January 30, 2014

My Story

Since I've asked other hikers to share how they started hiking, I figured it's time to share my story.


I grew up in northwest Georgia on a farm near Lookout Mountain; walking the woods and pastures with my parents was a weekly pleasure. While it was fun for me, it was an opportunity for my father to check the pasture fences to make sure all was okay. We also walked the country dirt roads near our home, and one time in particular, I talked my parents into letting me bring home a stray dog that I named Buffy. Such was life in the country.


As the youngest of four children, I played in the woods with two older brothers, built "forts" in the woods with neighbors, and tried to stay out of my sister’s bedroom to avoid being a bratty sister.  My daddy loved the outdoors and when he wasn't working on the farm, in the garden, or at his job, he would take my two brothers on hunting trips or hikes in the woods or mountains. Sometimes I was able to tag along on a hike to Lookout Mountain near Cloudland, Georgia.

With the "Big Guy," April, 1976

As luck would have it, I met the son of another farmer.  Together we enjoyed a hike on the farm every now and then. We fell in love and got married.  Out first home was on a farm and we frequently hiked in the afternoon after work through the woods and pastures to a beautiful knoll.  Progress called so we moved to Atlanta, started new jobs, worked, had two children, worked some more, and one day decided to move back to our roots--the mountains of northwest Georgia. 

With special friend, Mary Patrick, atop Albert Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. 

Before moving from Atlanta, I met Mary Patrick at a Berry College alumni event.  She was a lifelong hiker and shared wonderful stories about hiking trips with her late husband as well as current hikes with a hiking club in the northeast Georgia mountains.  She was very knowledgeable about trails, hiking gear, and has served as my mentor.

The Roman Ramblers

It's important for me to have social outlets because I work from home. I began hiking frequently in 2011 after becoming acquainted with a ladies group in Rome, Georgia that hiked weekly on the trails at Berry College. I enjoyed these weekly hikes:  being outdoors, socializing with others, and getting some great exercise. I wanted to hike more than once a week so I searched the internet and located meetup groups and hiking clubs that were hiking all over north Georgia, northeast Alabama, and Tennessee: Chattanooga Hiking Meetup, Tennessee Wild Meetup, Hike Georgia Meetup, Mountain High Hikers (Blairsville), Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, and Chattanooga Hiking Club.

At the intersection of the Miegs Mountain and Jakes Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

These groups and clubs connected me with others who shared the same interest and passion for hiking. Here it is three years later, having hiked hundreds of miles with many new friends, explored countless new trails, and hiked in the snow in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Little did I know what a wonderful hobby it was and how it would benefit my physical and mental health.  If my schedule allows, I love to hike three times per week.

Carver's Gap in the Pisgah - Cherokee National Forest 
Of course, I didn't start out hiking three times per week.  This type of schedule will help you accumulate some mileage, but may also affect your body. Beware of foot, knee, and leg problems (plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and heel spurs) which can quickly sideline any hiker.  I had to rest my feet for three months due to plantar fasciitis in early 2012 after becoming too zealous for mileage. There's no easy cure for this common ailment to many hikers and runners.

Descending Big Hump Mountain in the Roan Highlands.  
Staying at a healthy weight improves stamina and endurance.  There's nothing worse than huffing and puffing along the trail and realizing you shouldn't have eaten that cheeseburger or slice of carrot cake. Physical and mental health contributes significantly to a good quality of life. Recognizing the physical benefits of hiking is easy: cardiovascular, weight management, flexibility, balance, blood pressure, and stamina. However, I can't stress enough how therapeutic hiking is for me. Like anyone in their "middle ages," I've had a few regrets, but hiking has helped me place them in the proper prospective.  When you're on the trail, all your cares and troubles melt away.  You're concentrating on the next step, the next climb, or conversing with fellow hikers. Reaching the summit of the mountain or seeing that beautiful waterfall or vista is my mental "high."

Climbing Big Hump Mountain in the Roan Highlands. 

One of my favorite hiking trips was a 2013 trip to Roan Mountain, Tennessee with the Chattanooga Hiking Club. Ten hikers enjoyed an 8-mile trek on the Appalachian trail in the "Roan Highlands."  Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains are grassy balds with a 365-degree view of the surrounding mountains.

Abrams Falls near Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains.
My favorite region to hike is the Great Smoky Mountains.  Fortunately, I have several hiking friends who also love this area and are willing to share their time and knowledge with me by leading group hikes on a regular basis. It is helpful to surround yourself with others who have more knowledge than you.  For example, one of my more experienced hiking friends suggested I purchase a trail map of the Smokies and mark the map whenever I've completed a trail.

My advice to anyone who wants to start hiking is to seek out others with the same interest. Perhaps there is a hiking club in your town, a meetup group, or better yet--start your own group with friends and acquaintances. Everyone has to start somewhere and surrounding yourself with other like minds helps keep you focused. Don't worry about purchasing all that fancy gear at one time--it takes months and years to accumulate.  Your local outdoor recreation outfitter can help select proper footwear which is the most important item for beginning hikers.  (Here is a previous post entitled "Be Kind to Your Feet.")

On a sunset hike to Sunset Rock on the west brow of Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga. 

If you're looking for a new hobby and you enjoy traveling, meeting new people, being outdoors, or just looking for a new adventure, I strongly recommend hiking.  It is difficult to put in words how hiking has enriched my life.  It can also enrich yours!  I hope you've been inspired and motivated by my story.

"Keep On Hiking."

January 17, 2014

Polar Vortex Creates Winter Wonderland

Why would anyone go hiking in the January 2014 polar vortex?  It seemed a once-in-a-lifetime chance since it hasn't been this cold in the southeastern United States for 20 years. It was also an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful winter wonderland in the Grundy Forest State Natural Area near Tracy City, Tennessee with elevations high enough to receive a beautiful dusting of snow.

It also helped there were 16 other hikers who were willing to brave the frigid cold temperatures, so misery enjoys company, right?  Actually it wasn't miserable at all if you're dressed for the temperature.  In case you're wondering what I wore, here we go from head to toe: Patagonia toboggan or beanie, ear muffs (LL Bean has some good ones), scarf to wrap around my neck and face (if necessary), UniQlo Heattech turtleneck (first layer), North Face crew neck base layer (second layer), Omni-Heat Reflective Columbia jacket, LL Bean Baxter State gloves, Cuddle Duds leggings, Champion sweat pants, two pairs of socks (SmartWool crew socks and SmartWool hiking socks), and Keen hiking boots.

The Grundy Forest State Natural Area is about an hour's drive (48 miles) north of Chattanooga. It is part of the South Cumberland Recreation area which is a group of ten separate park areas managed as a single park.  Totaling over 16,000 acres, the units are located throughout a 100-square-mile region within Grundy, Sequatchie, Franklin, and Marion counties.   Here is more information.

It was a slow paced, 3.6-mile hike which included the Grundy Forest Day Loop, Sycamore Falls, and the Dog Hole Trail. Here is a map and description of these trails.

Even in the snow, the first mile was very easy terrain since it traverses the flat plateau top.

At 1.3 miles, a bridge will take you across Little Fiery Gizzard Creek.

Crossing the bridge takes you to the the main Fiery Gizzard Trail, Sycamore Falls, and the Dog Hole Trail.

Little Fiery Gizzard Creek

The Little and Big Fiery Gizzard Creeks merge and cut a cascade which is known as the Black Canyon because of the organic stain on the rocks. 

More of the Black Canyon
Sycamore Falls 

(Photograph courtesy of John Rowland)
Because of the millions of rocks, the Fiery Gizzard Trail is one of the most rugged and difficult trails in Tennessee.

There are several legends surrounding the Fiery Gizzard name.  One legend includes Davy Crockett and a turkey gizzard.  I'll let you be the judge based on the various legends discussed here.

Blue Hole Falls 

After venturing off on the Fiery Gizzard Trail to Sycamore Falls and the Dog Hole Trail, it was back to the Grundy Forest Day Loop with the final stunning scenery of the day at Blue Hole Falls.  

Before the next winter wonderland hike, I plan to purchase Anti-Slip Ice Snow Crampon Cleats and Silicone Rubber Shoe Covers (pictured below) so I can "Keep On Hiking." 

January 7, 2014

Looking to the Future

A view of the Tennessee River from Snooper's Rock on New Year's Day 2014. 

Happy New Year. January is when most of us make resolutions, establish goals for the year, or resolve to improve our health and well being. Why not? After all, January is named for Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in ancient Roman religion and myth.  Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.

Let's look to the future and think about some hiking resolutions for 2014. Here is a list of my hiking resolutions as well as some of my hiking dreams. 

1.  I want to hike at least 20 miles in one day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It may take combining several trails to accomplish this feat, but it is something I hope to do in 2014.  Here is a great website which lists trails by location, feature, and difficulty rating. 

2.  I want to "Discover the West" and have a hiking trip planned to Park City, Utah.  Below is the iconic Delicate Arch located in Arches National Park, Utah.  If you are interested in hiking out west, here is a great website which provides information on hiking trails in 12 states including California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

(Photograph courtesy of "Discover the West")

3.  I love waterfalls and want to hike to five new waterfalls.  My dream is to return to Oregon some day and see the beautiful  Multnomah Falls pictured below.  According to Oregon.com.,  it is a must see.  

(Photograph courtesy of Scott Allan Photo Art) 

For 2014, the Virgin Falls Loop Trail  near Sparta, Tennessee is on my waterfall list. 

(Photograph courtesy of AllTrails.com) 

4.  I want to hike the Fiery Gizzard Trail, one of the most diverse and beautiful in Tennessee.  The section which starts at the Grundy Forest Natural Area and climbs the plateau to Raven Point is possibly one of the most rugged and difficult trails in Tennessee.

Blue Hole Falls on the Fiery Gizzard trail.  (Photograph courtesy of AllTrails.com) 

5.  I dream of hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana.  It made the Discovery Channel's Top 10 Most Amazing Places to Hike in North America.

(Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.com) 

6.  I want to hike all of the Georgia sections of the Appalachian Trail.  Here is more information on Georgia's trail sections and how to access.  Being a member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club makes this goal much easier to attain. 

Plaque at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain.   (Photograph by Ed Peterson of View from Inman Park) 

7.  I want to hike to the summit of Gregory Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, world famous for its flame azaleas which bloom each summer in mid to late June. Learn here why Gregory Bald should be on the list of any self-respecting hiker or nature lover. 

(Photograph courtesy of www.knoxnews.com) 

8.  I want to learn more about Trail Dames (Hiking for Curvy Women) and attend Summit 2014, a hiking and backpacking conference just for women.  Learn more here

(Photograph courtesy of Trail Dames) 

9.  I want to stay physically fit by hiking, exercising, and eating healthy.  I like to track my progress by maintaining a spreadsheet of the trails I've hiked, mileage, and my weight. Yes, my weight has been changed to protect the innocent.  If you're interested in tracking the calories burned while hiking, here is a calorie burn calculator.

10.  Lastly, I want to continue to share my passion for hiking and the beautiful outdoors. Here is one of my favorite blogs, Appalachian Treks.

Hope this post has given you some ideas on how you can improve your health and well being in 2014 and provided some hiking inspiration, too.

For the time being, better get busy on my list, so I can "Keep On Hiking."