Fort Moultrie

Still on a book tour

With Andra
With Andra

Yesterday I was at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island SC talking about the national parks of the South.

I felt that this was the culmination of so much that I had been working for for several years.

I’ve spoken at bookstores, outdoor stores, hiking clubs and even a private evening.

But here I was at a national park, speaking to an audience which included national park rangers, Eastern National staff and VIPs (Volunteers in the Park). I was pumped, even though it was 100 degrees outside around the fort.

Yesterday was Carolina Day at Fort Moultrie (FOMO) where they commemorated the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Sullivans Island. Besides my talk, there were a bunch of reenactors, men and women who dressed like the militia men in the Revolutionary War.

A surgeon at FOMO
A surgeon at FOMO

“Is is more fun to be a Patriot or a Loyalist?” I asked anyone in costume.

Most had never been a Loyalist or a British soldier, though there had been both who attacked Fort Moultrie.

One fellow, who was supposed to be a surgeon, explained that he was more like a butcher, sawing off limbs and pulling teeth.

Another big bonus of going to FOMO was that I finally met Andra Watkins, author and promoter extraordinaire. She’s written several books both fiction and nonfiction, but her most successful one is Not Without My Father about her thru-hike on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Though I have several more book events through the summer and fall, I feel that I’ve reached a milestone with Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South (FAB).
* I’ve done a lot of traveling and speaking about the national parks. I hope I never let my book overshadow the parks.
* I’ve answered many, many questions, talked to a lot of people who only knew of the Smokies and the YY (Yosemite and Yellowstone) parks. Every time a new person learned that this year, 2016, was the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I said a silent “Yippee”.
* I sent a copy of my book to every superintendent in the Southern region. Though I only got an acknowledgement from the superintendents who knew me personally, I tried not to let it bother me and “got over it”.

The actual anniversary day is August 25, so there’s lots of celebrating left to do. But at this point, Fort Moultrie is a highlight.

If you’re interested in where I’ll be appearing next with FAB, see my events page.

From Mt. Sterling

Mt. Sterling with Friends of the Smokies

Look at this picture above.

This is the view from the Mt. Sterling Tower. You can walk around and see views from all compass directions. So how do you get up to Mt. Sterling?

Hike with Friends of the Smokies on Tuesday, July 12 and take in the views on a Classic Hike of the Smokies to the Mt. Sterling fire tower in Great Smoky Mountains National Park . This is a beautiful and historic hike.

The hike to Mt. Sterling is a strenuous 5.4 mile roundtrip hike with a total elevation gain of 2,000 ft. Don’t let the short mileage fool you. You go up and up and up.

Sitting at an elevation of 5,842 feet in the Great Smoky Mountains, Mt. Sterling Gap and fire tower are rich in history. If you’re familiar with the story of local fiddler Henry Grooms and his companions, whose deaths were depicted in the movie Cold Mountain, you’ll  note that this Civil War execution occurred at the Gap where the trail begins.

Monthly guided day hikes in this series are $20 for members. New members may join Friends of the Smokies and hike for $35. Donations benefit Friends’ Smokies Trails Forever program which funds trail rehabilitation in GSMNP.

Visit to register for any Classic Hike of the Smokies. These hikes fill up fast.

State Parks on the MST

Jones LakeSP
Jones Lake SP

“Where on earth am I?” is not a great way to start a conversation at a gas station.

But that’s what I kept asking people as I searched for two parks in Southeastern North Carolina.

I was on my way to Wilmington and looking for two state parks: Jones Lake and Singletary. You will be forgiven if you’ve never heard of them but they are now on the Coastal Crescent route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Once I left the familiar exits of  I-40, I relied on my GPS and hoped it knew more than I did. It didn’t. Finally I found myself in Bladen Lakes State Forest but still no Jones Lake SP. I corralled a forest ranger, probably on his lunch break, and he directed me.

For a state park that is so difficult to find, Jones Lake was quite busy. Visitors were fishing, swimming, picnicking and boating. Range Lane Garner knew all about the MST and told me that it followed their bay trail. So in the blazing sun, I walked the four mile trail around the lake.

Lake – Jones and Singletary Lakes are not lakes like Fontana Lake outside of Bryson City or Lake Lure near Chimney Rock. They are shallow oval depressions; Jones Lake in particular is only 8.7 feet deep. The big practical difference is that these Carolina bays, as they are called, aren’t fed by streams or springs but depend on rain. The water is tea colored.

Bay Trail
Bay Trail

Still, it’s perfectly fine to swim or fish in Jones Lake. I should have done something around the water. Instead I walked and was attacked by mosquitoes. The worst was a bite on my ankle which is still red and swollen. I will be scratching fore-e-ver.

Singletary Lake SP was much easier to find and quicker to deal with.

The public can only go into the park when they aren’t used by nonprofit groups. There’s not even a visitor center, just a park office. So I asked how I could see the lake.

“You can’t go in now” the park office manager said. “We have two groups camping.”

“What if I just leave my car in the lot and just walk?” I asked.

The answer was still no. But she was perfectly happy to stamp my NC park passport.

So where does the MST go? She really knew about the MST.

“The route is on the road, passing the park entrance,” she said. “And it’s the alternate route of the MST.”

Yes, she was right. Since State Parks hasn’t yet approved this route, it’s an alternate route. I was just happy that she knew about the details of the MST.

So that’s why I don’t have a single picture of Singletary Lake.