Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review - America's Great Hiking Trails

Join me today while I tell you about Rizzoli Publishing's latest offering - America's Great Hiking Trails by Karen Berger, Rizzoli New York 2014.  All photography by Bart Smith


America's Great Hiking Trails is a hardcover Mac Daddy of hiking books, loaded with 336 pages of drop dead gorgeous photographs and a glimpse into eleven of the country's most iconic hiking trails.  Author Karen Berger is a well seasoned hiker and she invites us to explore, discover and delight in trails that will take you through practically any terrain the country can offer.  Photographer Bart Smith was the first person to hike all eleven of these scenic trails and he has the photographs that will make your jaw drop.  Together they have created a gem that will inspire you to embark on a journey of discovery.

After reading this book I dare you to tell me that at some point you didn't imagine yourself hiking at least a small section of one of these scenic trails.  Each of the eleven chapters is dedicated to showing what is unique to that particular trail.  Each trail receives star treatment as the author supplies pertinent information about its route, shares interesting historical tidbits and highlights particular spots of beauty.  Each trail offers something unique to its region and Ms. Berger offers up a host of factors such as communities, landscapes, environment and land use.  Every chapter gets a thorough description of history, a map, trail information, and extensive, glorious photos.  Each chapter concludes with special points of interest.  Are you strapping on your hiking boots yet?

  • Chapter One - The Appalachian Trail - Community in the Wilderness

Perhaps one of the most widely known and iconic trails in the world, the AT consists of 2,200 miles of forested paths that wind along ridges and rivers, farms and grasslands and was one of the initial trails to be officially designated a national scenic trail.  Each year hundreds of hikers declare their heartfelt intentions to thru-hike the length of the AT but in the end, a mere 30% actually complete the task.  Highlights include Clingmans Dome in Smokey Mountains National Park,  the treeless summit of Roan Mountain, the jutting shelf of McAfee's Knob, 100 miles views from The Presidential Range, and scrambling to the top of Katahdin by means of cables bolted into the rock.  Believe it or not, the Appalachian Trail is within a one day drive of more than 2/3 the population of the country.  States along the trail include:  Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

  • Chapter Two - The Pacific Crest Trail - Soul of American Wilderness

The PCT was the second trail designated a National Scenic Trail.  On the PCT it's possible to walk for 2 weeks without ever seeing a road or cell tower, and shelters are few and far between.  However, elevation gain is seldom more than 526 feet per mile and rarely does a hiker need to use his hands to climb up an incline.  Areas of interest on this 2,700 mile jaunt include the wind stunted Limber pines of the San Gabriels, the rock formations at Castle Crags State Park, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and the beauty of volcanoes and glaciers in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.  States along the trail include:  California, Oregon, Washington.

  • Chapter Three - The Continental Divide - The Wild Child

The Continental Divide is the trail that divides the continent, the area of our country where men have tried for centuries to cross the wall of mountains and haven't always succeeded.  Our nations history is embedded on its trails in the form of wheel ruts from wagons on The Oregon Trail, ancient mines, crumbling settlements, and age old paths.  The Continental Divide is 3,100 miles of American history waiting to be explored, such as the red rocks of Abiquiu where Georgia O'Keeffe painted the buttes, test your mettle on the five 13,000 ft. peaks of the Front Range, watch for grizzlies in Yellowstone Park, and check out the Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.  States along the trail include:  New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana.

  • Chapter Four - The North Country Trail - Hiking the Red Plaid Nation

The NCT weighs in as the nations longest trail at 4,600 miles and stretches from New York through the Midwest to North Dakota.  I had no idea this extensive trail even existed.  A highlight of this trail is that it celebrates small-town America as it meanders across the heartland, taking you through rural towns with history dating to the Revolutionary War.  Along this trail you will delight in American relics such as the ruins of early settlements near Watkins Glen, covered bridges and gristmills near Hells Hollow, enjoy the shorelines of Lake Superior, follow old logging roads and railroad beds along the Itasca Moraine Chain of Lakes and finally feast your eyes on a horizon of tallgrass prairies in the Sheyenne National Grasslands.  States along the trail include:  New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota.

  • Chapter Five - The Ice Age Trail - Water, Gravity, Cold and Time
This 1,200 mile trail is completely contained within the confines of the state of Wisconsin and is the only national trail dedicated to a geological event - the effects of glacial ice where great sheets of ice shoved and moved the landscape.  Interestingly enough, to me at least, is the fact that many sections of this particular trail are within a few hours drive from where I live.  In fact, just last month I stood at the base of Balanced Rock at Devils Lake State Park and enjoyed the view.



I have to say that it was exciting for me to actually find myself standing at a point along the Ice Age Trail.  It made me hunger for more.  Observe layers of silt, clay, sand and forest at Two Creeks Buried Forest, stand next to Balanced Rock at Devils Lake, view stunning sandstone bluffs at Mill Bluff State Park, and climb the observation tower at Timms Hill.  States along the trail include:  Wisconsin.

  • Chapter Six - The Potomac Heritage Trail - Exploring Americana
Our nations history is at the heart of this 800 mile that comes within a stones throw of our capitol.  An unusual feature of this trail is that instead of running in one long, straight line, it boasts a network of spokes and spurs and follows historic routes of trade and travel.  Not to miss along this trail are spots that will delight the history buff - George Washington's estate along the Mount Vernon Trail, the riverside district of Georgetown, a ride on an 1800's canal boat at the Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center, walk with a flashlight through the Paw Paw tunnel, and marvel at the Civil War sites at Harpers Ferry and Antietam.  For a relatively short 800 mile stretch, this trail packs an historic punch.
States along the trail include:  Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania.
  • Chapter Seven -The Florida Trail - Water, Water, Everywhere
Did I mention the water?  1,400 miles of swamp, humidity, salt marshes and fresh water springs define the Florida Trail and it encompasses an impressive 80 different habitats.  Another difference in this trail is the utter lack of elevation - in fact, the highest point in all of Florida is a mere 345 ft. above sea level.  One major advantage of this trail is the ability to hike it during the winter when many of the nations other trails are knee deep or more in snow.  Three days of soggy terrain await you in Big Cypress Swamp, experience sand pine scrub forest in the Ocala National Forest, ancient cypress form a canopy in Rice Creek Sanctuary, enjoy natural bridges and cascading waterfalls along the Suwannee River, and experience the sand dunes of UWF Dunes Preserve.  States along the trail include:  Florida.

  • Chapter Eight - The Natchez Trace - Footsteps in History
The unique feature about the Natchez Trace is that it's not really a footpath, but more of a scenic parkway which means you can drive it, with trail sections designed for hiking, biking and even horseback riding.  The history of this trail is interesting too in that it dates back thousands of years to a time when bison and American Indians navigated it, as is evidenced by the 2000 year old Pharr Mounds near Tupelo, Mississippi.  Spanning three states and 444 miles, it's not difficult to drive it in a day.  But take your time and enjoy some of the sights along the way, such as the Native American temple mound located at Emerald Mound, the ghost town of Rocky Springs, a Cypress Swamp, Elvis Presley's birthplace and the Chickasaw Village site in Tupelo, Grinder House where Meriwether Lewis died and a tobacco farm.  States along the trail include:  Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi.

  • Chapter Nine - The Arizona Trail - It's a Dry Heat


The heat, the sun and lack of water are only a few of your concerns as you test your will on a trail that takes you through the Superstition Mountains and leads you on an 800 mile  journey through saguaro covered hills, pine forests, red rock formations and sweeping views.  You can experience temperatures that swing from freezing to 100 degrees in the course of 24 hours and the equivalent of several different climate zones to boot.  You will delight in seeing the cliffs, canyons and migratory birds at Miller Peak in the Huachuca Mountains, rattlesnakes and desert hares at Kentucky Camp in the Santa Rita Mountains, giant cacti in Saguaro National Park, challenge yourself in the toughest area of the trail which is located in the Superstition and Four Peaks Wilderness areas, and feast your eyes on the sweeping grandeur of the Grand Canyon.  States along the trail include:  Arizona.

  • Chapter Ten - The Pacific Northwest Trail - Story Lines

Everything here is large and impressive from the volcanoes and mountains to the towering redcedars and the gigantic Douglas firs, to the tall tales of gold miners, prospectors, criminals and renegades.  For 1,200 miles, the Pacific Northwest Trail takes you along the northern edges of Montana and Washington and down to the Pacific Ocean.  You will begin near the international border of the US and Canada at Glacier National Park, cross through several National Forests such as Kootenai, Colville, Okanogan, and end up at Olympic National Park which is known as a former whale hunting area and where you can expect to see whales, otters, seals and sea lions.  States along the trail include:  Montana, Idaho, Washington.

  • Chapter Eleven - The New England Trail - Faith in a Seed

The New England trail is the shortest of the long distance trails at 215 miles and has neither a national park nor a national forest along its length.  Yet the strongest feature of this trail is its quiet beauty as it sits among some of the oldest settlements in America.  Basically, this trail is located where the people are as it runs through or past 41 communities and this fact makes it an easier trail to manage by the corps of volunteers who do so.  The trail starts near Guilford, Connecticut, an area first settled in 1639.  From there it winds through a host of microclimates that support mountain laurel highlands, white pine forests, river habitats, open valleys and swampy floodplains.  Some of the highlights include the Boardwalk at Chittenden Park, the 976 ft. Castle Craig observation tower, and the Mount Holyoke Summit House.  States along the trail include:  Connecticut, Massachusetts.

So there you have it - the 11 National Scenic Trails in a nutshell.  I haven't even shaved the tip of the iceberg on this gem of a book.  Also included is a 12th chapter that provides an extensive list of trails that crisscross the country and they will supply you with excellent hiking experiences for years to come.

Noteworthy on their own are the hundreds of marvelous photographs by Bart Smith that were taken along each trail -  photographs that have become a hallmark of Rizzoli Publishing and each one is worth a thousand words.  Pictures of dappled forests, glistening lakes and streams, roaring waterfalls, hazy mountaintops, colorful autumn leaves spread across the forest floor, wide vistas, wind swept ledges, moon lit skies, towering mountains, flower drenched prairies, snow capped peaks, tall cacti, red boulders, and sandy beaches.  Plus scores of wildlife such a squirrels, bears, birds, deer, moose, mountain goats, butterflies, turtles, seals, fox and porcupine.  My personal favorite photos are the trails - always the trails, leading forward around a bend with the promise of a waiting adventure and new discoveries, not only about the trail, but also about yourself. 

(I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Images are the property of the publisher and cannot be reproduced without consent.)













Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Repurposed Failure

I don't know about you, but sometimes the ideas I come up with in my head don't turn out the way I'm picturing them - Do you know what I mean?  Case in point...   Over the weekend I bought a couple of wooden cutting boards at an estate sale with lofty repurposing dreams floating around in my head.

I took the 2 boards that I found here and sanded them clean of all the paint.  I especially liked the large round one because it's super heavy and sturdy.  After I washed it really good and let it dry in the sun for a few hours I brought it into the house, excited to start on my project.  It cleaned up nice, didn't it?



First I grabbed the bacon press that I found a couple of weeks ago at an estate sale.  It's the cutest thing with a pig on it....



Then I placed it into one of my cast iron pans and cranked up the heat until that baby was smoking.  And no, I was not makin' bacon under there either, altho a BLT sounds good right about now.  Hmmm, crisp apple smoked bacon, juicy ripe tomato, crisp green lettuce on 2 slices of toasted sourdough bread, slathered with mayo.....  Sorry, I digress.  Anyway....


I had the brainy idea that I was going to burn the pig image onto the wooden board using it like a branding iron.  I mean, that would be pretty cool looking, wouldn't it?


I pushed down on that bacon press with all my strength and then let it sit on the cutting board for about 5 minutes.  My husband kept lurking around in the background, telling me that this wasn't going to work.  He was like a 3 year old because he kept asking me to lift the press and see what happened.  Finally I lifted it, and lo and behold.....  nothing.... nada..... not a single burn mark.  I think my husband may have smirked.

I was not to be deterred however, so I took the bacon press, placed it directly onto the burner and really fired that thing up.  I mean, the heat was rolling off of it.  Once it was good and hot I put it on top of the cutting board and tried again.



This is what I got for my efforts.  Kind of disappointing, huh?   I think Louie felt bad for me because he came over and showed me how the pig design doesn't protrude out as far as the outer edge of the bacon press does, and it was preventing it from making good contact on the board.  I really, really hate it when he's right.


So that's my latest repurposed failure and I'm back to square one.  I still want that piggy design on that board.  I'm headed over to go search Pinterest to find a way to transfer the design and then maybe I can just burn it with my wood burning tool.  I'm thinking maybe with wax paper and a pencil.  I don't know.  If you know how to transfer stuff like that, give me a tip, would ya?

What ideas have you had that didn't work out?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Estate Sale Finds Oct. 20, 2014

The estate sales and garage sales are really trickling down to almost nothing now.  We did manage to find one small garage sale on Saturday and then on Sunday we hit an estate sale, but by that time it was already the 2nd day and it had been pretty picked over.  On the up side however, everything was half price, which is always nice.

Chablis picked up the adorable Christmas tray.  I chose the awesome Stanley thermos in purple -   Brand new, never used and the purple color is too cool.  I also grabbed the 2 painted cutting boards and I wasn't home 10 minutes before I already had taken my electric sander to both of them.   The smaller one is destined to become a key holder and I have an experiment I'm wanting to try on the round one.  Hopefully I'll get to that this week.  I'll let you know.


Chablis also got the brand new Nutcracker for her Christmas decorations, a new grater and the wooden hanger.  We always like those because of the advertising on them.   I took the red handled whisk and the little angel is actually a bell.  I may sell the whisk, maybe not.  It's in pretty decent shape and I'm always using whisks.  The bell may be incorporated into something or added to a string of bells I have hanging in my bedroom in Kentucky.  Undecided....



This large wooden cutting board was caked with grease and slice marks.  I mean caked.  Ick.  But once I sanded off the top few layers of wood, you will not believe the gorgeous warm red tone this wood has.  It's fab.  It cleaned up beautifully.  Now I have to decide if I want to take my wood burning tool to it.  I'm telling you, the color is beautiful.   The rectangular wooden box slides open.  Somebody named Linda scribbled her name all over it in pencil.  I took it because it's perfect for a geocache I want to make.


And my favorite find of the weekend was the Schweppes crate.  I rarely see these and the price was right.  The woman who was selling it at the garage sale was really giving me her hard sell on it...  "Oh, that's such a nice sturdy crate.  I've had it for years.  It's been sitting in my living room for forever.   I almost hate to give it up."   LOL...  Ok lady, I sincerely hope it was not sitting in your living room because it was extremely filthy and had huge cobwebs and dead bugs all over it, not to mention the years of dirt embedded in every crevice.  Whatever.  I didn't even try to talk her down on the price because it was that cheap and I really wanted it.
 


PLUS.......  It says Chicago, ILL. on the side.  Score!!


What did you find this week?

Linking up with....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kicking Up my Justin's

I recently read a blog post by Kathy over at Petticoat Junktion (don't you just love her blog name?) where she was pondering whether or not she was too old to buy a pair of cowboy boots.   To which I give a resounding "Hell no, you are never too old to wear cowboy boots!"  Case in point....


I've been a fan of cowboy boots since the late 1970's when the television show Dallas exploded all over America and I ran out and bought real cowboy boots and an honest to goodness, made in Texas, cowboy hat.  Over the years I've bought a couple of different pairs of boots, including these gorgeous, pointy toed ones with turquoise beading.....



I've had a pair of turquoise (can you tell I'm addicted to turquoise?) Justin Gypsy boots bookmarked on Pinterest for ages and for my birthday in August my kids surprised me with a pair.  Do I have the best kids or what???  Picture me 2 stepping around the room....


The stitching is incredible and even the soles look awesome....





The box is too pretty to throw out.  On the rare occasions that I'm not wearing my boots, I keep them in their box, all safe and sound.....


 
But these are wearing boots, not "keep them in the box and only wear on special occasion" boots.  You can go to Justin's website to read up on the specifics like their grip-on demand feature, stabilization technology, flexible comfort and waterproofing.  Once I slipped into my Justin's, I immediately knew they were a great boot.  They are by far the most comfortable boots I've ever worn.  They are a perfect fit and the leather is sturdy, yet pliable.  There was no need for a "break-in" period - I experienced no foot tenderness or blisters.  From a women's point of view I think they are the ideal combination of kick-ass tough and "ain't I pretty?" 
 
So where have I been wearing my Justin's?  The easier question is probably where haven't I been wearing them, because I rarely take them off.  I wear them in Chicago and I wear them in Kentucky at the lake.  I've been geocaching all over 3 states with them on.  Grocery shopping?  No problem.  When I wore them to the dentist, she oohed and aahed over them.  I dressed them up with a cute outfit and some turquoise jewelry for a business dinner and didn't look out of place at all.  But my favorite place to wear my Justin's is at concerts!  In fact, they got properly introduced to country music at a Miranda Lambert concert just days after my birthday....
 

 
We toe tapped and danced to an excellent concert that also featured Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett.  Miranda is one of the best writers and singers in Nashville and her show did not disappoint.  My boots got a good work out at her show!
 


She is one multi-talented and gorgeous lady - go check out her music.  She has a heart of gold and a "take no shit" attitude.  She is by far my favorite female country singer. 

 

Two weeks later we went to see Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice and Cole Swindell at Soldier Field in Chicago.  Chablis and I were both rocking our Justin's....


It was a perfect night for an outdoor concert and we spent almost the entire time on our feet, dancing and swaying to the music.  These boys know how to entertain a crowd....


.... and Luke had everyone in tears when he performed my favorite song "Drink a beer"  where he remembers loved ones who have passed on.  If you've not heard the song, look it up on U tube.  Have a handkerchief ready.


So Kathy, in answer to your question - "No you are not too old to get cowboy boots."  Giddy-up on over to your nearest store and pick up a pair.  I know you're in Nashville a lot.  I can highly recommend the Justin brand for durability and sheer comfort.  And when you get your boots, I want to see a picture of you wearing them.  Go rock them at a concert!


Who else out there wears cowboy boots??

(I am in no way associated with the Justin brand.  This is not a review of their product, just merely a post in response to Kathy's question about cowboy boots)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Geocaching in Missouri

Usually on Monday I post my garage sale finds, but we didn't hit one single sale in the past week.  But I have a really good reason for that.  It was our 29th wedding anniversary yesterday so we went to the lake for a few days and when my husband asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary, I had only one answer - go geocaching.... in Missouri.

The lake house is less than an hour's drive from the Missouri border and we didn't have any caches in Missouri yet.  So we got up and hit the road by 6 am.  My plan was to find geocaches in 3 states - Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois, and be back at the lake house in time for the noon football game.  Not a bad plan, right?  I had a list of 15 geocaches..... 2 in Kentucky, 10 in Missouri and 3 in southwestern Illinois.  The ones in Kentucky were quick and easy.  One was a new cache at the entrance to Wickliffe Mounds, where we've been before....


Then we had to cross the Ohio River and the Mississippi River.  Let me tell you something - they have extremely narrow bridges here.  My goodness, they were the most narrow bridges I think we've ever seen....



Our first Missouri cache was one placed in honor of the Scouts, which I loved and thought was appropriate since I grew up as a Girl Scout....

 
 



The next cache was next to a little goldfish pond and I liked this small plague because it was from Chicago.



This cache was a travel bug hotel and I picked up a TB to move along.  I thought the horses were cute and this was outside of a huge fireworks store.  Hence the very appropriate name Boomland.



Check out those gas prices!!!   We haven't seen prices as low as $ 2.99 a gallon in Chicago for years.  We filled up our tank while we were here and took advantage of it.  Thanks Missouri!


This next geocache was the best of the day and I gave it a favorite point.  It was in someone's front yard and it's called The Enchanted TB Village....


How cute is this??

It was just charming and I liked it so much because of all the creative work that went into it.  It's a must do cache if you're ever in the area....



Can you spot the geocache here?


The next cache was hidden in front of a restaurant called Lambert's Café.    Have you ever heard of it?   They weren't open while we were there because it was too early in the day, but I've already told my mom to plan on doing a road trip the next time they are visiting us at the lake so we can go back and eat here.  They throw dinner rolls are you - how fun is that?  Plus their menu sounds fabulous!


The geocache was hidden out in front.  The whole place was cute and I can't wait to go back.




While we were driving around from cache to cache we kept looking for a nice little country café to stop and have an anniversary breakfast.  Sadly, southeastern Missouri is not a hot spot for little cafe's.  We finally ended up stopping at McDonald's and grabbing a McBiscuit to eat in the car.  Talk about a romantic anniversary breakfast!  I am so low maintenance, aren't I?

We ended up finding 9 of the Missouri caches and had to take a DNF on one, so we headed back towards the border, figuring we'd slip into Illinois and grab the 3 earth caches that are located at Ft. Defiance.  But first we had to cross one of those narrow bridges and check out the car towing the trailer in front of us....


 Narrow, narrow bridges....


We pulled into Ft. Defiance and were greeted by locked gates and this sign....  Closed for Clean-up.  Who cleans a fort???? Ugh.....  All thoughts of finding geocaches in 3 states just flew out the window.

Plus I felt bad because I'm a huge fan of the history of Lewis and Clark and they visited this area and I wanted to see it....

 






So we ended up getting 11 geocaches in 2 states and we were still home in time for the noon kick-off.  In between games we made chicken fajita's and cleaned up my pontoon boat and put it away for the winter.  Last up for the day was a huge piece of anniversary cheesecake.  Sorry, no pictures of that - I was too busy eating it.  For me, it was the perfect way to spend our anniversary.  It's the little things that matter.  I don't really care if we're eating Egg McMuffins or dining at a 5 star restaurant, as long as Louie and I are doing it together and laughing at something, then I'm happy.

Note to Mom and Dad - we have a road trip already planned for next time you're here and we will be doing caches in 3 states that day and eating at a cool restaurant.  And that's a fact!!
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