On the chilly, sunny, windy afternoon of November 1, 2020, a friend from the Women Who Wander hiking club joined me for a hike to the top of Rich Mountain at the western end of Cone Estate Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County. She lives near Banner Elk with the headwaters of the Watauga River in her back yard, so we were both familiar with this trail.
After the hike we planned to eat a picnic at an open air table in the Park, but by then it was too dark, windy and cold. So we went to my family's cabin on Shulls Mill Road and ate in the dining room. My friend provided the victuals which were made by Maw's Produce in Foscoe, NC. It was delicious and we enjoyed the bottle of white wine she provided.
On the Halloween afternoon of October 31, 2020, Ranger Bob traveled to Eustace Conway's Turtle Island Preserve to be a volunteer at a Festival celebrating outdoor activities like black smithing and deer hide tanning. The TIP staff conducted a silent auction of donated goods as a fund raiser. Other staff cooked a large, deliciious supper made from locally grown or sourced meats, vegetables, fruits, cheeses and breads. The main food was a whole pig smoked in the ground at TIP that afternoon.
I was tasked with managing the wine station. Knowing nothing about wine except that I like Moscato, I opened and set out most of the bottles. Then I pretty much let the guests serve themselves. Most of them seemed to appreciate the opportunity to pour themselves about double the normal serving.
Well after dark (there are no electric lignts on TIP) I pulled out my wisely carried flash light, made my way through the woods to my Jeep and headed home.
For sale: by Joe and Lisa Samuel of Linville Land Harbor, Newland, NC, a used canoe. Located at Bob Laney's house in Lynnwoode subdivision, North Wilkesboro, NC. Call Bob at 336-984-6860 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to make an offer.
Description: Perception brand canoe, black hull, silver gunnels and thwarts, two black seats, includes two fiberglass and carbon paddles. Paddles high quality and like new. Hull made of Royalex ABS, the toughest and lightest canoe material available. Gunnels and thwarts made of aluminum. Length 15 feet 6 inches. Width 35 inches. Can be paddled tandem (two persons) or solo with one person in the front seat facing backward. All material original except for rebuilt padded seats, ropes and string. Weight about 75 pounds. Made for sturdiness and bouncing off rocks. About 40 years old but in nearly new condition. Hull, gunnels and thwarts have nearly no damage. Minimal scratches on the outer hull, but no dents, tears or holes. Large carrying capacity good for day trips with flotation, multi-day canoe camping or large family outiings. Good for lakes, rivers, estuaries, flat water or white water. Has added string over the interior to hold in items.
Internet prices: the same make and model used in worse shape lists for $800. A similar quality and style new boat of a different name brand with less sturdiness lists for $1,300. Paddes $100 each.
Asking price: $700.
The late summer and early fall 2020 saw excessive amounts of rain in north west NC. I had three river canoe trips cancelled by outfitters Zaloo's Canoes and New River Outfitters due to high water levels making being on the water dangerous. On the Sunday of September 20 Michael Brown, MIchael Cooper and I tried again. We carpooled to New River Outfitters on the South Fork of the New River where it crosses US 221 in south east Ashe County. The river was way high but NRO agreed it was runnable.
On this trip we parked at the NRO lower lot and were shuttled upstream to the put-in. I had my solo canoe outfitted with flotation and the two Michaels rented sit-on-top kayaks. After a round of photographs, Brown and Cooper got in their boats. They politely waited in the water near the put-in for me to get in my boat. But the current quickly carried them away down river, under the tall bridge and out of sight around the curve.
I slid my boat down the steep, rocky and muddy bank to the water. There was no convenient place to stand, and from my location I was too high above the water to actually hold on to my boat. I stupidly did not hold onto a rope tied to the boat to keep it under control. As I lowered the boat the last foot into the water it pulled out of my hand. As I squatted lower to reach down, my foot slipped and I fell forward onto a rock. In one second the strong current pulled the boat away from the bank and out of my reach. When I turned to look down stream and tried to grab the boat I lost my balance and fell again. For the first time in my 57 year outdoor career, I had lost my boat and was stranded on the shore with no way to get it. All my gear was in the boat, including my wallet and Jeep keys. I was fearful that the empty boat would snag on a rock or tree, sink and never be found. I was truly up the creek without a paddle and semi-panicked.
I jumped in the river and half-swam, half-waded after the boat. The heavy current shoved me forward and the muddy water kept me from seeing the large rocks on the river bed. I was constantly knocked off balance, stumbled against big rocks and sank up to my neck. My canoe kept moving away faster. Soon it was at the river curve and almost out of sight. So I turned upstream and tried to get back to the put-in. This move engendered more banged knees and shins on big, invisible rocks. I switched paths and tried to walk on the bank. Steep, rocky, muddy banks caused more falls. When I got to higher ground, I was wading through poison ivy and briers. Finally at the put-in, both my legs were streaming with mud and blood and I was breathing as hard as if I had run a mile at top speed.
Luckily, I had my phone in my life jacket pocket. Further fortunatelly, it was in a water proof case. I called NRO and requested the shuttle driver to come pick me up and take me to the next bridge about three miles down stream. Then I called Brown but his phone was in his dry bag and he could not hear it ring. Most fortunately, he was wearing an Apple watch and heard it buzz. Eventually he dug out his phone; we connected and agreed to a plan. I directed him to pull over to the side of the river and wait for my boat to drift down to him. Actually, he is a strong paddler from years of rowing crew in college. So he paddled back upstream until my boat came into sight.
Brown corraled the loose boat, tied the painter (the rope atached to the bow (the front of the boat)] to his leg and wrangled it down stream. He was careful to pull my boat in close while going through rapids so it did not get stuck on a rock and pull his boat out of control. We finally met at the middle bridge. I was able to get back in my boat and paddle together to our next stop. At the New River State Park, US 221 Access, we pulled over and ate lunch at a camp site.
The rest of the day was uneventful and we had a pleasant paddle to the take-out at the NRO lower parking lot. A good time was had by all.
The weather was clear, sunny and warm on July 26, 2020, when I paddled my canoe on the New River in Ashe County. I hired the New River Outfitters in south east Ashe County to shuttle me up stream about 7 miles for their "intermediate" trip. I was paddling solo in my medium size Dagger Reflection 15. The river was medium high from recent rains so the current was moving well. With moderatle paddling mixed with coasting along to enjoy the scenery I made the trip in about 2.5 hours. Even with this fairly short mileage and time on the river, I still got several small blisters on my thumbs. Thankfully I had my Northwest River Supplies paddling gloves with me which I wore for the last two miles.
I did not see another canoe and few kayaks. The majority of river floaters were meandering along in rental inner tubes with attached tubes toting coolers full of beer. I was offered a cold beer by three groups so I took two of them.
One difference on this trip from prior outings I that I did not over pack gear. Traditionally I take every piece of equipment that I may need and have too much stuff. It is pain to tote around so much volume and weight of things. This time I only took true necessities, like a canteen of water and a camera. A good time was had with lots of exercise, fresh air and joking with the tubers.
On the sunny, hot day of July 12, 2020, I took a nice wooded hike on the Boone Fork Trail in Price Park, Watauga County, NC.
The most notable event was that due to recent rains and abnormally muddy trail, at one steep location I slipped and skinned my shin, knee and forearm.
On a more positive note I was using a new water bladder and drinking hose system that worked well.
The trip was good fun, good exercise and I saw many other hikers enjoying the outdoors with me.
Roan Mountain, TN, and the grassy balds for several miles to the north contain the biggest collection of native growing wildflowers of which I am aware in the Appalachian Mountains. Each year in mid June is the peak season of the blossoms of rhododendron, flame azalea, mountain laurel, bluets and other flowers. The Roan Mountain State Park on the west side of the mountain hosts the annual Rhodendron Festival at this time, on the weekend calculated to be closest to the peak. When I have attended the festival I was put off by the jammed crowds and absence of parking. This year I went on a Thursday and found the situation more comfortable.
There are three parts to the festival. First is the collection of food and craft booths at the park. Next is the Cloudland Gardens at the top of the mouuntain which has the most intense collection of rhodendrons. And last is the Appalachian Trail going north over the grassy balds which has the most variety of wild flowers and the most expansive views. Carvers Gap is the low area between Roan Mountain and the grassy balds. It is on the line between NC and TN. For this trip I skipped parts one and two, and hiked several miles on the A.T. The weather was solid fog the whole trip. I got some nice flower photos but no long scale scenic pictures.
On the last day of May, 2020, I took a hike on Grandfather Mountain. The route was on the Profile Trail from NC Hwy 105 most of the way to Calloway Gap at the top of the mountain.
This trip was my first real mountain hike in several years. Due to several illnesses, injuries and medical procedures – including two hip surgeries – plus getting older and fatter, I had lost most of my conditioning. Recently I would get out of breath walking up a set of stairs in a building. Thanks to many tennis matches and some town park trail walking this spring, I have regained some of that conditioning. Now that I am 68 years old, I probably will never again have the stamina I had in my thirties and forties [who does?] but at least things are improving.
Starting out I still had to stop and rest about every five minutes to settle my breathing, especially while climbing uphill. After a couple of hours I got acclimated and needed fewer rests.
Most of my time was spent fiddling with my fancy-dancy GPS. It is made for backpacking or canoeing trips far into the wilderness, so it is more complicated, and less use intuitive, than a vehicle GPS. It has all kinds of powerful functions that work outside cell phone range, like sending and receiving texts with friends, emergency rescue calls with your exact latitude and longitude location given, weather reports, planning routes, marking important spots on maps, showing your location, navigating and many kinds of status reports [such as how may miles to the next camp spot and how many hours to get there based on current travel speed].
I have had several similarly powerful backpacking GPS’s in the past, which were mostly as non-user friendly. I used them on numerous extended trips, like in Grand Teton National Park, Wind River Range Wilderness and Glacier National Park. But I was never able to make them fully functional. There was always some software or hardware component which I could not master.
The good news is today everything seemed to work. I did a number of tests which were all successful.
Now I need to get in even better physical shape so I can invite some friends to go with me and not be dragging behind the first two hours.
I have been physically attacked in my law office by a hot headed young man who I defeated in Court and embarrassed the day before.
At other times, I have been chased and bitten by big, mean dogs while mountain biking.
Once while backpacking in the Slickrock Creek Wilderness of the Nantahala National Forest I was harassed by a wild boar that walked through my camp.
Another time on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smokey Mountain Park I was followed by a black bear.
When backpacking on Grandfather Mountain I had a black bear come into my camp and try to take my breakfast.
While helping a legal client in the mountains of southwest Wilkes County to locate a disputed land boundary, the contentious neighbor walked up pointing a gun at us. [Follow up note: I made friends with the contentious neighbor and later ate lunch with him, sharing his home grown tomatoes with my cheese sandwiches!]
On all these occasions I did not have a gun, but I wished that I had.
So, about 15 years ago I acquired a pistol.
Since then I have bought, sold and traded many guns and I usually carry a concealed weapon.
The FBI officially publishes statistics which show every year in the USA about 10 million criminal assaults are committed against persons.
These crimes range from assault and battery to murder.
At the same times about 100 thousand persons defend themselves with a weapon to reduce or avoid the damage and injury.
A person without a defensive weapon is three times more likely to be injured or killed by a criminal perpetrator than a person carrying one.
I have made the decision to be one of those persons who protect themselves.
Another issue is why carry a weapon in seemingly safe places, like a church, restaurant or someone’s house.
The reality is that there is no safe place.
Every kind of criminal assault has occurred in every kind of venue in existence – in churches, restaurants, homes, open fields, forests and on the ocean.
The odds are tiny that I will need a gun for protection.
Like a car seat belt, the odds are tiny that I will be in a wreck.
But I can’t wait until the wreck is happening and then fasten my belt.
By then it is too late.
So, most of us wear our seat belt 100% of the time,
Similarly, when a criminal assault is happening, I can’t make the criminal wait for me to run back to my car to get a weapon.
And the time or place of the assault cannot be predicted in advance.
So, I wear my weapon pretty much all the time.
Finally, many persons have a pet animal, or hobby, or other pastime which gives them comfort and pleasure.
Those people with a dog often take the pet with them to public places to share the time and activity together.
I like guns.
It is fun for me to shop, buy, trade, target shoot, clean and carry my weapon.
So I do.
Years ago the DeLorme company of Maine invented a GPS device the size of two flip phones which held electronic copies of maps and could show you on the map screen where you were located. When combined with a computer the device could desgn routes and way points to plan and follow on wilderness trips. A few years later DeLorme invented a separate device that could send an SOS message to rescuers by satellite [without depending on cell phone signal] and crudely communicate with them by a tedious text messaging sytstem.
I had those two devices for years but they were so clunky and user un-friendly that every time I pulled them out to plan a trip I had to spend several hours re-learnign the procedures. Plus they were flaky, undependable and frequenlty failed to download the trip data from the computer to the GPS. When I would call their support department they would say there is no cure and to start over with planning the trip. Eventually I said good riddance.
Then a year or so ago the Garmin company bought the rights to these devices, combined then into one handheld unit and improved the systems. It is called the Garmin GPS Map 66i. This device is whiz bang unit and a game changer. It is about the size of a large flip phone. Like smart phones, it has many hundreds of features, some of which you may never find or use. But Garmin has packed a treasure trove of life saving and communication functions into a tiny space. The main thing it lacks is a touch screen.
But guess what? You can pair it with your smart phone and access that larger, clearer touch screen.
Among its features are: electronic copies of maps, including wilderness areas and city streets; marine maps; tide tables; GPS location system from satellites; access to smart phone keyboard and contacts list; blue tooth connection between devices; WiFi; several free smart phone apps that help manage the device; several free web sites that allows your computer to further manage the device; weather by satellite [a new feature]; route planning; placing way points; tracing a trip as you move so you can return to your starting point without planning a route; SOS to rescue agencies; two way texting with rescue agencies; and two way texting with friends without cell phone signal. The SOS signal is an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) that shows the agency your location. Some of these features require a service plan, similar to a cell phone service plan.
I recommend this device. Even if you never hike, backpack or canoe , it is a wonderful piece of safety equipment to keep in your car.