Celebrating Life in the Mountains:
Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 7 pm
Reuter Center in the Manheimer Room. Free, the public is invited.
This fascinating series continues with Points North highlighting points of interest north, south, east, and west of the Asheville area. This program features two iconic landmarks that lie primarily north of Asheville.
Julie Jenkins, Community Program Manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, will highlight the history and numerous opportunities the Appalachian Trail offers.
Over two million people hike a portion of the A.T. -- one of the longest footpaths in the world -- each year.
The Parkway has been voted one of America's favorite drives and consists of 469 miles of scenic and recreational opportunities. Few people are fortunate enough to have the world class opportunities that we have in Asheville.
If you're reading this blog, you probably know all about the A.T. and the Parkway. But it's all about meeting the people behind these organizations.
P.S. If you're wondering, Friends of the Smokies spoke as part of this program last fall.
Another excursion for the Appalachian Trail Biennial 2013. I took two Australian friends, Barrie and Joy, on a Pisgah District drive and short walk to test out a Pisgah excursion.
We visited several Pisgah "top of the pops".
First we went to Looking Glass Falls, an icon of Western North Carolina on US 276 in Pisgah Forest. See the picture above. Then further north to Sliding Rock - no one was sliding in the water since it was about 50 degrees but in the summer, there are lines of people queueing up to slide down into the pool.
The Cradle of Forestry was still closed for the season but we walked around the first school of Forestry in the country. Carl Schenck's original buildings have been preserved in a one-mile walk on a paved trail. Hopefully, walking a mile will still be counted as an excursion.
We reached the Blue Ridge Parkway and turned east to the Pisgah Inn. We ate lunch there which won't be part of the excursion, but maybe it should be. Then on the MST to Buck Spring Lodge, George Vanderbilt's hunting lodge. We found the root cellar and the spring house. The Aussie couple is sitting on a bench on the Lodge property. I didn't suggest that they hike up Mt. Pisgah.
We drove back south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to a view of Looking Glass Rock, another Western North Carolina icon.
All this while, Barrie was photographing flowers and views. He's going to have a hard time figuring out where he was and which view he's looking at.
So here's the question - would this make a good ATC Biennial excursion?
If you think that aging meant an inevitable slide into inactivity, you might want to consider this.
Today, Lenny and I went trail maintaining on the Appalachian Trail. It was raining when we woke up, raining when we left the house and raining when we got to the trailhead. Still we were out for several hours, clipping and picking up garbage around the trail. Twenty years ago, we would have said, "well, it's raining" and stayed around the house.
We walked up to the end of our new section - only 2.5 miles, instead of 5 we'll been maintaining for years. [Last month, we donated half the section to another maintainer.]
About two miles is the more normal length of a maintenance section but it felt short. We walked the same five miles, there and back, but didn't have that long shuttle to pick up the section car.
The trail had more garbage than usual. At one fire ring, I picked up three hot dog buns and a load of hot dogs. And lots of beer cans. The fire ring was close to an ATV trail and I'm sure all that trash was not from hikers.
On the plus side, we walked through a carpet of spring flowers - violets, hepatica, toothworths and Dutchmen's britches. Trilliums were ready to open up.
I saw my first bloodroot of the season and my first thru-hikers. Fred (aka Grandpa) looked to be doing well. If the thru-hikers are past the Smokies in March, they're doing well.
The waterfall was running swiftly.
I can't still find the name of this waterfall, so I decided to name it after us: Lennydanny Falls, about a mile north of Devil's Fork Gap on the North Carolina and Tennessee border. It's not a picturesque waterfall because of the two logs across it but it's "ours".
Sometimes you don’t have to have a reason to drop in on a local museum. But on the way to a Great Smoky Mountains Association meeting, I did have a reason to stop at Wheels through Time Museum. This private museum is a homage to everything motorcycle.
I was only on a motorcycle once in my life. I was a passenger a long, long time ago and I remember being terrified. But seeing motorcycles of all vintages is another thing. And I’m always thinking: would this make a good excursion at the ATC Biennial Conference next year?
The museum specializes in American motorcycle memorabilia. So plenty of Harley-Davidson, Indians and maybe a few others.
The motorcycles date back to the beginning of the 20th Century but everything runs. If it has two wheels, it runs. They have a restoration shop which keeps everything humming. And for a group, they’re willing to let you in the restoration shop. They’ll also start up a few machines.
Besides the motorcycles, they have posters, oil cans, sidecars, old leather helmets and motorcycle suits. A big climbing hill is in the middle of the floor to honor the competitors who climbed in the dirt with their bikes. They also have farm equipment and even a light plane powered by Harley Davidson engines.
For some reason, a few Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals in mint condition are also displayed. I don’t think they have Harley-Davidson engines.
What’s missing? Any mention of the movie The World’s Fastest Indian? Anthony Hopkins plays Burt Monro, a New Zealander who restored a 1920s Indian motorcycle and won a land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.
But I digress. Would Wheels through Time make a good ATC Biennial excursion? Let me know.
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!
It may seem like a long time from now but a committee has been working on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy 2013 Biannual meeting for a couple of years.
I'm responsible for excursions and I've started to plan and check out possible excursions.
The first stop is at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. It tells the story of the Cherokee People in a very vibrant way. Before visitors are let loose in the town, they might want to know about the history of the people here.
Across the street is the Qualla Arts Gallery, with exquisite and expensive native art. Cherokee has been criticized for having a lot of cheap stuff from China such as beads, moccasins and T-shirt. Well, this gallery is the real deal.
Before I head out to Mingo Falls, I have coffee at Tribal Grounds Coffee Shop. This is the best and really only place to have coffee and tea.
Mingo Falls is 120-foot waterfall right in the Big Cove area of Cherokee. I pass the educational complex, a beautiful building for all students in the town from Kindergarten to 12th grade. After about five miles, I turn into the Mingo Falls parking lot and walk up a long staircase to the falls. The water was really falling yesterday.
Lunch is at Paul's Diner. This is a traditional Cherokee restaurant which means fried bread with everything. If you want rabbit or bison, this is the place. But the restaurant is not about the food. It's a real Cherokee atmosphere with Indian themed pictures on the wall and over the fireplace. People sit at a bar in front of a large-screen TV. You can't buy an alcohol drink in Cherokee but that doesn't mean that patrons can't watch the big game anyway. A pie case rotates showing off the most lavish sweets around. And of course, most of the diners are Cherokee.
The tacky kitch is very visible in Cherokee because as they will tell you, this is what tourists want. So you'll pass
Pan F'r Gold, Native American Dance Shows and the Wigwam Motel. You'll also pass Harrah's Cherokee Casino and resort, the largest single tourist attraction in NC with 3.5 million visitors. But the excursion won't take you there because it's been vetoed by the Chair of the conference committee.
But even with all that kitch, you know that this is a real live town, not just a tourist attraction. There's a hospital, public transit system with large vans, a supermarket and apartments.
I discovered a bookstore, Talking Leaves which you won't find just walking around. The low building housing the bookstore is overshadowed by the KCF at the intersection of US 19 and US 441.This bookstore specializes in native American books and seems to have books about every tribe. It also had cookbooks, children's books and every book that Sherman Alexie has written. I bought a book on Indians and the National Parks.
This will be a real popular attraction, I'm sure.
How did Jennifer Pharr Davis walk the Appalachian Trail in 46 days? In one word, displicine.
But for more nuance and details, read Brew Davis' 46 Days: Keeping up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail. The thin book is the blog that her husband, Brew Davis, kept while leading the Pit Crew that supported Jennifer on her trek.
Day by day, he describes her mileage and length of her walking day. On average she walked from 5 A.M. to 9 P.M. Now that's discipline. The average mileage, 46.4 miles, is amazing. Brew describes the logistics of meeting her at road crossings, giving her food and drink, helping her with any problems like icing shin splints - and of course, encouragement.
Just as amazing as her mileage was the food she ate. A moderately active woman should eat between 1,500 and 2,000 calories. Jennifer was supposed to eat 6,000 calories. So much of it came from fried foods - French fries, onion rings, hamburgers and cheap fast food buys. How did her stomach take in all of that?
Brew is amazed by his wife's feat. He keeps saying that "she's a freak of nature" and "what a woman". He was sidelined by a knee injury and couldn't walk much with her. But many other supporters did walk with her. She didn't run. I recognized Matt Kirk, a trail runner who set the record for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail last year.
Jennifer felt that she had pushed herself to the limit. So few people take the opportunity to do that. In her epilogue, she knows that someone will beat her record. But for now she is the fastest person on the A.T. I just wished I could see her picture on a Wheaties box.
Yesterday I took a trip to Jackson County for two purposes.
I wanted to go to Western Carolina University to see where the 2013 Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial meeting was going to be held. I had been to Western several times but now I was paying attention.
But the main reason was to explore Sylva as a possible trail town. When Sharon and I did the Mountains-to-Sea Trail close to Balsam Gap in Jackson County, we stayed on the highway and went into Sylva for dinner. Sylva could be a great MST trail town. To qualify as a trail town, in my opinion, the people in town must know about the MST. That will take a long time but it's never too early for hikers to educate business owners about the MST.
If you're reading this as a Board member or part of the staff of Friends of the MST, rest assured that I know that the MST is not ready for trail towns. But I can speculate.
A trail town should be small so that residents get to see MST hikers as assets that bring in money and publicity to the town. Conversely, hikers get a good feel for the town. Sylva is less than three square miles and has only about 2,600 people.
But for most hikers, a trail town is all about services. Traditionally, long-distance hikers look for cheap food and a laundrymat - Sylva has both and more.
The old County Courthouse is on a hill overlooking Main St. See above. When the new Jackson County Justice and Administration Building was completed in 1994, the old building stayed empty until it was completely restored and reopened as a library complex in 2011.
I walked the 107 steps. But after I reached the top, I saw that the steps no longer lead to the entrance. Now you go into the building from the parking lot. A majestic entrance was lost in the redesign.
At the top of the stairs, a statue of a Civil War soldier guards what was the front of the building. That was the last major war in the U.S. before the building opened. Every town in the South needs a Civil War memorial. The complex includes a room for the Jackson County museum. When I got there at 12:35 pm, the room was closed. The museum was supposed to be open at noon. I asked several employees about the museum but all I got was a polite shrug.
Main Street is the classic small town street - a hair salon, a fly fishing shop, bicycle shop, an outfitter, and a used bookstore that benefits the library.
Massie Furniture Store carries 1950s furniture, the kind in my parents' apartment in Brooklyn.
A hardware store and Jackson General Store have clothes and dishes and everything else that's supposed to keep you from going to Wal-Mart. Peebles, a one-floor department store that seems to pop up in small towns, sells 1960s clothes. The craft gallery is closed for January and February. Free wifi is advertised everywhere. I need to go back to Sylva in the spring when it comes back to life again.
Up on a hill, City Lights Bookstore is very much alive and stays open until 9 pm. Under the bookstore is a coffee shop and cafe that also serves meals and beer and wine. It's the best place for coffee and goodies.
Mill Street parallels Main Street. By the railroad tracks, Bridge Park has a great looking picnic shelter. Wouldn't that make a good place to camp for long-distance MST walkers? The town would have to install a couple of Port-o-Johns. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon but hikers could stay at Blue Ridge Inn. It's a privately owned nonchain motel with rocking chairs and outside entrance to each room. Don't look for rave reviews on Trip Advisor.
Most of what a long-distance hiker needs is on US 107 including Ted's Laundromat and several supermarkets for resupply. All types of fast food are available on the highway. Two all-you-can-eat buffets, Ryan's and Jade Dragon, will fill up anyone.
But this may be an old-fashioned stereotypic view of long-distance hikers. Not everyone who does a long-distance hike walk is trying to do it the cheapest way possible.
Sharon and I wanted slow food. Lulu's on Main Street is the classic place.
But Soul Infusion further north has, well, soul. They offer over 60 different teas, served properly in a tea pot with boiling water. That's the infusion part. The soul is the 1970s funky decor - posters, signs, lei hung on the wall - and friendly people that will talk to you. The food is good and, yes, they serve beer and wine.
So when the time comes, Sylva has a good chance to compete as a MST mountain trail town.
What is Jennifer Davis going to do after she became the fastest person on the Appalachian Trail? Go on tour and show others how to have a good experience on the A.T.
Jennifer (may I call her Jennifer?) is going on a winter Tour to help others get on the trail.
Her first stop is at Diamond Brand Outdoors on Sunday, January 8th from 1 pm - 5 pm
Here's what the press release says:
This comprehensive, one-day clinic will help aspiring Appalachian Trail hikers to better prepare for their time on the trail. Workshop topics will include: gear, trip planning, nutrition, physical and mental preparation. The class is geared toward aspiring thru-hikers, but is also recommended for those wanting to experience the trail through day hiking and section hiking.
What to Bring: Pen, paper, comfortable hiking shoes, warm clothes and snacks.
What's included: Snacks and a Diamond Brand coupon for 20% off your purchase (boats excluded)
Cost: $20/person, but buy a copy of Becoming Odyssa between now and January 8th and receive $10 off your ticket (a coupon will be provided)
1 pm - 2:30 pm: Hiking Overview and Gear Planning: Trail Specifics, Resupply Options, Nutrition, and Mental and Physical Preparation
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm: Field Trip. We will end the workshop by first making a quick stop by Ingles to talk about hiking foods and trail nutrition and then we will conclude with a 2 mile hike at Fletcher Park to physically test gear, and talk about training. This will give participants the chance to test new gear, learn some trail hiking tips, practice some beneficial hiking exercises, and GET OUTDOORS!!!
5 pm - until: Arrive back at the store before it closes to conclude workshop and allow participants to purchase gear. Brew Davis will talk about his new book coming out about their hike, and Jen will do a talk to launch her tour.
The day will be topped off with a Meet and Greet with Jennifer and Brew where they will be talking about hiking as a New Year's resolution and will tell stories from hikes around the globe as well as share their favorite local hikes. This free event starts at 5:00pm at Diamond Brand and is open to all. The more the merrier.
For more information or to register, contact Jennifer at email@example.com.
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.