Mountain Goating Up Mount Pisgah

Do not be fooled by a corgi’s stumpy stature. Shorty’s got serious hops.

Me and Fox atop Mount Pisgah

Fox and I hiked up Mount Pisgah today. It’s 1.5 miles each way with quite a bit of elevation gain. I anticipated a climb and cringed at the thought that it might all be stairs. There were stairs made of stones, but there was also a lot of maneuvering to be done with many rocks, roots, and some water to make it potentially slick.

Half way up I felt guilty for taking Fox on the hike, but all in all I don’t think he actually minded. He’s a little tank. A regular mountain goat. We stopped a number of times to catch our breath, have some water, and chat with a family that we were keeping pace with.

Most of the trail is through a green tunnel of trees, rhodi, mountain laurel, etc. It doesn’t open up until the top where you get an almost 360 view of the Blue Ridge mountains and surrounding cities. I say almost because there’s a giant antenna up there for a local TV station. I’d imagine you might get some more glimpses of the mountain views in fall and early spring when there is less foliage.

The hike is in and out, so we came down the way we hike up. Fox was ready to run down, but he had to wait for my cautious self to get down carefully. Little man was pooped afterwards, but in true Fox fashion he impressed me once again with what a good hiker he is. He is the good boy.

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Hardtimes in Bent Creek

Really, I didn’t have hard times in Bent Creek Experimental Forest (part of Pisgah National Forest). But I did hike the Hardtimes loop. It was 6 miles of gravel roads through the forest.

The trailhead gets you started on the Hardtimes road, a long service road that creeps through the woods for several miles. It’s a steady uphill climb, but not intense. The trail eventually meets up with the Mountains to Sea trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there, it’s a slow descent to the North Carolina Arboretum. Trails going from the forest into the arboretum have gates which are locked during the garden’s after hours.

There are at least two different trails you can choose to continue on after the Hardtimes Road ends. For a bigger loop that will lead you to the trailhead, go with the Bent Creek Road (not to be confused with the arboretum’s footpath, the Bent Creek trail which runs along Bent Creek).

I ran into very few people on the roads outside of the arboretum. As an added bonus, the path was wide and there weren’t many mountain bikes. This is a change from some of the other trails in that forest which can be narrow and packed with bike riders depending on day and time.

Since it’s early summer, there were less flowers, tons of greenery, and some cool fungi. It was interesting to see the forest change between Bent Creek to Arboretum to Bent Creek again. The foliage in Bent Creek is far more wild. In one area, kudzu had taken over the entire area. It was amazing and eerie at the same time.

I’d definitely recommend this trail (or parts of it) if you’re looking for an easy several hours in the woods regardless of the season. Easy for kids and adults, but might be hard on pups’ paws since it’s all gravel.

3 Bs Inn: The Perfect Pup (and People) Excursion

Do you love your dog? Is your hound your fur baby? Do you and your pup need to get the hell out of dodge for a bit?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then the 3 Bs Inn is the place to go.

Chris, Fox, and I don’t vacation often. And having a dog does make it interesting when you’re trying to find a place to stay. That said, Chris found this magical place in his journeys. The 3 Bs Inn is a little slice of heaven tucked away in the woods. You can only stay there if you have a dog. Now think about that. How many places WON’T let you stay somewhere because you have a dog? This place does the opposite and it’s amazing.

3 Bs Inn – Bed, Breakfast, and Biscuits

I have never stayed at a more welcoming, comfortable, clean, and accommodating place. The website may draw you in (go check it out, my recap can wait). It will not fully prepare you for the actual tranquility of this bed & breakfast. We ran away for an overnight trip away from home. I don’t think any of us, Fox included, have been that relaxed in ages. While we didn’t go swimming or kayaking, we did dip our feet in the pond. We visited the ducks, took a walk through the woods on the grounds, sat and read, and watched Fox romp with another guest, Calvin – a big dog. He NEVER plays with the big dogs and there he was chasing the pup around.

 

We got to chat with the owners and learned that they run the entire place themselves – ground keeping, housekeeping, cooking, booking, etc. They’re a couple with a love for animals in general, but obviously they have a soft spot for dogs.  They bought the grounds which was originally home to a number of things – a religious group, a state run home for wayward girls, and a roadside motel. They worked on the place for a year and got it up and running for pups and people.

There are some pet policies and people rules, but to be honest I don’t blame them. They have to make sure that all pets and people are safe and happy. Most things that they have noted are just common sense/courtesy.

I would highly recommend this place to anyone coming to Western North Carolina with their pet. Whether you plan on bringing them out with you or if you need to leave them in their own cabin room for the day, you’ll all probably have a wonderful time.

 

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Sleep in woods, wait for bears.

Friday I said screw it all, packed up my gear and dog, and hiked into the woods to camp out for the night. It was just me, Fox, and the bears, raccoons, and any other critters hanging out of sight.
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In doing this, I broke a promise I had made to a number of family and friends. When I first started toying with the idea of backpacking, most folks were not enthused. They weren’t happy that I was hiking by myself either on any given weekend. You know what? I get it. Most people do not have a desire to wander alone in the woods whether it is day or night. Here’s the thing — I am safer in the woods than I ever would be walking down a street back home in a major city. Yes, things can go wrong in the woods, but the chances are very slim.

So why the last minute major decision? For the most part, I’ve been letting myself down lately and backpacking has been a goal of mine for over a year and a half. Friday just became the day I pulled on my boots and did something.

After work, Fox and I headed down the road to Pisgah National Forest. I picked a place and a trail (Cat Gap Loop) that I’m familiar with. I wanted to hike in but still be somewhat close to my car in the event that anything went wrong. 20 minutes and an uphill climb later, we got to the camp spot. You can tell others have camped there because there is a fire pit. The opening in the woods is perfect for setting up a tent. And it is adjacent to a small waterfall and the river. Location and a water source!

Rookie mistakes were made, but things were ok. I started setting up camp a wee bit late. There was little sleep to be had. My tent is tiny and my dog curled up on my sleeping bag. I woke everything 15 minutes at least the entire night long. Despite there being only black bears in North Carolina, I still kept envisioning a grizzly bear paying us a visit.

All in all, though, the trip was a success. It was worth it to sit there as the sun came up and hike out with no one else around. Perhaps equally worth it was proving to myself that I can do it. That’s not to say I wasn’t a little scared. In the future, I think I would prefer the company of others if it’s an option. But Fox is always a good companion and trusty corgi.

I did the thing, and I’ll do it again. I could’ve kept putting it off, waiting to go backpacking with someone, but I needed to do this for myself. And life is too short to let anyone hold you back – even if it’s yourself. Chris asked me if I had fun. To be honest, this first time out there wasn’t fun, but I didn’t plan on that. It was about challenging myself, and I did it.

 

 

Coontree Loop and Wildflower Findings

This weekend’s excursion was to Pisgah National Forest. I hiked the Coontree Loop which is adjacent to Coontree Mountain (though it might even climb up part of the mountain). I’ve embarked on this trail a number of times with Fox, but never got very far. There are plenty of water crossings for him to jump in at the start of the trail, so it’s a nice place for a small hike with him; however, now having done the whole thing, I would not make him hike the full trail due to the amount of uphill hiking that is necessary. The path is by no means flat. (Then again, is anything here in North Carolina flat?)

Two sides of the trail are surrounded by lush forest, with plenty of flowers at lower elevations. The top portion of the trail is actually shared with the Bennet Gap trail. It opens up to views of surrounding mountains, though these will be diminished once the trees fill in.

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Searching for Wildflowers

Since I’m always taking pictures of nature, I thought it would only make sense to start trying identify some plants. My other goal is to eventually use the images in my embroidery pieces. To help in tracking down what’s what, I received a lovely copy of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers – Eastern Region for my birthday in December. Spring finally decided to come around and the flowers are coming up, so I can actually start using this book.

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It’s quickly become apparent that plant identification is not that easy. There are so many variations for flowers and leafs that are based on areas. Also, just because you see a flower, does not mean it’s a wildflower. It could easily be a flowering vine or something else.

A friend and I hit the Appalachian Trail yesterday in Nantahala National Forest for a day hike. It’s still a bit brown up there, but the forest is trying. Ferns and flowers were sprouting, and buds were trying to come out on trees. I snapped pictures of a few flowers. And I took a number of pictures of ferns (though I still need to get a book on fern identification).

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Large -flowered Trillium: These flowers were located at a lower elevation, where the trail climbed up from the road. Sparingly sprinkled throughout the woods, these plants consisted of one large white flower with broad green leaves. They were turned up when we started hiking, as if searching for sunlight. When we came back down, they had twisted outwards.

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Philadelphia Fleabane – Fuzzy little flowers found in small clumps throughout the woods. They were often right next to the violets.

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Violet – This appears to be some sort of violet. Based on guidebook descriptions, our region, and location within the forest, I think this is the Common Blue Violet, but it is a bit lighter in color, matching that of Birdsfoot Violet.

March On

It’s January 20, 2018. The first anniversary of the Women’s March has occurred. After having marched in Asheville, NC for a second year, I have mixed feelings.

While the crowd was not as loud and raucousy as it was last year, there was a feeling of determination and purpose. I have been disheartened with the political scene in our country. And I feel that in comparison to last year, my drive and hopes that we can make things better has diminished quite a bit. Hopelessness set in.

Yet in marching today, I’m reminded that awareness and acknowledgement are the first steps in any situation. While these two things do not solve problems, they are catalysts in the problem solving process.

I don’t know crowd totals, but it was apparent in Asheville and throughout the country that the people still remember last year and still feel the need to march. There was an influx of teens who joined the fold. Asheville’s march was even organized by a group of them.

Does this mean there’s hope for equal rights; women’s health protections; a decent and just government? I don’t know. I think we’re all on the edge of our seats waiting to see what will or won’t happen next. There is hope, however, that not all of the next generation will go through life completely oblivious to political and worldly affairs– something that I feel has sadly been a bit of a downfall for us adults in today’s society.

Regardless of heavy thoughts and feelings, it was definitely a positive day spent with friends and several hundred people who all marched again with a purpose.

Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

artofaskingIn the past, I’ve enjoyed Amanda Palmer’s music. She was a street artist first, a musician second, and an author third.

In February 2013, she gave a TED Talk entitled, The Art of Asking. The speech/video was an instant success that is still making the internet rounds today.

In my mind, I figured that if a 13 minute speech could be that popular, then perhaps the book that came after would hold some additional knowledge and inspiration. Unfortunately, her important message in the book can be summed up in a short essay. The rest of the book seemed to be the life and times of the “amazing, loving, talented and selfless (but not really)” Amanda Palmer.

Palmer does emphasis throughout her book the importance of asking for help in any number of ways and situations. Asking for help in one’s personal life, at work, at school, etc, should not be viewed as a sign of weakness, but rather it should be viewed as a sign of strength. As people find the strength to ask for help, they can find their self esteem; better their situation; and perhaps better situations for others.

She also makes the strong point that it is important to make connections, and you never know where that might happen. A complete stranger that you begin small talk with can later have a great impact on your life.

As an artist, creator, or business person, it is ever so important to find your audience and continue to learn from them and learn about them. If you do not know your audience, you will not be able to connect with them.

In all things, you must also know your worth. This will give you the confidence at times to ask for help, advice, or tangible things.

The one quote that really stood out for me was:
“Asking is, at it’s core, a collaboration.” (page 47)

Unfortunately, the rest of this book was a complete disappointment. Palmer proceeds to tell the story of HER. Although she preaches the art of asking, and discusses the importance of kindness and others, there seems to be an underlying theme throughout the whole book, and that is the promotion of herself.

I can see where her most devoted fans would argue this to the bitter end. At face value, it seems that Palmer is a very sweet person, but she also has narcissistic tendencies, a lack of focus (the narrative bounces all over the place), and a skewed view of society as a whole.

While it would be lovely if everyone would give to each other – gifts, needs, kindness, love – it’s not something that one should ever expect all other humans to understand or believe. Palmer expresses her sadness anytime a complete stranger is not willing to play along with her carefree artistic and sometimes impromptu escapades, nor should she expect random strangers to stop and help her exactly the way she asks. She also makes note that she lives every moment of her life very publicly via her blog and Twitter. She prides herself on sharing and trying to connect others through her voice. However, upon any criticism or backlash, she seems to become hurt and loses a bit of faith in humanity.

The world simply does not work the way Amanda Palmer would like it to work, and it never will. She may know HER audience, and they may trust her with their lives, but she fails to look outside that realm and comprehend that there are other audiences — a whole world of people — out there. No one will ever be able to cater to all audiences, not even Amanda Palmer; but everyone can at least listen, respect, and try to be considerate of others. That, I believe, is a reasonable goal.