Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

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”.

This was not a hike!

Lenny on the A.T.

Today I went to visit Lenny who’s been gone for almost a year. To be more precise, I walked the Appalachian Trail to the spot where I had spread his ashes. I couldn’t see asking anyone else to come along so I went on my own.

Lenny and I maintained a 4.9-mile section of the A.T. from Devils  Fork Gap to Rice Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee border. It’s not a particularly memorable piece but that’s the section that was available when we arrived in North Carolina.

We had been A.T. section  maintainers in the New Jersey-New York area for years and were ready to continue this volunteer work.  For maintenance, 4.9 miles is considered a long section and we still had to wait a year to get it.

Trail maintaining was his passion. I was the helper who went out with him four times a year. He weedwhacked, cut branches, and decided when to bring in the Carolina Mountain Club reinforcements, i.e. the people with the chain saws. I clipped, picked up garbage, and held  the branches he was sawing down.

Most roads that cross the A.T. are in remote areas. To save a half-mile each way, I started at Rector Laurel Rd., a small road with more dogs than houses. When I jumped out of my car, loose dogs greeted me with angry barks but didn’t follow me on the trail.

Lenny had decided that his ashes should be spread on a high spot in this A.T. section. He checked with the US Forest Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that it was OK. We never discussed whether I would visit him once he was gone. It seemed obvious to me that I would.

On the A.T.

I walked about a mile and a half when I met three backpackers from Georgia who were out for a few days.

“And where are you going?” they asked.

“You really want to know?” and I told them why I was on the trail.

The older guy in the middle, a 2000-miler,  said that he wanted his ashes spread on the A.T. as well. He took a picture of me so he could show his wife that I was visiting my husband’s ashes.

Hmm, I thought, I hope she’s a hiker too.

Unlike people who ask “if I’m all right”, Lenny always assumed that I’d be able to hike and be active. He would never say “while you’re able”. Of course, I’d walk this trail forever or at least until my ashes were spread somewhere as well.

I walked another mile and a half to Frozen Knob and down to a big rock face. This was the spot.

Once I got there, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I sat for a while and ate a granola bar. I liked to remember Lenny as active and full of life.

The backpackers passed through and we waved to each other.

I started back down the trail. When I got within a half-mile of the trailhead, the dogs started barking again. I made a bee line for the car and  made my getaway.

All memorial rituals are for the living, the survivors. I’m sure I’ll walk the same trail next year.

Altimeter – An A.T. story

Altimeter circa 1972??

I’m not one to look backwards but sometimes circumstances force me to think about the past, in this case several parts of my past.

I’ve been going through Lenny’s stuff.

My late husband was not a packrat by today’s definition but he left some items that he should have discarded years ago. That includes an old analog altimeter. This gives the altitude based on barometric pressure, without batteries or satellite reception.

I donated almost of his stuff to Goodwill but I don’t think the charity can use specialized hiking gear. Though I said I wasn’t going to do this, I’m spending time and effort to give away his hiking gear to the right places. But what to do with his altimeter?  It is only while writing this post that I learned that these altimeters are still sold.

Lenny on the A.T.

Lenny’s old altimeter belongs in a museum, the Appalachian Trail museum, to be specific. But when I contacted the museum, they said that they would take it only if it had an A.T. story. So here’s one, a true story.

In the late 1960s, we joined Union County Hiking Club, based in northern New Jersey. We hiked locally – yes, there’s plenty of good hiking in Northern New Jersey and onto the New York border.

Eventually, we went on a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were immediately taken by the possibilities of climbing the 48 mountains of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. Lenny always liked to keep lists and this was right up his alley. I got hooked as well and we finished all the mountains in 1978.

As we climbed, Lenny kept track of our progress with the altimeter. Most mountains were higher than 4,000 feet but it was good to know where we were and how much longer we had to go in ascent,

But while climbing some of these mountains, we realized that we were also hiking the Appalachian Trail. We stayed in the White Mountain huts, eight on the A.T. and we learned more about the Appalachian Trail. Again, Lenny started another box of index cards to keep our progress on the A.T.

The idea of walking the whole A.T. seemed ludicrous. We had jobs in large organizations that started us with two weeks of vacation. At the start, our son was a toddler. But somehow, we finished the A.T. in 1998. We never had a trail name, thinking that this was left to thru-hikers only. Besides, Lenny and Danny already sounded like a comedy team. Instead, we came up with a motto:

Georgia to Maine in 25 years

PS. If the A.T. museum doesn’t want the altimeter, it’s going to be recycled.