jump to navigation

My new book is out May 31, 2014

Posted by Jenny in fiction, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: ,
10 comments

Cover 2

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my new novel, The Twelve Streams of LeConte. It is available in both paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com.  It will also be available in local independent book stores over the next weeks.

Serious off-trail hikers will find in this book details of exploration on a major peak in the Smoky Mountains, Mt. LeConte.

Fans of adventure novels of the early 1900s will find a narrative interwoven with themes of a famous novel from the WWI era, John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Lovers of contemporary fiction will find a good story. Here is a brief synopsis:

Anne Woodrow is on honeymoon in Scotland when fate gives her a slap in the face: right then and there, her new husband falls in love with another woman. Injured and grieving, she returns home alone and conceives of a project of renewal. She will climb Mt. LeConte in the Smokies by way of the twelve streams that drain its slopes—a strenuous, dangerous activity.

She makes her way up the streams without benefit of a trail, scrambling beside shining cascades. Her companions on the stream journeys are a trio of crass and funny hiking pals. A relationship develops with a man—but it doesn’t turn out the way she expects.

The stream journeys are interwoven in an unconventional way with her experience of reading The Thirty-Nine Steps, published 1915. Its peculiar and shadowy scenes resonate with the events of her life.

The Twelve Streams of LeConte brings together mirroring worlds of adventure tales and mountains. It speaks the language of people who engage the landscape rather than admire it from a distance, and it unapologetically explores the life of a serious reader.

Advertisements

Interesting weather on Breakneck Ridge May 16, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Meteorology, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , , , , ,
22 comments
Beautiful sky.

A lively sky.

I woke up this morning to cool, clear, radiant skies. By 12:30 today, I was walking through sleet.

I didn’t know the weather would get so fantastically complicated.  The forecast called for clouds to develop later in the day and for possible showers overnight into tomorrow. To me, it looked like a great day for a hike.

I decided to take the Breakneck Ridge manway from Hyatt Ridge down to Three Forks, the place where the Left, Middle, and Right Forks of Raven Fork join and form the famous Big Pool. When I got down to the pool, I’d decide whether to retrace my steps or follow Right Fork around to a tributary that leads up to McGee Springs.

As it turned out, I made it about a third of the way on the manway before I decided to turn around because of the weather.

The temperature was 43 degrees at the Beech Gap trailhead on Straight Fork Road. Chilly! But the sun shone brightly and everything looked fresh and green.

Only a half hour passed before clouds dotted the sky. I’ve been trying to do a better job of understanding weather, and I said to myself, “Looks like those puffy convection clouds that form on clear spring days. It’s not a front coming in.”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It was neither (a) convection nor (b) a front coming in but (c) an upper-level disturbance associated with a short-wave trough (according to the “Scientific Forecaster Discussion” on my weather website).

I still had periods of sunshine on the upper Beech Gap trail.

I still had periods of sunshine on the upper Beech Gap trail.

Cold, gusty winds hit me when I reached Hyatt Ridge. I’d guess it was in the upper 30s.  I turned north on the trail and before long came to the eastern terminus of the manway. There are three ways you can find it: pay attention to the shape of the ridge, look for a landmark sugar maple, or find the piece of pink surveyor’s tape.

This maple with a see-through trunk is at the junction of the manway and the Hyatt Ridge trail.

This maple with a see-through trunk is at the junction of the manway and the Hyatt Ridge trail.

I didn’t need the tape to find the start of the manway, but it became helpful as I went along, especially since I’d never been on Breakneck Ridge before. I’m not crazy about surveyor’s tape, and I’ve been known to take it down in certain places, but this manway seems like the kind of place where tape is useful and appropriate. It helped that the pieces of tape were short and unobtrusive, unlike the long streamers you see sometimes.

I found three vintages of tape: a faded pink, a newer pink, and a blue. In places the manway was close to invisible.

Manway runs straight ahead. See it?

Manway runs straight ahead. See it?

In other places it was obvious.

In other places it was obvious.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of hog damage at the eastern end of the manway. I spotted a pair of the critters. They gave me a loud snort and trotted away.

Hogs have been rooting up the ground through this area.

Hogs have been rooting up the ground through this area.

The sky was getting quite dark.

Dim sky on the ridge.

Dim sky on the ridge.

A shower came through. It lasted about five minutes. But at that point I decided to turn around. The weather had changed so quickly that I figured anything could happen—including a hypothermia-inducing downpour. Reluctantly I retraced my steps.

Even with the fluctuating skies, I enjoyed being up in the enchanted forest above 5000′ in a very wild part of the Smokies, full of moss and gnarly old spruce and all kinds of thriving green plants.

 

Mini-garden at base of mossy old tree.

Mini-garden at base of mossy old tree.

Big swath of false Solomon's seal.

Big swath of false Solomon’s seal.

New beech leaves.

New beech leaves.

This yellow birch seemed more like a golden birch.

This yellow birch seemed more like a golden birch.

Light showers came and went, as if individual clouds were spattering moisture and moving on. I got back to the Hyatt Ridge trail, walked down to the Beech Gap trail, and heard a strange seething noise unlike rain. It was sleet pattering down on the leafed-out trees.

Violets and sleet pellets.

Violets and sleet pellets.

At lower elevations, it turned back to intermittent rain. When I got back home, I learned that LeConte received a dusting of snow.

It was a beautiful day, even though it didn’t turn out the way I expected. I’ll be back to continue my exploration of Breakneck Ridge.

The circular world of a fern.

The circular world of a fern.

A spring morning in the Smokies May 8, 2014

Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , ,
15 comments
Spring is the morning of the year.

The morning woods invite me in.

The Luftee runs straight toward a green vanishing point.

The Luftee runs straight toward a green vanishing point.

Kephart Prong tumbles toward the Luftee.

Kephart Prong tumbles toward the Luftee.

Geraniums.

Geraniums.

Phlox.

Phlox.

A pinkish phlox and a bluish phlox grow together.

Pinkish phlox and bluish phlox growing together.

Showy orchis.

Showy orchis.

Painted trillium.

Painted trillium. Everything in threes.

An encyclopedia of leaf shapes.

An encyclopedia of leaf shapes.

Flow of water and flow of sunlight.

Flow of water and flow of sunlight.

Toothwort.

Toothwort.

The valley of Grassy Branch lives up to its name.

The valley of Grassy Branch lives up to its name.

Bluets.

Bluets.

Arbutus pushes up from winter into spring.

Arbutus pushes up from winter into spring.

Spring beauties still thriving at 5500'.

Spring beauties still thriving at 5500′.

Witch-hobble.

Witch-hobble.

Morning sun shines on the serviceberry.

Plants, trees, and people all reach up toward the spring sunlight.