FITGO at the YMCA

Did you see the Dennis the Menace cartoon yesterday?

It shows the mom doing yoga. The kids say

“I guess when you get too old to play… You have to exercise.”

Really? What is hiking, biking, canoeing or even yoga, but playing?

And to make it more fun, the Asheville YMCA came up with Fitgo.

The  YMCA Fitgo is a combination of Fitness and Bingo. You get a card with a five by five grid of challenges for a month. Some activities are simple, some take thought, and a couple I am just ignoring.

Fitgo card

Simple Goals – No fast food for three days and Drink no soda for three days. I checked that off the moment I got the card because I haven’t had either for decades.

Same with Eat fresh fruit with your breakfast and Stretch for 15 minutes.- I do those every day.

Goals that take some thoughts –  I didn’t want to count activities that I’ve done before I started Fitgo. So I waited until I did my next yoga class to count it as  group training class, no problem since I go to yoga once or twice a week.

Another goal was to Participate in an outdoor activity – yeah, like hiking.

Swannanoa River

As for volunteering for a service organization, I lead hikes for Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Smokies and other nonprofits who ask me.  So I counted my involvement in MST-in-a-Day.

Do an activity together with friends or family – another easy one since all my hiking companions are friends – no double counting was involved.

Since this is the YMCA, the goals also included introducing yourself to three Y members I didn’t know and letting a Y staff person know why you love the Y . I love the Y because it opens at 5 am on weekdays. It give me and lots of other people flexibility.

Now the tough ones. Drink water as your only fluid intake for one day. What? Give up tea? I interpreted this literally – not even herbal tea.

Get eight hours or more of sleep for three days – Are they kidding? I’d love to but if I can sleep more than six hours, it’s a red letter day.

No one can hike every day – certainly I don’t have my life planned to hike every day. So that’s where the YMCA comes in – with or without Fitgo.

Steve Kemp retires from the Great Smoky Mountains Association

Every once in a while I go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I don’t hike. Today was one of those days.

Smokies Headquarters

I was one of many, many people who met in the lobby of Park Headquarters to say good bye to Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA).

Everyone who’s anyone was there including Superintendent Cash, Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan, and other park officials, Laurel Rematore, Executive Director of GSMA, and much of her staff, Jim Hart, Executive Director of Friends of the Smokies, and Frances Figart, the new face of publications at GSMA.

Steve has been on the job for thirty years, growing the number and quality of the GSMA publications. He’s edited Hiking Trails of the Smokies, the beloved “brown book”, Wildflowers of the Smokies, Birds of the Smokies and all the “of the Smokies” book series. He started Smokies Life, a semiannual journal, with long, in-depth, thoughtful articles on some aspect of the park, a journal that published two of my articles.

After many toasts and reminiscences, Steve had the last word. He told a story that I wish I had caught on tape:

Steve grew up in Iowa, where, as he put it, the state motto was “There’s nothing to do around here”. With no public land available to hike or camp, he and his friends camped illegally in private fields by ponds. Farmers kept chasing them away.

Then one day, his posse found “Benny’s Happy Valley”.  Benny had a Welcome sign and allowed the public to camp and use his land. Steve and his  group were ecstatic and camped, fish and ran around along with others.

Cataract Falls

The moral of the story was that the Smokies and all the national parks have a welcome sign out for the public. And visitors really appreciate the chance to use the parks. Steve told the story with great humor, which reminded me of Garrison Keillor.

So whenever you pick up a GSMA publication and wonder who was responsible for the book or magazine, remember Steve, and soon, Francis. They are the “they” behind the interpretive products sold in the Smokies stores. See the picture above – Francis, Steve and Laurel.

PS What is the picture of Cataract Falls in the middle of this post? OK. I got to Sugarlands Visitor Center area early and I walked to Cataract Falls. I wanted to see the torrent of water after the rain. No torrent, not much more water than usual.

MST-in-a-Day – the Celebrity Hike

Today, I had the pleasure and honor  to lead a celebrity hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for MST-in-a-Day. We walked from the Folk Art Center to the Visitor Center and back – an easy, popular stretch.  We were one of many groups walking the trail from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the MST, said that she helped kick off MST-in-a-Day at midnight on a hike at Falls Lake State Recreation Area in the Raleigh area.

If you want to know about the features of this section of trail, read my scouting trip report.

We were so lucky to have wonderful weather – sunny, cool and dry. And all the celebrities who said they were coming showed up on time, in the right place, and ready to go. So who were the celebrities? In no particular order,

Dan Brown, retired superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway (in the yellow shorts)

Phil Francis, retired superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway (somehow missing from the group picture)

John Slaughter, current acting superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway (in NPS uniform)

Jennifer Pharr Davis, writer, long-distance hiking record holder, currently hiking the whole MST for Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, holding Gus, her second child

Karen Chavez, Outdoor editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times with a pink jacket

Carolyn Ward, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, in a dark blue shirt, next to Karen

Esther Manheimer, lawyer and mayor of Asheville, in the middle row with a  dark blue long sleeve and sun visor. The boy in back of Esther is her son. Jamie, the woman with the dog, works for the city of Asheville. All three and the dog took off in a run, right after the photos.

Lauren Fortuna, actress. I saw her in the Jeeves play at the NC Stage Company.

John, Danny, Phil and Dan

Those are celebrities!!

Robert G., a new but strong hiker, came along. He wanted to know all about Carolina Mountain Club. I gave him a CMC bookmark and said,”

“I’d love to talk to you but we are in such famous company. Talk to the superintendents. You’ll learn a lot.

Here I am with the three men.

I, too, learned a lot, including that John S. is leaving to go back to his home in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution parks on September 30. JD Lee, of Big Cypress National Preserve, will become the acting superintendent of the Parkway. Hopefully, by the beginning of the year, the most visited park unit in the country will get a permanent superintendent.

Alarm at The Cove

In case you’re wondering if my hike was just a rerun of the scouting hike, I can report that that we had a little excitement of the non-natural kind.

John and I were deep in conversation, when an alarm started screeching in the woods. It seems that I missed a turn and headed for a fenced-off area of a Christian retreat. We were so stunned that it took us a a moment to figure out what we did.

Everyone but Robert and I (the non-celebrities) stopped at the Visitor Center and found other ways of getting back to their cars. The two of us walked back to our cars at the Folk Art Center. On the way, we made a point of setting the alarm off again. It was fun!

Thank you, all, for coming out… And keep on hiking!