Dan and Hannah Hike the Watkins Glen Gorge in central New York

Wat map 2

Watkins Glen Gorge State Park promises nineteen waterfalls!  Hannah and I are all in!  Though we are hiking on a late October Friday in the low 40s, it turns out it’s a great time of year as many of the low hanging leaves have fallen and views are extraordinary.

Wat 1 Brooks

Brooks with his Daddy

Coming to hang out with our grandson Brooks, and, of course, his parents, we are pleased to see that they have taken to parenting like fish to water, like Dan and Hannah to pickleball, like Tom Brady to being the GOAT (greatest of all time!).  Despite the many sleep-deprived nights, Will and Laurel show their love to their happy, laughing bambino hour after hour, day after day.

Wat 1AAA Watkins sign

Driving 25 miles west of Ithaca, New York, we come upon the upper parking lot by the picnic areas and massive Dirty Dancing-size swimming pool of the Watkins Glen Gorge State Park.  The attendant takes our $8 and says that with a few more cold days, the park will close.

Wat 1AAAA H at start of trail excellent

Feeling the administration of state parks could use all the financial support they can get, we gladly pay.  It’s $8!  Please!  The employees need health benefits, a livable wage, and the park needs tender loving care.  I encourage you to go out of your way to pay the very modest fees at state parks when you hit the trails.  Check out the trio of videos and the cavalcade of photographs below to see what you get from this 1.5 miles of trail that drops 400 feet from stem to stern!

From the parking area we descend to the gorge by following, get this for irony, the Gorge Trail.  It’s all well-marked as we quickly descend through the Spiral Staircase Tunnel.  Passing behind this rocking falls, we feel the H2O that’s heading towards Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes here in central New York.

We are soon sloshing along the stone walkways of the narrow Gorge Trail from the many falls.  With 832 steps from top to bottom, we have evidence of the Civilian Conservation Corps creativity and dedication in digging into these narrow gorge walls to make a trail of slate steps.  This extraordinary waterside trail/walkway is evidence of the master craftsmanship of the stone artisans plying their trade during the Depression of the 1930s.

Busier than I would have guessed, the Friday midday crowd has us walking leisurely as we take the time to smell the metaphorical roses of the cascading water, rather than being hell-bent on getting exercise as we usually are.

With barriers to the gorge most of the way until you get to the flatter upper trail, the slate walkway is a great family hike.  The final ascent up what is known as Jacob’s Ladder is 180 steps.  By the way, Jacob’s Ladder is referenced in Genesis as the up and down pathway to heaven for angels.

As you might have guessed, we rocked with many hiking angels today.


More gorge photographs

Wat 1 H by red tree

Proceeding to the gorge from the parking lot


Wat 1AA Han at falls at start


Wat 1C narrow gorge


Wat 2 D in gorge on stairs


Wat 2B gorge falls


Wat 4 falls through trees


Wat 5A longer view of side falls


Wat 6 Jacob's Ladder sign


Dan Hikes the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Doug and Becky Corrie's wedding

Doug and Becky circa 1998

As young adults, Hannah and I knew no better athlete than her brother Doug, a marathon runner, collegiate rower, fitness fanatic.  Then within six weeks of diagnosis at a youthful 56, he died of brain cancer (glioblastoma).  56!

Carl 2C D and B at bridge

Dan with sister-in-law Becky at Carl Sandburg Home Historical Site

His wife Becky has remained a good and constant friend for the 17 years since Doug’s death.  Moving South to Tryon, NC on the North Carolina/South Carolina with her guy Derek, Becky is loving life living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains after years as a true blue, snow-bound Yankee.

Carl map bold print

It turns out her Tryon of 2000 residents is an upscale pocket of blue in a blanket of red smothering the American South.  Retirees like Becky and Derek have found reasonably priced housing, low taxes, hiking trails, groups for their guitar and banjo playing, book clubs as well as a quieter pace in a climate where it rarely snows!  And when it does, it melts in a day or two anyway.

Carl 2B Becky on the trail

Becky on the trail to Big Glassy Mountain

On this Sunday morning, while Hannah drives an hour north to Asheville, NC to spend the day with her sister Bettsy, Becky and I hit the trails at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historical Site thirty miles away in Flat Rock, NC.  Carl is widely known for writing six volumes on the life of Abraham Lincoln, of which I have read zero.

With the heat and humidity of the South gone this mid-October, Becky and I have gently sloping, tree covered, foot-pleasing dirt trails wide enough for side-by-side conversation.  We’ll ascend to the stone bald of Big Glassy Mountain that looks out on the next blue ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Carl 2D trail itself

Mid-October in the Carolinas

The trail is happy with people and it seems to confirm what Big Steve, my Arizona State classmate and born and raised Virginian, believed that People in the South are just friendlier.  As in the town of Tryon last night, hikers look us in the eye, smile, and greet us with a genuine friendly hello.

As with most of our hikes, almost everyone is white.  Do we Americans self-segregate by our activity more than we realize?  Or is it again a money thing since whites as a group have more disposable income for recreation?

Carl 2E D and B at top

Atop Big Glassy Mountain

It’s a simple 45 minutes of steady climbing to the summit (3.5 miles roundtrip), where a fellow hiker takes our picture with a Blue Ridge backdrop.  Down the mountain in even less time, we are ready for the dessert to our Carl Sandburg entrée.

Carl 1C closer of Melrose Falls

Melrose Falls

Driving back down the winding country roads to Tryon, Becky turns into an unmarked trailhead with room enough for two cars near Twin Bridges.  The trail is much more rutted and rock strewn than the hike to Big Glassy, but the payoff is greater.  Three hundred yards in, Becky leads me left towards the falls, still not apparent to my naked ear.

Carl 1B D at Melrose

An Ithaca Bomber mellows out at Melrose Falls near Saluda, NC

A rapid descent down a barely visible trail to the Melrose Falls has us enjoying the watery accompaniment to nature’s forestral orchestra.  Enjoy the video below.


Pictures from our time in North Carolina

Carl 2 home from a distance

The Carl Sandburg Home as the trail to Big Glassy Mountain begins

Carl Tryon H at SC border

On a morning walk with Hannah from North to South Carolina

Carl Tryon D at burn sign

Ever know this meaning of burn?

Carl Tryon H at smoking patio sign

Really?  A smoking patio that’s inside!

Carl Tryon M and M machine

M and M’s cascade at the private Lanier Library in Tryon.  A community library with membership fees of $50 for individuals, $75 for households.


A few favorites of Doug and Becky from their daughter Corrie’s wedding to Karl in 1998

Doug and Becky singing at Corrie's wedding

Doug and Becky and the karaoke lady

Doug and Becky doug on air guitar

Hannah’s brother Doug circa 1998

Dan and Hannah and Give Kids The World

GKTW map to boston

York is ten miles north of Portsmouth, NH

Up at four this Saturday morning, by five Hannah and I head south on I-95 to Boston’s Logan Airport.  Arriving without delay, we soon pass through the TSA pre-check point for our 815 flight to Atlanta.  We are traveling in the Florence and Michael Hurricane-ravaged South to see family in North Carolina, play some rocking pickleball in Georgia, and visit the hometown of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, in Alabama.

While waiting for our Delta flight, I walk the wide airport corridors to pass time and work out the stiffness in my legs.  Walking toward the Dunkin Donuts, I notice a sea of green tee shirts.  Moving smoothly, but discreetly to check out the shirts, I am blown away to see they say Give Kids The World!

GKTW volunteers

Angels from Melrose, Mass

Give Kids The World is the Florida-based wish organization that provides accommodations and free passes to the theme parks in the Orlando area for families with kids with life-threatening illnesses.

These volunteers from a Baptist Church in Melrose, Mass are off to the GKTW Village to support these families for the coming week.  They will serve breakfasts and later dish ice cream at the on-campus Perkins Restaurant.

Instead of just concentrating on the kid with the serious illness, GKTW wisely attends to the entire family.  They make brothers, sisters, mom, and dad feel like royalty, too.  Families with a kid with a life-threatening illness can fracture if the needs of and attention to the other kids in the family are ignored.

GKTW symbol

How am I such an authority on Give Kids The World?  Why in 1988, Hannah and I with our three children, Will (4), Robyn (6), and Molly (8), were gifted a trip to Orlando to be tenderly cared for by Give Kids The World since Robyn was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four.  Today she is a beautiful 37!


Dan and Hannah Win the Delta Lottery

In April 2017, Hannah and I agreed to be bumped from our 10A Delta flight from Atlanta to Richmond to another at 230P.  Being NASCAR weekend in Virginia’s capital, millions are heading to binge drinking, cars going aimlessly around in circles at ungodly speeds, and Southern fried sunburns; not NASCAR fans ourselves (what was your first clue?), we are heading for a Woo Girls Reunion in nearby Quinton, VA with three of Hannah’s College of Wooster classmates.  With the get-together to begin at 5P, we have plenty of time to wait out the delay and still arrive in time to pah-tay.

Delta D and H

Initially, we are offered $400 in Delta vouchers if we will wait for the 230P flight.  Seems like free money; we are all in.  When Delta can’t get the necessary seven volunteers to take the later flight, they up the ante to $800, then eventually $900 each, including us who agreed to take the $400 voucher!  The one restriction is that we must schedule our flights within the year.  Hardly a deal breaker!

Delta boston to atlanta flight

Four months later in August we fly to Atlanta from Boston for Hannah’s stem cell injections in an experimental procedure for her to regain the full use of her voice.  (By the way, the procedure was not successful.)

We find $110 round-trip flights for each of us.  If you are keeping score at home, we each still have $790 for flights in the coming year.

Returning to Atlanta for another treatment in October 2017, we fly from Boston with seats that cost twice as much at $220.  Even so, we still each have $570 to apply to future flights.

Delta boston to lax

Boston to Los Angeles and back

With plans to fly round-trip from Boston to Los Angeles for our month near Santa Barbara in February of 2018, we use our vouchers for two $349 Delta tickets.  Incredibly, after this third free flight, each of us still has $221 left for additional flights to schedule by April 2018.

Knowing we’ll be returning to California in 2019, we beat the April 2018 deadline and use our $221 vouchers for round-trip tickets from Boston to Los Angeles that pay for 70% of those $310 cross-country tickets.

So, let’s do the math; we score: (1) two free round-trip flights from Boston to Atlanta for both of us; (2) one fully paid cross country trip from Boston to Los Angeles for us two, and (3) 70% of one more cross-country trip to Los Angeles and back to Boston for each of us!

Our part of the bargain for these four free flights: waiting a mere four additional hours in Atlanta for our flight to Richmond.  As you will agree, Dan and Hannah won their version of the lottery.


Dan and $5761 for Jimmy 

JW 1A Geo by start

Captain George ready to lead

Thank you, thank you to the hundred plus beautiful people who donated to the Jimmy Fund, which supports the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Led by our captain and cancer-survivor George Derby (my weekly ping pong partner), eight of us on Team Barry will walk the last 10K of the actual Boston Marathon course on the penultimate Sunday of September 2018.

JW 1 at 30 sign with rawdings

Tip, Max, Owen, and Poppa at the Newton staging area

Driving a good hour south from Maine, we assemble in Newton, Massachusetts to collect our Jimmy Fund tee-shirts, bibs, and hats.  As one of the Top 250 fundraisers (#76!), I have earned special recognition including a sweet dry-fit Jimmy Fund tee-shirt.  Then in a surprise move, the volunteer offers tee-shirts and caps to our grandsons, Owen (6) and Max (4), and their dad Tip who have come to support me.  That volunteer, whom I refer to as the “gardener” has planted the seeds for three future Jimmy Fund walkers by her generosity.

JW 2A boys on trail 2

On Commonwealth Avenue with Max, Owen, and Tip

Walking a half mile to Commonwealth Avenue to meet up with some of the 9000 other walkers, Owen, Max, and Tip join me for the first mile of my walk.  With Sunday morning cars to our right, we four walk the sidewalks and town lawns towards Boston.

Over the next six miles, I have three refueling stops with bananas, apples, energy bars, cookies, peanut-butter crackers (a personal favorite), and bottles of water.

JW 3 passing BC

Gorgeous walking day in the 60s

As I walk, I call out to two women three feet ahead of me, asking about the names on the back of their shirts.  The names list friends and family of theirs who bravely fought cancer.  Another time, I chat up a woman who is walking the half-marathon (i.e. 13.1 miles) course to raise awareness and money for cancer research and the care of cancer patients.

Jimmy D and Mitch with NB shirts

Dan and Mitch walking with three of the NB team members

I ask another what the NB on her team tee shirt is for.  Neuro-blastoma – one nasty cancer that generally strikes kids under ten.  It seems forty have come from Chatham on Cape Cod to support a 13-year old girl who for the last nine years has been battling NB.

JW 4 G and D at finish

Captain George and his buck private flunky

Later, near the end I happen to walk beside Amy, the organizer of the NB team and, in fact, the mom of the 13-year old daughter with NB.  My big takeaway from our conversation is that caring for kids with cancer can take over your life.  The fears, the setbacks, the small victories consume everyone in its path.

How in the world do such families ever have the strength to go toe to toe day after day with such a formidable foe?  Basically it is very simple, they have no choice.  Their kid needs them to step up.  I believe, you, too, would rally the strength and courage if you had to!

JW 4B G's Living Proof

As a cancer survivor, George has earned the iconic yellow ball cap with  “I’m Living Proof”

After three hours of walking and learning the stories of others, our entire Team Barry crosses the finish line at Copley Square for our walking medals, clam chowder, creamsicles, pizza, and deluxe salads.

I know how fortunate I am to be healthy and fit enough to walk for all those touched by cancer and to have some many amigas and amigos to support my walk.

Thank you Adele, Amelia, Amey, a couplet of Anns, Anna, Anne, Anneli, Anthony, Barbara, Becky, Beth, Bills aplenty, Bob, Bobby, Brenda, Brian, Bruce, Callie, Cam, Carla, Chris, Cindy, Clarissa, Claudia, Cyndy, a few Daves, a few Debbys, Denny, Derek, Diane, Dixie, a pair of Dons, Donna, Duncan, Elsa, Eric, Genevieve, George, Gibby, Glenn, a pair of Janes, a duo of Jeffs, Joanne, Joel, John, Jon, Joy, two Karas, Karens galore, Kim, Linda, Laurie, dos Laurels, a helping of Lisas, Liz, Lou, Lynne, Mac, Mandy,  Mark or two, Marta, a Mary or two, Matt times two, Maureen, Maxine, some Mikes, Mitch, Molly, Nan, a passel of Nancys, Neil, Nolan, Norm, Pat, Patty, a sprinkling of Pauls, two Paulas, Penny, Peter, Rich, Rick, Richard, Ron, Sally, Sandy, Scot, Scott, Sheila, Shirley, Sue, Suzanne, Tammy, Tara, Targe, Ted, Tip, Tom, Tree, Wanda, Wendy, and Will.

JW 1AA Owen and Max with signs


JW 1B team barry at start

Team Barry (back row – Sue, George, Paul, Nancy, Neila, Diana, front row – Max, Poppa, Owen, and Mitch)


JW 3A team on the course

Team Barry approaching the Citgo sign near Fenway Pahk (Dan, Neila, Diana, Sue, Mitch, Nancy, Paul, and Captain George)


JW 3B D by boston strong

Within a mile of the finish, I head under the Boston Strong Bridge commemorating the many victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing

Dan and the Bad Ass Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park 

Precipice acadia map

Bad ass, really Dan?  Sans doute!  Though the Precipice Trail doesn’t have the death-defying heights and drop-offs of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, it was physically more challenging and exhausting.  Let me explain.

Prec 1DD closeup warning sign

Having past success scaling Angel’s Landing in Utah (click here for that blog) and the Precipice’s Little Brother in Acadia, the Beehive Trail (click here for that blog), the morning of our hike I keep to myself my wonder if I am up to the challenge climbing up the side of Champlain Mountain.

Arriving at the trailhead of the Precipice mid-morning on this last Monday in September, Mitch Sakofs, my buddy from my days teaching at Eastern Connecticut State University, and I park on the Park Loop Road beyond the trailhead.  I think, if so many people can climb this mountain, how hard can it be?

Prec 2 M as trail begins

My buddy Mitch as the rocky climb begins

Immediately, we are ascending a trail of rocks and boulders.  And then we hit the Massive Crucible Boulder.  At this point, hikers must lift their leg high enough to step up to a three foot metal rung, then again up to another rung, grasp for a stone handhold with the left hand, and elevate to the boulder above.  It’s a fabulous threshold challenge.  If you can’t mount this boulder, this is not the hike for you.

Prec 3A walkway on cliffside

Having the good fortune of hiking with an experienced mountaineer in Mitch, I have him lead, so I can watch where he steps and see what handholds he finds.  Constantly encouraging, he offers these climbing tips: (1) in each stone look for a handhold in the rock, (2) whenever possible take a small step rather than a big step, and (3) finally be sure on the cliff sides and stone slopes to have three points of contact (two feet and a hand).

Prec 3C keeper cliffside preview

Much of the trail I am grabbing the stone faces or pulling myself up with the rungs sunk deep in the rock face.  Every time I need a metal rung, there’s one there.  Throughout the climb I’m guessing I have 200 rungs and one well-placed metal ladder at my disposal.

Prec 4C more rungs

I never have an “oh shit” moment when I wonder what the hell I am doing or doubt if I will make it.  That said, it’s a bitch; as I climb I just keep repeating in amazement this is one bad ass climb as I step and stretch higher and higher. A few times I have to kneel to boost myself up onto the next boulder.

Though the trail is but 1.6 miles to the top, it takes us nearly two hours.

Prec 5 m with rungs

Once at the top, we chat up the twenty-somethings and enjoy the vista to Frenchman Bay.  To return to the Park Loop Trail, we descend on the far less steep Champlain North Ridge and Orange and Black Trails.

Will I do it again?  Only if someone really wants to climb it with me.  And as luck would have it, I have such a person – Hannah Banana.  She’s fired up for this vertical adventure!

Click here for a five minute YouTube video on the Precipice Trail.

Prec 5A d and m at top

Two recommendations: For breakfast prior – Sylvia’s Café in Ellsworth.  For lunch after – the Mainly Meat BBQ of the Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor.







Prec 1 D at Sylvia's Cafe

Breakfast at Sylvia’s Cafe in Ellsworth, Maine (15 miles from Bar Harbor)

Prec 1B parking at trailhead 2

The fifteen trailhead parking spots were taken when we arrived at 10A, so 30+ of us parked in the right lane of the Park Loop Road


Prec 3 first rungs

Mitch leading the way


Prec 3B rungs on mountainside

The ever-present rungs to deal with the ever-present verticality


Prec 3D cliffside fair

The cliffside with metal rungs for stepping on and hand grabbing


Prec 4 more rungs nearer top


Prec 4B cliffside with rungs


Prec 6 atlantic brewery

Apres at the Mainly Meat BBQ of the Atlantic Brewing Company just outside of town


Prec 6A unattended children

Sign at the playground connected to the Mainly Meat BBQ