Monday, April 11, 2016

Spring Southeast Events

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
This is just one of the wild edibles presently speckling our lawns, roadsides, and garden edges. Its triangular leaves, square stems, and lavender flowers make the most delectable pesto when blended with a heavy pour of olive oil, chopped walnuts, crushed garlic, and shredded parmesan cheese.

Happy Spring my fellow plant enthusiasts and hiker comrades! I must apologize, I have been a lil' delayed in getting this post up, but the truth is I have spent the last so many months in a winter of writing, pouring all my energy into getting the next book on the shelves. In between your warmer weather forays into the woods, keep checking back here at the blog for the release of, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Finger Lakes Trail. It should be available in the next month!

The good news is, now that the purpose for all that writing is coming to fruition, I'm hitting the trails and the herb and trail festivals again...presently in the Southeast. I had the pleasure of seeing a number of you at the Mother Earth News Festival in Asheville this past weekend. Thank you to all of you who attended my talk, Eat Wild: Identifying the Wild Edible Plants in your own Backyard. For those of you who purchased a guide, I hope you are already nibbling on those Violet leaves, Wild Onion shoots, and Dandelion flowers adorning your lawns. For those of you who were too busy hiking to attend, I'll be leading a number of other events in the Asheville area this month. Check out the schedule below:

A Mountains to Sea Trail Plant Walk
hosted by Diamond Brand:
April 12th, 1-3 pm, Diamond Brand Outfitters in Arden, NC
Cost: Free
Join me for an easy walk along NC's long distance trail, identifying the edible and medicinal plants along the way. Be sure to bring your cameras and a notepad (or for the tech-savy, your smartphones!)
Book Signing
hosted by Diamond Brand Outfitters in Arden, NC
April 14th, 3pm - 6pm
Get your wild edible and medicinal plant questions answered, talk trail, and get a signed copy of,
A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail
The Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Appalachian Trail
at Hot Springs Trail Fest
April 16th, 12-1 pm
Learn about the plants found throughout the Southern Appalachians, swap hiker stories with thru-hikers, and enjoy some foot stomping music in the beautiful town of Hot Springs, NC
Cost: Free
Urban Wild Foraging: Identifying the wild edible and medicinal plants in your backyard, city streets, and urban thickets
hosted by Villagers in West Asheville, NC
April 26th , 6:30 - 8:30
Join me for a presentation on our local wild plants and a plant walk through town. Herbal snacks and tea provided.
Cost: $15 - 25 sliding scale

Spring Herb Fest
at the WNC Farmer's Market
April 29th - May 1st, 8:30 - 5 pm 4/29 and 4/30, 10 - 3pm 5/1 
This is Asheville's 27th annual Herb Fest. Vendors offering every plant imaginable, as well as herbal products and goodies will be on site. Come pick up a signed copy of, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail!

After these events I'll be heading back up to the northeast where a slew of other hiker and herbal fests will be in full swing...our flowers are just beginning to show their faces there, so by this time we'll be celebrating their full arrival.

I'll also be sure to fill you in on my woodland ventures, mountaintop views, and little known trails in my new home of Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania. I know, I know, "Where in the world is Lackawaxen?" On the map, it's about as tiny as a single Wild Mustard seed, but as far as it's beauty goes, it's Daylily blossom big.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Headin' South!

I am excited to announce that I am headed down to North Carolina in just a couple of days for a whole week in my favorite mountains. It's always a trip, in more ways than one, to take the long drive from the northeast to Asheville. Sure, it's 12 hours long in a car...that's not fun. But its a beautiful drive, cruising along Interstate-81 between the Appalachian mountains I hiked on my first long distance trek and passing road signs for all the lil' towns I stopped off in, some I never wanted to leave and some I couldn't get out of fast enough. I usually make a point to take an exit for one of these towns just so I can walk into the local gas station again and remember what it felt like to rush in there with the one-pointed focus of a hiker in seek of an ice-cold beer and pint of ice cream. I'm always acutely aware in my car too of just how far 2175 miles is...and I'm only driving 700 of those 2175 miles. But besides all that, a trip down south to other valley I call home, full of friends and favorite haunts, is always welcome and I'll have the company of my sweetheart to boot.

I am planning this trip south around attending the Annual Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail Conference on Saturday, February 6, at Elon University in Burlington, NC. This conference is a treat every year as it is all things MST. The keynote speaker this year is Sharon "MamaGoose" Smith who has thru-hiked the trail once already and will be leading a Warrior Expedition this September on the MST. There will be updates on all trail work completed by the hardworking trail crews and news about new reroutes. I'll be there selling my book, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail, and happy to answer your plant and trail questions! Check out this link to register:

Tyler, Harold, and Me at McCrays - MST thru-hike 2014

But above all it is always a joy to be surrounded by people who share the same deep love and enthusiasm for the trail and to catch up with dear friends. Above is a pic of my good friend Harold who I met on my first thru-hike of the MST in 2011 while walking a country road. He took me out to breakfast at McCray's Grill and joined me for a couple miles of my hike, fending off an angry dog. We have stayed in touch since and he came out to meet me on my second MST thru-hike, again taking me out to breakfast and joining me for not just 2 but 20 long miles on country roads on a hot day in July. With Harold and me is Janice's granddaughter, Tyler. Janice is a long time cook at McCray's and also a member of the Union Ridge Church where I pitched my tent on that first thru-hike and joined the Vacation Bible School children in their arts and crafts. Harold and I already have a breakfast date at McCray's for this upcoming weekend.

Rachel, Jodi, Michelle, and dogs Harvey and Smokey

While not at the trail conference these just a few of the incredible people with whom I will be gallivanting around town, tromping around the woods, booty shakin' and belly laughin'. Can't wait to see you North Carolina!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Frosty Foraging

The McDade Trail in Milford, PA

Although our days have been growing increasingly shorter...I'm talkin' 4:30 pm short... and colder...I am grateful that I've still had many a perfect day for hiking and foraging. Although quick to darkness, these are days when the sun shines golden, illuminating the yellow meadows and contrasting the bare black tree limbs against bright blue skies. The colors of autumn seem to crisp and sharpen in the cold dry air, clarifying the landscape and its living inhabitants. These are days to be seized, hitting the trail to connect with that beauty. And what better way to connect with that beauty than by... well...eating it...or perhaps making medicine out of it.

Flowers of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Once Summer's green starts to fade it's easy to forget that there is still a world alive out there. Energy is focused in roots and seeds and buds, encapsulated there, slowly strengthening and laying in wait for the days to lengthen and warm. There are also a number of plants that defy the norm, flowering in autumn and holding onto their berries through the winter. Wild food and medicine remains's just a lil less obvious.

Wintergreen with berry (Gaultheria procumbens)
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), a member of the Heath family (Ericaceae), is one that I have been particularly appreciating lately. It is one of our evergreens, offering us a bit of green all year long and a common sight  in our northeastern woods. One underground lateral stem actually supports many Wintergreen plants above ground, therefore where there is one there usually always are more. Look for this plant lining trails or deep in the woods, sharing space with Oaks (Quercus spp.), Birches (Betula spp.), Maples (Acer spp.), and other Heaths (Ericaceae). It especially enjoys the canopy of Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis), probably because of the acidic soil to which they contribute.

Although the leaves can appear to be whorled at the top of the plant, they are arranged alternately. Margins of leaves are subtly toothed and pale on undersides. In the spring, flowers number 1-3 and are waxy and white and urn-shaped, perched on nodding stalks that arise from the upper leaf axils. These flowers give way to red berries in the fall that will, to our advantage, persist on the plant through the winter to early spring. Leaves and berries will always smell of Wintergreen when crushed.

There's a number of ways to enjoy Wintergreen. Firstly, it makes a delicious and medicinal tea. Pinch off leaves, then slightly crush, and steep or lightly simmer in hot water for 10 minutes. You can use a loose handful to 1 pint of water. Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate, which you may be familiar with as a constituent in Birch (Betula) bark, which also gives off a minty aroma when scraped. Methyl salicylate acts as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, making it effective in alleviating muscular aches and pains. Wintergreen also has diaphoretic properties meaning that it is warming to the body and will encourage sweating, and therefore is useful in loosening tight muscles and breaking a fever, two issues we may encounter this year during flu season. To top it off, Wintergreen is an astringent, making the tea an excellent gargle for a sore throat. To make a more potent tea, pour a little hard liquor over your whole leaves and muddle. Oil of Wintergreen does not easily extract in water, but does quite well in alcohol. Allow the alcohol to do its work for about 30 minutes and then pour this mixture into your pint of hot water and proceed with the first method.

The berries are edible minty morsels as well. Eat them plain or try adding them to cookies, granola bars, ice cream or smoothies, as they pair well with chocolate and fruits.

The roots of a Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

Speaking of Birch and its methyl salicylate...this is also an ideal time to harvest this bark, which has all the same medicinal properties of Wintergreen. Simply harvest a small twiggy branch and scrap away the bark until you reach the inner hard woody core. Simmer the shavings, about a handful to a pint of water, for 20 minutes, and strain away plant matter. Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) has distinctive bronze peeling bark whereas Black Birch (Betula lenta) is the one Birch with smooth brownish-black bark and bearing elongated lenticels (these look like slender horizontal lines on the surface of the bark and are the pores through which the tree breathes).

Young Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) bark
And speaking of lenticels....Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is another tree that when young bears smooth bark and lenticels. Small branches will bear these as well. However as the tree ages, the bark will become rough and scaly, easily breaking off in "chips". A tea of Black Cherry bark makes an effective cough suppressant while at the same time opening the lungs due to its containing amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside. When this glycoside breaks down, the hydrocyanic acid therein is excreted largely through the lungs, which in turn stimulates respiration and sedates the nerves that cause one to cough. If the lungs are full are mucous it is of course better to expel this out of the body, but sometimes the lungs can remain irritated long after they have been cleared or sometimes during an illness one needs to sleep instead of spending the night hacking; this is when Black Cherry would be a suitable medicine. Harvest and prepare Black Cherry as you would Birch. Never ingest the leaves of Black Cherry as they are poisonous and can have quite the opposite effect, causing an inability to breath and ultimately suffocate.

Interesting that many of the plants that are available for harvest during our cold and flu season are inherently beneficial in fighting these very illnesses. So is a good hike and a dose of wonder. Everything you need to stay healthy in one trek.

But this is just a glimpse into the medicine and food available to us in our woods right now and through our frosty months. Good thing I'll be leading a workshop about these plants in December at a lovely lil healing arts studio called Whirled Revolution. I'll be offering a presentation on how to identify, harvest, and process the botanical beauties described above as well as many more. There will be a slideshow of photos to acquaint you with these plants, as well as bark, berries, and leaves for you to lay your hands on. A number of tinctures will also be available for sample. The more ways you can get to know a plant the better. And by the way...I do encourage you to connect with these plants by simply sitting with them and getting to know mustn't always eat them.

Click on the links below to learn more and to pre-register....I hope to see you there!

Plants for Winter Foraging
December 13th, 1:00 - 2:30 pm
at Whirled Revolution
1 Church Street, Sussex, New Jersey 07461

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Eating Local at the Milford Library

The furry red "berries" of Sumac (Rhus spp.) With three different species in our area: R.copalina, R.glabra, and Rhus typhina there are plenty from which to harvest. Mash the berries and submerge in a pitcher of cold water for an afternoon, strain off hairs through a cheesecloth and enjoy!
I would like to thank all who attended my virtual plantwalk at the Milford Library last night. What a thrill to see so many plant enthusiasts in one spot and even more fun to chat with you and share knowledge. Because of the excellent turn-out I am happy to say that I will most certainly be returning to the library in the late winter/early spring to prepare you for all the greens that will be popping up. I'll also be leading private plant walks in the area once our warm weather returns rather than forcing us to sit inside. Even if the subject is plants, why find yet another reason to stare at a screen when there'll be real live ones outside?

For now, I thought I would offer a lil recap on some of the plants we covered last night for those who could not attend or for those who attended but maybe had a hard time scribbling down all their notes during the presentation.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
We talked about this infamous weed....infamous because everyone knows it, and love it or hate it, it is indestructable. Taraxacum officinale, aka Dandelion. It is well known that its leaves are edible, and perhaps even its flowers when battered and deep-fried, but lesser known is that its roots are edible as well! You can boil them, saute them, or roast them in a pan....preferably with some sweet root veggies to cut their inherent bitterness.

Dandelion roots showing off their "Dent de lion" or "tooth of the lion" leaves bearing sharp downward pointing lobes 
The roots are hepatic, meaning that they aid in the cleansing and strengthening of the liver. If you must boil your roots before consuming, at least save the water for your medicinal tea. Imbalances in the liver are often displayed as heat, from skin eruptions to angry outbursts. The root is also a digestive aid containing inulin, a fructo-oligosaccharide, good food for your healthy intestinal flora. Its bitter properties also lend itself to preparing the body for digestion and aiding in the assimilation of nutrients.

Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniesis) showcasing its bronze-colored peeling bark
We discussed the tasty and distinctive flavor of Yellow and Black Birch, Betula alleghaniensis and Betula lenta respectively. Harvest a small twiggy branch and get to widdling until you reach its woody core which can then be discarded. Dice up the twig never minding to peel the bark. Simmer these along with the shredded bark for 20 minutes for a tea that is not only yummy but more importantly, pain relieving, due to its methyl-salicylic acid. It is particularly good for muscualar aches and pains.

Acorns shelled and raw
Many of you were surprised to learn that acorns are not just for the squirrels. We identified the rounded lobes of a White Oak (Quercus alba) leaf and the sharp lobes of a Red Oak (Quercus rubra)leaf. We discussed the tasty advantage of a Red Oak acorn but the disadvantage of its high tannin content, and decided that although White Oak acorns many be less sweet they are more beginner friendly. I am imagining a number of you heading out to your nearest stream with a plump bag to plunk down in its waters for the next couple of days to leech those tannins. Who has time or the desire to do all those changes of water in the kitchen? Not this hiker.
A close-up of Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) with its five-petaled flowers, all white except for just one that stands boldly out in purple.
We sampled the fennel flavored seeds of Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, and discussed how that purple floret and hairy flowering stalk and leaves are of the utmost importance when identifying Wild Carrot given its deadly lookalikes, Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) and Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata). Identify communities of mature Wild Carrot gone to seed by their dried seed stalks and then head back to that spot in the spring for the fresh shoots and roots which will be less woody on a plant that has not yet flowered.

The astringent yet sweet berries of Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata)
This non-native invasive gone wild and naturalized in our meadows and roadsides was perhaps the most well received. Many of you were pleased to learn that there was a wild berry that you did not yet know that was sweet and delicious and easy to identify. A shrub speckled all over in silver is easy to recognize in the late afternoon sun when the Autumn winds kick up revealing the silver undersides of its green leaves. Grab a tarp lay it underneath its many branches and get to shaking! As long as you have reached that shrub before the neighborhood deer, it'll rain tiny two-seeded berries perfect for topping granola, adding to pancakes and muffins, or pressing into a fruit leather.

We discussed a good deal more, but unfortunately this blog only affords me so much room! The good news is that nearly all of the plants we discussed (and many more) can be found in my book, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail, available for purchase here at the blog. In the book you'll also find detailed recipes for transforming these plants from merely edible to delectable as well as how to craft your own medicinal brews, tinctures and oils.

If you're interested in my teaching a class on identifying and utilizing your local wild edible and medicinal plants to a group of yours or in my leading a plantwalk on your property or in the area, please do contact me via email, Facebook under The Botanical Hiker, or through this blog and we can get to planning!

I hope you've read this late in the day after a full day of digging, shredding, cracking, and roasting!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The 34th Annual ALDHA Gathering

The 34th Annual Gathering family photo (photo courtesy of Dean "Crooked Sticks" Clark)

What an incredible time it was visiting with fellow long distance hikers and trail enthusiasts during this past weekend's 34th Annual Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association Gathering. This year's Gathering took place on the pristine grounds of Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, PA. Camping was on site on one of the recreational fields, although I must admit I took myself to the Rodeway Inn for both nights. Each day was so jam-packed full of entertaining speakers, delicious meals in the student cafeteria (everything from made-to-order sushi to pizza to salads), dancing, and general good vibes, that when I laid my head down in the evening - mind you many hikers were still going at 10 pm - I drifted off into deep sleep I hadn't experienced since I'd been on the trail.

Marilyn Beckley of the Finger Lakes Trail (photo courtesy of Dean "Crooked Sticks" Clark)
I had the chance to meet another Finger Lakes Trail End-to-Ender Marilyn Beckley, aka Amoeba, who was there sharing some stories about the FLT's very own Ed Sidote, to whom this year's Gathering was dedicated. Ed Sidote was not only an ALDHA volunteer and member but a long-time volunteer and member of the Finger Lakes Trail, an invaluable asset to FLT hikers, and a passionate supporter of the trail in every way possible.

The Ed Sidote bench on the Finger Lakes Trail near Pharsalia Woods Lean-to 
I never did get to meet Ed Sidote, but I heard numerous stories about him while I journeyed across the state. His book, written with Joe Dabes, was also the first guide I purchased for the FLT back in 2011. The owner of the Susquehanna Motel, which is located near the eastern terminus of the FLT told me that once Ed got word that a long distance hiker was heading into town that day, he would show up and sit on his front porch waiting to greet and offer assistance as they crossed the bridge into town. On the day I reached the eastern terminus of the FLT, I had to share the sad news with a local man, who lived along its final miles in the tiny town of Claryville and hadn't yet received word, that Ed had passed away. The man lived simply and with little more amenities than his pick-up truck and had helped Ed shuttle hikers to and from the end. In Ed's honor, the FLT dedicated a portion of the trail and a bench to him this past summer bearing his trail name.

Bill Cooke at his booth in true hiker form- ice cream in hand- with his book, Shades of Gray, Splashes of Color: A Thru-hike of the Colorado Trail 
I also had fun visiting with familiar trail faces, such as Bill Cooke and Pam Masterson. I had first met Bill at Trail Days this past spring where we were both selling our books. Bill's book is titled Shades of Gray, Splashes of Color: A Thru-hike of the Colorado Trail and describes his 486 mile journey along the Colorado Trail. To read more about Bill's book visit: When Bill and I had first chatted I shared with him my plans of hiking the Finger Lakes Trail that coming season. It just so happened that his partner, Pam, lived in the Finger Lakes region. As I made my way through this area, Pam had reached out to me via email offering her help. We never did manage to connect while I was hiking but how cool it was to put a face to the name when I met her here. Pam has also published a book highlighting 22 trails in the Little Finger Lakes, complete with maps. She has been making her own jams and maple syrup goodies for some time now through her business Canadice Kitchens and is presently experimenting with putting together hiker maildrops complete with healthy dehydrated foods. I'm looking forward to this business for my next thru-hike!

Cam Honan, trail name Swami, describing his "12 Long Walks"
(photo courtesy of Dean "Crooked Sticks" Clark)
This year's keynote speaker was, Cam Honan, aka Swami, an Aussie who has hiked nearly 50,000 miles in his 42 years. In 2012, he completed a thru-hike of a lifetime, hiking 14,000 miles over 18 months, combining multiple long-distance trails throughout the United States, including the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He took only a handful of zero days and averaged 30+ miles a day. His slideshow was an array of breathtaking landscapes and mountain vistas, and his stories spanned from heart-warming, such as meeting a familiar face atop a remote mountain to humorous, citing a special evening in Georgia that involved a taser and copious quantities of cheap beer. When asked why he chose to do a hike of this magnitude, he stated, "I thought it'd be a nice way to see the states." Well, Swami, that's one way to do it.

I too enjoyed giving two talks at the Gathering, one detailing my experience hiking the Finger Lakes Trail this past spring/summer, and another describing my two thru-hikes on the Mountains to Sea Trail in 2011 and 2014. I was thrilled to have so many attend and to share in your enthusiasm for your upcoming adventures. It was also a treat to chat with not only familiar faces who have attended previous talks of mine, but to run into folks I had hiked with on the Appalachian Trail back in 2008. And as I sat at my booth throughout the weekend I had the pleasure of hearing about so many of your thru-hiking and section-hiking plans and to pick your brains as well about various trails. My ideas continue to steep on what trail to do next and how and when, but it is events like this that contribute to my inspiration. Thank you to all for that!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nachusa Grasslands

Last week I made a family visit to the lil town of Princeton, Illinois. To a mountain girl I must say this town, although quaint and peaceful, seems mighty flat, surrounded by cornfields on all sides complemented by tall shade trees here and there. However ever since visiting a protected patch of prairie at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes with Uncle Rick some years ago ( I have known that there is far more to the Midwest than just corn even if it may appear that way at first glance, or second, or third. This landscape used to be tall grasses and wildflowers, roaming buffalo and insects endemic to the prairie flora and soil. The Nature Conservancy is working to restore a 3500 acre plot of farmland, now called the Nachusa Grasslands, to its once wild state. Lucky for me they were holding their annual Autumn on the Prairie event, a day of plant walks and bison tours, while I happened to be in town!

Bernie Buchholz identifying native prairie plants
I had the opportunity to take a walk with Bernie Buchholz. He claimed to be relatively new to the prairie ecosystem, however his last 10 years volunteering at the Nachusa Grasslands have served him well, as he was able to identify not only the flowering plants but the seedstalks and curling leaves of nearly every plant that surrounded us.

Hairy Aster (Aster pilosus)

Gentian (Gentiana spp.)

Blazing Star (Liatris spp.) gone to seed

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)

 Marbleseed Plant (Onosmodium spp.)

As we crunched our way through the drying stems and stalks of summer's flowers we noticed the disproportionate ratio of flowers to grasses. This is because the grasses take longer to establish themselves than the wildflowers do. However, as walked further into the rolling landscape, the grasses became more plentiful as we then stood in a patch that had been managed and allowed to proliferate.

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Restoring Nachusa is no small feat but rather one of autumnal seed gathering from the prairie, plantings in the spring and periodic burns. How the gathering and planting of seeds encourages growth is clear, whereas burning the very vegetation you wish to nurture may seem self-defeating. But, prescribed burns are quite the opposite. Burning portions of the prairie on a rotating schedule helps to stimulate microbial activity in the soil and therefore increase nutrient availability, suppresses non-native plants (in particular shrubs that can easily take over), and even extends the growing season for warm weather plants. The bison herd that was recently introduced here even plays a role in the maturation of the prairie by "tilling" up soil with their horns and hooves, inadvertently aerating the soil and planting seeds. On a well established prairie filled with grasses, they are also apt to eat grass as opposed to flowers, maintaining a healthy balance between the two.

Unfortunately I was not able to capture any photos of the bison herd as the line for the shuttles to that particular portion was easily 100 people deep. Now if the flowers could only get that much attention!

Trail through Nachusa Grasslands
After the guided plant walk I returned by shuttle, mind you this was a pick-up truck's tailgate packed with 10 other plant enthusiasts (this in all seriousness added greatly to the fun) to the main entrance of the Grasslands. Here I found a self-guided loop trail that one could walk with a number of prairie plants conveniently labeled for identification. Therefore any plants of which I had failed to scribble down the names as Bernie had rattled them off, I was able to gather here.

Prairie Thistle (Cersium canescens)

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Not only is Nachusa home to native prairie plants and bison, but it also provides a home for some of the 1700 prairie dependent insects....perhaps these are a couple here....any insect experts reading?

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seedpods along with crawlies
Along this prairie loop the grasses also easily reached over my was once said that these grasses stood so tall, a man on horseback could stand amidst them and barely be seen, apparently the same could apply to an herbalist...

Me and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) overhead
I  walked this loop, and then a trail that wandered further out into the prairie without any signs or posts or tags, in the golden sun and under an exquisitely blue sky, and found myself wanting to savor this place, a lil of the past in the present. I walked amidst the oranges and reds of the changing wildflower leaves and stalks, the cottony tufts of thistle seed heads and brown button-tops of dead standing coneflower. It was me and the flowers in a sea of Big Bluestem and others of which I hadn't yet learned the names. I stretched out my arms to feel the grasses on my fingertips, to be a part of this meadow for a moment. To commit its beauty to memory.

Yes...lucky me.

Thank you Nachusa Grasslands for nurturing this place and providing me with an opportunity to experience some true Illinois landscape, a glimpse into the past and a hidden gem amongst all that corn. I will surely be returning.

To learn more about Nachusa, visit, or volunteer, you can check out their website:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Gatherings Galore!

The crew on the Abbot Loop Hike at the Finger Lakes Trail Campout and North Country Trail Rendezvous over the weekend
I am excited to share that I will be giving a number of presentations this October. The first two will be at the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association 34th Annual Gathering at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, PA, held the weekend of October 9-11th. This gathering costs just $20 to attend and will be a weekend full of trail talk thanks to the many hikers that will be presenting on a slew of topics from stories of hiking long distance trails throughout the country to the nitty gritty details of how to plan for a long distance hike. Cost is only $20 for the whole weekend including camping (meals are extra but reasonably priced). This is not an event to pass up! Below is a description of my two presentations, one will be held Saturday morning, the other Sunday afternoon, exact times to be decided:

Thru-hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail:
Join me for a slideshow and discussion on North Carolina's 1200 mile Mountains to Sea Trail, including information about some of the most easily prepared wild edible plants she that found along the way. I will be comparing and contrasting my experience of hiking the MST with that of hiking the AT as well for those of who have already hiked this monster of a trail or are interested in perhaps doing a lesser known (and less populated!) trail. Question and Answer will follow.
Thru-hiking the Finger Lakes Trail:
Join me for a virtual trek along New York State's nearly 1000 mile Finger Lakes Trail. I'll be sharing tales from the trail to provide a better understanding of what it is like to hike this wilderness path as well as some of the edible and medicinal plants you can expect to encounter along the way. Lots of compare and contrast to AT as well. Question and Answer will follow.

Hiker Fair
Throughout the Gathering weekend I will be set up with a host of other outdoors vendors, selling my book, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Be sure to stop by, grab a signed copy and talk trail!
To Register and for more info on the ALDHA Gathering please visit:
My third presentation will be at the local library here in Milford, PA on October 27th at 6:30pm. This talk will be information packed so be sure to bring a pen and paper...or perhaps your tablet or iphone...whatever you take notes on nowadays so you don't miss a plant! Below is full description of class:
Eat Local: Identifying the Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants in Your Own Backyard
Pike County Library, Milford Community Room
Join me for a walk through your own backyard, a trek in our nearby woods, and a stroll down our small town streets. Local wild food is abundant and delicious and can be found nearly anywhere you go! I will help you learn how to identify these wild edible morsels and useful medicinal plants as well as share some tales from the trail. There will be plenty of time for question and answer about all things wild!
To register for this event, please call the library at (570) 296-8211 or sign up at the circulation desk.

Taking a break at the Dunham Lean-to during Paul Warrender's hike inside the Finger Lakes National Forest with Peter Fleszar  of the Mid-State Trail) and Larry Blumberg  of the Tri-Cities Hiking Club
I'd like to close this blog with gratitude. I had a leg-aching, food-scarfing, heart-lifting time at the Finger Lakes Trail Campout and North Country Trail Rendezvous this past weekend. I enjoyed the company of familiar faces from my good to see you again!...had the pleasure of finally meeting some loyal blog followers...what a treat!...and had the chance to learn from North Country Trail hikers and volunteers just what that 4000 + mile trail is all about. The North Country Trail shares 400 miles with the Finger Lakes I've already got a lil chunk done! I also devoured lots of delicious food, served just the way hikers like it, at a buffet that is, and attended two incredible hikes, hiking a total of 18 miles in a little over 24 hours. I left feeling both exhausted and filled up, grateful to be a part of this hiker community.
If I didn't see you there, I hope to see you in the spring at the Finger Lakes Trail Campout...or perhaps even sooner at the ALDHA Gathering in Shippensburg!

Fellow hikers on the Abbot Loop Hike - this hill contributed to the leg-achin' part!