Asheville Waterfall Tours: Get your adventure on!

Are you going to be in the Asheville area? If so, this is something you will definitely want to add to your “to do” list!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for an outdoor adventure

Yesterday, I went on an amazing tour of some of the less well-known waterfalls in the mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina. The tour was led by Carolyn Wilde, owner of Asheville Waterfall Tours.

This was not your average tour. Carolyn provides more of an adventure, leading us off the beaten path and away from the tourists. We were able to get up close & personal with some pretty amazing waterfalls! Carolyn has the ability to customize your personal tour (from 1 to 14 people) based on your level of skill, hiking preferences, and tolerance for adventure.

She will also push your limits just a bit. On the tour yesterday, a couple was not so sure about climbing up or down to some of the vantage points she wanted to take us to. However, Carolyn was very competent and guided them along with safety first in mind; even offering a helping hand at a few of the rougher spots. But each time, once you reached the location, the reaction was, “Oh my God, that was so worth it!”

Our fantastic guide!

asheville waterfall tours
Yours truly posing with our guide, Carolyn.

Carolyn provided water and snacks, along with some great stores about local history (I loved the story of the white squirrel), culture, and pointed out waterfalls and other sites for future visits to the area (there is simply way to much to see in a single day), as well as advice for local “after tour” activities in downtown Asheville.

asheville waterfall tours

Interesting side note …

As we hiked along surrounded by beautiful forests, babbling streams, and the region’s assorted outcroppings of rock, I discovered this huge chunk of what looks like milky quartz or feldspar surrounded by what looks like granite to me. While I am not a “mineral” expert by any means, I did find the contrast fascinating.

asheville waterfall tours

Wild life viewing is included …

We even encountered some of the local wildlife along the trail. Not wanting to intrude, we were very careful to keep our distance … especially from these guys!

asheville waterfall tours

I will be a repeat customer!

Again, this was a truly fantastic day! I cannot stress enough how good Carolyn is at what she does. There are simply so many hidden waterfalls in the region … that are not shown on tourist maps or marked by signage, and that you will not find without a knowledgeable local guide.

I did manage to choose a time when the Asheville area is experiencing a minor drought, so the water flow was a bit less than it might have normally been. I absolutely want to come back and see these falls in all their glory … maybe right after a real rainy season!

You can see images of many of these falls on Carolyn’s website at AshevilleWaterfallTours.com. You can check out her reviews on Trip Adviser here, but you will want to go to her website to book a tour. It helps Carolyn keep the costs down.

asheville waterfall tours

I highly recommend Carolyn Wilde and her Asheville Waterfall Tours to anyone who enjoys nature, hiking, and waterfalls but always wished they could see just a bit more than the typical drive-by tourist attractions.

Definitely a Five Star Saturday afternoon!

For some adventure of a different sort, check out my books, Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales. Both available on Amazon.com! And for more great posts and reviews. click right here!

Early Morning Cat Fu

Our early morning constitutional …

cat fu

Sophie and I take a walk every morning to start our day. It was a beautifully crisp fall morning and we were enjoying our walk. Urgent matters behind us, we were headed back toward the hacienda, when suddenly a rather large yellow feral cat stepped out of the brush and faced us down. Both Sophie and the cat spotted each other at precisely the same time. The cat froze, it’s tail twitching in an irritated manner, but it did not move. Sophie froze as well, and so began an epic stare-down! Neither Sophie nor the cat would move. Just an occasional twitch of the cat’s tail while Sophie remained coiled like a spring … ready to leap.

It was like the story of the two old masters

I used to tell kids in my children’s karate classes a story about two old Okinawan karate masters where were manipulated into a challenge match. They met on the beach at sunrise, and faced each other as the villagers gathered to see the epic fight. Shifting into their ready stances, each fixed a powerful gaze on the other and waited.

I watched as the cat stood its ground, staring at Sophie with its own ‘powerful gaze.” Sophie stared right back, not blinking and immovable. Neither were willing to give ground or surrender to the other’s “chi.”

In the story of the two old masters, after an hour of watching the masters face each other unflinchingly, the villagers, some what disappointed, deemed the challenge match a tie … and everyone went home.

In the case of Sophie and the cat, after several minutes, I called it a tie and we all went home.

cat fu
I didn’t get a picture of the cat, so this will have to do …

Lessons learned …

Each of the old masters understood that the first one to attack, would die. That is why there is “no first strike in karate.” You cannot move without creating an opening. All the other combatant has to do is be patient and skilled enough to take advantage of that opening.

In the case of Sophie and the cat, I think the cat, obviously being the older and wiser of the two, decided it was too fine a morning for a spat, and nonchalantly sauntered back off into the underbrush.

Sophie, on the other hand, seemed very proud of herself, having just saved her master from the evil ninja cat that leapt out from the dark woods to wreak destruction and vengeance on the entire universe!

It was definitely an interesting start to a new day!

If you have time, please take a minute and check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales on Amazon.com.

Beautiful Joe: A Dog’s Story

An amazing Christmas present …

I received this wonderful book as a Christmas present when I was a young boy and loved it, reading it many times over the years. The copy I received as a present had the older cover shown near the bottom of this post.

I have read many dog stories over the years including Juneau the Sleigh Dog, White Fang, Call of the Wild, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Frosty, and, of course, Beautiful Joe, which was always one of my favorites.

I guess I have recently had a resurgence of interest in dog stories because a dog plays a key role in my book Serpents Underfoot and its upcoming sequel, Montagnard.

I tried to order a copy with the same cover as the edition I originally was given, but could only find it through ABE Books, and the seller wanted $275 for it. So, I settled for a newer edition from Amazon. But, how I wish I still had my original copy!

A truly wonderful tale …

beautiful joe

This is indeed one of the most beloved stories in the English language

Originally published as a novel in 1894, “Beautiful Joe” is based on the true story of a real dog from the town of Meaford in southern Ontario. Written by Margaret Marshall Saunders in 1893, this wonderful, heartwarming book was the first Canadian book to sell one million copies and it was the winning entry in a literary contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society.

Margaret Saunders originally heard the tale of this dog, who had actually been abused and then rescued as depicted in the story, from her sister-in-law, Louise Moore and it was Louise’s father, Walter Moore, who had rescued the dog on which this tale is based in 1890.

About Beautiful Joe

The real Beautiful Joe was an Airedale-type dog. He was medium-sized, brown, and described as likely being part bull terrier and part fox terrier. He was also described as a mongrel, a cur, and a mutt.

The town of Meaford now has a park and statue honoring the real Beautiful Joe and, in 1994, a private heritage society was created to preserve the Moore home and establish a museum.

The story is told as an autobiography from the dog’s point of view and recounts his earliest memories of his mother, their cruel owner, and his rescue after being horribly abused, as well as his wonderful life with the “Morris” family. Beautiful Joe is inspired to tell his life’s story in the belief that it will please his mistress.

And indeed, Saunders’s story immediately makes reference to the story of Black Beauty in her story, Beautiful Joe. Saunders does not refer to the book by name but instead, writes (from Joe’s perspective) “I have seen my mistress laughing and crying over a little book that she says is a story of a horse’s life”.

Joe goes on to explain that he will write the story of a dog’s life, to similarly please his owner. Within the narrative of this story, Beautiful Joe is directly inspired to tell his tale by the story of Black Beauty.

Saunders bases her fictionalized version of the story in a small town in Maine, and recounts the many wonderful adventures of Joe and the other animals and people in and around the “Morris” family farm. The farm, it’s little barn and barnyard are the scene for many delightful tales that will warm your heart, make you chuckle, and even perhaps bring a tear to your eye.

Perhaps most importantly, hidden within “Beautiful Joe,” is a powerful call to end cruelty to animals. And, it is a message the author delivers effectively through the vehicle of a narrative that can be enjoyed and loved by generations of readers, both young and old.

beautiful joe
The cover of my original edition of Beautiful Joe

My thoughts …

It was a real pleasure to read Joe’s story again. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, that I think I may re-read some of the other dog tales mentioned above. And, I guess as I do, I will review them here.

I give this book an easy Five Out of Five Stars for readers of all ages. Margaret Marshall Saunders’ tale clearly illustrates why dogs have earned their reputation for being man’s best friend..

Boundaries: Please respect mine?

boundaries

Personal Boundaries

We all have our boundaries. And we expect people to respect them. For instance, people should respect the privacy of your home. You have the right to lock your doors and windows, not because you hate what is outside, but because you love what is inside … your spouse, your children, your dog, your car, your DVD collection. Whatever it is, you have a right to secure and protect it.

Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choose

Gerard Manley Hopkins

You might even put up a fence to contain and protect your dog. Or, you may want to keep intruders out. Perhaps it just serves as a privacy screen. However, it is your right to put up your fence and it is not, in any way, an immoral act.

Thoughts on Scale

Boundaries are not complete inviolable. You have neighbors. You might take a casserole over to a neighbor who is ill, or share your grill for a neighborhood July 4th block party.

boundaries

On the other side of the coin, if you see your neighbor’s house being burglarized you might call the police. If you see the neighbor’s children having a spat, you might observe just to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand. If somebody is about to get hurt, you might even step in to cool things off. In a worse case scenario, where a child is being abused, you might step up and go to the aid of the child. It is nice to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

What is the difference in personal boundaries and those between countries? It is only a difference of scale. Why? Because countries are made up of people. People need their boundaries. And, so do countries.

Boundaries are a Separation of Ideas!

I recently heard someone say, “Boundaries are a physical manifestation of the line between good and bad ideas. That statement really struck me. And, after thinking about it, I had to agree. Here is an example of what I mean.

In the controversy over our border with Mexico, some have compared the wall being built along sections of our border to the wall around West Berlin, which was finally torn down.

To put it plainly, this is a terrible and totally dishonest comparison.

At the end of World War II, Europe was carved up into two portions. One portion was allowed to continue on as before. However, the other portion fell under the control of the Soviet Union. This was done to placate Joseph Stalin, whose military forces had indeed helped defeat Adolf Hitler’s armies.
As part of the peace plan, Stalin was granted half of Germany and half of Berlin. However, Berlin was deep inside what would become known as East Germany

boundaries

The Berlin Wall, or Berliner Mauer in German, was a barrier that surrounded West Berlin and prevented access to it from East Berlin and adjacent areas of East Germany during the period from 1961 to 1989. From 1949 to 1961, approximately 2.5 million East Germans fled from East to West Germany. This included many skilled workers, professionals, and intellectuals. Their loss threatened to destroy the economic viability of the East German state. In response, East Germany built a barrier to close off East Germans’ access to West Berlin and hence West Germany.

The original wall, built of barbed wire and cinder blocks, was subsequently replaced by a series of 15 foot concrete walls, topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers, gun emplacements, and mines. By the 1980s that system of walls, electrified fences, and fortifications extended 28 miles dividing the city of Berlin into two parts, and extending a further 75 miles around West Berlin, separating it from the rest of East Germany.

The point is the Berlin wall was not built to keep illegal immigration under control, or to try and block shipments of drugs, or to help prevent human and child sex trafficking by criminal cartels. It was built to keep East Germans in! Nobody, with the possible exception of western spies or the occasional crazies, was ever shot trying to get into East Germany or East Berlin. However, between 1961 and 1989, over 239 people were killed trying to get out. As a child, I remember we would get occasional letters from a relative trapped in East Germany. I remember when the letters stopped. We have no idea what happened.

The Berlin Wall separated ideas of freedom, democracy, and individual rights from the iron hand of totalitarianism. collectivism. and individual subjugation.

A Lack of Boundaries Invites a Lack of Respect

Mexico has a fascinating history and culture, and one that should be respected and appreciated. Then again, so does the United States. But, our cultures are different.

Most Americans would probably say they do not want the Unites States to become another Mexico. Despite Mexico’s interesting history and culture, the country has a long history of governmental corruption and criminal cartels engaged in drug smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, and human trafficking. Hopefully, improvements are being made, but only the passage of time will tell.

Human Trafficking is an abomination. In my opinion, anyone who “just cannot seem too understand” the role border security plays in helping to prevent human trafficking (or any of these other crimes) from occurring is either willfully ignorant or has another agenda, one that is not in the best interests of the United States and its citizens. Or, the victims of these horrific crimes.

borders

Legal … Not Illegal Immigration

Yes. America is a country built on immigration. It was built by immigrants. My ancestors came here from Germany and Switzerland, and possibly England. They worked hard to become good Americans. They did not try to turn America into another Germany or Switzerland; … because they believed in the American dream and wanted to be part of it. Not destroy it!

America has become a force for good on this planet. Does that mean we have never made mistakes. Of course not. But more Americans have given their lives in the defense of other people and countries than any nation on this planet. More American taxpayer dollars have been spent in foreign aid than any other countries. And of course, America should continue to be a force for good! But there is nothing wrong in asking other countries to step up and do their share.

boundaries

It is neither economically nor physically feasible for the United States to become the refugee camp for the entire planet.

The people of Honduras, El Savador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and Somalia, or any other country need to stand up and fight for their country and their people’s interests, just as Americans did over 243 years ago.

America and other countries can certainly help, just as France helped us. But there is an old saying, “You can’t help someone who won’t help themselves.” That saying still holds true today.

Keep America Healthy and Strong

boundaries

You also cannot help anyone if you are sick, unstable, emotionally, or intellectually bankrupt yourself. The same holds true for a country. In order to be a force for good on the planet, America must be healthy and strong. That means economically, militarily, and emotionally.

Patriotism is not a bad thing.

Patriotism is the driving force behind the success of any country. Patriotism is also what allows a people to withstand periods of trouble and turmoil for the good of the nation. Do you remember the victory gardens or Rosie the Riveter from WW II?

And, perhaps more importantly:

Patriotism is not obedience to government. Patriotism is obedience to the principles for which the government is supposed to stand.

Howard Zinn

The Circle is Complete …

So America needs to be healthy to maintain its role as a force for good on this planet. America is a defender of freedom, liberty, and human rights around the world.

Boundaries are healthy, normal and necessary for people. This would also include groups of people … and even countries. Boundaries (and borders) are neither immoral nor a “manhood thing” as some want to suggest. They are essential to the health of this Nation.

Clear and healthy borders keep us from selfish desires and wanting to control others. They also protect us from those who lack self-control and yet still want to control us.

Brace Yourself: You’re Going to be Offended!

offended
Offended much?

Well, it finally happened. I offended somebody simply by wearing my “Unapologetically American” T-shirt! I really don’t give a crap. If you are offended by someone who is proud of the country you are living in, you are the one with the problem. And besides, you can always move.

offended

No, that’s not me in the T-shirt. I didn’t want to offend anyone!

That’s the T-shirt model from Ranger Up where I ordered the shirt sometime ago. And, this is not really a plug for the shirt or Ranger Up. I just wanted you to see exactly what it was this snowflake was offended by. But, if you want to order a shirt to see who you can offend, click here!

What really offends me is how people are now so easily offended!

I have just a couple of things to say about people who are that easily offended.

  • Being offended doesn’t make you right
  • If you are shocked by what I say, then you really have no clue as to who I am.
  • If you don’t care enough to learn about who I am, why should I waste anytime on you?

So, boys and girls, buck up … and put your adult underwear on. This country would not exist today if early explorers, our Founding Fathers, or those who fought to build and protect this great nation were offended every time they heard an opinion that differed from their own.

Put down your cocoa, turn loose that puppy, wipe away those tears, hitch up your britches, and get out into the real world. Develop some backbone and a thicker skin. You will be happier, healthier, and probably live longer.

And, that’s about all I have to say about that!

By the way, if I haven’t offended you so much that you are now quivering in your Nikes, on the verge of tears, and hear the cocoa calling your name, check out the cover to my new book and let me know what you think. Just click here!

The Montagnards: The Green Berets’ Secret Vietnam Warriors.

montagnard
The Montagnards: The Green Berets’ Secret Vietnam Warriors symposium is Aug. 14 at 7 p.m.

Back in 2015, the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum hosted a panel discussion of the Green Berets’ Use of Montagnard Tribesmen During the War in Vietnam

I have been to Patriot Point several times and always enjoy touring the aircraft carrier. the USS Yorktown, and seeing the many naval aircraft on her deck, as well as the destroyer, the USS Laffey (which has an absolutely heroic history), and the submarine, the USS Clamagore (which I understand is destined to be sunk as an artificial reef).

I have done a great deal of research into the Montagnard people for both Serpents Underfoot and it’s “sequel in progress,” Montagnard. I am sorry I missed this symposium. It would have been interesting and helpful.

While really a short description of the symposium, there is also a good bit of information about the Montagnard people. Anyone interested in reading the article can click this link!

Poll: Montagnard Book Cover

First Cover Design for Montagnard

The sequel to Serpents Underfoot

Here is the first attempt at a cover design for Montagnard, the action-packed sequel to Serpents Underfoot. It was created for me by a freelancer on Fiverr.com

I am working very hard to make this second novel a lot better than my first (which from the reviews … wasn’t that bad).

But I did learn a great deal from my first book, and those lessons learned promise to make this second release just that much better.

That should also include the cover! So, please let me know what you think!

montagnard