Tag: Asheville

Adventures with Ursus Americanus

The other afternoon I was walking to the field with Sophie when we stumbled on this little family. Sophie was quite intrigued.

‘That’s the biggest dog I have ever seen,” she exclaimed. I had to explain to her that this was a family of black bears or Ursus Americanus. Since momma was between her cubs and us, she did not seem unduly alarmed by our presence. This old momma bear has been around the neighborhood for many years and is very used to humans and their pets.

You can see her tracking collar. A neighbor who is really keen about bears told us that this old girl has been tracked traveling between Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina. That is a territory covering about 100 miles in length.

The two cubs pretty much ignored us as well, seeming content to just play in the grass at the base of this tree on Pine Croft Road. They glanced over at Sophie a time or two but seemed unconcerned.

Sophie and I stayed quiet, although Sophie’s ears were on high alert. Eventually momma bear ambled off down the road toward the creek. Her two cubs followed quickly along and did not even look back at us once.

Sophie and I continued down to the field where we had a rousing game of catch with her favorite ball. It was quite an adventure-filled day.

I hope you will take some time to check out some of my other “blog posts by clicking here!

And, if you do enjoy reading stories about bears, please consider checking out my short book of true bear encounters, Adirondack Bear Tales, on Amazon.com! It’s also getting really great reviews.

Profile of an Adirondack Woman

Sometimes when I share some of my life stories with friends and acquaintances, I get looks and comments like “No way” or “You’re full of it.” I think far too many people spend their lives in tiny bubbles and never get to experience the fantastic world that is out there.

You’ve heard the saying, “We tend to write what we know …”

One of the many things that have amazed me in my short career as an author is the number of women who have given my first book, Serpents Underfoot, great reviews. It was my first book, and because of this, I know it is a little rough around the edges; maybe a bit too much language and a bit “too much information” in the bedroom scenes. But hey, you learn!

I had imagined my audience to be veterans and action/thriller fans. So I was shocked when I began receiving great reviews from female readers. After talking to a few readers, I understood that Serpents Underfoot had several strong female characters, and they really appreciated that.

While I pretty much self-edited Serpents Underfoot, I am working with a real editor for its sequel, Montagnard.

Beth Werner, of Author Connections, has been a professional editor and marketer for over 20 years. She served as the former Director of Marketing and Sales at Kirkus and has worked with Random House, Penguin, MacMillan, Disney Hyperion, Chronicle, Scholastic, FSG, Wiley, and others. Having read Serpents Underfoot, she commented she was also struck by the strength of the female characters in the story and how much she appreciated and enjoyed that. I believe I have carried this through into the sequel, Montagnard.

So, why the strong female characters?

In my life, I have had the privilege of knowing several strong women. Both of my grandmothers were strong women. One was the daughter of a well-known Herkimer, NY lawyer, drove a roadster, wore patent leather boots, and met the world on her terms. She was part Cherokee Indian and related to Robert E. Lee. I think my mother was a lot like her.

My other grandmother was a quiet, caring, and supportive woman. When my grandfather was drafted by the Army and stationed in Japan with General MacArthur after the war, she raised her children, worked in her garden, and was a source of strength for her husband, who was thousands of miles away in a strange land.

I was privileged to date another strong woman for several years, and while things did not work out quite like I hoped they might, I have nothing but respect for her. A medical professional, this lady took on the State Government, unethical “pain pill” clinics, and other issues in a continuous effort to improve the quality of professional medical care for her patients. She is now knee-deep in this battle against the coronavirus.

But, the strongest woman I have ever known was my mother!

Let me introduce you to her …

Ardis Gilbert was born in Ilion, NY, the daughter of Erwin and Eileen Klippel. She began nursing school at the age of 16 and graduated as an RN from Albany Medical Center in 1959. After moving to North Adams, MA, with her husband, Curt, Ardis graduated Magna Cum Laude in Mathematics and Summa Cum Laude in Administration from North Adams State Community College. She went on to teach mathematics for many years.

My mother enjoyed hiking, camping, backpacking, and canoe trips with family and friends, and jokingly founded the Adirondack Women’s Club for female family and friends who met the criteria.

A few family tales …

Albany, NY Granary Fire

When my mom was still a freshmen nursing student at the Albany Medical Center, a disastrous granary fire occurred in Albany. Many were severely burned in the fire, and the medical center was overrun. During the emergency, she stayed in an elevator with a doctor and performed emergency tracheotomies on burn victims as they were being taken up to the burn center for care.

One Crazy Old Lady

Serving a tour as a nurse in a ward that housed the criminally insane, she prepared to check in on an old woman who needed her medication. Nurses were not supposed to enter this woman’s room without an orderly present. However, there were no orderlies available. So, mom looked in the room and saw that the woman was resting peacefully and seemed quite calm. Being rather fearless, she decided not to wait for an orderly. My mother leaned close to the patient, the old woman sprang on her and began strangling her. She was amazingly strong, and my mother couldn’t pry her fingers loose. Fortunately, some orderlies arrived just in time and pried the crazy old woman’s fingers from around her neck. A few more moments and I would not even be here. It was a lesson my mother took to heart.

Hand washer escapee

In the same ward, there was a young man who continually washed his hands to the point that he would scrub the skin off them. I never knew what he did, but it was like he was trying desperately to get the blood off his hands. The doctors had to keep special gloves covering his hands and sometimes had to restrain him. During one of his more lucid moments, he was calmly walking the halls when someone accidentally let the locked door to the ward stay open a few seconds. In a flash, the man was out the door and making a dash for freedom. Seeing him go, my mother took right off after him and chased him through the medical center. She was a small younger woman but tackled him around the legs in a manner that would make any football player proud. He was, at this point, in the main entrance lobby to the medical center.

My strong female characters

While not intentional, I guess the strong female characters in Serpents Underfoot are composites of the courage and strength I saw in the many strong women I have had the privilege to know during my life. And after the reaction from my readers, I felt it essential to continue that.

My mother lost a fight with cancer almost two years ago now. But she met that implacable enemy with her head held high, and she fought the good fight. She was 78 years old. I guess these characters in my books are my way of remembering and celebrating the strong women I have known, including my mother.

The world can certainly use a lot more of them.

Mind Explosion

Music by Ivo Ballentine

It is amazing who you can meet sometimes. I started talking to a guy in Ingles the other day named Ivo Ballentine. During the course of our conversation, he mentioned he was a musician and had just released a CD of original compositions.

Naturally, I had to mention the fact that I was a published author with two published works, and finishing up a third. The upshot of the conversation was that we made a swap. I traded a copy of my book, Adirondack Bear Tales, for his new CD, titled Mind Explosion.

There are 10 songs on the CD. I really like several, including Cadillac, Let Me Hear Your Song, and Doesn’t She Know, but they are all pretty darn good.

Quite a strong Beatles influence

To me, there seemed to be a strong early Beatles influence, and I thought I could pick up on a touch of Johnny Cash as well. I am not sure what genre Ivo’s music would fit into; maybe something like pop-folk-rock?

A few days later, I ran into Ivo again, this time at the Starbucks in Ingles. When I mentioned the Beatles influence I had picked up on, he laughed. A local radio station had just played his CD in its entirely the previous day, saying it reminded them a lot of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

one lucky bear

Ivo also mentioned how much he enjoyed Adirondack Bear Tales. It seems he grew up in Maine, so he identified with the North Woods; he just didn’t remember hearing about so much bear activity in Maine. I think that maybe because most of the tourist activity in Maine centers around the coast and seafood!

So how do you get a copy?

Well, for now, that is a bit tricky. Ivo doesn’t have a website. He is planning to make the CD available on SoundCloud shortly.

You could also hang out at the Starbucks in the Ingles located on Merrimon Avenue in Asheville, NC. He is a frequent customer there. Look for the gentleman with the plaid Scottish-style hat. He may also be wearing an Ivo Ballentine for Mayor button because he is considering a run for Mayor of Woodfin, a friendly little community just up the street.

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!