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.

CMC new hiking schedule

It’s a new year of hiking and discovery in the Southern Appalachian mountains.

Carolina Mountain Club just released its 2018 First Quarter hiking schedule.

The club celebrates the new year with a First Day hike in the Green River Game Lands.

For the first three months of 2018, the schedule offers nineteen all-day weekend hikes, thirteen Wednesday hikes and twelve half-day Sunday hikes. Volunteer leaders check out their hikes to understand current trail conditions just before leading the hike.

“CMC offers a variety of hikes, suitable for the season”, said Gregory Bechtel, the incoming chair of the hiking committee. “We hike Sundays, Wednesdays and most Saturdays year-round.”

From an easy seven-mile walk on Asheville Greenways to a challenging climb to Newton Bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the club has hikes for every level. In addition, two Youth Partner Challenge hikes introduce children to fun and educational experiences.

Prospective members are encouraged to start with a Sunday half-day hike. Go to the CMC website, look at the hiking offerings under Hiking and contact the leader.

PS Still several good hikes offered this year.

Happy Hiking Year!

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.