My first subzero run

Back during the Polar Vortex of 2014 I canceled out on a run with a friend because I simply couldn’t fathom running in subzero temperatures.

I always regretted it afterward, particularly when my friend – a native northerner who’d grown up snowshoeing in temperatures well below zero – appeared baffled by my reluctance. She considered winter weather exhilarating.

We hadn’t had much wintry weather since then – until last week, when the temperature stayed below zero for several days in a row. Determined for a shot at redemption, my sister and I decided to brave the Bluffton Rivergreenway on Tuesday.

The thermometer read minus-14 that morning. It had climbed a few degrees by the time we headed out, but it was still well below zero. Though the sun was shining and there wasn’t much wind, it still felt like we were on another planet.We decided to skip our usual stretching routine so we could start moving and heating our bodies up ASAP.

I was wearing sweatpants over running tights and two insulated long-sleeved running shirts under a sweatshirt, both of which felt just about right as we got into the run. An ordinary stocking hat and scarf worked pretty well in covering my face and neck. But my hands and feet were suffering considerably.

My lined gloves usually seem pretty warm, but I had to keep removing my fingers from their slots and making a fist inside my gloves to keep them from hurting. In retrospect, double layers of mittens would’ve been a better choice. As for my feet, I’d grabbed long socks instead of my usual short ones, but hadn’t paid attention to the fabric. I can see now why “cotton is rotten” when it comes to the cold. Traci said her wool socks were keeping her feet warm, and I wished I’d grabbed a pair of those instead.

Given my equipment malfunction, we wound up only going a couple of miles that day. Which seemed a shame, because it really was pretty exciting to experience that “running on another planet” feeling. I wouldn’t choose a subzero run over the treadmill every time – there’s no doubt you have to be in the right frame of mind – but it felt good to have broken through a mental as well as a physical barrier.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 5 Comments

A change in perspective for 2018

This has been a strange year in all kinds of ways, without even getting into the political weirdness. Due to persistent injury and time constraints, I’ve had to reevaluate what role running plays in my life. At times I’ve had to ask myself, “Am I still a runner if I’m not really doing any races and rarely run more than three days a week?”

Meanwhile, the newspaper where my husband and I were both working when we began dating back in 1989 – and has been our primary employer ever since – ended its print edition this fall, meaning we’ve both had to reconfigure what we can do to earn a living.  

The funny thing is, I’m not sure I could manage our current strategy if I hadn’t learned endurance through running. Taking a demanding physical job that has me working 12-hour overnight shifts two and three days at a time isn’t something a lot of people could do at my age, which as of last week is now 53.

Working as a quality control lab tech in a snack foods factory means you are literally always on your feet. There are no chairs in the lab where we perform a gazillion different tests on products, and usually at least twice an hour we’re out walking the plant collecting samples or troubleshooting problems. There’s also some climbing involved, up stairs and ladders to get at equipment, and the occasional heavy lifting as well.

The biggest thing for me has just been managing to stay up all night, which isn’t something I thought I could do at my age. Luckily, staying busy helps a lot. When that doesn’t work, I rely on the mental toughness I learned from running. There is almost no physical challenge that can’t be endured if you’ve trained your mind as well as your body to tackle marathons and long-distance trail runs.

This isn’t something I ever imagined doing, but it pays pretty well for a job that only has you working seven days every two weeks – freeing up daytime hours for other things, if you can figure out the whole sleeping thing. (That part I’m still working on.)

I still think of writing and running as my primary passions in life, and I have no plans to give up either. My feet are finally starting to feel better after a year of back-to-back plantar fasciitis, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get back to at least a few races in 2018.

It’s up to each of us to make this a Happy New Year. Let’s quit bemoaning the trials and tribulations that come our way, and get to work.  

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

When good things happen to good people

tinea and addison

My fellow homeschooling mom and sometime running buddy Tinea waits for her daughter Addison (in the red dress) to finish up an interview backstage at NBC’s “The Voice” a few weeks ago. Tonight Addison is one of four finalists competing to win season 13. 

We were still caught up in homeschooling when I lost 90 pounds in 2010, and as the weight melted off and our kids began hanging out more, I started running periodically with one of the other moms from “Live and Learn,” a small Fort Wayne-based homeschooling group.

Tinea’s energy level and positivity were cranked up so high it was almost intoxicating to be around her. She was the inspiration for my series of “How Normal People Eat” blog interviews, and she was the one who talked me into trying my first sprint triathlon back in 2012. Though she hurt her back the week of the competition and had to withdraw, Tinea showed up for the event and stayed to the end to cheer me on, even though I was among the last finishers.

Tonight we’re cheering on Tinea’s daughter Addison, now 16 and one of four finalists on NBC’s “The Voice.” Like her mom, she’s a gifted singer and musician. (Check out this blog post to get a sense of Tinea’s energy on stage with her old Fort Wayne band, Vinyl Ritchie, at a special needs prom we helped out with back in the day).

Addison just keeps getting better and better throughout these weeks of live competition on “The Voice,” thanks to the coaching of first Miley Cyrus and then Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, with whom she’ll be performing a duet tonight. (On tomorrow night’s show, in which this season’s winner is unveiled, she’ll be singing with Norah Jones. Is that incredible or what?)  

Talented as she is, what’s really inspiring about Colleen’s old homeschooling friend is what a fantastic role model she’s becoming for teenage girls.

Among Tinea’s many behind-the-scenes updates she’s been posting on Facebook, this one really stands out:

“In front of all these cameras and one stage set up with 500 different mirror angles, addison has never once mentioned anything about how she looks. She has NOT ONCE self criticized or held judgement against herself. Other crew members have mentioned how other young adults usually go into self-defeating words and become too overly sensitive or critical about themselves. I LOVE that about addison. I am so proud of that!! She is who she is and God makes no junk!”

Tonight we’ll be cheering on Addison and voting as many times as we possibly can. (If you’re interested in voting, detailed instructions are below.)

But whether or not you watch or vote, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be hearing the name Addison Agen in the future. And when you do, know that she’s not just a fantastic singer-songwriter-musician – she’s a quality human being as well.

How to vote:

Every time you go to Apple Music and listen to her LIVE songs, she gains points. Monday night you will need to buy her cover song on ITunes AND her Unpublished cover song(they call that an original) on ITunes. Plus all the other ways of voting on the Voice app (10 times per email), Facebook and (10 times each with all emails) on ( you don’t need an account with them). Stream each of her songs on Apple Music for 10 more votes. Also stream all day long today for overall votes. Thank you everyone!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Maple bourbon pumpkin walnut pie


This delightful addition to our holiday pie lineup was inspired by the Country Potter, aka John Platt III, the only one of the original historic demonstrators from Fort Wayne’s first Johnny Appleseed Festival in 1975 who still participates.

I wrote about John’s 19th century Midwestern pottery techniques in a story that ran this fall in one of the last print editions of The News-Sentinel. I knew he made high-quality pie plates, because that’s what local pie-baking legend Helen Witte bakes her $2,000 charity auction pies in.

What I didn’t realize is that John’s a pretty good pie baker himself. When I went to buy a couple of his pieces for Christmas gifts recently, he told me about his maple bourbon pumpkin walnut pie. I couldn’t talk him into retrieving the recipe for me; the 75-year-old has a bad back and moves laboriously.

“Just google it,” he said. “That’s what I tell my kids when they ask for a recipe. It’s a lot faster anyway.”


John Platt making a pot in his backyard studio in September 2017.  

For the pie we made on Sunday, I used a store-bought crust. For the filling, we tried this recipe from, substituting evaporated milk for the heavy cream – partly to save fat and calories but mainly because I didn’t have any cream on hand. We baked ours for one hour at 350 degrees. That recipe is below. 

John had told me he scatters walnuts across the top of his pie. Most of the maple-bourbon-pumpkin recipes I found that included nuts used pecans. But we like walnuts, and I liked staying true to the spirit of the Country Potter’s pie even if we didn’t have the same exact recipe. So we decided to adapt this recipe for a maple-pecan topping from  That recipe is also listed below, under the filling recipe.

This pie baked up really nice, with a much more interesting taste than plain old pumpkin pie. I’m definitely making it again for Christmas!


Maple-bourbon-pumpkin pie filling

  • 1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (we used an equal amount of evaporated milk, one of the substitutions suggested by
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, heavy cream, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour into the prepared pie crust and set on a shallow rimmed baking sheet. Loosely cover the crust with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake in the center of the oven until the filling is just set, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature and chill at least 3 hours before serving.


Maple-walnut topping ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts 
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup light or medium brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt maple and brown sugar until it bubbles. Add in butter, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Add in walnuts and coat completely with mixture. Cook for 4-5 minutes more, until the nuts have absorbed most of the sugar and begin to look sticky.
  2. Remove from heat and place on parchment paper or wax paper to cool. Once pie is cooled completely, top with maple walnuts. 

John Platt’s pie plates are made in the style of 1800s Midwestern functional pottery. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

A simple example of how running therapy opens your mind

Saturday morning I was sitting in my little economy car, heater on, trying to maneuver one leg at a time against the dash so I could start stretching without freezing while I waited on my sister for a run.

Eyeing the frost outside, I wondered if I was wearing enough layers.

Then I get out and say something to Traci about the cold, and she goes, “It’s not that bad. There’s no wind.”

And just like that, I stop shivering.

Despite the fact that she’s been trying to give me orders since she learned how to talk, I don’t always listen to or agree with my younger sister. We’re opposites in many ways; there’s a reasonable chance we’d hate each other if we met as strangers.

But we’re both so used to our joint running therapy sessions that we arrive with our minds more open than usual. We expect to have our preconceptions challenged – and during these runs, at least, instead of clinging to our own point of view we welcome the opportunity to hear the other person’s perspective.

Because we’re so different, what strikes one of us as an intractable problem usually seems like no big deal to the other person. In any other setting, that imbalance might lead to some eye-rolling – or worse. How many arguments have I witnessed that start because one person is dismissive or even derisive of another person’s concerns?

But here, on the running path, we’re committed to lightening our load. Sometimes we just need to vent for a while. It makes the miles go by faster, and depending on how we worked up we are, it sometimes makes us run faster as well.

Thornier problems get broken down little by little, mile by mile.  A simple solution, or at least a coping mechanism –  hard to see when anxiety fogs your vision – almost always presents itself.  

Of course, few problems are so easily solved as my misperception of Saturday morning’s weather. Once Traci pointed out the stillness of the slightly-below-freezing air, I instantly realized she was right: Without a wind, the cold had no hold on me that I couldn’t outrun.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Holiday eating tips from people who lost weight during Thanksgiving week

Looking for some holiday eating tips for an upcoming newspaper column, I stopped by Debbie Powers’ Weight Watchers class Sunday afternoon – where over half the members managed to register a loss for the week in spite of Thanksgiving.

“In 34 years as a leader, I don’t think I’ve ever had a group with this much success after Thanksgiving,” Powers said.

As Powers quizzed the class on what helped them survive what they called “D-Day” (Decision Day), one woman who hosted a gathering said she used small serving spoons to scoop out a taste of everything that looked good.

“There was space between everything on my plate,” she said. “Nothing was touching.”


Debbie Powers, left, and her aunt, Frances Milan, who first took Powers to Weight Watchers when she was a hefty teenager in the 1970s. Powers lost 100 pounds in her successful quest to make the school’s pom-pom squad.

Powers’ Aunt Frances, who first took her to Weight Watchers when Powers* was a hefty high school student in the 1970s, reported that she ate a plate of steamed vegetables before attending this year’s feast at a relative’s house. Frances was down three pounds, though she noted that it probably helped that she didn’t have to cook this year.

A woman named Karen said she took a fruit plate and veggie tray to her family’s gathering to make sure there would be safe foods to snack on. Knowing she was craving her Aunt Cheryl’s stuffing, she allowed points for that but skipped the mashed potatoes and gravy, which isn’t a once-a-year opportunity.

“Normally I get a whole plate of desserts, but this year I only had half a pumpkin roll,” Karen said. “It was empowering.”

A member named DaVonna, who recorded a half-pound gain, said she knows what she wishes she would’ve done differently: Eaten something healthy and filling before she started cooking for her 30-plus guests the day before Thanksgiving.

Because she neglected to take this precaution, DaVonna ended up using up all her extra points before the big event arrived. 

“I feel like I should’ve been better prepared,” she said. “But now I’m motivated to do a better job at Christmas.”

Looking ahead to the coming weeks of holiday excess, Powers’ class came up with these tips to focus on:

  • “Stay on track by tracking what you eat.”
  • Have a healthy breakfast.
  • Make sure to get in enough fruit and veggies.
  • Be proactive with your points (or calories or carbs or whatever you’re tracking) so you always have something in reserve for an unplanned indulgence.
  • Check your calendar for events that will provide challenges and plan accordingly.

Finally, Powers offered up this tip for people who know they are likely to feel too busy to get to the gym or do their usual workouts: Do some extra walking while you’re at the grocery store. Don’t just park farther away, but take a few laps around the store either before or after you do your actual shopping.

“I’ve been doing that,” Powers’ Aunt Frances said – so much so that she drew the attention of the store’s security guard, who observed that “you’re here every night, and you got nothin’ in your cart.”

“I explained what I was doing,” she told him, “and he said that was probably a good idea.”

*To learn more about Debbie Powers’ weight-loss story, and other people who have managed to maintain a weight loss for several years, check out my new Weight Loss Masters page, a result of my ongoing blog-decluttering project. (This past week I also unearthed two more forgotten “How Normal People Eat” interviews, with the thoughtful and delightful Rachel Blakeman as well as my surprisingly cooperative brother-in-law, Gunnar Heller. )

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

‘Death cleaning’ turns up lost ‘How Normal People Eat’ interviews

Dostadning is the Swedish term for “death cleaning,” decluttering your stuff as you get older so that you don’t burden your relatives with piles of junk they have no idea what to do with.

I hope I’ve got a few decades left, but I figure I better get started now if I want to have any chance of achieving that goal.  Technically this blog doesn’t count; there’s plenty of room for clutter in cyberspace. But when it starts bugging even me how hard it is to find anything on here, I figure it’s time to tidy things up a bit.

One of the first things I did when I started this blog, way more than 1,000 posts ago, was start hectoring everyone I knew who didn’t seem to have a problem with food how they did it.

I was obsessed with how “normal” people ate – and whether we were just wired differently, or if there was something I could learn from them.

Many people I talked to really did seem almost alien in their nonchalance about food. But I wasn’t looking for differences that I could point to as an excuse. I wanted to learn to do what they did, if I could.

Those interviews yielded food-management tips and analogies I still rely on today, seven years later. Sometimes it wasn’t so much a specific idea as just trying to emulate someone’s attitude that proved helpful, at least in the short term.

As I sorted through a hodgepodge of posts on my bloated and disorganized “interviews” page, I kept stumbling across interviews I’d forgotten all about. There were others I remembered doing, but couldn’t find.

I ultimately came up with more than half a dozen “How Normal People Eat” interviews that had been lost to blog clutter. You can find them on the “How Normal People Eat” page under the tab at the upper left of the blog.

Next up in the Dostadning process: Finding the posts where I analyzed trends and patterns from all those interviews. Maybe then I will finally achieve Spark Joy, the feeling that Japanese author Marie Kondo describes in her followup book to the bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

6 people lost 1,000 pounds – but who will become a Weight Loss Master?

Several years ago I began collecting weight loss stories, hoping to glean additional insights to add to my own diet/fitness toolbox. Not surprisingly, some of the people I interviewed eventually regained the weight they’d lost. In one unfortunate case, the person actually died not too long after we spoke.

None of this is to suggest that those people were failures. If anything, it shows how hard it is to maintain weight loss.

Over the past year I interviewed half a dozen people who lost nearly 1,000 pounds between them for my “Adventures in Food and Fitness” newspaper column.  Recently I found myself wondering how many of them will become Weight Loss Masters – dietitian Anne M. Fletcher’s term for people who maintain a loss for at least three years. In her book Thin for Life, she argues that maintaining a loss of at least 20 pounds for three years seems to be the dividing line between those who “stick” with their new lifestyles and those who retrench to their old ways.

Of the six people I interviewed, I would argue that three of them already “earned their master’s.”

Brittany Horton, who lost 208 pounds (and went on NBC’s Harry Connick Jr. Show earlier this year to talk about it), has already made it to the three-year mark.

Brittany Horton before and after her 208-pound loss. (Note: Apparently stories in the newspaper’s archives did not translate well to the new website when the paper went all-digital in October, so I apologize in advance for any garbled headlines or missing photos. At some point I will create a cleaner version of these articles, complete with photos, on a separate page on the blog.)


•Longtime Fort Wayne Weight Watchers leader Debbie Powers lost 100 pounds as a high school student back in the mid-1970s. Though she had to contend with the “freshman 15” in college and some maternity weight after having three kids, she’s basically maintained ever since becoming a leader in 1983.

Debbie Powers, left, along with her aunt, who first took her to Weight Watchers when she was a teenager.

•Though technically Annie Giddens only made it to her goal weight in early 2017, her journey to a 225-pound loss took seven years. In that time she did have one period of slippage where she regained 50 pounds. But she lost that weight – and much, much more – several years ago. I don’t think she’s going back.

Annie Giddens at a CrossFit competition in August 2016.

Of the other three, only time will tell. I would put my money on Phillip Brenneman, who lost 200 pounds in 2015-16. For one thing, he worked hard to create his own diet and fitness regimen rather than merely following a program. He also has much more incentive than being able to fit into his skinny jeans: He has type 2 diabetes. Cutting his body weight in half helped him get off meds entirely after his health was in serious risk. It was the fear that he wouldn’t live long enough to see his young daughter grow up that motivated him in the first place. (Phil’s mother died when she wasn’t much older than he is now.)

Phil Brenneman cut his weight in half, going from 400 pounds to 200 in about 15 months.

Quinton Horton, who lost 80 pounds in 2016, still has a couple more years to go before he could qualify as a master. (He also was wanting to lose more weight when I last spoke with him in spring 2017.) But he has the same incentive as Phil – type 2 diabetes that was getting way out of control and young kids he wants to see grow up. He also has incredible support and accountability, considering that he gets weight loss coaching from his sister Brittany Horton.

Quinton Horton and his sister Brittany. Her 208-pound loss inspired him to drop 80 pounds when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Matt Wilson, the 2016 champ of Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner

That brings us to Matt Wilson, winner of the 2016 Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner competition. When I last spoke with Matt, in December 2016, he’d lost 147.8 of the 452 pounds he started out at. Because he was signed up as a coach for the 2017 season, I’d guess he lost even more weight, though I haven’t been in contact with him. Even if he’s met his goal, Matt still has three years to go. If he sticks with the program – I believe people can continue to work out with fellow contestants after the competition, if they choose – he’s got a good shot at it. Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winners provides incredible motivation and support. (One of my relatives was the program runner-up several years ago, and she continues to look fit and fabulous, at least in part because she’s maintained those relationships.)

Being reminded of Anne Fletcher’s book has been encouraging for me personally, because I’m constantly aggravated with myself for having regained 10-15 pounds of the original 90 I lost in 2010. (After sticking at my goal weight through early 2014, it was, ironically, training for my first marathon that got me off track for my monthly Weight Watchers weigh-ins.)

I still hope to get back to my goal, but I guess in the meantime I should be more thankful that I’ve kept most of the weight off.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The physics of overeating

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force.

– Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion

(as it is most commonly paraphrased in modern language)


My mouth is a textbook example of Newton’s First Law of Motion: Once activated, it doesn’t stop eating until it encounters some kind of resistance.

Some people seem to come equipped with an internal braking system that helps them slow down and eventually stop eating when they start to get full. I was well into my 40s before I realized I was missing not only brakes but a fuel gauge as well.

There’s no point in wallowing in shame over this defect. My time is better spent figuring out what can function as an “external force” to stop my mouth. In eight years of research, here are a few of the things I’ve come up with:

Finish something off – This is a bad habit that I’ve managed to (sometimes) convert to a useful purpose. One day last week I found myself going crazy over cornbread. I was only cutting small pieces, but I couldn’t seem to stop. Given my innate need to finish off a container of food perceived as being almost empty, I was afraid I’d just keep going until the cornbread was gone.

I’d been drizzling honey on my cornbread, but for dinner that night I’d also set out a small bottle of crappy pancake syrup I’d picked up on sale somewhere. Realizing that was nearly empty, I squeezed out the last of the syrup and tossed the container. The finality of that act broke the spell.

Construct an end note – In sheet music, a bold double-bar line signals the end of a song. I remember one day in the middle of my 2010 weight loss I stopped a would-be binge by visualizing two pieces of string cheese as that musical symbol signalling “stop.”


Shock your palette – If you’ve been eating something sweet and/or carby, grab an orange, a tart apple (Granny Smith works nicely) or a pickle.

Stop on a dime – When I was counting Weight Watchers points, I noticed that if I planned out the last thing I intended to eat for the day so that it would use up exactly how many points I had left, I would feel satisfied. But if I was even one point under – or over – it would nag at me subconsciously even if I thought it wasn’t (or shouldn’t be) that big of a deal.

Channel Bugs Bunny – I’m rarely organized enough to keep a container of cleaned carrots in the fridge, but when I do, I always leave a few full-sized rather than cutting them into sticks. Gnawing on a giant “Bugs Bunny” carrot is quite a workout for your mouth. I’m almost always ready to stop eating before I get to the end of that thing. 



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hiking Chimney Tops after the Great Smoky Mountains wildfire

Our first trip back to the Great Smoky Mountains since a wildfire destroyed the condos where our family has stayed the last 30 years was bound to feel strange.  

After the fire last November that consumed 17,000 acres of the national park and 1,684 structures in Gatlinburg, I figured we’d be inhabiting a charred wasteland. For the most part, though, the strangest aspect of our whirlwind weekend was how much seemed the same.

Inside the 800-square mile park, the burned area amounts to less space, relatively speaking, than a skinned knee. And I didn’t arrive in time to join family members who visited the rubble of the Highlands, or stay long enough to make the journey myself, so I chose to remember our old accommodations and that mountainside neighborhood the way it was.


The concrete shell of the Highlands on the mountainside overlooking Gatlinburg. 

The place we stayed this year wasn’t as nice, nor was the view as breathtaking. But the upside to staying on the edge of town was that we could walk just about anywhere we wanted to go. None of our family’s favorite dining establishments were affected by the fire, so that, at least, felt familiar.  

Because of heavy rain one of the two days I was there, there was time for only one group hike. Chimney Tops was the unanimous choice, because that trail had been closed for renovations the last couple of years.

It’s only a couple of miles long, but it’s one of the most arduous trails in our repertoire because it’s a fairly steep grade. (Among the renovations are more than 600 wooden steps in a section where mud always made the climbing that much more difficult.)

We quickly split into two groups, with my sister Traci, my oldest daughter Rowan and I falling back to stay with my brother Brent and his 4-year-old daughter, Kyla. She’d successfully tackled the trail to Grotto Falls a couple of days earlier, but her determination quickly fizzled on Chimney Tops. I carried Brent’s heavy backpack full of water and kid supplies while the other three took turns carrying Kyla.

It was slow going, and Traci couldn’t help fretting about her kids getting to the mountaintop long before we did, where they were bound to climb out on the rocks that always give the parents in our group a virtual heart attack because of the sheer drop off the other side. (I wasn’t too worried myself, as Colleen and Rowan were my only offspring on this hike, and both are terrified of heights.)

“It’s probably a good thing I’m not up there,” Traci said, reasoning that maybe she would be less nervous not seeing them in action.

They weren’t, though. The peak of Chimney Tops was where last year’s fire started, and in our excitement to hop on the trail we hadn’t noticed the sign saying the last couple hundred yards at the top is now closed – maybe for good, as it turns out.

Though the mountain itself will endure, the stability of that outcropping for human passage may no longer be feasible. So “climbing up on the rocks at the top of Chimney Tops” may become just another story from the past – a legend retold by family daredevils with more embellishment each passing year.



We could see the outcropping at the summit of Chimney Tops trail, but the last couple hundred yards of the trail that leads to it is now closed – maybe permanently – thanks to the November 2016 wildfire at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment