Posted by: davepidgeon | November 13, 2009

From Seattle to Asheville

Mount Rainier in Washington (flickr - pfly)

We made it to Friday, and although the date is the unlucky 13, we’ve had the good fortune this week to come across a few new friends to tell you about.

First up, an anonymous blogger from the Pacific Northwest has a new blog called “Seattle Hiker” about the pathways in his region. I posed a question at his site about where a person should spend one day hiking in that part of the United States, and here was his answer:

So, the best day hike, if you only have one day, depends a bit on your taste. I think there are two kinds of people in the world: mountain people, and ocean people. If you’re an ocean person, you’ll want to hike the Dungenous Spit. This is a narrow sand bar that stretches and meanders about five miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, making for a ten mile round trip. The last time I went hiking here, I saw a pod of gray whales. Needless to say you’ll find yourself surrounded by salt water, but, also, mountains rise up in both directions around the water ( more intensely to the south – the Olympic Range ), and you’ll see Victoria, British Columbia to the north. To get here, you’ll need some time, however; leave early, catch the ferry across Puget Sound, then drive north to Squim – it might take an hour and a half.

The mountains are harder – normally endless with possibilities, they’re now covering themselves with snow, and we’re heading into avalanche season. I would recommend snow-shoeing on Mt. Rainier. The National Park Service has guided tours at Paradise, and they lend you the shoes. You’ll hike over about 10 to 15 feet of snow, up to a glacier, and, with luck, see the sun shine through a snowbank. Of course, if you already have snow shoes, I would change my advice to Snow Lake along the I-90 corridor, because Paradise is quite a long drive this time of year, requiring four wheel drive or chains.

Is it me, or does the Dungenous Spit sound like some torture device the kings of ol’ England would employ in a Mel Gibson movie about rebellious Scotsmen?

A view of Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Appalachian Trail.

From another part of the country, we meet author Danny Bernstein of Asheville, N.C., who’s put her boots to just about every trail in the southern Appalachians. She’s written two books about hiking in North Carolina since 2007, she operates a Web site called HikerToHiker, and she’s a fierce defender of the image of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This week, National Geographic Traveler in its current issue gave the popular national park an unsightly score of 49 out of 100 for its destination ratings, slamming the region for its overhyped development detrimental to the natural beauty of its surroundings:

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

“Heavily visited region of natural beauty that has been degraded by visual pollution. But the worst excesses of mass tourist development are apparent just outside the national park, in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Asheville, NC, is a town of much greater aesthetic appeal and has the notable attraction of the Gilded Era Biltmore Estate with gardens.”

And I would have to agree. The development in the area can be appalling. But Bernstein makes an important observation in a blog post dated Nov. 10. She asks – Did the surveyors actually go into the park?

The problem with these surveys is that they compare apples to oranges or maybe in this case, apples to broccoli. Both are good but they’re different.  As everyone knows by now, the Smokies are the most visited park in the United States – almost 10 million visitors. In addition, there is almost no development in the park. No great lodge, no Yosemite Village with gas stations and coffee shops. So all of that is outside the park – that’s what the quote above refers to.

National Geographic asked experts to look at authenticity and stewartship. Go to Cataloochee; you can’t get more authentic than that. I think the problem is that these experts never got into the Smokies; they just drove on Newfound Gap Rd.

And number one – Norway’s Fjord region. I’ve been there; it’s lovely but it isn’t the Smokies.

In other words, by ripping the development of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the park’s reputation gets unfairly soiled as there is little development within the borders (save for that gaudy tower at the peak of Clingman’s Dome).

Her Web site, aside from being a sounding board to defend the Smokies, tells stories about a life spent backpacking, the kind a hiker would love to read. Compass Points strongly recommends stopping by

So where are you hiking this weekend? I’m waiting for the remnants of Hurricane Ida to push out to sea, and then the wife and I plan to step onto a trail virtually in our backyard. Stop by next week to learn about it.

Might be back later this afternoon, but if I’m not, you know the slogan …

Hike on, friends!



  1. I hope you’re enjoying your visit!

    And you’re closer than you might think – the Dungeness Spit turns out to be named for a place in England, also called Dungeness, and pointed at France. (,+Romney+Marsh,+Kent,+United+Kingdom&gl=us&ei=sAsDS6qbEouuswOg6PG4BA&ved=0CAgQ8gEwAA&ll=50.919322,0.948944&spn=0.218166,0.674973&t=h&z=11 )

    Anything that happens in a dungeon must involve torturing Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart. It’s the rules. 😀

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