Y’all come sit by the fire now…it’s story time! (Tales, Poems, and Songs for the Appalachian Trail Hiker)

What’s a hike along the Appalachian Trail without a good fireside tale?  Let Robert W. Service (1874-1958), known as “the Bard of the Yukon,” warm your bones with this classic chiller poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee.

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Fear, Hiking, Long distance backpacking, outdoors, Poetry, stories

It’s hard to leave a trail town…

Thanks to Sarah and Jay for the tasty tip and positive review of one of the many eateries on the Appalachian Trail!

Sarah and Jay on the Appalachian Trail

March 24, 2017

Midmorning, leaving Hot Springs, NC, brunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner called to us. Deviating from the trail slightly, we left our packs on the back porch, and came inside to discover every table filled! As we stood in the doorway, wondering whether we’d be eating trail food for breakfast, a lady about our age beckoned us over and said, “I’ll share my table, if you want.” We didn’t need to be told twice! We quickly sat down and introduced ourselves. Maureen was visiting the town with friends, and seemed enchanted to share a breakfast table with two thru-hikers. We, on the other hand, were delighted to spend time with a person whose interests were wide-ranging and varied. The conversation was lively and diverse.

When we each ordered two entrees from the menu, Maureen’s eyes bugged out a bit, then her expression cleared. ”Oh, will you be…

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April 1, 2017 · 2:05 pm

Snow Foolin’ – Stranded in a snow storm – Part 2

Flashback Friday: “And now you know…the rest of the story.” (thanks to Paul Harvey)

Write in Front of Me

4483304418_b593702a56_z Photo courtesy of Raymond Shobe at Flickr

Since nothing betters the disposition like hot soup, I put some on the stove in quick order.  I mulled my state of affairs over as the brew simmered. I was grounded on the summit in a snowstorm, the extent of which I could only speculate.  I had checked the weather forecast before setting out and no storms were imminent.  Yet, I harbored no illusions.  I realized New England mountain conditions could wax volatile and cruel abruptly.  I was in for a doubtful spell of waiting.  As this was my first day on a week-long trip, I was provisioned with ample food.  I reckoned if the situation turned dire I would break into the summit house, set off the alarm, and precipitate a rescue.  Hopefully that would summon help.

The tram cables screeched long into the night and into a foggy Monday morning. The winds…

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Snow Foolin’ — Stranded in a snow storm – Part 1

Flashback Sunday: though winter is “officially” over, I’m reminded how fickle and unpredictable it can be!

Write in Front of Me

English: Photographer: HanumanIX

As I mounted the North flank of Jay Peak in Vermont it became plain that I was going to be snowed in.  During my climb ponderous clouds unleashed snowfall.  The wind lashed ice pellets at my face with shotgun blast intensity.  My breathing was strained, my hands were losing sensitivity, and my field of vision was diminished to mere feet.

I knew the crest was within reach in about ten more minutes of hiking.  Even so, I knew that if conditions continued to worsen at the rate I observed them, the trail would become concealed in a torrent of white and I would be stumbling for direction in a blizzard.  Instantly I knew what it felt like to be apprehended by a blizzard without reference points.

I fished my compass from my pocket and formed my best calculation, slogging forward through drifts of snow which threatened to bury the way…

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Courage, Decision making, Hiking, Hiking in snow, Living, outdoors, risk, snow storms, Writing

Jack and Wayne and the Nine City Southern Appalachian Bus Tour

Remembering Jack and Wayne along the Appalachian Trail!

Write in Front of Me

Jack and Wayne lookalikes.jpgThis is neither Jack nor Wayne.  It is the Real Hiking Viking.  But, when I look at him it reminds me of the wonderful wildness that was Jack and Wayne, and they looked very much like him.

The story you are about to read is true; photographic existence of the parties mentioned has yet to be discovered.

Straight up and down; then straight up and down again! Georgia trail maintainers seemed clueless about the need for switchbacks on the Appalachian Trail, which made the footpath through the infamous Georgia gaps more of a roller-coaster endurance test than a pleasant trail. Fortunately for backpackers and hikers tracing the AT through the southern Appalachians Jack and Wayne were there.  Or maybe not.

Jack and Wayne appeared with a shock – all laughs and boisterousness – on day three of my hike. The rigors of the trek had thinned the crowd into…

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Comedy, Dreams, Hiking, Laughter, Living, Outdoor sports, outdoors, Walking

“I want to go hiking, where do I start?”

As the backpacking and hiking season warms up and you’re wondering about hiking and where to begin, let Carolinatrekker be your guide!

Carolina Trekker

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“I want to go hiking, where do I start?”

I get asked this question – or a variation of it – A LOT. I guess for some of us, just knowing where we to go hiking and how to get started is something we take for granted. In my years of hiking, I’ve come to realize most people didn’t grow up on a rural, heavily wooded tract of land where you could hike every day like I did. They didn’t have relatives to teach them how to camp like I did. They didn’t have anyone to teach them about gear, or how to read a map. The great advantage to those getting into hiking today is the internet. It wasn’t that long ago that you had to do a little leg work to obtain a map or a field guide ( or guide book). Now, we can log onto…

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Appalachian Trail wisdom: “Cronin’s Law”

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Photo courtesy wesbl at Flickr

As late winter snow falls gently outside my window, my thoughts wander to the Appalachian Trail.  I open my WordPress blog reader and check on the brave souls who have already departed Springer Mountain for Katahdin.  My mental Rolodex flips past the memory of a number of people I backpacked with.  Most I remember quite a bit about.  A few hold a more tenuous slot.  Many hikers and backpackers I remember for what they did, and what they said.  But one stand out for his economy of words and actions; so much so that it has left a permanent impression which haunts me to this day.  His name was Mike Cronin.

What little I remember about Mike is that he was from New England, a resident of the Boston area.  And though I never personally heard him say it, I remember the six words credited to him which I would catalog in the category of genuine “trail wisdom.”

It came to be known as “Cronin’s Law.”  It is still as valid today as it ever was.

Having slogged over a sweltering sweaty week through the Georgia “hills” along the AT, I was impressed with two realities: the lack of switchbacks (the trail simply went straight up and straight down!), and how it seemed it took forever to reach a summit.  There were no signs which said “Summit in one mile” or anything like it.  On reflection, I suppose such things would have driven hikers half mad with frustration and unfulfilled anticipation.  Best to leave such things alone!

Dealing with the switchbacks was relatively easy, since my lower body strength was more than adequate to the muscle-burning task.  On the other hand, I suffered from the company of a few hiking companions who seemed more than impatient with making dramatic progress and who expected to enjoy attaining the “peak” experience in rapid time.  Should the trail wind or meander on the uphill side far too long  (which it often did) they would commence to spit and curse and often grouse “When are we going to reach the top?!”  Now, while I agreed with their sentiment and appreciated their desire, I also knew that you cannot force nature and geology and trail dynamics to acquiesce to your whim.

“We’ll get there when we get there,” I said, or something like it.  And while we eventually made each and every summit, it was not without the price of enduring their swearing and complaining and whining about how long it took to get to the top.

Enter “Cronin’s Law.”

A backpacking companion informed me about Mike’s method for dealing with “summit attainment frustration.” He call it “Cronin’s Law.” On hearing it, I quickly adapted those six magic words and became somewhat of a trail evangelist by spreading the gospel according to Mike Cronin.

It seems that adapting “Cronin’s Law” helped a hiker stop looking up expecting the peak to be just around the next tree or boulder.  Expectation could be tempered with patience and it would than be easy to simply enjoy the moments of the hike, to let go, and let the eventual arrival at the mountaintop happen when it would.  I experimented with the simple method and found it helped me greatly to be “in the now” wherever I was on the trail, instead of feeling the pressure to “bag peaks” or “make miles.”

Henceforth, whenever I heard other hikers and backpackers crank up the complaining I would say gently: “Remember Cronin’s Law.”

After the glaze melted from their stare they would ask me what that was.

Clearing my throat and smiling benevolently, I explained.

“Never assume you’re at the top.”

“That it?!” they would ask.

I nodded.

It appeared Cronin’s Law was unacceptable madness, and they sputtered and sweated and turned away, trudging down the trail leaving behind a string of verbal invectives.

In the silence which descended, I said the words softly out loud.

“Never assume you’re at the top.”

At that, I smiled again and resumed my hike.

While few others adapted this trail wisdom, I found it useful – especially when I entered the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where the “top” took a  long time coming.  I look back fondly over those words, which make up what little I know or remember of Mike Cronin after all these years.

I offer them to you, gentle reader, in the hope that when you encounter the slippery slope and elusive peak along a trail which twists and turns and seemingly mocks your efforts to win altitude, that you will find solace and expectation that you will attain your goal.  You will at last stride proudly to the summit, caressed by a cooling breeze, the echo of “Cronin’s Law” having been a part of what enabled you to stand where your hiking boots find you.

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