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

NC Hunting Laws for Hikers

Hunting season on the MST
Hunting season on the MST

On October 1, that’s yesterday, North Carolina made it legal to hunt on Sunday, but only on private land. The main reason I’m writing this post is to dispel rumors and false beliefs about the new law. So hikers aren’t supposed to be on other people’s private land, anyhow, so no worries there.

Hunting is still illegal on public land on Sunday.

But hunting season is around the corner. So while I’m here, a recap of our hunting laws might be useful.

Hunting is not allowed

  •  The Appalachian Trail, though a National Scenic Trail, follows the laws of the managing agency, i.e. Pisgah National Forest, so you’ll have to pay attention there.
  • In state parks. So don’t worry about Mt. Mitchell State Park  or any other state park. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, though a state trail, doesn’t have that protection since it takes on the laws of the land it’s on, just like the A.T.
  • Dupont State Forest is a recreational forest, but it does allow hunting in a very limited area. You’ll see signs when you enter the hunting zone. Check out the website for all the rules and regs.

So where do you have to wear orange in Western North Carolina? Basically in national forests such as Pisgah National Forests and Nantahala National Forests.

When do you have to start worrying? Here’s the link to the dates on the NC Wildlife Resources Commission site.

For Western North Carolina, bear season is Oct 12 to Nov. 21 and Dec 14 to Jan 1.

Deer season has three types of weapons

  1.  Archery Oct 11 to Nov 22
  2. Black powder Sept 28 to Oct 10
  3. Nov 23 to Dec 12

If those dates are too complicated, remember that bear or deer season lasts until January 1, but not on Sunday.

Warrior Hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Postponed to Oct. 24

Sunrise at Cape Hatteras
Sunrise at Cape Hatteras



On Saturday, October 3, I’ll be speaking at a fundraiser in Brevard for Warrior Hikers.

Here’s a little synopsis of the Warrior Hike program:

In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II. Four months later, Earl Shaffer became the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Following in Earl Shaffer’s footsteps and in recognizing the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking, Warrior Hike has created the “Walk Off The War” Program which is designed to support combat veterans transitioning from their military service by thru-hiking America’s National Scenic Trails.

But now, the program isn’t just about the A.T. They have several trails including the Arizona Trail, the Ice Age Trail and the Florida Trail.

Next year, they will include the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina.  It looks like new trails aren’t added all that often. The Warrior Hike organization provides logistical support as well as other help. So including the MST is a big deal.

The fundraising event will be on Saturday from 2 pm to 8 pm, featuring bands, beer and barbecue — and me.  It’s at Atagahi Park, in the Connestee Falls estates. Just getting in to see these falls is probably worth the price of admission.

Again, see all the details here.

Everest – the Movie

Not on Mt. Everest

A few days ago, I went to see Everest, a gripping film about the 1996 climbing disaster.

Eight climbers died in two days when an unexpected blizzard came in. At the time, the events held me spell bound. I read and watched everything about it. The book at the time was Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, still one of my favorite books of all times.

You don’t have to have remembered the incident to find the movie fascinating. It was the beginning of commercialization of mountain climbing. Companies like those owned by Rob Hall of New Zealand and Scott Fisher of the United States took anyone they saw fit on the mountain. A quick scene shows a guide teaching his clients how to put on crampons. Most hadn’t had climbing experience; they were “treadmill fit.”

The preparations and life at Everest base camp are well depicted. They show the acclimatization (even the word is hard to write and say) climbs, the partying, and the packing of oxygen tanks. The doctor gives a lecture, where she says that people are not meant to climb this high.

Professional reviews stress the beauty of the filming in 3D over the human aspects but they are wrong. Sure, Keira Knightley plays the teary pregnant wife back in New Zealand. But the struggle of the clients and leaders against the mountain are heart-breaking. They made mistakes in an environment that allows for none. And they never used the word “issue” when they had a problem.

But it’s the cold that seemed so visceral to me.

Like many others, inquiries about climbing shot up. Even I looked into what it meant to attempt to reach the top. Hah! Two years later, I completed the Appalachian Trail, a much-more achievable goal.

Panoramic Photographs at the Sevierville Visitor Center

Stan Jorstad photographs
Stan Jorstad photographs

I feel like I’ve just discovered something that everyone else has known for years. Tucked away in a corridor inSevierville, TN, there are wonderful pictures of our national parks by Stan Jorstad, a leader in panoramic photography.

Now notice that I didn’t say “hidden away” or that it’s a secret that I’ve just uncovered.

I don’t want to be like that joker who said that he just discovered the abandoned houses in Elkmont. And the mainstream media jumped on it.

No, anyone can admire these Jorstad photos for free, without being a national park insider. The exhibit is at the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) visitor center in Kodak, Tennessee on TN 66 (3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway, 1.25 miles from Interstate Exit 407). The GSMA visitor center and bookstore shares space with the Sevier County Visitor Center on one side of the building.

The twenty-four panoramic photographs are hung in the hallway between those two organizations. They were at the Sugarlands visitor center before that, but I didn’t pay attention, then.

Bears at a GSMA visitor center
Bears at a GSMA visitor center

Jorstad was friends with Ansel Adams and Elliot Porter. He was the first professional photographer to capture the breathtaking beauty of every one of our national parks. How lucky we are to have those, but I wonder how many people have seen them.

I love to discover something like this, tucked away and hiding in plain sight. I had been to all the GSMA visitor centers but I went to the one in Sevierville, years ago before I was on the board of directors and before I really paid attention to what was in these spaces.

So go to the GSMA visitor center. Buy a bear or a book and take the time to look at the Jorstad photographs. If you’ve seen the pictures, let me know.


Please avert a government shutdown

20150210SCCONG 044AAs you may know, the House of Representatives can’t agree on a budget. So now, if nothing new happens soon, the government will shut down all non-essential services on October 1.

You may remember the government shut-down of only two years ago, in 2013.

If the government shuts down, the national parks will close and that will directly affect us.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will shut tight.
The Blue Ridge Parkway may not be able to be physically shut down every place, but a lot of the overlooks and parking areas will be off-limits.

Your other favorite parks, battlefield, historic home such as Carl Sandburg Home, will also be off-limits.

Rev War Patriot at the Battle of Kings Mountain
Rev War Patriot at the Battle of Kings Mountain

We are not helpless. This is a request/plea to email your Congress representative in the House and tell them how important the parks are to you and to the health of the community they’re in.
Please do it now and don’t “wait and see”.

You can find out who your Congressional representative is on
If you go down a bit, you’ll see where you can put in your zip code.
You may need to put in your 9 digit zip code, as I have to, if your zip code is split. To find out your full nine-digit zip code, see the post office website.

Write an email telling your representative that national parks are very important to you and the country. October is one of the busiest times to visit national parks.

You may hike, walk, or just look at trees. Your child may visit on a field trip to a battlefield or national monument.

So to recap:

  1.  Make sure you know your nine-digit zip code by going to the post office website
  2. Go to the the House of Representative website
  3. Write to your representative and let him/her know that national parks are very important to you and the nation.
  4. It would be so great if you encouraged your friends and on Facebook to do the same.
  5. Let me know that you contacted your representative.

Thanks and see you on the trail.