Scenic Appalachian Trail along the North Carolina and Tennessee border

Walking the Appalachian Trail

Lowell woman walks the Appalachian Trail

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- No, it wasn’t on her bucket list. Ivy Haskins is too young to have one. She simply wanted to get away from everyday life between the pub and her house painting ventures.

“Ever since I was a kid I heard of the Appalachian Trail,” she said.

For years, Haskins, much like many others, dreamt about the 2,181 miles long trail with the highest elevation at 6, 625 feet.

Ivy Haskins shows the slope of the Appalachian Trail
Ivy Haskins shows the slope of the Appalachian Trail

The trail runs from Georgia to Maine from easy strolls to challenging mountain climbs.

“I had all my bills paid off and 15 years of working two jobs at once and not enjoying life,” Haskins said. “You get caught in a cycle. I wanted a change.”

Haskins saved up extra money for the adventure of a lifetime.

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” she said. “I’ve never even carried a backpack.”

Rookie Haskins had yet to find out that the Appalachian Trail is not a walk in the rose garden.

Standing behind the bar at the local Sneaker’s pub, Haskins lifted her arm in a 45-degree angle.

“This is what the trail was like most of the time,” she touched her inclined arm. “It was challenging, there is no flat land.”

Turtoise Ivy heading out on the Appalachian Trail.
Turtoise Ivy heading out on the Appalachian Trail.

The most painful was the first week, long before Haskins got her “trail legs.”

The first week was painful,” she said. “My knees hurt. It was hard on joints and it never really stopped hurting. Every single day there was a lot of pain involved.”

And Haskins found out that there is a huge difference between walking and hiking.

Coming from the Lowell flatlands, where there are only flat rail beds converted to trails, the Appalachian Trail was a surprise for Haskins.

“You have to watch the ground all the time,” she said. “When somebody walks toward you, you have to step aside.”

It takes about three weeks to a month to get your “trail legs,” according to Haskins. Haskins had to buy knee braces to ease the pain.

Laurel Falls in Tennessee
Laurel Falls in Tennessee

But as the tail saying goes, “You hike your own hike.”

As Haskins walked or climbed an average 10-hour day, the bottom of her feet were burning.

“You can’t help but compare yourself to others,” Haskins said. She met the same people over and over like the German guy with that trail name Roatman.

“We just kept bumping into each other,” she said.

Although, the trail has no rules, there is still that nagging feeling inside telling you to do better.

“I had a desire to do better, to better myself and my fitness level,” she said.

“Were there moments when you wanted to stop,” I asked Haskins in an interview.

The trail at its best.
The trail at its best.

“Every single day had good moments and bad moments,” she said.

Some of the bad moments included eating the same food like Ramen Noodles for four days in a row.

“I was looking forward to having real food,” she said.

Haskins encountered the higher elevations in the Smokey Mountains while walking that feared 45-angle slope on a gray overcast day.

In the Smokies, you have to make it to the shelter, said Haskins.

The last mile before the shelter was a steep slope. There were already 15 people in the shelter suited for 12.

“What made you stay on the trail?” I asked.

“It might be a cliché, but you never quit on a rainy day,” she said.

It was actually on one of the easiest days, that Haskins decided to call it quits. Even though she already had a trail name, tortoise.

Lodging on the trail
Lodging on the trail

Haskins was hauling a 35-pound backpack to a beautiful campsite by Laurel Creek in Virginia.

“I’ve had enough,” she said. “It was five miles to get to Perrysburg.”

Usually there is a taxi that drives people to and off the trail from the trail towns.

“It’s dangerous, but there is always a road crossing within 10 miles,” she said.

After 600 miles on the trail, Haskins had enough. She wasn’t searching for the meaning of life, she just wanted to get away from the everyday rut.

“It was a fun challenge,” she said. “I definitely wanted to make a change in life, do something different.”

Haskins spent two months on the trail and lost 25 pounds, walking 18 miles a day toward the end. The average elevation in Tennessee is 5,046 feet.

“Don’t think you can only do what you’ve been doing,” she said. “At least you tried something else even if you were not happy.”

 

Trail 101 basics:

Appalachian Trail guidebook

Know where to get water

Hiker’s backpack $350

One-person tent $250

Sleeping back $90

Water filter $80

Blow-up mattress

Ropes, clothes

Shoes $120

For more information go to: www.appalachiantrail.org

Copyright © 2014 story by Emma Palova, photos by Ivy Haskins

Ionia Free Fair entrance

Ionia County Free Fair

10 best days of summer
by Sarah Harmon
                                        “Lions and Tigers and Camels, Oh My!
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for the greatest, or at least the biggest, free fair on earth! By the middle of July, the novelty of summer vacation has worn thin, and most parents have reached a point where they’re ready to scream if they have to hear “I’m bored” one more time. The Ionia County Free Fair is the perfect solution for moms and kids alike. With no entrance fee, you can hardly afford not to spend a day or more there. It’s a complete sensory experience from the moment you step through the gates. Nothing quite says summer like the scent of deep fried cheesecake and elephant ears accompanied by the screams of delighted children spinning high in the sky on rides.
Come to the fair in Ionia
Come to the fair in Ionia
Of course, if you’re used to the only animals at the county fair being livestock,you’reboundto be disappointed. In addition totheusual4H barns filled with goats, cows, rabbits, and chicks barely hatched from their eggs, Ionia County has multiple free daily performances of Circus Pages. A rare white lion races around the caged ring, performing tricks with two white tigers and two other lions. Once they’re safely removed to several smaller cages,theringis transformed into a magical scene with girls dancing high above the crowd, suspended only by their tenuous hold on a rope and metal hoop. Other performances include a group of trained camels, a woman who does a stunning routine on the aerial silks, and some impressive acrobatics on a trampoline. The show finishes with a couple of elephants, surprisingly agile for their size, that are available for rides afterward.

Exhilarating rides at the fair
Exhilarating rides at the fair
A favorite of mine was the barn filled with baking, canning, sewing, knitting, and crochet projects of all kinds. For creative quilters, they sell $10 kits every year to be turned into 14 inch quilt blocks. Your only limitations are the materials in the kit, the theme, and your imagination. The completed squares are turned into a full quilt to be raffled off the following year.
Quilts at the exhibit building
Quilts at the exhibit building
For those feeling nostalgic for days gone by, there is a mini museum full of antiques, as well as a building filled with classic cars. When you do stop in to check out the Corvettes, the irresistible odor of roasted almonds beckons you next door to the Meijer Marketplace. The combination flea market and community expo has something for everyone, from homemade ice cream to fashionable accessories. There are special events happening daily throughout the fair that include concerts, tractor pulls, and kids’ activities, so even if you bring them more than once, this is one week you will definitely not hear “I’m bored.”
For more fair information go to http://www.ioniafreefair.com
Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sarah Harmon, photo by Emma Palova

 

 

Remembering environmentalist Peter Wege

Remembering philanthropist Peter Wege

Wege set an example for the rest of the country

By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- A real friend without pretense, an honest, generous man at ease with himself wherever he went.
That best describes philanthropist Mr. Peter Wege, who passed away on July 7th at the age of 94.
Most people in the greater Grand Rapids Area knew of Wege, but very few met him in person or knew him directly.
I belong to the smaller privileged group. I met Wege in person at the Franciscan Life Process Center on April 23, 2008 at a community breakfast in honor of his preservation efforts.

Philantropist Peter Wege
Philantropist Peter Wege

“One couldn’t help but be touched by his presence,” I wrote at the time in an article for the Lowell Ledger and other freelance publications.
His personality was shining through and lighting up the meeting room on a dark gloomy April morning. It lit up a ray of hope for the Heffron family, who were one of the first farm families to preserve land in Grattan Township.
“We should have been preserving since 1950,” he said time. “It should be as normal as kindergarten. It has taken us 40 years to get it started.”
Wege, an astute businessman, was first and foremost, a visionary. His father Peter Martin co-founded Metal Office Furniture, now Steelcase, and the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. Wege joined Steelcase in 1946 and worked in different executive posts including sales, research and design, and as an officer on the Board of Directors of the Steelcase Foundation. He retired as vice-chairman of the Steelcase Board in 2000. Wege made Steelcase famous as one of the earliest environmental manufacturers in the world. The office furniture maker went “green” long before it became trendy.
Wege always made sure that people knew it was his father’s innovative genius that provided the wealth he gave away to make life better for others.
Wege’s passion for the environment originated in his service to the country as a World War II pilot. While flying from Dallas on a training plane, he wanted to stop in Pittsburgh, but couldn’t find it in the smog in the middle of the day.
“That jarred me,” he said at the preservation breakfast.
Inspired by Health Education and Welfare Secretary John Gardner, Wege embarked on a lifelong mission to save the planet in 1967. That year he established the Wege Foundation in honor of his parents Peter Martin and Sophia Louise Wege.
Wege was a firm believer in doing things together for the better of civilization and to preserve the planet.
“We have to think about what we are doing to this country,” he said in 2008 at the Franciscan Center.

Franciscan Life Process Center in preserved area
Franciscan Life Process Center in preserved area

Wege loved the northeast Kent County area that he helped preserved.
Driving around the farmland in Vergennes in Grattan townships you will find bright blue and green signs with a red barn on it. These designate the preserved land through easements funded by Wege. They include area farmers from Heffrons to Konings and Wilcox.
In donating farmland preservation easements, and other conservation efforts Wege wanted to set an example for the entire country.
Wege often visited with the Franciscan Sisters. When the Franciscans came to the area in the early 1970s, he donated 230 acres to what had become the Franciscan Life Process Center.
“He believed in our mission,” said center director Sister Colleen Ann Nagle. “He helped us meet people in the area and to raise money.”
Wege served as the chairman of the advisory board for the Franciscan Center. He participated in many fundraisers.
“He was genuinely interested in anything that would help people,” said Nagle. “He was one of those special people where you do not have to put on any pretense.”

Preserved farmland in northeast Kent County
Preserved farmland in northeast Kent County

And Wege, who kept a farmhouse on the Franciscan property, always stayed in touch with the center and its mission. He attended events and meetings on regular basis, and moreover Wege brought people with him to the area.
“He would just stop in the kitchen for a cup of coffee,” said Nagle. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
Most people will remember Wege for his unbelievable generosity and honesty, as well as for his versatility. Although best known as an environmentalist, Wege was also an author, poet, painter, photographer and an accomplished athlete.
He liked to say, “Educate, Educate, Educate.”
That is why he co-founded the Wittenbach Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center in Lowell along with many of other nature centers.
A business man, Wege coined the word economicology to define his advocacy for striking the right balance between a healthy ecology and a profitable economy. He wrote two books titled Economicology, the first in 1998, and the sequel in 2010. In both books Wege wrote his version of the Eleventh Commandment:
“Thou shalt not commit abuse against the environment, but rather honor it with respect for sustaining life.”
That commandment summarizes Wege’s life philosophy.
“He will be missed for the person he was,” said Nagle.

Thank you Mr. Peter Wege for living in our times, and for giving us the inspiration, passion and love to follow you.”

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

10 good writing habits

emmapalova:

Check out my newly redesigned writing blog http://editionemma.wordpress.com
Comment on your writing good or bad habits.

Originally posted on editionemma:

Acquire the 10 traits of all successful bloggers & writers

1-Discipline.

Even Earnest Hemingway was a disciplined writer in the morning.

2-Regularity. Not just in the digestive tract.

Post on regular basis otherwise you will lose your following.

3-Inspiration.

Inspire yourself, don’t wait for inspiration to walk into your room. Go beyond the cyberspace.

Deer crossing by Bruce Doll
Deer crossing by Bruce Doll

4- Curiosity.

Don’t wait to write until something occurs. Seek it out on your own. Ask yourself questions.

5- Innovation. Reinvention.

Keep reinventing yourself. After all, books, articles and stories are all just rehashed words from the past. Put them in the right order.

6- Perseverance. Determination.

Don’t give up in face of adversity.

7-Organization.

Organize and reorganize again. Shuffle and reshuffle words.

8-Outlines.

Outline complex subjects.

9-Be choosy. Be specific.

Choose the right subject for you. No generic meandering or beating around the bush here.

10-Be knowledgeable.

Know what you…

View original 9 more words

Lowell Showboat decked out for July 4th

Happy Independence Day America

July 4th on the Big Muddy

EW writer Sheryl Groen with Ruby
EW writer Sheryl Groen with Ruby

By skgroen
EW Emma’s Writings

I like simple things: a cheap glass of wine, a good book, a new picture of my grandchildren and a sturdy lawn chair. I also LOVE the 4th of July. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I love the heat, humidity, picnics, parades, fireworks and time with family.

Each July fourth we load up Sara (my trusty SUV) and head north to the big muddy, the Mississippi river. We have our annual fish fry waterside. My husband, son, nephew and brothers-in-law are all sport-fishing enthusiasts, who do their best to accumulate a sizeable catch. If the catch is small (something a fisherman does not like to discuss) we hit the Piggly Wiggly for fried chicken. The day revolves around good food and conversation.

On the morning of the fourth, we start out with homemade mini donuts deep fat fried on the patio. There is nothing better than a warm donut with your morning coffee!
Midday we heat up the fish fryer and begin breading and cooking the fish. Once it is ready we bring out the corn on the cob, watermelon and a crazy good mixture of midwestern potluck fare. After the fish fry, the kids are busy with squirt guns, swimming, boat rides, jumping off the dock and fishing.

A few years ago we started a new tradition, at dusk we launch Chinese paper lanterns: one for each of the grandchildren. The kids line up by height and the parents help with the launch. Last year, long after the last lantern had flown over the western bluffs, my grandson pointed to the eastern sky and said, look grandma that one made it around the world already!

Meanwhile, a campfire is lit and the adults pull up their lawn chairs. The kids bring out the sparklers, sizzling snakes and their renewed enthusiasm. Sometimes I wonder where they store all that energy. And since we have not eaten enough, the marshmallow forks and pie makers magically appear. We make s’mores, campfire pies and roasted marshmallows before the fireworks begin.

There are several small communities on the big muddy who have fireworks and from our vantage point we can usually see three to four different displays. Sonic booms go on into the wee hours of the night and if the mosquitoes cooperate you can watch the fireworks until almost three in the morning!

I think my favorite part of the holiday is spending time with family. The campfire brings out the stories and embarrassing – the better. One of the uncles, who liked his beer, cut down a light pole with his chainsaw because he ran out of firewood for the campfire. On another occasion, he sunk his boat and motor while it was tied to the dock.
We are also very fond of corny jokes. My father in law was a master; he could entertain a crowd for hours. His standard comeback has now become a one liner for his great grandkids. When he was asked, where did you catch that fish? He would reply, I caught him in the lip. It’s really funny when a three year old delivers the punch line.

Hopefully, one of my great- grandchildren will be sitting by a campfire on the banks of the big muddy retelling stories and corny jokes for years to come.

Copyright (c) 2014 story by skgroen photo by Emma Palova

Conklin Ceili Band at Saint Patrick Festival in Parnell

Saint Patrick Festival 2014

Saint Patrick establishes traditions

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Parnell, MI- I love this Irish unincorporated settlement in the middle of nowhere. I got hooked on it almost 20 years ago, when we were looking for a place to build a house. We found it right here in northeast Kent County, Michigan, some 6,000 miles away from home in former Czechoslovakia.

“I am going to like it here,” I said to my husband Ludek as we drove past the white country church and the old general store.

I can easily list all the establishments in Parnell. There are the Saint Patrick’s Church and school, the cemetery and the Parnell Grocery store.

The parish with its parishioners cement Parnell as they have for the last 170 years. The annual Saint Patrick Festival is the biggest event of the year in the community. It always takes place at the end of June far from the actual feast of Saint Patrick on March 17. But, the weather is better, although unpredictable.

Maranda Lynn with Josephine Marie Palova
Maranda Lynn with Josephine Marie Palova

Over the years, the festival weather has been from jacket cold to bikini hot.

We found out about the Irish festival early on through channels in Lowell. We’re not Irish by any means, but we lived in Montreal which has a big Irish heritage. We went to the Saint Patrick’s parade there which was complete with bagpipers in skirts.

Saint Patrick festival has become a family tradition, a homecoming when we all get together. My daughter Emma Palova-Chavent usually flies in for Saint Patrick Festival from France.

Dave Simmonds’ bluegrass band Easy Idle that played on Friday festival nights inspired her wedding music and dance back in 2009.

This year, the Conklin Ceili Band played on Friday night. Even without closing my eyes, I could see Michael Flatley and his troop dancing to the Irish band.

I can’t dance the jig, but I can certainly appreciate it.

The Las Vegas night, preceded by the auction, takes place on Saturday nights. I tried my luck a few times and I’ve always lost.

The big get together day is Sunday. After the mass, it’s time for the popular chicken dinners. My parents Ella and Vaclav Konecny always come from Big Rapids to share this special time.

I am not a chicken lover, but the grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, corn, cole slaw and apple sauce is delicious. And the desserts baked by the parishioner women are awesome.

“I don’t have to cook,” mom said victoriously.

Moreover, Saint Patrick parish festivals started popping up around Michigan, according to mom.

“We had one last week in Big Rapids and it raised $18,000,” Ella said.

Much like back in 1850 when the chicken dinners started, I introduced my future daughter-in-law Maranda Lynn Ruegsegger to the tradition.

“I always had to work,” she said. “I am excited.”

Longtime parishioner Ed Donahue said the chicken dinners evolved into the three-day festival. Donahue has been in charge of the dinners.

“It’s a lot more than a fundraiser,” Donahue said.

It is more than a fundraiser. Freelance writer Maryalene LaPonsie received the Dorothy Award after the 5K run Friday for enduring hardship. LaPonsie has been raising five children as a single parent after her husband Tom passed away last year.

Maryalene LaPonsie receives the Dorothy Award.
Maryalene LaPonsie receives the Dorothy Award.

“I think the festival weekend may have breathed some new life into me,” LaPonsie wrote on Facebook. “I feel better than I have in a while. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow when the alarm goes off.”

LaPonsie wrote that she was honored to get the award.

“The only reason I can persevere is because of you my friends,” LaPonsie wrote. “You who pick me up when I fall, you who cheer me on when I despair, you who rush in when I falter.”

Saint Patrick parish festival is definitely more than a fundraiser for the church and the school. It is bonding time for families like ours and Irish descendants far away from home.

 

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

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