New thinking on coal, renewables taking hold in Southeast Asia

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Eco-Business:The evidence is getting harder to dispute. Clean energy can provide 100 per cent of society’s electricity needs. Current renewable energy technology is reliable 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and industries’ insistence on using coal and other polluting sources for fear of intermittency—the inability of renewable energy to ensure an uninterrupted supply—no longer has a basis.So why does Southeast Asia continue to be a global laggard in renewable energy deployment?Rapid economic growth exceeding 4 per cent annually has seen the region double its energy consumption since 1995, and demand is expected to continue to grow by up to 4.7 per cent per year through to 2035. Coal largely feeds this demand, accounting for up to 40 per cent of consumption. But coal’s impact on climate change and air quality have made the need for a transition to clean energy more pressing than ever.For decades, Southeast Asian governments have helped the fossil fuels industry with generous subsidies.But energy subsidies should be cut back or scrapped altogether—except in cases where they serve a specific public purpose, such as giving the poor easier access to energy, or short-term incentives to get new clean energy technologies into the marketplace, says Peter du Pont of the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Asia Centre.Sara Jane Ahmed, energy finance analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), adds: “Governments need to be efficient with their use of capital. Subsidies are not necessary in an industry where there are cheaper competing technologies,” she says, referring to the tumbling price of solar.More: 7 ways to speed up Southeast Asia’s switch to renewable energy New thinking on coal, renewables taking hold in Southeast Asialast_img read more

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Study: New York State regulators are ignoring battery-storage trends

first_imgAcker said that the study had its merit in showing that there is an opportunity for energy storage to replace traditional peaker plants, even under 2013’s conservative load profile assumption.“We are at a point where energy storage can replace peakers in many, many situations. We want make sure that we do get this right, so that we’re able to really take advantage of the benefits of the storage technology,” Acker said.More: New York peaker study underestimates storage potential FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Utility Dive:The New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST) on Friday submitted comments criticizing state regulators’ July 1 unit-by-unit peaker study, saying it underestimated how many peakers could be replaced by battery storage.The Department of Public Service’s study identified at least 275 MW of peaking units, or about 6% of the total rated capacity of New York’s peaking fleet, as potential candidates for replacement with six‐hour energy storage. This number increases to over 500 MW when using eight-hour duration storage.“There’s a lot of momentum right now for the replacement of large-scale assets on the grid with storage, and that’s why these studies are so important,” Bill Acker, executive director of NY-BEST, told Utility Dive.NY-BEST, a nonprofit trade association representing 175 member organizations, identified three major concerns with the methodology of the peakers study, according to its filing:The study ignores the temporal characteristics of traditional peakers that are more restrictive and less flexible than energy storage resources, and assumes that peaker operation is solely determined by system reliability needs;It is examining snapshots of individual units in isolation without a system model, or taking into account other operational factors at a given time, can create misleading results; And load shapes and peaking needs will change dramatically as renewable energy increases, making the Study’s use of 2013 data inappropriate to analyze future New York peaking needs. Study: New York State regulators are ignoring battery-storage trendslast_img read more

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Spain’s Iberdrola moving forward with Europe’s first large-scale green hydrogen project

first_imgSpain’s Iberdrola moving forward with Europe’s first large-scale green hydrogen project FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:Spanish utility Iberdrola has partnered with European fertiliser giant Fertiberia to build a 100MW solar PV plant with 20MWh battery storage to power one of the largest electrolytic hydrogen production systems in the world.The €150 million ($A246 million) project will focus on creating green hydrogen from the 20MW electrolyser to be used at the Fertiberia fertilizer plant in Puertollano, making it the first European company in its sector to develop large-scale expertise in the generation of green ammonia. The Puertollano ammonia plant will be updated and modified to use green hydrogen to manufacture green fertilisers.According to the two companies, the introduction of green hydrogen will reduce the plants natural gas requirements by over 10%.The new solar + battery + hydrogen project will be built in the municipality of Puertollano, in Ciudad Real, Spain, and is expected to generate 700 jobs. Once operational, the plant is expected to avoid 39,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.“Today we are launching the first major green hydrogen project in Europe, demonstrating that thanks to renewables and technological innovation, it is possible to continue to meet the needs of the electrification and decarbonisation of our industry,” said Iberdrola chairman Ignacio Galán. ‘In addition to its primary benefits, the new Puertollano project will also give Iberdrola greater expertise and understanding of the maturation of green hydrogen production. Further, it will help move forward the maturation of the technology, specifically in Spain, where annual hydrogen production is estimated at 0.5Mt H2/year, which is used as a raw material in the refining, chemical and fertilizer industries.[Joshua S Hill]More: Iberdrola to build biggest European solar and battery hydrogen plantlast_img read more

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Floating wind industry insiders say its time to move past pilots, build for scale

first_imgFloating wind industry insiders say its time to move past pilots, build for scale FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):If floating offshore wind is to reach scale, projects need to grow out of pilot-sized dimensions and manufacturers need to churn out floating platforms at pace, industry leaders said at the Offshore and Floating Wind Europe virtual conference Oct. 2.The first floating wind platform was put onto the water over a decade ago, but projects are still small compared to their fixed-bottom counterparts. Equinor ASA’s 88-MW Hywind Tampen, which just began construction, is the world’s largest floating project.If floating wind is to become a success in Europe and beyond, that will need to change, according to Lord Nicol Stephen, executive chairman of technology provider Flotation Energy PLC. “What we don’t need is a decade of test and demonstration. We will not gain the momentum that is so desperately needed,” the executive chairman said at the conference organized by Reuters Events. “Floating does work,” Stephen said, but in order to drive down costs, projects need to reach the 300 MW to 500 MW range.Right now, the sector is testing a variety of floating platform designs, from semi-submersible foundations and floating barges to spar buoy turbines. Many developers describe themselves as technology agnostic, and do not yet want to bet on one horse. “[We need] competition among the supply chain in order to bring cost down for everyone,” said Hannah König, head of wind and marine technology at German utility EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG.For Grzegorz Gorski, COO of Ocean Wind, the 50/50 offshore wind joint venture of EDP Renováveis SA and Engie SA, floating platforms need to be quick and easy to manufacture, so that the sector has access to a larger pool of equipment. “We are done with pilots,” he said at the conference. “I like the technologies of Saipem SpA and Stiesdal Offshore Technologies A/S, because they are so modular. We need to build them like cars, and not like ships. One per week. Assembly, assembly, assembly.”Sebastian Bringsvaerd, Equinor’s head of floating wind, thinks that the industry will get there eventually: “Before 2030, we will see gigawatts of floating offshore wind in Europe and Asia,” he said.[Camilla Naschert]More ($): ‘We are done with pilots’: Floating wind leaders call for scale, policy supportlast_img read more

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The Fuzzy Folk Dimensions of Megafaun

first_imgBon Iver Bros: North Carolina’s Megafaun made their latest album at Justin Vernon’s studio.It’s rare for a band to be able to explore multiple sections of the vast sonic wilderness with tasteful restraint. On their latest self-titled album, Megafaun has found the way to expand the boundaries of American tradition with just the right amount of experimental weirdness. The indie folk expansionists deliver a satisfying base of harmony and song, while still wandering in a variety of free-form directions.“Individually we’re each pretty diverse in our musical interests,” says drummer Joe Westerlund, who formed the band in Durham, N.C., with brothers Brad and Phil Cook. “We listen to all kinds of music, and we’ve never tried to sift out things that some feel may not hang together well. It helps the diversity that all three of us write.”The trio’s third full-length album—also called Megafaun—stays stylistically nimble. The effort starts with the slow-burning psychedelic rock waltz of “Real Slow,” which meanders with a familiar kinship to the Grateful Dead’s “Birdsong.” The piano-driven tone poem “These Words” is enhanced with glitchy atmospherics and crashing industrial beats, while the following “Get Right” cruises for over eight minutes with catchy alt-country pop punch. Later in the set, the band simplifies things with the vintage sunny harmonies of “Second Friend” and the mellow banjo ballad “State/Meant.” In the multi-layered jazz instrumental “Isadora,” it becomes apparent that no sound is too broad to be included.“We grew up listening to a lot of music from the ‘60s, bands like the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young,” says Westerlund. “But in the van we’re always listening to all kinds of stuff, including jazz and different types of experimental music.”Megafaun’s story goes back further than their 2006 inception. The Cook brothers and Westerlund moved to North Carolina from Wisconsin with their former band, DeYarmond Edison, a four-piece jam outfit that also included Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon—now a wildly popular indie rock icon. Together for six years, DeYarmond Edison built an impressive following in the Triangle and beyond, but ultimately musical visions were split. Vernon left the group to move back to Wisconsin and write the songs that became Bon Iver’s acclaimed debut For Emma, Forever Ago, and as a result Megafaun was born.“The way things worked out makes a lot of sense,” says Westerlund. “That split needed to happen. We each needed our room to spread our wings and go into the territory, I think, to find what we each were after all along.”Despite the musical differences, there was no loss of friendship. In fact, Megafaun made their new album at Vernon’s April Base studio in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, close to where all of the band members grew up. DeYarmond Edison also played a reunion show at the music industry’s biggest showcase, the South by Southwest Musical Festival and Conference, last year.Since releasing Megafaun, the band has been continuously developing their live show with tours across the U.S. and Europe. Evolving the live sound to match the expansiveness of the latest record has been a process, one that has included adding a fourth member for live gigs—Nick Sanborn on bass.“It’s freed us from multi-tasking, which has been a little bit of a hindrance in our live shows in the past,” says Westerlund. “It’s a much fuller, more classic rock band sound, which definitely goes with this record.”The band is confirming a slew of tour dates for the spring, but when the road grind calms down they’re planning to revisit another project that took place closer to home. In late 2010, Duke University commissioned the band to perform “Sounds of the South,” a concert based on the rural folk songs collected by the late ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. The band performed three shows at Duke with help from Vernon, singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, and the Virginia-based Fight the Big Bull jazz ensemble. The band recorded the shows and is planning a live release, in addition to touring with the concept at some point.“It was one of those big events that felt like a wedding or graduation—so many friends and family around,” Westerlund adds. “We’re definitely planning to revisit it when everybody’s schedules will allow it.”last_img read more

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Going Bald

first_imgTwo men are standing on a mountain slope above Lake Lure, N.C., shivering as the sun begins to creep toward the horizon, trying to work out the secret of the Shaolin Wonder Palm. This isn’t a mystical kung fu move; it’s a bouldering problem in Rumbling Bald’s expansive boulder field. There’s a big move right out of the gate that forces the climber to plant and hang from his right palm, then the line gets cryptic with some tricky heel work. Both of the climbers have sent the solid V7 problem before, but it takes a bit of strategy to work out the exact sequence of movements, so they take turns, getting a little higher up the gray rock with each attempt. One of the climbers, Ron Funderburke, thinks Shaolin Wonder Palm is one of Rumbling Bald’s classics. The other climber, Eric Eigner, has never been impressed with the problem.“I just don’t like the whole thigh-master thing,” Eigner says, referring to the crux move where you have to pull your whole body up by flexing your right hamstring.In between attempts, they do what climbers do and talk about other climbers. Specifically, they talk about “mutants,” that rare breed of man or woman with a superhuman ability to send rock that is simply out of the realm of possibility for even strong climbers like Eigner and Funderburke. We’re talking about Chris Sharma and Daniel Wood…climbers who actually have groupies.The question on hand is, “Will any of these heavy hitters ever grace Rumbling Bald with their skills?” It may sound like a silly question that’s impossible to answer, but what they’re really asking each other is, “Will Rumbling Bald ever get its due?”Southern Boulder FieldsRumbling Bald is a mountain in Western North Carolina’s Hickory Nut Gorge with a massive collection of metamorphic gneiss boulders (think granite with some pretty white streaks of quartzite running through it). The jagged, gray rocks sit in clusters at the base of an expansive cliff line known for hard trad routes and the occasional fissure cave. Some of the boulders are 30 feet tall with mature trees growing from their caps. The bald has been a local bouldering hot spot for more than a decade, but thanks to the recent “discovery” of a new cluster of boulders lying outside the well-known field, climbers now have 1,500 different known problems at their disposal. The addition of the new field makes Rumbling Bald the third largest bouldering field in the country, behind Hueco Tanks, Texas and Bishop, California. But Rumbling Bald is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the same sentence as these two legendary pebble wrestling destinations. It isn’t even as well known as smaller Southern destinations like Lily Boulders or Horse Pens 40.Ask local hard-men—the guys dedicated to the craft of bouldering—and they say Rumbling Bald is world class. It’s just waiting for a world class climber to come and validate it.“It’s one of the best bouldering fields in the world,” says Funderburke, head guide at Fox Mountain Guides. “When you look at the density, as in one boulder right after the other, and then the range of problems, it has that sort of all-star quality.”Chris Dorrity agrees. Dorrity is the author of the Rumbling Bald Bouldering Guide, which details more than 900 established problems in a range of grades from V0 to V11. He’s working on the second edition of the guidebook, which will include the problems at Hanging Chain, a newly discovered boulder field that’s just a 10 minute walk west of the better known clusters of boulders. Dorrity is spearheading a fury of route development in that area that will increase the size of Rumbling Bald by a third, bringing the local crag on par with Hueco Tanks and Bishop, at least in sheer volume.“You park in one spot and you have easy access to 1,500 established problems. That’s rare,” Dorrity says. “The movement and the texture are amazing. And the lines are pure. These boulders don’t have jumbled holds where you can choose your own way to the top. A boulder at Rumbling Bald has only one way up.”The lack of holds on the boulders actually helped keep the field from being developed for decades. Ned Dowling is credited with the majority of first ascents at Rumbling Bald, most of which he put up during the winter of 1998 while attending UNC-Asheville.“I had been climbing at Rumbling Bald for years before I realized the potential of the boulders there,” Dowling says. “The holds aren’t obvious, so traditional climbers didn’t bother with the boulders much. But after a six-month road trip across the country where all I did was sleep in my car and boulder, I came back to Rumbling Bald with new eyes. The field was a blank slate. I started putting up a new problem just about every day.”Even with Dowling’s furious development, it took a while for bouldering to catch on at Rumbling Bald, largely because the area was privately owned. In 2001, The Nature Conservancy purchased the majority of the cliff line and boulder field. Then in 2007, the state took over ownership of the area as part of the new Hickory Nut Gorge State Park.According to Dorrity, what Rumbling Bald needs to enter the canon of Great American Bouldering Destinations, is a really, really hard problem.“Right now, the high-end extreme grades aren’t there,” Dorrity says. “The highest grade problem that I’ll put in the second guide is a V12.”Lily Boulders, in Tennessee’s Obed River basin, only has 150 or so problems, but is known by most boulderers because climbing superstar James Litz established Chinese Arithmetic there, a 5.13 that has only seen one second ascent.Because of Rumbling Bald’s obscure holds and pure lines, climbers say it has the chops to support super hard grades that will set the climbing world a-twitter.“There’s potential for 513 and 5.14 in here,” says Eric Eigner. “There’s so much rock in here, it’s inevitable that those high grades will be discovered. It’s just there’s never been anyone in here that could establish a problem like that. We just need a mutant to come in here and establish our own Chinese Arithmetic.”Rumbling Bald Uber ClassicFrench Maid (V7) is considered to be the quintessential bouldering problem at Rumbling Bald. It’s an arete with clean holds and a sketchy top out in the West Side Boulders. Here’s what Ned Dowling, the man who first sent (and named) French Maid, has to say about the one boulder every climber should try to send:“I named this one for an ex-girlfriend. She was trying to get back together over Halloween one year and she invited me to this halloween party. She was wearing a really sleazy French Maid costume. I decided not to go to the party and the next day I went out there and put up that problem. I’d spent days working on that problem, then just laid my pad down and did it. Once you know how to climb it, it’s not that hard.”Boulder it YourselfRumbling Bald Mountain is an 1,100-acre collection of cliffs and boulders inside Hickory Nut Gorge State Park, roughly 30 minutes east of Asheville. The estimated 1,500 bouldering problems are divided into a few main areas (Central, West Side, East Side, and Hanging Chain).The Central, West, East and stray satellite boulders are in relatively close proximity, a short hike from the new parking lot off of Boy’s Camp Road. But Hanging Chain is a 10-15 minute hike farther west, a distance just long enough to keep most boulderers from exploring it.To reach the most established boulder fields, park in the new parking lot and hike the rutted-out trail straight up the steep slope until you start to see giant rocks. To reach Hanging Chain, hike west past the West Side boulders along the base of the Hanging Chain wall. According to Dorrity, there are 100 boulders with more than 350 problems, some of which are still waiting to be sent for the first time.The Bald is a highly seasonable crag with a short climbing window from November to March. “In the summer, it’s unbearably hot and there’s poison ivy everywhere,” says Dorrity.last_img read more

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Best of the Blue Ridge 2017

first_imgThe readers have spoken. After more than 85,000 votes over the course of six weeks, we have our 2017 Best of the Blue Ridge winners and favorites.DESTINATIONSHiking TrailCarter Caves State Park, Olive Hill, Ky.Favorites:Sheltowee Trace Trail, Ky.Standing Stone Trail, Penn.Mostly recognized for its impressive cavern system, Carter Caves in eastern Kentucky has equally majestic assets aboveground, too. Some 26 miles of multiuse trails weave across the park’s 2,000 acres, which include seven natural bridges, the 45-acre Smokey Lake, and countless sinkholes, waterfalls, and box canyons. Experience the beauty and history of the park via the Carter Caves Cross Country Trail, an 8.3-mile trail that passes across two suspension bridges and beneath unique sandstone formations.mill-mountain_jenny-marie-visit-virginias-blue-ridge-freeAppalachian Trail SectionRoan Mountain, Tenn./N.C.Favorites:McAfee Knob, Va.Grayson Highlands, Va.Appalachian Trail thru-hikers often gripe and groan about the “green tunnel” that is the A.T., but Roan Mountain makes up for all of those long canopied miles with its expansive views and grassy balds. Situated on the literal border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the massif is home to a number of peaks 5,500 feet in elevation or higher. Because of this, hiking Roan’s balds is about the closest you can get to an above-treeline alpine trekking experience—spruce fir trees, rhododendron gardens, and ample amounts of snow turn this southern Appalachian anomaly into an arctic-like landscape come wintertime.“No matter what visitors like to do, the Roan Highlands can accommodate any kind of adventure seeker,” says Carter County Tourism Coordinator Kayla Carter. So if you’re not a hiker, she says, try, “birding, skiing, disc golf, and some beginner mountain biking trails at Roan Mountain State Park just down the road.” Roan Mountain is a one-stop-shop for adventure.Swimming HoleSkinny Dip Falls, Canton, N.C.Favorites:Blue Hole, Va.Midnight Hole, N.C./Tenn.Roaring Run, VaWe wouldn’t recommend actually skinny dipping here—over the years, this easily accessible swimming hole off of the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 417) has garnered quite a crowd of weekend loyalists. But if you’re in the market for a cool soak on a hot day, even if you have to share the splendor, these falls are unrivaled.Running TrailMill Mountain, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Mountains-to-Sea Trail, N.C.Pandapas Recreation Area, Va.Behind the vibrant and otherwise urban cityscape of Roanoke rises the profile of Mill Mountain, the Star City’s highest point (1,703 feet). The summit, which is part of Mill Mountain Park, is a destination for tourists and an escape for the city’s residents—10 miles of multipurpose trails trickle down on either side of the mountain, linking back to Roanoke’s extensive greenway system. Runners can literally tie their shoes, step out the door, and be on Mill Mountain’s trails in a matter of minutes. Trails here range from moderately graded paths to technical, rocky singletrack.Paddling RiverNantahala River, N.C.Favorites:Gauley River, W.Va.Chattooga River, Ga./S.C.At the very heart of whitewater paddling in the Southeast flows the Nantahala. Generations of paddlers, some of the best in the world, grew up along the banks of this western North Carolina classic. For intermediate paddlers, the Nantahala’s class II+ stair-step sections are ideal for building river running skills like ferrying and surfing. Most recently, the Nantahala was thrown into the international spotlight when it served as the stage for the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships in 2013.Climbing CragRed River Gorge, Slade, Ky.Favorites:New River Gorge, W.Va.Looking Glass Rock, N.C.Newcomers to the Red might be struck by the oddity of seeing hundreds of elite climbers from around the world congregating at a one-room pizza shop in middle-of-nowhere eastern Kentucky. But as anyone familiar with the quality and diversity of climbing in the Red can tell you, finding yourself across the table from Chris Sharma-level climbers with a slice of pie and a cold one is standard fare here. You may even get to bear witness to headline-worthy projects, like Michaela Kiersch’s ascent of Lucifer, a 5.14c.CampgroundGreenbrier River Campground, Alderson, W.Va.Favorites:Douthat State Park, Va.Deep Creek Campground, N.C.For riverside camping, quiet evenings by the campfire, and a family friendly atmosphere, look no further than Greenbrier’s eight-acre campground. Campers here can literally pick and choose every aspect of their getaway—maybe you want to rough it in a tent, indulge in a cabin, or go vintage with a renovated ’64 Shasta camper? On the water, perhaps it’s a relaxing class I float-and-fish or a fully equipped class III kayaking excursion you’re after? Whatever your weekend escape, Greenbrier provides.Biking TrailJackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trail, Hayesville, N.C.Favorites:Carvins Cove, Va.DuPont State Forest, N.C.Surrounded on three sides by the still waters of Lake Chatuge, the 15-mile Jackrabbit trail system is unlike any other mountain bike destination in the region. The stacked-loop design takes advantage of the system’s peninsular setting, meandering high along ridge tops and down low near the lake. Take the 3.1-mile Central Loop to get a taste of these machine constructed trails. Like what you find? Add on mile-by-mile in a challenge-by-choice fashion.Urban ParkKnoxville Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, TN.Favorites:Mill Mountain Park, Va.James River Park, Va.Cruising along the 50 miles of trails embedded in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, it’s easy to forget that you’re just three miles from downtown. That’s just how the city wants it. Accessible, seamless, and challenging for novice recreationalists and experts alike, the Urban Wilderness is a textbook example of city planning done right. Knoxville-area residents have literal backdoor access to 50 miles of trails, including the 100-acre Baker Creek Preserve, where an additional 7.1 miles of trail, including the Bell Helmets $100,000 expert downhill trail, were recently completed.bellbuilt_devilsractrack_040Ski RunCupp Run, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, W.Va.Favorites:Cliffhanger, Wintergreen Resort, Va.Shay’s Revenge, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, W.Va.Designed by three-time gold medalist Olympian skier Jean-Claude Killy, Cupp Run is what other East Coast ski runs wish they could be. In just 1.5 miles, Cupp Run drops 1,500 vertical feet, so if you’re feeling a little puckered by the end of it all, that’s par for the course.Terrain ParkSnowshoe Mountain Resort, Snowshoe, W.Va.Favorites:Wintergreen Resort, Va.Appalachian Ski Mountain, N.C.Few resorts in the Mid-Atlantic offer the sheer number of terrain options that Snowshoe provides. In the Snowshoe Basin Area alone, beginners and intermediates alike can choose between the Progression Session Park, which has small and medium features, or the Evolution Park, which showcases mostly medium-sized walls, down tubes, and barrier rails. Ramp it up on any one of Silver Creek Area’s three Mountaineer Parks, which give riders the full enchilada of small-to-big stuff for every shredding palate.SUP DestinationFontana Lake, Almond, N.C.Favorites:Smith Mountain Lake, Va.Carvins Cove Reservoir, Va.Summersville Lake, W.Va.Who wouldn’t want to spend a day paddling pristine, deep-blue waters amid the undeveloped majesty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest? Over 11,700 acres in size, it’s no surprise to us that Fontana Lake took top marks among our readers. Throw a rod and reel (and your North Carolina fishing license) onto your board for a multisport day on the water.Spot along the Blue Ridge ParkwayGrandfather MountainLinville, N.C.Favorites:Peaks of Otter, Va.Craggy Gardens, N.C.Standing proud above the Linn Cove Viaduct, Grandfather Mountain is practically the poster child for the Blue Ridge Parkway. This section of the parkway is the most photographed spot along the road’s 469 miles. At 5,946 feet in elevation, the mountain is estimated to be 300 million years old and as such, offers visitors a rare glimpse into the sensitive and unique environment that is southern Appalachia. Parkway-goers can take a jaunt up Grandfather via the Daniel Boone Scout Trail, but for the Mile High Swinging Bridge, environmental wildlife habitats, and quick access to the cables-and-ladders trails for which Grandfather is known, head into the Grandfather Mountain Nature Preserve one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 305.Best WaterfallCumberland Falls, Corbin, Ky.Favorites:Crabtree Falls, Va.Triple Falls, N.C.Both the power and serenity of Cumberland Falls easily make it one of the wonders of this region. Here, the Cumberland River drops abruptly, creating a curtain of water stretching 125 feet across and 65 feet high. For the best view of Cumberland Falls, check out the Eagle Falls Trail. Only 1.5 miles in length, this hike can be deceptively challenging when rain raises the water level and turns seasonally dry creek beds into formidable streams. Want to get down to the falls for a swim? The half-mile Cumberland Falls Trail descends 200 feet down to the river’s edge but can be extremely crowded in the warmer months.WildernessLinville Gorge Wilderness, N.C.Favorites:Dolly Sods Wilderness, W.Va.Shining Rock Wilderness, N.C.For unparalleled exposure, tough terrain, and jaw-dropping beauty, look no further than the Linville Gorge. The gorge itself extends for 12 miles down the length of the mighty Linville River, which roars some 2,000 feet below Linville’s highest point, Hawksbill Mountain, at 4,009 feet. There are some 40 miles of documented trails in the Linville Gorge, but the diehard off-trail adventure community that surrounds this special place would beg to differ.Kid-Friendly Outdoor Destination Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Stearns, Ky.Favorites:Nantahala Outdoor Center, N.C.Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, N.C.All aboard! History, and nature, never looked so cool. During warmer months, kids are encouraged to explore the Blue Heron Mining Camp, a National Park interpretive site intended to preserve the Big South Fork’s industrious past in coal and lumber. In the winter, the train is adorned in Christmas decorations for its annual South Fork Santa Express. It’s like the Polar Express, except a little farther south.Pet-Friendly Outdoor DestinationJackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trail System, Hayesville, N.C.Favorites:Devils Backbone Brewery, Va.James River Park, Va.You could bring your cat-on-a-leash, or iguana, or ferret. Jackrabbit Mountain doesn’t discriminate. But generally speaking, trail-loving hounds are what you’ll find here. The fast and flowy trails aren’t too steep or rugged, and with the stacked-loop design, you can go as long or as short as your furry friend can handle. Just be sure s/he stays out of the designated swimming area.Place for Outdoor Singles to LiveRoanoke, Va.Favorites:Asheville, North CarolinaKnoxville, TennesseeIt may come as a surprise to many that the Star City, once regularly listed in the top 10 places to retire, has attracted a fresh wave of vitality centered on culture, community, and especially, the great outdoors. For us, it’s hardly a surprise. After all, Roanoke has won our annual Top Adventure Towns contest three separate years. For those of you unfamiliar with Roanoke, here are just a few of the reasons you should uproot your life tomorrow and move to Virginia’s Blue Ridge—vibrant nightlife, diverse restaurant scene, ample breweries, literal backdoor access to biking and hiking trails, affordable cost of living, four distinct seasons, bike commuter friendliness, and quite simply, the people. With that type of energy, you won’t stay single for long.Place for Illicit and Nefarious ActivitiesNot Telling, Location UndisclosedFavorites:Pisgah National Forest, N.C.HomeTouché, readers. We’ll keep your little secret…for now.Place to Raise an Outdoor FamilyRoanoke, Va.Favorites:Brevard, North CarolinaAsheville, North CarolinaFor a city of nearly 100,000, Roanoke certainly knows how to interweave its green spaces into an urban landscape. There are 30 miles of paved greenway connecting neighborhoods to downtown districts, parks, and the Roanoke River. Additionally, greenway users can connect directly to Mill Mountain Park, where another 10 miles of multiuse trails await. Couple all of that with the city’s 70 park properties and wide offering of youth clubs like the East Coasters Junior Mountain Bike Team and the River Rock Youth Climbing Program and what do you have? A supportive and inclusive community committed to fostering an appreciation for the outdoors in our children.Place to Play HookyShenandoah National Park, Va.Favorites:Roanoke River Greenway, Va.Bent Creek Experimental Forest, N.C.With 197,411 rugged acres just a day’s drive from two-thirds of the country’s population, it seems fitting that Shenandoah would sweep the competition in this category. Need a little incentive to play the hooky card? How about dousing your head beneath Overall Run Falls, the park’s tallest waterfall (93 feet)? Or perhaps frolicking among the 862 species of wildflowers in Shenandoah? At the very least, if you can’t play hooky, take the long way back to work via the 105-mile Skyline DriveFly Fishing RiverFires Creek, Hayesville, N.C.Favorites:Davidson River, N.C.Mossy Creek, Va.Prime time for casting in this surprisingly large creek is springtime, but just about any time of the year will reward you with spectacular solitude, scenery, and wild trout fishing. The majority of anglers that do fish here will try their hand in the stocked portion downstream, but just upstream of the Fires Creek picnic area is an idyllic, and mostly overlooked, gorge. Don’t come here expecting to land a lunker on your first cast—the trout here are wily and attentive. Stay low and move slow.FlatwaterLake Chatuge, Hayesville, N.C.Favorites:French Broad River, N.C.James River, Va.Engulfed by the stunning mountains of western North Carolina, Lake Chatuge is a destination unto its own. For flatwater paddling, the 130 miles of shoreline create countless adventures, be it swimming or fishing. Camping is available at a number of sites should you decide to dive deep for a weekend (which, we highly recommend).Luxury Outdoor DestinationThe Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.Favorites:Biltmore Estate, N.C.The Omni Grove Park Inn, N.C.Guests at The Greenbrier are often astounded by the resort’s picturesque location amid the Allegheny Mountains. For over 230 years, travelers have journeyed to The Greenbrier for the restorative effect not only of the mountain air but also the white sulphur spring water on which the resort’s mineral spa prides itself. While visitors here can of course indulge in other resort-like amenities, such as the casino, golf course, and bowling alley, we recommend checking out one of The Greenbrier’s daily(ish) guided hikes, canopy tours, or bike outings along The Greenbrier River Trail. With over 11,000 acres to explore on the property, you won’t be bored.Best State for Outdoor AdventureWest VirginiaFavorites:North CarolinaKentuckyWhen out-of-towners talk about West Virginia, there’s usually one stereotype that emerges—that of the hillbilly. We’ve got news for you, folks. West Virginia has been breeding passionate, mountain-loving activists and athletes for generations, and it’s these very people you can thank for hand sculpting the state’s crumbling communities into recreation paradises. Take the sister towns of Davis and Thomas, for example—in a single weekend you can crush your quads on any number of Tucker County’s 200+ miles of hiking and biking trails, indulge your appetite for pow at four different ski areas, and sample craft beers from the county’s three breweries. Need more convincing? How about Fayetteville, home of the New River Gorge—you can be paddling internationally renowned class IV-V whitewater on the New or Gauley Rivers one day, climbing or bouldering quality rock of equal reputation the next, and capping it all off with gourmet, locally inspired food. And unless you’re in town for Bridge Day or Gauley Fest, you’ll likely have the place to yourself.[nextpage title=”Businesses”]BUSINESSESBest Outdoor Company to Work ForNorth Carolina Outward Bound School, Asheville, N.C.Favorites:Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing, Va.Nantahala Outdoor Center, N.C.Founded on the principle that instruction in the outdoors should be experiential—training through rather than for— Outward Bound has challenged more than seven million people from over 30 different countries in its 75-year history. Students here are required to immerse themselves not only in the natural world but also in the hard and soft skills required to thrive in times of adversity. With basecamps in our Blue Ridge backyard as well as exotic locations like Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands and Patagonia, Outward Bound isn’t just a cool place to be a student—it’s a pretty sweet working gig.dbo-front-of-store“There is support for employees’ lives outside of work,” says Alex Schwartz, Safety and Education Resource Coordinator. “Staff are supported in having flexible work schedules to accommodate life needs, exercising during office hours, and pursuing a healthy life-work balance.”A typical day in the office might involve canoeing in the Everglades, working on service projects with indigenous populations, or sea kayaking in the Outer Banks. Talk about an office with a view.Outdoor ShopDiamond Brand Outdoors, Asheville, N.C.Favorites:NOC Outfitter’s Store, N.C.Walkabout Outfitters, Va.Touted as western North Carolina’s first outdoor store, Diamond Brand has been around for 53 years. Its success is largely attributed not to what brands are available on the shelves but to the staff’s conscious effort to get involved in the local community.“Our biggest asset is our team,” says Diamond Brand’s Marketing Manager Chris Bubenik. “When you walk into the store, you don’t have people just reading off of the tag. You have people who are going outside, too. We have four thru-hikers on staff and they’re not going to be condescending. We want to make the outdoors as accessible as possible.”The shop regularly hosts free demos, live music, and introductory clinics throughout the year. Its annual Asheville Outdoor Show brings together top innovators and gear companies for a free public expo that includes live music, demos, games, and a nonprofit village.Fly Fishing OutfitterDue South Outfitters, Boone, N.C.Favorites:Mossy Creek, Va.Davidson Outfitters, N.C.Be it wading through headwaters or floating the tailwaters and everything in between, Due South caters its fishing trips to the client’s goals. Owner Patrick Sessoms says he picked Boone for its vibrancy and diversity, both on and off the water.“One of the most unique aspects of Boone is the heartbeat of the town,” he says. “It seems that everyone in Boone has a true love of the outdoors and its recreational opportunities. Boone in my eyes is an outdoorsy Shangri-La of sorts that happens to offer some of the finest angling opportunities in the Southeast. I find it absolutely fascinating that an angler can catch native trout within the city limits of Boone, and also enjoy prime delayed harvest or tailwater fishing on Watauga or South Holston Rivers all within a short drive of town.”Running StoreFleet Feet Sports, Multiple LocationsFavorites:Crozet Running, Va.Ragged Mountain Running, Va.With multiple locations throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and even into the Midwest, Fleet Feet Sports has firmly established itself as a staple business in the running industry. What sets this chain of running stores apart from the rest? The simple fact that it’s not just a place to buy shoes and apparel—it’s a resource for novice and professional runners alike, a place where aspiring runners can find a supportive network and the training tools to be successful.Bike ShopBlue Ridge Cyclery, Charlottesville, Va.Favorites:The Hub, N.C.Bike Factory, Va.In the market for a new bike? Does your ride need a tune-up? Or how about your off-season training—how will those New Year’s resolutions hold up a month from now? Blue Ridge Cyclery can help with all of the above, and then some. From bike fitting to weekly group training sessions, these guys pride themselves on being more than just a bike shop.Environmental OrganizationAppalachian Voices, Boone, N.C.Favorites:Mountain True, N.C.Carolina Climbers Coalition, N.C.For 20 years, Appalachian Voices has given voice to those without—to rivers and mountains, to the air we breathe and the Appalachian natives who have been ignored for generations.“We are in tumultuous times as America’s massive energy sector shifts from fossil fuels to solar, wind and other clean sources,” says Appalachian Voices Communications Director Cat McCue. “Appalachian Voices works at the very nexus of that transition, defending our region from mountaintop removal coal mining and massive fracked-gas pipelines, while promoting clean energy sources that create jobs, community wealth, and a healthy and just future for Appalachia.”In 2016, the organization worked hard to shed light on the threats our beloved Russell Fork River faces from coal mining, held Duke Energy accountable for the coal ash spills of 2014, and assessed hundreds of abandoned mine lands for potential use as solar facilities or recreational areas.Raft Guide CompanyNantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City, N.C.Favorites:ACE Adventure Resort, W.Va.Adventures on the Gorge, W.Va.When NOC founders Payson and Aurelia Kennedy took the leap over 40 years ago to create a rafting outfitter in the hills of western North Carolina (then considered an anomaly), little did they know how big their 100-hour work weeks would pay off.noc-rafting5Now, the NOC is an internationally respected outfitter, not just for the sheer number of rafting trips that come out of its headquarters, but for its ability to produce Olympian-quality paddlers—at least 22 Olympians, including two gold medalists, have called the NOC home, and with a continually growing Youth Paddling Team, that number is expected to rise. In 2016, the NOC celebrated taking its five millionth guest on a whitewater rafting trip. Here’s to five million more, NOC!Climbing CompanyFox Mountain Guides, Pisgah Forest, N.C.Favorites:Coopers Rock Climbing Guides, W.Va.Pura Vida Adventures, N.C.Now, more than ever, young families and adults are looking to experienced-based vacations like camping and whitewater rafting. It’s this, says Fox Mountain guides co-owner Karsten Delap, who purchased the top-notch guiding company back in 2012, that makes it imperative for people to know who is taking them into the backcountry and what their qualifications are.dsc09927“A lot of people might not know that when they hire a guide, he or she might just be a climber,” Delap says, as opposed to an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)-certified and insured instructor. Fortunately for the Southeast, Fox Mountain Guides provides the only AMGA accredited guide service in the region, which means you can worry less about your guide’s competency and more about the important things, like stopping your typewriter leg or how your butt looks in a harness. From ice climbing in the northeast to family friendly top roping, Fox Mountain offers it all.Climbing GymRiver Rock Climbing Gym, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Smoky Mountain Adventure Center, N.C.Peak Experiences, Va.Located right off the Roanoke River Greenway in the Wasena neighborhood’s renovated Ice House, River Rock is a prime example of the magic that can happen when a community unites behind a movement, which, in the case of Roanoke, happens to be the growth of outdoor recreation. The climbing gym provides 4,500 feet of bouldering , averaging 12—16 feet in height, with an additional 4,000 square feet of top-rope and lead climbing routes that max out at 37 feet. That’s not to mention the weekly climbing clinics, annual competitions, and youth climbing team that are encouraging new generations of climbers in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.Ski ResortSnowshoe Mountain, Snowshoe, W.Va.Favorites:Wintergreen Resort, Va.Beech Mountain, N.C.At 4,848 feet in elevation, Snowshoe can easily receive upwards of 180 inches of snow per season. The resort offers the whole enchilada of snow activities, from beginner terrain parks to advanced double black diamonds and tube parks, which means everyone in your group, no matter their experience level, is bound to have a good time. For those who will never hit the slopes, the “Beats on the Basin” concert series at The Connection Nightclub is worth it just for the dancing and happy hour specials.Yoga StudioA Place to Breathe, Charlottesville, Va.Favorites:Sunrise Yoga Studio, N.C.Uttara Yoga Studio, Va.Asheville Community Yoga, N.c.In the go-go-go, high-stress society in which we live, it’s important to stop and take a moment to heal your body. A Place to Breathe knows this and prides itself on providing those avenues for meditation, stress relief, and beginner’s yoga.Zip LineThe Gorge, Saluda, N.C.Favorites:Beanstalk Journeys, N.C.Nantahala Outdoor Center, N.C.Experience North Carolina’s Green River Gorge like you’ve never seen it before—from the trees. Touted as “America’s steepest, fastest” zip line and canopy tour, The Gorge offers 11 zip lines spanning over one mile that descend 1,100 vertical feet. Hold on tight. It’s a wild ride.Farmer’s MarketFoothills Farmer’s Market, Shelby, N.C.Favorites:Roanoke City Market, Va.Grandin Village Community Market, Va.From April through the end of November, Shelby’s Foothills market operates out of the beautiful City Pavilion. The market, which was created in 2008, is more than just a place to buy local goods—it’s a nonprofit that aims at creating viable opportunities for small and mid-size family farms in the area as well as uniting the community in appreciation of the area’s longstanding agricultural history.App for the OutdoorsMTB ProjectFavorites:All TrailsLand of WaterfallsWhat initially started as a basic online forum meant to connect mountain bikers to backyard trails has now grown into one of the most popular and regularly used apps in the outdoors, featuring over 85,000 miles of mountain bike trails around the world. The app comes complete with no-cell-service functioning capabilities, turn-by-turn cues, and practically every piece of information you’d ever want to know about your next favorite ride.Outdoor Adventure AutomobileSubaru OutbackFavorites:Toyota TacomaSubaru CrosstrekIt’s compact, it’s versatile, it’s the most bang you can get for your buck. Whether you’ve got the back packed with gear, dogs, or your sleeping setup, there’s no doubt about it that the Outback is the most classic adventure-mobile going.Up-and-Coming Outdoor BusinessAppalachian Mountain Rescue Team, Asheville, N.C.Favorites:Thrifty Adventures, N.C. Roanoke Mountain Adventures, Va. In 2013, a group of western North Carolina’s climbing and high-angle rescue elite came together to form the volunteer-based Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team (AMRT), the first of its kind in the Southeast. Together, this cohort of 20 mountain rescue professionals serve within a 150-mile radius of Asheville, N.C., which includes parts of Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, and even some of Georgia. Their goal is to support the climbing community and provide training resources and clinics, such as their climber self-rescue clinic that takes place at the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition annual event, The Rumble.“We have world-class climbing here in the Southeast, and truly some of the most rugged terrain in the United States,” says AMRT volunteer Corey Winstead. “Sometimes access just to the places we love to climb involves significant travel through steep terrain, heavily forested terrain, and sometimes technical terrain,” which, says Winstead, is exactly what AMRT volunteers are trained to handle.Outdoor ClubSouthern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), Asheville, N.C.Favorites:Appalachian Trail Conservancy, W.Va.Pisgah Area SORBA, N.C.Since 2011, SAWS has been providing stewardship opportunities in public lands throughout Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Their mission? To cultivate respect for the natural world and educate the public on ways to get involved.“In the first six years, we had over 50,000 hours of stewardship to public lands,” says SAWS founder and Executive Director Bill Hodge. “Our mission is to help people understand why in 1964, Congress, by a wide margin, passed the Wilderness Act. Wilderness is a place where, as a species, we realize there is something greater than our needs and our own desires of being able to dominate the landscape. You have to meet nature on its own terms. That’s what makes wilderness so powerful.”[nextpage title=”People”]PEOPLEAdventurer of the YearAdriene Levknecht, Greenville, S.C.Favorites:Helena KotalaKarl “Speedgoat” MeltzerThe year 2016 was a big one for Levknecht. Voted Canoe & Kayak Magazine’s Female Paddler of the Year, she came in third at the Little White Salmon Race, second at GoPro Mountain Games, and first at both the Lord of the Fork and the Green River Race. She’s won the Green Race consecutively for the past eight years. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the Queen of the Green broke into the top 10 men’s, tying with former Green Race winner Andrew Holcombe and race organizer John Grace with a time of 04:35. A first in Green Race history.clarkmerleAll of this from a gal who started 2016 not with a bang, but with dengue, which she contracted in Costa Rica just days after her engagement to Dagger Kayaks designer Snowy Robertson.“I lost 15 pounds during the whole thing” Levknecht says. “I came out of 2015 strong as I’ve ever been and then that strength just went away. It just vanished in a week, so that was pretty frustrating.”Levknecht, fire that she is, didn’t let it stop her. She was back on the water just four days after her fever broke. And while most would take to a quiet stretch of familiar water, Levknecht headed south to Ecuador, where she raced on the Upper Jondachi. Though she had never paddled the class V section of river before, she placed second literally just one second behind the only other female paddler.Most would be content with this amazing comeback (or making it safely down the river, period). But Levknecht isn’t like most people. She trained harder, fighting the lingering fatigue and effects of dengue well into the spring. But when she crossed the finish line on the Little White Salmon third out of three women, again by a matter of seconds, the frustration had come to a head.“I don’t want to say I was disappointed, but I was disappointed,” she says.While many of her fellow paddlers spent the summer traveling and paddling hard rivers every week, Levknecht took eight weeks off to work full-time for First Descents, a non-profit that provides free outdoor adventure opportunities for young adults fighting cancer.“It’s those kids that give me strength when I’m training for a really hard race,” Levknecht says. “If you put your head down, you can really do anything. 80 percent of the battle is your head.”In addition to continuing her competition circuit for 2017, Levknecht plans on completing a yoga teacher training in Thailand next month. As for the Queen of the Green and her record hold on the gold?“Someone’s going to have to wear the crown eventually. In my race this year I spun out for the first time ever in over six years. I know I can go faster.”Best Instagram [email protected]:@[email protected] over 10,000 followers on Instagram, would you be surprised at all if I told you Justin Costner picked up photography just four years ago when he discovered North Carolina’s Linville Gorge Wilderness?jcost-hikemorefallphotogwkshp-001“I never knew anything about the gorge, but seeing all of these amazing views of Shortoff, I started snapping little iPhone photos,” Costner says.About a year later, Costner bought a Canon T3i, his first DSLR. For a while, he defaulted to shooting on automatic, but when he stumbled upon a step-by-step guide to DIY night photography, he decided to give it a whirl. One weekend, he grabbed a friend, a tent, some lights, and headed for the gorge.“I had no idea you had to do manual focus on night shots,” he remembers, “but I just kept playing around and accidentally got one that was really good.”Now, Costner’s lighted tents and night scenes are a staple of his work. He regularly hosts photography workshops near his home in North Carolina and his work has been featured on Visit North Carolina, Chaco, The North Face, and Grandfather Mountain Country Club.“I think one of the coolest things about Instagram is of course the networking, but it opens up a whole new world to people. You can pretty much travel anywhere in the world with a scroll of the thumb. It creates this wanderlust and shows people what’s out there.”Best PhotographerSteve Yocom, North CarolinaFavorites:Derek Diluzio, N.C.Shannon Millsaps, N.C.For Philadelphia native, Maggie Valley, N.C., transplant Steve Yocom, the outdoors, and photography, were later-in-life discoveries. You can thank Asheville for that. When Yocom started doing IT work for a healthcare company in town, he began exploring his backyard. The more he saw, the more he wanted to document what he saw.“I used my bonus money to get a camera, just a starter kit. I brought it out every weekend on trips,” and the rest, he says, is history.Yocom’s early work mostly features his two dogs, Asia and Cain. They’re not your typical pet portraits, not unless you count epic sunrise and frozen whisker shots as “typical.” For Yocom, his dogs weren’t just his only models at first—they were, and continue to be, his best adventure partners.“One time I ran into this guy and he told me, ‘You’re never going to sell anything if there’s a dog in every picture.’ But I just shot a catalog for an outdoor dog brand. I can’t wait to run into that guy again. It’s super important to just shoot what you love because that’s where the passion is,” and that, he says, is more authentic than any model could ever be.Regional AthleteGordon Wadsworth, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Ty Caldwell, N.C.Jay Reese, Va.There’s more to this guy than mustaches, American flags, and life-crushing quads. To date, Gordon “Quadsworth” is the three-time singlespeed USA Cycling National Champion and three-time National Ultra Endurance Series singlespeed Champion. He’s been hailed as the “Fastest Singlespeeder in the World,” and we don’t doubt it—last year our readers voted Wadsworth Adventurer of the Year.So how does he do it, especially on top of a 30-hour work week?“In the winter, that means you’re either starting in the dark or ending in the dark,” Wadsworth says. “It really kinda adds some gravity to what you’re doing. If you’re getting up before light or finishing in the dark, you’re planning for several hours of changing temperatures and it can be an epic thing. It can also get boring really quick.”Wadworth compensates long, lone hours in the saddle with group rides, which, when you live in a city like Roanoke with an active cycling community, it’s not hard to tap into any one of the area’s weekly rides.“I often invite someone to ride with me, or meet someone on a ride, or start my ride and catch up to a group. I try to incorporate that social element to my riding because I know my personality and it helps me commit to really long rides. I don’t stress it if I go out with the local junior team rather than doing my own intervals.”On most training weeks, Wadsworth is on a bike at least 12 to 18 hours. When he’s building volume, which typically happens in winter, early spring, and late summer, he can spend upwards of 30 hours a week in the saddle. He says getting out on the trails with his wife Emily and their schnauzer mutt pup Pippy keeps him grounded to the very heart of his cycling pursuits which is, quite simply, to have fun.“I try to prioritize taking racing seriously, but not to the point that it’s fatiguing. I think people tend to burn out when they have one monster goal, and they finish it, and then you don’t see them at all that next year. I want to build a really great athlete reputation and lifestyle and fitness, but with a tone of adventure,” which might include, for example, activities such as running to each of the Roanoke area’s seven peaks, a challenge most residents conquer in seven weeks but which Wadsworth and a friend tackled in a single day last November.Raft GuideKaitlyn Stell, Bryson City, N.C.Favorites:Joe Dean, N.C.Jonny Horton, N.c.At 12 years old, Kaitlyn Stell knew she wanted to be a raft guide. She’d just had her first whitewater rafting experience ever on the Ocoee River. Her guide, Tanner, was charming and enthusiastic. He made Stell and her family feel like his longtime friends. Fast-forward just six years. Stell, now a raft guide for the NOC, is guiding a trip on the Nantahala. She has her own crew, her own guide stick, her own raft. And who should come floating past but Tanner, the very guide who inspired her to follow her dream.“That was pretty cool, getting to tell him that he was my guide and for him to see that now I had become a raft guide,” Stell says. “I really like the fun and exhilaration you get from rafting, but also the families that come through. I’m a really big people person, so that makes it fun for me.”And, despite the NOC’s location in western North Carolina, Stell says she gets to experience an amazing amount of diversity through her guests, like the Indian family from Texas who drove to the NOC just to go rafting, or the annual group of foreign exchange students from Denmark.“Their trips literally revolve around me, and that’s how important my job is. I’m giving them new experiences,” she says, just like Tanner provided to Stell all those years ago.Climbing GuideKarsten Delap, Pisgah Forest, N.C.Favorites:Clifton Gifford, N.C.Joe Moerschbacher, N.C.If you spent 250 days a year in the mountains, 150 of which you were paid for, life would seem pretty good, right? For Fox Mountain Guides co-owner and guide Karsten Delap, life is pretty damn sweet. His house is just 10 minutes away from Looking Glass in western North Carolina. His job takes him around the world guiding climbing trips on big mountains and low-key crags and everything in between. But still, it’s a job.m28a0745“It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done,” Delap says. “Physically and mentally, and I don’t plan on it ever getting any easier. There are a lot of days I’d rather be climbing on my own, or hanging out at home, or not travelling. But on the other hand, it’s a Wednesday, and I’m out climbing right now.”What’s more, Delap says the satisfaction he feels when seeing a former client organizing and executing climbing adventures of their own is indescribable.“I didn’t have someone who could mentor me,” Delap says. “The best part of this job is being able to be a part of someone’s adventure through that mentorship.”Fly Fishing GuidePatrick Sessoms, Boone, N.C.Favorites:Colby Trow, Va.Kevin Howell, N.C.There was a time when Patrick Sessoms was on the path to be an engineer, but that lasted all of a minute. In reality, Sessoms would have studied angling in college had Appalachian State University offered it as a major. Practically every minute he wasn’t behind the books, he was on the water. So when Sessoms bought a drift boat the day after walking across the stage, it came as little surprise to his friends and family.patrick-sessomsdue-south-outfitters_sam-dean-_-explore-boone-free“Some of my most fond childhood memories stem from roaming the creeks surrounding Boone,” Sessoms says. “Being able to share those experiences with fellow anglers is hands down one of the most rewarding aspects of being a professional fly fishing guide.”A.T. Thru HikerJamy Beth Suminski, Franklin, N.C.Favorites:Kathryn HerndonKarl MeltzerWhen Suminski, or “Eddy Spoudazo” as she later became, set foot on the trail at Springer Mountain, Ga., February 10, 2015, she had no intentions of making any friends. Really, she would have been content not to see another soul at all. That’s why she left so early in the first place.But when her father got off the trail after the 60-mile marker, and Suminski was finally truly alone, the magic of the Appalachian Trail showed itself.“I was cautious about the fact that I was a female hiking alone,” she says. “On Big Bald in Tennessee, it was one of the harder days for me physically. It was really cold and windy and my feet were hurting and I was alone. I got on top of Big Bald, and the sun started setting. I just sat up there and watched it. I couldn’t think about my feet hurting.”She also couldn’t think about the fact that she would now have to night hike to the shelter, something that would have normally unnerved her. When she arrived, a group of college kids greeted her with a steaming bowl of chili. Whatever doubts she’d had about being alone, and making friends, melted.“People are very kind, a lot more so than we give each other credit for,” she says. “People are kinda isolated in the way we live now. We’re on computers and phones and you walk down the street and you don’t make eye contact. It was really cool to see how many strangers and friends were willing to step up and go out of their way just to be kind. If you look for it, it’s everywhere, not just the AT.”Despite learning of her grandmother’s passing just two days before she summited Katahdin, Suminski successfully completed the trail. The beauty of her hike came not from any record-setting pace or act of heroism—it came out of the diligent self-discovery that surfaces from months spent walking in the woods, which should be considered an act of heroism unto its own.“I think not just myself but people in general underestimate themselves,” she says. “My friend Mojo says you can do anything if you just have a fresh pair of socks on.”Inspiring Outdoor PersonAnna Levesque, Asheville, N.C.Favorites:Marion Childress, Va.Gerry James, Ky.Former Canadian Freestyle member and bronze medalist Anna Levesque is well respected among the paddling community for Girls At Play, a kayaking resource she created over a decade ago that caters specifically to women and whitewater. Levesque’s insight and sensitivities to the predominantly male sport were ahead of her time—some in the industry dismissed the possibility that men and women approach risk, and therefore adventure sports, differently. But Levesque held her ground. She fought for inclusiveness within the world of kayaking. Now, she’s taking on another stigma of the industry that goes beyond the river to the mind, body, and soul of paddlers.“I used to think I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I was active,” Levesque says. “That was my assumption. I’m an outdoors person, therefore, I am healthy. But getting outside and exercising is only one piece of health. Diet and lifestyle do matter.”That’s why Levesque became a certified Ayurveda Wellness Counselor last year. Her message is simple: taking care of your mind and body will better serve your adventure sport of choice.“In our culture, because there is so much stress, vigorous exercise isn’t always the answer,” she says. “We don’t give ourselves that time and space to rest. I want to advocate for healthy lifestyles. Kayakers have a tendency to go paddle all day and then eat pizza and drink beer all night. There’s nothing wrong with beer, but that’s not sustainable for the body. The body itself still needs to process nutrition and it needs healthy nutrition to function properly.”In April of this year, Levesque will be releasing her Falcon Guides book, Yoga for Paddling, which addresses the best postures for canoeists, kayakers, and standup paddleboarders. Her mission is to urge paddlers of all disciplines to practice yoga as a means of prevention.“Paddling requires repetitive motions that throw our bodies out of alignment which can cause a higher risk of injury, lower back pain, hip pain, shoulder injuries, and general discomfort,” she says. “Instead of waiting for an injury to happen and then turning to yoga, I’m encouraging paddlers to incorporate yoga into their fitness routine so they can reduce the risk of injury.”Outdoor LegendAndy NicholsFavorites:Dave Perrin, N.C.Mike Fischesser, N.C.If you’re worried about the future of our kids or our beloved public lands, you can sleep well at night knowing Andy Nichols of Rappahannock County, Va., is on your side. Nichols is a jack-of-all-trades, a retired Naval Commander turned college adventuresports professor with an affinity for ski bumming, suffer fests, and of course, passing all of that experience along in the form of environmental stewardship and education.Nichols is the founder of Shenandoah Mountain Guides and the Old Rag Mountain Steward program in Shenandoah National Park. He’s a Leave No Trace Master Educator, a Lead Instructor for the National Park Service’s Eastern High Angle Technical Rescue Training Cadre, and founder of numerous non-profits like ALOFT, which provides outdoor activities to teens with incarcerated parents, and YAHA, or Young at Heart Adventures, which offers adventures for adults 50 years and older.Throw in a few long-distance paddling trips across Scotland and circumnavigating the Delmarva Peninsula on top of raising three sons, it’s hard not to wonder—what’s with this guy?“Most of what this is for me, is following a calling to get people into the natural world,” Nichols says. “Despite my best efforts at being ‘normal’ in 1993, I had to give in to that fundamental call,” 1993 being the year Nichols considered being a stockbroker for all of one minute. “All I really am is just a cog in the wheel, trying to get as many people engaged with nature as I can. If you don’t have young people in the outdoors, I don’t care who is in office. It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t have a population engaged with nature.”Bike MechanicAndy Forron, Fayetteville, W.Va.Favorites:Chris Heslin, Va.Tim Richardson, Va.Born and raised in Summersville, W.Va., Forron taught himself at a young age how to fix his own bike. This was before the time of YouTube and Google, mind you, but what alternative was there? Southern West Virginia wasn’t exactly known for its lucrative bike shop scene. Now, Forron’s at the heart of mountain biking in West Virginia with his shop New River Bikes in downtown Fayetteville.“It’s cool to be able to help people and keep them out doing something they like,” Forron says. “Plus, I love the random crazy phone calls that make no sense whatsoever. The people who aren’t fully functioning members of society, they typically like bikes.”What’s not cool about being a bike mechanic? Getting texts at random hours of the day asking how to fix such-and-such on so-and-so’s bike.“And dirty bikes. I really hate dirty bikes. Especially bikes that are infested with bees or spiders or poison ivy. If you have to weed eat the bike out, don’t bring it to me.”[nextpage title=”Events”]EVENTSFly Fishing EventTenkara Jam, Cherokee, N.C.Favorites:Mossy Creek Invitational, Va.WNC Fly Fishing Expo, N.C.For two days, tenkara junkies from far and wide flock to the Smokies to learn about rods and gear, clubs and stream advocacy, and just about anything else related to tenkara angling. New anglers and seasoned guides alike will learn something new at this one-of-a-kind fly fishing event.Costumed EventSuperhero Race, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Trick or Treat Train, Ky.Halloweenfest, N.C.Everyone can be a superhero! Raise money for a good cause with the entire family. The Superhero Race runs in conjunction with Roanoke’s GO Outside Festival and proceeds go toward Family Promise, a community-based team of volunteers who provide temporary housing and meals for homeless families with children.Toughest EventBlue Ridge Marathon, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Off-Road Assault on Mount Mitchell, N.C.Mount Mitchell Challenge, N.C.Runners, beware. This race is known to crush souls and bring grown men to tears. With over 7,430 feet in elevation change, 780 of which come in the first two miles, you might not have the energy to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding the course as it traces the Blue Ridge Parkway. After the race, enjoy a cold beverage and some live entertainment in town.Rowdiest Outdoor EventGauley Fest, Summersville, W.Va.Favorites:GO Outside Festival, Va.Burning Can, N.C.Gauley Fest is one of those events you have to attend to understand the scope of rowdiness. On the water, you’d be hard-pressed to find better entertainment than that of Pillow Rock. Here, hordes of partying paddlers elbow their way to be front and center for the show of rock splats, tombstones, dump trucks, and Creature Craft hijacking. At the festival, the raucousness continues with boat-throwing tournaments and late-night carnage films. Of course, all of this unruliness comes for a good cause—the support of American Whitewater.FestivalGO Outside Festival, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Lockn’, Va.Guest Appreciation Festival, N.C.Appealing to every outdoor enthusiast, no matter their skillset, GO Outside Festival has more than doubled in size in its five-year history. Its success is due, in part, to its inclusiveness and diverse offerings, not to mention the unconditional support of the community. So what’s so great about it? Eventgoers can demo standup paddleboards, slacklines, and bikes. There’s music, beer, and even lumberjack competitions. Over the course of the weekend, there are over 30 bike-related events and races, including free shuttles to the top of Mill Mountain for those demoing mountain bikes. New last year was the addition of camping onsite. And the best part about it all is the price tag: free.Obstacle RaceMad Anthony Mud Run, Waynesboro, Va.Favorites:Spartan Race, Multiple LocationsTough Mudder, Multiple LocationsThe 6th annual Mad Anthony Mud Run is set to take place February 25th and the conditions could be in your favor, or against. Years past have seen temperatures as low as nine degrees to as high as 60 degrees. Regardless, be prepared to get worked. Obstacles have included mud tunnels, six-foot walls, hay bales, and boggy creek crossings.Adventure RaceShenandoah Epic 26-Hour, Bentonville, Va.Favorites:Wild Gear Chase, Va.Pisgah 26.2-Hour Adventure Race, N.C.Now in its seventh year, this burly race takes participants over 100 miles through the rugged terrain of the Shenandoah Valley. Racers will be required to hike, bike, paddle, orienteer, and even rappel over the course of 24 hours. Think you can hack it? Go solo or bring some friends for teams up to four. You’ll need all of the help you can get.park-to-park-free-marylymanTriathlonNation’s Triathlon, Washington, D.C.Favorites:Off the Rails Triathlon, Va.SavageMan Triathlon, Md.The only triathlon in the nation’s capital, this event has attracted more than 600,000 athletes since its inception in 1988. The course takes participants past some of the city’s most historical attractions—swimming in the Potomac alongside the Arlington Cemetery and under the Memorial Bridge, biking past the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, and running adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial and National Holocaust Memorial.Climbing EventBig Lick Showdown, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Triple Crown Bouldering Series, Ala., Tenn., N.C.PsicoRoc, W.Va.The world of competitive bouldering is a fast-growing sport and at the heart of it in Virginia is River Rock Climbing. A USA Climbing-sanctioned competition, the “Big Lick Showdown” is open to anyone 14 years and older, whether you’re just out to have fun or make it to the regional level.Paddling EventNOC Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF), Bryson City, N.C.Favorites:Green River Race, N.C.Gauley Fest, W.Va.Every year, the NOC says “thanks” to its guests with a fun weekend complete with used gear sales, bike trials, and special releases on the Upper Nantahala. Even non-paddlers will enjoy the weekend’s cornhole tournaments, live music, and games for the kids. Celebrate the outdoors, the river, and the end of summer at GAF!Bike RaceBig Ring Challenge, Hayesville, N.C.Part of the Chain Buster Racing series, this six- and three-hour race takes place on the Jackrabbit Trail system in the Nantahala National Forest. Gear into the big ring for this one—with less than 700 feet of climbing in every 10-mile lap, you can crank out as many laps as you can squeeze into the time limit.Favorites:Virginia’s Blue Ridge Downtown Twilight Criterium, Va.Tour de Valley, Va.Running RacePark to Park Half Marathon, Stuarts Draft—Waynesboro, Va. Favorites:Blue Ridge Marathon, Va.Asheville Half Marathon and 10K, N.C.Already in its ninth year, this half takes racers along central Virginia’s rolling hills and scenic countryside. Proceeds from the race are donated to Therapeutic Adventures out of Charlottesville, Va., a non-profit aimed at providing adaptive outdoor recreational opportunities for persons with disabilities.[nextpage title=”Food and Drink”]FOOD + DRINKBest Coffee ShopBlack Sheep Coffee, Harrisonburg, Va.Favorites:Sweet Donkey, Va.Shenandoah Joe, Va.Nestled in Harrisonburg’s renovated Ice House, this hip coffee shop not only makes delicious coffee drinks from locally roasted beans and nearby creameries but also provides an open floor plan that encourages socializing and interaction among customers. Owner Chance Ebersold designed it that way. After starting his coffee industry career in Charlottesville, Ebersold decided that a coffee house should be more than a place to get coffee—be it business meetings or creative collaborations, Black Sheep welcomes community engagement on all levels.Late-Night EaterySouth Street Brewery, Charlottesville, Va.Favorites:Texas Tavern, Va.Waffle House, Multiple LocationsOpen until 1 a.m. seven days a week, South Street is ideally situated one street back from Charlottesville’s downtown walking mall, which makes it a perfect place to grab some grub after seeing music at the Pavilion or The Jefferson Theater. The brewery’s locally inspired and sourced menu transcends typical pub food—try the gourmet three cheese mac ‘n’ cheese, cauliflower “wings,” or honey chicken cordon bleu to taste for yourself.parkwaybrewing_visit-virginias-blue-ridge-freeDistillerySilverback Distillery, Afton, Va.Favorites:Virginia Distillery Company, Va.Smooth Ambler Spirits, W.Va.At Silverback Distillery, you can take solace in your glass of bourbon, whiskey, gin, or vodka knowing that its ingredients were sourced from Virginian farmers and that the final product was produced in an energy efficient, geothermal distillation process. Look out for the distillery’s solar panel system in the years to come.BreweryParkway Brewing, Salem, Va.Favorites:Blue Mountain Brewery, Va.Devils Backbone, Va.Named for the 469-mile backbone of the Blue Ridge, Parkway Brewing crafts its beers around the natural assets and history of the region, like the Raven’s Roost Baltic Porter and Get Bent Mountain IPA. Even in the dead of winter, the brewery offers weekly music and events.CideryBold Rock Hard Cider, Afton, Va.; Mills River, N.C.Favorites:Urban Orchard, N.C.Blue Bee Cider, Va.Bold Rock’s portfolio of hard ciders have expanded tremendously in the past year to include a variety of flavors and styles—from seasonal peach and honeydew, to vintage dry and IPA (that’s India Pressed Apple), Bold Rock’s offerings directly reflect the heritage that surrounds their locations in Virginia and western North Carolina.WineryVeritas Vineyard and WineryAfton, Va.Favorites:Chateau Morrisette, Va.Biltmore Estate, N.C.In 1999, this family-run vineyard encompassed all of five acres that had previously been a horse and cattle farm. Now, Veritas’ picturesque position against a Blue Ridge mountain backdrop is over 50 acres in size. With a pet- and children-friendly atmosphere, this winery is not exclusive to the elite world of wine connoisseurs. Bring the whole family and come out in the summertime for the vineyard’s Starry Night concert series.BarDevils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.Favorites:Wasena City Taproom, Va.The Hub/Pisgah Tavern, N.C.Vaulted ceilings, exposed pipes, and wooden beams give the otherwise traditional bar at Devils Backbone a modern touch. Cozy in vibe, yet large enough to comfortably hold a crowd, this bar is always packed in the evenings. Proudly displayed high on the walls are big game trophies from founder Steve Crandall’s most treasured hunting excursions.Post-Adventure HangoutDevils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.Favorites:Oskar Blues, N.C.Blue Mountain Brewery, Va.Just minutes down the road from regional outdoor destinations like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls, and the Appalachian Trail, Devils Backbone is so conveniently situated, you’d be silly not to end your day in the woods with a brew or two. In warmer weather, the outdoor area affords a relaxing space to sit by the fire pit or challenge friends in a cornhole tournament in a setting surrounded by the Three Ridges Wilderness.BreakfastScratch Biscuit Company, Roanoke, Va.Favorites:Biscuit Head, N.C.The Black Sheep, Va.There’s a new breakfast place in town that is making everything from scratch…literally. Roanoke native and Scratch Biscuit Company owner Nathan Webster used reclaimed wood from Virginia to craft the interior of his breakfast joint, which is decorated with antique farm tools from the area. His biscuits, which start at just $2, are dense and filling, made from none other than a family-owned and operated flour company based out of, you guessed it, Virginia.scratch-biscuit-photos-56Vegetarian RestaurantLaughing Seed, Asheville, N.C.Favorites:Firefly Fare, Va.Happy Belly Deli, Va.Dining at the Laughing Seed is like taking a mini-vacation to an exotic paradise. The food here has an international twist and is all vegetarian with vegan and gluten free options. Meat eaters here will be in the minority, but even non-vegetarians will find something delicious. Might I recommend the Bahn Mi Jackfruit Tacos?The Little Grill Collective, Harrisonburg, Va.Vegetarians will not feel neglected at this cozy breakfast-and-lunch spot in downtown Harrisonburg, where every menu item is vegetarian, though meat options are available. The restaurant is worker-owned, which means the good folks cooking and serving your meals care about your experience. Head there in the morning for Lambert’s Platter, a tofu scrambler, and follow up later in the day for a Sesame Ginger Bowl.Farm to TableThe Harvest Table, Meadowview, Va.Favorites:Magpie Meat and Three, N.C.The Station, W.VaConceived out of celebrated author Barbara Kingsolver and her family’s yearlong stint of eating only the things they could barter for or grow, The Harvest Table makes a point of funneling as much money back into the local economy as possible. The restaurant only sources ingredients within a 100-mile radius and refuses to use feedlot meat or items like lemon that don’t expand the palate of the customer. To compensate for the off-season and produce availability, the restaurant also owns and operates its own four-acre farm just a few miles down the road.RestaurantThe Copper Door, Hayesville, N.C.Favorites:Devils Backbone, Va.Whistlestop at Big South Fork, Ky.Inspired by Chef Dennis Barber’s Louisiana upbringing, The Copper Door’s menu is infused with the tastes of New Orleans. Aged steaks and fresh salmon, shrimp, and grits are staple items here. Exposed stone fireplaces and brick walls give this otherwise fine-dining experience a rustic finish that will appeal to every generation of foodies.Ice CreamChinquapins Ice Cream and Soda Shop, Hayesville, N.C.Favorites:The Hop, N.C.Klines Dairy Bar, Va.Established in 1875 by Peter Tiger, this ice cream and soda shop is the oldest continually operated business in Clay County, now onto its fifth generation of Tigers. Grab a classic hand-dipped ice cream cone or malt on your next visit to Hayesville—one scoop is like going back in time.BBQDevils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.Favorites:The Lick BBQ, Va.12 Bones, N.C.Nothing says “southern” like house-smoked pulled pork saturated in a house made barbeque sauce (if we had to guess, there’s likely a splash of Devils Backbone beer in there), piled high on a toasted brioche roll, all washed down with a Virginia-crafted brew. Now that’s dinner done right.TacosBrazos Tacos, Charlottesville, Va.Favorites:White Duck, N.C.Tacos Muñoz, N.CGet to this happenin’ taco shop before 8am and it’s buy one, get one free, or, if you’re not a morning person, get there on Tuesday for $2 tacos. With an entire vegetarian menu plus breakfast tacos all day, any day, Brazos is quickly making its mark on the Charlottesville foodie scene. Oh, and did I mention they have watermelon-jalapeño margaritas?BurgerFarm Burger. Multiple Locations in Ga., N.C., Tenn., and Ala.Favorites:Devils Backbone, Va.Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, Va.For a burger chain, this one certainly sets itself apart with its commitment to grassfed, antibiotic- and hormone-free, humanely raised and handled beef. Build your own burger with an array of gourmet ingredients or choose from any one of their standard burgers. Don’t worry, veggies, you haven’t been left out of the mix. The vegan burger is made with tempeh and black-eyed peas. It’s real, and it’s wonderful.PizzaPies and Pints, Fayetteville, W.Va.Favorites:Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, N.C.Crozet Pizza, Va.Do you like craft beer and gourmet pizza? Then get some at Pies and Pints, the premier West Virginia pizzeria. Popular among raft guides and climbers of the New River Gorge, this place is renowned for specialty pies like the grape and gorgonzola, Thai shrimp and coconut, and chicken gouda.last_img read more

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Slipstream: A New Netflix for Outdoor Enthusiasts

first_imgA group of skiers from Vancouver saw a lack  of outdoor films and documentaries within the streaming market dominated by Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. Many outdoor films require purchasing the movie for a price similar to subscribing to Netflix or a similar service. Why wasn’t there a provider that specialized in outdoor films?Slipstream has several different sections of movies including environmental, climbing, biking, running, skiing, surfing, and more, so what ever your sport, chances are Slipstream has you covered.  Beginning at just five dollars a month, subscribers receive unlimited access to over 300 outdoor movies and documentaries with more being added each week.Learn more here.last_img read more

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Chasing The Light

first_imgA Synchronous Firefly Discovery Raises Questions About How We Experience the OutdoorsPhoto: Radim SchreiberNight falls in the cove where I’ve set up a camera and tripod, one of those places where the sun sets early thanks to steep terrain and thick tree cover overhead. But the darkness doesn’t last. Not long after twilight, the entire forest is pulsing with hundreds of perfectly-timed, golden pinpoints of light. I reach for my camera and start recording video.The lights are from Photinus carolinus, the famed synchronous fireflies that display each year in and around the Elkmont section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fireflies are a biological oddity and visual wonder, with males flashing in unison—a behavior that attracts females—for several weeks each summer. While fireflies are a common occurrence here in the East, this particular species is our only true synchronous flashing insect. Its display in Elkmont attracts thousands of people each year.However, I’m sitting alone in that cove. Elkmont and its crowds are hours away. Instead, I’ve traveled well beyond the national park as a researcher chasing reports of the same species. Synchronous fireflies are known from only a handful of places outside of Elkmont, and if the light show that members of the public have been seeing here is the same one found in the Smokies, we’ll be able to add another population to that list. Counting the insects’ flash pattern carefully, my excitement builds: we’ve located another spot.Here in the Blue Ridge, though, discovery isn’t always a good thing. In fact, our fireflies have become an emblem of the challenges facing resource managers as public interest in the outdoors grows at an explosive rate. Wildlife is a big part of that draw, and in a world accelerated by social media, natural wonder travels fast. A 2017 video of the Elkmont fireflies shared by the Knoxville News Sentinel racked up nearly 60,000 views on Facebook alone.That attention can be a double-edged sword. For many, experiencing something as spectacular as a firefly display can ignite a lifetime of learning about the outdoors. But our mountains’ species are often fragile, and too many people striking out to find them can spell bad news. The overwhelming popularity of Elkmont’s display has led to a lottery being used to control the number of visitors hoping to catch the show. In North Carolina’s DuPont State Forest, concern about visitor impacts on another popular firefly species has led to seasonal trail closures.This conundrum has also touched off a national conversation about the tradeoffs of what we share—and how we share it—related to the outdoors. Some websites are now scrubbing GPS coordinates from wildlife photos out of fear that they might provide a road map for poachers hunting rare species. And a growing group is lobbying for an “eighth principle” related to media and tourism promotion to join the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics’ existing guidelines for low-impact outdoor use.Part of the problem is that buzz about an outdoor activity or destination can spread faster than management plans can keep up. In the West, Instagram posts have transformed little-known alpine lakes into viral outdoor meccas, sending hordes of people flocking to sensitive locations that can be damaged by overcrowding. A video shared by a regional tourism page flashed across my own feed earlier this year, showing folks blasting a caravan of ATVs up the middle of a creek—a practice that can kill aquatic life and pollute water for users downstream.For the Blue Ridge’s fireflies, the challenges are more subtle. Females need to be able to see the males’ light show to choose a mate, and too many people walking around with flashlights and smartphones can outshine their glow. Even in total darkness, excess foot travel can compact the spongy leaf litter and soil needed for young fireflies to develop. The more people who come looking for the fireflies without knowing how to minimize their impact, the less chance there is that anything will be left for them to see.So how can we walk that line between sharing outdoor experiences and causing unintended harm? The Leave No Trace Center’s recommendations coalesce around a simple idea: stop and think. “If we can simply encourage people to stop and think about the potential impacts and associated consequences of their actions,” the Center writes in a blog post on the issue, “we can go a long way towards ensuring the protection of our shared recreational resources.”The Center’s strategy might mean considering what information should accompany a photo or video before posting it, or maybe it could mean waiting to promote a spot that isn’t ready for the spotlight. For tourism officials, a conversation with land managers prior to marketing an asset could help prevent negative outcomes.Those considerations are on my mind as I watch that newly-discovered population of fireflies. Promoting them could be a release valve of sorts, taking pressure off of crowded firefly-watching spots like Elkmont. But could too much promotion hurt the fireflies before experts can understand how much attention they can handle?I’m mulling over that question as a car pulls into a nearby parking lot, headlights sweeping across the forest floor. The insects’ light show stops, and a family jumps out. “Where are the fireflies?” they yell. The secret has already gotten out.Before I have a chance to reply, the group runs off through the night, spotlights in hand, deeper into an emptier woods.last_img read more

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Virginia moves ahead with coal ash cleanups + Endangered woodpecker receives emergency help in Georgia

first_imgFirst step toward new natural area in NC’s McDowell County completeThe Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and North Carolina State Parks has completed the first land purchase of 1,500 acres for the new Bobs Creek State Natural Area. The new natural area is located about three miles from the town of Marion, NC and will eventually be open for hiking and other recreation uses. Bobs Creek State Natural Area contains forested lands of acidic cove, oak-hickory, and chestnut oak forests, as well as several rare plant species. The acquisition also protects over 13 miles of stream buffer along Bobs Creek and its tributaries. State natural areas are less developed than state parks and do not include campgrounds, visitor centers or picnic areas. State natural areas do allow from low-impact public uses, such as hiking and scientific research.Virginia moves ahead with coal ash cleanups as North Carolina lags behindThis week, Virginia announced a bipartisan agreement requiring Dominion Energy to excavate all coal ash from unlined waterfront lagoons in the state. The agreement requires the removal of 28 million tons of coal ash from unlined coal ash lagoons. The coal ash will be sent to dry, lined landfills or recycled into cement and concrete. The announcement comes just weeks before the anniversary of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill into the Dan River. Meanwhile in North Carolina, six unlined coal ash pit sites remain a point of contention. Because of enforcement action taken by citizen groups across the state, Duke Energy is required to excavate all the coal ash from eight of its 14 coal ash sites in the state. But at six sites, the company has persisted in leaving its coal ash in unlined pits by lakes, rivers and drinking water reservoirs. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has promised to make announcements in April 2019 concerning whether Duke Energy will be required to remove its coal ash from the unlined pits at these sites. Endangered woodpecker receives emergency help in GeorgiaThe endangered red-cockaded woodpecker has long taken refuge at Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area in Decatur County, GA. But when Hurricane Michael hit last October, the 116 mph winds took out almost half of Silver Lake’s 272 trees that housed red-cockaded woodpecker nests. The storm also left behind enough downed trees and tree limbs to threaten the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ ability to conduct prescribed fires, which help restore the bird’s habitats. To mitigate the loss of nest cavities that are vital to the survival of the woodpeckers, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has stepped up with a $100,000 grant, funded by Southern Company and International Paper. The recovery effort will also benefit other wildlife. Red-cockaded woodpeckers are a keystone species, providing habitat for other animals such as bobwhite quail, gopher tortoises and Bachman’s sparrows.last_img read more

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