Archive for September, 2013

Hiking Sticks

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 17, 2013 by wordsandpixels

Hiking is easier with hiking sticks or poles. Hikers, like many passionate about their interest, can get pretty technical about which set of hiking poles is best.

“The Frasmus 1000XCV is my favorite,” you will hear some say, “it has ballistic nylon wrappings, gold-plated titanium tips for better gripping power in 75-degree weather and helium-filled shafts for lighter weight.”

Well, OK. Maybe it’s not as bad as that.

But you get the point. A stout wooden stick, however, is seen by some as stubbornly old-fashioned. The trouble with many wooden sticks is that they are heavy. They’re also not friendship sticks. What’s that you say? You don’t have a set of friendship imagesticks? Horrors!

We are lucky enough to have two carefully-crafted hiking/friendship sticks, recently custom made for us by a skilled woodworker in Wilmington, NC, a certain Monsieur G. E. Montiere III, P.C., NYSE, and Topsail Island. He fashioned them from crepe myrtle, a small bush/tree that grows like wildfire. The resulting branches are light, yet strong. You can carve your initials in them when you’re sitting by the fire at night. Using them is a breeze. One of the advantages of a hiking stick over poles is you always have a hand free to grab a tree as you’re sliding down a hill, or some other similar crisis.

So, before you spend a hundred bucks on your next set of poles, look around and see if you can locate a crepe myrtle bush. Cut off a stick of your desired length. Varnish with three coats of Epiphanes varnish. Go forth and be happy.


On The Road Again…..

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 10, 2013 by wordsandpixels

Well, the doctors seem happy. They said, “Go hike.” Cautiously, of course.

So I’m hitting the trail again for a few weeks, this time with my wife, Ann. We’re starting by heading down to Wilmington NC to visit good friends MaryAnn and Gary, then driving west seven hours to the trail.

It will be a completely different experience hiking with my love and friend of 30 years. As you will read in an upcoming profile of me in “The Wall Street Journal,” there are as many different ways to hike the trail as there are hikers who hike it. And hikers of, ahem, a certain age can and should do it differently than their younger counterparts.

imageSo we will be staying in hostels and B&B’s as much as possible. We’ll eat in good restaurants once in a while. And we’ll even resort to “day hiking” from time to time, using places similar to Aquone Hostel in Aquone NC as a “base camp” and hiking the AT in daily, easy digestible chunks.

Aquone is an example of how an AT hostel should be designed, built and run. Steve Bennett hiked the AT in 2010 and recognized an opportunity when he saw it. Many of the hostels were fine for the younger crowd, he felt, but distinctly unappealing for the 50-plus crowd. He carefully researched locations and bought some property in the middle of Nantahala National Forest. He started by building one cabin at first, log by log, then another and finally a third. They are stunningly beautiful, neat, clean and exactly what the doctor ordered. His lovely wife Maggie joined him after the first cabin was built and plays an active role in the business.

Packs and poles are left outside. Hikers are asked to shower upon arrival. Steve or Maggie will even loan you a nice silk lounging outfit while your laundry is being done. You can cook your own dinner, barbecue outside or sit down at the dinner table with other hikers and enjoy Maggie’s wonderful home cooking. Meatloaf, for example, was moist, succulent and totally unlike the dry example of the dish I try to make at home. Yummy.


The next day, Steve or Maggie will drive you to one of three or four drop-off points and bid you a temporary farewell. Then, fitted only with a daypack, you can hike quickly and sure footedly over a mountain and through the beautiful surrounding fields, only to be picked up again at the end of the day, brought back to the hostel, where the beautiful cycle will repeat itself.

Ahhh, the joys of middle aged backpacking.