All posts by Danny Bernstein

About Danny Bernstein

I'm a hiker, hike leader for the Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Smokies and an outdoor writer.

Boogerman Trail with Friends of the Smokies

Crossing Caldwell Fork

How much do you need to know about a hike before you sign on?

How concerned are you about getting your boots wet when the weather is warm and the water low and your fellow hikers are friendly?

September’s Friends of the Smokies hike was postponed from a rainy, miserable day last week to a perfect weather day with blue skies, warm temperatures, and low water levels.

Today was a wonderful day to be doing a classic North Carolina hike. The Boogerman Trail may be the most well-known hike on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The hike has ten major water crossings on the Caldwell Fork Trail. A few years ago, a storm washed away several bridges. Other bridges were damaged, though still standing. Still, we hiked the loop and just got wet.

Mike K.

The park has replaced the first two bridges with sturdy, high structures that will withstand a lot. But other crossings require agility. The park has put in large, flat boulders instead of bridges. That’s where the agility comes in. Still you’ll get your feet wet.

The bottom of the creek is very rocky and uneven. Hikers were experienced enough to cross with their boots on and with hiking poles. Sandals, or worse, bare feet, is just asking for trouble.

Still, I would not want you to think that we were just preoccupied with water crossings.

Mike K., our leader, did a fine job of talking about the history of the Boogerman Trail. We bushwhacked to the Boogerman home site. He took us to a cemetery and the Messer property. He also pointed out huge trees.

Late summer and early fall flowers were bountiful.

We could recognize cucumber root, gentians that were almost pure white, doll’s eyes, and Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit clusters. A few turtle heads were still hanging on, though probably not for long.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, October 10 from Purchase Knob. Fall colors ought to be at their peak at that time and no water crossings will be involved.

Sign up here.

FITGO at the YMCA

Did you see the Dennis the Menace cartoon yesterday?

It shows the mom doing yoga. The kids say

“I guess when you get too old to play… You have to exercise.”

Really? What is hiking, biking, canoeing or even yoga, but playing?

And to make it more fun, the Asheville YMCA came up with Fitgo.

The  YMCA Fitgo is a combination of Fitness and Bingo. You get a card with a five by five grid of challenges for a month. Some activities are simple, some take thought, and a couple I am just ignoring.

Fitgo card

Simple Goals – No fast food for three days and Drink no soda for three days. I checked that off the moment I got the card because I haven’t had either for decades.

Same with Eat fresh fruit with your breakfast and Stretch for 15 minutes.- I do those every day.

Goals that take some thoughts –  I didn’t want to count activities that I’ve done before I started Fitgo. So I waited until I did my next yoga class to count it as  group training class, no problem since I go to yoga once or twice a week.

Another goal was to Participate in an outdoor activity – yeah, like hiking.

Swannanoa River

As for volunteering for a service organization, I lead hikes for Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Smokies and other nonprofits who ask me.  So I counted my involvement in MST-in-a-Day.

Do an activity together with friends or family – another easy one since all my hiking companions are friends – no double counting was involved.

Since this is the YMCA, the goals also included introducing yourself to three Y members I didn’t know and letting a Y staff person know why you love the Y . I love the Y because it opens at 5 am on weekdays. It give me and lots of other people flexibility.

Now the tough ones. Drink water as your only fluid intake for one day. What? Give up tea? I interpreted this literally – not even herbal tea.

Get eight hours or more of sleep for three days – Are they kidding? I’d love to but if I can sleep more than six hours, it’s a red letter day.

No one can hike every day – certainly I don’t have my life planned to hike every day. So that’s where the YMCA comes in – with or without Fitgo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Kemp retires from the Great Smoky Mountains Association

Every once in a while I go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I don’t hike. Today was one of those days.

Smokies Headquarters

I was one of many, many people who met in the lobby of Park Headquarters to say good bye to Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA).

Everyone who’s anyone was there including Superintendent Cash, Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan, and other park officials, Laurel Rematore, Executive Director of GSMA, and much of her staff, Jim Hart, Executive Director of Friends of the Smokies, and Frances Figart, the new face of publications at GSMA.

Steve has been on the job for thirty years, growing the number and quality of the GSMA publications. He’s edited Hiking Trails of the Smokies, the beloved “brown book”, Wildflowers of the Smokies, Birds of the Smokies and all the “of the Smokies” book series. He started Smokies Life, a semiannual journal, with long, in-depth, thoughtful articles on some aspect of the park, a journal that published two of my articles.

After many toasts and reminiscences, Steve had the last word. He told a story that I wish I had caught on tape:

Steve grew up in Iowa, where, as he put it, the state motto was “There’s nothing to do around here”. With no public land available to hike or camp, he and his friends camped illegally in private fields by ponds. Farmers kept chasing them away.

Then one day, his posse found “Benny’s Happy Valley”.  Benny had a Welcome sign and allowed the public to camp and use his land. Steve and his  group were ecstatic and camped, fish and ran around along with others.

Cataract Falls

The moral of the story was that the Smokies and all the national parks have a welcome sign out for the public. And visitors really appreciate the chance to use the parks. Steve told the story with great humor, which reminded me of Garrison Keillor.

So whenever you pick up a GSMA publication and wonder who was responsible for the book or magazine, remember Steve, and soon, Francis. They are the “they” behind the interpretive products sold in the Smokies stores. See the picture above – Francis, Steve and Laurel.

PS What is the picture of Cataract Falls in the middle of this post? OK. I got to Sugarlands Visitor Center area early and I walked to Cataract Falls. I wanted to see the torrent of water after the rain. No torrent, not much more water than usual.