Entries For: February 2012
Two big things happened in our Appalachian Trail life today - and I wasn't even on the A.T.
For almost nine years, we've maintained a section from Rice Gap to Devils Fork Gap on the North Carolina and Tennessee border. It's almost five miles and much too long to maintain.
Five miles of walking is not much but when you have to clip, clean, lop and weedwhack, it's something else. The reason we had two pieces is that there's no place to access the trail in the middle.
After much discussion, Lenny and I decided to give up one sections of the two we maintain. We will now go from Devils Fork Gap for about 2.5 miles - and have to turn around after we finish our maintenance for the day.
The five miles is a challenge in at least two ways. We had to take two cars and place one at each end. It's a long shuttle. And Lenny spends days weedwhacking blackberry cane in late springs. He'll still have to get out there with a weedwhacker but he'll have less to whack.
But we didn't just drop the A.T. piece. We have Bob H., a CMC club member the opportunity to adopt the other piece. And today, Lenny went out with Bob and showed him his new piece.
Congratulations, Bob! You're now the proud owner of your very own piece of the A.T. It's an honor to be a maintainer.
While they were out, they met an A.T. thru-hiker who is walking the A.T. in both directions each day. He's dayhiking the A.T. without having any support. Check out his website. PJ goes one way and then turns around and back to his car. He's also doing stretches every which way.
Some of the sections are going to be a challenge to dayhike. How is he going to do the Smokies?
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial will be held at Western Carolina University in July 2013. Yesterday over 20 people got together at the SORO (Southern Regional Office) to continue planning the one week meeting.
See the video about the great location.
Almost 80 hikes will be offered from short strolls to substantial hikes on the A.T. The Hiking Committee has been working hard to see how many different hikes they can come up with on the A.T., in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Workshops will span the gamut from Cultural History on the A.T. to Hiking and Backpacking skills. How do you manage the Trail? And how you engage and encourage Appalachian Trail Communities?
And then there was my responsibilities - Excursions. These are non-hiking trips to learn about the area. They can be active like biking, birding and rafting or they can be cultural like art in Asheville, Smoky Mountain Railroad or a visit to the Biltmore Estate.
Speaking of the Biltmore Estate, this summer's prices will be $54 if you buy your ticket at the gate. There are all sorts of deals. So the question is: would you pay $54 to see the Biltmore Estate?
Let me know!
Once a year, Carolina Mountain Club hike leaders get dressed up and go to a dinner and educational session. About 50 leaders gathered last night to talk about hikes, hike leading and even things that might wrong on the trail.
Like in any organization, the social hour is where things get done. "Would you like to help me do a long hike in Pisgah National Forest?" asked a woman who is doing the 400 miles of trail in the forest. "What happened on the hike that was supposed to be led on Sunday?" And on it went.
At the official presentations, the hike schedulers were recognized. As Stuart said, "without hike schedulers, there would be no club." Careful scheduling of hikes and leaders is the life blood of the club and what sets us apart from other more casual clubs that go out on the spur of the moment.
It was officially decided that if a leader has to cancel a hike, he/she needs to put it on the website breaking news at least two hours before the first meeting point.
This lets a leader cancel a hike without going to the various meeting points but it has to be done judiciously and for good reasons. Most of the time, you can get a substitute if you can't go on a hike for personal reasons.
It was also the time to mingle with leaders who hike on Sunday afternoon or only on Wednesdays and to share ideas. Good meeting. Thanks to the hiking committee for setting it up.
The black bear on a green background is back on the North Carolina license plate. So he's a little smaller and he's had to move over to make way for a white box for your license plate but he's here.
With more than 20,000 on the road, the Friends of the Smokies bear plate is one of the most popular specialty license plates in North Carolina. This is how it works:
Of the extra $30 annual fee for the specialty tag, $20 goes to Friends of the Smokies to support a variety projects and programs in the North Carolina portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, bringing in over $430,000 in 2011. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in America, and one of the few that does not charge an entrance fee. But you knew that!
For more information about getting your own Friends of the Smokies specialty license plate, visit http://www.friendsofthesmokies.org/coolstuff.html or your local NC license plate office.
That's the good part. But for reasons that continue to mystify me, our North Carolina legislature has decided that by 2015, all the specialty license plates will be uniform. Only a small logo will be allowed. All the experts say that this new law will cut into sales of specialty plates.
So here when the government is telling us to do more with less, individuals are willing to pay an extra $30 for a license plate and the legislature is taking that away. Does that make sense?
Read an article about the threat to all North Carolina plates on National Parks Traveler.
While I was busy worrying about including EarthShare in the Asheville City employee giving program, a blog reader alerted me to another problem. A commission is looking into closing our North Carolina State Parks in the winter to save $2.4 million. The headlines said "millions of dollars" but the details show only 2.4 millions. They're also talking about the possibility of closing cultural resources and state museums. Look at this report.
Are they serious? I don't know but we better take them seriously.
The legislature ordered the study last year to determine whether the state could save money by consolidating administration "and to suggest optimal operating schedules for sites." This was the first that I've heard about this study. It certainly did not make the Asheville Citizen-Times. Why has the media in the mountains been so silent about it?
We, in Western North Carolina, are blessed with Federal lands, such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest, which cannot be closed. The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for various reasons in the winter and therefore Mt. Mitchell State Park is also often closed as well. We also have Chimney Rock State Park.
But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be outraged. Parks in the Piedmont and the Coast provide good winter recreation for millions when facilities are legitimately closed for winter weather in the Mountains.
So what would it mean for the folks walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail? Even if we accept that Mt. Mitchell would be closed in the winter, the potential closures would mean no access to:
The subcommittee will report back to the committee in March with potential recommendations for the full committee. The full legislature would have to approve any changes. This is the time to write to your North Carolina state representatives and state senators.
If the State really needs the 2.4 million dollars, why not charge two dollars a day like they do in South Carolina?
Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Asheville City Council. I was there to support a proposal to implement a charitable contribution combined campaign for City of Asheville employees.
In English that means that I support the inclusion of EarthShare as another option for Asheville City employees to have when they give through their workplace. As of now, the only option they have is United Way. I had sent an email to each council member separately to voice my support for EarthShare. Only Cecil Bothwell and Mark Hunt replied. The others ignored it. I always remember who bothers to answer me.
So I went there with a written statement, planning to be able to read it in maybe, 30 seconds. I never got the chance.
Julie Mayfield of Western North Carolina Alliance was also there. She's very politically savvy and knew that no one would be able to speak. A resolution was proposed by Cecil Bothwell but no one seconded it. If the resolution doesn't get a second, there's no discussion. It was over very quickly.
I was very disappointed. This move was choreographed like a ballet. The council knew that it was not going to pass so they chose to not second it. Excuse me?? But what about those of us who wanted to speak? If you're going to turn it down, turn it down legitimately. Let it come to a vote and stand by your vote. Don't blow off your own citizens.
The actual reason that there was not majority support is that they're concerned about competition with United Way. I'm all for United Way Campaigns; I gave to them for my 35 years of my working career. But this is 2012 and other concerns deserve money as well.
They moved on to Occupy Asheville. They wouldn't have dared to blow off Occupy Asheville; there were dozens of them. Maybe if we had had dozens, we might have gotten a hearing.
For this I missed my Zumba class?
On my trip to Eastern North Carolina, I visited the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly, close to Wilson. When walking from Raleigh to New Bern on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, I saw plenty of tobacco fields. I wanted to understand the impact of tobacco on the state.
North Carolina is still the largest producer of tobacco. After the Civil War ended the reign of King Cotton, tobacco became more popular and is credited for rebuilding the state. Two types of tobacco are grown. Flue tobacco is used for cigarettes and is heat cured. This is what is grown in Eastern North Carolina. In the mountains, Burly tobacco, used for cigars, is more popular. That's air cured.
The Museum seems to want to spread out from just tobacco to the farm life that tobacco provided. I was greeted by Melody, the curator who answered all my questions. On a cool winter weekday, I was the only person in the museum.
First I watched a film produced on the Holland Farm on growing tobacco. The movie showed every step of the process from starting the tobacco plants in greenhouses to taking to market. I'll spare you the step-by-step flowchart but the lasting impression I came away with is that it's a very labor intensive process.
Traditionally, tobacco was sold at auctions. It seems that with the auction system, farmers got paid once a year. That would require some serious financial management. Now most tobacco farmers are contracted directly with a cigarette company.
The Museum also has looms, and exhibits on soil erosion. They explained that traditionally settlers moved on when soil was eroded. By the 1920s, you couldn't do that anymore - there was no place to move.
When walking the MST, I passed many private gravesites on the side of the road. The museum explained that private gravesites were cheaper than church sites. There were no rules and need to pay for upkeep in the church cemetery. People want to be buried on land they are emotionally connected to and near the family members they left behind. That made sense of what I saw.
Outside the museum building, they had laid out the Brown family home which was built starting in 1910. It was left empty in 1960 and donated to the museum in 1989. The dining room and kitchen are in a separate building from the main house. The house seemed like a palace compared to houses in the Smokies.
There were also several barns and outbuildings. Each building had a "Thank you for not smoking" sign. Do they get the irony?
When I see old farm tools, my eyes just glaze over. But I did catch that the tools had been donated by a Midwestern company. Didn't North Carolina have its own legacy of tools?
I went back to the Museum gift store and saw Melody again. She was the only on duty and therefore stuck with me. She asked me what I was doing here and this was my chance to tell her about the MST.
I bought a book of local history My City, My Home about growing up in Wilson. Then Melody suggested Jacob's Cane about a Jewish immigrant family's involvement with the tobacco industry. I wonder why she did that.
I've never smoked but I am not a militant nonsmoker. I'm militant enough about other subjects.
Tobacco is an important part of North Carolina history and explains part of its prosperity. Now I see that I missed a cotton museum. But this won't be the last visit to Eastern North Carolina as I write my MST book.
Sometimes the officials say it best. And all I can do is cut and paste. So here goes.
The Blue Ridge Parkway will close the section between State Route 191, at French Broad Parking Overlook, Milepost 393.8, to State Route 151, Milepost 405, beginning Monday, February 13, 2012. This closure is expected to remain in place until April 15, 2012. The closure is required to complete repairs of Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1, located at Milepost 401.
The Parkway will also close the section between U.S. Route 19, Milepost 455.7, to the end of the Parkway at U.S. Route 441 in Cherokee, NC, until April 15, 2012, to complete repairs on the Big Witch Tunnel, located at Milepost 461.
The Parkway appreciates the public's understanding and patience of this long winter closure, without implementation of a signed detour, as these two very important tunnel safety projects are undertaken.
Look up all the recent Parkway road closures.
We interrupt my travelogue through the Piedmont and Coastal Plains of North Carolina for an important message.
Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been working hard to convince the Asheville City Council to add Earth Share groups (including FMST) into its employee giving campaign. The Council is expected to vote on February 14th. The open meeting is at 4 P.M. in City Hall, room 209. Yes, Valentine's Day!
EarthShare NC is a federation of national, state, and local environmental organizations, many of which are located or work here in Asheville and Buncombe County.
EarthShare NC has provided the workplace giving option for the environment in North Carolina for 20 years, raising over $7.5 million for programs to preserve clean air, safe drinking water, and in general, to promote a healthy environment for North Carolina residents. EarthShare NC is part of more than 100 workplace giving campaigns in North Carolina including those of Orange, Wake and Guilford counties and Durham City, Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Greensboro.
Two groups that are vital to the Asheville community and that I support include:
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has saved and bought thousands of acres of land in Hickory Nut Gorge. Without CMLC, the gorge would be a mess of high-priced houses. Even worse in this economy, the land would have been razed, cut up and left for dead and there wouldn't have been any houses at all.
Friends of the Mountains-Sea Trail supports the MST. We've all seen the iconic white circles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is the MST, our state trail that goes from Clingmans Dome in the Smokies to Jockey's Ridge State Park. The trail is built, maintained and blazed only with the help of thousands of volunteers. We're blessed that in the mountains, the MST is almost continuous for 300 miles but we need the support of Friends of the MST.
Adding Earthshare is a natural partnership for Asheville, given the City’s focus on sustainability and environmental protection, and this opportunity comes at a time when the environmental non-profit needs your help. Asheville depends on its mountains and trails to attract visitors.
I hope you will support the recommendation for a
combined campaign when the issue comes before Council next week. Here are council email addresses:
Mayor Terry Bellamy - firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer - email@example.com
Cecil Bothwell - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Davis - email@example.com
Marc Hunt - firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Pelly - email@example.com
Now, if you are so moved, please send a personalized email to our Asheville Council members. What better present to your sweetheart on Valentines' Day!
But what is this picture of Pilot Mountain doing up there? Stay tuned for more MST news!
In an attempt to get the Mountains-to-Sea Trail off the road in the Coastal Plains, the trail will shift to a section from Clayton to Smithfield. A greenway is supposed to be built along the Neuse River and 2.9 miles of it is already in place in Smithfield.
So I checked out Smithfield, a small town between Goldsboro and Raleigh, population, about 13,000. It's the county seat of Johnston County and its downtown is right on the Neuse River. I walked the few blocks of its lively downtown – with jewelry stores, financial services companies, photographic equipment, and even a $3 movie theater. Yes, it has lots of bail bonds store fronts, but that's what you expect around the courthouse.
It even has a bookstore, Orchard House Booksellers, which also serves as a downtown coffee house. That's always a good place to connect with locals. The Johnston County Heritage Center serves as the local museum and it's only one block to the Ava Gardner Museum. Yep, Ava Gardner came from around here. In case you can't remember a thing about Gardner, she was in On the Beach and her “longest marriage” was to Frank Sinatra.
I walked a bit of the Buffalo Creek Greenway on the Neuse River, the section from downtown Smithfield to the community park. That section starts where John Smith operated a ferry across the Neuse on his property starting in 1759. I met bikers, walkers and a fisherman. A few miles of the greenway would be a highlight of the Coastal Plains.
But I was supposed to check out the services that long-distance MST hikers might need. US 70 Business had everything – fast food places, laundromat and plenty of motels. And further back from downtown was the reason that Smithfield is doing so well - Carolina Premium Outlets. Eighty brand name stores that stay open until 9 p.m. way after downtown closes attracts a lot of people.
I don't think that MST hikers are going to be interested in the Kitchen Store or Talbot clothes but they will enjoy the services that are there because of the outlet mall. Yes, I think that Smithfield would make a fine MST trail town.
Goldsboro is in the middle of the Coastal Plains route of the MST. The trail doesn't go through the city but I wanted to see if it would make a good trail town. The short answer is no. The city is too big and spread out. It's also too quiet.
I had read that Temple Oheb Shalom (1886) in Goldsboro was the second oldest Jewish Synagogue in North Carolina - the first is in Wilmington. Now the building is a soup kitchen. A woman worker at the soup kitchen assured me that the building was well taken care of. Even so, they had put a sculpture of a pig in front of the entrance. See the picture on top. The irony was completely lost on them, but they're doing good work in a blighted neighborhood.
Center St., the heart of the historic district is dead. The street has four lanes divided by a strip of grass and shrubs. Unfortunately the street itself has many empty stores. There are a few second hand shops, a beauty parlor and a clinic. Bailbond offices seem to thrive. Some stores are closed when they were supposed to be open.
I dropped into the Paramount Theatre and met Vincent, the theatre service coordinator. The theater is the only lively outlet in the historic district, though, of course, it was pretty quiet on a Tuesday morning. He explained that the building was new but the theatre has been around since the 1920s.
I walked into the Wayne County Museum and was the only visitor. The Assistant Director, Chris, offered to give me a personalized tour but I declined. The museum was filled with displays of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. General Cornwallis marched through Wayne County on the way to Virginia from Wilmington in 1781. Quilts hung in the room upstairs. Chris got so excited that I knew about the synagogue that he wanted me to visit a closed furniture store owned by a Jewish business owner. I didn't think so. I'm not doing a Jewish tour of Goldsboro.
Like Sylva, the County Courthouse had closed its majestic entrances because they figured no one was going to use the steps. Now you enter through an unimaginative courtyard.
I had lunch at the Getaway Coffee house, a quiet lunch spot with attractive paintings on the wall. The coffee was located on a side street and had more life that most of the main historic district.
I went in search of Herman Park, a recreational park with picnic shelters, tennis courts, playground and lots more. There's a statue of the second “lady in the park'. The original has not weathered well and is convalescing at the museum.
But the people were very friendly. Everyone I talked to asked me in their own way what I was doing here. New in town? Visiting family? Passing through? So I told them about the MST but it didn't make much of an impression.
I have a friend who grew up in Goldsboro. I went looking for a postcard to send her but couldn't find any. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places but a city without postcards has given up hope. It was time to move on.