Cancel or not Cancel – that is the question

Can someone who no longer punches a clock have a snow day?

ATL and AVL Camino hikers on warmer days

Oh yes, they can. Friday, the snow started early but I didn’t pay attention. I went to my usual 7:30am yoga class at the YMCA. It was busy. Then it started to really snow. In Asheville, it meant that the world was going to close down.

I spent the morning printing some pictures of my Camino del Norte pilgrimage – finally – something I’ve been postponing for a long while.

I baked cookies, a classic on a snow day. I went on a short walk in the afternoon when West Asheville came alive.

But mostly I worried.

Should I cancel the hike that I was leading on Sunday? I was scheduled to lead our 16-mile Asheville Camino walk around the city, jointly with Carolina Mountain Club. Some CMC members have been waiting months to walk this Camino.

Walnut tree on AVL Camino

In many years of leading hikes, both in the Northeast and in Western North Carolina, I have never canceled a hike. There have been instances when I should have canceled – when I showed up at the meeting point and no one else did. But the record stands ; I’ve never canceled a hike.

It snowed all night and into this morning. I checked the weather forecast obsessively for Sunday (tomorrow). It didn’t change. It was going to be way below freezing until the afternoon. Roads in the Smokies were closing because of snow and ice.

I walked around the neighborhood again and noted that the snow was melting. The ice was soft but it was going to refreeze overnight. Not good.

CMC has devised the “breaking news’ feature on their website, so that a leader can let hikers know something new about the hike or cancel a hike. Some say  that it becomes too easy to cancel without the inconvenience of going to the meeting point. But it also saves hikers a trip just to find out that the hike is canceled.

I could have postponed the decision until tonight but what was the point? I canceled the hike this afternoon.

I’ve broken a long streak of not canceling hikes. I used to say that “I never cancel a hike.”

Never say never.

Camino How-To Meetings

At the AVL Camino meeting

Everyone says to walk your own Camino – like Hike your own Hike.

Well, it sounds good, until you realize that to do that, you need a lot of advice and experience.

That’s where the WNC chapter of  the American Pilgrims on the Camino comes in. The group meets monthly at REI Asheville for talks, discussions, and sometimes, an introduction to the practicalities of walking a Camino – Camino 101, as they called it.

Chris Slater has walked ten Caminos, more Caminos than anyone in WNC, starting in 2004. He gave a brief history of the Camino de Santiago, speaking eloquently without notes. Then, attendees went from station to station where Camino topic experts answered questions.

Rebecca on what to take on a Camino

Peggy Beaman covered how best to get to your  Camino starting point and the various routes available.

Mark Cobb, a retired doctor, answered medical-related questions. He’s a dermatologist but I should have asked him about my sorry foot problem.

Chris Yavelow shared his knowledge on technology on the Camino. Some walkers were adamant that you shouldn’t have a phone on the trail. But what if that’s also your camera?

Rebecca Gallo is the packing guru. She created lists of what is essential to pack and what is just nice to have.

Chris Slater answered food and lodging questions. From five-star hotels to municipal albergues, you can choose your right level of comfort and luxury.

Symbol of the Camino

I don’t know where you can have this kind of one-to-one help and encouragement for any other trail. The Appalachian Trail may be the most documented trail in the world, with books, maps, discussion groups and apps.

But is there a club that devotes itself to helping newbies walk the trail successfully? The group is like “Pilgrims on the Camino anonymous” but we encourage the addiction, not help you get over it.

But these monthly meetings are not the only place to hear about the Camino from experienced pilgrims – yep, that’s what they call us. See the event page of the AVL Camino website.

Hike on Sunday

I will be leading the next Asheville Camino hike on Sunday, December 10. It’s a joint hike with members of the Carolina Mountain Club. Meet  the group at 8 a.m. at the Asheville Visitor Center (36 Montford Ave.). You can walk all or part of the 16 mile trail.

By the way, the picture above is of a very well-dressed Rebecca on Le Chemin de St. Jacques in St. Come d’Olt. I saw that dress folded in a zip lock bag which is fitted in her pack. Very impressive.

Cemeteries of the Smokies

Cemeteries of the Smokies

Ever since I got really involved in hiking and supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its park partners, I’ve heard of “the cemetery book.”

When I joined the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), Steve Kemp, editor and publisher for GSMA, now retired, said that the book was “coming along”.

Now Cemeteries of the Smokies by Gail Palmer is here!

Flipping through its 704 pages – yes, 704 pages – I can understand why it took Dr. Gail Palmer two decades to finish it.

If you’ve walked almost anywhere in the Smokies, you’ve encountered cemeteries – the Woody cemetery in Deep Creek, the cemetery outside the Little Cataloochee Baptist church, the ones on the Cades Cove drive.

But Palmer found 152 cemeteries. For each site, she provides in-depth histories alongside a complete listing of burials and dates, kinship links and epitaphs.  The author has collected this infomation in one place, displayed with color photographs, detailed lists, charts and an index of local family names.

Dr. Gail Palmer has a doctorate in cultural studies from the University of Tennessee. She’s written novels set in the Smokies and understands mountain life. Members of her mother’s family has lived and died in areas that are now in the national park.

Wiggins Graves

“While finishing my doctoral degree in cultural studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I decided I wanted to write a book about the Smokies,” Palmer said.

‘“I knew many of the cemeteries were hidden away from view in beautiful locations, sometimes only a few steps from a roadway or well-traveled trail.” She received help from many people and spent hours searching archival material and locating cemeteries.

As a hiker, I want to know that the trail directions are clear and correct. I tested them on the Hoyle cemetery, a four-grave cemetery that I found only with the help of my companions at a Decoration Day years ago. The directions in the book were spot on. Maybe I’ll create a new hiking challenge – find all the cemeteries in the Smokies, as described by this book.

Buy this book from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, a park partner that donates money to the park.

The Details
Cemeteries of the Smokies by Dr. Gail Palmer, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2017. ISBN 978-0-937207-92-5. Price $29.95.