Entries For: October 2011
Are you going to a national park next year?
Are you confused about lodging, hikes and what to bring? Check out the new National Parks Traveler Directory.
OK, I write for NPT and my articles are part of this directory. So in a way, I'm plugging myself. But I write, maybe an article a week, on a good week. I only write about a place or hike when I've actually done it or experienced it. So I limit myself.
But the owner of the website, Kurt Repanshek, is a former journalist and he puts out three to four stories a day - yes, a day, you read it right.
But the beauty is that NPT doesn't limit itself to National Parks. It deals with any and all national park units such as monuments and historic sites. So there's lot of history and local color.
And you can comment on the articles. Comment are moderated so the site gets intelligent, interesting comments. Sometimes the commenters correct the original article.
So keep that link handy.
And if you're new to NPT, in your comment, tell Kurt that you heard it the website from this blog.
After 10 years, the National Park Service has decided that the reintroduction of elk is a success. Or to be more exact, they found that the elk have had no significant impact on the environment. So the elk reintroduction is no longer considered an experiment.
The research findings from the experimental elk release indicated that the elk population was sustainable, had minimal impacts on the Park’s resources, and human-elk conflicts were manageable. So they can stay.
Of course, the elk are staying. There would be a lot of disappointed volunteers and visitors if the elk had to leave. From about 50 elk, the park now has about 140 and growing.
Some have moved to Oconaluftee Visitor Center where they're creating traffic jams there and eating corn at the Mountain Farm Museum.
If you want to learn all the ins and outs of this Environmental Assessment, go to the park website. Then scroll down to the Elk issue. It's worth your time to learn how this all works.
Horace Kephart has been called the John Muir of the East and the savior of the Smokies. Several of Horace Kephart's books have never been out of print since they were first published in the early 1900s.
Now Great Smoky Mountains Association has published a new edition of Camping and Woodcraft, a remarkable historic tome of useful information, lore, stories about surviving and enjoying the woods.
Kephart tells you how to dress a deer, make a risotto over a campfire and what to do if you have an earache or toothache. He encourages light backpacking and describes a 7 lbs. kit.
In addition -- and alone worth the price of the book -- George Ellison and Janet McCue, two Kephart scholars, have written an 80-page introduction on Kephart's life.
See my review in National Parks Traveler.
You can buy the 888-page book ($14.95 for soft cover and $25 for a hardback, special collector's edition) in all the Smokies visitor centers, area bookstores and outdoor stores and on the GSMA website. But you can't get it at Amazon.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is looking for great photos of people enjoying the Appalachian Trail in 2011! We are looking for images that illustrate your idea of a perfect day on the A.T.
Creative and unique shots are encouraged.
Send us photos of you and your loved ones hiking your favorite section, enjoying an overlook, staying overnight at a shelter, swimming in a lake, or just enjoying being out on the Trail. Whatever it may be, we want to know how you enjoyed your time out on the Trail this year.
This contest doesn't seem to have anything to do with their A.T. calendar contest. Submit your photos between now and November 11, 2011.
For all the rules and regs, see the ATC website.
Speaking of photo contests,you still have time, but not much time, to enter the Mountains-to-Sea Trail photo contest. The entries are due by Oct. 31. See the Friends of the MST website for that contest.
A few days ago, I scouted a hike that I'm leading for Friends of the Smokies - Nov. 1. The hike starts from Lake Shore Dr. in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the tunnel. I'm trying to avoid saying "Road to Nowhere" but that's how most people will recognize the area. Hannah E., an intern with Friends in the North Carolina office, hiked with me. Yes, she kept up just fine - hah, hah.
As we chatted and I practiced my history talk - it was a scout after all - I realized that I was starting a new hiking projects. I love the Park but didn't want to redo the Smokies 900. I want to find all the cemeteries in the Park. Some say that there are about 200.
Now between doing all the trails in the Smokies and going on several Decoration Days, I've been to many cemeteries. But I'm starting over - as of the last Friends hike in Little Cataloochee.
This hike took us to the Woody and Hoyle Cemeteries.
Woody Cemetery is easy to find - it's off the Lakeshore Trail and we'll go up there on the Nov. 1 hike. I don't know why it's called the Woody Cemetery, since we could only find one grave with the last name of Woody - see above.
The Hoyle Cemetery was not easy to find.
I knew it was off Bear Creek Trail. As we walked up Bear Creek - this is not part of the official hike - I kept hoping that I would find the turn quickly. Hannah didn't sign up for this diversion but she was a great sport.
We found a small bridge on the right and then the dead giveaway for a cemetery, a No Horses sign. We're golden, so we thought.
Then the trail started climbing and climbing. It was a reasonable trail to follow, if you looked for clues like cut branches. We passed a stone cabin - who would live up there? And then finally, after over 500 feet of climbing, the Hoyle Cemetery, with four graves. Success. That's me above at the Hoyle Cemetery.
I'm not in a rush on this hiking project. If I just hike in the Park, I'll get a lot of them. But I'll have to hunt up the rest.
If you want to get in on the hike -Free for Friends Members - go to the Friends event page and see the details.
Last Saturday, Friends of the Smokies hosted an event. The Spirit of John Muir. That's me with Lee Stetson after he signed a book of Muir adventures that he put together.
The picture on the right shows Dale Ditmanson, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Holly DeMuth. Director of the NC Friends of the Smokies, and Steve Woody, a Board member of Friends. This was a chance to meet the movers and shakers of Friends and the Park.
Lee Stetson reprised (not reenacted) John Muir. Stetson is an actor and a John Muir scholar.
He told adventure stories about "himself" in Alaska, lapsing sometimes in the present, as the glacier he climbed is now call Muir Glacier.
He also told a sad, sad story about meeting Ralph Waldo Emerson. The great poet and philosopher visited Yosemite when he was in his 70s. He came with his Boston cronies, as Muir put it. [No one seems to travel alone or with a partner in the old days.]
Muir was working at a sawmill at the time and Emerson wanted to meet Muir. They talked and Muir invited him to camp one night in the Mariposa Grove - one night as Muir emphasized. Emerson agreed but his "Boston Cronies" wouldn't have it. "The night air would kill him," they said. So Emerson left Yosemite without ever really experiencing the wilderness.
I liked the program most when Muir talked about his philosophy. People need wilderness and they are only going to protect what they've seen and experienced. So true.
The next day I scouted a hike in Dupont State Forest, an example of an area that was saved by people who knew about the beauty of the waterfalls.
No matter how many times I've been to Dupont, I still marvel at the six waterfalls. This is Triple Falls on the left.
And to think that this could have been shut up in a gated community or even worse, harnessed for electricity.
So get out there and actually see the beauty. And then fight to protect it.
Sometimes a hike is just a hike. No agenda, nothing to check out or scout or write about. So Wednesday, after it had rained hard for a couple of days, I went on a Carolina Mountain Club hike to Mt. Mitchell.
The drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway was through a sea of color, awash with yellow, brown, green, red and other parts of the spectrum. Only five people had ignored the weather and started the bushwhack up Potato Knob. We walked on the Boundary Trail, an unmaintained trail that must have been maintained at some point since it had a name. It was slow going but the rewards were worth it. See the picture above.
We came out on a private road near Clingmans Peak with its transmission towers. The field also had two private cabins. No one was sure who the cabins belonged to but some thought that the transmission towers were for a religious radio station in Black Mountain. Whoever wrote the sign on the cabin couldn't even bother to spell "mountain" correctly.
We came out on the road at the ranger station and continued on the Old Mitchell Trail.
It was steep and wet with precarious footing. But we got to the top of Mt. Mitchell without driving or being driven in a golf cart by a ranger.
The folks that were driven all got out of the golf cart and proceeded to walk up the ramp with no problems.
We went down the MST and Buncombe Horse Trail back to the cars, still congratulating ourselves for making the right decision to get out on the trail.
This past weekend, I celebrated a big birthday by going back to Abingdon in Southwest Virginia. The main purpose was to go to the Barter Theater.
The next day, we hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail and made a circle by also going on the Virginia Creeper Trail. The Creeper Trail is a famous bike trail but we were not the only ones walking. The fall colors were at their best. And sourwood trees were so red that they looked like they were bleeding.
We finished quite early so we drove to the top of the Creeper Trail to Green Cove Station, one of the original trail stations. Outside, there was a plaque memorializing O. Winston Link, one of my favorite photographers. I have two of his photographs, bought when he was affordable. One is Waiting for the Creeper.
Winston Link was a New York commercial photographer who saw the end of passenger trains and took on the task of photographing the trains and train artifacts. Green Cove Station had several of Link's photos including the one I have, Waiting for the Creeper. Sure enough, the tiny station and general store was where Link took the photo.
I had never made the connection even though I've heard of the Virginia Creeper for a long time. I asked a few people to sit on the bench and I reconstructe the photo. See above.
This is the link to the original photo in the Link Museum in Roanoke. I hope it works for you.
"The mountains are calling and I must go."
See John Muir Live in Waynesville
OK. It's not John Muir - he died a while back. But watching Lee Stetson, reprising John Muir, is a fantastic experience.
Muir's words will echo again during "The Spirit of John Muir" performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Haywood Community College Beall Auditorium in Waynesville. This is hosted by Friends of the Smokies. Advanced tickets are recommended as the performance date draws near.
Muir, portrayed by actor/storyteller Lee Stetson, will thrill nature enthusiasts and story-lovers alike with hair-raising tales of Muir's adventures riding a snow avalanche, freezing in a howling blizzard and being caught in a mighty Yosemite earthquake, all liberally laced with Muir's love of the natural world.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson will be on hand to greet guests.
And that is worth the price of admission by itself even if they didn't have a dessert reception during intermission.
Proceeds from the evening will benefit Trails Forever and other Great Smoky Mountains National Park projects.
Tickets for the October 15th event at Haywood Community College's Beall Auditorium are: advance $23, door $27, Friends of the Smokies members $20, and students $15. Tickets may be purchased in Waynesville at Mast General Store or Blue Ridge Books; by calling 828-452-0720; or online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org.
This week, the Mountain Xpress came out with it "Best of" 2011. It's done by a popular vote. I immediately turned to the Best of the Outdoors.
Here's what Asheville people voted for:
Best Hike with a View:
1. Max Patch - great view. It's a 0.25 mile hike and over an hour's drive from Asheville.
2. Black Balsam - Another outstanding view. Maybe 0.8 mile and almost an hour, slower if you get hung up behind a leafpeeper on the Blue Ridge Parkway
3. Craggy Pinnacle - Fantastic view. It's less than a half-mile - maybe a 45 minute drive
Does that say anything about what people are voting for? Have you been to Mt. Sterling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Amazing view. See the photo on top.
The shortest way up is still 2.5 miles (These are all one-way distances) and it's about 90 minutes from Asheville.
Best Hiking Trail:
1. Mountains-to-Sea Trail - Wonderful! There's almost 1,000 miles of the MST, over 300 miles in the mountains. I wonder what people had in mind when they voted for this trail.
2. Graveyard Fields - A great trail, part of the MST.
3. Bent Creek - Bent Creek Trail is not the best hiking trail, not in any sense of the word. It is close to the center of Asheville. People run, hike, mountain bike and walk their dogs. It's a service area.
What didn't get mentioned is the Smokies. Here we are so lucky to have the most visited park in the United States in our backyard and it didn't make the top three of either category.
Boy are we spoiled!
What a glorious day to be in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! It started out in the 40s but by lunchtime it was in the 60s.
I led a group of hikers from Friends of the Smokies on a 6.1 mile hike on Little Cataloochee Trail. Some folks were very new to the Smokies and the area and others had never been on this trail. In addition, Steve Woody, whose grandfather lived in Cataloochee, came on the hike. Steve is a founding board member of Friends of the Smokies.
We went up to the Hannah cemetery and the Hannah cabin but the highlight of the hike is always the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.
This building was built in 1889. You can go in and ring the bell. All buildings in the Smokies are open because the park believes that there's less vandalism that way.
The church has a large cemetery and people always are on the lookout for children's graves. This baby died in childbirth. See the picture to the right.
The hike went up to the Cook cabin and then we walked another few minutes to see some of the work paid for by the precursor of Trails Forever. The trail on the way to Davidson Gap was muddy and rocky. One spot was particularly bad so a boardwalk was built. Now even horses can walk on it and the wood won't crack. It doesn't look like much unless you remember how bad it was before.
Steve took us off trail to the great wall of Cataloochee. It was a wall to keep the cattle out of the gardens around the house. I don't think I could find it again.
I feel lucky to be able to lead these hikes. They're not difficult or long but I get to see a familiar area again and really study it.
The next hike will be on Tuesday Nov. 1. We'll go through the tunnel and on the Lake Shore Trail. Check out the Friends event page.
Why would any hiker want to leave Western North Carolina? We have the highest mountains in the east and the best parks and trails.
On Friday, we hiked the Edmonds Trail in Black Rock Mountain SP. The park is touted as the highest state park in Georgia, reaching a high of 3,640 feet. I know, some of you live at a higher altitude. But as we gazed out at the top of Lookout Mountain on the trail (only 3,162 ft.), we realized that it's not the absolute height that counts. It's the drop into the valley that counts - and it was impressive. See the top photo.
We then drove to Unicoi and checked in. Lenny and I and a few others camped while the rest of our group had rented cabins. Like most state parks, at least in the south, the campground was impeccable - tent site, picnic table, fire ring which we used to make a fire to go with our pot luck dinner on Friday evening.
The next day, we hiked up to Raven Cliffs Falls in the Chattahoochee Forest. I had gotten this recommendation from Jim Parham who wrote the book Waterfalls Hikes of North Georgia, published by Milestone Press.
The trail hugged the creek and passed several good waterfalls before ending at an impressive rock and cave. See the picture to the right.
The falls are in the slit between the rocks and doesn't show too well in the photo but was very obvious in real life. I'm sure that better photographers - especially photographers willing to spend the whole day there - would have gotten a different photo.
We walked into Helen, a mountain town, that made up a Bavarian theme to attract tourists - and it worked. This was Octoberfest in Helen and the people spilt over the sidewalk into the street carrying beer mugs on a string around their necks. I settled for a frozen yogurt.
By Sunday, some of our group left, others went to do their own hike. But for those who stayed, we were rewarded with an amazing walk in Tallullah Gorge State Park.
This park, created to highlight the waterfalls in the gorge, is partly (mostly??) funded by Georgia Power. The interpretive center is outstanding, the trails are manicured and the 1,052 steps that we walked were solid.
Sunday, yesterday, was also my birthday - a big, eventful birthday. As I climbed up the steps, I passed several people stopped on the steps huffing and puffing; they were all younger than my son. I really resisted saying to them - "Hey what are you going to be like when you're my age?"
The three parks were worth the weekend but Tallullah Gorge is worth another trip. It's a two-hour drive from Asheville but if you're going to walk the whole loop, including the steps, it may be worth the drive.