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.

Friends of the MST meeting – before and after

The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail 40th anniversary meeting and gala promises to be one to remember. It’s next weekend – Friday March 24 to Sunday March 26 in Elkin, NC. Besides the gala  and Saturday meeting,  there will be art stroll, music, and wine and beer, of course.

And we’ll be refighting the Revolutionary War in the South. OK, not fighting, just learning about the various battles.  On Friday March 24: 8:00-5:00 and Saturday March 25: 8:00-3:00, members of the North Carolina Historical Reenactment Society Revolutionary War Unit 6th NC Regiment of the Continental Line (the Sixth), the Yadkin Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Surry-Wilkes Chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association will present Overmountain Victory Trail Revolutionary War Days. Yes, there was plenty of revolutionary war action in the South.

Guilford Courthouse

There will be talks on the Battle of Kings Mountains and Guilford Courthouse – subjects of two national park units that I visited several times. I do hope that the speakers will go beyond “the red stood here and the blue stood there.”

Maybe they might explain one the most fascinating monuments at Guilford Courthouse, the “No North, No South” monument. This monument, erected in 1903, was an attempt to unify the country still raw from the Civil War by pointing out that we were all unified during the American Revolution.

But have no fear. These talks will only be 15 minutes each and be repeated throughout the day.

Muskets and rifles will be fired. Members of the company will be camping in authentic Revolutionary style. I wonder if anyone will be reenacting the redcoats, you know, the British Army soldiers.


The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVVI) unifies several battlefields. Its eastern end starts in Elkin. The western end is in Virginia. There’s a rumor that the Superintendent of the Historic Trail will also be there, talking about OVVI and stamping your national park passport.

But the most fascinating part of all of this for me is talking to the men who are the descendants of the OVVI soldiers. Imagine knowing about your grandfather (N times removed) who lived in the 1780s.

I could give you the schedule but there are so many activities. Just come to Elkin on Friday and enjoy. And though technically, you don’t have to register for the Friends of the MST meeting to participate in the reenactment, just remember who made this possible.

So sign up – I don’t think it’s too late.


Hiking Everywhere – Athens, OH

There’s hiking everywhere.

It can be glamorous and far away like Europe and New Zealand. You can hike in a national park like Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Or you can hike locally in Athens, OH.

Mystery mushrooms

Athens, the home of Ohio University, is a smaller version of Asheville and just as hippy-dippy.

Local food, local art, music and spirit but no national parks. Located in the northwestern end of Southern Appalachia, the town has rolling hills and an amazing greenway, more suited to biking than hiking.

But, there’s hiking right from town. My son, Neil, had designed a hike which started at Dow Lake in Strouds Run State Park and took us to Sells Park and back – a total over about 10.5 miles.

It was only 22 degrees when we started out by climbing on top of the Dow Lake dam. With no other information, I assume that the lake was created for recreational use – primarily boating and fishing. We walked along the long narrow lake and I had my doubts if my frozen fingers would ever work again.

In Stroud Run SP

But there was just enough altitude gain (not much) and I was so bundled up that after about an hour, the heat from my core spread out to my fingers. By then, it must have been in the low 30s.

Once we left the lakeside, we encountered artifacts of past homesteads. Daffodils are a dead give-away that people lived here. The flowers must have been freezing, like hikers.

No native spring flowers yet. But we did see red mystery  mushrooms. Though they look plastic, I assure you that they are real.

Once we got to Sells Park, it wasn’t long until we reached E. State St., the main shopping street and Cafe Sol, a Cuban and Caribbean restaurant. What a brilliant idea! No need to have our sandwiches outdoors in the freezing weather.

I had a Spanish omelet with potatoes, cheese and beans. It was wonderful. I could eat that every night in Spain.

And then we went back the same way. By the afternoon, mountain bikers and dog walkers had come out to enjoy the cold sunshine. An easy all-day hike which can be modified to try other intersecting trails. There’s hiking everywhere.

PS I finally looked up where daffodils are natives. They’re from Spain and Portugal. I wonder if I’ll see them on the Camino de Santiago.

Desert Museum in Tucson


The number one attraction in the Tucson area is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a private zoo and museum which tries to interprets the desert.

Since it’s located only a few miles east of Saguaro National Park (Western unit), it has the same environment as the park. But where in a national park, you have to find your flora and especially fauna, here the cacti and animals are all labeled and caged for us. The Museum has native plants and animals but the area that it draws from is very wide. That explains the stingrays.

When we paid our admission fee (not cheap – almost $40 for Hannah and me), we were encouraged to pay another three dollars each to see the stingrays. We put our hand in the water to allow the stingrays to touch you or even take food out of your hand (another three dollars).

So what is the attraction?

Coyotes, javelinas (native pigs), deer, raptors,bears… all in their own areas. Toward the top, they had a half-mile of “desert experience” where they warned you that “the trail is hot, dry, dusty, and bumpy – a half-mile long and uphill on the way back”. Still I was gratified to see people walking the “desert experience” trail. See the top photo taken at the desert experience trail.

I loved the hummingbird aviary. The birds flew around with gay abandonment . They didn’t stop long enough so I could take a picture but they were a happy bunch. Some were sitting on their nest too far away for photos.

The Desert Museum is well-funded, with admission fees and donor contributions.

At the museum, contributors are recognized everywhere – benches, buildings, signs on plants… This is one of the many ways that private zoos and museums are different from national parks. See the plaque on the side of this picture.

They also had silly, amusement park-like features.

Hannah as a vulture

Hannah turned herself into a vulture. Children could buy a book and then stop at stamping stations for various attractions. There were several restaurants, snack bars and gift stores.

But “How are you going to get them back on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

I no longer worry about that. My grandchildren know the difference between a zoo/museum and a national park.

Today, we went back to Saguaro National Park (eastern site) for another hike. The animals weren’t labeled and the snacks were limited to what we had in our packs but we saw a roadrunner and he wasn’t labeled.