Duke Energy’s $3.5 Edwardsport coal experiment: ‘A catastrophe’ for ratepayers FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Indianapolis Business Journal:A consumer group is calling on Indiana utility regulators to revoke or modify approval of Duke Energy Corp.’s massive Edwardsport power plant, saying it is costing Indiana ratepayers too much money and has fallen far short of the company’s promises for producing low-cost electricity since going into service in 2013.Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, which has repeatedly called the plant a “boondoggle” and a “science project,” and unsuccessfully tried to stop the project in court, on Wednesday asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to give the plant’s performance another look.“Building and operating Edwardsport has been an economic catastrophe for Duke’s ratepayers,” said David A. Schlissel, a consultant for CAC and director of resource planning analysis for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think tank in Cleveland. “And Edwardsport will continue to be a catastrophe for ratepayers unless the IURC takes strong and effective actions to protect them.”The $3.5 billion plant in southwestern Indiana is one of the most expensive projects in state history and was funded largely by ratepayers.Currently, the average Duke Energy customer is paying $14.81 per month for the plant in their monthly bill through a tracker. Duke Energy wants to raise that amount to $15.39.During its 55 months of operations, the plant has had repeated outages and costly repairs, due to logged and corroded pipes, leaky valves and faulty thermocouples. The plant’s huge gasifiers have been taken out service during repairs.The gasifiers are key systems of the 618-megawatt plant, which converts coal into combustible synthetic gas to drive turbines that produce electricity.As a result, the plant has operated at an average of 40 percent capacity on synthetic gas, CAC said—far below the company’s original promise of 79 percent. Last year, the plant improved and operated at 60 percent of capacity, still below the promised level.“This coal-to-synthetic gas part of the plant is a Rube Goldberg machine, funded by unwilling ratepayers forced to pay excessive and unreasonable utility rates,” said Kerwin Olson, CAC’s executive director. “When is enough enough?”Duke Energy had originally described the plant as a producer of low-cost electricity. But costs soared far above its $1.6 million original construction estimate, due to under-estimations on the amount of pipe, concrete and other materials needed. Several major accidents shut down work areas for days.More: Consumer group says Indiana power plant has failed customers
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Fund management firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) said on Tuesday it had started what it expects to be the world’s largest fund for renewable energy infrastructure as it targets investments worth 100 billion crowns ($15.2 billion).CIP, founded by former Orsted executives, said institutional investors had so far pledged to invest 11 billion crowns and it expects commitments to increase to 40-50 billion in the coming 9 to 12 months.The CIP IV fund will invest in renewable energy infrastructure within offshore and onshore wind, solar energy, transmission grids and biomass in what it called low-risk OECD countries, referring to members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.“The market is favourable for investments in renewable energy infrastructure,” said CIP managing partner Jakob Baruel Poulsen.United Nations envoy and former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said earlier this month that investors had an “enormous” opportunity to finance a shift to a low-carbon future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.[Stine Jacobsen]More: Danish fund manager CIP aims for world’s largest renewable infrastructure fund Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners launches major renewable energy infrastructure fund
It can happen to anyone out on the trail: one false step, one wrong turn and you may find yourself out in the middle of the woods with only the clothes on your back and your wits to get you through. The chances of spending an unexpected night or two in the backcountry are not as slim as you think and the consequences can be dire. Try to stay calm, this is your guide to survival in the Blue Ridge.Sandi Bird was beginning to worry. What was supposed to be a short day hike was turning into a nightmare she was not prepared for. It was a pleasant spring day when she set out hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail outside Roanoke, Virginia. Sandi was on a trail leading down from McAfee Knob, one she had never hiked before and fellow hikers were few and far between. The trail was still covered with heavy leaf fall from the past autumn, the spring foliage yet to take hold. As she lifted her eyes from the path in an effort to spot her destination, the Tinker Cliffs in the near distance, something under the leaves caught her foot and sent her reeling down the pitch. It was a bad fall, her ankle twisted enough that it was difficult to put weight on it. She tried to hike out, but as the skies darkened and day turned into night she ran through two sets of flashlight batteries and the slow, limping hike down the mountain became more and more dangerous. She realized she would not be able to make it back to the trailhead; Sandi would have to spend the night in the woods.Overwhelmed with fatigue and underequipped, Sandi did the only thing she could think to do on an unfamiliar trail: she sat down. With her back against a rock, her butt on the trail, and her legs dangling over the edge of a steep hill, she slept the night in the open, exposed to the elements, injured and alone.The next morning she awoke cold and stiff, but alive. In the daylight, she was able to slowly and carefully navigate back to the trailhead and get to the emergency room, where she was treated for a severely sprained ankle. A hike that should have only taken an afternoon had turned into a 24-hour affair that could have turned out much worse. Had it been a month earlier or the weather changed dramatically, as is common in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we may be telling a different story about Sandi Bird.Sandi’s story is a typical one when it comes to survival situations in the Appalachians. She was an experienced hiker, taking a day hike on a well-used trail, relatively close to civilization. Yet, she found herself in a dangerous predicament due to unforeseen circumstances outside of her control.“You say, ‘OK, well you’re close to home,’ but still it was in a season when there were not that many people around and it was still a long hike back out, several miles out,” she said of the ordeal. “You don’t have to be that far from home, you don’t have to be in the middle of the wilderness to be in a survival situation.”Following her night on the trail, Sandi sought out training that would enable her to better handle an unexpected night in the backcountry. She eventually landed at Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba, Virginia. Former United States Air Force Survival Instructor Reggie Bennett started Mountain Shepherd nine years ago to continue his passion for teaching. At Mountain Shepherd, Bennett takes the basic outline of what he taught Air Force pilots and translates it to the general public – minus the “classified stuff,” – instructing classes around the country and in various environments. His courses are developed around the Air Force’s SERE school lessons – SERE stands for Survive Evade Resist Escape, so the more advanced courses can get fairly intense. He also consults on survival and backcountry gear and equipment for manufacturers trying to cut weight while upping efficiency. Needless to say, Bennett knows his stuff. He says a common misconception about wilderness survival often gets in the way of learning: survival does not have to be difficult.“I think sometimes the mentality is, ‘Look what I suffered through, and I made it and that makes me great,’” says Dina Bennett, Reggie’s wife.. “It doesn’t need to be hard, it doesn’t need to be difficult to make it through if you know how to do things easily.”Virtually all survival situations involve either lost or injured day hikers so the chances of being rescued or found in Southern Appalachia are dramatically higher than say, if you were lost in the vast woods of Montana.“Most survival situations are just three days,” says Bennett. “The majority of them are just 24 hours. The likelihood that any one of us is going to be in a survival situation for more than three days is very rare.”To handle any crisis as short as a couple hours to as long as three days, Bennett teaches his students seven priorities of survival. This is not only an outline of what to do and how to do it, it is a tool unto itself; a way to cope with escalating catastrophe beyond the standard ‘Rule of Threes’—a person can go three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food.1. POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE“There is no average emergency.”Priority number one in any wilderness survival or emergency situation is maintaining a positive mental attitude. This principle is echoed by every survival expert and applies to every predicament you could find yourself in no matter the setting.“People that do very well in a survival situation are people that realize that there is going to be physical and mental stress applied to them,” said Bennett. “But if you can recognize that stress, that’s the key.”Positive mental attitude is number one because everything else affects it. For example, having a positive mental attitude will help you stay cool and collected when trying to start a fire in the wind; in turn, having that fire gives you a positive mental boost. Carrying a basic emergency kit is the easiest way to elevate your morale. Just having some equipment goes a long way, but having some knowledge can make the difference between getting out alive and not.“The more you know, the more that you feel like, “It’s all right, I got this,’” says Jeff Gottlieb, who manages the survival school at SOLO Southeast. “A lot of wilderness survival is feeling like it’s OK to be there. A little bit of comfort in a trying situation can make the difference in a successful attitude and whether you are going to make it.”2. WILDERNESS FIRST AID“You are help.”Every emergency pack should include some version of a first aid kit with the bare essentials: bandaids, bandages, Advil, and disinfectant to treat scrapes, blisters, and bee stings. Other common injuries like twisted ankles and knees, or deep flesh wounds will require professional medical attention that only a Wilderness EMT or First Responder can provide. More important than running for help in a situation like this is assessing the situation so you can inform rescue personnel of the number of people injured, severity, environment, etc.“You’re help; there isn’t help immediately available,” says SOLO Southeast Director and paramedic Jono Bryant. “Even if you get them on the cell phone, it’s going to take ages for anyone to come and get you. The care is essentially the same [as front country medicine] other than the improvisation, but the environment can change everything. Suddenly that broken ankle has turned into a hypothermia victim.”The biggest dangers to anyone in the backcountry are the double threats of heat and cold. Either can be deadly if not taken seriously, but the warning signs or hypothermia and heat stroke are easily spotted, if you know what to look for.Hypothermia There are two main components of hypothermia: the first is getting cold and wet. This can be easily prevented with the proper clothing. The relatively warm state of Texas has one of the highest rates of hypothermia because people don’t realize you get cold 25 times faster when you’re wet. Never wear cotton in cold weather, opt for polypropylenes or wools, which stay warm even when soaked. The second is fuel or food: you burn twice as many calories in cold weather, so eating food rich in calories and fats will help stave off hypothermia.“The trouble with hypothermia is that the first thing that is affected is your judgment and you start making poor decisions,” says Bryant. “There are many documented cases of people who were found frozen to death on the side of a mountain and they go into their backpack and they had food, fuel, a stove, a sleeping bag, but they just started making poor decisions. You just have to recognize when someone is entering this stage.”Recognizing the onset of hypothermia is as easy as keeping an eye out for the “umbles,” says Bryant. It begins with a general discomfort (the grumbles); then the mumbles where speech is slurred; then motor function lapses (the fumbles—if you have difficulty touching your pinky to your thumb); then the stumbles and tumbles; and culminates with the crumbles which is the beginning of the end.If you see any of these signs, it is time to act. Get the person under jackets or a sleeping bag, and off the cold ground onto a tarp or more jackets. Start a fire immediately. Providing the victim warm liquids and food will help keep the core temperature up.Heat StrokeAs dangerous as cold is, heat can be equally threatening but not as noticeable in the field. Heat injury begins with dehydration: if you feel thirsty you are already significantly dehydrated and may begin to feel dizzy or nauseated. A hydrated person should be urinating every two hours. Heat exhaustion is the next stage and you will begin to feel lethargic, weak and may be pale and clammy. Heat stroke is characterized by the body being red and flushed or having seizures and can be fatal if not treated. Getting out of the sun and getting some food and water in the victim is essential if any of these symptoms arise. Pour water over their body to cool it, but not to the point of shivering, as this will only generate more heat.3. SHELTER CRAFT“You never know what’s coming.”In the Blue Ridge Mountains the weather can turn at any moment; it may be sunny and 65 one moment and raining and 40 the next. The changes in weather and temperature are especially apparent when day turns to night, when the temperature plummets and wetness seeps in everywhere. Improvised insulation is your only friend when you have nothing, helping to retain the heat you already have. The clothes on your back are the first line of shelter: stuffing dry leaves or other insulation into your jacket and pants provides extra protection against cold. Dry leaves or grasses are great filler. You can get away with damp leaves some of the time, but having a grasp of the physics of insulation is vital if you are out in the winter months.“Your margin for sloppiness is smaller,” says Gottlieb. “If it’s June and you don’t understand shelter insulation very well, you will probably be fine, but if it’s January and you don’t understand insulation very well, it could be life threatening.”Having a heavy duty, 55-gallon trash bag in your emergency kit gives you the most bang for your buck of any other piece of equipment. They are large, waterproof, windproof, tough, and can be used as a tent, poncho, and rain collector. String a trash bag between two trees and you have instant protection from the wind and rain that compound the effects of cold—especially wind.“People don’t understand how insidious that wind is,” says Bennett. He tells a tale of soldiers sitting in a 35-degree cold chamber in their underwear and making it two hours before they couldn’t take it anymore. When they added a mere three-mile per hour wind, the soldiers only lasted 20 minutes.If you don’t have a trash bag, a suitable shelter can be made by propping up a long log with one end on the ground and one in the crux of a tree, bracing it with stick ribs along its length, and piling dead leaves on top of the shelter and inside it for insulation. It may not sound like much, but this style of shelter is surprisingly adept at keeping rain and wind out. Always build your shelter away from hanging branches or boulders, on a rise so water does not seep under and point the door of the shelter to the east or southeast so the prevailing wind does not blow rain in.Survival – How to Build a Shelter from Blue Ridge Outdoors on Vimeo.4. FIRE CRAFT“Fire is life out there.”When used incorrectly, fire has the power to injure and destroy. When used correctly fire has the ability to warm, light, dry, cook, boil, defend, signal, and otherwise keep you safe in the backcountry.“Fire is a priority, but fire helps out all the other priorities,” says Bennett. “Fire is life out there.”A lighter, waterproof matches, or some type of flint and steel should be part of any emergency kit, as should a ‘fire bug’—tinder that can take a spark and light almost instantly. These include products like WetFire, a lightweight cube developed for the military that takes a spark and burns at 1,300 degrees, even when wet. A DIY alternative is to soak cotton balls in Vaseline and store them in a pill bottle. In the wild, tulip poplar fibers or birch bark make the best tinder.Building a pit will help protect the fire from the elements. Pile rocks around the fire to reflect the heat toward you and then use the heated rocks in your shelter to help you stay warm through the night. Do not put wet stones directly into the fire, however, as they have the potential to explode due to the expanding steam inside the rock.Building a fire becomes more difficult without a spark, but not impossible if you know what you are doing. A fire by friction using the bow drill technique will produce a flame, but without practice your chances of pulling it off are greatly diminished in a stressful situation. Knowledge and practice are the only things to fall back on when out in the wilderness, so get plenty of both in regards to fire making.“If you do it right and you have equipment that is up to your standards, it shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds to have a glowing ember ready to feed into the tinder, and maybe have a flame in one minute,” said Gottlieb. “When your hands are freezing and you have no backup is not the time to learn how to make a fire by friction.”Survival – How to Start a Fire from Blue Ridge Outdoors on Vimeo.5. SIGNALING“Your best chance of survival is getting rescued.”Signaling for rescue is one of the most important, but often overlooked, priorities for anyone lost in the woods, says Bennett.“Signaling is being proactive, helping rescuers rescue you,” he said. “Most people are not ready; they are so focused on surviving that they forget that they should be prepared to signal any rescue that comes by.”Signals can be as easy as tying a bandana to a tree branch or banging a stick against a hollow log. Save your voice by whooping or yipping instead of yelling “help,” and keep in mind the international signal for distress is a series of three – the Morse Code for “S.O.S.” is three dots, three dashes, three dots. Have a stash of flammable debris near the fire so if you hear a helicopter or plane, you can dump the debris on the flame to create a smoke pillar that can be visible for miles.6. WATER CRAFT“Walk downhill.”After protection from the elements, finding potable water is the most vital factor in any survival situation. Humans can only go a few days without water, and you are losing it constantly through your sweat, breath, urine, and other basic functions. Fortunately, this is the Blue Ridge so locating a water source is not usually a problem.“The East Coast is a water-rich part of the world,” says Earth Connection School founder Tim MacWelch. “Walk downhill for a couple hundred yards and you are either going to see some kind of sign of water or actually see water.”Water is all around us in the Appalachians, but water in the wild suitable for human consumption is hard, if not impossible, to come by. Rain water and snow are as clean as the air they fall through and surfaces they touch. Drinking untreated water from even the most seemingly pristine mountain stream is still an invitation to an army of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and protozoa, any of which can do you harm. Boiling water for 10 minutes will make it suitable to drink, but lucky for us there is a great water treatment arms race going on currently in the outdoor industry. Fueled by the ultra light hiking movement, companies are bending over backwards to come up with the latest, greatest, lightest water purification treatment system on the market. This means tossing a filter or some chlorine tablets in your pack is much easier than even a couple of years ago.7. FOOD CRAFT“Everything is edible once.”Food is fairly low on the totem pole when it comes to survival since the body can manage without it for weeks if necessary. That being said, a full or even partially full belly will go a long way to maintaining a positive mental attitude. Edible plants and animals are abundant in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, but so are poisonous ones, and it can take a lifetime of study to know them all. Hub Knott is the founder and director of the Living Earth School, and says a great way to begin building a knowledge bank of edible wild plants is to start with a fatal flora process of elimination.“Once you know what harms you in your environment, then you’re pretty safe,” said Knott. “If you try something else, some things aren’t super edible but you know it’s not going to kill you.”Knowing what to avoid will help you locate the nuts and flowers that won’t make you sick like walnuts, hickories, pawpaws, dandelions, and wood nettles. Wild greens are more nutrient packed and filling than store bought greens so you don’t need as much in one sitting. Opt for water creatures over land creatures; crayfish, frogs, and snails are easier to locate and catch which will cut down on calories burned versus earned. When it comes to the glamorous world of eating insects, there are a few guidelines to follow, although it is not an exact science: six legs and under and only natural colors like blacks, browns, or greens. Use nature against itself by only eating insects that are hidden or want to hide – the evolutionary defense mechanism to hide means they seldom have other defenses like poison or foul taste.Stay or Go?When lost or injured in the wilderness, conventional wisdom says it is better to stay where you are and hunker down to await rescue. More often than not, trying to self-rescue only makes the situation worse, says Bennett.“Once you start moving you are subjecting yourself to injury, fatigue, and dehydration,” he said. “So in most cases, if you can, it’s better to stay put.”Going mobile also elevates your chance of missing a rescue team that comes through your area; if they clear the area and don’t find you, they probably will not be back. There are some circumstances in which your only option is to try to get out yourself. Bennett advises you to travel if:Nobody knows where you are. They don’t know where to look for you. Always tell someone or leave a prominent note whenever hiking or camping.The environment is dangerous enough that it would be more hazardous to stay where you are.You are running out of supplies.You see the lights of a house, road, or town during the night and can navigate safely toward them.Otherwise, it is almost always safer and more successful to stay where you are and hope rescuers pick up your signals.Be Prepared GearBeing prepared does not mean you have to overstuff your daypack with enough gear to make it through the apocalypse every time you take a two-mile hike. It does mean you should have some bare essentials to make sure you get out of the woods in one piece. Here is a list of common items to pack in an emergency survival kit, all of which can be packed into a small sack weighing less than a pound:Knife (fixed blade is best, but a high quality folding knife will suffice)Trash bag (55 gallon, heavy duty)Fire starter (waterproof matches, flint and steel, or lighter)Fire tinder (WetFire, Vaseline-soaked cotton balls)First Aid (Band Aids, ibuprofen, antiseptic, moleskin, QuikClot, gauze, antidiarrheal, adhesive tape)Water transporter: You can use the sealable bag that carries the rest of the kitMini flashlightSignal MirrorWhistleWater purification tabletsParacordSnack (energy bar)Wilderness Survival SchoolsThe only way to be truly prepared for a survival situation is to take a wilderness survival course. Here are some options in the region:SOLO Southeast Bryson City, N.C. solosoutheast.comSoutheast School of Survival Cartersville, Ga. southeastschoolofsurvival.comMountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School Catawba, Va. mountainshepherd.comLiving Earth School Charlottesville, Va. livingearthva.comEarth Connection School of Wilderness Survival Fredericksburg, Va. earth-connection.comLandmark Learning Semester Cullowhee, N.C. landmarklearning.orgMedicine Bow Wilderness School Dahlonega, Ga. medicinebow.azurewebsites.net
Unicyling 101 from Blue Ridge Outdoors on Vimeo.In 2012 Gen Shimizu spent the summer unicycling the 2,754-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route – you can read his story here. In Unicycling 101 he shares some tips on learning how to unicycle with our Travel Editor Jess Daddio for this episode of BRO-TV.
I can tell how long I’ve known Bill Harris by the length of his beard. When I first met him, it was short and bushy. Now it hangs well below his chin, its wiry brown hairs nearly grazing his collarbone. Bill is a tall, lanky kind of guy with big, calloused hands. His laugh is infectious, a pair of off-kilter eyes crinkling at the corners every time he smiles. Looking back on the four years I lived off and on in Damascus, it’s hard to picture my life there without him. If he wasn’t at Mojoe’s Trailside Coffee sipping a cup of coffee, he was usually on his bike cruising down the Virginia Creeper Trail with his canine sidekick Deohghi in tow.Originally from the southwest corner of Michigan, Bill found his way to Damascus after losing both his house and job in 2000. With his daughter grown and his days now suddenly much freer, Bill decided to take this otherwise unfortunate turn of events and make it something positive. After researching “rails to trails” online, he came across a site for the Virginia Creeper Trail, reduced his possessions to the pack on his back, and headed south.“Michigan wasn’t my happy place. This,” Bill says, sweeping his arms wide, “this is my happy place.”For the decade following that first ride down the 34-mile-long Creeper, Bill would bounce around southwest Virginia working side jobs and making enough money to keep his now-transient lifestyle afloat. But in 2012, the call of the Creeper could no longer be ignored. With the permission of a local landowner, Bill established a campsite off the Creeper just outside of Damascus and has been living in the woods ever since.“Home is where your hammock hangs,” Bill says. “I’ve got no lights, no power, no bills. There’s no stress. I’m here to live and live as easy as I can and do what I can to help another.”Aside from his hammock, a tarp, some fly-fishing gear, and a minimalist espresso maker, Bill doesn’t really own anything. He gets around town on a black aluminum frame Trek with a doggie cart attached. Litter hurts everybody reads a weathered sign tacked to the back of the cart. Bill is what you might call the “trail maintainer” of the Creeper, taking it upon himself to pick up the trash that others leave behind. Generally, he’s one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet, but if he catches you tossing even so much as a cigarette butt onto the Creeper (or anywhere for that matter), you’ve got another thing coming.“I don’t know if you can call me a trail angel,” Bill says. “I don’t ask for anything and I don’t take anything. It all comes around. I’ve learned that everything is connected.”A typical day in the life of Bill always involves picking up at least one bag of trash from the Creeper, an unglamorous pastime at best, but one that does not go unrecognized. Although Bill occasionally runs shuttles for hikers coming into Mt. Rogers Outfitters, he hasn’t needed to find a full- or even part-time job in months: the town of Damascus takes care of him.“Anytime I need something, I always meet someone who can help,” he says. “Sometimes I might have to go looking for that help, but it’s there.”Living outside year-round may sound like a dream come true, but the reality of such a lifestyle is not nearly as tranquil. Bill’s “front yard,” as he likes to say, is Whitetop Laurel, the local creek that parallels the Creeper through town. In January 2013, his setup earned the name Camp Floodzone after days of nonstop rain forced Bill to move his hammock site in the middle of the night.“I was voted off the island,” he says with a chuckle. “But there were people looking out for me. Within a few minutes of taking down my campsite, someone was there with a truck to help me load it all and take me somewhere dry.”I saw Bill the morning following the flood. Although he looked tired, likely from being awakened in the middle of the night to a roaring river beneath his feet, he was not so much as a fraction less cheery. Even in the sticky heat of the long summer days or the bitter cold of the longer winter nights, I’ve never once heard Bill complain. The mosquitos, the snow, the torrential downpours—nothing fazes him.“A guy once said to me, ‘you’re just on a next level of Zen with your happiness. More people need to get there,’” Bill says. “I guess the secret is I’ve thrown everything away. If you’ve got stuff, you have to live with stuff, and nobody really needs stuff.”Aside from his daily trail upkeep, Bill is an avid hiker, a connoisseur of wild mushrooms, a fly-fisherman, and a master fly craftsman. His favorite pastime is listening to the gurgling waters of Whitetop Laurel from his hammock and his most treasured book is Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang.“Pay your rent, work for the earth,” he says. “If I didn’t do what I do, who would do it?”
Gateway to the Smokies, Bryson City, North Carolina, is surrounded by mountains. To the north, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its 900-mile network of trails flank the town. In the east rise the Plott Balsams, which reach elevations above 6,000 ft. To the south is another impressive range known as the Cowee Mountains, and beyond that the Nantahala National Forest, home to two the best-kept secrets in long-distance trail hiking—the Bartram Trail and the Benton Mackaye Trail.The town itself—described by locals as “uncrowded, unspoiled, unhurried, and uncommon”— is just down the road from the Nantahala River, and some of the world’s best paddlers call Bryson City home. It’s also a top craft beer town, and mountain bikers use Bryson City as a basecamp for exploring nearby Tsali Recreation Area, which contains over 40 miles of trails, and other epic singletrack in Nantahala National Forest.Vote now at blueridgeoutdoors.com!
A week or so back Annie started getting this craving for salads—breakfast, lunch, dinner, in between. It was compulsory. Fringing on the neurotic. After a few days of this, it occurred to me her subconscious was likely instigating the salad binge, a reaction to the fact that, for the next give-or-take 12 weeks, as she section-hikes over 550 miles of Virginia’s Appalachian Trail, she will be living predominantly off tofu jerky, ramen noodles, homemade trail-mix, protein shakes, bags of tuna fish, dehydrated fruits and meals of the just-add-water variety.Thus, up until Friday, August 16 when, after years of consideration and umpteen overnight, weekend, and week-long getaways, she trucked it down to the southwestern-most tip of the state, setting out from Damascus on her trek to cover every mile of the Virginia quarter of the Appalachian Trail, she was milking the veggie bender for all it was worth.Hiking the AT, it’s one of those things lots of people talk about doing—that is, if it wasn’t for the kids, job, mortgage, automobiles, in short, the so-called myriad responsibilities binding them to the concrete geographical realities of hearth and home. Similarly, having saved the money, gotten herself mentally fortified, arranged her business obligations in such a way as to enable her to make the trip, still Laura was wavering. However, upon paying a visit to her 92 year old grandmother, waxing into a somewhat worried explanation of what it was she (Annie) was considering, with a curt and dismissive wave, Grandmother responded: “You should go. It would likely be the best thing you could do in your life.”Matriarch and homemaker for almost three-quarters of a century, Grandmother—Minerva Torrence—had devoted her life to serving as a pillar of domestic stability. Confronted by this unexpected blessing, a deep calm fell over Laura.“As I face my 34th birthday,” she told me, “I’m trying to accept and come to terms with my infertility. That moment, sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother, something clicked. Section-hiking the Appalachian Trail felt like the best thing I could possibly do for myself.”“As with many a walk in the woods,” she went on, “I see this trip as a spiritual journey. A cleansing journey to rid myself of toxins—”after years of being a smoker, with the help of the abundant fresh air, Laura plans on quitting cold-turkey. “And it’s professional as well. On the one hand, I’ve committed myself to carrying my camera and working with you on this weekly column for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, and will have a photo essay featured in AT Journeys Magazine. On the other, artistically speaking, I’ll be taking numerous self-portraits, and meeting with models along the way, hopefully having that culminate in a gallery event sometime in January or February of 2015.”But back to logistics:For the first week, she will be traveling without a tent, “Thereby lightening my load, enabling me to build a tolerance, and ease into the strain of walking with my photography gear.”What she means is: Rather than a traditional backpacking setup, inspired by the Blue Ridge’s ripening apples, the solitude of the season (this time of year thru-hiker traffic will have slowed to a trickle), historic sights, and iconic summits, she’ll be tucking her Canon DSLR Mark II (affectionately known as ‘Mark’) inside her Lowepro Dry Zone—a high-end, waterproof camera bag designed for brief and intensive excursions—composing photos all along the way. In order to pull this off, she will basically be repurposing the bag—storing her water bladder in the pack’s laptop compartment; instead of additional lenses, carrying a homemade aluminum burner, denatured alcohol, quick-dry towel, and a change of clothes; rather than a tripod, when her tent arrives (at the end of week one), it will be strapped to the face of her pack.“For the next twelve weeks,” she explains, her eyes reflecting the shimmering blues of the Damascus horizon, “my only job is to walk, stay dry, hydrated, and sane. To take pictures. To carry a journal. Each step will be rooted and stabilized in the simple act of breathing. I’m looking forward to waking to the misty sunrises, to fellowship with the trees and the wind, to scaling the ancient peaks, to staring down into valleys, to hiking in the moonlight.”From Damascus to Harperʼs Ferry, she’s purchased her ticket. Now comes The Ride.–Eric J. Wallace is a freelance writer and journalist roaming the state of Virginia. For more info, email him at [email protected]–To follow Annie’s adventure more closely, visit www.instagram.com/621_studios where, each morning, she will be posting a photo, documenting her progress, and offering behind the scenes shots of the self-portrait project she will be undertaking along the way. For additional info., bookings, print-sales, upcoming projects, newsletters, or just to say hello, visit 621studios.com.
Founders Brewing Company from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is making a nationwide play amongst the stiff competition now racking brewers and tasters brains and buds in a microbrew movement that is only showing signs of growth.By now you probably know that the term “session” essentially means “a time frame where you’ll be drinking multiple beers in a sitting.” Take that for what it’s worth. Many people are enjoying the trendy sessionable beers because they can have one, maybe two, and still drive safely home. Others like the lighter body, lighter alcohol that makes for spread out, warm- weather imbibing.Thus not accidentally named, Founders All Day IPA is one of those “session” brews that is not just another shot in the dark. It hits its mark firmly. If not drinkable all day, I could certainly drink more than my fair share in an evening or sunny summer afternoon, and I quickly devoured my test pack without wanting to share.Why? Because this is a legitimate brewery that has created a number of new brews on-trend but above average. The All Day IPA is flavor forward and could pass for a heavier lager or pale ale , yet is just 4.7% ABV for everyone’s, um, safety. Founders worked on this concoction for four years, so they’re not just trying to keep up off the line here. It’s crafted with American Amarillo and Simcoe American hops that delivers the extreme flavors this Grand Rapids craft-beer champion is known for. It’s a semi-complex brew of the usual suspects, malts, grains and hops, that is balanced in an unusual smoothness and cleanness. Maybe it’s that clean finish that keeps you reaching into the cooler.All Day IPA is available throughout the year in six-pack, 12-oz. bottles; 15-pack 12-oz. cans; and in kegs.For something heavier, with froth, floral and citrus — dry hopping included — check out the sweetly balanced Centennial IPA, weighing in at 7.2% ABV (65 IBUs).Find out more at FoundersBrewing.com or look for them in your local package store.
It’s officially ski season, and Appalachian Mountain Brewery is here to help you say hello to the snow! The 2014 Winter Rail Jam, hosted at Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone, North Carolina, is ready to put your skills to the test this Saturday, December 5.The competition is open to all skiers and snowboarders of any level, novice and experts alike. The winners of each Beginner and Advanced category in skiing or snowboarding will walk, or glide, away with cash! Even all you klutzes out there have a shot to win – the best wipe-out earns its own prize.Farm to Flame Pizza, App Terrain Park, and Alpine Ski Shop will join Appalachian Mountain Brewery in sponsoring this breakout event. All competitors can chow down on Farm to Flame cheese pizza and AMB brews after the competition, enjoy App Terrain Park’s rail and box jam designs, and check out Alpine Ski Shop gear.Competition fees are only $10 per person, and all proceeds from the event will benefit local nonprofit organization OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information, and Shelter). Come out to Appalachian Mountain Brewery this weekend for a good cause and good fun.For even more incentive, check out this promo video for the event. Get psyched on snow!
Sometimes, the weekly ride isn’t about the ride at all. It’s about getting out of the house and knocking back a couple of beers and a burrito after a bit of exercise. It’s an escape from the routine. The irony, of course, is that the escape becomes a routine itself. Same trails, same beer, same burrito.It can go on like that for months at a time, without much of a variation in the routine. And then, out of nowhere, one of your riding buddies says he heard of a trail on the edge of the forest that none of us have ever ridden. All of a sudden, it’s a Wednesday night and you’re on an adventure. On a school night!Such is the scenario surrounding my latest weekly ride. We started on the same gravel road that we always start on, but instead of ducking onto familiar singletrack, we kept pedaling gravel, climbing far beyond our typical stomping grounds into the upper reaches of the forest. It was a brutal, 1,000-foot grind of a climb into a ridge of steep slopes. We picked up a faint trail just shy of the gap, and immediately started dropping elevation, first through a rhodo tunnel, then slaloming through big stands of trees. The trail gets ridden so infrequently, it was barely even singletrack. At times we lost it altogether in the leaves and underbrush, only to find it again 10 yards downslope. Before too long, the trail got too steep for us to ride as it traced the fall line straight down the side of the mountain. We hopped off our bikes and slipped every third step as the trail took an impossible line over downed trees that have been turned into huge kickers with landing zones that leave no room for error. Then the optional boulder drops began.Big, freaking boulder drops.The trail is nothing like anything else we ride in the forest, and honestly, we were only good enough to ride a tiny piece of it. But it felt good to be on new dirt, laughing and falling in foreign land. It felt like an adventure. On a Wednesday. After work.Inspired by conquering new territory, we hit up a different post-ride bar. A place that puts French-fries right on their sandwiches. I even ordered a new type of beer.– Graham Averill is a regular contributor to B.R.O. In between cleaning up spilled drinks and putting kids to bed, he enjoys mountain biking, drinking beer, and maintaining his personal blog Daddy Drinks.