On to Mt. Mitchell, the highest place east of the Mississippi


To get to the highest point east of the Mississippi one is subjected to driving through some of the most stunning views also east of the Mississippi.

   The Blue Ridge Parkway has been called one of America’s roadway.  If the purpose of a roadway is to allow you to move from point “A” to point “B”, then that title does the Parkway no justice.  It not only moves you from a place to a place, but through time to from the present back to a past where America was free. 


We actually made the summit at Mt. Mitchell (with the help of Layla’s husky genetics, mush dog mush) on Wednesday.   The climb to the summit lookout was actually only 280yds of paved walkway.  Piece of cake compared to the mile and a half we hiked earlier in the day.



And what they say is true the view from the top of the world is spectacular.

DSCN2088One of the story boards along the Parkway points to the first 8000 acres purchased by the Forest service under the Weeks Act around 1920.  These acres had been deforested and lay in ruin due to timber being clear-cut during that time.  The Service began a “reforestation” project, and even experimented with planting other than just native trees and foliage.  Now, little more than 90 years later stands in that place a lush beautiful landscape.  Though it was destroyed by the hands of man it was returned to a beauty that represents  what we can accomplish. DSCN2062



   It’s hard to believe we had dropped almost a mile of elevation at this point looking back at the mount.  But the winding of the road gave hints that we were rapidly descending “from the mountaintop”. 

   I stayed in a campground last night in Marion, NC instead of boondocking somewhere.  For the cost of little more than a “truckstop shower” we were afforded a nice spot, electricity, wifi, and the hot shower!  That was a pleasant surprise, and much needed after traveling down route 226 from the Parkway.  I should have known how serious the road was when there was a sign warning trucks, “last chance to detour”.  I had to pullover into one of the “brake cooling ” spots for the trucks twice due to my brakes beginning to heat up and fade just a little.  More excitement for the trip.

Where will we go on today??

I don’t know just yet Layla’s still sleeping and I have not even looked at the map.

But, I’ll know when we get there.    😉


Just Shut Up and Grow It!



On the first leg of our July adventure Layla and I checked out an intentional community called “Shut Up and Grow iT”.

This was different than I had expected.  Having some experience with “community” groups years ago I thought what could be so different about this one?

This one is working!

(I’m going to try and tell the story of the place without invading the private lives of those that live here.)



Talking with Patrick about this place has been very easy since he’s so laid back in conversation even though he’s a ball of constant motion.  As I am writing this Patrick and others have gone to an auction to replace some of the chickens that were eaten by a dog.

This was the destiny of the land when it was purchased a few years ago. He says that the idea for a community was in the original purchase decision.  That vision and the journey to fulfill its’ destiny has kept Patrick busy and happy.  The idea of community with minimal “structure” is what attracts people here.  It’s the feeling of belonging without being hampered by all sorts of rules is what makes it work.  The few existing rules are just common sense things to allow for the freedom, privacy and safety of the community.  There are at this time somewhere between 12-15 adults living on the farm with what looks like about the same number of children.


Counting the children was like counting rabbits. Because this is a family group the kids are free to roam about play with the other kids and interact with everyone.



I was first struck by the gardens and the fact they are really building up community places.







There are two domes that are being built, one of which will be the teaching center.   Obviously the children will be educated here together.DSCN2026






The kitchen is where there are community meals prepared daily and shared at a large table together.  DSCN2022



The evening meal I joined them for was great and helping (a little bit) in that kitchen was fun and easy.  The cooking pit was very solid, check out the logs on the side!

DSCN2012 The “shower house” is fed from a large container up the hill that uses solar energy to heat water. The location up the hill provides enough “head pressure” to be a good working shower.  Simple is better, no pumps to fool with only gravity and the sun which always works.

After the meal folks gathered around and it was time to relax.  Someone commented how much it felt like a big family. I have to agree that was the same thing I was thinking.  This is a place that it will be what you want it to be, family or community.  There were those that stayed more to themselves, and then those that were more community minded.

At the start of this post I wrote a great deal about Patrick.  However, this truly is a result of everyone’s efforts.  It’s just that I learned so many names in such a short time,  I’m struggling to keep them all straight.  I’m going to have to be leaving soon to continue our travels,but you can bet this is a place I will be returning to in the future.  I want to take the time thank all the others for making me feel welcome, you guys would be a great family.

One More Versatile Food

I recently shared a food idea with some of the folks at a “Get To Gether” of Vandwellers in the Cherokee National Forest.

One of the problems facing folk that live in vehicles is food storage and variety.
Yes, I know beans and rice are easy, light and fairly compact…. and boring.
So what can you pack that will last without refrigeration and yet be versatile enough to mix up the menu??
How about tortillas as a bread substitute?  That’s right those flat round things made of either flour or corn.  The first thing that always pops into everybody’s head is burritos every night, how is that not b-o-r-i-n-g???

Well here’s an idea that’s quick easy and quite tasty (I had testers in the forest).
                                            “Sloppy Joe Roll Ups”

Start by spreading a couple of tablespoons of the ready-to-eat Sloppy Joe sandwich maker on the tortilla.
(I think I found this in Walmart grocery section. While it is a little bit pricey, the convenience of being able to store this for several months is great!)

Next lay a couple of slices of cheese or even sprinkle Parmesan cheese if you have no fresh cheese.  Of course add any other spices or flavoring you choose, but this is simple and very tasty.

 Then roll it all up…

 And then wrap it up.  I roll mine straight with the foil and twist the ends.  I tried rolling diagonally across the foil and that just leaves a flap for the heat to escape.

It’s now ready to put on the grill over a fire!  Turn it frequently and when it gets hot it’s ready.
Another beautiful thing… NO DISHES TO WASH.

What else can you do with the tortillas???
How about roll up some salami, pepperoni or other “packaged” meat slices that don’t require refrigeration?
OR, spread a little butter and cinnamon, roll up, wrap up, and heat up a home made breakfast.
These also make pretty tasty PBJ sandwiches!

The list is only as short as your imagination.

And, I guess if you insist on rice and beans you could really make burritos.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, if you would please comment on anything you try in a tortilla I would love to hear it.

Reuse an old candle…

Today I’m gonna show you how to get a little extra mileage out of a couple of things you may already have on hand.

An old Scented candle in a can that has been burnt up.

Can be used to create a larger and refillable source of light and heat.


Cut a scrap of corrugated cardboard a little less wide than the can

is tall.  Then roll it up and put in like this.  It works ok

if you have to use more than one piece.

Carefully melt and pour wax from from other old candles into

this cardboard wick.

DISCLAIMER:  If I have to explain the dangers of heating and working with hot wax/paraffin then please go get some “adult” supervision.

There you go.  The cardboard will wick up the wax and eventually the
flame will spread to the entire surface.  This creates much more heat/light than a single candle.  I’ll let you use your’ own imagination to find uses for this.
I have cooked over this, used it as reading light in camp, and yes
even as a heat source. The lid is used to snuff it out.


Refilling is simply drop chunks of other old candles into the burning
can, being careful not to add more than will melt without
overflowing the can. 

Yes, the can does get hot so be careful ! ! !

While this is an easy project, it is very useful.
It meets my multi-use requirement of things to be carried and
takes very little space.
If you consider it in your design you can even put a small
“BIC” lighter in the can.
Please leave a comment or share so I know you stopped by.

AS ALWAYS… “Get out, go adventure, and be safe.”

Cookin’ is in the bag !

I decided to share another little trick I use to save time, fuel and energy (mine) among other things.
Using a cheap, Dollar Store, car solar shade build a double thermal bag.

This is the same concept as some of the MRE meals sold with “built-in cooking bag”.  But, why pay for a bag you’re gonna throw away?  Why not just pay for food and keep a reusable bag handy?  Here’s how I do just that…

1)  Go get a really cheap “car solar shield” from somewhere.  Mine I think came from the Dollar Tree or Dollar General,

2)  Now cut it down to the size of whatever size Zipl@k bags you will be using.  I use quart size bags and they seem to work out for a cup or two of cooked food.
Remember since this is basically a re-hydration method you’ll start with more fluid than final cooked food.

3)  To make the “cooking bag” make a bag within a bag the size you need.  If you look closely I folded some of the inner bag top bag down on itself so there is no raw edge. 

When you make your outer bag make it extend above the top 
of the inner bag by about 6 inches.  Notice I am not measuring
or marking anything, I have to Keep It Simple for Stupid.
Leaving a long outer top allows you to make the “fold lock top”.
Just like GL@D sandwich bags…
“Fold one flap in, the other flap over”, don’t you remember?
(Sorry for you kiddos that grew up in the Zip-L@k generation.)
4)  In this case I wanted some beef flavored brown rice.  So I measured a cup of rice. (It pays to know the volume of the utensils you cook with) and put that with two bouillon cubes in the Zipl@k bag.
Don’t forget any salt or other seasoning you add.
5)   Now add about a cup of water that just started to boil.
      Now’s a good time to talk about saving fuel, just start the water 
      boiling and then pour it in the bag.  No need to boil for 5 minutes.
      Seal the bag, slide it in the thermal bag, fold lock the top
      and in about 15min you have beef flavored brown rice.
Since this is a re-hydration cooking method use “instant” or pre-cooked
base foods to build on.
 Here’s your’ time savings, no sitting and stirring.
Just put it in the bag and go take care of some other camp chore. Or NOT!
6) Last important step…
             Since there are no cooking utensils involved, please dispose of the
             Zipl@k bag correctly or pack it out.
Hope you enjoyed this little trick.  I’ll try and video some eggs in the orange shell the next time I’m out just to show off that neat little bit of cooking.
       Get outside, go adventure, and be safe!

Weekend off from the "normal" blog stuff.(Parental discretion advised: Contains high levels of Testosterone)

Weekend out with some of my tribe…

This adventure started with Layla and I hiking about a mile in the dark to a hidden camp near the top of a ridge.  We were located at…. no wait it was hidden.
We got there set up camp, made some friends and eat some grub.

The next morning held lot’s of promise early.  Fall out the rack we’re burning daylight…

You talkin’ to me ?  ?  ?

W H A T ???  It’s already morning?

We need discipline in this camp, don’t make me put my foot down, again.

So with everybody up and moving there were a few chores that needed to be done.

There was a chance of rain turning to snow or freezing rain or snot or some other bad weather.

Time to cut more wood and also expand our cover a little bit more.

Tater?  Tater?   Where’d he go…… Aha! Caught ya!  Quit goofin’ off we’re all ready to go.  Watch out for the thorn bushes!  (note: videos may not play on all mobile platforms, working on editing)

Well since there’s a small break in the weather, let’s go shoot something. 🙂
Carl (AKA Gary) is headed down-range to set up a target, I’m showing Terry the camera and opportunity knocks.

Now that everybody is through just messing around we can get down to business.
Haggan your up, bring that shotgun over here take a shot.

Nice shot for shotgun with a slug.  Next.   Tater step up.

WOW!! Just like the Dukes of Hazard!  Don’t care who ya are, that’s funny.

 Alright Terry next round.

Well, that was not cool.  In his defense the second detonation was his (camera man blew it ).

Fun had to end, remember the weather?


But wait that was not first…
It started as rain, continued most all Saturday up into and through the night, with a little sleet and THEN turned to snow.
There are few pictures because this cameraman was hunkered down trying to stay dry and warm. I failed at staying dry therefore it got a little chilly.

Sunday morning we all started to pack and leave…

Which went like this….  Run to fire, thaw out, go take down, pack, run back to fire, repeat process.

I think I saw a tear in Drew’s eye as he had to take apart his bed at the Hilton 😉

The hike back out since all good things must come to and end.

Thanks for coming along, I’m gonna return the blog back to it’s original programming.
But remember kids, do not attempt this on your own, these are trained professionals.

AS ALWAYS,  Get out, go adventure and be safe.

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