Revisiting A Trip with Jay Erskine Leutze, author of “Stand Up That Mountain”

Jay Erskine Leutze’s Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness Along the Appalachian Trail recently won the 2013 SIBA Book Award for Best Nonfiction. In honor of this well-deserved recognition we are re-posting a June 2012 blog entry on the title. In this post Blair president Carolyn Sakowski muses on two of her passions, books and the great outdoors, as framed by a hiking trip with Leutze.

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It’s not easy to get to the grassy balds located along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, but those who hike to the top are always stunned that such beautiful spots exist outside Switzerland or Scotland. With backdrops straight out of a scene from the Sound of Music, it’s difficult not to break into a Julie Andrews twirl.

Hiking the North Carolina Mountains | Roan Bald

But the highlands of the Roan and the views they offer are often under threat from encroaching developers. Although various public entities now control most of the balds themselves, constant vigilance is necessary to protect the breathtaking views seen from the Appalachian Trail as it crosses these mountains. Those of us who love this section of the Appalachians owe a huge debt to Jay Erskine Leutze, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Southern Environmental Law Center for their roles in preventing the largest surface mine in the South from getting a 99-year lease that would have destroyed the view corridor along the Appalachian Trail for miles.

Jay spearheaded a group that worked on what would come to be known as the Putnam mine case for almost five years, essentially as a volunteer. They struggled to shut down a mining operation near his home in the mountains of western North Carolina. Jay and his grass-roots coalition would eventually take the case to the state’s highest courts and prevent the destruction of a treasured portion of unspoiled land near the Appalachian Trail. He then wrote a book—Stand Up That Mountain—about his crusade.

Like any good narrative nonfiction, Stand Up That Mountain tells a great story—complete with native mountain folks who capture your heart with their grit, determination, intelligence, and wit. This video shows you some of the incredible views and what the early stages of the mine devastation looked like from the trail.

On June 23, I got to join a small group of SAHC members on a hike up to The Hump, one of the most prominent points in the area. We were fortunate to have Jay as our leader, and we were able to see firsthand what Jay and his group saved for the rest of us. If you see that Jay is coming to a signing near you, please go and at least shake his hand. Better still, get yourself a darn good read that will leave you inspired.

Jay Leutzke

To read more about the history of the balds and how you can hike to see them for yourself, check out this driving tour of Roan Highlands. You might also check out the SAHC blog to read about the annual “herding of the goats” that groom the grasses on the balds.

Hearding of the goats up to Jane's Bald

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Blair Books in Action by Angela Harwood: When the Dogwoods are Blooming, the Crappie are Biting—A Pictorial History

January 2011: Brought home copy of Fishing North Carolina.

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My husband is immediately taken with the book, and I begin to feel like I’m being stalked by Mike Marsh.

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Mid-January 2011: Jeff purchases an inexpensive john boat with bad rivets.

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Late January 2011: It is above 50 degrees, so we try out the new boat at Lake Brandt. We’ve known each other since we were in the 7th grade, and I’ve rarely seen Jeff so happy.

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This is Jeff’s happy face.

February 2011: Jeff purchases expensive “marine wood” to make new seats for the inexpensive boat. He refuses to paint my seat pink.

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March 2011: Based on information I’ve gleaned from reading Fishing North Carolina and a few of Mike Marsh’s fishing articles in North Carolina Sportsman magazine, I decide to upgrade my fishing lures. Jeff tells me I will never catch anything with my new lures.

I call this lure my red guy.

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I catch this crappie with my red guy.

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And this crappie . . .

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Jeff snags this brehm.

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August 2011: I admit that I don’t catch fish with any of these guys.

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January 2012: Jeff purchases a brand-new boat with good rivets.

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We both agree that the new boat feels much more like home.

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April 2012:  I am now quoting Bill Dance in regular, every day conversations.

“When the dogwoods are blooming, the crappie are biting.”


“When the dogwoods are blooming, the crappie are biting.”

Well, the dogwoods are blooming, and this is my crappie.

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I let Jeff hold my crappie.

June 2012: Thanks to Fishing North Carolina, we find out that Lake Higgins is open until 11 p.m. on Friday nights all summer long.

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So we go night fishing.

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I catch this catfish after dark. (Jeff’s catfish puts up a big fight and is probably bigger than mine, but it gets away while we are trying to get it into the boat.)

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April 2013: A new season of fishing awaits! It’s not too late to purchase your own copy of Fishing North Carolina, available wherever books are sold and at blairpub.com.

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Q&A with Mike Marsh, author of Fishing North Carolina

Fishing North CarolinaYesterday we introduced you to Mike Marsh, author of Fishing North Carolina. The book hit store shelves last week and is available at your local bookstore, through online booksellers, at blairpub.com, and on Mike’s own Web site. Fishing North Carolina is the guide for fishing at watering holes across the state, so if you have any plans to fish in North Carolina this spring, you’ve got to own this book! And for all you fans out there, we’d like to share a little interview we had with the fishing expert. Enjoy!

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Q. How long have you been fishing (and writing about fishing) in North Carolina?

A. I arrived in North Carolina in 1963 with my family. I was 10 years old and was fishing local farm ponds at that age, either by myself or with a friend.

I began writing Quest for the Limit – Carolina Hunting Adventures 20 years ago. It was my first attempt at writing and it took several years to complete the book. It was published in 1995. Since that time I’ve written about 6,000 magazine and newspaper articles.

Q. What’s your earliest fishing memory?

A. I remember catching my first fish when I was three or four years old. We were fishing in a pond on the Iowa State University campus, where dad went to college after he was discharged from the Navy. He tied me to a tree with a length of clothesline rope so I wouldn’t fall in the water. My older brother, Curt, and I caught bluegills so fast that Dad never got a chance to bait his own hook.

Q. What were some of your most memorable or surprising catches?

A. That’s a tough question because there have been so many. I landed a 5-foot tarpon in the surf of Masonboro Island. At the time, it was the only tarpon I had heard of being landed from the surf. My wife, Carol, was with me at the time and that made it a special experience. It jumped many times and ran off all of the line twice before I had the fish under control.

 The 40-pound red drum on the cover of Inshore Angler was landed on eight-pound test monofilament line and took 45 minutes to bring to the net. It was July 4th weekend, and the boat traffic was heavy. An angler kept the boats away from the line, then boarded my boat to take the photo that became the book cover before I released the fish.

The first fish I ever caught by myself was a bullhead catfish. I put it in a pot and rode it home on the handlebars of my bicycle to show it to my dad before I rode it back to the river and released it. 

When I first started dating my wife, I caught 8 bass from a golf course pond (the bass limit was higher back then; it’s five fish today). Carol took a photo of me with my catch, the first photo every taken of me with fish. She still has the photo. Now, I have about 100,000 images of myself and other anglers with dozens of species of fish.

Q. What’s your favorite fishing spot?

A. That’s impossible to pin down because there are so many. I like fishing at Lake Waccamaw because the lake is so beautiful and it has good fishing for many species. I consider the Cape Fear River, all of the southern inlets, and ocean waters far out into the Atlantic Ocean as my “home” waters for the same reasons.

Q. Would you rather fish in a river, lake, or on the ocean?

A. I really don’t care if it’s a lake, river, or the Atlantic Ocean. All water bodies have their own unique challenges and hallmark fish species. The coastal waters have an abundance of large, aggressive species, but wind or other weather conditions can make fishing difficult or unsafe in coastal waters. When the wind is blowing, I can always find a spot to fish in a pond, lake, or river that is out of the wind and weather. To generate the volume of articles I must to feed my newspaper and magazine markets, I must constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities and it really doesn’t matter to me where they occur. 

Q. What’s your favorite seafood dish?

A. My favorite seafood dish is fried flounder, especially when the fish has been caught the same day. That’s as fresh as seafood gets.

Q. Ever read a book that changed your life?

Mike Marsh's favorite books

A. Robert Ruark’s The Old Man and The Boy changed my life. My father placed a copy of that great work of sporting literature on my bed as a gift for my thirteenth birthday. I couldn’t put the book down until I had read every word. That book made me decide to be an outdoor writer, despite many people who tried to dissuade me because of the many challenges. But, although there were some detours along the way, I have made writing about the outdoors my life’s work. It can be a very difficult profession, but it can also be very gratifying. Little did I know that twists of fate would find me fishing and hunting in the same places and for the same species as Ruark and that I would have friends that actually knew him as well as the people in his life, including The Old Man. One of my best friends was a Cape Fear River pilot, which is the same occupation as Ruark’s Old Man. Other books that had big impacts on my life include The Yearling and Death in the Long Grass, by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Death in the Long Grass is one of the finest pieces of sporting literature ever written and it also inspired me to write. 

Q. If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be?

A. Robert Ruark.

Gone fishing? You should be, with Mike Marsh’s Fishing North Carolina

Fishing North Carolina, by Mike Marsh

Thanks to well-known fishing expert Mike Marsh, North Carolinians finally have a definitive guide for the entire state in one handy volume. Fishing North Carolina is the only book that covers the multitude of fishing opportunities in all of the state’s regions: mountains, Piedmont, and coastal plain. Whatever type of fishing you prefer, Fishing North Carolina has something for beginning and advanced fishermen, longtime North Carolinians, newcomers, and tourists alike. This book will tell you where to go, how to get there, what fishing regulations are in effect, the best time to fish, the best way to fish (from boat, dock, or shore), key species at each locale, and the best lures to use. Sixty detailed maps, descriptions of the fishing, and general information about the locations will help you know whether or not to expect snagged lures or an enjoyable fishing experience for the whole family.

Mike will be celebrating the release of Fishing North Carolina in Wilmington, N.C., this weekend. Join him Saturday, February 12, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, located at 850 Inspiration Drive. Pack up your fishing rods and bait; you’ll want to hit the open seas–or lakes, ponds, rivers–after speaking with him.