Category Archives: Reviews

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Book review

What can you say that’s new about the most visited park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Maybe not much, but you can surely present it in a different, novel way.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Daniel S. Pierce, Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson is a beautiful coffee table which tells of the wonder, beauty of the park without forsaking its history. In less than 130 pages, the book depicts each section of the park along with a full-page poster-like painting.

The introduction shows a timeline of human activity in the Smokies area.

In 1000 CE, the first settlement of Kituah became the Mother Town of the Cherokee. European settlers moved into the Oconaluftee section of the park in 1802. The book is as recent as the devastating fires during in the fall of 2016.

At LeConte Lodge

After reading the introduction, I turned to the pages on LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States, to read about its origins. In my experience, it’s the most deluxe high-mountain lodge – ever. You can stay at 6,360 feet and not have to carry a sleeping bag. That’s luxury!

Dan Pierce is now Professor of History and National Endowment of the Humanities Distinguished Professor at UNCA and former chair of the history department.

When I came to Asheville in 2001, I enrolled in a course Intro to the Southern Appalachians at the College for Seniors in Asheville. Dan was the instructor. His first book, The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park had just come out. I read it eagerly and recommended it to other as THE book on the park. So, he is the certainly the right person to write the copy for this illustrated guide to the Smokies.

You can’t discuss this book without mentioning the Anderson Design Group. They created the drawings of waterfalls, cabins, views and picnic areas in the classic poster art styles from the 1920s to 1940s. The back page of the book shows posters of the 59 national parks, which they gathered into a book. I counted all the national parks that I’ve been to – 40 over the years.
The details
You can buy the paperback book on the Great Smoky Mountains Association website  for $24.95.

A hardback copy is available at the Anderson Design Group website,  for $39.99.

Think Christmas – Your shopping all done

Book Launch
The three authors will be speaking about the book on October 5 at 6:30pm in the University of North Carolina – Asheville Humanities Lecture Hall. After the presentation, they’ll move to the Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery for a reception to open the exhibit of art work from the book. The exhibit will be up until the end of November.

Nantahala National Forest – A Review

Nantahala National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer
Published by The History Press, $21.99

Marci Spencer was the speaker at a Carolina Mountain Club dinner a couple of years ago. She gave a spirited talk about her book on Pisgah National Forest.

Marci knows how to write a lively history of our public lands. She did it for Pisgah and now Nantahala National Forest, the more remote of the two in Western North Carolina.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail winds its way through the forest, though it is difficult to know when it leaves Nantahala and goes into Pisgah – you have to really keep your eyes open for signs.

But you’ll recognize other places that you may never have associated with Nantahala National Forest.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, with the “big trees”, is in the Cheoah Ranger District. I have a sweet spot for Joyce Kilmer, the poet as well as the forest, since he came from New Brunswick, in Central New Jersey, where I used to live. He never visited Western North Carolina but is mostly remembered for one poem,

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

You’ll have to read Marci’s book to find out how and why the forest was named after the New Jersey poet and journalist.

The book is a delightful mixture of hard facts, stories that others have told her and that she’s dug up from her many sources.

And those photographs… The History Press is well known for its beautiful color pictures and this book is full of photographs from many people.

If you’re a hiker, historian or just interested in how the public got all this land, read Nantahala National Forest: A History. I wonder where Marci will go next.

An Inconvenient Sequel – the movie

Clean water in Norway

Last night, I went to see An Inconvenient Sequel,  the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, which came out in 2006. Al Gore, the star of the movie is older, grayer, heavier, but if anything, he seems more passionate about his cause. In a couple of sentences, the message is:

Global Warming is real. Climate Change is the biggest problem facing the world.

I know that and you know that but what are we doing about it?

Gore has been working on reducing global warming at least since his stint as Vice-President. He was in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 where the Kyoto Protocol was signed by a lot of countries but not the U.S. Lenny, my late husband, was also working on the same side and at least shook Gore’s hand.

Gore lost the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 and dedicated himself to telling the world about climate change. A year after An Inconvenient Truth came out, Al Gore was awarded half of the Nobel Peace Prize – not for the movie but for his advocacy work. The other half was given to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) a UN group of scientists and engineers who research and write reports on the subject. And, yes, Lenny was part of this group and has a beautiful certificate from the King of Norway, as did about 3,000 other people.

But what about the movie, you ask? The movie barely mentioned Gore’s Nobel prize.

In the film, Gore goes all over the world looking at disasters. The glaciers in Greenland are melting. The streets of Miami are flooded. The 9/11 memorial in downtown Manhattan is under water. And then we have Hurricane Sandy. Not good!

Gore spends a lot of time on the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. He shakes a lot of hands and is so happy that 195 countries signed the first legally binding climate deal – this time including the U.S.

And then, of course, Pres Trump pulls out of the deal. The movie feels very recent and relevant.

It’s very difficult to review a documentary as a piece of entertainment. You have to talk about the subject matter as well. To lighten it up, we see Gore getting ready for meetings, putting his boots on, shaking off his wet socks and talking to his staff.

What we don’t see are plastic water bottles. Obviously in all those meetings, people are bringing their own water in refillable containers. A bit more inconvenient but important.

Go and see the movie before it disappears.