Monday, May 23, 2022

Giving Back - an Announcement

I would appreciate feedback and will be seeking it. I'm announcing that I intend to develop and offer a comprehensive course on Day Hiking the Appalachian Trail, with application to any long-distance trail, and with emphasis not just on logistics, preparation, and execution, but on getting the most out of the experience--how to find peace of mind and a transformed outlook on life by immersing in the serenity of nature.

In conjunction with this course, I will be releasing my long-delayed hike memoir about my 2012 double Appalachian Trail hike. I am the only person in the world who has hiked the AT twice in one year without camping--that is, by doing all of it in 270 out-and-back day hikes. The first one was on January 1st and I finished on November 3rd. It was a truly transformative experience, and through the following years I have come to deeply appreciate the value of regularly getting out and 'setting down Footprints in the Wilderness'.

As I develop this course, I will be asking friends and fellow hikers for their input, and as it is actually being offered, I hope to join class graduates as they hike the AT in 2023. More news to come.

Now, as a bonus for those who visit this blog, here are some other recent Appalachian Trail scenes and recent photos of new blooms seen along the AT and around the Cloister at Three Creeks.
Solomon's Seal - loaded with flower buds
a very similar, closely related plant, the Canadian May-lily
Virginia waterleaf
a cluster of pink Lady's slippers.  Enough for four ladies!
Yellow Lady's Slipper
up close and personal
Wild azaleas at an AT viewpoint
Wild geraniums and Ohio Spiderwort along the AT
Tulip tree blossom, Liriodendron tulipifera
a closer look
Rare and very unusual four- and five-fingered Sassafras leaves

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Hiking Hermit - After two years in the woods, it's time to come back...

Footprints in the Wilderness:

Over the past twelve years, I've come to understand how transformative hiking in wild places can be.

There's the pure joy of being in the place, in the moment. There are the well-documented health benefits, both mentally and physically. And there are the connections, to people and to nature, to wild places and what they mean to people, to new and vivid ways of understanding the world and our place in it.

I began this experience climbing a 20,000 foot moiuntain in South America back in January 2010 after more than two years of whipping myself into shape. That was a bucket list achievement, but it didn't feel like an end.

I was in top physical form and never felt better. I wasn't going to go back to being a couch potato. In order to retain the clear health benefits I was experiencing, I started hiking trails around a big reservoir near home. The hikes grew in length and in purpose. By fall of 2011 I had decided I was going to try to hike the entire Appalachian Trail both ways in a calendar year. I (finally) have a book coming out about the experience, to be released in a couple months.

The AT hike was truly transformative for me in a multitude of ways; and I've met and witnessed the transformation of many other fellow hikers who were on the trail with me. Many of them have turned to a hiker oriented life style as a result. Their whole lives have been infused with new and wonderful purpose, finding a way to do what they love for a living, giving back to the trail community what they have gained.

For me, the transformation sent me on an even greater hiking quest than the AT. I undertook to hike to the doorstep of every one of nearly two dozen places that I've called home throughout my life--making a physical connection to them all on foot. I hiked over 20,000 miles in the process, reaching places like coastal North Carolina, Key West Florida, the upper peninsula of Michigan, and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado--all connected by a continuous trail of footprints. Finally in fall of 2019 I accomplished that goal just in time for the world's sad transformation brought about by Covid.

In part in response to Covid, and in part simply following my gut, I then chose to walk away from society and the mess that it had become. I settled in the woods, sort of like Thoreau did at Walden Pond, and began another transformation--more of a spiritual one but also a very practical one. I gained an understanding of who I was and how I fit in to the great scheme of nature--from the tiny filaments of fungi helping to feed the roots of trees, to the cosmic filaments sprawled across the universe connecting clusters of galaxies with one another stretching through all known time and space.

It has taken two years of combined contemplation and decompression, but the transformation now seems complete. I begin to feel that it is time to return to society, acting as an ambassador from the Wilderness, in order to help other people find the kind of deep serenity and purpose that I have found.

In this video, presented as a rambling discussion as I hiked on a hot day in the woods, I share my thinking about some of the ideas I have that can help people find their own transformation. It's just the germ of the process--the very first stage. I hope to more fully organize and flesh out what I will offer--what I will do--in future talks. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

May 17th -- Ladies Day

On a beautiful sunny mid-May day at 3200 feet elevation near the Appalachian Trail and about three miles from the Cloister at Three Creeks, I spent the day on another of my nature quests.

Today I was looking for the hard-to-find wild orchid known as the Lady Slipper. The pink variety, Cypripedium acaule is far more common here, and today I saw several dozens in three separate locations, including the deepest pink variety I've ever seen. It was almost red.

But today's big prize were the rare yellow lady's slippers, Cypripedium parviflorum.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Catawba Rhododendron blooming, declaring the beginning of summer

Yep, summer has arrived at the Cloister at Three Creeks, and its only early May.

No, don't give me any of your technical gobble-de-gook. Just open your eyes and look around. Listen to the birdsong echoing off the rich, fresh green forest canopy. Take a deep breath. Inhale the scents of the woods come fully alive again on a misty, damp May 6th morning ... and you *know*.

Friday, May 6, 2022

The strange, the scary, the sublime: May 5th

The strange: A Monster Violet plant.

The scary: almost stepping on a Rattlesnake, just minutes after photographing the first bloom of Rattlesnake Weed (how aptly named is *that* ?!!!)

The sublime: basking in the multi-sensory experience of the spring woods at the Cloister at Three Creeks.

Below are some of the featured photos from the video, for blog viewers to peruse at their leisure.

Daisy Fleabane, in the aster family: Erigeron annuus

Shagbark hickory

Wild Yam: Dioscorea villosa

Wild azalea plant in peak bloom, photo-bombed by a passing Black Swallowtail butterfly

Black Swallowtail at rest, sunning on a rock.

Rattlesnake weed, first bloom: Hieracium venosum

Very distinctive leaves of Rattlesnake weed.  It is such an aptly named plant--it shares an ecosystem with rattlesnakes and blooms at the same time that the reptiles come out of their winter dens.

First rattlesnake sighted right on the grounds of the Cloister.  I suspect this is the same one who frequented the grounds all last summer--a big old gal or fella with 8 or 9 rattle segments.

First Mountain Laurel bloom of the new season--this plant's bloom, for me, has always heralded the start of SUMMER!  But it's May 5th!

Second Mountain Laurel bloom, just opening

Oxeye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare, an import from Europe

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Five feature flowers, and a photo bombing bug

Five short videos featuring five flowers.

The first is the size of Indian Pipes, with the same general form and shows no green, just like Indian Pipes, but it is not Indian Pipes. My internet searching at the time I made the video came up with no ID, but a more careful search the next day, after revisiting the plant and studying it, turned up the ID:

It is One-Flowered Broomrape, Orobanche uniflora. It is parasitic on herbacious plants such as asters and saxifrages.

The second is Mayapple, featured to celebrate May Day. Third is Anise Root, a member of the carrot family, whose tissue carries a strong anise/licorice scent. Fourth is a close-up look at Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum. Finally I found a Mountain Laurel that is almost ready to burst into bloom, which was a surprise, and probably more evidence of climate change shifting the seasons.