Entries For: November 2011
Is your license plate naked? Does your car believe in anything? If you've been reading this blog for a while and you live in North Carolina, I assume that you have an affinity license plate to show your support of the Smokies or the A.T.
But if not, are you in luck? Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been approved a great license tag. See above.
We voted for our favorite design. People said that they liked this design because 1) it's based on the actual MST sign; 2) it includes hikers; and 3) the FMST colors are vibrant enough to see from a distance.
So now you need to get one. We have to sell 300 plates to even be in the game.
Why buy an MST plate now?
1. It's a fun way to show your love of hiking and the MST
2. It's a great way to provide financial support for the MST - $20 of the $30 annual cost will be returned to FMST to build, protect and promote the trail.
3. Your plate will have a low number which will identify you as one of the early supporters of the MST.
4. If you want a personalized plate, most options are still available if you order now.
5. A plate would be a great present for a special person this holiday season!
To order your plate, download the application, fill out the form and mail it with your check to Friends of the MST.
When FMST has pre-sold 300 plates, the NC Division of Motor Vehicles will produce the plates and mail them to everyone who has preordered.
Please act now. The NC General Assembly has given us only a short time to sell the first 300 plates before the authorization for the plate expires. Now is your chance to have an MST license plate.
There's so much information about National Parks that sometimes I miss something that should have been right under my nose.
I just discovered this feature from the National Park Foundation. They created an interactive website feature called Trail Talk, which provides an opportunity for the public to get an insider’s perspective on a national park.
Every two weeks, NPF features a different national park on their Facebook page. Fans of NPF then have the chance to submit questions they have about that park. Trail Talk rounds-up the questions, and then presents them to one of the rangers in that park.
Back in August, Bob Miller, Public Affairs Officer for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offered readers some of his favorite hikes, as well as his three “can’t miss” activities in the park, among several other questions he fielded. It may be old news but worth checking out.
You can read the entire interview with Bob Miller here.
We seem to have started a tradition of doing our end-of-year trail maintenance on the day after Thanksgiving. The last thing we want is to be with shoppers and the maintenance has to be done anyway. This year was no exception. In addition, our son and family were visiting. We stuffed ourselves yesterday - OK stuffing, Bernstein style, which would have been considered pretty light. So today we took our granddaughter trail maintaining on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Lenny maintains a two-mile piece of trail from Beaver Dam OV to Big Ridge OV. It's in a narrow piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway, surrounded by Pisgah National Forest so we wore orange.
She had her own clippers and gardening gloves. She took weed clipping very seriously. At first, we discussed every weed that she was going to clip. Then she developed a test. As she walked, if she could feel the vegetation, she clipped it. Otherwise she gave it a pass.
Meanwhile, Lenny was cleaning out waterbars. Some times, he was ahead but most of the time, he was behind us. His clipping test was more stringent since he is so much bigger and could feel more weeds around him.
Hannah and I discussed why we wore orange. I skipped the part about the Parkway being a national park and there's no hunting in a park. Sure enough, on the trail, a man and his four-year old son walked toward us in full hunting gear. See to the right.
They weren't having any luck, he said, and they were just walking.
So the moral of the story is that whether you want to encourage hiking and trail maintenance or hunting, you have to start them young.
We started up the Coontree Loop and over Bennet Gap to a forest service road. The trees are almost completely bare now, leaving us to see the mountains, rocks and even fungus. The FS Road was full of pickup trucks, though we couldn't hear any shots. We were outfitted in orange vests and orange hats.
I felt funny in the woods because hunters only get a couple of weeks - deer season lasts until Dec. 10 - while hikers get to hike year round. Maybe we should have scouted this before and left the woods to them for their fun.
But the geocachers we met didn't have such qualms. They didn't even know that it was hunting season. The Pisgah Hikers, a group out of Brevard, were also on the trail for five miles and they didn't care either.
At one point, coming down the Coontree Loop Trail, we saw a piece of flagging tape with "escape route" written on it. See the picture above. What was that all about?
Come on Lenny's hike on Sunday Dec. 3. Check it out on the CMC website.
I spent the weekend at the North Carolina Writers' Network Conference, this year conveniently located in Asheville.
Panels, workshops, brilliant breakfasts with agents and editors and lots of writing. It's a group of friendly people who write and publish or hope to do both.
I gave a workshop on Finding your Community. We discussed how to create your platform and build your readership.
Publishers want to know: who is going to buy your book? Who is your typical reader? The two guys above were in my workshop and were continuing the discussion during the break.
I went to a Nature Writing workshop, given by George Ellison, above. He had brought a boxful of nature books and talked about his favorites. He read some nature pieces and gave us a geography lesson on the Appalachians. I also participated in a writing prompt session with Scott Owens, a poet. I don't write poetry but his exercises generated ideas and a good piece of writing.
I met other authors, including Beth Woody, a great-granddaughter of Steve Woody, one of the last people to leave Cataloochee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We decided to keep in touch.
Connections... That's what the NC Writers' Network is about.
When is a guidebook an artifact and when is it just old?
At Second Gear, my favorite Asheville consignment shop, I found a book, An Introduction to North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail, (second edition) published in 1997. It's really a large pamphlet, 34 pages, put out by the North Carolina State Trails Program. It's not in black and white, but green and white - same thing.
Darrell McBane was the State Trails Coordinator then. The MST had 330 miles, most of it in the mountains, Croatan and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Neither end points were established. The western end starts at Balsam Gap, not the Smokies, The eastern end is a the National Park Service Visitor Center at Cape Hatteras, not Jockey's Ridge State Park.
So most of it is still accurate, though the MST has certainly expanded since then. There's one exception. In the book, there's an 8-mile section through Waynesboro State Park which goes through Goldsboro in the Coastal Plains. That has been changed and now the MST bypasses Goldsboro all together. And in addition, Waynesborough State Park is not a NC state park, at least it's not on the state park website. I'm sure an MST historian will have the answer to this.
I snapped up the book and won't tell you what I paid for it. It's not like finding an Ansel Adams at a flea market. But I wonder how many of those were printed and how many are still in circulation.
Florence Preserve in Hickory Nut Gorge has had a new trailhead for a few months now. I finally got to rehike my loop in Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage because the book will be reprinted next spring. That was motivation to get down there.
The new trailhead is about a mile south of Kelly Hill Rd. I drove down, down, down, knowing full well that I'm going to have to get back up. The trailhead is very nice, at a chimney on the left side of the road. See above.
There's parking for several cars. There's even two sets of stone steps which lead up to the chimney but no indication about the origin of the chimney.
The trail starts left of the chimney, as you face it. It's well signposted with yellow diamonds and white circles - no relation to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The new trail is steep; it just goes straight up. I'm concerned that it will discourage marginal hikers who don't want to put out the effort to climb.
It's a short climb, a very short climb, but it starts at the beginning of the trail. As soon as the trail moderates, it passes an old cabin. After less than a half-mile, the yellow trail intersects the blue trail. If you make a right turn, you'll be back on the loop.
The new trailhead and trail were needed because Kelly Hill Rd. is a private road. Residents didn't want people driving or even walking up the road. So Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy which owns the land came up with this alternate route.
The new route (or should I say, current route) adds more than 500 feet of ascent and about 0.8 mile to the hike. Still a great, short hike.
Diamond Brand Outdoors will be celebrating the new edition of Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. This will be on Thursday November 17 from 6 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.
Included in the new edition are over 40 historic photographs taken by Kephart and George Masa.
Many of these images were recently discovered and never before published. Also included is a new cover image featuring the work of Elizabeth Ellison and a 80-page biographical introduction by Kephart scholars George Ellison and Janet McCue, librarian at Cornell University, that provides new insights into Kephart’s life and literary career. Regional historian and Western Carolina University archivist George Frizzell will join the Ellisons.
George Ellison, a writer-naturalist who resides in Bryson City, will provide a brief overview of Kephart’s life (1862-1931) and commentary on the evolution of Kephart’s text (1906-1922) from outdoor manual into a compendium of practical advice and regional lore that has made it one of the enduring cornerstones in American outdoor literature.
George Frizzell, from Western Carolina University, will provide archival images of places and events associated with Kephart’s life and outdoor pursuits set against a background of everyday life as it was being lived in Western North Carolina during the early 20th century in Kephart’s self-styled “Back of Beyond.”
Elizabeth Ellison, whose gallery-studio is located on the town square in Bryson City, will discuss the artwork featured on the covers of Kephart’s work now being reissued by GSMA.
And who knows? Diamond Brand might even have refreshments.
It was foggy, dark and cold by the time Hannah and I parked. We walked to the Clingmans Dome Information Center and found a group of workmen installing an exhibit on the history and natural history of the "top of old Smokies." I was pleased that they included the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
We met Christine Hoyer and Tobias Miller at the start of Forney Ridge trail. The picture above is (from left to right) Christine, Hannah, and Tobias.
We all walked down to Andrews Bald while they showed us the major work that was done to rehabilitate the trail.
Christine had before pictures of Forney Ridge. I remember it as wet, slippery and rocky.
And I never thought anything about it. I was up above 6,000 feet and I was happy to have a trail at all.
But now, using money from the Trails Forever program, and using volunteers, the trail has been completely redone. This project took five park employees and five volunteers over three seasons to work on the 1.8 mile trail. They moved rocks, trees, and gravel to create a "stairway to the Dome." And they did it all without closing the trail.
These small pictures can't do justice to the improvements that hikers will see. A wonderful job on top of old Smokies.
If you want to see the trail for yourself, don't wait too long. Clingmans Dome Road closes December 1.
Jennifer Pharr Davis holds the record for the fastest person on the Appalachian Trail. She beat the men's record and took almost 47 days to hike and run the 2,181 mile Trail. But you knew that.
She had been nominated as the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
But we have to vote for her.
So click on this National Geographic link to vote for her.
It's one of these contests where National Geographic may have come up with the nomination but the most popular wins after that. So we have to vote for her.
She's a Carolina Mountain Club member, a woman from the Southern Appalachians and she's a hiker. The others include a skier, kayaker, and mountaineer. There's only one other solo woman, though there are male/female teams.
Jennifer has done what no one athlete has done - make me a sports fan.
I've never watched other people play: no basketball, baseball or hockey. I've gotten to a fine age without understanding football. I used to say that I'll become a spectator when hiking becomes a spectator sport.
With Jennifer, hiking has become a spectator sport with records to beat. Though I don't think I'll sit in front of a TV watching someone whizz by in boots and a pack, I'm now paying attention to trail records.
So when will hiking become an Olympic sport?
I went into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a long, long day. It was so long that it may take two blog entries to explain it all.
Hannah E., Americorps intern for Friends of the Smokies, and I scouted the hike I'm going to lead for them on Tuesday Dec. 6. We parked at Mingus Mill and searched for a slave cemetery just up from the parking lot. It only has six mounted graves with stumps and no identification.
We then walked up Mingus Creek Trail and crossed Mingus Creek several times. This trail has wonderful spring flowers. There were still a few blue asters around - late bloomers.
Without the distraction of flowers, we could see lots of fungus. The trail had obviously been a road.
At about 1.2 miles, we turned off Mingus Creek Trail on an unmaintained trail, also an old road. After walking another 0.8 mile and crisscrossing a couple of more creeks, we saw the Cemetery sign.
This is the old Mingus family cemetery, also with stumps - see the photo above. Looking at this sad, weedy cemetery, I don't think that there are any family reunions at this cemetery.
But enough about dead people.
When we got back to Oconaluftee Visitor Center, there was a group of children visiting the park as part of Parks as Classrooms. Here, the kids were having lunch between activities. This program brings teachers and children, mostly from local schools, to the Smokies. Many local kids have never been to the Smokies. I have a feeling that some of their teachers had not either.