Nantahala National Forest – A Review

Nantahala National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer
Published by The History Press, $21.99

Marci Spencer was the speaker at a Carolina Mountain Club dinner a couple of years ago. She gave a spirited talk about her book on Pisgah National Forest.

Marci knows how to write a lively history of our public lands. She did it for Pisgah and now Nantahala National Forest, the more remote of the two in Western North Carolina.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail winds its way through the forest, though it is difficult to know when it leaves Nantahala and goes into Pisgah – you have to really keep your eyes open for signs.

But you’ll recognize other places that you may never have associated with Nantahala National Forest.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, with the “big trees”, is in the Cheoah Ranger District. I have a sweet spot for Joyce Kilmer, the poet as well as the forest, since he came from New Brunswick, in Central New Jersey, where I used to live. He never visited Western North Carolina but is mostly remembered for one poem,

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

You’ll have to read Marci’s book to find out how and why the forest was named after the New Jersey poet and journalist.

The book is a delightful mixture of hard facts, stories that others have told her and that she’s dug up from her many sources.

And those photographs… The History Press is well known for its beautiful color pictures and this book is full of photographs from many people.

If you’re a hiker, historian or just interested in how the public got all this land, read Nantahala National Forest: A History. I wonder where Marci will go next.

Boogerman Trail with Friends of the Smokies

Crossing Caldwell Fork

How much do you need to know about a hike before you sign on?

How concerned are you about getting your boots wet when the weather is warm and the water low and your fellow hikers are friendly?

September’s Friends of the Smokies hike was postponed from a rainy, miserable day last week to a perfect weather day with blue skies, warm temperatures, and low water levels.

Today was a wonderful day to be doing a classic North Carolina hike. The Boogerman Trail may be the most well-known hike on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The hike has ten major water crossings on the Caldwell Fork Trail. A few years ago, a storm washed away several bridges. Other bridges were damaged, though still standing. Still, we hiked the loop and just got wet.

Mike K.

The park has replaced the first two bridges with sturdy, high structures that will withstand a lot. But other crossings require agility. The park has put in large, flat boulders instead of bridges. That’s where the agility comes in. Still you’ll get your feet wet.

The bottom of the creek is very rocky and uneven. Hikers were experienced enough to cross with their boots on and with hiking poles. Sandals, or worse, bare feet, is just asking for trouble.

Still, I would not want you to think that we were just preoccupied with water crossings.

Mike K., our leader, did a fine job of talking about the history of the Boogerman Trail. We bushwhacked to the Boogerman home site. He took us to a cemetery and the Messer property. He also pointed out huge trees.

Late summer and early fall flowers were bountiful.

We could recognize cucumber root, gentians that were almost pure white, doll’s eyes, and Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit clusters. A few turtle heads were still hanging on, though probably not for long.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, October 10 from Purchase Knob. Fall colors ought to be at their peak at that time and no water crossings will be involved.

Sign up here.

FITGO at the YMCA

Did you see the Dennis the Menace cartoon yesterday?

It shows the mom doing yoga. The kids say

“I guess when you get too old to play… You have to exercise.”

Really? What is hiking, biking, canoeing or even yoga, but playing?

And to make it more fun, the Asheville YMCA came up with Fitgo.

The  YMCA Fitgo is a combination of Fitness and Bingo. You get a card with a five by five grid of challenges for a month. Some activities are simple, some take thought, and a couple I am just ignoring.

Fitgo card

Simple Goals – No fast food for three days and Drink no soda for three days. I checked that off the moment I got the card because I haven’t had either for decades.

Same with Eat fresh fruit with your breakfast and Stretch for 15 minutes.- I do those every day.

Goals that take some thoughts –  I didn’t want to count activities that I’ve done before I started Fitgo. So I waited until I did my next yoga class to count it as  group training class, no problem since I go to yoga once or twice a week.

Another goal was to Participate in an outdoor activity – yeah, like hiking.

Swannanoa River

As for volunteering for a service organization, I lead hikes for Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Smokies and other nonprofits who ask me.  So I counted my involvement in MST-in-a-Day.

Do an activity together with friends or family – another easy one since all my hiking companions are friends – no double counting was involved.

Since this is the YMCA, the goals also included introducing yourself to three Y members I didn’t know and letting a Y staff person know why you love the Y . I love the Y because it opens at 5 am on weekdays. It give me and lots of other people flexibility.

Now the tough ones. Drink water as your only fluid intake for one day. What? Give up tea? I interpreted this literally – not even herbal tea.

Get eight hours or more of sleep for three days – Are they kidding? I’d love to but if I can sleep more than six hours, it’s a red letter day.

No one can hike every day – certainly I don’t have my life planned to hike every day. So that’s where the YMCA comes in – with or without Fitgo.