September 28, 2013

Walking the World with Marie Edwards

Some people are lucky and fortunate enough to turn a hobby into a business.  Today’s post features someone who did just that.  Fellow Roman, Marie Edwards, who loved to go “a-wandering” turned her walking hobby into a business venture in the summer of 1991.   Since that time, Marie has walked across England, hiked the Highlands of Scotland and Wales, trekked among the mountains of Ireland and the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps and left footprints in the sands of Brittany and Normandy.

As the former owner of Southern Treks, Marie put her 22 years of walking and traveling experience in Europe and Australia to work in helping others enjoy the land on foot.  While at the helm of Southern Treks, it was rated as one of the best close-knit tour groups in the country by Travel Holiday magazine as groups were limited to 16.  According to the magazine, Marie was the confidante, coach, tour manager, and self-styled “mother hen” of Southern Treks.  In 2009, the company received international recognition from the Frommer’s Iceland Guide Book which suggested the itinerary “Walking Adventures in Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice” was one of the best walking tours of Iceland.

While raising her children, Marie walked with them at their home in Highlands, North Carolina.    In 1987 at the age of 43, Marie got her long-distance legs going with a Coast to Coast Across England because this was the kind of travel she wanted to do. Marie went back to Europe for three years and joined European walking tours before she started Southern Treks in 1991.  Marie says walking “keeps you interested in life, transports you to another level, helps you forget about your problems, and makes you take the time to savor life."

Below is just a glimpse of the good life that Marie has been able to savor: 

  According to Marie, "when you're with a group, you don't notice how many miles you're doing."   "You will become more than just a tourist, you will feel that you are a part of the country." 

"I adore Iceland" says Marie.  She also says there is a difference between walking and hiking--you have to watch your feet when hiking.   

Shown here in Iceland, Marie was living her childhood dreams of traveling.   On the right, Reagan Lowrey Lozar,  has taken over the helm of Southern Treks as Marie retired from the business earlier this year.    

Pictured here on a coast to coast walk of England, Marie's tours took you through farms, small villages, and mountains.

New Zealand was her favorite destination.  "I would live there in a second." 

"You'll go through different parts of the country that you wouldn't necessarily see on a different kind of tour."  This photograph is of New Zealand. 

More of New Zealand.  "You will be seeing a country in the best way possible--on foot." 

Included in the Normandy trip was the 11th century monastery Le Mont-Saint-Michel.  At high tide, this island commune is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean in the Bay of Mont St. Michel. 

Walking the 3.8 miles of sand at low tide to see the abbey included a professional guide who carried a rope just in case the tides shifted too fast. 

In August 2010, Marie set out on a 500-mile solo pilgrimage on the famous El Camino de Santiago de Compostela  ("The Way") starting in Saint Jean Pied de Port in southwestern France and ending at the cathedral in Santiago in northwestern Spain.   

Even though it was a solo pilgrimage, Marie was rarely alone as evidenced by this photograph.  Pilgrims walk the El Camino for many reasons--mostly spiritual, but if you have ever seen the movie "The Way" starring Martin Sheen, you will learn there are many other reasons to walk the El Camino. 

Meseta Central, great interior meseta (plateau) of the Iberian Peninsula, central Spain.  According to Marie, it is 140 miles of desolation, and  you can walk for 12 hours without finding any drinkable water.   

The journey's end at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the Apostle Saint James are buried. 

The Pilgrim's Mass is held each day at noon. 

Welcomed home at the Atlanta airport by husband, Steve, and grandsons.   

In July 2013, Marie met up with a French group in Bordeaux to walk 200 miles of the Camino in France.  This group makes walking the Camino possible for both able bodied, those in wheelchairs, or blind.   Marie participated in all phases of the journey--whether slicing bread for the cook, assisting a disabled person, or pushing a wheelchair on the Camino.  

The walk was sponsored by Camino 2000.  According to Marie, this was her most rewarding and gratifying journey to date and would do it again in a heartbeat.  

Whether in the City of Lights, having an omelette and fries in Bordeaux, or on the walking trails of northwest Georgia, Marie Edwards is an inspiration to others and has shared her passion for the outdoors, walking, traveling, and physical fitness with countless others. 

To conclude, let's give credit where it's due.  Marie is one of the reasons I have developed my passion for hiking and the outdoors.  She welcomed me into a group training for the El Camino when she knew I was unable to go,  Because of this association and connection with others who love to walk or hike, I never have to hike alone.   I am grateful to Marie for introducing me to the world of walking and hiking, because I plan to "Keep on Hiking" as long as health permits and I hope you will too! 

September 21, 2013

Max Patch

On a warm and humid August day, eleven hikers from the Chattanooga Hiking Club set out on a 14-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) starting at Max Patch which is halfway between Newport, Tennessee and Waynesville, North Carolina. Max Patch is an open, grassy summit with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee. On a clear day, you can see from Mount Mitchell on the east to the Great Smoky Mountains on the south. AT "thru-hikers" (hikers who trek from Georgia to Maine in one continuous journey) consider Max Patch as one of the highlights of their journey and a spot they will long remember even after they've forgotten most of the other details.

After a good night's rest and hearty breakfast in Newportwe started our day at the Standing Bear Farm, a hostel that offers parking and shuttle services to several popular area hikes.  Other services include rustic lodging, hot showers, laundry, phone, and internet to hikers as it is only 200 yards off of the AT.  After we parked our cars, took a comfort break at the quaint privy, we loaded up for an unforgettable hike. 

The hostel lived up to its name.  On the ride to the trailhead, we were thrilled to see Mama bear and two cubs run across the road about 100 yards in front of us although there were no bear sightings on the trail.  Here is more information on Standing Bear Farm. 

Group photos are always best when taken before the hike begins.  Notice the recycled hiking boots.  Yes, those are Impatients planted in the boots. (Photograph courtesy of Arlene Swallows)

As the sign indicates, there are several easy loop trails which cross the summit. Here is more information on Max Patch. (Photograph courtesy of Patricia McAlpin)

After Curtis (owner of the hostel and driver of the van) delivered us safely to the trailhead, we grabbed our trekking poles and backpacks and headed for the summit of Max Patch which, unfortunately, was fogged in and we didn't get to enjoy the 360-degree views.  While hikers always love a great view, never fear, it's all about the hiking and we still had a memorable hike.  Now we have a reason to hike Max Patch again.  

After a short break atop Max Patch, it was on to the remainder of the hike.
"It's the climb.......there's always gonna be another mountain".  At six miles into the hike, the three-mile climb up Snowbird Mountain was challenging. 

Couldn't help but wonder if The Scarecrow, Tin Man, or Cowardly Lion were going to jump out from behind this tree. 

Wildflowers were abundant along the trail, and this flower commonly called Doll's Eyes caught my attention.  Actea pachypoda is the official name--both the berries and  plant are considered poisonous to humans.  Here is more information. 

Lush flora and fauna at the top of Snowbird Mountain. 

A great way to end the post....the beauty of the outdoors keeps calling, and one of the many reasons I love to hike.    This is also my favorite photograph of the day.  The butterfly is a female Tiger Swallowtail. 

Despite two yellow jacket nests, a couple of tumbles, and many sore knees and toes, the group survived and the 14-mile hike was finished before sundown.  Since we hiked north to south, our hike ended at Standing Bear Farm which made it easy to retrieve our cars, load up, and look for the nearest calorie replenishment.   I had just survived my longest hike to date.  Unless you're a very experienced hiker, I don't recommend you start with a 14-mile hike, but I do recommend Max Patch.

Until next time, I hope you Keep on Hiking!

September 14, 2013

My Old Kentucky Hikes - Part Two

"Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar, and be better off than you are, or would you rather be a hiker?"  Bing Crosby, please forgive me.   

To catch some of those moonbeams, head to Cumberland Falls, near Corbin, Kentucky which is included as one of the “Seven Wonders of the South” by Southern Living magazine.   Famous for its Moonbow and known as the Niagara of the South, Cumberland Falls is a 125-foot wide curtain of falling water in a boulder-strewn gorge which is dramatic either day or night.  But it is only during a full moon that you can see the Moonbow, a phenomenon not found anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere and is said only to be duplicated at Victoria Falls in Africa.   

On a recent road trip through Kentucky with The Big Guy (my husband), we visited Cumberland Falls State Resort for some hiking and exploration.  Did I say hiking?  Of course, we hiked and Cumberland Falls is stunning although we didn't catch any moonbeams to carry home in a jar. Maybe next time.

If you missed My Old Kentucky Hikes - Part One, please click here.

Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, the park is a short, scenic drive from Interstate 75, only 18 miles southwest of Corbin, Kentucky.  Here is more information on the park. 

The calm Cumberland River.
Not so calm closer to the Falls. 

The thundering waters of Cumberland Falls.  When the Cumberland River is at flood stage, the width of the Falls can quickly expand to 300 feet. 

The 125 foot wide waterfall has a 68 foot drop that showers onto the boulders that lie in the rocky gorge below. 

Besides the Falls, one of the great attractions of the park is the Moonbow.  Visible on moonlit evenings, the Moonbow is said to only be duplicated at Victoria Falls in Africa.  Here is a great website to learn more about the Moonbow. 

There are 12 hiking trails in the park ranging from .25 miles to 10.8 miles.   Here is more information on hiking trails in the park. 

Don't miss the Moonbow Trail which offers several lovely vantage points of the Falls.

Cumberland Falls was a favorite vacation destination for Thomas Coleman DuPont, a Kentucky native and U.S. Senator from Delaware.  DuPont was unhappy with plans to build a hydroelectric dam at the site on the river, and in 1930, the DuPont family donated 600 acres surrounding the Falls to the state of Kentucky. 

DuPont Lodge, built in 1941.  The original DuPont lodge was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was destroyed by fire in 1940. 

All rooms of DuPont Lodge were renovated in 2006.  Here is more information on lodging at Cumberland Falls State Resort. 

Whether you're looking for an interesting road trip or a great place to hike, I highly recommend Cumberland Falls State Resort. Who knew the Blue Grass state had so many hiking opportunities?  Here is more information on upcoming planned hikes at Kentucky State Parks. 

Hope you've enjoyed my adventure to Kentucky and will stay tuned for more great hiking information. In the meantime, Keep On Hiking. 

September 6, 2013

My Old Kentucky Hikes - Part One

While on a recent road trip with my husband, I had the good fortune to explore two of the “Seven Wonders of the South” according to Southern Living magazine, both located in the beautiful state of Kentucky. They just happen to have hiking trails which obviously piqued my interest right away. What’s a road trip without a hike?

Today's post is on the Red River Gorge. The second will feature Cumberland Falls near Corbin, Kentucky. If you're interested in all "Seven Wonders of the South, here is the Southern Living article.

The Red River Gorge, located about 50 miles southeast of Lexington, is the South’s answer to Utah’s Arches National Park.  The gorge has 100-plus natural sandstone arches, the highest concentration east of the Mississippi. Natural Bridge State Resort, one of Kentucky's most popular state parks, is in the Red River Gorge, and I was lucky enough to talk my husband (affectionately referred to as The Big Guy) into hiking to the Natural Bridge even though he would have preferred to stop at Bojangle's. We hiked the 0.75-mile Original Trail which is easily the most heavily used trail in the state of Kentucky.

According to the park brochure, the Original Trail is the shortest and easiest route to the Natural Bridge, an easy choice for The Big Guy.
The wide, easy path makes for an enjoyable hike, but it's just steep enough to get your heart pumping a bit faster. 
In case your heart gets pumping too fast, there are three small shelters along the trail, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.  The shelters offer a nice rest and water stop.

At half a mile, the trail comes upon the soaring sandstone of Natural Bridge.  The best place to view is underneath.

This stairway takes you to the top of the bridge, but before arriving at the top, you must walk through the narrow notch known as Fat Man's Misery.

I made it fine through Fat Man's Misery thanks to hiking and dieting.  The Big Guy got through alright, but when he popped out the other side, a small boy told him, "They should make this bigger for fat people." This remark caused The Big Guy to forego any thoughts of sausage biscuits, at least for the rest of the hike.

After making it to the top of the bridge, we decided to continue another 0.4 mile to Lookout Point which offered a nice view of the Natural Bridge. 

Lookout Point also offered a beautiful view of the Middle Fork of the Red River. Now you know how the gorge got its name. 

The rocky ledge in the background, just over my left shoulder, is known as Lover's Leap.  Fortunately, I decided to call it a day so The Big Guy wouldn't get any ideas. 

Both the road trip and hiking excursion were successful, and in case you're wondering if I plan to go back and hike, here's proof: my only purchase at the gift shop of Natural Bridge State Resort.  Here is more information on the resort. 

As the lyrics say, "The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky hike..." Hope you've enjoyed this post and you'll come back for Part Two of My Old Kentucky Hikes.

Keep on Hiking!