Tomorrow is 9/11 and I’m remembering…

We all have stories associated with 9/11. We remember where we were on that day, what we did, who we talked to and sometimes we remember our own personal traumatic event going on while something much more horrific was happening to people in our country, Americans and non-Americans alike.  It’s been fourteen years now.

I happened to be having a visit with a friend today. She reminds me of my grandmother who I thought the world of.  I’m not sure if she realized I was really giving her a compliment but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this talk reminded me what I learned and felt from my grandmother (actually my mother’s stepmother). She taught me that it’s not the material things we give other people that are important, but it’s the time we take to listen to them and to love them. It’s taking your kid to get some pizza or creating a Saturday tradition of going for Chinese food. It’s throwing a little ball outside after supper, helping them with homework, or just giving them a big hug. It’s taking a little time to listen to your spouse or significant other when they’ve had a bad day and you are busy. Sometimes the people we love are not the people we expected to love or the people we chose to love but people that come into our lives through other people.  But we can find the time to love them all the same.

So on the eve of a day that brought so much horror, it’s good to remember that loving one another is the greatest commandment. 9/11 is a day we will never forget, some for both public and personal reasons, both intertwined and separate at the same time.  It’s a day to remember the people we loved and lost, to honor their memory, and to hug the people that remain.

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My Mini-Summer In the Sierra Continued: Sequoia National Park

After we got off the John Muir Trail backpack, we arrived back in Mammoth and headed to the Twin Lakes Campground where we had spent our first night in California.  First order of business was a shower! I think all of us were very happy to plunk down $5.00 for unlimited access to hot water.  Clean hair is a luxury you learn to appreciate when it isn’t.  After hanging out for awhile at the campsite, putting up tents and strolling around the park, the group drove back into town to find a place for dinner.  This would be one of several dinners for me (at least) consisting of a veggie burger.  I do not want to see another veggie burger for a long time!!!  While I’m on the subject of food, I will say that we had several wonderful Thai dinners in Clovis, California (near Fresno) and Carson City, Nevada.  As a hiker, some of you may appreciate that where and what we are going to eat after a hike is usually a popular topic of conversation. It carries us for many, many miles! The red meat crowd did get their steak in Reno but that came much later in the trip.

First thing in the morning, we were off on an approximate 4 1/2 hour drive to Sequoia National Park.  Unfortunately our reservation at Kings Canyon had to be changed due to a fire and we found ourselves relocated to another campground (Dorst).  We couldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves about that as the female park ranger we spoke to had also been relocated. It was just that sort of day. DSCN0178 After claiming two adjacent sites, and setting up the tents, we decided to head over to the Visitors Center to check out the hiking, gift shop, and food (which was mediocre at best).  The group then moved on in our rental cars to visit the General Sherman Giant Sequoia. DSCN0136 A paved path wove its way downhill towards the small grove of trees where we would find General Sherman among others.  This is billed as the largest tree in the world.DSCN0142  Unfortunately the small but steady stream of visitors posing in front of the trees (we did it too) took away from the spiritual nature of the experience.  As some of us waited for the balance of our group to arrive back at the cars, we watched the sun go down through the trees. DSCN0145_tonemapped

We were able to have some time with the trees to ourselves the next day at the Muir Grove which could be reached by a trail that started right at the Dorst campground.  It’s hard to explain but it is almost like you are in a cathedral in the woods albeit one without a roof. There is something sacred about being in the presence of living things so old and that have been standing in the same place for several thousand years. DSCN0166 When we got there, I went straight to a tree and stood touching it for a few minutes sort of letting it know I was there and didn’t mean any harm.  It is my understanding that many people have a similar reaction. DSCN0165

When we got back to camp, the group decided to decamp because of the heavy smoke.  We decided we would do one more hike before leaving Sequoia and drove up to Crescent Meadow (after lunch at Wuksachi Lodge & Restaurant).  DSCN0192On our hike, we saw a rattlesnake and several bears at Long Meadow as well as a baby bear in Crescent Meadow.  A small crowd had begun to gather on the path abutting the meadow and several overly aggressive nature photographers started to pursue a photograph of this small, startled bear.  DSCN0207He or she at one point came running towards us whereupon I jumped up on a log to get out of its way. The poor thing turned back into the meadow.  Thank goodness there was no sign of its mother!  Some of us also saw a deer in the meadow on our way out.
Lots of wildlife here and no apparent fear of people.  DSCN0214

On our way out of Sequoia, we stopped at an overlook for the view and could see a small puff of smoke in the distance (which was the Rough Fire) amid a strong smell of smoke. Fire is part of the natural order of things here in the Sierra and brings new life to areas that burn.  That being said, there is a delicate balance between maintaining the park as it is, protection of private property, and letting nature take its course.  Just pointing this out and not trying to make social commentary.DSCN0215DSCN0216

Next stop: Yosemite.

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My Mini-Summer in the Sierra

When I was in college, and taking a class in environmental history, we read the book My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir.  I was not a hiker then (not even a person who liked the outdoors) and I thought the book was really, really boring. In fact when my professor asked me in class what I thought about it, out that personal opinion popped surprising even me! DSCN0007 Time has a way of changing us and how we think and that happened to me. When a group of five hiking friends decided to go on a trip to the Sierra, my interest was piqued so I signed up to go.  Anyone who knows my hiking style knows I sometimes pick hikes by their name. Trail names like Rattlesnake Knob or Zengarden Bald make me just want to get out and explore them.  This one was no different!DSCN0019DSCN0022

Our trip began with a 3 day backpacking loop on the PCT and John Muir Trail starting in Mammoth, CA.  After picking up our permit at the ranger station, we took the shuttle bus ($7 round trip) from the local ski area to the trailhead. My pack weighed about 28-30 lbs. more or less when you added the bear canister.  Not being much of a backpacker, I struggled a bit with all the weight but by the last day I was feeling pretty good about it (maybe eating some of the food helped; still brought too much). Having used an old backpack laying around the house, I vowed to send it into retirement at the end of our travels with the idea that if I ever really backpacked again I would buy something lighter and newer! DSCN0037DSCN0029

We spent two nights on the trail:  one night at Thousand Island Lake and the other at Ediza Lake.  Thousand Island Lake is a very pretty place and we found a nice place to camp. DSCN0049

Several of us bought the Magellan Scout Tent just for this trip because it was inexpensive (I already own two hammocks). Some of the reviews mentioned the tents having condensation on the inside in the morning and I would say that was a true statement.  But all in all the tents were very good and we used them for the entire trip without incident.  A very small price to pay for an economical tent.

There was still some snow on the mountains at the end of August and in fact we woke up from our slumbers with ice on our sleeping bags to a beautiful, sunny morning.

DSCN0046 Our second night (Ediza) was much warmer (we stayed at a campsite off the lake that could accommodate a group our size). DSCN0091 I was pretty beat the second day out and when our leader plopped down to wait for the reconnaissance party to come back and report on camp sites, I was quite happy to make myself comfortable.

Daytime temps were in the 80s but the nights were variable.  The scenery was impressive but we were dealing with smoke from a wildfire for most of the trip and most of my photos were not great (I chose to take my small pocket camera instead of my Sony to keep the weight down!).  There was plenty of water to be found on the trail and on our third day we passed 3 or 4 lakes on our way back to the trailhead.  No open camp fires were allowed on the trail.DSCN0067DSCN0065

What did I learn?  First, that I could finish a three day backpack and manage my tent, food, etc. fairly competently. Being on a whole food plant based diet is not an asset on the trail (besides taking a ribbing!) but I managed. One of my other camp mates was a vegetarian but she is a lot more flexible than I am. I did find a few pre-packaged vegan meals at Mast General Store in Greenville which worked for me. Second, that I actually liked it pretty well. We all have personal baggage and mine is that I hate backpacking because I hate the pack. But I’m feeling a little more positive towards it after this trip! I thought the trails were in pretty good shape and a decent hiker should not have a problem with this loop. Finally, one of my fellow backpackers thought it would have been nice to spend a few days at one lake and do some day hikes.  I think the best one for that was probably Thousand Island Lake.

We also visited Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks! Blog post to follow.

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Kale and Red Lentil Veggie Soup

So I know we are supposed to be hiking but I created a new recipe and wanted to save it.  I finally figured out something to do with Kale. This is really easy and would be something quick to make to eat after you get back after a long winter hike. Woohoo!!

Kale and Red Lentil Veggie Soup

2-32 oz. containers of vegetable broth – fat free

1 can crushed or diced tomatoes – whole can

1 can crowder peas, drained

1 tsb. crushed garlic

1 cup red lentils

Raw kale – as much as you want (I added frozen I had already cooked but either way is fine), I’m guessing 3 cups uncooked. Whatever will fit in the pot.

A couple carrots – fresh or cooked, diced small

small onion, diced

1 pkg. frozen stir fry vegetables without oil (Trader Joes)

Salt to taste

Add the following ingredients to your rice cooker and set it on white rice. Stir several times. Check for doneness.  I’m sure you can probably cook this on the stove also. The rice cooker is just a lot easier. I have the smaller rice cooker so it will only hold 2 containers of vegetable broth.  You may want 3 but for that you should probably opt to cook on the stove. I’d say the cook time in the rice cooker is about 2 hours. Stove time is probably about an hour. You just want everything to be soft but not mushy.

Makes at least 6 or more servings. Excellent!

As a side note, you can try other herbs and spices. This is just the basic recipe.  Feel free to experiment and add other vegetables.

After a few days, if the soup you have left starts to get mushy, puree it and add cumin, curry, and ginger to spice it up. I did not measure them so start small on adding the spices. I froze some of the puree for later use but saved some out.  I added fresh spinach and sliced mushrooms and let the soup cook until they were soft. Serve.
Another idea for the puree:  In addition to the cumin, curry, and ginger, I added cayenne pepper (to taste) and a bit more salt. I added a very small can of V-8, low salt, to the puree as it was a bit strong for me. Add brown rice or a rice like product to it (maybe a cup or so; I just added what I had in the refrigerator. It was a rice mix I had purchased at the Asian market), cook and cut up one or two sweet potatoes (5 minutes in the microwave), and heat.  Serve.  This was really good!
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Hiking Montreat

Yesterday we hiked in Montreat near Black Mountain, North Carolina with Upstate Hiking.  I had planned to do a loop hike covering the lower half of the trail system but it turns out this was too ambitious an undertaking.

We parked at the Lake Susan parking lot and after a brief wait started down the road towards the Stomping Knob trailhead.  I knew this was going to be a difficult up but was somewhat unprepared for how steep it actually was.  Most of the up here was also accompanied by humid  heat making this an unusually difficult climb.  That being said, our group did well (albeit with a few stops here and there to rehydrate and rest) and made the turn onto the Big Piney Ridge Trail. There were no views on this trail but it was all very green and shaded.

At the junction of the Big Piney Ridge Trail we ran into a swam of yellow jackets. A number of us were bitten (I am still nursing my bite) but no major allergy attacks among the group. We ran into another hiker on the trail who offered us some of her essential oil called “Purification” and several people tried it. One person said the swelling went down but he was still having some pain. I did not try it. Maybe I should have!  Oh well. Thanks to ‘Iceman’ for the ice cube he so kindly offered me. He earned his trail name yesterday. Here’s a link in case you want to take a look at it. I’m not promoting it as I’ve never tried it but I’m interested in knowing whether it really works for bug bites (especially yellow jackets) since the sweep always seems to get bitten.

We continued on down the trail to have lunch on Rattlesnake Rock with a nice view towards Black Mountain.  This was a well deserved rest before we started a very steep downhill towards the trailhead. Once we reached the road, we headed towards the Rocky Head Trail.  We did find the trailhead which is in the campground.  There were some very nice restrooms there, which we took advantage of.

At that point, Tim and I had a discussion about our timing and we decided that we would need to shortcut the hike and head over to the trailhead up to Lookout Mountain.  This was another steep hike up to some nice southern views of the area.  There is a great parking lot at the trailhead and I will keep that in mind for our next foray into the area.

On the way back from Lookout Mountain, one of our members almost stepped on a rattlesnake in front of someone’s home. It was just doing what snakes do which is meander along. Fortunately she saw it in time!  But much picture taking went on. The snake was not aggressive. I personally have no desire to get close to a rattler so I just kept going but this was a first for some of our members. This was the second rattler we’ve seen this summer. Both snakes were small but still nothing to mess with!

Our day ended with a nice supper at a local pub in Black Mountain and ice cream after. Some of the group had been talking about ice cream as early as the Lookout Mountain trail. I on the other hand was dreaming of a nice cool dip in Lake Susan but I did not think any swimming was allowed there.

So it goes. I am still very interested in hiking to the Rattlesnake Mountain overlook which is past Lookout Mountain.  It is not technically in Montreat but I believe there is a trailhead that connects to it.  I’d also like to try the Rocky Head Trail someday which I understand is an up as well. Another hike for another day!!

No photos today but if someone posts them on Upstate’s site, I will add a link here.

Upstate Hiking and Outdoor Adventures

Greenville, SC
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This site is for people who enjoy hiking, camping, backpacking and other outdoor activities (skiing, kayaking, climbing, whitewater rafting, etc) with other people who enjoy t…

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FYI here’s the link to Montreat’s hiking map:

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Jones Gap to Wolf Rock on the Bartram Trail Near Highlands, NC

It was a beautiful day when nine intrepid hikers started out from the Jones Gap trailhead at FR 4522.  We would be hiking the Bartram Trail to Wolf Rock overlook and back, an approximate distance of 9 miles with side trails included.

Getting here is not hard if you have the right directions. From Highlands (you will be driving right through the main part of town), you go west on Hwy. 64 continuing past Dry Falls. Look for a turn to your left marked Turtle Pond Road. I think it’s just past the sign for Vanhook Glade Campground. DSC05150The direction from Highlands to the campground say 4.1 miles. Make your left on Turtle Pond Road and follow it staying to your right. The pavement ends and you will be driving on dirt roads from here. The first dirt road is rough but once you get to FR4522, the road gets better. Make the left on FR4522 and follow it to the end.

Once we got our gear together, we started off down the trail which starts down what looks like it might have been an old forest road into some open meadow where someone had recently mowed the trail. DSC05104 We stopped to take some photos of the Iris and other flowers before moving on to Jones Knob. DSC05107 The trail to Jones Knob starts just on the other side of the open meadow and cuts off to the left, an approximate .8 mile round trip.  There are several viewpoints on this trail.  DSC05112If you keep walking to the end of the trail, past the first two views, there are some places where you can see more views to your left through the shrubbery, but the ledges are much narrower here.  DSC05116I looked for a possible way back to the Bartram from here hoping for a shortcut but didn’t see anything helpful so we turned around and headed back down to the trail intersection.

Our next nice overlook was near Whiterock Gap where you will see an open bald with a view west to your left.  We stopped here for lunch. I know that seems early in the hike but our drive from Greenville was about 2 hours and it seemed appropriate. DSC05124I ate quickly and wandered around to take a few photos here.  We saw a tree which someone later told us was a fringe tree. DSC05120
After lunch, the group got started again heading towards our next point of interest.

At Whiterock Gap, there was a small camp site and a trail down to a creek for water which we did not go down. DSC05130It was during this interlude between views that I stepped over a young rattlesnake. I didn’t see it but the person behind me did. She thinks she stepped on it but it wasn’t fazed and luckily didn’t bite anyone.  But my fellow hiker was pretty shook up as this was her first one!DSC05131
I felt pretty calm but I’ve seen them before and this one was small by comparison. Still just as dangerous though!

Moving on down the trail we came to the turn to Whiterock Mountain.  We did not know what to expect here but it was a fairly gentle up to very impressive views. We would have loved to stay much longer but we lingered 20 minutes or so and then had to move on down the trail.  This is a destination! DSC05139 I’d like to note here that this is the only place we saw anyone on the trail yesterday.  We met four other hikers here but they were leaving so we basically had the trail all to ourselves yesterday.DSC05133 DSC05145

When we got back down to the Bartram to make our way north, you could tell that most people stopped here and turned back.  But we were heading to Wolf Rock and Fishhawk Mountain and needed to keep our momentum going so off we went into the unknown.

As I recall, there were several views through the trees and off to the left through the bushes on this section of the trail. One required a hop over a gap in between two rocks. DSC05152Not much standing room but we took turns. There was what could be another campsite on this trail but I didn’t see any water, just remnants of a fire ring. I don’t know where you would put a tent here though. Maybe hammocks. Not sure.

The group finally made it to the turn to Fishhawk Mountain at what I’m guessing was about 3.3 miles or so.DSC05162 Don’t quote me! The sign indicated it was 528 feet to the top but it felt longer. Blue blazed, very steep, and not well traveled, we found the dedication marker to William Bartram at the top.DSC05157  I was expecting more of a view here so I went wandering past the bare rock at the top and moved off to the right through the trees where there was a decent view from a small bald. We then made our way back down Fishhawk Mountain back to the Bartram Trail.

This is where the trail starts to descend towards Wolf Rock.  We made it there at 3.9 miles from Jones Gap (without side trails) and stopped for a snack and a rest.  This apparently once had nice views but the trees are now growing too tall to see much here. Definitely not a destination at this point.DSC05163

The Buckeye Creek trailhead can be found at mile 8.5 which would be another 4.6 miles from Wolf Rock. There are apparently some other nice views on this trail as you head that way but we would need to save that for another day. DSC05160 Maybe we will try the hike from there some time and hike to the view near Cedar Cliff and Doubletop Fields.  I’m advised there is a big elevation gain to start off with from that side though at 3 miles and 1000 foot gain. I’ll add that one to my list.

The group turned around and made its way back to the trailhead at Jones Gap with a few short water breaks in between.  It had been a long and satisfying day and we topped it off with a little Japanese food when we got back to the Greenville area!

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Hike to Bursted Rock, View of East French Broad River Valley on the Gum Gap Trail

It’s been awhile since I sat down to write about our adventures in the woods.  Even though it’s been a fairly mild winter here in South Carolina, it felt longer to me this year. Ah well.  I have been longing for spring to come along with everybody else and wildflower season for sure.

Our hike to Bursted Rock started by driving into the Watson Cooper Heritage Preserve which is in South Carolina.  This is not an easily found place and you have to get there by going through North Carolina. Who would have thought?  Mr. T and I have actually been on this road before looking for something else and drove down it about halfway.  But at the time it did not seem promising.

In any event, we parked about half a mile to a mile in on the left hand side near what looks like a social trail of sorts.  The last time we were there we parked before the sign to the preserve and walked the whole way to the Gum Gap Trail.  The road has one big dip with a bit of a bare rock in the middle which I didn’t want to drive my car over but I think if you stayed to the right or had a high clearance vehicle you might make it. You can actually drive right to the end of the road to where the trail crosses it.  Try not to block the gates though as there are some houses way back in there and I’m not sure whether people drive in for that reason.

Once you hit the trail, you will be hiking west towards Sassafrass Mountain.  The trail is marked with blue blazes.  DSC04786Be careful and follow the blazes going and coming because the trail splits off in a place or two that can get confusing.  The trail itself was rolling with a few big ups and downs.  Total elevation on this hike (which was an in and out) was about 1900 including the trip up to Bursted Rock.

We decided to go on to the view of the East French Broad River Valley at Dolves Mountain to begin with because that was the end point of our hike.  It is about 1.3 past the social trail to Bursted Rock (which is not marked).  DSC04788That trail would be on your left. I think the view at Dolves Mountain would be a little prettier in a few weeks as soon as more of the leaves are out.DSC04790  DSC04797You could see a little red poking out in the foreground and some evergreens.  No picture can do the valley justice as you can only get slices of it from the rock but the naked eye can appreciate it.

We made our turn back towards Bursted Rock and the trailhead and found it about a half hour to 40 minutes later. Coming back it would be on your right. It feels like it is in something of a dip in the trail as the trail starts immediately back up hill again turning a little to the left.  The social trail goes straight on for a short distance (look for a small rusted sign on a tree in front of you which is some type of boundary sign, watershed maybe? Sorry I didn’t take note of that this time. If you look to your left, you will see some trees marked with red paint) and then you will turn right up what looks like an old road bed. I’m bad at distances but I’d guess about half a mile up or less you will hit Bursted Rock. DSC04802We estimated elevation gain here at about 400.  The trail is not heavily used, nor is it kept up so in summer I expect it would be pretty overgrown. I’m not big on bushwacking but will do it when something interests me. We have lots of snakes around here, not always the benign kind, so I’d avoid it when the weather gets warmer. This photo was taken about half way up the trail to Bursted Rock looking down.

The view from Bursted Rock is of Table Rock off in the distance. DSC04804This is a view that most people never get to see and that’s what makes it special to me. DSC04805 Again because of the time of year, the trees in the valley below were pretty bare but it was nice to sit in the sunshine.  Of course I was not sitting but off in my usual exploratory mode! I would love to come back here and just have a nice lunch and enjoy the view.

We noted the marker on the rock said Bursting Rock but I’ve seen it written up as Bursted Rock.DSC04806 I like the name Bursted Rock which is probably how the locals referred to it. I suspect someone in an official capacity wanted to clean it up so take your pick.

The hike back to the trailhead was pretty uneventful. We did make a wrong turn but caught it quickly. Be sure and watch for the blazes and stay to the right going back uphill.

I noted a trail off to the left at one point with a marker that said Headwaters State Forest. North Carolina is buying up land in this area and hopes to have about 8,000 acres. Of course I was interested in seeing where it went but am saving that for another day!

You can find a description of this section of the Gum Gap Trail in the Foothills Trail Conference book although I don’t recall seeing them talk about Bursted Rock.  I did find a reference to it in the book “Hiking South Carolina.”

Mileage: About 10

Elevation Gain: 1900

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions:  Check out this link for directions.

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