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I am devastated March 18, 2014

Posted by Jenny in Uncategorized.

I’m sorry to say that my companion of 15 years, Bob, has died suddenly from complications to do with cancer of the kidney. We parted five years ago but always deeply remained friends. He was a wonderful person with a unique sense of humor. We had many adventures together. I learned much from him about the geography of northern New England. I spoke with him last week, and he was talking about fishing the trout streams of the Smokies. I can’t even speak about it further. Something in me has died, too.

Early hikers of the SMHC March 16, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, camping, hiking, history, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: ,
The first outing of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, October 1924

On this outing October 18-19, 1924, hikers agreed to organize the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. Photo by Jim Thompson. (Click for zoom)

The photo above was taken at Cliff Top on Mt. LeConte. The group had a guide, Jim Eslinger, to help them find the way up the wild, rugged slopes of the mountain. From Knoxville, a trip to LeConte was generally an overnight outing in those days. Bear in mind this was well before the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the birthdate of the park is generally considered to be 1934, but land acquisition was not actually completed until 1938, and the park was not dedicated until 1940.

I don’t know which route the SMHC pioneers used to climb the mountain. My guess is they went up Bear Pen Hollow. I do read in Ken Wise’s book* that the founder and builder of LeConte Lodge, Jack Huff, used the Bear Pen route when he and his wife Pauline went up to the top. They hiked up the West Prong valley, forded the stream at Fort Harry, and spent the night at the hollow before climbing up.

Up at Cliff Top on that October 1924 trip, the hikers discussed and agreed to form a club that would work for protection of the “natural beauty” of the mountains. The names of the individuals on the outing are given at the bottom of this post. The SMHC was to become an important group in advocating for the creation of the park.

The first scheduled hike of the newly formed club was another trip up LeConte on December 6, 1924. I’m not surprised they chose to go up LeConte again. It’s an endlessly fascinating place.

I have a pamphlet that describes the 1926 SMHC program. The year after that, the club would begin to produce the multi-page handbooks that have continued to appear every year since then, even during WW2 when the hiking program was curtailed by gas rationing. During the war years, hikers were advised to take the Gatlinburg-Asheville bus, which went over Newfound Gap. Along the way, the bus could let them off at various points of interest—including Huggins Hell and Anakeesta Ridge!

Photo from 1942 handbook taken by Fred Beckman.

Photo from 1942 handbook taken by Fred Beckman. Names of hikers unknown. Situation very well known….

In 1926, hikers carpooled from Saunders System, 204 W. Church Ave., next to the Sentinel newspaper building. This appears to have been a car rental place that was succeeded by Dixie System for many years.

I’m going to quote a few paragraphs from the pamphlet. “Carry your canteen on all hikes. No fire arms allowed on hikes. All trails are being marked and numbered with our official emblem. [In bold face type:] Don’t expect the other fellow to carry your pack.

“Leaders should start slowly, and gradually work up to required speed. They must see that lunching places and camp sites are made clean. Burn all garbage and rubbish before leaving. Appoint some one to gather fire wood. The leader shall be in command of the party from the time of leaving until its return. The majority shall rule in case of storm or emergency when leader is undecided as to the best thing to do.”

“It is advisable to take a light-weight rain coat, and possibly a sweater, on all hikes. In cold weather it is best to wear a coat over your sweater, to give protection from the hard winds that are usually encountered on the mountains. Gloves and wool sox are also advisable. A study of the following equipment list may prevent your forgetting some important item of equipment: Canteen; Mess kit; Knife, fork and spoon; Matches, in air-tight tin; First aid kit; Axe; Lantern or candles; Compass; Nails; String; Field glasses.”

A list of recommended foods included: “Bacon; Bread; Butter; Cocoa; Cheese; Eggs; Ham; Evaporated milk; Chipped beef; Malted milk; Figs; Dates; Potatoes; Pancake flour; Jelly; Prunes; Sugar; Salt; Lemons; Apricots…”

There are many ways in which these recommendations differ from our present-day hiking and camping practices!

A sample hike from the 1926 pamphlet: “Alum Cave. Trail No. 1, 2 and 3. Circle trip from Gatlinburg via Mt. LeConte and returning via Indian Gap Trail. Total distance 15 miles of hard hiking. A trip only a few persons have made. Leave Knoxville Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Spend Saturday night on Mt. LeConte. Sleeping accommodations on top of mountain.  Bring food for three meals. Leader, Albert Roth, old phone 6173-J.”

* Kenneth Wise, Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996.

The hikers in the topmost photo are, left to right, Charley Barber, Frank Wilson (seated), Baxter Gass,  Guy Barber, Charley Kane, Charley Lester, Marshall Wilson, Louise Smith, Caesar Stair, Douglas Smith, Besse Geagley, George Barber, W.H. McCroskey, and Carlos Campbell. Also on the trip were T.S. McKinney, A.L. Chavannes, Neal Spahr, Hugh White, Jim Eslinger (guide), and Jim Thompson (photographer).

Photo titled "Getting a close-up of a flower" by Wylie Bowmaster. The name of the pictured photographer isn't known. From 1938 handbook. photographer

Photo titled “Getting a close-up of a flower” by Wylie Bowmaster. The name of the pictured photographer isn’t known. From 1938 handbook.

A particularly happy kind of life March 6, 2014

Posted by Jenny in Lifestyle, nature, poetry.
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Kalaloch beachI want to share a short poem by Gary Snyder.


Those picnics covered with sand

No money made them more gay

We passed over hills in the night

And walked along beaches by day.

Sage in the rain, or the sand

Spattered by new-falling rain.

That ocean was too cold to swim

But we did it again and again

I especially like the way there is no period at the end. That allows “again and again” to keep going onward into a cycle of happiness.

Think of the simplicity of this life. Think of all the things people think they need in their lives, and how those things are not present here.

This poem is more structured than most of Snyder’s work. It has a consistent three-beat pattern, and the second and fourth lines of the stanzas rhyme.   Many of his poems play with blank space on the page, odd typography. You could say they are free-range poems.

At the age of 83, he can look back on an extraordinarily adventurous and interesting life. Grew up on a farm, worked on a trail crew in Yosemite, studied Zen Buddhism in Japan in the Fifties before Zen became part of the counterculture, worked in the engine room of a Pacific tanker, went to India with Allen Ginsberg, and on and on.

In his poems you find the shadows of junipers, men chopping wood, a typhoon in a bamboo grove, truckloads of hay, a roadhouse in Alaska, sky over endless mountains

Cedar Creek Abbey Island Ruby Beach