Category Archives: Writing

Senior Hiker Magazine – A review

Senior Hiker Magazine

About ten years ago, I volunteered to lead hikes for College for Seniors, now OLLI, at UNC-Asheville. I wanted to introduce the over 50 crowd to hiking in Western North Carolina and not so subtly, encourage them to join Carolina Mountain Club after the course.

I carefully chose six to eight-mile walks with moderate ascent, all the while reminding the students that we were in the mountains. Even downtown Asheville isn’t flat.

A few terms later, after a rocky six-mile walk, a student – a man over fifty, by definition – complained to the director that I had chosen hikes that weren’t appropriate for seniors. I wasn’t asked to lead for College for Seniors again. If you can fire a volunteer, I was fired!

So, it was with curiosity and a little trepidation that I opened the first issue of Senior Hiker, a glossy magazine published by Deer Isle Press, a small publishing house on the coast of Maine.

I need not have worried. Articles range from adventures in the White Mountains to pushing the limits off-trail in the Catskills. Mile for mile, these are difficult hikes, much more challenging than those in the Southern Appalachians.

In my previous life, I spent 35 years in New Jersey hiking with the Appalachian Mountain Club. My husband and I finished the Catskills 3500 (summer and winter) the New Hampshire 4000 footers, and a bunch of other hiking challenges.

The article on how I became a senior hiker spoke to me.

The irony is that even though I was older, I felt in better shape and was better prepared setting out than I had been twenty or thirty years earlier.

I’ve had the pleasure of now reading the first four issues. As the issues progressed, the content expanded from the Northeastern U.S. to the Tetons, Glacier and even Santa Fe. The articles span from coyotes to snakes.

After Sharon McCarthy, my hiking partner on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina, flipped through the magazines, she said,

“I enjoyed the exotic hikes the best. Who knew there was hiking in Cuba?”

The magazine has potential.

Their first issue only had 50 pages, but 82 pages by Issue 4. Beautiful glossy pictures show active seniors with good equipment and well-shod – no one had an external frame packs.Senior Hiker partners only with nonprofit organizations and has no commercial ads.

The editor and graphic artists have also thought about other factors. The font is a little larger than in similar magazines, but most important most of the text is black on white background. No funky color combinations that are unreadable by folks at any age.

After reading four issues, I realized that I had not encountered breathless words like badass, suck, cool, wicked, or … you get the idea.

You can read an article or two online. But the magazine is meant to be read in print and saved. See their website.

Apostrophes and Periods!

I recently went to a North Carolina Writers Network meeting in Asheville. Nina Hart, Writing from the Top of your Head, was the speaker. She’s a writing and creativity coach, who help people become fearless writers.

Because I write about the outdoors, I don’t have writer’s block. I start with facts, try to make them interesting and relevant, but I can always rely on facts.

The writing exercise was: Write the worst that you can. What??

Since I didn’t know what that meant, I wrote the first thing that came to my head about writing badly: I judge people by their use of apostrophes.

I could go on about the “IT’S” and ITS problem but I’m an outdoor writer.

Poster campaign at OVC

Clingmans Dome

I try to let people know gently that there’s no apostrophe in Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Since 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has been the official arbiter of American place names. This board decided from the very beginning to not use apostrophes. So Clingmans Dome and other place names usually don’t use the possessive form.

Some say that cartographers feared that these punctuation marks could be mistaken for topographic features or symbols. Leaving out the apostrophe reduces the amount of printed type on a map.

Another reason might be that apostrophes suggest possession or associations not meant to be used within the body of a proper name. The idea is that geographic names belong to all of us. Owning a piece of land is not in itself a reason to name it after the landlord.

Another blog quotes Jennifer Runyon, a senior researcher for the board.

“It’s ingrained in us from the first day on the job that geographic names belong to all the people,” she said. “The feeling is that owners come and go, but names are supposed to stand the test of time.”

Gene Espy, 2nd A.T. Thru-Hiker

Appalachian Trail – A.T.

Then there are the periods in A.T. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which manages the Appalachian Trail, uses periods and that’s the right way. They get to say how to abbreviate their trail.

For completeness, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail uses MST, without periods. That’s good enough for me.

I’m not a Grammar Vigilante. I don’t try to sneak around fixing grammar on public boards. I just stick to outdoor names.

What you can learn from “writing badly”.

Great Smoky Mountains Association picked up FAB

I am thrilled to let the world know that the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) picked up  my book,

Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South.

Swain County Visitor Center

You know GSMA as the park partner which manages the bookstores in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Surely you’ve stopped at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Sugarlands, or maybe, at the Swain County Visitor Center to buy a book, honey or a T-shirt. They have nine stores in and around the park.

But GSMA is also a publisher of all things Smokies.

They are the authority on trails, flowers, birds, salamanders … of the Smokies. If you’re a hiker, you should have Hiking Trails of the Smokies. If you’re a birder, they have Birds of the Smokies in a small-format book.

GSMA has carried all my books including Forests, Alligators, Battlefields. But now they’re going to publish it as well. They might put a new cover, change the price, make all the decisions that a traditional publisher does.

And they’re going to distribute it as well. That is always be the biggest challenge with independent publishing.

So if you’re thinking that you might want a copy (or two or three), go to the Official Park Store and buy a copy from them. Or in a Smokies store, of course.

That’s buying local.