Category Archives: Just Me

My hiking year – 2017

What did I do this year? It’s not a bad idea to look back and see what I accomplished in my hiking life. If my goal in life is to encourage boomers and seniors to get out there, it’s good to see what I did to further this goal.

The Great Smoky Mountains Association took over my book, Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South. Later in the year, Steve Kemp, publisher of GSMA publications, retired.

I saw the eclipse on top of Clingmans Dome, literally a once in a lifetime event.

I kept writing to my congressional representatives about the importance of public lands. When I moved from North Asheville to West Asheville, my Congressman changed to Mark Meadows in the 11th Congressional District. I haven’t written to him yet, but will soon.

A lot of good all these letters and cards did! Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke promised to shrink the National Park Service. Zinke also looks at his accomplishments.

You can find this card here. Download it, print it out, and mail it to your representatives with a personal message.

Major Trips

Ocala National Forest in Florida

Saguaro National Park on either side of Tucson, Arizona

Walking the Camino del Norte and to Finnisterre.

Danny, Hannah, Charlie, Mina and Shaw on Mt. Fuji

Hannah and I visited Japan and climbed Mt. Fuji.

Family Nature Summits, of course, this past year at Lake Tahoe, California.  Next year, Family Summits will be heading to Western Maine. Hannah, Isa and I are all signed up.

Highlights of day hikes

Greenways of Buncombe County. Encouraged by Marcia B., I learned about our local greenways and joined Connect Buncombe.

Asheville Camino, a 16-mile hike around Asheville. The Western North Carolina chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino has made its mark with meetings, tertulias (get-togethers) and hikes.


Hall Cabin in Bone Valley

Bone Valley in the Smokies with Friends of the Smokies

MST in a Day. I led outdoor celebrities on a hike as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Chimney Tops Trail. I was curious about the condition of Chimney Tops Trail after the horrendous fires of 2016.

Books Worth your Time

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Dan Pierce

Cemeteries of the Smokies by Gail Palmer

On other fronts, I took a Wilderness First Aid Course, wrote a few articles, led Friends of the Smokies and Carolina Mountain Club hikes – my day job.

Next, time to put down my goals for 2018.

Carolina Memorial Sanctuary – for the rest of the ashes

Sanctuary spot

When I scattered Lenny’s ashes on the Appalachian Trail, I wasn’t prepared for the volume of ashes that a person generates. I had poured a little of his cremains in several zip-lock bags so that our son, Neil, and his two girls could spread their own ashes from a rocky outcropping. A year later, I revisited that spot.

The rest of Lenny’s cremains are carefully packed in a colorful urn, waiting for a permanent home. I can’t just dump them into the wind or keep them on a shelf.
           Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

Then I discover Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, a green burial cemetery in Henderson County. Cassie Barrett invites me to see the site.

“I’ve always had a natural connection to death,” says Cassie, an upbeat millennial with magenta hair. We walk the trails through the Sanctuary, a plot of land that’s being turned into North Carolina’s first conservation burial ground. The weather is cold and dreary. I’m not seeing the area in the best light.

“You can pick out a spot, on a hill, by the stream.” No headstones, no angels, no plastic flowers, just a flat stone with the name and birth and death dates of the deceased. Quite different from the cemeteries in the Smokies or Riverside Cemetery with its rows and rows of huge headstones.

Cassie driving stake in the ground

“Lenny’s had a proper memorial service and his ashes have been scattered where he wanted to be. I’m just trying to find a permanent, respectful place for the rest,” I explain. “So, there won’t be a second service. Just me.” Cassie understands.

This is a green sanctuary. To quote the website,
Cremated remains are naturally alkaline and salty, since they contain high levels of phosphorus (calcium phosphate) and sodium.

The ashes will be put in a biodegradable urn to lower the Ph level before they’re put into the ground.

Manzanar NHS

Cassie encourages me to find a place.

In this nondescript winterland of weeds, low bushes and a few trees, I gravitate toward a little hill with a flat rock which stands up to the sky.

It reminds me of a rock I saw at Manzanar National Historic Site in California, the largest of the Japanese internment camps.

Cassie drives two metal stakes in the ground. I’ll go there as well at some point.

Visiting my 50th state

Bison in Fargo
Bison in Fargo

There’s beauty in flat land.

This may be a weird thing to say from someone who hikes in the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee all the time.

But now I’m in the so-called fly-over states with gently rolling hills. In the land of 10,00 lakes, I felt that I passed over a thousand already.

It’s a cool 75 degrees during the day. I took a fleece jacket as an afterthought, but it doesn’t seem so crazy now. It might get down into the 60s in the evening. What a change from the sweltering heat of Asheville.

Emma Krumbee's
Emma Krumbee’s

First stop – Emma Krumbee’s for lunch in Albertville, MN. It’s just a midwestern diner, like Cracker Barrel, which serves fried potatoes instead of grits. It’s a great introduction to the culture of the upper midwest – yes, friendly, open and nice, just like the stereotype.

I learned that when you order iced tea, it comes unsweetened.

But oh those pies!

I’ve already accomplished my first goal of this trip, to get to my 50th state – North Dakota.

Driving from Minnesota to North Dakota, you enter the state through Fargo. You remember the 1996 movie with Frances McDormand? It was set in Brainard, MN but mentioned Fargo.

In Fargo
In Fargo

“You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear this,” a gallery owner on Fargo’s main street tells me.

“That North Dakota is their last state to visit. They figure why would I ever want to come here? But they’re pleasantly surprised when they get here that it’s so nice.” Yes, nice.

Like many mid-size cities, Fargo must have suffered a decline. Its downtown seems to be waking up, with restaurants, clubs, an art gallery and offices.

Hendersonville and Cherokee, NC have sculptured bears all over its downtown streets. Fargo has a bison. So far, I’ve just encountered one. See above.

But you know there’s got to be a park or two involved in this trip. So stay tuned.