Are you traveling by yourself?

Are you traveling by yourself?

On Folly Beach

I heard this a lot when I went to Folly Beach, South Carolina, close to Charleston. Was it said in pity or amazement?

“Yes,” I said.

Some couldn’t let go of that. Women, mostly, were with their sons, daughters, other women and even grandchildren.

Of course, most were with their partners, admiring the sunset. See the picture above.

I too was enthralled by the picture book sunset. Folly Beach reminds me of a little Key West, bur a lot closer to Asheville. It’s funky, with restaurants, coffee shops, not much culture, but, oh, that beach.

It was too cold for me to swim. In the morning, it was breezy enough that I needed a light jacket. I walked and walked the beach, meeting people and their dogs. It’s so much easier to talk to new people – I hate the word “stranger” – when you’re alone.

Angel Tree

I often say that I’m a group person.

I love to hike with groups: Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Smokies, and any other group. I enjoy going with others when there’s a specific place with a specific agenda.

Beth and I walked the Camino del Norte together. With discussion and compromise, we both had a wonderful time. But we knew what the purpose of the trip was: to walk the whole trail. We met other people who opened up the conversation.

There are whole books, articles and blogs devoted to traveling alone, especially if you’re a woman. Most tell you about group travel, so that you end up not alone. Or they expound  about safe places… I don’t want to go to “safe places”; I want to go to specific places I’m interested in.

OK – so Folly Beach isn’t exactly a beach in Indonesia, but this is where I wanted to go for three days. I didn’t have an agenda other than not having an agenda – very different from most of my  travels.

“What if something happens?” People ask.

“Be more specific,” I say. Most of the time they can’t. Actually, something negative did happen – no, no one bopped me on the head or pickpocketed my wallet. I may (or may not) write about it.

Eating and reading

But everyone was friendly.

Folly Beach is the kind of town where you can strike up a conversation with someone on the beach, street or café. Most places are, if you take the first step. It was obvious that I was by myself while window shopping, on the beach or eating dinner. So what?

Whatever concerns I may have about traveling alone, I had the same with a partner.
Don’t run out of gas
Have cash at all times.
Know the name, address and phone number of where I’m staying….

So, yes, I am traveling alone. Folly Beach is the least adventurous place I’ve been to or plan to go.

What is your experience? Do you like to travel alone?

The Weekend of Small Hikes

Collier Cove Nature Preserve

Sometimes it’s good to see what’s in your own backyard. While going all around the world is exciting, I know that I’m missing a lot of opportunities right here around Asheville.

This past Saturday, I was introduced to two small areas around Asheville.

I was invited to  talk about the Southern national parks and my book, Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South. Am I still marketing this book?” You may ask. No, but if a group asks me, I go.

Bev McD. of Carolina Mountain Club asked me to speak to her group, RossCraggen Woods – a private club with a few acres in Arden. But before my talk, Bev took me to see a view of Lake Julian, a Buncombe County Park and power plant. See the picture above.

Bev also showed me Collier Cove Nature Preserve, another county park. It only has 2.5 miles of trail, or so, with some elevation but it’s meant to be a full-day hike. I never would have seen this without Bev’s help. I always like to learn how the public acquired the land.

Buncombe County bought the 29 acres from the Collier Family  in 2012. They had already built  the trails on the property. Twenty-nine acres isn’t much but the land is steep, adding to the interest.

From Lunch Roks

Every bit of land here was owned by someone.

Sometimes the owners actually give the land to the public. Most of the times, the descendants sell the land, but not at market (read “development”) prices.

Sunday I met a small group from the Raleigh Camino group. They had come for a weekend of friendship, food and hiking with the Asheville Camino group.

Most had done the long Asheville Camino hike on Saturday, so they scheduled a five-mile hike to Lunch Rocks on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Raleigh Camino group

Only four hikers showed up because the rest were still recuperating from the 16-mile hike. But that was OK. The hike to Lunch Rocks, MST east of the Folk Art Center, was just the right length before the Raleigh group started out on their long drive.

I need to have a repertoire of short hikes, close to Asheville because they come in handy.




Storing my hiking stuff

I haven’t written a blog post for over a week because I haven’t been hiking. I’ve moved and  downsized from a house to an apartment.

No more garage or extra rooms. No laundry room with a large sink where I can rinse my boots.

Camping in the past

Where do I put all my hiking and camping stuff?

The minimalist websites that I’ve read don’t discuss hiking gear.

I’ve paired down my outdoor stuff as much as I’m willing to.

I’m down to one daypack, one trekking pack and one backpack. No more extra packs or water bottles for guests. They’re going to have to bring their own gear.

I kept a tiny stove and got rid of the leaky tent that I’ve had since Lenny and I backpacked the A.T. A sleeping bag and waffle pad take up most of the room on the closet floor. My two pairs of hiking boots (high tops and low tops) are on a floormat in another closet. The hiking poles hang from a hook like ornaments.

But all the tiny house gurus don’t say the obvious. If you get rid of equipment that takes up space, you’re giving up the activity as well.

I’m not ready to give up camping with Carolina Mountain Club or with my grandkids. The latter requires three sleeping bags, three pads and a large three-person tent. Plus a cooler, a pot and water kettle…

Hannah’s first camping trip

For the first time, I’ve rented a 5 foot by 5 foot storage unit, the smallest available. The camping stuff didn’t even cover the floor. Now a  storage unit is a very dangerous thing to have. Once you have one, you can keep putting other stuff in it. So far, I’m resisting the temptation.

I’m no longer saving my hiking uniform just for hiking.

I’ll wear my shorts and white polyester shirt, separately and together, whenever it makes sense. I’ve also been reading about developing an everyday clothing uniform, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have. Same clothes every day – maybe in different colors.

Sign to Muxia

I wore the same clothes on the Camino de Santiago for weeks, and no one cared.

So why not at home?

Another lesson from the Camino.