What a great winter it is!

How about this. Another "weekend" snow storm! Great timing.

Instead of calling in to work to say the raods are too bad, we can go skiing!

Last weekend’s snow storm was another good time.

 Cross-country skiing on top of Roan Mountain, 6,000 + feet elevation.  It has been too long since I went cross-country skiing on top of Roan Mountain.

 The antique 1980’s cross-country skis that I still use, were noticed and commented on.






And don’t forget next weekend’s Winter Naturalist’s Rally, Saturday at Roan Mountain. Great Outdoor Education:  brochureregistration

Registrater by Feburary 9.

Outdoor Adventure and Learning at the Winter Naturalists ‘ Rally

The days are getting longer.
The sun seems to shine brighter.

Let’s go outside and do something!

If you have blown your recreation budget on lift tickets already, then I have a deal for you!

Saturday, February 13, The Friends of Roan Mountain Annual Winter Naturalists’ Rally

Jam packed into one day are: three speakers (INDOORS) and choice of two hikes (OUTDOORS)

Go here: Winter Rally Brochure

Go here: Registration

Kid friendly, and always a learning experience!

I hope to see you ON THE MOUNTAIN!

Mountain Artists and Craftspeople – Studio Tour December 5 – 6

The wonderful Southern Appalachian Mountains have been the source of inspiration for many artists and craftspeople for generations.


This weekend, December 4 -5 -6, 2009 you can meet the artists and see where they do their thing. Learn more about the Toe River Arts Council here.

Go here to get you map of the Toe River Arts Council studio tour map.  More than seventy studios are open for your exploration.

Start early. Open studio hours are only 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

Centrally located in the heart of the western North Carolina mountains, Yancey and Mitchell Counties have some of the best kept secrets in the Blue Ridge Mountains.



Notice: some studios are "artisticially" located.  Good walking shoes are a good idea. A navigator with an open mind for roads less travelled is good too.


Roan Mountain Goat Project – Update

On Labor Day weekend, I had the honor and the privilege to be a temporary goatherd.  Yes, I know what you are saying: “Why?”

Baa-tany Goat Project - Year two on Roan  Higlands.

  Baa-tany Goat Project.

This is the second year of the Baa-tany Goat Project to restore the grassy balds on the Roan Highlands.  This is along the Appalachian Trail from Carver’s Gap, at the North Carolina – Tennessee state line to the slope of Grassy Ridge to the east.

Why? Because I see what will be lost in a few short years if nothing is done.  Jamey Donaldson is the research biologist in charge of the Baa-tany Goat Project.  He presented a pictorial record at one of the Naturalists’ Rallies.  You could see and compare the pictures for yourself.  Or, if you have hiked the grassy balds over  any length of time, you have seen for yourself the ever invasive blackberries growing where there used to be open grassy areas.  If you get a chance to see Jamey’s presentation, you will be stunned by how rapid the invasion really is.

So that is why I am interested in helping with the Baa-tany Goat Project.  By goat-sitting for a weekend, Jamey got to go off the mountain for a while.  I got to camp in the gap between Grassy Bald and Jane Bald. And do a little bit to help restore and preserve these wonders.

 Xtreme Roan Adventures

What a great day!

Saturday, August 1, Friends of Roan Mountain held their first Youth Naturalists’ Rally. Xtreme Roan Adventures logo 2009 hiking to the goats logo 2009

Listen to these enthusiastic kids after a full day on the mountain and ending their day with a 3 mile hike over the grassy balds: [display_podcast]

Register now for the 47th annual

Fall Naturalists’ Rally

coming September 11-13: Friends of Roan Mountain.

Schedule of activities here.

‘see you on the mountain.



What’s your Barn Score?

The other day as I was enjoying the ride from home to the Post Office, I noticed new surveyor’s stakes in a field around an old wooden barn. Another farm is being turned into a subdivision.

 doomed barn - future subdivision

Then I started counting how many wooden barns are left for me to enjoy seeing on my way from home to the Post Office.

The Barn Score was invented.

It is really simple and fun to find your Barn Score. Simply count how many wooden barns you go by between where you live and the nearest traffic light.

If you go by five old wooden barns before you get to the nearest traffic light, your Barn Score would be "5".

Now the rules have not been ratified by the international committee yet, so they are left up to each individual. It is up to the integrity of each individual player to interpret these rules.

    •What qualifies as an old wooden barn?
     •When you say “go by” do they have to be on the road or just visible from the road?
     •What about an old wooden barn that is part metal?
     •If the old wooden barn is half fallen down does that count as a half point?

The nearest traffic light rule keeps you from driving out of the way to avoid the traffic light and pad your score.

For those who live in a barn-deficient area, the scoring is similar but in reverse. How many traffic lights are between your home and the nearest wooden barn?  This of course is a negative Barn Score. If you pass eight traffic lights before you get to the nearest wooden barn, your score is “minus 8”.

Why is it important? Because, they are putting up more traffic lights and they are taking down old wooden barns. It is important to know your Barn Score now. That way you will know the rate of “progress” by how fast your score drops.

Our church has an annual Lord’s Acre Craft Sale every October. The most popular craft items are things made from "old barn wood".  We found our about a small barn that was going to be torn down to make room for a school bus turn-around. 

We jumped at the chance to get another supply of "old barn wood".  The 25 foot tall oak timbers, although sawmill cut, were pegged together!  Our best guess at the age of the barn is between 1870 and 1920 vintage.  If only we had more time, manpower and equipment. But I guess that is why it is easier and cheaper to tear them down.

If this starts you noticing more old wooden barns and appreciating them, then you have won. No matter what your score.

The next time you are leaving home, see if you can discover your Barn Score




Trail Days 2009 – Damascus VA

Damascus Virginia once again hosted a three day festival of Appalachian Trail experiences.
This is the place to check out the latest in ultra-lite hiking tents and hammocks. All these were displayed along the Appalachian Trail that runs through the park in Damascus.
And there were evening slideshows, thru-hiker talks, music, dancing and sharing AT experiences in general.

equipment vendor - Speer Hammocks

Here is Ed Speer of Speer Hammocks discussing hammock camping with some AT hikers. Interested hikers were checking out the many subtle variations of hammock design and accessories.

In addition to hiking equipment vendors, there were hordes of food vendors and craft tents.
Deep fried Oreo cookies anyone?
You need to get your energy boosted for the inter-active parade at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.

I don’t know who started it or when, but there is tradition of water balloons and squirt guns from both paraders and parade watchers.
It has usually been hikers in the parade versus the hikers not in the parade in the water-balloon and squirt gun battles.
But the excitement is contagious and cannot be contained.  Everyone, fire trucks, beauty queens and classic cars got at least sprinkled while parading through town.

The big battle was the hikers. I mean we are talking about massive roof top ambushes and pint-sized assaults from knee level.  I’m glad it was a warm and sunny day on Saturday.

experienced parader with massive 5-gallon squirting bandjo

This guy was an experienced Trail Days parader.

Why take a puny squirt gun for a parade all the way through town. You will empty it in the first block. Then you are just a target like everyone else.  Why not take five gallons in a pressurized long-range squirting banjo?

Mark your calendar and your Appalachian Trail maps for the 2010 Trail Days, Damascus VA.

What are those Night Sounds? – March 2009

While camping in Virginia on an exceptionally warm weekend , I recorded some “night sounds”.

Here they are.

Now check out this really cool site that has audio clips that identify frog sounds: Leaps.org

I think I recorded Spring Peeper and Upland Chorus frogs. What do you think?

Of course the Leaps identification page has recordings from Tennessee and my recordings were of Piedmont Virginia.  Regional dialects may apply.

In Praise of Trekking Poles – February 2009

I was given a pair of aluminum, adjustable trekking poles last year.  They stayed in the Jeep. Each time I went hiking I would remember them when I was too far along the trail to go back to get them.

This time I remembered them before the hike to top of Roan Mountain in January. Roan Mountain is on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, elevation 6,285 feet.

There had been snow the week before. There had been hikers and cross-country skiers on the Appalachian Trail too.  The snow had been packed down and partly melted and refrozen. The result was crushed ice.

Testing the conditions at the trail head I discovered that walking uphill on crushed ice was not easy. Each foot plant was unsure. Each push off was uncertain.  It made for some slower than expected going.

This is when I remembered the trekking poles.Trekking poles look similar to ski poles. They have a molded handle with wrist strap at one end and a sharp tip with a basket at the other end. The big difference is that the middle part is adjustable. I found this was really useful.

Compared to the gloves and multiple layers of clothing, the poles hardly weighed anything. These light aluminum poles are feather light. The molded cork grips are a natural fit to my gloved hand.

After some experimenting with the adjustable heights, I was on the trail.  Not exactly swiftly but surely.

Each foot was placed steadily and much more confidently.  The poles provided a sure balance and helped to check for ice hidden under the snow. I never fell. My foot did slip several times, but my stability was saved by the trekking poles. I never hit the ground.

I can now recommend these light, collapsible poles. They pack easily and they hardly weigh anything. They give excellent aid on the uncertain footing. Maybe I’ll move them to the day pack.

I’m still not convinced that they help take weight off of your feet while you are hiking, like the advertisements say, but when you are on a slippery slope they can sure save you from some painful souvenirs.