Tag Archives: Travel

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.

When your Airbnb goes wrong!

What happens when something goes wrong with Airbnb? More specifically, what do you do when your host isn’t there or maybe doesn’t exist? I’ve been using Airbnb for years and have always been pleased with my lodging.

In my last post, I hinted that something negative did happen when I visited Folly Beach. I think it’s worth writing about.

I booked an Airbnb room in Folly Beach, South Carolina – two blocks from the beach and two blocks from the town center. The description of the property went on and on. It sounded great.

Coastal South Carolina

I got in touch with the owner, Beth, via the Airbnb email system – you never seem to get the host’s email, but you do get their telephone number.

“There’s a keypad at the front door and we send out the code on the day you arrive.”

That sounded reasonable, but the code never arrived. I called her number and I got a Verizon message which said that the number was not in service. That should have gotten me worried, but by then, I was well on my way to Folly Beach.

I arrived in town and started looking for the property. No number 55. I walked up and down the street and asked anyone I could corral if they knew where the house could be. No one did but my GPS stopped at a large house with a keypad.

At 4 pm, when she said I could check in, there was no one there. I called Airbnb. To their credit, someone answered within a few minutes.

“I will try to reach out to Beth,” Solomon, the Airbnb employee said.”

“Good luck with that.” We exchanged the phone number we had for her. It was the same nonworking number.

“We give the host an hour. Someone will call you within an hour. No one did.

By then, it was almost 6 pm and I was standing in front of an empty house by myself, with just a phone – and my car. No matter how technologically astute you are, in this situation, all you have is a phone and cell servive.

I noticed a conventional Bed &Breakfast two doors down and walked over. I made a reservation for three times the price but it was there.

I called Airbnb again. Now another employee said two hours. They sent me a list of other properties via email. Did they really expect me to try to make a booking from my phone on the street for tonight? What host was going to answer immediately?

“Please just make a reservation in the area and I’ll be there.”
“We can’t do that,” he said.

After two hours, Ruby, a supervisor, called. I told her about the real B&B I had booked. She said that she was refunding my money and 50% of the difference between what I would have paid for an Airbnb and the price of the more expensive inn.

The credit for my stay was applied to my credit card right away.

For the 50%, I had to wait until I got a bill from the Inn. I sent a copy right away to Airbnb.
I have to fill out a payout method, as if I was a host. They won’t just refund it to my credit card, so I gave them my checking account details. You could also use PayPal, but I wasn’t in the hosting business.

A few days later, I received an email that my host had canceled my reservation. No reason, of course. But I did get my 50% difference from Airbnb.

Airbnb hosts are independent operators. They don’t have a staff like a hotel or conventional B&B. If something happens to them – whatever – they just don’t show up.
I was lucky that an inn was just up the street and that they had a room.

I was impressed with Airbnb’s quick response. The moral of the story is that I must be prepared to act as soon as I see that there’s a problem with the host.

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?