\Yet for all that I am hopelessly addicted to the quest for his majesty, the wild gobbler, I readily recognize that there's more to be done in April than just hunt turkeys.
As my Grandpa Joe used to say, "The only problem with April is that there just ain't enough of it." Fine fishing, turkey hunting and the Earth's rebirth are part and parcel of the season. It's also a wonderful time for taking to the backpack trail, maybe combining hiking with hunting or fishing, and two recently published books merit close attention from folks living in this part of the world.
The first is Danielle "Danny" Bernstein's "Hiking the Carolina Mountains," published by Milestone Press (milestonepress.com). The book, written by a veteran hiker resident in Asheville, N.C., covers 57 hikes in the high country of North and South Carolina. The author covers hikes in 10 different locations -- Mount Mitchell, Black Mountain, Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Dupont State Forest and Flat Rock, upstate South Carolina, Pisgah District (east and west), Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest and the Appalachian Trail.
In every case the reader is provided information on how to get to the trailhead, distance of the hike, elevation change, map information and more. Add to that useful introductory material on preparation, safety and more, along with a host of helpful appendices, and you have a book which belongs on the shelves of every Carolina hiker.
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A handsome paperback with plenty of illustrations and running to more than 350 pages, the book is a bargain at $19.95. You can order directly from the publisher's Web site, by calling (828) 488-6601 or through your favorite local bookstore.
Joe Miller's "100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina" does not focus solely on the mountains, but well over half of its pages deal with trails in the high country of the Piedmont. Published by The Mountaineers Books (mountaineersbooks.org), the work features topo maps in color, scores of photographs, ratings of difficulty and occasional tidbits of interest such as mention of giant trees or other distinctive vegetation.
All these hikes are intended to be one-day outings, but some are quite ambitious. For example, anyone who takes the Fork Ridge Trail in the Park from Clingmans Dome to its end, then retraces his footsteps, better be exceptionally fit. Even so, he will be weary in the extreme.
On the whole, the hikes are very doable, and the physical appearance of the book, from color photographs to top-quality paper, makes it a real dandy. It sells for $21.95 and can be ordered from the Web site, by calling (800) 553-4453 or through your local bookseller.
Get one or both of these books, study the trails they suggest (a number appears in both books) and start planning a spring hike. It's a great time to look at wildflowers, enjoy some of the best weather of the year (just be sure to carry rain gear), take photographs or hike to remote places to hunt or fish.
Better still, take matters one step further. Put your home on your back for a night or two and use these hikes as a means of enjoying some camping. That way you can travel at a leisurely pace if that's your fancy, enjoy the incomparable pleasures of dining surrounded by nature and truly get away from it all.
As my grandfather, in his soft-spoken but wise way often suggested, April's sole problem was that there just wasn't enough of it. Sample and savor it while you can. Right now fishing is a bit slow because of days alternating between chilly, damp weather and warm, balmy days, and that can affect the behavior patterns of gobblers, as well. Still, you can catch fish or kill toms if you go, and all the fringe benefits in the form of spring's beauty make it a joy.
As is my wont every April, I'm deeply immersed in the magic, mystery and not infrequent misery of turkey hunting. I leave at daylight tomorrow morning for a few days dealing with Rios in Texas, and once back home I'll answer the call of dawn more days than not.