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)






Saturday, May 4, 2019

Spring 2019 Herbal Activities

Leaves of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
The first shoots of Stinging Nettle have sprung lining our bursting creeks. They cluster about the unfurling palm-shaped leaves of Bloodroot and the umbrella-like tops of Mayapple. Spring is here in all her bounty. It's up to us to take notice. Now is the time when each day on the trail offers new botanical beauties. Seemingly overnight it seems the Garlic Mustard has flowered and the Cleavers have grown nearly a foot tall. Time to get outside!
We are happy to offer a number a ways to do just that through a variety of activities throughout the season. And we are still booking. If you have a group you would like to take out on the trail or a plant-inspired event, let us know here at Hike Local!

On the Path with Emerging Voices Open Mic, Frisky Goat Coffeehouse, Milford PA
Saturday, May 11th, 7:00 pm
Scott and I will be sharing stories and song from our adventure on the 1,100 mile Florida Trail. For three months we hiked through swamp and prairie, down dirt road and beside levees, beneath the shade of Live Oaks and the scorching Florida sunshine. Plants abounded as did gators, hogs and snakes. An array of inspiring artists will also take the stage offering poetry, prose, and music. Join in the fun!
Cost: Free

Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk with Crystal Springs Resort, Vernon NJ
Saturday, May 18th, 4:00 - 5:00 pm
Join me on Crystal Springs' very own Nature Path at the Grand Cascades Lodge. We will identify the wild plants we encounter and learn about their myriad of uses. Walk will be easy in nature. Children welcome. Pre-registration strongly suggested.
Cost: $15/person. Including in walk cost is free attendance to seminar described below.
For more information, visit: 

Herbs for Allergies, Crystal Springs Resort, Vernon NJ
Saturday, May 18th, 5:30 - 6:30 pm
With Spring comes seasonal allergies...good thing Mother Nature provides us with all we need to combat them! Take part in a seminar in which we will discuss herbal tonics helpful in both preventing and treating seasonal allergies. This workshop is indoors. Pre-registration is strongly suggested.
Cost: $10/person. Cost is free with purchase of plant walk listed above.
For more information, visit:

Plant Walk with the Skylands Sierra Club, Wantage NJ
Saturday, May 25th, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Join us over Memorial Day weekend for a walk at the beautiful Lusscroft Farm. We will discover both prized woodland medicinals and under appreciated weeds. Learns tips for identification, methods of preparation, and enjoy the scenery! Walk will be moderately difficult.
Cost: $20/person. Children under 12 are free.
Pre-registration is required.
Contact Chapter head, David Alcock to register: dwhoob@hotmail.com
You do not need to be a Sierra Club member to attend.
For more information, visit:

The Art of Tea: An Herbal Tea Tasting
Saturday, June 1st, 4:00 - 5:00
Discover the medicinal value of an herbal blend perfect for revitalizing the body, soothing the nerves, and promoting general wellness. But tea is not only medicinal, it's delicious! Learn how to prepare your own herbal tea from scratch. Attendees receive a gift bag of tea to take home. This class is hands-on. 
Cost: $10/person. Pre-registration is strongly suggested as group size is limited.
For more information, visit: 

Earth Medicines Walk, Crystal Springs Resort, Vernon NJ
Saturday, June 1st, 5:00 - 6:30 pm
Take a stroll on the Nature Path at the Grand Cascades Lodge and learn about the valuable medicinal benefits of our wild plants. Many of these plants are also common backyard weeds, which means that you likely have some growing near you! Walk will be easy in nature. Children welcome.
Cost: $10/person. Pre-registration is strongly suggested as group size is limited.
For more information, visit: 

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

Looking forward to seeing you on the trail and in the woods!


Bloodroot flower (Sanguinaria canadensis)





Saturday, April 6, 2019

Reflections on the Florida Trail

Us at the Southern terminus of the Florida Trail - Big Cypress National Preserve
To hike any trail is to put one's self in the path of the unknown, to hike a long distance trail is a gradual surrender to the unknown, but to hike the Florida Trail was a giant leap and sudden immersion into the unknown. To embrace the unknown, find peace within it, and ultimately become intimate with it, is largely why we hiked this trail. 

The Black Lagoon - Big Cypress National Preserve

Our very first day hiking into the Big Cypress National Preserve, to be completely honest, we were terrified. Never mind the fact that we have hiked numerous long distance trails before. None of them included miles of wading black water, alligators, panthers, pythons, poisonwood, and hookworm larvae. We had done our research and the ranger at the Oasis Visitor Center drove home to us the many dangers we could possibly encounter. The first mile of the trail was overgrown with grasses as high as our heads. Never before in my life had I been fearful of every foot step, so alert to rustling in the brush, or hesitant to touch a plant. But despite our learned knowledge of this region, we were mere babes in the jungle. Every impression new. But this was why we had come here...to reawaken every sense, to force ourselves into the present, and to eventually become at home in a landscape that was so far from home. The earth is our home and we sought, and still seek to, know it well in all its hardness and beauty. Throughout its length the Florida Trail offered us the path to doing just that.

Walking along the levees in southern Florida

The Florida Trail provided intensity. On the levees we persevered through unyielding sun and dizzying heat and struggled to stay hydrated. But each morning we followed in the path of the birds that called this land home and marveled at the alligators that lived in the sparkling waters that stretched for miles. In the prairies, we wandered through remote grasslands for over 100 miles and sunk our feet into deep sugar sand. Yet here, the wind carried the sounds of scraping Saw Palmetto fronds and when we dipped into a Live Oak forest, the scent of fresh oranges. The temperatures dropped drastically in Ocala National Forest and we wondered how we had ever been so hot further south, our fingers numb from the cold every morning. However at night the skies were studded with twinkling stars and by day the skies so blue against the white sand of the trail and the green of the trailside corridor. Scrub Jays of the same brilliant blue flitted to and froe across our path. Then just as we were considering sending home our water-walking shoes, we plunged into the swamps. Swamps with sucking mud and swirling pollen and the blackest water we had ever seen. Yet from these rose towering Cypress with smooth bark and carnivorous plants that sometimes seemed more animal than plant.

Wise Man checking out an ancient Live Oak

We wove along the edges of rivers with names that harkened to another time long ago - the Suwannee, Withalacoochee, the Aucilla, the Sopchoppy, and Appalachicola, to name a few. Here we crept around the ancient Live Oaks adorned in Resurrection Fern, Sphagum moss, and red lichen, and marveled at the scarlet samaras of the Maples that lined the rivers' edges. Then there were the long roadwalks, so very long. Cars zipped by with such frequency and the pavement rolled underfoot so regularly we were sometimes hypnotized, that is until a truck would rumble by kicking up a sandstorm in its wake. But we made friends with cows and marveled at humble shacks and falling down barns. In our last two days we reached the crashing waves and lumpy dunes of the beach. This trail was ever-changing and complex in the challenges it presented. However in each unique region, after what felt like a very long time existing in it, although in reality might have been only a few hours or a few days, we grew comfortable as we got to know our surroundings. 

Black Titi (Cliftonia monophylla)

I have spent roughly a decade studying the plants of Appalachia. These plants are dear friends that I incorporate into meals and medicines and use in educating others about their natural world. I have become well acquainted with the plants of the Piedmont and had brushed shoulders with those of the Coastal Plain on my hikes along the coasts of North Carolina. However many which I met on the Florida Trail were new faces to new me or variations of those that I have met before. Some faces which always greeted me on the trail, I never saw once. Therefore, I felt truly a stranger in strange land. The first couple of weeks on the trail, I wondered how I might ever become truly acquainted with the array of new botanicals here in the Land of Flowers. However, each day I learned one, or two, or five. There were the beauties: Ten-Petaled Sabatia, Lantana, Tassel Flower, Moon Flower, and Lizard's Tail.
Red Cedar (Lantana camara)

There were the often-seen: Gallberry, Saw Palmetto, Wapato, Alligator Flag, and Innocence.

Innocence (Houstonia procumbens)


Then there were the carnivorous plants: Trumpets and Sweet Pitchers Sundew, Hooded Bladderwort, and Butterwort. 
Sundew (Drosera)

The fragrant flowers were easy to remember: Florida Anise, Wild Rosemary, Ti-ti, and Candy Weed. 
Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum)

So were some of those we ate: Spanish Needles, Beauty Berry, Pink Wood Sorrel, and oh so many Violets.
Spanish Needles (Bidens pilosa)

And so many more. By the time we were walking the final mile along a gravel trail lined with greenery, it was as if these plants were dear friends lining the path in celebration of our journey's completion. I will never be a stranger in a strange land here in Florida again, rather I will find myself at home amongst these plants. 
Hiking through Nokuse Plantation

Amidst the intensity of the trail there was also always a quiet consistency underlying it all. In certain ways, each day was very much like the last. We awoke before dawn, made coffee and ate peanut butter, be it on a tortilla, granola bar, bagel, or pop-tart. We looked at the days miles and got to hiking. We stopped roughly every hour or so to have a snack, check out a plant, or cool down. Mid-day we peeled off our shoes, leaned back on our packs and ate lunch which usually consisted of cheese on some kind of glutenous product. If we were lucky we had condiment packets and wild greens. Just before sundown, we would find our camp, set up the tent and crawl inside for the night. 

Camped along the Aucilla River

Especially towards the end, this routine at times felt monotonous, coupled with the fact that for all of the trail's changing terrain, each day did not have a highlighted goal. There was no high peak to climb or state line to cross. There was not a blatant daily reward. But at the same time, to hike to this sort of steady hum, allowed us to more deeply listen to our thoughts, notice our own emotional or psychological cycles, and gently attune them to that steady hum of the Florida landscape. The simplicity of trail life was a gift and the rewards were a clear stream, a tree heavy with ripe tangerines, the company of a sweet stray dog, crossing a long bridge over a wide river, reaching a gas station with a grill and cold soda, successfully tip-toing across cypress knees to dodge a swamp or surrendering to the swamp and standing ankle deep in muck without a care, the kindness of strangers and making new friends.

All in attendance at Billy Goat Days - an annual celebration marking legendary hiker, Billy Goat's birthday, and the Florida Trail

And there it is...the thread that stitches the Florida Trail together. The people. The community. For us, the Florida Trail would not have been the magical, meditative, botanical journey it was without the folks that support it, its hikers, and those that live and extend helping hands along its corridor. We speculated at its presence before we even started the trail, as we stumbled across numerous Facebook pages about the trail and several with the stated intention to be of assistance to those who hike the trail. We introduced ourselves, reached out, and the community responded. And although we feel like we formed unique and genuine friendships with those we met through the trail, it was not just us they helped. These folks were there for all the hikers. In the south, along the levees and throughout the prairie, had it not been for the strategically placed water caches, we would have either not made it or gotten sick from the contaminated water in the process. In central Florida we were welcomed into homes by family and new friends, assisted in getting around for resupply and shuttled from here to there and even attended the Annual Billy Goat Days. In the panhandle, we embraced the hospitality of the churches who opened their doors to us. Throughout the length of the trail, we were gifted with surprise slackpacks and rides to or from town, homemade meals or simply sweet company. Yes we were hiking this trail as a couple, a trail at times through deep wilderness, but it was as if we were part of a family and the trail was our home. We were supported. The Florida Trail Alliance and its trail angels and Florida Trail Association volunteers were largely responsible for this however, it was also our fellow hikers. When a tornado touched down on the trail, not far from where we were taking shelter that night in Hillcrest Church, we glanced at Facebook and saw that hikers were looking out each other. Trail angels and members of the Alliance and the Association were doing their best to account for where hikers were and hikers were responding, checking in with this one or that one. All were safe that night. Thru-hikers communicated via various forms of tech to help guide others coming up behind them through tricky parts of the trail. Hiker's families and friends opened their homes for places to stay and services to help resupply. The ways in which we received assistance, support, and acts of kindness are countless. We have said it before, and we'll say it again and again and again, the community that surrounds this trail is what truly makes it special. 

Hanging with Uncle Jim at the I-75 rest area

There were the friends from home and friends we had made on previous hikes who appeared with trail magic and walked miles with us, lifting our spirits and reminding us of the large network of friendship we have created in our travels. There were our families at home and along the trail that mailed packages, took us in providing us shelter, food, and laughter, and listened to our travails by phone.
Meeting the Brents along a roadwalk in Appalachicola National Forest

Even the locals that we met along the way, whether it be passerby at a convenience store or folks we met along the roadwalks, greeted us warmly and with generosity. We often have people ask us if we were scared of who we might meet along the trail - for surely what we see on the news tells us we should be - but rather we looked forward each day to just whom we might meet along the trail!

Traversing swamp in Osceola

Logistically, the Florida Trail is definitely more challenging than some other long distance trails in its potential closures and reroutes due to high water or weather. Navigating our way through the swamps where there was often no definable trail except for blazes or over terrain like sand and deep mud which are not always encountered elsewhere, were also an added aspect to this trail. However thanks to the community that extended their help, the resources available such as Sandra Friend and John Keatley's guidebook and the Guthook app, we found these tricky spots manageable. The resupply options along the trail were plentiful and the weather was as favorable as one might expect Florida to be in the temperate winter. I am happy to say that we encountered less bugs than we expected with the exception of swarms of mosquitoes on the levees. This trail may still be a work in progress but any long distance trail is in reality ever-changing. This is the nature of a trail after all - at times unpredictable, challenging, and unknown, and therein lies its beauty.

Wise Man feeling the magic of the trail

Now that we are home, the full effects of our journey will continue to ripple through us. This residual magic is why we continue to hike the long trails that we do. Despite returning to "normal" life and all the complexities it can present, we are still experiencing a quiet calm and a deep appreciation for our many blessings. Food tastes richer, the company of friends and family is warmer, and every particle of our landscape is more enlivened. When we lay our heads down to sleep at night, we walk dirt roads, wander between Saw Palmettos, dine with friends, and still hear the calling of cranes and barking of dogs. One can never expect to hike a long trail and return the same person. The Florida Trail will now always be a part of us just as we shall now always be a part of the Florida Trail. Florida's landscape, its plants, it animals, and its people will forever resound through us.
Us at the Northern terminus - Fort Pickens - see, I said the trail will change a person!

So what's next? I will be continuing to compile our botanical research about the hike in the upcoming months. A guide to the plants of the Florida Trail will be in the works. You can expect to see us this Fall at the ALDHA gathering where we will share our experience on the Florida Trail and we hope to see all of our dear friends there as well! Our journey in Florida has really just begun. We plan to return in the winters and offer guided plant walks and hikes on not only on the Florida Trail but on other trails throughout the state, as well as herbal workshops, and presentations about our experience on the trail. We will be looking for land to purchase and/or a place to park the trailer so that we can make this happen. So if you have any pointers, ideas, suggestions, let us know!

Thank you to all who supported us in our journey! Each and every one of you made the difference!



Trail marker just a couple of miles from the end of the trail