the visit was to go up to the arch on a 4-minute train. We had reservations for 4:30, which is when we got on line.
An hour later, we finally got on the capsule with 3 other people and went up. Hannah had no trouble with the wait since she made friends with two girls in back of her, standing in line with their grandparents.
The top was crowded but we saw out of both sides of the arch through tiny windows.Here's a picture looking down to the Courthouse.
And another of Hannah under a sign.