This Hiking Life

I’m a hiker, hike leader and outdoor writer.

I blog abEdgy in Montreat Wildernessout my outdoor life, mostly in the Southern Appalachians and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina and our national parks.

I’m writing a book on visiting all the national parks in the Southeast – the battlefields, monuments, historic sites as well as the traditional national parks. My book, titled Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, will come out next year, 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

I’m involved in outdoor and conservation issues. I hope these blog notes will inspire you to go and explore the outdoors, wherever you are.

See my bio if you want to know more.

Hope to meet on the trail! Danny

Ireland Adventure

Starting a new adventure with Beth, a hiking friend.

Just got into Dublin this morning. Though the flight was over two hours late, no one seemed to get upset. That’s flying and that’s the way it is. It was a calm, friendly flight without the constant chatter from the cockpit.

The  calm, helpful, friendly feeling seems to permeate the whole city. Plenty of people on the street but not a crowded, rushed feeling.  we’re staying in the Temple Bar area, a tourist area because we’re tourists. Our B&B is on the River Liffey.

Two places really made an impreimagession on me this afternoon. Realize that we’ve only been here fdublin famine memorialor an afternoon.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a massive 13th century church that turned Anglican after the Reformation.

They had a large WW I exhibit. Now this is a war that Americans don’t think about much today but it was a devastating war for Europe. Ireland was still part of the British Empire then. But after Ireland became independent, it wasn’t fashionable to talk about WWI. It was considered “old” Ireland, even so many were affected by the war.

The Irish Famine Memorial in the center of town commemorates all the people who fled Ireland or died during the potato famine of the 19th century. The people depicted were thin beyond belief with hollow eyes. A sad, sad sculpture.

One more day in Dublin. We spent most of it at Trinity College, fonunded in 1592. Most of the old buildings date from the 18th and 19th century. But plenty of modern buildings and majors as well. No football team, though.

Enough culture. Tomorrow we travel to our first trailhead.





How do you prepare for your next trip?

MccarthysbarbookcoverI’m going to Ireland for a few weeks of hiking with a hiking friend. Then I’ll tour on my own for a few days to satisfy a long-standing curiosity.

So my question is how do you prepare for a new international destination? Yes, I have my clothes, boots, passport, pack and reservations. I know the trails I’m going to walk, But that’s not what I mean.

How do you learn about a new country or area? I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to on Ireland because I was so busy researching and writing my next book on national parks of the south. But a few weeks ago, I felt like I need to start cramming.

First, I got a AAA map of Ireland. OK, it goes with the UK, but that’s the best I could find for free. Then I ordered city maps – not free. I looked at the general area of the trails on a road map. I started reading the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland. I find the series still the best go-to for history, culture and practicalities. You can find lodging information on the web, but not too many other guides are confident enough to spend pages explaining the culture.

I overdosed on current Irish movies two weeks ago. I saw The Boxer, In the Name of the Father, both with Daniel-Day Lewis  about the Irish troubles. Then I watched Evelyn, a quiet movie about families in the 1950s.

I was looking for a light book on what it’s like to live in present-day Ireland–an Irish version of Under the Tuscan Sky about Italy or A Year in Provence about France. But the book that caught my eye was McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy. McCarthy drove through the Republic of Ireland in the early 2000 and stopped in every bar called McCarthy and many others, as well. It did inform me about the Irish character and landscape. But mostly, it was funny.

That’s not much preparation, I know. What do you do?

I’ll be blogging about my trip, internet and exhaustion permitting. And for that long-standing curiosity? Stay tune, as they say.


Potluck, Message Delivered, a Children’s book is launched

potluckbookcoverMarci Spencer has written a new book, this time a children’s book:

Potluck, Message Delivered: The Great Smoky Mountains are Saved!

Her book launch is on Sunday, August 9 at 2:00 pm at Ridgecrest Conference Center, Recreation Pavillion.

Lots of activities are planned. Here’s the background.

In 1929, NC journalists from the Asheville Times met those from TN’s Knoxville News-Sentinel on Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hiking thru rugged backcountry in pouring rain from opposite sides of the Smokies highest mountain, they exchanged letters from each state’s governor and celebrated the first national park created by citizens raising money.

A messenger pigeon, named Potluck, was released to bring the good news home to Asheville. More pigeons were released from other Smoky mountains peaks to take the message back home detailing their discoveries. The Asheville Times printed each story delivered by pigeon-post.

Potluck’s historic flight has now been preserved in a new children’s book by Marci Spencer, author of  Clingmans Dome, Highest Mountain in the Great Smokies and Pisgah National Forest: a History.  Her son, Tim Worsham, illustrated the text.

Children, grandchildren, and never-grew-up children are invited to pay tribute to Potluck and celebrate the new book preserving that historic event.

*****Ms. Bee Tompkins (now 96 yrs. old), the 10 yr. old daughter of Potluck’s owner, will speak

******The author will speak on the military, spiritual, and symbolic history of homing pigeons and tell Potluck’s story

*****Dr. John Spencer, will sing “Wings of a Snow-white Dove” (solo) while Ms. Denise Bishop, retired after 30+ yrs. as a deaf interpreter for the NC School for the Deaf, interprets the song in sign language.

*******Jere Brittain, retired professor and local folk musician, will play the dulcimer.

Other outdoor and kid activities. Picnic foods provided.

Sounds like fun!

Mt. Pisgah off the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

MSTPisgah 016AI hate the overused expression “get back to basics”. Usually it means overpriced, overprocessed foods and cosmetics in a environmentally acceptable green color. But sometimes, the saying does work.

When a hiker asks me what trails they should start with in Western North Carolina, I always suggest climbing Mt. Pisgah. Not only is it a classic, but it allows you to orient yourself to the area. Mt. Pisgah is a classic and a basic hike.

From the top of Mt. Pisgah, you’ll see Cold Mountain, Looking Glass Rock, and the Frying Pan Mountain tower.

Sunday, I went on the Carolina Mountain Club half-day hike, led by Bobbi Powers. Since the climb is just 2.6 miles and 750 feet of elevation gain, Bobbi needed a couple more miles to make it a decent half-day hike. So we started and ended at Pisgah Inn. The mile from Pisgah Inn to the bottom of Mt. Pisgah must be the most manicured mile on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in the mountains.

Looking into the Springhouse
Looking into the Springhouse

We went past the Buckspring Lodge site and peeked into the Spring house, just off the trail.

Some hikers call it a secret. It’s not a secret, folks. Read Walt Weber’s book Trail Profiles and maps from the Great Smokies to Mount Mitchell and Beyond and my two hiking guides.

Up to Mt. Pisgah
Up to Mt. Pisgah

Then we started climbing Mt. Pisgah. I had forgotten how steep and rocky the trail is.

I’ve been hiking in the Smokies for so long that I sometimes forget that most WNC trails in Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway are full of rocks and roots. I have become so spoiled.

I had to stop a couple of times to take a drink and catch my breath. Since this was an afternoon hike, we were walking in the hottest part of the July day. It wasn’t easy.

Look at the picture to the left.

Now look at the quality of the Chimney Tops Trail. It’s longer and steeper but the trail quality is so good.

Chimney Tops Trail
Chimney Tops Trail

Of course, Chimney Tops has been completely rehabilitated with money from Trails Forever, donated by Friends of the Smokies. I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

What does it all means?

*  Mt. Pisgah is actually on Blue Ridge Parkway land. But the Parkway puts fewer resources into quality trails than the Smokies.

* When deciding on a trail, look at distance, altitude gain and terrain. The latter is the hardest information to get, but it’s important.

* Hike up to Mt. Pisgah. It’s worth the effort.

Carolina Mountain Club Announces New Hiking Challenge

A.T. section
A.T. section

Carolina Mountain Club announced a new hiking challenge:  The CMC A.T.-MST Challenge.

Hike all the Appalachian Trail miles and Mountains-to-Sea Trail miles that are maintained by the club.

CMC currently maintains 93 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Davenport Gap to Spivey Gap (going northbound) and 135 miles of the Mountains -To-Sea Trail from Waterrock Knob to Black Mountain Campground (going eastbound). Members who hike the combined 228 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) and the Mountains -To-Sea Trail (MST) on sections maintained by the club will be awarded a certificate of completion and a commemorative embroidered hiking patch.

MST in the mountains
MST in the mountains

Please check the CMC website Challenge page for details. If you have further questions please e-mail Vance Mann who is coordinating this new challenge. You can reach Vance at

This hiking challenge, like all the other CMC challenges, is on the honor system. As you learned in school, if you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.  Similarly, you have a lifetime to hike these miles. But I wouldn’t suggest you take a lifetime.

The South Beyond 6000 is the oldest CMC challenge. It requires you to climb a specific list of 40 peaks higher than 6,000 feet. Other challenges include the Pisgah 400 (all the trails in Pisgah National Forest), Lookout Towers and Waterfall 100.

For all the details, see the CMC challenge information.