Entries For: December 2011
Chimney Rock State Park is growing - slowly.
The state's purchase of land around Rumbling Bald Mountain will expand Chimney Rock State Park by more than 20 percent.
The N.C. Council of State will pay the Nature Conservancy $4.2 million for 1,222 acres at Rumbling Bald, which is just north of Chimney Rock in Hickory Nut Gorge.
The tract includes Rumbling Bald Mountain, with its massive rock face visible from Lake Lure, steep cliffs, granite domes and a mature hickory forest. The state park now comprises more than 5,700 acres.
This sounds wonderful but it's going to take a long time. The master plan for Chimney Rock State Park calls for development of three day use areas in phases over the next 20 years. The Rumbling Bald area, which has a great hike and is also popular with rock climbers, is to be developed in phase three.
Twenty years! And there are always delays.
No matter how much I think I know about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there's always something new to learn. That's why I suggested that the Great Smoky Mountains Association take a trip to the Appalachian Club and Spence Cabin.
These two structures were part of Elkmont Historic District, not only before the Park came in but for years afterwards.
The Appalachian Club (see above) was built in 1934. It has been restored but not upgraded to modern standards.
And the Park is now renting it for weddings and family reunions. I've known about it for quite a while, before and after restoration but I had a chance to get a tour yesterday and go inside. The Appalachian Club was quite snooty in its day and would never let me inside in the 1930s and beyond but I got in now.
It's a huge room with two fireplaces, couches and rocking chairs. They have tables and chairs for a sit-down meal. It was quite dark when we had our tour and the photo doesn't do justice to the dark wood and huge stone fireplaces.
But if this is too large for your function, there's always the pink and green Spence Cabin. This was a private home and the Park is rehabbing it for day use, now. I love the color.
The house backs up on a stream with a paved area. You could bring a folding chair there and just sit and watch the rushing water. They'll finish the restoration by Spring and will have a big opening, I'm sure.
There's so much emphasis around here about buying local. One of the best places to buy "local" is in your National Parks.
Look at the Great Smoky Mountains Association to buy everything Smokies. They publish and carry trail guides such as Hiking Trails of the Smokies, flower and bird guides, and some very specialized books on mushrooms and ferns. But they also have stuffed bears, T-shirts and great hiking shirts.
Eastern National also has National Parks stuff. They are the cooperating association for small parks east of the Mississippi. So if you want something from the Blue Ridge Parkway or a historic park, the chances are that EA carries it. They also publish the National Parks passports. Now that would make a good gift. Look at their online site.
So go and do your Christmas shopping in a National Park.
It was billed as a hike and shop hike but the rain scared so many people away. What a shame!
We went anyway. We started at Mingus Mill which was closed. Even the bathrooms at the mill were close.
Undaunted, we climbed up to see the slave cemetery. Back down and on the Mingus Creek Trail to the Mingus Family Cemetery. The picture above is of us at the junction to the cemetery.
Not all were veteran hikers. A couple of people had been on most of the Friends hike. One was completely new but she did fine and enjoyed the history. But we all had a good time. We talked about the history of the Park, looked at gravestones and compared different sections of the Smokies.
Back at the cars, we drove to Oconaluftee Visitor Center and had lunch on the porch. One of the rangers joined us. Then we went shopping at the bookstore. I bought a couple of gifts and a great shirt.
Florie Takaki was the ranger on duty. She told me about a new volunteer opportunity for next year - Luftee Rovers. You walk the Oconaluftee River Trail, the Mountain Farm Museum and help visitors during elk jams. Sign me up! That's the job for me.
I always feel good after I lead a Friends hike so I must be doing something right. Join Friends of the Smokies, if you're not yet a member and contact Holly Demuth, the North Carolina Director of Friends. She's on the Friends website.
I didn't think we would meet anyone on the A.T. today. We went on our last trail maintenance trip of the year. Lenny cleared water bars while I clipped and picked up more than the usual garbage. We found a blue Crock shoe and a cheap orange stake.
But then one orange clad backpacker came after another - orange because they knew it was hunting season. First, there was Riverdance.
In his hiking kilt and orange hair, there was no question why he called himself Riverdance. He had started at Katahdin at the end of June but was obviously taking his time getting down South.
Next was Nancy Drew, another young man who made the mistake of saying he had Nancy Drew detective skills.
But the hero was Cocoatoe. He appeared on the trail just as Lenny was struggling with a fallen tree. Lenny tried to saw it with his Silky Saw but it was a thick tree. He was not going to give up.
So when I saw Cocoatoe, I asked him to help. See the picture above.
Before he even knew what hit him, Lenny handed him the saw. One guy held the tree in place while the other sawed. And they got the tree down. Thank you Cocoatoe.
Cocoatoe got his name because his toes got very dry and someone suggested Cocoa Butter. It worked.
These three Southbounders are quite behind in their journey. By now, most Southbounders are off the trail. It is going to be quite cold going through the Smokies. I wish them luck.
The last three people were on a day hike from Sams Gap to Devil's Fork Gap.
It turns out that the couple on the left are visiting from Ontario. The guy's brother had emailed me about some good hikes to suggest - and I did.
I suggested the Smokies but I didn't know that the couple had a dog. They recognized me as the "guidebook writer". What a coincidence! They didn't have any orange but I hadn't heard shots all day so they were probably OK.
It was a small and busy world on the A.T.
The picture is of a slave cemetery in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Are you curious about it?
Come to a hike sponsored by Friends of the Smokies on Tuesday December 6, 2011. This is an easy hike, suitable for almost everyone.
I'll lead this 4-mile hike along the Mingus Creek Trail, interpreting the historic Mingus Mill, the Mingus family cemetery and a slave cemetery. The hike is easy to moderate in difficulty, and has a total elevation gain of 700 feet.
We'll also visit the nearby Oconaluftee Visitor Center, featuring interactive exhibits that tell the cultural history of life in the Smokies.
The Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop within the Visitors Center features local foods, T-shirts, calendars and other fun gifts to help the Park and add a little Smoky Mountain cheer to holiday celebrations. Friends of the Smokies members receive 15% off bookstore purchases with a valid membership card.
Yiou need to sign up, real quick. See the Friends' events page.