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.

Boomers on the Trail

It all started with a routine physical with my internist, a man I’ve been going to for years. He’s a runner, a fit baby boomer only a few years younger than me.

“As you age, your lung capacity decreases, even if you’ve never smoked. You should expect some changes.” He probably said something about heart function but I can’t recall now. I was mad. I plan to die with my hiking boots on.

On Heartbreak Ridge

I again told him about the older folks in Carolina Mountain Club, some much older than me, but I think he’s heard it all before from me.

Last Sunday’s hike on Heartbreak Ridge was in the Appalachian District of Pisgah National Forest near Old Fort, NC.

The trail is 11.5-mile with a 3,000 foot ascent, which is considered strenuous. Eighteen hikers showed up, a larger number than usual. Carroll K. was leading this hike and this was his fan club. Carroll, who’s 87 years old, is the “poster hiker” of the fit, serious, all-day hiker who just keeps on going.

Still thinking about my conversation with my doctor, I took a survey of ages and their genders. I know that 18 data points is a very small sample size but it was a start. No one hesitated to give me their age.

The average age of the hikers was 61.6 years old. The women averaged 59.3 years of age (46 the youngest, 70 the oldest). The average for men was 65.1 years old (51 years was the youngest, 87 the oldest).

Not surprisingly Carroll was the oldest man and I was the oldest woman. That’s been true for a long time on all day-hikes. We seem to accept the disparity in ages between the genders but Bruce questioned it. Why?

I don’t know is the quickest answer. After all, Grandma Gatewood did her first A.T. thru-hike when she was 67 years old and again seven years later. The oldest person, a man, completed a thru-hike when he was 81 years old. Historically only 15% of the completers (2000-milers) were women, though the numbers are rising. See the numbers on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website.

I do know that the professional advice is meant to scare older exercisers.

“See your doctor”.
“Don’t overdo it!”
“Carry a cell phone, a stick, a ….”

After all these dos and don’t, it’s easier to just stay on the couch.

Why do we see fewer women over 70 on the trail or in the gym? Ideas?

Life in Motion Hiking Poles – It’s local

Life in Motion poles

You can start your business with just one product. And if it’s a good product and it’s well marketed and distributed, your business will move on to create the next product and the next …

So it was with more than mild curiosity that I looked at Rodney Bailey’s email from Life in Motion. Was I interested in reviewing his company’s hiking poles? And oh yes, they were local in Simpsonville, SC, south of Greenville. That’s certainly closer than where I’ve been getting my poles from.

Hiking poles are necessary for stability and for crossing streams without bridges. We have plenty of those around the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Poles also reduce impact on my knees and encourages me to walk faster with less effort when I go uphill. Most important, when you’re an habitual hiker like me – day after day after day – of any age, it will keep you hiking until the grave.

When I received my poles, meticulously packed in a large box, they seemed like, well, hiking poles. Then I looked more closely. Their handler collar extents so much longer than most hiking poles. I can grab them lower down, if I want shorter poles for some situations. I’m thinking when scrambling uphill on rocks.

At Bent Creek

They’re lighter than most poles and come with mud baskets and snow baskets. Who knew that all these accessories were necessary? Most important, their website shows that so many accessories are available separately. Let’s face it. You’re going to lose your pole tips or snow basket.

Their website has an extremely well-written section on how to get started with poles – and I judge a product partly on their website.

It shows you how to adjust the height of your poles so your arms can form a 90 degree angle.

You can learn how to pack poles and adjust the straps, if needed. But most experienced hikers don’t put their hands through the straps. If you fall, you won’t be able to get your wrists out of the poles fast enough and might break a wrist. We’ve seen this happen in Carolina Mountain Club. Straps are fine for hanging poles but not for wrists.

At this point, the hiking poles are only available online. Look at their very reasonable price.

And I’m sure, like Johnny Cash’s song, you might be able to pick them up at the factory.

Fontana – Here we come!

Fontana Lake in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not an easy place to get to. It’s far from everywhere. So I am so excited that Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes has chosen Fontana Village as the base for their annual overnight trip.

Sign up for the Friends of the Smokies trip on

Monday August 28 – Tuesday August 29 2017.

All the details are in the PDF document but here are some highlights.

Surprise – I won’t start with the hikes. Professor Dan Pierce, chair of the history department at UNC-Asheville has made the Smokies his life work. On Monday evening, he will be speaking about his latest book, Hazel Creek: The  Life and Death of an Iconic Community.  I’ve known Dan since Fall 2001, when I took my first course on Appalachian history, a few months after I moved here. I’ve been a Dan Pierce groupie ever since.

Fontana Lake

Now for the hikes. Monday afternoon, we’ll hike in the Twenty-mile area, even more remote than Fontana Lake.

Tuesday, you have a choice between a long and short hike. So friends and couples coming together can each choose a hike that they would prefer.

Note that I didn’t say hard and easy. Both hikes are very gentle.

Long hike on Hazel Creek Trail to the Hall Cabin. I led a group there in 2014, so you can read all about that experience. We’ll take the boat across Fontana Lake and hike the Hazel Creek Trail and then onto the Hall Cabin. It’s 15.5 miles round trip, with little ascent, but quite an experience.

Cars on Lake Shore Trail

Short hike on Lake Shore Trail to the old cars. Where did these cars come from? Again, you can read about the history of the area in an article I wrote years ago.

We’ll be staying at Fontana Village and not roughing it.

But you have to make reservations soon. They’ve even thought about all the single people who might want to find a roommate and created a form.

Sign up and see you on the trail.