Would You Rather Kiss Miley Cyrus On The Lips OR Hike Kimsey Creek Trail?

Forest Service sign marking the trail head for Kimsey Creek Trail.Hiking with kids is always an adventure. If you don’t have kids you should consider renting some for a day and take them hiking…just for the experience.

You won’t regret it.

“I like downhills, Daddy. Does this trail have downhills?” asks my 13 year old daughter.

“When can we eat the trail mix, Dad?” inquires my 15 year old son.

“Guys! C’mon. We haven’t even gotten out of the car yet.” says their…wait! Haha! You thought I was going to reveal my age, didn’t you?

With kids, you’ll quickly discover no two hikes are ever the same.

Now if you’re thinking this is going to be an anti-kid hiking post, you need to know right now I adore my kids. They’re funny, adventurous, playful, and fully self-expressed in all the right ways.

And they love hiking! Well, most of the time, at least…except when we have to go uphill or we’ve run out of trail mix, which – both – happens more often than not.

But, they’re a busy bunch and getting busier as they get older. Finding a break in their schedule  to go hiking – and particularly a break that coincides with perfect weather – is getting as rare as an external frame pack.

Happy hiking kids!

The two monkeys on the right blessed me with their company for this hike.

The stars finally lined up – Mercury was no longer retrograde (as my friend is fond of pointing out), the weather was amazing and our two youngest kids were sitting around with nothing to do.

Imagine that?!

The thing about kids – and hiking – is no matter how old they are you still need to be flexible with your plans. It might not look like the hike you envisioned, but it’ll be fun…if you’re adaptable.

“My favorite thing about hiking, Daddy, is going downhill.”

“Say! How much trail mix did you bring, Dad?”

Being a rather impromptu hike, I didn’t have much time to plan it out. It was one of those, “Quick! Change your clothes, put on your boots, grab an apple and some water and let’s go,” kind of hikes. In situations like this I like to go on familiar trails. This way I know sort of what to expect.

I chose Kimsey Creek Trail at Standing Indian. At just over 4 miles from the Back Country Info Center to the top at Deep Gap and the intersection with the Appalachian Trail, Kimsey Creek Trail is a very scenic and enjoyable hike.

“It does have downhills, doesn’t it, Daddy?”

“Did you put raisins in the trail mix this time, Dad?”

Trail mix with raisins, peanuts, pecans, and curried cashews.

GORP – Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts; aka Trail Mix.

It’s a relatively easy to moderate hike, with long grades, wide trails and plenty of beautiful landscapes and water. Water, water everywhere! And like many trails in Standing Indian, much of the water – for most of the year – runs right down the middle of the trail – an entertaining distraction for most kids.

Sometimes you’re left wondering which is the trail and which is the creek.

But don’t let the wet trails discourage you. Even in the wettest season, they’re still passable and it’s kind of fun hopping from rock to log to rock to railroad tie. Just be sure you have hiking poles or a walking stick to help you with your balance. You might also want to leave an extra pair of shoes and clothes in the car for the kids for the ride home.

I expected my son would have gotten his shoes wet, but not this time. It was my daughter, the one who likes going downhill, who soaked both of her shoes…numerous times.

Our two youngest kids are quite the comedy team, playing off each other like a non-stop Vaudevillian act. Think of Dean and Jerry, Harvey and Tim, Lucy and Ethel or even Gilligan and the Skipper and that’ll give you some idea of what it’s like being around them.

And they were in rare form today. We’ve always whiled away the time on the trail by playing games; word games, concentration games, whatever their hyper minds can think of. Today – my daughter’s choice – we were playing “Would you rather…?”

It’s a simple game. Everyone takes turns asking someone a question like, “Would you rather be stuck in a submarine with Justin Bieber OR eat a plate full of greasy, grimy gopher guts?” (No animals were harmed in this game. Jussayin.) So, as you can see, the object of the game is to trap people in a no-win choice…or if you’re good, an embarrassing choice.

How embarrassing can it get? Pretty bad sometimes, especially when two young teenagers are trying to embarrass or gross out the other one.

Sun rays and sparkling water at Kimsey Creek Falls.

The falls on Kimsey Creek – this is as far as we got it today.

“Did I ever tell you how much I like going downhill, Daddy?”

“Can I finish the rest of the trail mix myself, Dad?”

We didn’t get very far on the trail today – maybe a couple of miles. And that’s Ok. We had fun! Lots of fun! AND…we established that my daughter likes hiking downhill, not uphill, and that my son is always hungry. Come to think of it! I didn’t get any trail mix today.

And, in spite of their constant attempts to trap me into an embarrassing situation, it was determined that I’d rather hike Kimsey Creek Trail – or any trail – than kiss Miley Cyrus on the lips – or anywhere for that matter. Yuck!! Sorry, Miley.

How do you keep your kids entertained and engaged while you’re on a family hike? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

See ya on the trail!

A Stroll Through The Tessentee Bottomland Preserve And Photo Essay

Off the beaten path. A hidden gem. An historical homestead preserved by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.

The Southern Nantahala Mountains towering over Tessentee Creek.

Tessentee Creek just before it flows into the Little Tennessee River.

Call it what you like. I call it one of the most relaxing strolls through history you’ll find in Macon County, NC.

A large stand of native river can in the Tessentee Bottomlands.

One of the trails passing through some Native River Cane, which grows abundantly in the Bottomlands.

The Tessentee Bottomland Preserve is 64 acres, bordered by Tessentee Creek and the Little Tennessee River. With extraordinary educational and historical value and rich biodiversity, the public is invited to walk around this family-friendly preserve and learn more about the history and natural habits, flora, and fauna native to the Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina.

Here are some tidbits about the Tessentee Bottomland Preserve:

  • Home to 115 species of birds and part of the NC Birding Trail
  • Home to 42 species of butterflies
  • Amazing long range views of Albert Mountain, Fishhawk Mountain and, on a clear day, Clingmans Dome in The Great Smoky Mountains
  • An historical farmhouse, with several outbuildings, built around 1890
  • An overnight stop for famed naturalist, William Bartram in 1775
  • And possibly the site of the first battle of the “Cherokee Wars” in 1760 and the beginning of the southern campaign of the Revolutionary War in 1776
Rustic Farmhouse on the Tessentee Bottomlands Preserve.

The original farmhouse which was built around 1890.

You can learn more about the Tessentee Bottomland Preserve, find directions, and download a trail map and brochure at the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee. And while you’re there, find out about all the amazing things the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee does for our neck of the woods.

Enjoy the rest of the pics!

A quaint trail sign on the Tessentee Bottomlands Preserve.

Well marked trails make it easy to follow multiple loops around the Preserve.

See ya on the trail!

A dainty evergreen ground cover found all over western North Carolina.

One of the unique plants found in western North Carolina, this evergreen ground cover can be found along the wooded banks of Tessentee Creek.

An historic farmhouse build in 1890.

Though it doesn't look very scientific, this Snake Study site is very important to the Bottomlands habitat.

Various field studies are carried out all over the Bottomlands. It’s advised you stay on the trail and avoid interfering with the research.

Here's the author perfoming a headstand on the front porch of the farmhouse.

And there’s always time for a new perspective on life.

 

 

So What Could I Do But Laugh And Go?

Yes! Yes! It has been a long time. Too long, if you ask me. Life has a way of going off on a tangent. Six months later you wake up and realize, “Wait! You mean I haven’t hiked since July 4th?!”

“Yup! That’s right, Michael.” (This is my conscience talking, in case you didn’t know.) “It’s been awhile. Something’s gonna snap if you don’t do something about it.”

Hmm. I wonder if my conscience really talks like that. Anyway….

Fortunately, the weather couldn’t have been more agreeable for a day hike. It was 52 degrees and sunny at the trailhead. The sky was clear, blue, and bright. Having lost my trail legs from inactivity, I decided to take the rather flat Park Creek Trail at Standing Indian and amble along the beautiful Upper Nantahala River.The multiple trail heads at Standing Indian.

Inactivity. It’s an insidious thing, you know. It builds up. At first you tell yourself I’ll go next weekend, but it never happens and, before you know it, too many weekends pass by like posts in your social media feed.

Anyway, the parking lot at the Back Country Info Center was packed – the most cars I’ve seen in a long while. Being the end of a beautiful three day weekend, I imagine most of the people had been there since Friday, backpacking around the Appalachian Trail. They’d be heading back soon enough for their long drive back to Atlanta, or Charlotte, or to wherever they call home.

Surprisingly, with all of those cars, we didn’t pass a single soul on the trail. We had it all to ourselves.

A beautiful view of the Upper Nantahala River.

The beautiful Upper Nantahala River in Standing Indian Basin.

For me, I definitely reach a point when it’s been too long since my last hike. If I’m being honest with myself, I probably reached that point months ago. When this happens, all I can think about is hitting a trail. My brain shouts, “Enough!” It starts resisting me, sabotaging me, playing little games with my thoughts. It causes me to be forgetful, distracted, OTL (which means “out to lunch”, as in mentally checked out, in case you didn’t know this one).

I’ll find myself standing in the middle of someplace, daydreaming about Silers Bald or Rufus Morgan Falls, then waking up and wondering what the hell am I doing in the kitchen?

Maybe you experience something similar?Blue blazing on Park Creek Trail in Standing Indian.

We ended up doing 5 miles – a quick out and back, stopping frequently to sit by the river and take in the sights and sounds or gobble some trail mix. Our dog, Phyto, could hardly contain his enthusiasm for being on the trail – or in the water – either. He never stopped grinning.

My conscience has a not so subtle way – kind of like a kick in the head – of saying, “You’re lost. Slow down. Reconnect to what’s important, my friend. So, listen up! Get your ass on the trail…or else….”

I know. My conscience sounds like a big bully, doesn’t it? It’s right, though. I’m always more relaxed, more productive, more creative, more focused, in fact, happier when I’m hiking regularly.

The Blue-blazed bridge over Park Creek in Standing Indian..

The Blue-blazed bridge over Park Creek, which flows into the Nantahala River.

So out I went. After a string of beautiful winter days I said enough is enough. I don’t care if I have work to do. I’m going hiking! And as I was getting ready to go, I suddenly remembered a poem by Richard Le Gallienne, who, by the way, celebrated his 149th birthday on the January 20th, entitled, “I Meant To Do My Work Today.”

Oh no! It’s not what you may be thinking. It’s not an ode for slackers; people who shirk their duties. Au contraire, mon ami! It’s a call to action. An invitation to awaken from the industrial wasteland. A ballad for the call of the wild rather than the inharmonious sound of a  9 to 5 punch clock.

I imagine people like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and people with similar sensibilities would wholeheartedly line up with the sentiment of this poem.

Here’s it is…

I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?

Soaking in the sights and sounds of the Upper Nantahala River in Standing Indian.

“So what could I do but laugh and go?” Amazing day! It felt good to be out.

I’ve known this poem since I was 7 years old, but the older I get, the more I understand the message it’s conveying. The sentiment gets stuck in my brain, demanding I listen…and take action.

But never more! From now on, when I hear the call, my only option will be to “laugh and go.” This is no longer just a poem. This is my anthem.

See ya on the trail!

What’s it like for you after a long spell of not hiking? How do you get your hiking mojo back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Magical Views From Winding Stair Gap

It’ll never be the same again. Sure you’re standing in the same spot, in the same scenic overlook, but you’ll never experience the same view.

And that’s what makes Winding Stair Gap so magical.

The light changes, the clouds change, the shadows, the seasons, the color of the sky and the color of the leaves change. Thousands – maybe millions – of variables determine what you’re going to see on any visit to Winding Stair Gap.

You can stop everyday and see a completely different vista, a different mood, a different place. A single magical moment where all the variables come together to produce YOUR unique view; your once in a lifetime view…because it’ll never look like that again.

Winding Stair Gap, on Hwy 64, is much more than a way point between Franklin and Murphy, NC. It’s a destination all on its own.

And should you ever have the opportunity to stop, you should. Take it all in. Take a photo. Send a copy of your pic to me – if you want – and I’ll add it to the Winding Stair Gap Photo Gallery along with any new pics I take.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, enjoy these magical views….

A gorgeous view of a layer of clouds below and blue sky above Winding Stair Gap.

An early spring morning at Winding Stair Gap.

A beautiful harvest moon rising over Winding Stair Gap.

Harvest Moon rising over Winding Stair Gap.

 

Winding Stair Gap just before the storm arrived.

Before the storm…

Another great pic of Winding Stair Gap.

This fabulous pic of Winding Stair Gap was submitted by Mark Zemmin. Thanks, Mark!

Winding Stair Gap, NC. Sunrise photo WindingStairOverlook.jpg

This sunrise photo of Winding Stair Gap was submitted by Mark Zemmin. Thanks, Mark!

Looking east from Winding Stair Gap on a cold  January morning.

The brilliant blue sky of a cold January morning at Winding Stair Overlook.

 

Sunset Rock and Sunrise Rock in Ravenel Park

You want a view! Have we got views for you. Everywhere you turn in the mountains of western North Carolina you’re treated to another outstanding vista.

Breathtaking. Majestic. Awe inspiring. The sort of views that keep life in perspective; a glimpse which offers so much more than our usual hustle and bustle.

Seriously! Take your pick. BUT if you should find yourself in Highlands, NC, then you’ll want to visit the gorgeous long range, mountain views from Sunset Rock and Sunrise Rock.

Blue sky over Sunset Rock.

This is looking north from the bottom of Sunset Rock. It’s much bigger than it looks in the photo.

And, if you time your visit perfectly, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing mountain sunrise or sunset, and you’ll swear you’ve just witnessed the soul – and grandeur – of life itself.

Sunset Rock and Sunrise Rock sit at the top of Ravenel Park, a tract of land given to the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust in 1914. That’s right – 1914!

And you’ve guessed it. This year is the 100th anniversary of the creation of Ravenel Park – or what the mayor of Highlands, NC has declared as the “Sunsetennial: 100 Years of Sunsets and Sunrises Together.”

It’s a big to do. You can learn more about the Sunsetennial, it’s history and special events, and the great work of the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust by visiting their website.

Like with any outing, it’s always best to plan ahead.

Taking in the gorgeous view from Sunrise Rock in Ravenel Park.

Looking east from Sunrise Rock.

There are two parking lots for Sunset Rock. Each one offering very few spaces, so it would be in your best interest to plan ahead and time your visit so you have a decent place to park. Of course, there’s always the option of staying at the Old Edward’s Inn and walking to the park from there.

Located off of Horse Cove Road, which is a continuation of Main Street heading east out of Highlands, and on the right hand side just past the Highlands Nature Center is Sunset Road, a one-lane gravel drive.

You can park in a small lot just before Sunset Road and walk two miles up to the top or, if you get there early enough, drive up to the top and walk about a tenth of a mile to either Sunset or Sunrise Rock.

If you plan on seeing a sunrise or sunset, make sure you have flashlights or headlamps, a jacket, blankets to sit on and some water (you might get thirsty after the walk up or down). And if you happen to take any food, be sure to practice “Leave No Trace” principles and pack out ALL of your garbage.

Taking in the long views of the Natahala Mountains from Sunset Rock.

OK! So you’ll have to imagine a sunset, but this is the dramatic view from Sunset Rock.

You can visit Sunset Rock any time of year, weather permitting, but I would imagine fall would be particularly special with the autumn colors at their peak.

Oh! One last thing. Take a camera. You’ll want to show all of your friends the beautiful sunrise or sunset.

Do you have a favorite place to watch the sun rise or set? Share it with us in the comments.

See ya’ on the trail,
Michael (aka Tastelikchickn)

Appalachian Trail Class of 2014 Hiker ProfileS

What a treat! Last Friday night I had the honor of spending my evening with four fantastic Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers.

It was fun getting to know them, hearing their hilarious stories, and living the vicarious trail life through them.

Since none of them are in witness protection, they gave me permission to take their picture and introduce them to you. Well, at least introduce them by their “trail names.”

Four hungry thru-hikers having dinner in Franklin, NC.

From left to right: Wayne, SAS, Paperweight, and Handlebar

Wayne, a fellow member of the Google+ Thru-hiking Community, was my introduction to this rag-tag group of fabulous hikers. As of his stop in Franklin, he hasn’t received a trail name yet and he’s a bit surprised he hasn’t done something stupid enough to warrant one. No worries, Wayne, the trail WILL find a name for you. For now, keep working on your trail legs and building up your hiker appetite. Oh! And keep those community updates coming!

UPDATE: It’s official. Wayne’s trail name stuck! He’s now going by Crinkleroot, named after the beloved character in Jim Arnosky’s children’s books. You can learn more about his namesake at www.crinkleroot.com.

SAS is a fifth grade school teacher on sabbatical – forced upon her due to budgetary cuts. Not one to sit around, she decided to hike the AT this year. Her trail name is an acronym for “slow and steady,” and she’s considering writing a book about her AT experience. You can learn more about SAS and follow her progress at Hikergirl86.

Paperweight – yes he carries a paperweight in his pack – is a wanderer, and a funny one at that. When you ask him where he’s from, you either get the shelter he slept in the night before or a laundry list of locations around the country. His main purpose for hiking the AT, as near as I can tell, is to meet a woman named Bobbie Sue. So if your name is Bobbie Sue, look for Paperweight at your nearest trail crossing – and make his day.

Handlebar, aptly named for his fantastic handlebar mustache, is, to me, the quintessential thru-hiker. He’s also very sharp witted, funny and confidently laid back. Always on the lookout for Michigan micro brews (he’s from MI), he was thrilled to find one at the Rock House Lodge in Franklin’s local outfitter, Outdoor76.

Best of luck on your thru-hike. I hope you all can stay together until you reach Mt. Katahdin.

If you’re ever hiking the AT or the Bartram Trail, for that matter, and find yourself in Franklin, NC, let me know. I’d love to meet up with you and get to know you too.

One can never have too many trail friends.

See ya’ on the trail,
Michael