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Jenny in her native habitat. Photo by Dave Landreth.

I’ve been climbing to the tops of mountains for about the past 30 years.  You might say I’m a bit obsessed with mountains.

I graduated from a small college in Sarasota, Florida, called New College.  Picture 400 or so smart, slightly geeky students against a backdrop of large palm trees.  I majored in philosophy because I loved the subject, but never went to grad school in it, which is what we philosophy majors are supposed to do.

After some years of intensive meandering and somehow obtaining a master’s degree in creative writing, I suddenly found myself writing about the coal market for a small publishing company in Knoxville, Tennessee.  This was caused  by a collision of circumstances from which I emerged unscathed—even better off.  It led to writing about international coal markets for McGraw Hill in Washington and then for the London Financial Times.  I got to travel all sorts of interesting places—anywhere that either buys or sells coal—including Brazil, Colombia, India, Australia, Indonesia, and many countries in Europe.

Jenny and others on Toxaway Creek, Feb. 2010

My editor was a jolly and talented man named Gerard McCloskey who not only hobnobbed with producers from Sydney and traders from Rotterdam, but who also understood my interest in mountains and lent me some old dogeared guidebooks that enabled me to explore the Lake District and Scotland.  I will always be grateful to Gerard.  What is more important, he got to the top of some frightening peaks in North Wales and the Isle of Skye that I would probably be too chicken to climb.

In 2001, after writing about the coal market for 18 years, I decided I would like to do something different.  I moved on to the logical next step of being a landscape designer specializing in environmentally correct plantings: native species, no invasives, compost rather than bagged fertilizers.

In 2004 I came down with pneumonia after a frigid episode of cross-country skiing in northern Vermont.  In the months it took to recuperate, I rediscovered an old interest in military history: specifically the Civil War, followed by the Boer War.  After I recovered from my pneumonia, I travelled to South Africa and wrote a book about the Boer War.


Sierras, 1998

Since 1980 or so, all of these peculiar activities have been paralleled by many jaunts into the mountains.  The Smokies were my formative influence, involving rockhopping (off trail) up rhododendron-choked streams in dark mysterious forests of giant tulip poplars and hemlocks.  But there were also the New England 4000 Footers (regular flavor and in winter), Colorado Fourteeners, the Sierras, and the Catskills.

I am now a freelance editor with my own company called Summer Afternoon Editing Co. My novel The Twelve Streams of  LeConte will be released June 2014, and my mystery set in the Smokies, Murder at the Jumpoff, was released March 2012.  I am also the proud author of a work of nonfiction about the Boer War, Transvaal Citizen.

I live in Sylva, North Carolina.


1. Laurence Hunt - November 23, 2008

Hi Jenny,

Found your blog no problem.

Susan wants to know if Bob literally climbs mountains, the technical stuff, etc., as she has been learning rock climbing.

2. Jenny - November 24, 2008

Bob and I go up to about Class 3 in the Yosemite system. In other words, we can scramble, but we don’t do technical climbing. I did a bit of rock climbing when I was in my early 30’s (probably the hardest thing I did was around 5.6). I did not have a good enough head for heights to enjoy it, and that limits the scrambling to places without extreme exposure, too. Bob and I are roughly equivalent in our degree of chickendom, though he and I are sometimes bothered by different things. I can do a knife-edge ridge if it is solid, but sometimes steep gravelly slopes really bother me. Since I like off-trail navigation, my idea of the perfect outing out west is to find a way way up into a high valley and climb up a talus field or a ridge or a grassy slope to a summit. My post called “The valley of Crystal Peak” describes the sort of valley I like.

3. Karen Brackett - July 11, 2009

My name is Karen Brackett. I am a hiker/trail maintainer with the SMHC, as well as an artist. I stumbled across your blog today while submitting an AT work report, and was instantly intrigued by your writing skill and your hiking stories. Curiosity being what it is, I continued to nose around and read more about you. That confession aside, I just want to say “Hi, you are an interesting person, and I envy your writing experience and your adventures!”

I hope you don’t mind that I saved your pencil story for future reference. My fine art specialty is graphite, (although my income is primarily from children’s mural painting.) In a conversation with my two first-ever drawing students yesterday we joked about their progress and their “smoking graphite.” That led me to thinking about a future art show with that as a title, featuring only my black and white drawings. The feature piece would be a still-life of a jar full of pencils.

Thanks for the inspiration! If you’d like a backpacking companion in the Smokies, contact me the next time you are here!

4. Jenny - July 11, 2009


What a nice response—I’m glad you “nosed around,” and you are welcome to make use of my pencil item. Funny that you mentioned submitting an AT work report. I just did some work yesterday on my adopted trail section in the Whites, the Carter-Moriah trail between Mt. Surprise and Mt. Moriah. Back when I lived in Knoxville, I maintained an AT section between Sassafras Gap and Doe Knob. I hope to be back in the Smokies soon and would love to get together for a hike.

5. Keith Oakes - November 3, 2009

Jenny, I have enjoyed reading you stories here, SMHC, and Griztrax. I live in East Tennessee, and do primarily off trail hiking in the GSMNP. A couple of your reports have served as the inspiration for two of my favorite off-trail hikes. The ridge you call “the real Charles Bunion” which I call the Rocky Crag (our made up name) and the ridge to the “tourist Bunion”. I read your post on SMHC with Greg Hoover (one of my hiking partner) about these names. I have asked around and got very little information. It seems, and you have confirmed, that these terms come from the Hiking Club. I have spoken to two very experienced off-trail hikers who had never heard of those terms. Another one of my hiking partners, Charlie Roth (Dutch Roth’s grandson) has spoken to Ken Wise and he had never heard of these names.
I know the Bunion was given it’s name by Kephart while standing on the Jumpoff. From the Jumpoff the most obvious point, IMO, would be the “tourist” Bunion. Also, as Greg stated the USGS topo maps have the Rocky Crag labeled as the Bunion. But those maps have a few errors in them. Arch rock and Indian Gap are both mis-labeled, so I have always assumed that the Bunion was also.
I have looked at alot of Dutch Roth’s old pictures and he has many pictures titled Charlies Bunion, of both the “tourist” bunion and the “real” bunion. So, based off of this I have come to the conclusion that maybe the old-times just labled that whole region as Charlies Bunion. I do believe that Kephart was looking at the “tourist” Bunion, but that is just my opinion. But I wonder if Broome and Roth just considered that whole area the Bunion?
I really enjoy your writing, and now that you are back in God’s country, maybe we will run into each other on some high, scary ridge. Thanks. Keith Oakes

Jenny - November 3, 2009

Keith, thanks for your comment. I think you’re right that maybe the early hikers referred to the whole area as the Bunion. I’m actually not that crazy about the terms “real Bunion” and “tourist Bunion” myself, but there is no other established way that I know of to make clear which ridge you are talking about.

Maybe we’ll cross paths on an SMHC hike. There are some good ones planned for next year: Indian Camp/Otter Creek, Styx Branch, and Mt. Sterling via Big Branch. Or let me know if you are planning anything really interesting.

6. Dawn McGinnis - May 31, 2010

Hi Jenny,

I have a Gischard Altimeter to sell.

7. Jay H Smith (@jaysmith80) - August 17, 2013

What happened to griztrax.net?

Jenny - August 17, 2013

Dave had some hacker problems with his website and (as far as I know, can’t speak for him) decided it was too much hassle to keep the website going. As I understand it he switched to Facebook communications. That’s great except I will never get on Facebook myself, but perhaps that will suit you. I feel the loss of his public website myself rather than the corporate-contolled Facebook, but that’s just me.

Jay H Smith (@jaysmith80) - August 18, 2013

Ok thanks for the response.

8. Nikita - December 23, 2014

Amazing to see other people, other than South Africans, interest in the Boer War. I would like to link your blog entry about the Boer War to my blog and would like to spend time reading your page.

Jenny - December 23, 2014

Thanks for visiting. I’ve made two trips to SA to visit sites from the war, and the people there have been very welcoming to an American interested in their conflict. You’d be welcome to link to my blog. You’ll find many individual articles as well as the Boer War page—click on “Boer War” in the tag cloud on the home page.

9. Carol Gray - March 19, 2015

Hello Jenny, I saw some of your photos on your blog of the Holyoke Range in Massachusetts and I would like to use the photos on an interpretive trail sign I’m designing, but I’m not sure how to reach you to get permission. Could you please email me?

10. Mountain Friend - June 8, 2015

Goodbye, Jenny. Godspeed.

11. Dana Bee - June 9, 2015

Farewell my friend. I loved you and I miss you. I shall continue to believe for both of us as we agreed. Dana Koogler

12. Angie - July 2, 2015

Jenny, Godspeed

13. Kent Hackendy - September 15, 2015

I felt your presence with us Sunday, Jenny! And I know you are happy as Peter said.Your spirit and love will live in my heart forever!

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