Sunday, January 5, 2020

Due South!

On the Florida Trail in Osceola National Forest

So I have kind of been feeling like this lately - shin-deep in molasses-like mud. All the while wishing that I really was shin-deep in gritty, pollen-drenched, belching mud somewhere in a Florida swamp. Instead my love and I have been playing the waiting game here in the Northeast, impatiently biding our time until the Universe says "Okay, GO!" Our plan was to hit the road, southbound, the day after Christmas. But as we all know - plans shmans! Sometimes circumstances arise that prevent us from following our perfectly laid plans such as a delayed house closing, an ailing beloved feline, or a hitch for our truck that got lost in the ethers. As a thru-hiker I accept this fact. I know that with every itinerary I draft, circumstances out of my control will cause shifts and ripples. But that is where the adventure takes shape. 

So although I have been feeling as if we are stuck, kind of like stuck in a trail town waiting for a maildrop that was supposed to arrive yesterday, I think its high time I embrace the stuck-ness.  We are in the unknown and really is that so bad? So rather than waiting to post an update until I know just what is happening, I decided I would simply outline some of the major elements we plan to incorporate in our adventure this winter.

   
Our tiny home for the winter - Rockwood A192 Hard-wall Pop-up Camper

We will be returning to the sunny climes of Florida. However we thought after exploring the length of the state by foot last year, we would cut ourselves a little break. We will be mobile in our tiny home, a gem of a find on Facebook Marketplace, this pop-up hard-wall camper. I have always dreamed of a little A-frame cottage in the woods to call my own but what's even better than that? One on wheels. We will be hauling this beaut with our elderly pick-up truck - hey what says adventure more than a Dodge sporting 208,000 miles and counting? And no home is complete without an animal companion.

Amos Moses

Amos Moses, our beloved coonhound, a rescue inspired by a pup that stole our hearts on the Florida Trail last year, will be in tow. As you can see, he's been in training for Florida, with alligator chew-toys and all. We know Amos has a whole slew of adventures in store for us that we cannot foresee. Does anyone else see a potential book in the writing, say, Amos and an A-Frame? We have couple of primary objectives for returning to Florida this year. Firstly, the hiker community.

Billy Goat Day 2019
On our 2019 thru-hike we were supported by so many incredible individuals connected to the Florida Trail, from members of the Alliance, Association, to locals we met along the way. Our hike would not have succeeded had it not been for these folks. Therefore, we want to give back. We hope to make it to Florida in time for Billy Goat Day, an annual gathering in honor of the legendary Billy Goat himself, and the Florida Trail. This is our one definite pinpoint for our travels while in the state. Other than this one-day event, we plan to travel Florida with a watchful eye for this year's thru-hikers. We know all too well just what a cold beverage or a ride into town can mean to a weary hiker. We want to be of service. We also look forward to reconnecting with all of you who became friends on our journey.

Lantana

Scott on Florida Trail north of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

And as anyone who has thru-hiked knows, one of  the downsides is not always being able to linger in a magical place as long as you'd like. Therefore we hope to revisit some of those special places we discovered on the Florida Trail as well as experience some pieces we did not have the opportunity to hike, such as the western route north of Kissimmee. I plan in our hiking excursions and nightly camping spots to better study the botanical inhabitants. On our thru-hike we succeeded in a broad survey of the plants of the trail, however we would like to obtain a better working knowledge with the edible and medicinal plants and broaden our identification skills. Florida is after all, the land of the flowers, and we have only scratched the surface.

Some of our dear friends in Asheville - Noah, Alex and Addy - in the Shining Rock Wilderness

In addition to Florida, we will be making our annual pilgrimage to Asheville, NC, where we will play in the mountains with our dear friends. As most of you know, Asheville was my home for a good portion of my adult-life. No matter the time that has passed, when I hit Blue Ridge trail, connecting with that clay-compacted soil sparkling with mica and woven with tree roots, my heart remembers my kinship with this place and when I am in the company of loved ones that remain ever close no matter the distance, I am reminded that this too, is my home. We will of course, be reveling in the Appalachian plants while we are here as well, familiar botanical beauties that were among the first I could ever name.

This year has been a full one with some major accomplishments for both of us. Since thru-hiking the Florida Trail, I have a finished manuscript about our hike on the Long Path. Scott has completed two new albums, one of which I am on, my studio debut! So, in the meantime, maybe I will start the next book and Scott will craft the next album. May as well put this quiet time hanging out in town to use! But while doing so, we will continue to pack up our belongings for the road and dream of what's to come. And for now, that's what I can tell you. I don't know when we're leaving or when we'll be where - a first for me - but that's the general non-plan and really all part of the adventure. One thing, I can promise you...even if we end up in my tiny Volvo with a hound, a tent, and a couple of backpacks, we will be due south! 

Bot, Wise Man, and Amos looking forward to seeing y'all soon!





Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fall into Foraging

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Here in the northeast, our forests and roadsides are awash with color. The plant world is pulling out all the stops, a showy display of ripening hues, before finally dulling, decaying and falling into Winter slumber. Autumn is in every sense, a time of transition and for us, a time of inner work, of contemplation, and ultimately release. We may sometimes forget our connection to the natural world, somehow viewing ourselves as separate from it, because let's face it, we've done a pretty good job of distancing ourselves from it. However, during this time of year, when we are hit smack in the face with nature's beauty, beauty which is born from flux, we can choose to either go about business or take a moment to connect, deepen that relationship with nature and in turn, ourselves.

Autumn strolling


For me, foraging is a means to do just that. To forage I must not only step outside and take a walk, but I must slow down and observe my surroundings. I need to take note of just what sort of plant community I have wandered into, the interplay between the plants, the soil, the sun, and water source. Recognizing these elements helps me to know just what plants I might see or tells me that I need to take a side trail to reach the particular plants that I seek. Although Autumn is a raucous color show - we have to think outside the box of greens and flowers - when considering our plants useful for food and medicine.

White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Our Pines, those trees in the Pinus genus, that we may pass daily without much regard are our most important cold weather herbal allies. Steep the needles in hot water for an infusion that is firstly antiseptic, making it excellent internally or externally for fighting infections. Compound this action with the fact that needles are also Vitamin C rich - a healthful boost to the immune system - decongestant and expectorant - perfect for quelling the symptoms of a sinus infection or cold. Needles are lastly, diuretic and diaphoretic, therefore cleansing to the body. Any of our true Pines may be used for medicine, with White Pine (Pinus strobus) being one of the safest because it is effective yet gentle.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) in plum-color for Autumn
Then there are evergreens that are not always so obvious. These may lie hidden beneath the copious  needles of a White Pine or the leaf litter of Birches and Oaks, often they are sheltered by twiggy wild Blueberry shrubs. Behold the usually humble Wintergreen, aka Teaberry, scientific name Gaultheria procumbens. It is a member of the Heath family with absolutely no relation to Mint although its common name, aroma, and flavor would suggest otherwise. Although it is evergreen, select plants in Autumn or Winter will turn a reddish or deep plum color. 

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) - typical coloring
Wintergreen leaves may be steeped in hot water for a minty beverage, fully equipped to reduce muscular aches and pains. The berries, which appear in Autumn are also edible and provide the perfect trailside nibble. Collect enough and use an adornment your atop holiday cakes or in baked goods.
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) fruiting cone
Speaking of fruits, Sumac is rich in them! Well, kinda sorta. Sumac's fruits may be more aptly described as seeds covered in an acidic coating. Staghorn Sumac's (Rhus typhina) fruits are fuzzy as is its branches, reminiscent of a young buck in velvet. Smooth Sumac's (Rhus glabra) fruits are, as its name suggests, smooth. Both may be used interchangeably. Clip a fruiting cone at the base and submerge in cold water for several hours. Water will turn a rusty hue. 

Sumac fruiting cone in mason jar of cold water - Sumac infusion in the making
Remove cone, strain liquid through cheesecloth to catch fine hairs and any little critters that may have made home therein. Then add honey and sip to your health. Like Pine needle tea, Sumac infusion is rich in Vitamin C. 

Burdock burrs (Arctium)
Let's not forget those roots. Digging these will also warm bones on a brisk Fall day - trust me. Many folks know Burdock by its Velcro-like burrs. Although plants with these burrs will be too mature from which to harvest roots, they are a good indicator that smaller first year plants may be nearby. Look for large leaves with fuzzy undersides. Then pick up your shovel.

Burdock roots (Arctium)
It is unlikely you'll manage to pull up the whole taproot which can reach over a foot in length, but you should manage to ease at least a portion from our rocky soil's grips. Burdock root has a long history of use as both an adaptogen and an alterative. It is a nourishing food - edible as a root vegetable - as well as medicine -  pleasant as a tea. This time of year, the roots contain a fiber called inulin. Inulin acts like a pre-biotic, literally feeding your pro-biotics, or healthy gut flora. Give your flora what they need to flourish and guarantee yourself not only stable digestive tract but a strong immune system. 
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
While on topic of roots, let's take another look at that first photo, Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). The creamy white roots of Sassafras saplings - please only harvest these rather than from a mature tree - are intoxicatingly fragrant and provide one of the most delicious and warming teas around. Clean, peel, and dice roots, then simmer in hot water for 20 minutes and strain. Your beverage will taste of earth and spice and lemon, will increase heat in the body and cleanse the blood. I think of Sassasfras as a medicine for supporting the body's own methods detoxification and preventing illness.

There are so many more we can discover! Please join me for an Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk, a seminar on Seasonal Foraging or Hiking Essentials, or a Wild Medicinal Tea tasting at The Lodge at Woodloch, located in Hawley, PA. As their Certified Herbalist, I offer an array of activities weekly, centered around getting outside and connecting you with the plants. For dates and times, please see: https://www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com/activities/ 

    




Saturday, September 28, 2019

Autumn 2019 Herbal Activities


We are in the season of the gnarly roots, the crunchy seeds, the tart berries, when the Witch Hazel leaves fade to yellow and the acorns roll beneath your feet. Autumn. This  season always summons contemplation for me and perhaps that makes sense. The quietude of Winter is on the horizon and it is as if the plant kingdom is giving its last hurrah, a show of color and bounty before a deep sleep. Autumn is a time of transition and one that shouldn't be missed! Get outside, take hike, identify the dainty Asters, crush the Spice Bush leaves, and take some time to be in it.

Scott and I are excited to visit with trail friends both new and old at the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association in Massachusetts in October and to share in the story-telling. As always, I have classes from tea-making to backpacking 101 at the Lodge at Woodloch. And as Hike Local, we are always happy to customize your next upcoming family hike, botanizing adventure, or group event! 
Take a look below to see our scheduled group activities!

Appalachian Long Distance Hiker's Association Gathering
Williamstown, Massachusetts
October 12 - 14th
This event is not to be missed! The ALDHA Gathering is an annual event in which hikers from all over the country convene to talk trail, share their experiences, and get inspired for their next journey. We will be offering two presentations over the weekend: Edible and Medicinal Plants for the Backpacker on Saturday 10/13 afternoon and A Botanical Hike on the Florida Trail on Sunday 10/14 afternoon. My two edible and medicinal plant guides will also be available for purchase at the Hiker Fair. 
Cost: $20 per person for weekend attendance (meals not included)
camping on the grounds is provided


Plant Walks, Herbal Workshops, Long-distance Hiking Seminars 
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley PA
Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays throughout the season
As Woodloch's Certified Herbalist, I offer an array of activities centered around our natural world and holistic health. Book your stay and check out their outdoor activity schedule for a list of dates/times at: 

Book your activity with Hike Local
PA/NJ/NY
Do you have a group that would like to learn more about the edible and medicinal plants through a guided hike on a local trail? Perhaps you and your family would like to take a walk on your own property to learn about your very own plants? Do you have a group that has varying degrees of endurance? We also offer slideshows and workshops. Contact us and allow us to tailor a hike or activity specifically suited to you and your group!
Contact us at: HikeLocal@gmail.com
Visit: www.Facebook.com/HikeLocal to learn more

Happy Harvesting!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Summer 2019 Herbal Activities

A plant walk hosted by the Skylands Sierra Club at Lusscroft Farm in Wantage, NJ

Our meadows are dotted with the fuschia and white pom-poms of Red Clover, Yarrow's ivory faces turn their gaze to the sun, and the perfectly round buds of Milkweed cluster amongst velvety leaves waiting to burst. The days are long, providing us ample time to take long hikes on our favorite trails and those yet to be discovered. We are in the height of the foraging season and with all the activities we're offering this season, there is something for everyone!

Summer Herbal Weekend at the Lodge at Woodloch
Saturday and Sunday, June 22nd -23rd
Hawley, PA
Learn about our herbal allies in the heart of the Poconos. Wander pristine trails and treat yourself to luxurious accommodations. I will be offering six different guided hikes and herbal workshops over the weekend. We will also be sampling some delicious wild edibles as we go!

Mighty Monarch Butterfly Walk
Saturday, July 6th, 10 -12pm
Vernon, NJ
The Monarch Butterfly may be small but it is mighty! Learn about the intricacies of this special creature and its relationship to Milkweed. Join me for a walk on the grounds of the Grand Cascades Lodge, where we will discover Milkweed and possibly even spy some butterflies in action. Appropriate for adults and children alike. 
Walk is $15/person. No cost for 30 minute introductory seminar. Open to the public.

Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk with Earthly Treasures
Saturday, July 7th, 10 - 11:30 am
Milford, PA
Join me for a stroll along the streets of downtown Milford, where we will discover the wild edible and medicinal plants growing amidst our sidewalks, enjoying the sanctuary of thickets, and dappling backyards. Walk departing and ending at Earthly Treasures, your source for all things earthly!
Cost: $20/person, children under 13 are free. Pre-registration required.

Junior Naturalist Program at Crystal Springs Resort
Wednesday, July 10th, 10 - 11:30 am
Wednesday, August 21st, 4 - 5:30 pm
Friday, August 28th, 10 - 11:30 am
Vernon, NJ
Get your kids outside! Together we will discover wild plants, creepy-crawlies, and beautiful butterflies. Children will receive their own goody bag of naturalist tools to help them to further explore nature no matter where they are
Cost: $45/child. Parents not required to attend. Open to the public.

Finger Lakes Trail Days
Saturday, July 27th
Bath, NY
It's time to celebrate the Finger Lakes Trail! There will be guided hikes, seminars, bluegrass and camping...does it get any better? I will be sharing tales from my 2015 nearly 1,000 mile botanical thru-hike. My book, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Finger Lakes Trail, will be available for purchase. 
Cost: $25/person for the weekend

Wild Plant Walk on the Keuka Outlet Trail
Sunday, July 28th, 9 - 11 am
Dresden, NY
Hosted by the Friends of the Outlet Trail, join me for a botanical hike along the picturesque Keuka Outlet Trail. Learn tips and tricks for identifying these same plants at home or along your favorite trails.
More information to come

Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk at the Great Swamp
Sunday, July 28th, 2:30 - 4:30 pm
Canastota, NY
Hosted by the Great Swamp Conservancy, join me for a walk through the botanically rich Great Swamp. A presentation about some of our seasonal wild edible and medicinal plants will precede the hike. 
Cost: $5/members or $8/non-members

Festival of Wood at Grey Towers
Saturday and Sunday, August 3rd and 4th, 10 - 5 pm
Milford, PA
Peruse woodcraft by local artisans and come visit me at the Delaware Highlands Conservancy table on Sunday. I can answer any questions you may have about their organization and can also talk plants! My edible and medicinal plant guides will be available for purchase.
Cost: Free of Charge 

Wildflower Walk at Crystal Springs Resort
Saturday, August 10th, 4 - 6 pm
Vernon, NJ
Take a hike on the two-mile Nature Path at the Grand Cascades Lodge, along the way we will identify the many beautiful wildflowers and discuss just why they are so important. They benefit not just us, but the planet over. 
Cost: $15/person. Open to the public.

Medicinal Salve Workshop at Crystal Springs Resort
Saturday, September 7th, 1 - 2:30 pm
Vernon, NJ
Together we will craft our own herbal salves using simple and healthy ingredients. Learn how to make herbal salves for you and your family for years to come. Each attendee will takes home an herbal salve to enjoy! 
More information to come

Plant Walks, Herbal Workshops, Long-distance Hiking Presentations
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley PA
Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays throughout the season
As Woodloch's Certified Herbalist, I offer an array of activities centered around our natural world and holistic health. Book your stay and check out their outdoor activity schedule for a list of dates/times at: 

Book your activity with Hike Local
PA/NJ/NY
Do you have a group that would like to learn more about the edible and medicinal plants through a guided hike on a local trail? Perhaps you and your family would like to take a walk on your own property to learn about your very own plants? Do you have a group that has varying degrees of endurance? We also offer slideshows and workshops. Contact us and allow us to tailor a hike or activity specifically suited to you and your group!
Contact us at: HikeLocal@gmail.com
Visit: www.Facebook.com/HikeLocal to learn more

I hope to see you on the trail and in the woods!

Bee Balm aka Oswego Tea (Monarda fistulosa)