Some Special Visits to Downtown Dayton

Sunrise SignPart of the Every Trail MetroPark Challenge involves a visit to several Downtown Dayton parks. Rocky and I set out on a cold Saturday to take in the sights. We ended up hiking in several very interesting places: The 2nd Street Market, Deeds Point, Riverscape, Sunrise Park, and Island Metropark. Each spot was very unique and we had never visited Deeds Point or Sunrise before.

We began our adventure at the Second Street Market, which has changed a great deal since our last visit several years ago. It was very crowded with an atmosphere of arts and crafts and wonderful foods to try. A delight for me was a saxophone player grooving on some jazz close to one end of the market. Rocky and I took a seat and listened to this wonderfully smooth musician play some old tunes of the 40’s and 50’s. After some great music, we were able to avoid the temptations of pastries and breads while made our way down the road to Deeds Points.

Deeds Point 1Deeds Point MetroPark is located at the convergence of the Mad and Great Miami Rivers. This wonderful little area highlights a timeline of flight with plaques remembering major historical leaps of accomplishments, and a life-size statue of the Wright Brothers (Orville, Wilbur, and Dave). The park also has a monument to the Dayton Peace Accord that remembers the agreement for peace between Bosnia and Herzegovina struck in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995.

Rocky and I walked across a bridge, merged with the Buckeye Trail, and took a stroll over to RiverScape MetroPark. We hiked along the concrete path past the major concert hall/ice skating rink and then down along the river. Despite the cold wind, the day was bright and sunny. We continued to make a loop back to Deeds Park and our car.

RiverscapeWe then drove to Island MetroPark. It is just a few miles north of RiverScape and is situated where the Stillwater River flows into the Great Miami. Rocky and I walked the paved loop around the bandshell remembering attending concerts when we lived just on the other side of Salem Avenue from the park. Again, the path merged with the Great Miami River Bike Path, also the Buckeye trail. The short hike was a nice stroll down memory lane for us, before we made our way to our final destination.

We completed our adventure at a spot we had never visited before, Sunrise MetroPark. It is a tiny urban walkway conveniently located just north of downtown Dayton along Edwin C. Moses Boulevard. It sits at the juncture of Wolf Creek and the Great Miami River and provides an excellent view of the city’s skyline. We even saw a heron down along Wolf Creek. On the far Sunrise Cranenortheast end of the walkway is a memorial to the Bosnia Peace Talks. Perhaps the most interesting part for me was seeing the three stones from Bosnia and Herzegovina that have been incorporated into the memorial. They are building blocks and stones from historical buildings that were destroyed in the war. Both the American flag and the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina are flying over the plaza.

Rocky and I had lots of fun visiting these historical and unique metroparks in the area. We would encourage you to take some time and check out these special places in Dayton.

Categories: Deeds Point, Every Trail MetroPark Challenge, Local Hikes, MetroPark, RiverScape, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Feelings of a Celebrity

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Diane and Rowdy in Hot Springs

I had a great stay in Hot Springs, North Carolina, during my thru-hike in 2014. I met my sister, Diane, in the quaint, little trail-town. She and her husband, Tom, and little dachshund drove up from Winston-Salem for a special visit. This was my first opportunity to see anyone in the family for three weeks. She brought lots of great food, including cold cuts so I could create my own fantastic sandwiches, and several dozen homemade cookies.  It was a wonderful visit and brought great energy for the miles ahead.

The first day out of Hot Springs, I was plodding along at my normal pace when I heard some chatting coming from the opposite direction. The chit-chat continued to get louder until I made a bend in the trail and was somewhat surprised by five ladies, all with backpacks, all engaged in trail talk as they walked along.

148I could tell that they were not thru-hikers. They looked too clean; they smelled way too good; and their packs were too small and light. They were definitely section hikers but they seemed to be having the time of their lives. As I saw the group, I smiled, raised my trekking pole and gave a trail greeting, “Good morning ladies.  What a great day for a hike!”

The line leader stopped and asked, “Are you a thru-hiker?”

“Well, I am trying to be. I’ve got a long way to go, but Maine is my goal.”

All the ladies started to talk among themselves. Finally one of them shared, “We’ve been reading about thru-hikers and the Appalachian Trail. We thought we would come out for a few days and see what it was like. Could you answer some questions for us?”

“Sure,” I said, feeling like a celebrity. “Where are you from?”

410They were all the way from California and had the tans to prove it. They asked all the normal questions: “How much food to you have to carry? Do you always sleep in your tent? What do you do for a bathroom? Do you carry a cell phone? How often do you get to shower?  Are you hiking by yourself? Do you always hike in sandals?”

We talked for thirty minutes or so. I really enjoyed the sharing but I was getting a little concerned because I hoped to hike about 20 miles before setting up camp and it was looking a bit like rain. One of the ladies must have felt the same way as she asked, “Before we let you go, could we get a picture with you?” I could not believe the fuss they made over meeting a old, stinky hiker along the trail. After posing for several pictures, I was hiking down the path with a spring in my step basking in my celebrity status like I had just come off the red carpet.

AT MapThen it hit me. I had hiked less than 300 miles of the AT and was only in North Carolina. Although it was very sweet for the ladies to treat me like hero, I knew that I had a long way to go before obtaining the title of thru-hiker. From that day on, I tried to avoid using that word to describe  myself. Coming down off Mount Katahdin, I remember saying to myself, “Dave, you are now a real thru-hiker!”

Shortly after leaving my California fan club, it began to rain, but the sun came out in the afternoon and by the time I made camp about 5:00, I was dry. Soon after arriving at the shelter, the temperature turned cold. I was alone at the camp and had the shelter to myself, so I had some dinner, journaled about my day and crawled into my warm sleeping early. Sleep was easy to find after my 19.6-mile day.

HIF Cover PublishedIf you interested in reading more about my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, check out my book, Hike It Forward, sold on Amazon. I have had opportunity to write a few other books so I invite you to check my other offerings as well. I am writing a series of children’s books (two are currently available and a third should be published around Thanksgiving) called The Adventures of Princess Polly and Sir William the Brave and I have just released a book on the spiritual battles of life called, We Are All Warriors. If you are interested, just click on the Hike It Forward cover and it will take you to my author page where you can check out all my books.

 

Map of the AT found at http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/appalachiantrail.htm
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Book, Chaco Sandals, Hot Springs, Mount Katahdin, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Twin Creek Hike

T Creek 1Rocky and I were on the trail this past Friday (10/27) at one of my favorite hiking spots – Twin Creek MetroPark. The park has too many miles to hike in just a few hours, so Rocky and I decided to thru-hike the park on two or three different days. Twin Creek Metropark consists of an upper loop and a lower loop separated by Chamberlain Road.

We parked in the lot right off Chamberlain Road and headed toward the lower loop. There are three loops within the larger loop – the Purple Trail (2.1 miles), the White Trail (2.0 miles) and the Silver Trail (0.8 miles). The lower loop area can be very muddy during the rainy seasons, so Rocky and I wanted to hike this part of Twin Creek on a nice dry day.

T Creek Mushroom 1.JPGIt was a great day to hike and path was gorgeous. We had a little trail snack, which we enjoyed along the way, and we saw only two other hikers during the morning so it seemed like the forest was ours. The Purple and the White trails share the same path except Purple takes a small extension on the west side of the loop. So Rocky and I decided to hike the Purple Trail counterclockwise and then the White trail clockwise so the terrain would look a little different. No matter which way you hike, the south end of the loop descends toward Lake George and then climbs back up to a relatively flat trail.

The Silver Trail is located on the northern end of the lower loop and leads the hikers past the entrance to the Pine Ridge Backcountry Camp Sites. We have never camped there but we heard several trains passing by during our hike and wondered how noisy it might be during the night.

T Creek Mushroom 3Today was mushroom day. I don’t know if the mushrooms are always so prolific on this lower loop because of the moisture that tends to settle in this area, but Rocky and I saw several spots where a small forest of mushrooms dominated the underbrush. I don’t know my mushrooms very well, so I took a few photos but decided not to taste or pick my subjects.

T Creek Mushroom 2After completing the lower part of the park, we took a break at the trail head. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to hike a small trail on the upper loop. The Green Trail is only 1.6 miles, so after a couple of gulps of water and half a Larabar, we were off again. The Green Trail had much more elevation change than the lower loop, but Rocky and I enjoyed the trail which led us into the trees, out into an open meadow, back into the trees, circled back on the far side of the meadow, across a small creek, and ended back at the parking lot.

Twin Creek, thanks for the lovely miles. We will be back to complete our thru-hike on another day.

Categories: Every Trail MetroPark Challenge, Local Hikes, Mushrooms, Rocky, Twin Creek MetroPark, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Trip to Cox Arboretum

Cox 5Rocky and I have decided to take on a thru-hike. There is a program sponsored by Five Rivers MetroPark called the Every Trail MetroPark Challenge Series. The goal of the series is to thru-hike every trail (color and non-color-coded trails), except for mountain and bridle trails – in every Five Rivers MetroPark in one season (nine month limit). The Metropark system is organizing group hikes throughout the fall and winter months to complete the challenge. Unfortunately, the hikes are scheduled for Sunday afternoons and make it impossible for Rocky and I to participate, but hikers can also complete the trails on their own and submit a log of their treks, so we decided to go all in and hike this winter.

Cox 3Rocky and I started last week with a hike at the Sugarcreek MetroPark. This week we hiked at Cox Arboretum. Cox is another easy hike filled with woods, an open meadow, and a series of paved garden paths. The trailhead for the hiking trails begins close to the Butterfly House approximately 0.25-mile from the parking lot. Three, blazed, loop-trails direct the hikers around the arboretum grounds. The shortest trail is the Red Trail (0.6 miles) leading through a lovely meadow. A short side trail leads to a small pond equipped with a covered bird blind – a quiet spot including some benches for those ornithologists with or without binoculars.

The Blue Trail (1.1 miles) is a beautiful forest path that shares some of its distance with the longer, 1.8- mile, Yellow Trail. The Yellow Trail has a small loop to the east and a larger section to the south that extend beyond the Blue Trail adding some different terrain to the hiker’s experience. Both the Yellow and the Blue Trails loop back to the trailhead by the Butterfly House via a paved/bricked path moving the hiker beside a lovely pond and close to the interesting Boxwood-hedge maze.

Cox 1The various paved paths in the garden areas highlight several ponds, a gazebo, the picturesque Monet Bridge and gorgeous cultivated flowers, plants and trees. Even in October the flowers were beautiful although the coming frost might end their colorful season. The park also houses the Zorniger Educational and Visitor Center, as well as, the Kettering Learning Lab and the Fred and Alice Wallace Botanical Library.

The arboretum is only a 15-minute drive from my doorstep, so this is a MetroPark that Rocky and I visit quite often. It is a favorite spot for our grand kids who love to see the turtles in the ponds and to play in a little stream leading up to an allee of dogwood trees. If you have not had opportunity to walk at Cox, please plan a visit. If you like flowers, you will not be disappointed during a spring or summer stroll on a beautiful day.

 

Categories: Cox Arboretum, Every Trail MetroPark Challenge, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP Day Five

120Beast of Burden and I hiked at different paces and enjoyed being alone on the trail, so we did not hike side by side, but we planned to stop at Davenport Gap Shelter for the night. Beast of Burden was a section hiker from Iowa and his wife was going to pick him up after completing the GSMNP so this would be our last day together on the trail.  

I got a nice early start and found the trail to be mostly downhill. Although the knees take a beating, the miles tend to go by much faster. It was another beautiful day on the Appalachian Trail and I arrived at the Davenport Gap Shelter at 3:00. I was rather disappointed at what I saw. The shelter was a dark structure with a chain front wall. The chain was to deter bears from bothering the campers at night.

 

Davenport Shelter

Davenport Shelter

I understand that most of the shelters in the GSMNP had been equipped the same chain protection in the past. It reminded me of a jail (although I have never spent time behind bars) and I was thankful that the chain had been removed from the other shelters along the way. It was only 3:00, so I decided to continue on a few miles to a hostel. I felt badly about not being able to say good-bye to my friend from Iowa, so I wrote him a note and left it at the shelter.

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Standing Bear Farm

I hiked on to the Standing Bear Farm. There was plenty of room in the bunkhouse for $15, and the price included a hot a shower (which a desperately needed) and electric outlets to charge my phone. The hostel was actually outside of the GSMNP, but it was a great ending to my adventures in this famous section of the AT. I was alone in the bunkhouse for a while when I quiet young man, Isaac (no trail name),  showed up. We exchanged the normal thru-hiker greetings and then he went off to get some food at the hostel’s store.

I was relaxing on my bunk when I heard someone else approach the hostel. It was a young lady that I had met at the shelter last evening, Glow Worm, and right behind her walked in Beast of Burden. I was happy and surprised to see him. He got my note and said his wife was picking him up tomorrow at the I-40 interchange (just 0.8-mile from the hostel), so he decided to hike on. He treated me to a microwave pizza from the hostel and we had a great talk about our final day in the Smokies. As we said our goodbyes the next morning, Beast of Burden gave me his bear spray for my protection on the adventure ahead. I carried it with me all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

121My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was filled with beauty, friendship and a little adversity that translated into a great adventure. Bears, rain, a spectacular sunrise, a few falls, a kindred spirit, and a view from a fire tower dotted the trail with lots of great memories.

Check out my book, Hike It Forward, if you are interested in reading about more of my time on the Appalachian Trail.

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Davenport Shelter Photo found at http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/117472
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beast of Burden, Davenport Shelter, GSMNP, Rowdy, Standing Bear Farm, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Four

114I had a difficult night sleep in the shelter. I am sure that others were not happy with me. I tossed and turned which means I most likely disturbed others in the process. From the activities last evening,  it seemed like most of the people in the shelter were part of a larger group of section hikers. Most were calling each other by real first names (not trail names typically used by thru-hikers) and Beast of Burden and I were not brought into any conversations or asked any introductory questions. There was lots of cigarettes and alcohol shared among the cliques. I was very content to hide in my sleeping bag and look forward to the miles ahead.

Day four in the GSMNP broke forth with an incredible sunrise. The brilliant colors painted the end of rain and the glory of the morning skies. I managed to hit the trail by 8:00 with a shorter hike (13 miles) on the agenda. I had 28 miles left in the GSMNP and I did not think I could hike that far in one day, so I decided to stop at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter tonight, leaving a reasonable hike of 15 miles the next day to the last shelter in the park located less than one mile from the boundary.  

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Charlies Bunion

It was a perfect day for hiking. Clear skies but not too hot. There were lots of ups and downs (what hikers call Muds and Puds – Mindless-ups-&-downs and Pointless-ups-&-downs) along the trail. I realized that the Appalachian Trail is steep. It is steep going up and it is steep going down. There is very little flat. Going up is exhausting causing many huffs and puffs in my lungs. Going down is tough in the knees and rather dangerous. Each step must be carefully made watching for stumble rocks and trip roots desiring to take you down to their level.

117What I missed at Clingman’s Dome was soon forgotten as I encountered numerous (at least ten) vistas with panoramic views that took my breath away. I would be walking through the green tunnel of the forest canopy when suddenly the trail would open up to reveal this amazing view of the valley below. Charlies Bunion began the day. It was a side trail but well worth the small diversion. It was a huge rock with a huge view. There was also a huge dropoff that made me hugely nervous to take a closer look…but I did. It was a long way down, but getting a glimpse of the intimidating cliff was worth the danger.  I stopped many times throughout the day to attempt to capture the sights on my iPhone’s camera.

My fall happened so fast that I am still not sure how it happened. I had fallen several times over the past 200 miles, but this time I hit my head on the ground and had a difficult time bouncing up. I ended up heading downhill and my backpack had shifted up in such a way that it’s weight pinned my shoulders to the ground. Instead of trying to stand straight up, I just needed to roll on my side, shift the weight a bit and then I was free to stand and hike again. After a quick examination to find no blood, no dislocated joints, no blurred vision, and no need for the first aid kit, I was thanking God for His faithfulness and singing down the trail.

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Beast of Burden and I met at the shelter and enjoyed meeting a more friendly crowd at Tri-corner Knob. A ridgerunner (park ranger) showed up for a while, shared some interesting insights about the trail, and checked our permits. There were 17-20 people at the site designed to sleep 12. The ridgerunner gave permission to several volunteers to tent. I did not make the shortlist so I remained in the shelter. It was a good day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beast of Burden, Charlies Bunion, GSMNP, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Three

098Day three of my 71-mile trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the Appalachian Trail began at daybreak as I exited out of the shelter trying my best not to disturb my new found shelter-friends from South Carolina or my hiking buddy, Beast of Burden. As quietly as possible, I packed up my sleeping bag and loaded my food sack into my backpack. I walked toward the trail and was greeted with such a beautiful sight. I left the shelter at 7:15 and only ten yards from the three-sided structure I saw two deer standing at the edge of the path half hidden by the foggy mist that accompanied the dawn.

The DomeI had anticipated this day for months. It was my day to summit Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail (6,643ft). The man-made observation tower provides an incredible view that boasts a reach of 100 miles. The tower is just off the AT and the hiker must walk up a paved, half-mile, circular, walkway to the top.

The Dome was about five miles from the shelter. I did not know exactly what to expect, although I had seen many pictures of the observation platform and the panoramic views offered on top of the structure. It continued to be a misty morning until about 9:00 when the rain began to come with sheets of heaviness. As I approached the summit of Mount Buckley, I was getting pelted with cold rain. It poured until 1:00 in the afternoon.

Even though I knew visibility would be terrible, I climbed the observation tower anyway. It was pretty amazing to be the only person standing on the platform. (This might say something about my intelligence, but I wanted to stand at the highest point no matter the weather). My view from Clingmans Dome might have reached 100 feet. It was my youngest son’s birthday and with no one else around, I sang happy birthday to him twice, while standing at the highest point during my 2,186 mile journey. Happy Birthday, Dan!

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Clingmans Dome 2014

I had a great laugh at Clingsman Dome, took a picture of the white non-view, and within a mile from the dome completed 200 miles of the AT. Unfortunately, the rain was not only relentless but it was very cold. Coming down off the mountain I could not get warm. I began to shiver and my hands became very uncomfortable, almost numb. I decided to take a side trail to a shelter with hopes of getting out of the rain and drying off. The Mt Collins Shelter was 0.5 miles off the trail but I knew I needed stop. This turned out to be a good thing. The shelter was indeed dry. I took off my shirt and put on my dry, down jacket. I got some food and drank lots of water. Once the chill was gone and I felt rested and refueled, I continued back to the AT and toward Newfound Gap

The rain tapered down and had finally stopped by the time I reached US 441 and Newfound Gap. Many hikers were sticking out their thumbs and heading toward Gatlinburg, about 15 miles from the trail. But the sun was out, I was feeling so much better, and warmth had returned to my body so I chose to continue on another 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter. It was packed, but Beast of Burden had arrived much earlier and had saved a spot for me. My heart was so blessed and I thanked my hiking buddy several times for looking after me.

HIF Cover PublishedI fell once during the wet descent off of Clingmans Dome, but my trekking poles saved my body several times. The day was filled with adversity and my motto was tested and remained true: No Adversity, No Adventure! Day three was not a disappointment at all but a day filled with God’s faithfulness and protection.

If you are interested in learning more about my 2014 thru-hike, check out my book, Hike It Forward on Amazon.

 

 

Photo of observation Tower found at https://rootsrated.com/stories/6-ways-to-hike-to-clingmans-dome-tennessee-s-highest-mountain
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Two

099After the first night in the GSMNP, I realized that I did not like sleeping in shelters. It is, however, a requirement in the park. Tent camping is not permitted unless the shelters are full. It might have been fun if I knew all of the hikers, but sleeping with 14 smelly strangers in a spot designed for 12 was a bit overwhelming for an introvert like me. I woke sometime during the night to hear the shelter resound with the sounds of a dissonant choir of snorers all “singing” out of different hymnbooks. Shelter life was just not my cuppa tea. I was up early on day two, welcomed by a very windy and cold day. There was a threat rain with sprinkles most of the day. I remained fairly dry until I was half an hour away from my designated shelter. Then the rain came in full force. I arrived at Siler’s Bald Shelter totally drenched but only four strangers inhabited the shelter designed to sleep 12.

In addition to the four unknowns, there was the face of a friend. I had last seen Beast of Burden at Fontana Lodge two days before. He was such a gentle, soft-spoken man and we had enjoyed many conversations since our initial meeting close to Franklin, NC. Beast of Burden had arrived just before the rain began. It was 5:30 and the rain appeared to be ready for a long visit, so Beast of Burden and I decided to stay put instead of moving down the trail 1.7 miles to the next shelter, which might have been packed with soaked hikers. The four unknown faces from South Carolina soon became friends as we laughed and told stories about the trail and life back home.

102I quickly discovered that I was not the fastest hiker on the trail. I was passed by several hikers on Day Two through the park. Consistency was the key for me. Slow but sure. I tried to only take a short break in the morning, then a longer sit-down lunch time, a 10-minute afternoon breather, and then push until I found camp. Slow but sure seemed to work for me. I tried not to put pressure on myself to keep up with others or to compare my progress with the miles of the young.

May 9 was filled with some good spiritual time. I liked to sing in the woods, so I belted out “Shout to the Lord,” and the lyrics “Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name.” brought chills up my back realizing just how powerful God really is. I began to reflect on God’s omniscience and the reality that He knows all of my thoughts, attitudes and feelings. He knows me to the intimate detail and yet He loves me anyway. His vast knowledge ranges from the universal to the microscopic. And in the center of all that, He is faithful to me.

103I also found myself focusing on ways to conform my life to please my Father. I began to think about transforming my eyes so that I could see people like Jesus sees them. I frequently view people as numbers or irritations or awkward moments demanding forced conversations. I wanted to see them more as divine appointments, as personal opportunities to encourage and help, as hearts that needed my words of support and friendship. If I could only see differently, I would live differently. I wanted to “Turn my eyes upon Jesus” so that I could take my eyes off myself and see others through the lenses of the Savior. I’m still working on that every day, but sometimes I can actual see.

HIF Cover PublishedDay Two on the Appalachian Trail through the GSMNP was a little wet but was also a day of spiritual growth in the life of Rowdy from Springboro, Ohio. If you would like to read more about this incredible five-month journey, please check out my book, Hike It Forward, available on Amazon – Click the cover for a link.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Shelter, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day One

My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) was a great adventure. The trek took 5 days and 4 nights (May 8-12, 2014). The path across this grand national park involved 71 miles of rugged terrain. I had beautiful, sunny weather for three days but had to embrace two days of rain. Reflecting on those days on the Appalachian Trail brings back many memories.

087The first day out of Fontana Dam was sunny with blue skies. To arrive at the national park, the hiker actually crosses over the dam and gains a close-up view of the waters of Fontana. Arriving at the park’s trailhead, there is an official box that requires a permit to hike the trails. I purchased the $20 permit in advance at Fontana Lodge.

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Shuckstack Fire Tower

Hikers in the GSMNP are required to stay in shelters and no stealth camping is permitted so my hiking agenda was limited to the shelter sites. The first day, for example, I had several options. There were four possible destinations 12.1 miles; 14.9 miles; 17.8 miles; and 24.1 miles from Fontana. The trail was a twenty-mile uphill climb to Thunderhead Mountain, so my hope was to get to the second shelter at 15 miles and then evaluate the weather, the shelter, and my energy (the latter being the most important). Shelter #2 at Russell Field, was where my body told me I should stay. I was tired and did not want to push on and find myself exhausted for the next day.

Today was my first bear sighting on the Appalachian Trail. Just like Goldilocks, I saw three bears, but, unlike her, I did not stop to eat porridge with them or take a nap on their beds. Instead, I quickly passed by them hoping that they were not hungry for backpack food or the backpacker. It was a thrill to see them. Before leaving for my thru-hike, I hoped that I would be able to safely see some bears on the trail. They are such magnificent animals that seem to embody power and agility. I was not sure what to expect. Would they run, would they run toward me, would they charge and attack? I continued walking the trail (as quietly as possible) with the bears on the hillside to my right. To my relief, they just ignored me and kept lounging among the trees.

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Fontana Lake from the Fire Tower

I also experienced one of my favorite activities on the AT – climbing a fire tower. The Shuckstack Fire Tower is a 60 ft. tall structure with 78 steps. The top of the tower gave me a fantastic view on this clear day of the surrounding North Carolina mountains. I stood in amazement at the beauty and the waves of mountains that filled my 360 degree perspective. From the tower, there is a special view of Fontana Lake that very few people are able to see.  

Seeing the forest from the fire tower gave me a chance to see the big picture and the incredible expanse of the GSMNP. But under the canopy of the woods, I was fascinated to see the variety and beauty of individual trees. Two very unusual trees caught my eye during this first day in the park. One trunk opened up like a teepee inviting me to sit inside to eat my lunch. The other tree stood about four feet off the ground before it bent completely over headed toward the trail and finally completed an “s” shape as it appeared to readjust itself back toward the sky.

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Day one in the GSMNP was a glorious day on the Appalachian Trail. If you would like to read more of my adventures please check out my book, Hike It Forward, on Amazon.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fire-tower, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugar Creek MetroPark

S Creek SignRocky and I decided to fill one of the last beautiful days of fall with a hike at Sugar Creek MetroPark in Bellbrook, Ohio. Only 20 minutes from our house, this park is close to home, so we have hiked there fairly often. We went with the idea of hiking every trail which equals seven miles. (6.9 miles to be accurate, but the total doesn’t count the walk from the parking lot to the trailhead and back which has to amount to at least one tenth of a mile.)

Five hiking trails cut through the metropark allowing the hikers to explore much of the 618 acres. The yellow trail is a meadow trail making a 0.7-mile  loop around the open field. Our hike was taken on a comfortable October day, but this little trail might be rather hot on a 90 degree day in July. It is nice and flat except for a short grade at the north end.

Rocky at S CreekThe largest loop is the Green Trail that allows the hiker to cross Sugar Creek twice on large rocks placed for easy navigation. (I have hiked this trail during a heavy rain. The streams were so high that the rocks were not visible making this rock-hop a little more challenging.) There are a few ups and downs on this 3.1-mile trail, but I would still classify it as a moderately easy path. The north side of the Green Trail follows the creek and provides some pretty views while walking close to the water.

Three SistersThe Orange Trail is the most unusual path in the park (in my opinion). It directs you to the Three Sisters, 550 year-old oak trees. Two of the three sisters stand tall while the third fell in 2008. She is still visible but she is taking a permanent nap on the forest floor. The largest of the three sisters is 226 inches in circumference and 141 feet tall. It is rather amazing to think that the Three Sisters were waiting for us before Christopher Columbus ever sail the ocean blue. When Ohio became a state in 1803 they were already 336 years old.  

The Orange Trail also houses the Osage Orange Tree tunnel. This beautiful path travels through the arches produced by the orange trees. It appears rather mysterious and I would image that by late evening the tunnel would take on spooky atmosphere of enchantment. The Orange trail is not that long (1.3 miles) but it sure adds some interesting aspects to the metropark.

Orange TunnelThe Blue Trail is probably the most challenging trek. It is another 1.3 miles but it contains the greatest change of elevation in the shortest distance. Both the east side and the west side of the loop contain a steep section that will work-out both your legs and your lungs. It shares its west side with the shortest trail in the park, the Red Trail. The Red Trail is only a half-mile loop but it does offer the uphill section that will test your knees at the end of the day.

Sugar Creek Metropark can be rather muddy after a few days of rain, but during dry weather, it is always an enjoyable hike. From a short half-mile path to a longer seven-mile trail, this park offers a distance just for you. Rocky and I enjoyed the day as we basked in the beauty of God’s creation.

Categories: Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Sugar Creek, The Three Sisters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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