Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Appalachian Trail

A.T. Challenge - Lemon Gap to Garenflo Gap

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Apr 24, 2013 10:58 AM
Filed Under:


On Earth Day, I walked another section of the Appalachian Trail to continue the Carolina Mountain Club challenge. Lemon Gap to Garenflo Gap which meanders over the Carolina-Tennessee border wasn't much of a challenge--7.7 miles and 1,900 feet of ascent.

What was the challenge was the car shuttle. If I was doing this challenge with another crowd, I would have suggested that we backpack it to avoid the long, long shuttle dance.

We left our house in Asheville at 8:15 and picked up Tish close to Hot Springs. We drove on NC 209 to Garenflo Gap where we dropped off one car. After the three of us piled in the other car, we proceeded to go up, up, up to Lemon Gap passing Max Patch. Finally on the trail at 10:30 am.

After that, the hike was easy.A.T.comingdownBluffmt - 2013 We hiked up Walnut Mountain, down and up to Bluff Mountain (4,686 feet up), an iconic top on this section of the trail. See the thru-hikers on top of Bluff.

Thru-hikers are dwindling as we continue this project. On the first hike out of Davenport Gap a few weeks ago, they were pouring out like water from a spout. But as the weeks move on, most thru hikers are out of the area or have given up.

One marker is the Hot Springs Trail Fest which occurred last weekend. Since the A.T. goes right through Hot Springs, Trail Fest is scheduled when the bulk of hikers are likely to be in town. If hikers are south of Hot Springs, they are not keeping up with the wave.

A.T.Bluffmt - Trout lilyFlowers covered the trail sides. There were still blood root, spring beauties and other early spring flowers. The flowers of the day were the trout lilies. Once on top of Bluff Mountains, it was a lovely stroll down to Garenflo Gap. We reached the trailhead at 3 pm.

Then the challenge started all over again. We had to get back to Lemon Gap to pick up the second car. Tish was on her way home and we gave a lift to a father/son team that was just doing a short backpack.

A.T. Max Patch parking - 2013

That gave us a chance to stop at Max Patch to see the construction project on the trailhead. A few months ago, a couple of vandals rode up the face of the bald, making grooves and ruts on the land. Pisgah National Forest decided to redesign the parking area to try to prevent ATVs from getting up to the bald. Right now, you can't park in the usual place but you can still walk up to the top of Max Patch.

A lot more driving from Max Patch. We got home at 5:30 pm. Hopefully the shuttles will become easier as we continue hiking on our way to Spivey Gap.

A.T. Challenge - Devils Fork Gap to Sams Gap

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Apr 21, 2013 07:55 PM
Filed Under:

A.T. Devils Fork Gap to Sams Gap

On Saturday, Lenny, Janet Martin and I walked another section of the Appalachian Trail for the Carolina Mountain Club 90 in 90 hiking challenge. Devils Fork Gap to Sams Gap is very familiar to us. It is a classic CMC hike. We also maintain the  first 2.5 miles beginning at Devils Fork Gap and going north. This section is 8.5 miles with 2,800 feet of ascent.

Unlike the sections that we've been doing and will continue to do, this shuttle was simple. First we placed a car at Sams Gap, off of I-26. Then we drove through Flag Pond and up to Devils Fork Gap. Finally we start walking.

The trail starts off in a meadow, then down to Rector Laurel Road. Then it starts climbing. You might think that there's nothing special about this section - apart from the fact that we maintain it.

But wait! A two-grave cemetery is right on the trail. Now you know that the descendants who place plastic flowers aren't going to walk. But if you look off the trail a little, you'll see an ATV road. That's probably how they get to the cemetery.

A great waterfall follows. I'm never been able to find the name of this waterfall. Maybe it doesn't have one.

The trail reaches Sugarloaf Gap, a flat field with an (illegal) fire ring. Up, up, up to great views across I-26 into Tennessee. Once past Rice Gap, the trail passes Hogback Shelter and then climbs back up to 4,500 feet and comes down to Sams Gap.

Squirrel Corn - 2013Yesterday, the flowers were amazing. Fields of white trilliums, squirrel corn (in the picture), Dutchmen's britches and still some spring beauties.

Spring has been long in coming but now the flowers are at their peak.



Who is a Volunteer (in the Outdoor World)?

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Apr 19, 2013 05:25 PM
Filed Under:

ATmaintainer.jpgI have been working for a good couple of years on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference.

My job is to plan excursions and find volunteers who would lead these excursions. I also need to find volunteers who will staff the excursion desks and answer questions about the excursions.

Finally, registration for the conference opened up this week. I've been getting emails left and right from volunteers who want to know if they need to pay the registration fee or pay for lodging at Western Carolina University. These questions were not asked in a sense of entitlement but just to find out what they were getting for their volunteerism.

I answered as follows:

Yes, you have to register just like anyone else. For your volunteer service, you'll get a T-shirt, an invitation to a volunteer reception and my undying gratitude. Surely that's worth your service for a day or so. Over a third of the ATC biennial folks volunteer in some capacity or other.

So what is a real volunteer? I like this definition. A volunteer is a person who gives his/her Services without any express or implied promise of remuneration.

If you are an intern or if you get college credit for your service, that is remuneration. If you work for a company but  but are allowed to spend time working for a nonprofit, that's not volunteering. It's nice but you are not a volunteer. A volunteer shouldn't expect to be paid mileage or to get a free T-shirt. You should expect that you have real work to do that makes a difference to a cause.

So Lenny and I maintain a piece of the Appalachian Trail and a piece of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. We volunteer because we hike these trails and that's the only way the trails are maintained.

I lead hikes for Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Smokies because I feel that I'm doing something important. I want to encourage people to get out of their cars and into the woods. Leading hikes is a good way to do that.

Some of my volunteer efforts, like being on the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, is prestigious. Clipping growth on the trail is grunt work but it needs to be done.

But it's all good and no one pays for our mileage.

The ATC biennial conference still needs a lot of volunteers. Interested?

Brown Gap to Lemon Gap on the A.T.

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Apr 11, 2013 08:23 PM
Filed Under:

Brown Gap to Lemon Gap - Max Patch

Spring is really here!

Brown Gap to Lemon Gap - A.T. GroupOur group of four (from left to right - me, Tish, Sawako and Lenny) continued hiking the Carolina Mountain Club section of the Appalachian Trail by walking from Brown Gap to Lemon Gap. Where two weeks ago, the weather was cold, icy and snowy, today was beautiful, sunny and dry.

The hike was easy - 8.9 miles and 1,700 feet of altitude gain. What was difficult was placing the cars. First we met Tish at Max Patch. We drove two cars to Lemon Gap. Then backtracking quite a bit to go to Brown Gap where we left the other car. The hike was easy but the shuttle was horrendous. Finally we started walking.

The trail was the typical green tunnel, between two sets of trees, except that the trees had not leafed out yet. So it was really a brown tunnel.Brown Gap to Lemon Gap - A.T. Sawako The picture here is of Sawako being dwarfed by a large blowdown.

But then we reached Max Patch and the world opened up. See the top photo.

The top of Max Patch is a favorite destination for non hikers. In a quarter-mile, you can get to the top and be in outdoor heaven. The views are outstanding.

Then the trail went down, down, down. First to Roaring Creek shelter, one of the newest shelters on the CMC section. Then down the rest of the way. And this is where spring flowers really came out.

Brown Gap to Lemon Gap - Blood Root

Hepatica and spring beauties, lots of spring beauties. If those were all the flowers that we were going to see, it would have been enough. But blood root (shown just above) blossomed and even a few trout lilies. There was the promise of trilliums in the next couple of weeks.

I hope you're getting out because this is the best time for spring wildflowers.


One cord away from losing it

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Apr 01, 2013 01:58 PM
Filed Under:

Barbara and me in front of Books Unlimited, Franklin

I think I'm one electric cord away from losing it.

On Friday evening, I went to City Lights bookstore in Sylva. The bookstore is very active in promoting authors. I showed up with my laptop, projector and speakers so I could give a slide/video show.

Most authors just waltz in with just a copy of their book., They've put post-its, marking the pages they're going to read. Some don't even bother preparing. I've seen authors flipping through their book and saying "Now what shall I read?"

But not me. I come with several boxes of equipment.

Though I 've done slide shows before, several times for The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina, I keep adding more stuff. Technology changes as well.

One positive of technology changes is that more venues have projector display systems. All I have to bring is a flash drive. But not enough venues, in my estimation. Small independent bookstores expect their authors to just read.

So along with the laptop, digital projector and speakers, I better remember power cords for all that and cords to connect one to the other - and power strips Forget one bit and I might as well not have bothered with it all.

It takes me a while to put it all together, test it and protect it to make sure that someone with an itchy finger not touch a computer key. I get a lot of old guys who volunteer "to help" and I have to be polite when I say that I can handle it all.

Keep away from my stuff!

On Saturday, I drove to Franklin to exhibit for Books Unlimited. From 10 am to noon, I was stationed on the Main St. meeting and greeting the few people who passed by on their way to the A.T. Trailfest a couple of blocks away. No equipment, no slide show, just me.

My companion author was Barbara Woodall who wrote "It's not my mountain anymore". She chronicled the changes she's seen in the past fifty years living outside of Clayton, GA. You may remember that Clayton was the setting of the Deliverance movie, a connection that Clayton still encourages, according to Barbara.

I asked her about her book but she didn't bother asking me about the MST book. I was cold and not prepared to be outside for two hours.

A.T. Brown Gap to Davenport Gap - a snowy day

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Mar 31, 2013 08:10 AM
Filed Under:

Browngapdavenportgap snow - 2013

It has taken me almost a week to finally write about my Appalachian Trail hike from Brown Gap to Davenport Gap (13 miles, 3,500 feet ascent).

On Monday, we did the second hike for the Carolina Mountain Club  A.T. 90 in 90 challenge. Lenny and I had made plans with Tish and Sawako and we were going.

Browngapdavenportgap-Lennyandme 2013Yes, it was cold but dry here. We met Tish and left a car at Davenport Gap just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We drove to Brown Gap and started the hike at over 3,600 feet. The whole scene from the ground to the trees was in snow. Pretty, but not comfortable if you're going to spend the whole day on the trail. But how could I complain when I was there for a day hike and thru-hikers had slept on the trail?

I was cold. I was cold from the time I stepped out of the car until the time I got back into the car. We had few stops. And the ones we did have were uncomfortable and awkward. I took off my gloves, put more clothes on, pulled out my snack and the rest of the group had already eaten, packed up and were waiting for me impatiently.

Browngapdavenportgap-groundhogcreekshelter 2013Lunch was at Ground Hog Creek Shelter. We met a young couple still in their sleeping bags. They weren't moving.The picture to the left is of the moldering privy for the shelter.

I asked everyone I met, at least those that stopped long enough to talk, how and where they got their Smokies shelter permit. Most had gotten them at home before they left for the trail. They found it easy and no big deal. Twenty dollars to stay in the shelters was not excessive.

A couple of hikers didn't realize that they needed a permit until they got to NOC. They were able to use the computer there. And again no big deal. A small group of locals, who want to stay anonymous, are suing the park over the backpacking fee but hikers from the rest of the country didn't seem to get excited over the fee. Of course, this is a small and throroughly unscientific survey which I will continue whenever  I meet hikers who've come out of the Smokies.

Once, we went under I-40 and started up again, it got a little warmer. I saw my first spring flowers: a couple of blood root, star chickweed and closed trilliums.

We reached Davenport Gap at about 5:30 pm and went to pick up the first car at Brown Gap. The road up to Brown Gap was covered with snow and so was the car. We came down awfully slowly and finally made it home at 7:30 pm.

I caught a whopper of a cold, or maybe the flu, and I still have some of the effects.


Allen Gap to Tanyard Gap on the Appalachian Trail

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Mar 18, 2013 12:04 PM
Filed Under:

Allengap to Tanyard Gap group - 2013/03/17

A few weeks ago, Carolina Mountain Club announced two new challenges to celebrate its 90th anniversary.

Walk the major trails that the club maintains: 130 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and/or walk 92 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Lenny who's on the Board of Appalachian Trail Conservancy wanted to walk the A.T. and we started yesterday.

I had this picture of walking the whole section: Davenport Gap to Spivey Gap in order, south to north. But it's not going to happen this way.

We want to go on CMC hikes whenever they're scheduled. Yesterday, we walked Allen Gap to Tanyard Gap, north to south. It was a steep 8.9 miles and 2,100 feet of ascent.

We placed half the cars at Tanyard Gap on US 70, east of Hot Springs. Then we drove north to Allen Gap on US 208 and started walking.

The first thru-hikers of the season appeared just as we started up. It's like seeing the first bloodroot or first robin. Spring is here. If these folks are north of the Smokies by this time (March 17), they are doing very well.

We had lunch at Spring Mountain Shelter, then passed two headstones close to Hurricane Gap Road.

A.T. headstone - 2013/03/18 When you see artifacts like this in the woods, you know you must be close to the road.

The highlight was climbing Rich Mountain Tower with its outstanding views.A.T. View from Rich Mountain Tower - 2013/03/18

This view above is toward the Smokies.

Why do this?

Lenny and I have walked the whole A.T. and finished in 1998. So why do this again? I am so involved in book events for my MST book that I really feel squeezed.

The most important reason to walk it again is to see the CMC A.T. section again in a different light. Though I've walked many A.T. miles with CMC over the 12 years I've been here, now I'll pay attention to the trail heads, artifacts and condition of the trail.

It is only by walking the trails, any trail, that you can protect them. Just talking about them or looking at pictures just doesn't cut it.


The Gentle Art of Wandering - Book Review

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Jan 09, 2013 12:53 PM
Filed Under:

Book - gentleartofwanderingI love Facebook. I love it not because I can keep up with my friends but because of the people I meet that may become future friends.

As you know, I've been working on the ATC Biennial 2013 for years. It seems like it's ATC Biennial 24/7 at our house. Recently Leanna Joyner set up a FB page just for the ATC Biennial conference.

And this is where I met David Ryan, author of The Gentle Art of Wandering. I would have just glazed over the FB entry but David, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is giving a workshop at the biennial. So I had to look at his book. This may be a long introduction to a small book.

David is an A.T. 2000-miler, not afraid of "real" backpacking but he's been exploring new areas at a slower speed and really looking. Wandering, he says, is the ability to "see" with your entire body and experience what's around you.

I think of the last hike I took with Carolina Mountain Club - 33 people all catching up on news with each other. I love these hikes for their social aspect and for showing me areas that I haven't seen before. I am present and connected to others that may point out something that I haven't noticed.

But wandering, David says, is not a station-to-station journey; you have permission to change course. This is what you do when you first arrive in a new city. David discovered public staircases in Los Angeles.

Walking in LA? It turns out that LA has over 260 staircases that were built to help riders reach trolley lines located in the hilly parts of the city. The trolleys are long gone but the staircases are there for you to explore. The book mentions other cities with staircases, including Cincinnati. Trying to check out a new city by car is not easy, David says. Where do you park? How are you going to get back and what if there's a one-way street?

Of course, New York is almost built for wandering. But what about here in North Carolina? The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is perfect for David's wandering. About half of the trail is on footpath and the other half is on back roads. If David is looking for new places to wander, he could check out the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, followed by the Florida Trail and the Palmetto Trail.

But as the author says, anytime you get out of your car, it's a wonderful experience.

You can buy The Gentle Art of Wandering at and meet the author at the ATC Biennial Conference 2013.

 The Gentle Art of Wandering by David Ryan New Mountain Books  112 pages, $12

Along the Appalachian Trail Book Review

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Dec 07, 2012 01:34 PM
Filed Under:

ATCAdkinsbookHere's a gift idea!

Along the Appalachian Trail: Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, published by Acadia Publishing ($21.99), is a book to read, browse, and refer to often.

It contains over 200 photographs of the A.T. then and, sometimes, now. Leonard M. Adkins, the author, is a nature and outdoor writer with 16 books to his credit. He's hiked the A.T. five times.

The book is organized by hiking clubs. Photographs of and from the five "Deep South" clubs--Georgia ATC, Nantahala Hiking Club, Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, Carolina Hiking Club and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoe Club, are featured.

Coincidentally, these five clubs will be the host of the 2013 ATC Biennial Conference. Old hiking pictures portray backpackers with external frame packs--yeah I had one of those and I'm so grateful for internal frame packs. Even in the 1970s, dayhikers still used soft and shapeless rucksacks. Trail building and maintenance was a lot harder in the days before chain saws. A photo taken in 1932 shows a group using hatchets to bring down trees for a new section of trail.

For this book, Adkins had to scour archives and libraries. He also asked hikers to look at their old photo collections. Many photographs came from the ATC archives, Smoky Mountains National Park Library and the Ramsey Library Special Collection. Most of the historic CMC pictures at the Ramsey Library came from the William Kirkman Special Collection. Coincidentally, this shows the importance of shooting and saving photographs in hi-res and labeling them properly.

The captions tell the story of the history of the A.T. as it moved from road to trail to new trail. But if you need one more reason to check out this book, there's a historic photo of our own Morgan Sommerville, ATC Southern Regional Director, on a work trip.

Along the Appalachian Trail: Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee is available through your local bookstore, at the ATC store and of course, on Amazon. 

Jennifer and Hannah - role modeling?

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Nov 26, 2012 11:29 AM
Filed Under:

Hannah and Jennifer Pharr DavisOne more day with our son and granddaughter. And who should be at Malaprop's on Shop Local Saturday but Jennifer Pharr Davis?

As you recall, Jennifer holds the record as the fastest person on the A.T. She walked 2185 miles in 46 days and change in 2011. And she lives in Asheville.

No one has beat her yet.

Jennifer was signing books at the store and Lenny (Grandpa) took Hannah to meet her. The Appalachian Trail was still fresh in Hannah's mind, since she had worked so hard on clearing our section of trail, just a few days before.

To add to the role modelling, Jennifer and her husband, Brew Davis, just had a baby girl. But Jennifer didn't bring the baby to the store.

Brew could watch the infant for a couple of hours while Jennifer concentrated on her books and fans. It wasn't going to take Jennifer months and years to get back to her business. Good for her!

Jennifer signed my copy of 46 Days, her husband's blog about her record-breaking feat.

It's never how far or how fast you go but what you take from your experience. Jennifer Pharr Davis 2012

I'm not sure I agree with this sentiment, but that's a subject for another blog post.

So what is Jennifer planning next?

Surprise on the A.T.

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Nov 22, 2012 06:57 AM
Filed Under:


I expected a routine maintenance trip on the Appalachian Trail, yesterday. We're in the middle of hunting season and we made sure to wear orange vests.

We planned to clip branched, clear the trail of branches and pick up some garbage. We did all that and more. Hannah, our granddaughter, came with us. She and her family were visiting for Thanksgiving and a day of trail maintenance is becoming a tradition. Our way of giving thanks.


We were not prepared for the tangle of branches that fell as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Our section of trail, from Devils Fork Gap north for 2.5 miles, has a section of rhododendrons that always needs clearing. But this time, Lenny, Hannah and I spent over an hour cutting, clearing and moving dead limbs from the trail. You can see the effect of the work right away.

ATmaintenance201211-deerThen we climbed the trail and saw a tame fawn coming toward us. We stood dead still while the fawn approached us. I started taking pictures and it wasn't fazed at all. The fawn wore an orange ribbon around its middle, a sure sign that this was not a wild animal.

It got close to Hannah and didn't mind being petted. In fact, it was nuzzling up to her, maybe looking for food. But we didn't feed it. We surmised that a local family had taken in the deer when it lost its mother. It looked like it has been born this year.

Finally we walked on. The trail needed a lot more work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Nov 08, 2012 09:02 PM
Filed Under:

ATC office in Harpers Ferry

Lenny and I have left languid, slow Charleston and drove up North. We're in Shepherdstown, W. Virginia close to Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry is the half-way point of the Appalachian Trail and the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Lenny is on board of the ATC and is here to attend a board meeting. I'm a camp follower and plan to check out a couple more national park units.

But wait, the Appalachian Trail is a park unit. Technically, it's the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In a cooperative agreement, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy maintains the A.T. Actually, the 31 trail-maintaining clubs actually get their hands dirty but ATC guide them. ATC also manages the visitor center and greets visitors and hikers.

So to treat it like any other park unit, the A.T. became a park unit in 1968. About two to three million visitors get on the A.T. for a little while. And to do the whole trail, you'd need five to six months.

ATC office - receptionWe checked out the visitor center and the bookstore and walked around the town of Harpers Ferry. Tomorrow, I'm going to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park while Lenny goes to meetings.

We're staying at the National Conservation Training Center owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The facilities are top-notch. Instead of frou-frou luxuries, the rooms are set up to be comfortable for two people: two of everything including loads of work space and outlets.

Good meals are served in the cafeteria, decorated with historical leaders of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The gym is awesome. And it's set in a  woodsy setting with several short trails.

Carolina Mountain Club at Bent Creek

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Nov 03, 2012 05:49 PM
Filed Under:


Last evening at the Carolina Mountain Club annual dinner and meeting, our guest speaker was Mark Wenger, Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Today, he hiked with us at Bent Creek. We were supposed to hike on Max Patch on the A.T. but with a foot of snow up at 5,000 feet, we stayed close to Asheville. It was a good decision.

CMCBentcreekhikeThe day started cold but 13 hikers showed up including two guests. We climbed up to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and we bumped into runners doing the Shut-in Race.

This is a serious 18-mile, 3,000 feet ascent from the NC Arboretum to Pisgah Inn. Actually, this year, it was 19 miles since some of the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed. The runners we saw were at the tail end. However just finishing this grueling race is an achievement. At one point, we saw our internist, Dr. Hemme, and cheered him on.

After the runners passed us, the hike went down to Bent Creek Trail. We took a detour on the Carolina Mountain Trail, built by CMC, to the Arboretum where we had lunch.

This was not a wilderness experience. Instead,we had the chance to talk about conservation issues, trade some tips on gear and make plans for future hikes. That's what a hiking club is all about. We actually get out there.




Scouting Max Patch on the A.T.

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Oct 21, 2012 01:38 PM
Filed Under:

Maxpatch Scout-FromMaxpatch

Yesterday Lenny and I scouted a hike around Max Patch that he will lead on Saturday November 3 for Carolina Mountain Club. Every hike that we lead for any group must be checked out.

Max Patch is an iconic bald on the Appalachian Trail, close to Hot Spring. It's not certain how balds came to be but now the US Forest Service, helped by volunteers, mow the bald.

It was cold when we got to the top of Max Patch. The wind was blowing and I was glad for the wool hat. But the views were outstanding. Strollers and dogwalkers were already up there but that's where most stayed.

MaxPatchScout-Southbounders We continued on the A.T. northbound to Roaring Fork Shelter. About a mile further, after crossing Roaring Fork a couple of times, we met three Southbounders who had started the A.T. in Maine in May. They were practically giddy today because they were slackpacking--hiking with a small daypack while someone had taken their large backpack on ahead.

MaxPatchScout-LennyinleavesThe trail was covered in leaves and Lenny was leafed over.

On the way back, we picked up the Buckeye Ridge Trail, where we could look up at Max Patch and see the tiny people up there. See the photo below.

It's a classic hike that I've done several times but it's an outstanding hike each time. Next time you go up to Max Patch, walk past the top and get in the woods a little.

MaxPatch Scout-LookingupatMaxPatch 

The Appalachian Trail -A Book Review

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Oct 09, 2012 08:14 PM
Filed Under:

The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America's Hiking Trail


When I first sat down with The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail, it was to look at the beautiful photographs and to reminisce about our section hiking as we completed the A.T. Instead I kept being drawn to the words, to the story of the trail.

The history of the A.T. starts before the famous paper by Benton MacKaye which proposed a wilderness path along the Appalachian mountains. Though MacKaye’s proposal was in part an attack against the automobile, it was only with a car that people could contemplate using long footpaths. Before that, people went to resorts and walked circular loops.

While MacKaye thought, wrote, and proselytized with a pipe in his mouth, Myron Avery was the doer and is my A.T. hero. He was a maritime lawyer by day and an Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) volunteer and advocate 24/7, it seems.

He organized the Potomac ATC (site of the 2015 Biennial), and was the longest serving ATC chair. By walking and blazing every bit of the A.T. of its day, he became the first 2000-milers in 1936. The general public might talk of “thru-hiking” but for ATC, those of us who've completed the whole trail are called 2000-milers. The trail was declared finished a year later – hence the 75th anniversary – but a lot of the trail was still on private land and on roads.

This quote made me laugh aloud. Avery wrote to MacKaye.
“Had you ever worked on the Trail… you might well appreciate the reaction to such armchair suggestions…I do wish those who talk so much about the “footless’ Trail and the “wilderness’ Trail would really go out on the Trail.” So right.

MacKaye broke with Avery and went on to the Wilderness Society. Two other big dates in the history of the trail - 1968 when the A.T. became the first National Scenic Trail and 1984 when the National Park Service turned over the management of the A.T. to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Throughout all that history, the pages are sprinkled with wonderful photographs.

Lenny Bernstein--yes, he's my husband--contributed two pages on the impact of climate change on the trail. The more extreme scenarios paint a scary picture of drought, more insects, and more hurricane force winds. After a fascinating history of the A.T. and its present challenges, the photo gallery starts.

Carolina Mountain Club members might go directly to the North Carolina/Tennessee photographs. We all know that those two states have the most beautiful sections of the trail.

If there is one negative, it’s that the book cover advertises a foreword by Bill Bryson without stating who wrote the text. Bryson made the A.T. world famous but he didn’t finish the trail and annoyed all of us who did.

Brian King is the author of this book and his name should have been on the cover in big print. King has been the mainstay of publications for ATC since 1987. He wrote the text, is the keeper of the A.T. history, and is ultimately responsible for all news that comes out of ATC. When you come to the ATC Biennial next year in Cullowhee, NC, you can meet Brian. He’ll be the one managing the ATC store selling books and mementoes in the exhibit area.

Even if you've been reading on an iPads, iPhones, and other devices, you need to touch, handle, and turn the pages of this book.

For all those with holiday lists, your problem is solved. Give this book to a hiker, trail maintainer, historian, environmentalist, or photographer. The best place to get the book is on the ATC website. As an ATC member, you’ll get a discount. But of course, there’s always Amazon.        

Blue Ridge Parkway Experience for the ATC Biennial

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Aug 27, 2012 08:36 PM
Filed Under:


Everyone who comes to the Southern Appalachians should have a Blue Ridge Parkway experience. They should drive a while and stop a while on the most visited National Park unit in the country. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference in 2013 will offer participants a great North Carolina Parkway drive and look.

ATCBRPexp-RichlandbalsamsignSince we're staying at Western Carolina University, we'll get on the Parkway at Balsam Gap and drive north. Our first stop will be the Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest spot on the Parkway. Look at the magnificent view above.

ATCBRPexp-DevilscourthouseThe next major stop needs to be Devils Courthouse, a rocky outcropping with two legends - one Cherokee, another from settlers.

You can look at the rocky face but you can also climb a half-mile on a good trail to a view where, if the weather cooperates, you'll be able to see four states. You don't need to wear hiking boots for this one. Sneakers will be fine.

You could stop at every overlook, but frankly, that would be boring. But how about the view out to Looking Glass Rock? And then Cold Mountain? Yes, the real Cold Mountain, the one in Haywood County.

You might have your picnic lunch on the porch in the back of Pisgah Inn, with the same view as George Vanderbilt had from Buck Spring Lodge.  And much more.

What do you think? Would that make a good ATC Biennial experience?




From Indian Grave Gap to the Nolichucky River

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Jun 11, 2012 11:47 AM
Filed Under:


A hike is not always about the view - or the flowers or the trees.

Yesterday I went on the regularly scheduled Carolina Mountain Club hike from the Nolichucky River to Indian Grave Gap on the Appalachian Trail in Cherokee National Forest. It was billed as a mostly downhill 8.3 mile hike with a 2,300 ft. descent but four of us decided to climb uphill. I needed the exercise and my knee was still hurting from the downhill hike last week.

ATIndianGrave-CurlyMapleGapShelterThe area is frankly not a section that an A.T. completer will remember when she's finished.

As soon as we left the parking lot at the River, we needed to cross a railroad track. At that exact moment, a long, long train came along.

We crossed a couple of streams on good bridges and had lunch at Curly Maple Gap Shelter, a new shelter so new you could still smell the wood. Later we came upon the outline of the foundations of the old shelter.

ATIndianGrave-MeanderingsnailWe met several long-distance hikers, including a group from Georgia ATC - and Meandering Snail. Snail, or should I call him Meandering, started at Amicalola Falls on March 1. By his own admission, it took him six days to get to Springer Mountain. This is not a typo - yes, 6 days for 8 miles. He has seven months, he says to get to where ever he gets.

His equipment was bulky and wrapped in heavy plastic but he seemed happy and content by this experience, so good for him. Let him meander.

ATIndianGrave-uphillersThe four uphillers spent most of the time catching up with each other.

What trip had you taken and what trip were you going to take?

I had come back from an aborted trip and Janet was about to embark on her own adventure, which I hope would  be more successful than mine.

Yes, there was a view - see above - but the people and the shelters, old and new, were the highlights.



Save our Balds on the A.T.

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Jun 06, 2012 09:43 AM
Filed Under:


What if Big Bald on the Appalachian Trail was no longer bald? Worse, what if Max Patch became an enclosed maze of bushes, bramble and vines? See the picture above.

Balds stay treeless because someone mows them. There are many theories on how balds came to be. Lightning, fires, animal grazing but now the only way they stay bald now is by human action. For example, Andrews Bald and Gregory Bald in the Smokies are mowed once a year.

Traditionally, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail budget included money to pay the Forest Service to mow traditional balds. But this year, The National Park Service budget for 2012 contains no money for maintaining open areas, such as Max Patch and Big Bald, along the A.T.
Unless these areas are regularly maintained, they will quickly revert to brush and trees and we will lose some of the most iconic points on our section of the A.T. When and if money is restored, it will be harder and more costly to mow them again.

Yes, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy could institute a program to have goats mow the bald, as they do at Roan Mountain. But this is costly and time consuming work, not likely to happen this year.

Some say that "let's just ask volunteers with large tractors to do this." These large balds are not your backyard.

Volunteers are needed in lots of endeavors but I doubt if the US Forest Service would let non-forest service volunteers just mow away. Recently a mower accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway stopped all mowing for the whole NPS system for a while.

Losing that funding was a bureaucratic bungle. I don't think that those who made the decision realized how iconic these balds are in the Southern Appalachians. We need to have them restore the money now.

Spread the word. Call your US representative, call your newspaper and put this on your face book page.

NC Arboretum - for an ATC Biennial Excursion??

by Danny Bernstein — last modified May 01, 2012 05:50 PM
Filed Under:


Last Saturday, Carolina Mountain Club had its annual Spring barbeque at the North Carolina Arboretum. We offered two short hikes, had a barbeque dinner and a program about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It was a full, full day.

NCarboretum-statueBut as I walked around the arboretum, I thought that it might make a good half-day excursion for our Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference.

OK, if it sounds like I'm always thinking about the Biennial Conference, it's because I have to plan about 30 excursions; some active, other cultural. The Arboretum is definitely cultural.

The arboretum has 65 acres of cultivated gardens and amazing outdoor sculptures. In addition, you can check out their bonsai collection.

There are two buildings. One always has special exhibits. The one right now is on ferns of the Smokies. Also it shows "wicked plants" - now I know that got your attention. Of course, I have no idea what they'll have in July, 2013 but it will be interesting and of high quality.

They only charge $8 parking fee for a carful of people. So I'm planning to make this a half-day excursion. My only concern is that a half-day may be too short.

What do you think?




Celebrate the Mountains with ATC and BRP Foundation

by Danny Bernstein — last modified Apr 15, 2012 05:58 PM

Celebrating Life in the Mountains:
Points North!
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. 

Carolyn Ward, Ph.D, Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, will offer an overview and informative information about the Blue Ridge Parkway and its heritage.

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.