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Friends of the Smokies is going hiking!

On Bradley Fork Trail
On Bradley Fork Trail

This has been a horrific week in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and in the gateway communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The park has been closed tight, something that I’ve not seen since I’ve been paying attention to park issues.

But now we hear that at least some of the North Carolina side of the park is open. It’s important that we get out there to show support and solidarity with the park.

Friends of the Smokies is leading a hike on Tuesday December 6 to Chasteen Creek Falls. It’s an easy to moderate out-and-back hike (7.5 miles, 1,200 feet of altitude).

We’ll hike along Bradley Fork and Chasteen Creek Trails. We’ll marvel at the changing leaf color and explore a tumbling waterfall. Since the waterfall isn’t right on the trail, many hikers miss it as they climb up Chasteen Creek Trail. I led this hike last month for Carolina Mountain Club and know that, even in the middle of the worst drought, there was water in the falls. It ought to be flowing now.

Chasteen Creek in drought
Chasteen Creek in drought

We’ll hike to the campsite for lunch and go back the same way.

After the hike, we’ll go to Oconaluftee Visitor Center (OVC) for some holiday shopping. Great Smoky Mountains Association, the park partner that manages the bookstores in the park, needs our help as well.

Bring your holiday shopping list and do all your shopping locally at OVC. Don’t forget to bring your Friends of the Smokies membership card to receive 15% off.

We will have a small gift for each hiker in attendance in the spirit of the season. If you haven’t registered, please do so online now on the Friends of the Smokies website.

The event will say “Grotto Falls”. Ignore that. The date is correct so just sign up by Sunday evening and you’ll be sent  instructions on the  meeting time and place.

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When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike – Book Review

Emma (Grandma) Gatewood was not the first woman to thru-hike the A. grandmagatewood9780821422359-coverT. but she was the first woman to do it by herself. She is now a legend, though Appalachian Trail hikers knew about her for decades.

What made Gatewood an influential figure is that she did it first when she was 67 years old in 1955. Less than two years later, she did it again.

So for all the folks who say that they are too old, envision a woman with no hiking experience, little money for good equipment and most important, no A. T. community, pay attention. She had to figure out the logistics all by herself. Look up the listings of 2000-milers on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website for the 1950s. It’s fascinating.

She was also the first thru-hiker to attract a great deal of national publicity. She inspired the next generation of A.T. hikers, including me. Gatewood didn’t come from the high peaks of Colorado or New Hampshire. Instead, she was from a farm close to Hocking Hills State Park in Southeast Ohio.

Now comes a sweet children’s book, When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike, by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Erica Magnus, published by Ohio University Press. The book is aimed at the four to eight year old market.

Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park

I loved the writing. Yes, it’s simple as a child’s book should be but it doesn’t mince words. Gatewood had difficulties. She dealt with black flies. She got lost and what is the most fearful to me, she broke her glasses. Her first attempt was a failure but she persevered – the most important part of hiking any long-distance trail.

The pictures also didn’t pretty up Gatewood. She was a farm woman in her sixties and the drawings show her as dumpy with gray hair. Yeah! That didn’t stop her from hiking and enjoying the fame she gathered on her walks.

I really appreciated the straight, plain typography. There’s no need for cutesy lettering in a children’s book. I’m glad that the publisher decided on a legible, conventional font.

For some reason, the book is much cheaper on the publisher’s website than on the large online retailer. Get a copy or three for the children (boy or girl) on your list. Enjoy!

NPS Celebration

Giving Tuesday – Who are you supporting?

Today is Giving Tuesday. You know that because you’ve been inundated with requests from nonprofits all across the country.

Poster campaign at OVC
Poster campaign at OVC

Right now, Western North Carolina needs your money more than ever. At no time is this poster more appropriate.

Our public lands are burning. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now closed. The park folks have closed everything because of the wild fires. I don’t know if they’ve ever done this before. Even Park Headquarters is without power and phone service.

But we’re all interconnected here. The Appalachian Trail travels for over seventy miles through the Smokies. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina starts on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. All of these lands need our help.

At this point our Congress doesn’t even have a budget past December 9. So it’s not going to put any extra money into our public lands. I’m just hoping that Congress will go back to work and pass a budget.

But we’re not helpless. We need to support Friends groups that support the trail. There are so many of them in our area. Choose one and donate your money today. Plan to donate your time and effort on a regular basis.

Don’t wait until the end of the year. Yes, you’ll get a tax deduction but that’s not a reason to support a cause.

Here goes:

Friends of the SmokiesLogoFOTS – which assists Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I lead monthly hikes for the group.

 

Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail logofmst– which champions the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina

 

Great Smoky Mountains AssociationLogoGSMA – which assists the Smokies by managing the bookstores and publishing awesome books and maps.