Now, for a limited time, I'm giving away my young adult fantasy, "The Dragons of Atlantis," from Goodreads.com. If you know a youngster or teen who enjoys dragons and adventure stories, this is perfect for him/her. Even the adults who have read it gave me a great deal of positive feedback.
It's not long as novels go, just about 30,000 words, but it's packed with exciting action, as the story follows the hair-raising adventures of twin teens who accidentally travel back in time to Atlantis, which is the center of a thriving civilization. But this Atlantis is ruled by intelligent dragons, that harbor a deep, dark secret. Can the twins discover how to stop them in time to prevent the earth from being changed forever? Can they themselves survive a horrible fate?
Kindle reviewer: 4.0 out of 5 stars Very good. By A Customer:
"A fun little story that my little siblings loved, recomend it for younger children. Good work."
Well, why not? Some people hike with dogs. "But," you say, "how can you hike with a cat?"
Now dogs are a no brainer. Other than slobbering all over everyone you meet on the trail, and barking at everything that moves which scares all the wildlife away, dogs are relatively easy to train to walk with you. Some even carry their own little packs.
Now I can just see my cat Mingo walking on a leash. I would estimate his speed at about 0.001 miles/hour. You see, he has to stop and sniff everything, which is an improvement over barking, if you ask me.
Next, his belly just about drags the ground. Yup, you guessed it: he has that most dreaded of all feline conditions: gravy belly. So putting a pack on him wouldn't work too well. He's already carrying one underneath. The good news is that his incredibly soft belly makes a wonderful pillow at night, and it's even self-plumping! You can't beat that for comfort.
But Mingo's also terrified of strangers. So we'd have to find a pretty unpopulated trail to walk. Or crawl, as the case may be. If we did come upon another hiker, I'd have to put a sock over his head, so he wouldn't freak out. 'Course, that might speed him up a little, although it would probably be in reverse.
And that's the other good news. Cats are much lighter than most dogs, so they're easier to carry in your backpack when they get too tired or spooked to continue walking on their own, which is frequent. I challenge the owners of German Shepherds, or Old English Sheep dogs, or Dobermans to transport their dogs in a backpack.
Cats, being much smarter than dogs, can fake fatigue quite nicely, earning them a free ride in your pack.
A great gift for outdoors people is my exciting novel, Beneath the Smoke. Combining the great outdoors with romance and even murder, it is available now on Amazon's Kindle (you don't even need a Kindle reader to download it).
The protagonist, Rose Grady, a strong-willed national park ranger, has two major problems to deal with. First, she is caught between two men, also park rangers, and is having trouble deciding between them, although, when she does finally decide, the romance is even better than she expected. Second, and more importantly, she is getting too close to solving the deaths of two solo backpackers in the high country of the Great Smoky Mountains. Solving those mysterious deaths may bring an abrupt end to her own life, and maybe her lover's as well!Amazon link
For a change of pace, I'm posting some stories of what could happen while out on the Appalachian Trail. Although these are fiction, some may hold a kernel of truth.
After packing up my backpack prior to leaving the AT shelter where I’d spent the night, I decided to hit the privy one last time. For some strange reason, this one had an outside latch that could be locked: I suppose it was to keep unwelcome critters out since the sign hanging on the door did say to make sure you locked it after using it.
Unfortunately, the lock decided to engage while I was still in the john. No amount of rattling or banging on the door would budge it, and of course my curses and entreaties went completely ignored. Had someone been with me, the ruckus I raised would have brought them on the run. Well, maybe not on the run, since it pays to show caution whenever approaching an unknown situation while out in the wilderness. No telling what could be making me carry on like that; it could even be a bear. But eventually I would have been extricated from my wooden prison.
But I was hiking solo, so I had to figure this out myself. Finally, I hoisted myself up on the door. I don’t know what I had it in my mind to do, but apparently my added weight managed to jiggle the lock back open. As the door swung wide with me hanging spread-eagled from it, I saw that I was not alone after all.
Standing a few feet away with their mouths hanging open in surprise was a Boy Scout troop. I managed to drop to the ground. I didn’t see any point in trying to explain what I was doing hanging from the privy door, so I didn’t even try.
I just shouldered my pack and beat a retreat up the trail with as much dignity as I could muster, which wasn’t much. Behind me I heard the scoutmaster say, somewhat dubiously, “Have a nice day.”
The 2000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail provide numerous opportunities for involvement with nature in all her moods and settings. Some of those can be downright dangerous for the hiker, such as blizzards, thunderstorms, rockslides and rabid animals, to name just a few.
Most people feel the beauty and tranquility of this great trail more than compensate for Mother Nature’s less obliging scenarios, however. And sometimes, dear old nature can have quite a sense of humor.
Take the story of Eddie P., a long-distance hiker from the Big Apple who decided to take about three weeks off work to hike the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes completely through the Great Smoky MountainsNational Park. Walking north to south, which is counter to the direction most of the through-hikers do, Eddie was whistling a jaunty walking song as he approached the cutoff to the Shuckstack Trail, about four miles from Fontana Dam and the end of his great adventure. It was all downhill from here and he was feeling really full of himself, so he picked up a handy rock and exuberantly threw it at some tree branches nearby. Did I happen to mention that Eddie was something of a kid at heart, despite being thirty-something?
Unfortunately, that rock startled a crow that had just settled down to enjoy a well-earned meal. Said meal took advantage of its captor’s divided attention to scuttle away out of reach. Once the bird settled back on its branch to find its tasty morsel gone, anger filled its little birdie brain as it hurtled down on the human who was the cause of its increasingly-empty stomach.
Now it was Eddie’s turn to be startled as the hateful crow dive-bombed him through the trees. He waved his arms frantically to keep the creature out of his face, but it just kept coming. Finally he picked up another rock, throwing it as hard and as accurately as he could. As some black feathers floated down to the ground, he yelled up at the now-clear sky, “Ha, ha, you dumb bird! I had the last laugh after all, didn’t I?”
Eddie stepped out briskly once more and finished the last lap of his epic journey –epic in his mind, at least. He had timed his arrival back at his car to coincide with Happy Hour, had there been any bars in the area to be having one. But the man had planned ahead. He had a single-serving bottle of champagne stashed in the trunk. Even though it wasn’t exactly chilled to the proper temperature, he figured, since it had been cloudy and cool today, it shouldn’t taste too bad, and that was the proper way to celebrate the successful conclusion of his foot journey.
Finding a comfortable place to sit and admire the scenery, he carefully poured the contents of his miniature bottle into his trail cup and sniffed the bouquet appreciatively. A shadow passed over him from above. As he looked up, he could almost hear the crow say, “Bomb’s away,” as it let fly.
Only a vengeful crow could have directed that “bomb” with such pinpoint accuracy.
“S***t!” Eddie said with feeling as he disgustedly threw away the now-ruined drink. Did he detect the sound of laughter as the black creature flew back up the mountain?
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Bizarre and Interesting Hikers on the Trail
Have you ever meet any interesting characters while out on the trail? Do you have any good stories about an encounter with a strange or unusual hiker? I’d love to hear about them.
I have three stories I’d like to share: one was a bit unsettling at the time, one that was truly absurd, and the other a unique and interesting one.
Back in the mid-Eighties I did a short evening hike with a small group to one of the overlooks in Red River Gorge in central Kentucky. Just before reaching the Chimney Rock overlook, an extended Vietnamese family passed us heading back towards the trailhead. We exchanged greetings, thought they looked like nice enough people, and didn’t think anything more about it.
Roughly fifteen minutes later we began hearing some shouting from at least two different locations in the valley below us. Although we couldn’t understand what was being said, it didn’t sound particularly friendly. Another thirty minutes or so passed before we decided to head back up the trail before it got too dark. We hadn’t walked too far when three guys, dressed in full battle fatigues, with war-painted faces and large hunting knives sticking out of their belts, approached us from the opposite direction.
Red River Gorge is in the Daniel Boone National Forest where hunting isn’t allowed. So, obviously, these guys weren’t hunters. Needless to say we were a little taken aback as they approached us. They proceeded to ask us if we had seen any “gooks”, which was a common disparaging term used to describe North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War. We immediately knew who they were looking for. Although we had just passed the Vietnamese family less than an hour before, we played dumb and told them we hadn’t seen anybody.
To this day we have no idea what was going on that evening in the Gorge, but I can say with certainty that it didn’t appear to be a good situation.
My absurd hiking story occurred in the Grand Tetons a few years ago. We were hiking the Cascade Canyon Trail when we came upon a large group of people making a great deal of noise. The “leader” of this group, a muscular guy without a shirt and wearing a bandana, whom we appropriately nicknamed “Rambo”, was banging the ground with an extra-large stick. He and his group of about ten were all yelling at a young black bear walking just in front them along the trail. Recognizing their accents, we assumed they were tourists from Germany.
The absurd part of this story is that the bear didn’t care how loud these people yelled. He continued strolling down the trail at his own leisurely pace. With the Germans leading the way, we literally followed the bear for at least a mile before the bear decided he had had enough and meandered off into the woods.
My final story occurred on the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. About a mile into the hike we came across a group of about 30 Buddhist monks from Vietnam, all dressed in traditional clothes. They were taking part in a Buddhist monk convention in Estes Park and decided they wanted to do a little hiking in the mountains. We spoke with a couple of them and even had a picture taken with one of them. They were all very friendly. It was one of the most unique and memorable hikes that I’ve ever been on.
What about you? Do you have any interesting, bizarre, or unique hiking stories?
One time while vacationing in the Smokies, I happened to read an article in the local paper about one elderly gent who was followed by a black bear while out hiking a trail by himself. Apparently the bear thought he had food and was trying to beg. However the old fella kept his cool and bonked the unfortunate bruin over the nose with his hiking stick. The bear decided the pickings were easier elsewhere and turned tail. Now how often does something like that happen? I have encountered black bears several times while out hiking, but, fortunately, they never bothered me, even though I usually packed a lunch. 'Course, it was kept in zip-lock bags in my backpack. I've already found out how sensitive bears' noses are! See my earlier post: There's a Bear in my Car!