Choose Gifts with Expertly Chosen

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to think about now is buying more gifts. But what if your sister has a birthday next week? If she’s an expert foodie, you don’t want to get her a gift card for her local supermarket. How about a mushroom growing kit or a rolling pin with embossed dinosaurs rolling pin?

Trust me! I didn’t think of these gifts but Expertly Chosen did.

With the Expertly Chosen website, users select a range of interests and personality traits for their recipient. They also choose a price range. The website then collates gift ideas from experts in each of these areas, resulting in a list of suggestions unique to that recipient. Again it avoids that desperate all-purpose gift card.

The owners asked me to look at their website and pick something to review. Their main categories run the gamut from Entertainment to Travel and Adventure. From the latter, I chose Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. It’s a hefty book, not a book to take on a trip, but a fantastic book to plan your travels. I tested the book out just as I would test out a pair of boots.

Where am I going next, I thought? Tucson for some spring hiking and culture. Atlas Obscura  (AO) suggested the Titan Missile Museum, which displays the remnants of cold war missiles. Never heard of it – one point for AO.

Next, I think I know North Carolina well. What did they suggest? Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden in Wilmington full of pitcher plants and Venus flytraps.

This book reminds me of a travel Dream Book. It’s $18 on the Expertly Chosen site and $21 on the supposed cheap giant online book site. How do they do it? Of course, I could have gotten the book in other places but I didn’t know about it until I saw it on ExpertlyChosen.

Subject matter experts choose the gifts. I keep looking at their York bamboo trekking poles and wonder if they need testing as well.

Expertly Chosen is a useful site and fun to browse as well.

Altimeter – An A.T. story

Altimeter circa 1972??

I’m not one to look backwards but sometimes circumstances force me to think about the past, in this case several parts of my past.

I’ve been going through Lenny’s stuff.

My late husband was not a packrat by today’s definition but he left some items that he should have discarded years ago. That includes an old analog altimeter. This gives the altitude based on barometric pressure, without batteries or satellite reception.

I donated almost of his stuff to Goodwill but I don’t think the charity can use specialized hiking gear. Though I said I wasn’t going to do this, I’m spending time and effort to give away his hiking gear to the right places. But what to do with his altimeter?  It is only while writing this post that I learned that these altimeters are still sold.

Lenny on the A.T.

Lenny’s old altimeter belongs in a museum, the Appalachian Trail museum, to be specific. But when I contacted the museum, they said that they would take it only if it had an A.T. story. So here’s one, a true story.

In the late 1960s, we joined Union County Hiking Club, based in northern New Jersey. We hiked locally – yes, there’s plenty of good hiking in Northern New Jersey and onto the New York border.

Eventually, we went on a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were immediately taken by the possibilities of climbing the 48 mountains of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. Lenny always liked to keep lists and this was right up his alley. I got hooked as well and we finished all the mountains in 1978.

As we climbed, Lenny kept track of our progress with the altimeter. Most mountains were higher than 4,000 feet but it was good to know where we were and how much longer we had to go in ascent,

But while climbing some of these mountains, we realized that we were also hiking the Appalachian Trail. We stayed in the White Mountain huts, eight on the A.T. and we learned more about the Appalachian Trail. Again, Lenny started another box of index cards to keep our progress on the A.T.

The idea of walking the whole A.T. seemed ludicrous. We had jobs in large organizations that started us with two weeks of vacation. At the start, our son was a toddler. But somehow, we finished the A.T. in 1998. We never had a trail name, thinking that this was left to thru-hikers only. Besides, Lenny and Danny already sounded like a comedy team. Instead, we came up with a motto:

Georgia to Maine in 25 years

PS. If the A.T. museum doesn’t want the altimeter, it’s going to be recycled.

Asheville Greenways – present and future

Sulphur Springs

Today’s Carolina Mountain Club hike was billed as an almost flat, almost seven-mile hike. It barely seemed worthwhile to put on your hiking boots. But it promised a walk through current and future greenways. I was curious, so I put on my boots – low boots.

Marcia Bromberg, former CMC president, is very active in Friends of Connect Buncombe, the Buncombe County Greenway movement. Unlike hiking trails, greenways connect people to places they might want to walk or bike to. In Buncombe County, at least, the goal is to pave greenways, allowing more people to use them. They have a long way to go.

We started our walk in front of the remains of Sulphur Springs. What was a tourist attraction in the 19th century is now just a concrete pavilion around the well. The pictures may look unexciting and brown but we’re in the January thaw.

Opposite there’s a right-of-way through a private tract owned by the Myrtle Vrabel Estate. Vrabel, who died in 2007, owned a tract of land which is still laying dormant through Canie Creek ten years later.

Brother Hug and Marcia

I learned all of this from Doug Barlow, known as Brother Hug, a community organizer in the Canie Creek area.

He and other activists are working to get Riverlink, a conservancy, to buy the land from the estate, so it can be preserved and saved from development. To my untrained eyes, the land in a floodplain can’t be worth very much.

We walked through the Hominy Creek Greenway, which is an official greenway with maps and plans. It even has a beach – see the photo above dubbed the West Asheville beach.

Then to Carrier park and the French Broad River Park. The Asheville Camino used some of the same route, though of course, the Camino hike is over sixteen miles.

But honestly, it was difficult to figure out where one greenway or proposed greenway started and another ended. Buncombe County has approved a master plan for greenways, so this is a big, big important step in the future of greenways in our area.

In the meantime, we can study the greenway map, support the Friends group and most importantly walk or bike the greenway.

Thanks to Marcia and Brother Hug for leading the hike and making the Buncombe Greenways come alive.