M AY 2 0 2 0
Blue Ridge Classics GEAR PICKS:
HIKING, PADDLING, BIKING, FISHING
FAVORITE ADVENTURES KEEPING US INSPIRED
Outdoor Industry Adapts to the New Normal + B I K E PAC K I N G I N
A Humbling Return to
WILDLIFE HOSPITAL WORKERS CARE FOR ANIMALS AT HOME
T H E B LU E R I D G E + T H E VA LU E O F WAT E R
ADVENTURE IN YOUR BACKYARD. At West Virginia University, you can seek (and find) adventure on your lunch break. Our students, faculty and staff immerse themselves in some of the most diverse recreational activities and outdoor experiences in the world — all within a short drive (be back in time for dinner) of our campuses in Morgantown, Keyser and Beckley, West Virginia. WAT E R S
M O U N TA I N S
Whitewater is a West Virginia specialty. From the Cheat to the New, there’s a river for every skill level. Within 90 minutes of our Morgantown campus, there are over 600 miles of whitewater to enjoy year-round. Within 90 minutes of our Beckley campus, there are 820 miles of whitewater. In fact, West Virginia has the greatest river density (measured in miles of river/area of the state) and paddle-days (how frequently a run can be paddled based on flow) of any state in the country. Classic runs like the Lower Big Sandy (class IV/V), the Cheat (I-IV), the New (I-IV) and the Gauley (III-V) run between 180 and 365 days per year and can even be paddled after work or class. Swimming holes are another beloved tradition at WVU, with classics like Blue Hole as well as popular lakes like Cheat, outside Morgantown, Tygart and nearby Summersville, where you can try your hand at standup paddle boarding, kayaking, waterskiing, fishing and lounging lakeside.
They don’t call us the Mountain State for nothing. Within 10 miles of our Morgantown campus, you’ll find some 500 published climbing routes, and within an hour of our Beckley campus, you can choose from 3,000 climbing routes. Whether it’s Coopers Rock State Forest, with its epic vistas, the ancient New River Gorge, pristine Summersville Lake or the picturesque Meadow River corridor — all are centrally-located within the state and home to great climbing opportunities. Bouldering, top-roping, sport and trad climbing are all just minutes from our campuses, so grab your gear. You can still be home in time for dinner. Not quite ready to strike out on your own? Our Student Recreation Center (open to faculty and staff for a fee) offers a 50-foot climbing wall and in-depth courses where you and the whole family can learn the ropes.
The Monongahela National Forest is located in the eastern part of the state and offers some of the best backpacking around, encompassing 921,000 acres of sweeping views and highland ecosystems. Our Morgantown campus is a truly green experience, with nearly 20,000 acres of public lands to enjoy within 20 miles of town. The WVU Research Forest is a 7,600-acre outdoor laboratory just 10 miles northeast of Morgantown, with epic old growth forest and our own exciting zipline canopy tour (open to the whole family), including four ziplines, seven tree-based platforms, an aerial bridge, aerial ladder and a rappel station. The Core Arboretum is a 91-acre tract of hillside and bottomland in Morgantown near the WVU Coliseum where students can soak in the nature (and still get to class on time) along three miles of foot trails, lawns with planted trees and shrubs, old growth forest and interpretive signs.
T H E G R E AT E S T CL ASSRO OM Imagine a college town that’s rooted in the great outdoors, in fresh air and wide-open skies. With outdoor and adventurefocused majors and minors, adventure trips, an extensive study abroad program and plenty of opportunities for faculty and staff to test their skills, Mountaineers at all levels can access the physical, mental and social benefits of outdoor experiences. At this land- and space-grant, R1 institution in the top three percent of universities worldwide, the wild is the best classroom. And you can benefit from these hands-on experiences in your backyard at any of WVU’s system of campuses across the Mountain State. That’s why WVU has been named a 2020 Top Adventure College by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.
Scan to learn more about outdoor recreation at WVU.
NEW ADVENTURES AWAIT 2020 Virginia Horse Racing Schedule June 13: Middleburg Spring Races June 20: Virginia Gold Cup Spring Races July 23 - Aug. 29: Thoroughbred Racing at Colonial Downs Sept. 18 - Oct. 17: Harness Racing at Shenandoah Downs
Basye, VA WWW.VIRGINIAHORSERACING.COM
BRINGING YOU HOME TO THE ADVENTURE
call for a free visitors guide heartofappalachia.com 4
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
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M AY 2 0 2 0
D E PA R T M E N T S
07 | LETTER TO OUR READERS 09 | QUICK HITS
Best Adventure Colleges
45 | THE GOODS Gear favorites that are quickly becoming new classics.
47 | PERSPECTIVE A successful trail runner is humbled by a return to Mt. Mitchell.
48 | TRAIL MIX
The time to help musicians by buying an album is now. Check out a handful of stellar new releases.
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F E AT U R E S
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14 | HOW THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY ADAPTED
D I G I TA L M E D I A
Hit hard by the economic impacts of the coronavirus, outdoor guides and businesses have quickly made changes to stay afloat and assist in the production of personal protective equipment.
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S H A N N O N M C G OWA N
20 | BLUE RIDGE CLASSICS
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"YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE YOU WILL END U P A F T E R A L O N G D AY O F S L A C K L I N I N G AND HIKING, BUT SPENDING THE NIGHT ON TOP OF THE CHIMNEYS WITH YOUR BEST FRIENDS, YOUR DOG, THE M O U N TA I N S A N D S TA R S , W E L L T H AT MAKES IT ALL WORTHWHILE." KYLE AND B E L O V E D D O G Z I G G Y, W H O J O I N E D H I M O N A L L H I S O U T D O O R E S C A PA D E S , C A M P I N G AT T H E C H I M N E Y S I N L I N V I L L E GORGE. PHOTO BY JUSTIN COSTNER.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MERGE RECORDS
PRESIDENT BLAKE DEMASO b l a ke @ b l u e r i d g e o u t d o o r s . c o m
ON THE COVER
We’re stuck at home but still dreaming about future adventures. We celebrate five favorites that we’re missing the most. Plus, readers share photos from the region’s top scenic spots.
116 WEST JEFFERSON STREET C H A R LOT T E S V I L L E , V I R G I N I A 2 2 9 0 2
28 | BACK TO THE LAND
Meet grassroots organizers in Southern cities reconnecting residents to nature through food.
200 DISTRICT DRIVE, UNIT 8 ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA 28803
B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
35 | WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT WATER
©2020 Summit Publishing, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A trip to West Virginia’s world famous International Water Tasting reveals a need to protect safe access to an essential natural resource.
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PHOTO BY JOSHUA NESS, COURTESY OF UNSPLASH.
40 | THREE BIKEPACKING ROUTES
Ride far into the backcountry on a Blue Ridge bikepacking trip.
M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
T H U R M O N T, M A R Y L A N D
Gateway to the Mountains! Relax. Retreat. Recreate.
WE CAN’T WAIT AND YOU CAN’T EITHER.
Visit our online store and ship direct.
The Perfect Way to Social Distance
ThurmontMainStreet.com THURMONT MAIN STREET
we encourage you to support local businesses Wherever you live. They are the heart & soul of every community.
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
We appreciate your support. We hope to see you soon. www.veritaswinery.com | 434.456.8000 | 151 Veritas Lane, Afton, Virginia 22920
Dear Readers, A
s you continue to find the right ways to get outside while hunkering down at home, Blue Ridge Outdoors remains focused on providing inspiring stories, while encouraging everyone to plan now and play later.
We are a small, family-owned business, and our hearts go out to the fellow owners and organizers of businesses, events, and travel destinations who have all been so greatly impactedâ€”as well as those whose families have been affected by illness. Typically the May issue is our biggest of the year, and the time when we highlight all of the amazing festivals across our region and beyond. With the decision to move that coverage to the June issue, we've taken the opportunity to focus on some of the amazing classic Blue Ridge adventures that we can't wait to revisit when we get the green light. We appreciate all of our partners for their continued support. As a free magazine, we are 100% advertiser sustained, so please take all opportunities to patronize those seen within our pages in this issue and over the past 25 years in gratitude for working with Blue Ridge Outdoors. Remember to shop local, order take-out, buy gift certificates, and use this time to plan your future adventures. And, when the time is rightâ€”hit the ground running.
â€”Your Friends at Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine
TOP ADVENTURE 20
Presentation licensed by Disney Concerts in association with 20th Century Fox, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Warner/Chappell Music. © 2020 & TM LUCASFILM LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © DISNEY.
TICKETS ON SALE NOW!
WHEELS OF SOUL 2020 TOUR
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES GABE DIXON
GRACE POTTER THE MARCUS KING BAND AUG 8
20 YEARS BEFORE THE MAST
THE DECEMBERISTS FRUIT BATS
20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR
STEELY DAN WITH SPECIAL GUEST STEVE WINWOOD JUL 7 + 8
GOO GOO DOLLS
MIRACLE PILL SUMMER TOUR
STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE IN CONCERT
NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
WHITE LADDER: THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR
WITH SPECIAL GUEST TANYA TUCKER
NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
JUL 24 + 25
THE NATIONAL JULIA JACKLIN
YO-YO MA, STUART DUNCAN, EDGAR MEYER, AND CHRIS THILE WITH GUEST AOIFE O’DONOVAN
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
THE WOOD BROTHERS
JUL 21 + 22
NOT OUR FIRST GOAT RODEO
ZIGGY MARLEY & STEPHEN MARLEY
BOB MARLEY CELEBRATION
LITTLE BIG TOWN NIGHTFALL TOUR
AND MANY MORE!
TOP ADVENTURE COLLEGE WINNERS
TOP: A WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT ON ONE OF THE MANY CLIMBING ROUTES IN THE AREA. PHOTO COURTESY OF WVU B O T T O M : S T U D E N T S WA L K T H E M I L L P O N D BRIDGE ON LEES-MCRAE'S CAMPUS. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEES-MCRAE
TOP MARKS 2020 ADVENTURE COLLEGE CONTEST WINNERS BY ELLEN KANZINGER
MARCH MADNESS WAS CERTAINLY missed across the South and beyond this year, but there was still an opportunity to root for your favorite schools in Blue Ridge Outdoors’ annual Top Adventure College Contest. Earlier this spring, readers, students, and alumni voted for their top small (less than 6,000 students) and large (more than 6,000 students) schools in the region, and the results are in. Read on for more on how the two winning schools in the Blue Ridge are taking advantage of their location to give students access to outdoor recreation and environmental opportunities.
LEES-MCRAE COLLEGE (BANNER ELK, N.C.)
Located in the mountains of western North Carolina, students at Lees-McRae enjoy easy access to
a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities, from ski resorts and the Blue Ridge Parkway to national forests and parks. Lees-McRae’s Outdoor Recreation Management Program helps students prepare for a career in the outdoor industry with classes in technical skills, risk management, environmental ethics, and more. A majority of the classes also feature a field component, allowing students to put their knowledge to the test with local field trips. Students looking to specialize their skills can also add minors in Ski Industry Business & Instruction, Wilderness Medicine, or Cycling Studies. Outside of the classroom, students have an array of options, from formal participation on the cycling, climbing, or ski and snowboard teams to weekend trips in the area. Students also have the option to rent outdoor equipment,
including mountain bikes, tents, bouldering pads, and more, to create their own adventures. RUNNER UP: Sweet Briar College
WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY (MORGANTOWN, W.VA.)
Adventure is right out the back door at West Virginia University. Between the two campuses, students have access to thousands of climbing routes and hundreds of miles of whitewater within an hour and a half drive from town. At the Morgantown campus, students get hands-on storytelling experience capturing whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and mountain biking, while learning journalism principles through the Sports and Adventure Media major. A recent Trail Accelerator grant will allow students in the Landscape
Architecture program to work with IMBA to design and build mountain biking trails in the area. Incoming first-years have the option to take part in Adventure WV, a student-led outdoor orientation program before classes start. On campus resources include an outdoor rec center, camping facilities, and the only universitymanaged zipline canopy tour. The Tech campus in Beckley recently added an Adventure Recreation Management program, which won Best Educational Outdoor Rec Program in BRO’s 2020 Best of the Blue Ridge Awards. Students in the major learn both the technical and management skills needed to run a guiding business in the outdoor industry, including rock climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater paddling. RUNNER UP: Appalachian State University
M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
H A R D S E LT Z E R f r o m
• CUCUMBER MELON •
• GRAPEFRUIT •
NELLYSFORD, VA | MILLS RIVER, NC
r e a l
• BERRY •
f r u i t
• PA S S I O N F R U I T •
BOLDROCK.COM/HARD-SELTZER M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
READERS' FAVORITE VIEWS WHILE WE'RE ALL STAYING HOME, WE CAN STILL CELEBRATE WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT THE BLUE RIDGE. TO INSPIRE EACH OTHER, WE ASKED READERS TO SHARE FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM PAST ADVENTURES, HIGHLIGHTING THE SCENIC SPOTS AND SPECIAL MOMENTS MADE IN OUR MOUNTAINS, WHILE LOOKING FORWARD TO RETURNING TO THESE PLACES IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE.
BY TA N
LD ON TOP OF THEGAWSTOYNRE BY LINDSAY
AIR MOUNTAIN BY JULIE KLEIN
YA MA N
K IN PIGS
Y DAYS! THEBYGLROOR B GIERSCH
CALM AFTER THE STORM
BY KAYLA SIMPSON
NEW RIVER GO
OLD RLAASTG RO
BY NICK PA
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
LECONTE SUMMIT BY STACIA BENNET
LANDS PONY GRAYSON HIGH VIN REEVES BY KE
CYCLING THE BLUE RIDGE PA BY KELLY RAHN
GATEWAY TO YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE!
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HOW THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY QUICKLY ADAPTED MAKING IT WORK IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 BY JESS DADDIO
E M P L O Y E E S AT P O P - U P C A M P E R C O M PA N Y S Y L VA N S P O R T A R E NOW MAKING PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS. PHOTO: C O U R T E S Y O F S Y L VA N S P O R T
he country’s economic climate is frighteningly uncertain. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses to shutter their doors indefinitely, forced millions of Americans to file for unemployment, and mandated millions more to stay at home. Locally and nationally, the outdoor industry, like so many others, is taking a hit. About 90 percent of the industry is built on the backbones of small businesses, many of which are grappling with how to keep their employees paid and their businesses alive. Yet in these scary and unprecedented times, some businesses are getting creative and meeting new challenges head on.
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
that change was in the air. “Our suppliers in Asia weren’t When Kitsbow CEO David Billstrom even answering the phone, let alone cut the ribbon at shipping,” he says. “We the cycling apparel knew it was real.” manufacturer’s new “As an EMT, I’ve In a matter of days, factory in Old Fort, N.C., the company went been ready for a he could have never from discussing layoffs national disaster, I (which they agreed not anticipated what was just didn’t think my to do) to navigating ahead. It was December 2019 and the company role would be in an the world of personal had just relocated from equipment apparel company.” protective California to its new (PPE) manufacturing. forever home in western Thanks to the factory’s North Carolina. Billstrom, who is flexible layout—sewing machines and an emergency medical technician assembly tables are built on rolling (EMT) by training and former venture caster wheels—Billstrom and his capitalist, says he knew in early March team have been able to seamlessly
pivot from making riding apparel to face masks and shields. On March 28, Kitsbow announced that it had entered into a four-month contract with Dogwood Health Trust to produce 100,000 units a week for western North Carolina’s healthcare workers. “Being of service during a really hard time, that is an honor,” says Billstrom. “As an EMT, I’ve been ready for a national disaster, I just didn’t think my role would be in an apparel company.” To meet that 100,000-units-perweek quota, Kitsbow is working with other regional partners like Ooweee Products in Boone and Watershed
#GASTONCARES As hospitality businesses work to overcome operational challenges caused by the Global Pandemic, GastonCares will keep you informed of local initiatives within the County where you can help. Together we beat this! GoGastonNC.org/gastoncares
Celebrate Spring Virtually at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden Virtual Tours at The Schiele Museum of Natural History “Keep The Lights On” In Belmont Barrister’s Barbeque Benefit Muddy River Distillery makes hand sanitizer for healthcare and first responders Riverside Marina Kayak for COVID-19 Simply. Wellness + Yoga + Massage, Online Yoga Classes Pharr Family YMCA Blood Drive Gaston Sports & Travel Alliance Fundraiser
704-825-4044 | GoGastonNC.org | @GoGastonNC
PLENTY TO EXPLORE
IN THE ELKIN OUTDOORS
VisitTheYadkinValley.com | ExploreElkin.com M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
Drybags and Industry Nine in Asheville. Industry Nine—which manufacturers bike components and wheels at its machine shop, Turnamics—has 100 Computer Numerical Controlled machines at its disposal. Those machines, and Industry Nine owner Clint Spiegel’s 45 years of manufacturing experience, have been instrumental in increasing efficiency for shield production. “We’re all focusing our efforts and teaming up to be able to produce more together,” says Spiegel. “We definitely started with the cards stacked against us, especially when you’re going from 0 to 60 this fast, but seeing everyone come together has been great.” Brevard-based SylvanSport, a pop-up adventure camper company, has also shifted to producing face shields, sneeze barriers, and footoperated door-opening devices. The company’s supply team in Thailand has also helped procure 200,000 N95 masks per week and thousands of Tyvek suits for local and state distribution. SylvanSport Founder Tom Dempsey says he is humbled by the sacrifices of not only healthcare workers but also employees and community members showing up to give back. “Everyone has had to snap into action mode and put their best foot forward every day,” he says. “All sides of humanity come out on display in difficult times but I'm super grateful to be working with a great group of people who are rising to the occasion. I go home at night and I’m emotional about it. It’s exhausting and gratifying all at the same time.” During a time when many companies are having to lay off their employees, SylvanSport, Industry Nine, and Kisbow are all hiring. Visit their websites for more information.
Virtual Connection Professional mountain biker and coach Jeremiah Bishop of Harrisonburg, Va., won’t be participating at many inperson races this season, but he’s still finding ways to stoke the competitive fire digitally. With support from his sponsor Canyon Bicycles, Bishop has been leading weekly group rides and participating in races via Zwift, a virtual training app for running and cycling. Bishop’s clients live all over the world, including places like Spain and Italy where outdoor cycling is 16
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
P R O M O U N TA I N BIKER JEREMIAH BISHOP HAS BEEN LEADING VIRTUAL GROUP RIDES. PHOTO: COURTESY OF JEREMIAH BISHOP
prohibited. He says harnessing the power of Zwift, video chats, and online training software like Training Peaks allows the cycling community to socialize and stay motivated. “Connection is such an important part of people training and socializing,” he says. “It’s part of what we really miss, and I’m really glad to have at least these tools to rally together.” Blue Ridge Hiking Company owner, author, and Appalachian Trail record holder Jennifer Pharr Davis is also embracing the web to bring the outdoors indoors. In April, her Asheville-based guiding and retail shop launched an online Armchair Adventure Book Club, which will run through May 28. Every Thursday at noon, readers can tune into a live question-and-answer session with a published author in the outdoor and conservation space. “I don’t know if it turns the tables for us as far as revenue,” says Davis. “We have all of these books in stock and people can order online, but it's a good way to keep the community
engaged and remind people of the importance of the outdoors.”
Online Ordering When Ragged Mountain Running Shop in Charlottesville, Va., first closed its doors to the public, owners Mark and Cynthia Lorenzoni continued to serve customers by providing free home drop-offs. For 18 days, the Lorenzonis schlepped boxes of running shoes and gear door to door, leaving boxes on doorsteps to avoid potentially infecting customers. As social distancing guidelines evolved, so, too, has Ragged Mountain’s response. Today, the store no longer offers home deliveries, but customers can still order online and receive 15-percent discounts plus free shipping. “We want to be good business neighbors,” says Mark Lorenzoni. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the support. Obviously we’re not as busy as we would normally be this time of year, but it’s enough to hopefully pay the bills.”
Curbside PickUp New River Bikes owner Andy Forron of Fayetteville, W.Va., has never thought of his bike shop as “just” a bike shop. It’s always been a communal space, somewhere customers can drink a beer and scheme adventures. But these days, it’s quiet in the shop. Forron is still working on bikes and selling gear, but it’s by appointment only. Customers must drop off and pick up their bikes without ever setting foot inside the shop. “It’s totally different than how we normally operate,” he says. “We are all about hanging out in the shop. It’s not uncommon to have four or five people just hanging out. We actually had to get a bigger couch.” Forron says there’s no doubt that the appointment-only service and social distancing guidelines have reduced the walk-in sales and repairs from visiting tourists, but he says the shop is staying busy thanks to the continued support of the local community.
WILDLIFE REHABILITATION IN WILD TIMES VIRGINIA WILDLIFE HOSPITALS GET CREATIVE DURING PANDEMIC BY ASHLEY STIMPSON
annahleah Hoyt didn’t realize the world had descended into pandemic-induced chaos until she arrived at the Dublin International airport in early March. The Virginia Tech senior had spent her spring break with 11 other students, horseback riding and hiking the Atlantic coast, studying the culture, history, and environment of rural Ireland. Nothing during their idyllic week away had prepared them to return to a society in crisis. “It was crazy. There were lines and lines,” she said. “People sleeping on the floor. Half the flight board was cancelled.” Meanwhile, in Roanoke, Va., staff at the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center (SVWC), where Hannahleah works as an animal caregiver, were trying to figure out how to manage their urgent, never-ending caseload, while also following strict social-distancing guidelines. Sabrina Garvin, the executive director of the center, said her employees had already agreed to forego all other aspects of daily life except for their jobs—no grocery store runs, no daycare pickups—to minimize their risk of exposure. Just home, work, repeat. Meals were served on the clock. “If one of them went down,” Garvin said, “what were we going to do?” The SVWC is used to emergencies. Every year, a staff of veterinarians, interns, and volunteers treats and rehabilitates more than 2,000 injured, sick and orphaned wild animals, including bears, bats, turtles, and birds—lots of birds. But a global pandemic? Well, that was a new kind of emergency. And while there’s never a good time for a pandemic, for wildlife hospitals, “baby season” might be the worst. In late March, “baby squirrels are falling out of trees every time the wind blows,” said Ed Clark, President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV), another wildlife hospital in Waynesboro. Springtime in Virginia’s three wildlife facilities means stacks of 10-gallon aquariums full of furry infants, and crowds of volunteers standing by to feed them around the clock. “If only we could take these animals home,” Garvin said—mostly in jest—on a phone call with Clark. Thinking it couldn’t hurt to ask, Clark reached out to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) to see if anything could be done. Forty-eight hours later, VDGIF Executive Director
SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA WILDLIFE C E N T E R S TA F F A N D V O L U N T E E R S ARE NOW CARING FOR BABY S Q U I R R E L S AT H O M E . P H O T O C R E D I T: S O U T H W E S T V I R G I N I A WILDLIFE CENTER
Ryan Brown signed an emergency executive order that allowed permitted individuals to care for healthy mammals at home. Garvin and Clark were stunned. “All credit to [VDGIF],” Clark said. “It was thoughtful, logical, and unprecedented.” Garvin wasted no time in outsourcing her young patients. She called Hoyt, back from Ireland and under a mandatory 14-day quarantine at her parents’ house in Salem. “She said, ‘do you want some squirrels?’” Hoyt remembered, “and I was like, ‘of course I want some squirrels!’” Hoyt started working with animals at a young age. After fostering cats and dogs for the local SPCA, she began volunteering for SVWC in 2018, where she interned and eventually accepted a staff position. She would have been a veterinarian, Hoyt said, “but math is not my friend.” Instead she’s majoring in history with an emphasis in environmental and conservation history. Hoyt received eight squirrel babies, called kits, five of whom had already opened their eyes and needed about three meals a day. The rest were still helplessly blind, kits who needed not only to be syringe-fed every six hours, but also manually stimulated with a warm cotton ball to poop and pee. Undaunted, Hoyt said caring for the kits gave her “something meaningful to do,” while she was under quarantine. Feeding all eight squirrels took at least an hour, during which Hoyt caught up on podcasts or TV. Still, as a harried squirrel guardian, Hoyt had to figure out ways to make sure she stayed on schedule. “I have a lot of alarms set on
my phone right now,” she said. Hoyt said she was looking forward to returning to SWVC following her quarantine, and bringing the kits—grown-up and healthy—with her. As for the Virginia Wildlife Center, Clark has turned to a vet and an intern who were returning from overseas to take on juvenile mammals during their quarantine. A volunteer “who just loves baby possums,” is in heaven, he said. For work that can’t be taken home, Clark’s staff has divided into two teams, blue and grey (“like the Civil War”) that never overlap. Instead they brief each other each day by video conference. As one of the world’s leading teaching and research hospitals for wildlife conservation and medicine, the WCV is also working to develop training for other wildlife care facilities around the country as they face the unique challenge of COVID-19. In a recently posted video to the WCV website, staff detail the modified ways they are admitting and caring for animals—as well as ensuring the physical and mental well-being of each other. And for the general public who, for now, cannot visit either WCV or SVWC, both facilities have beefed up their virtual offerings, including Facebook Live events, online book clubs, and livestreaming direct from the animal enclosures. Not everyone can ride out the pandemic handfeeding baby squirrels on their living room couch, but hanging out with Virginia’s black vultures, black bears, and bald eagles has never been more within reach. M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
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FLOURISHING WITH FRUITY LUPULIN RICHES OF PEAR, PEACH & PINEAPPLE
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5 CLASSIC ADVENTURES THAT MAKE US HAPPY THIS IS HOME BY JEDD FERRIS, ELLEN KANZINGER, A N D S H A N N O N M C G O WA N
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bsence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. With stayat-home orders in place, most of us have been keeping our outdoor recreation low-key with neighborhood bike rides, repetitive running routes, and backyard campouts. And that’s left us pining for what we love most about the Blue Ridge—the iconic adventures that make the South such a special part of the country to explore. With that in mind, we’re celebrating a handful of all-time favorites, the region’s classic scenic escapes that we can’t wait to revisit.
CLIMBING THE RED
A beloved natural gem in the South, Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is a coveted rock playground visited by climbers across the country. Located in eastern Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red holds a majestic landscape of natural sandstone sculptures—full of holes, steep walls, ledges, and overhangs—that’s become world renowned for its bounty of sport and singlepitch trad options, boasting thousands of recorded routes for climbers of all levels. Beginners can get a great intro to the Red on the Great Wall or Bruise Brothers in the Muir Valley Nature Preserve, while steeper lines are found at revered spots like the Phantasia and the Motherlode, which holds some of the toughest routes in the South.
A SCENIC VIEW FROM THE ROAN HIGHLANDS. PHOTO BY STEVE YOCOM
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PADDLING THE NEW
West Virginia’s New River Gorge is a wild and scenic treasure that’s been called the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Flowing north through the Southern Appalachian from its headwaters in North Carolina, the old river gets to the Mountain State and becomes the New River Gorge National River, 53 miles of free-flowing
whitewater that ruts through massively awe-inspiring rock cliffs, at points more than 1,000 feet above. The surrounding area has fostered foundational Southern scenes in both climbing and paddling. For the latter, the New’s upper section, running from Hinton to Thurmond, consists mainly of long pools and Class I-III rapids for newer boaters to cut their teeth. Below Thurmond, the Lower Gorge section flows right under the famous
(LEFT) CLIMBING IN KENTUCKY'S RED RIVER GORGE. PHOTO BY D AV I D S O R I C H . ( R I G H T ) T H E N E W RIVER GORGE BRIDGE. PHOTO COURTESY GETTY IMAGES.
New River Gorge Bridge and is known for big, monstrous water—class V rapids with colossal waves and powerful currents that deliver unforgettable thrills. The river is a rite of passage for all paddlers and the lifeblood of the rafting industry that was pioneered on its waters a halfcentury ago.
HIKING THE A.T.
It doesn’t get any more classic than spending your summer days hiking the Appalachian Trail—the beloved 2,193-mile footpath that is a main artery of adventure in our backyard mountains. It was tough to hear that many aspiring thruhikers getting ready to head north from Springer Mountain had their dreams dashed earlier this spring, when we
were all asked to stay off the trail for an indefinite amount of time. But soon enough we’ll be back on the A.T., hiking the roller-coasters of rocky ridgelines, cresting summits, and cooling off in backwoods waterfalls. We’ll certainly relish the next time we can take a multi-day backpacking trip on the 71-mile stretch of the trail that runs through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, trek through the grassy balds and soak in stunning views in
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(LEFT) A VIEW OF THE SMOKY M O U N TA I N S AT S U N S E T. P H O T O BY BEN KLEA. (RIGHT) BIKING BLUE RIDGE SINGLETRACK. PHOTO BY JESS DADDIO.
the Roan Highlands, or tackle the quintessential Blue Ridge terrain of Virginia’s Triple Crown.
With 500,000 acres of forest and hundreds of miles of trails, North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest is the premiere playground for mountain bikers in the Blue Ridge and beyond. Riding
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Pisgah is all about the bounty of singletrack options, as grueling climbs, technical terrain, and lengthy fire roads combine with the adrenalineinducing flowy descents. The required endurance, though, is always rewarded with stunning scenery, as dense woods with idyllic waterfalls open up to vast rock cliff views. With plenty of downhill thrills, the Black Mountain Trail—located in the forest’s Pisgah Ranger District—is
considered a classic Pisgah ride that, when combined with Thrift Cove, can be turned into an epic 30-mile journey. Another essential is the 16-mile Laurel Mountain/ Pilot Rock Loop, an extra challenging switchback-laden route that hits high elevations and mingles big drops and gnarly rock gardens with gorgeous expanses of mountain laurel during the warm months.
PITCHING A TENT ANYWHERE
We had trouble deciding on the most iconic spot to pitch a tent in the Southern Appalachians because, frankly, we have way too many favorites. Whether it’s the lush, grassy meadows of Virginia’s Grayson Highlands, the tranquil hardwood and cypress forests of South
Carolina’s Congaree National Park, or the deep, isolated woods of Tennessee’s Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, we’re fortunate to have so many majestic spots to sleep under the stars. With summer on the horizon, we’re optimistic that one day soon we’ll be able to safely pack up a full load of gear and escape to the Southeast’s backcountry for some much-needed time to recharge.
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back to the
LAND EFFORTS IN SOUTHERN CITIES RECONNECT PEOPLE TO NATURE THROUGH FOOD. BY ELLEN KANZINGER
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or thousands of years, the Southern landscape has provided the resources and tools to cultivate food from the earth. From the Indigenous peoples who first cared for the land to community gardens today, food has always been a way for us to connect with our surroundings and each other. While local food movements have exploded in recent years, including a rise in farm-to-table restaurants and farmers' markets, those resources aren’t accessible to everyone. Whether it’s cost, location, or time, the ability to grow your own food or buy locally is a privilege. As the executive director of Seedleaf, Christine Smith is trying to change that, working in her local Lexington, Ky., community to reconnect neighbors with their land in urban spaces. “I think that we’re trying to challenge where the shift hasn’t happened in terms of the local food movement to make it more diverse,” she said. “Yes, there has been a major shift. But amongst the people we serve, that shift is still being developed.” To get more people into the process of growing their own food, Smith focuses on demystifying gardening and rethinking what a garden actually looks like. “People say they don’t want to try gardening because they’ve killed a succulent before, or they don’t have any land,” she said. “So, it’s really focusing on clearing away the excuses why people feel afraid to try the act of gardening.” For many people, buying a home is out of reach. So how can you get into the garden without a yard? Recently, shared opportunities in community gardens have become more prevalent, but Smith said people can also be creative with what space they do have. “We’ve been working with people to say you might not have land now, but you do have a windowsill,” she said. “Some of you have a balcony. You can get a container on your balcony, fill it with soil, and grow potatoes. You could do coffee beans or flower gardens.” And once they have a garden going, Smith said many people aren’t sure what to do with their harvest once they’re done growing. “One of the things you find is that for new gardeners, they excitedly grow tons of tomatoes or tons of chard,” she said. “They have no idea what to do with it. Midsummer, they’re so tired of eating it that they stop tending to their garden. How can we preserve the harvest so that you’re not getting to a point where you’re sick of summer squash?”
Taking the First Step
L E F T: M E M B E R S O F T H E C O M M U N I T Y T E N D T O T H E G A R D E N S AT T H E U R B A N F O O D F O R E S T AT B R O W N S M I L L . P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O N S E R VAT I O N F U N D R I G H T: E R I C C O L L I N S , A B E E K E E P E R F O R T H E U R B A N F O O D F O R E S T AT B R O W N S M I L L A N D B E E - L A N TA . P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O N S E R VAT I O N F U N D
At Seedleaf, Smith knows that not everyone in Lexington has the resources or wants to be a farmer in order to have fresh produce, so the organization manages 11 “you pick” gardens where community members have access to fresh produce as they need it. While the gardens are open 24/7, Smith said not everyone is comfortable with that concept. “There’s this idea of property ownership, which is really hard to dislodge,” she said. “When you pass by these open garden spaces, people still feel pretty intimidated. Is this a place where we’re allowed to pick? Will we get in trouble? You could have signage for days, (but) there’s still people who are weary because in their mind, land is so tied up with one single owner. This idea of the common space is still kind of foreign.” Ultimately, the goal is to get to the point where these gardens are no longer needed. “We need to grow more growers and not just grow food,” Smith said. “How do we grow these neighbors who one day can stop coming to these gardens and instead have a garden in a container on their balcony or in their backyard?” Seedleaf offers a variety of ways to get involved with the food growing process, from beginner farming and horticultural training to summer
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programs for early teens. Attendees enrolled in the market gardener program learn the basics of growing produce for local markets. After completing the training, participants are given a plot of land to put their new skills to use. “With so much being written about our current farming crisis where many of our farmers are dying off or there’s not enough people who know how to grow food, we’re hoping that this program can show what locally grown food can look like,” Smith said. “Food grown by our community and neighbors.” It comes down to helping people get started on those first steps. Whether it’s learning how to design a garden, how to compost, or how to preserve food, it’s giving beginner gardeners the tools and resources to feel confident in their abilities. “I think it’s about encouraging creativity, telling people that this isn't rocket science,” Smith said. “They’re not going to be tested on this. You’re going to kill things. We all kill things. I’ve killed multiple things. Gardening is an act of patience and paying attention.”
Creating a Space for Community
Attending naturalist and conservation workshops, Atiya Wells found she was often one of the only S E E D L E A F M E M B E R S D O N AT E S E E D S T O A L E X I N G T O N C O M M U N I T Y CENTER. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTINE SMITH
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black participants in the class. When Wells started the community had ideas for classes she hadn’t Backyard Basecamp in 2018, she wanted to thought about. create a space that was culturally relevant for “We didn’t have any green space in our communities of color. neighborhood,” she said. “This is really what it “I found a lot of folks wanted a space that looks like for a neighborhood to really invest was for us, by us,” she said. “People were saying in itself and create a place that is missing that they wanted to have people of color leading from within. Not that somebody came into the these nature-based classes. They wanted to neighborhood and was like y’all need a park.” have somewhere close in their neighborhood. With two ponds and a forested area already Backyard Basecamp was really started to on the property, the Backyard Basecamp team reconnect communities of color to has plans to enhance the natural elements in the nature in Baltimore city and the area. The ecological design team urban spaces.” is working to make sure they are “I found a lot of folks As the idea formed and started farming in the way that the land wanted a space that was to take shape, Wells sought out a wants to move, using slopes and for us, by us,” Wells said. space where she could hold placeheavy pooling to make proper use “People were saying that based classes and community of the water stored on the property. they wanted to have people events within the city of Baltimore. “We really wanted to work in of color leading these Just a few blocks from her house, tandem with nature, not against nature-based classes. she founded what is now BLISS nature,” Wells said. “We’re not trying They wanted to have Meadows. to push anything out. We’re actually somewhere close in their Still in the second phase of trying to attract more biodiversity to neighborhood." development, BLISS (Baltimore the site.” Living in Sustainable Simplicity) is With the food-producing made up of 10 acres weaved together through elements of the property, the idea is to go beyond public and private land. Plans for the property just handing out bags of produce. Through a include trails, gardens, and orchards. A vacant community kitchen, they can use their harvest house being renovated beside the property will to teach people how to prepare healthier meals. be used for classroom space and eventually “What I’ve found is that it really does nothing to offerings could include evening storytelling or give people produce or to offer produce if they night hikes at a time when when most public parks don’t really know what to do with it,” Wells said. are usually closed. When surveying neighbors “I’m all for eating healthy, but I need to know on what they wanted to see at BLISS, Wells said what it is, and I need to know how to make it. Is
this something I’m supposed to eat raw? Am I supposed to cook it?” But the community kitchen would go a step further in providing a space for people who would have no way to prepare those meals at home if their power or gas was off. “All these things that we don’t think about as we call ourselves being helpful,” Wells said. “We don’t think about the other barriers that exist in someone else’s world for them to not live a healthier lifestyle. Some people think it’s a choice, that people are choosing not to do that. But there are a lot of systems in place that keep someone impoverished and keep someone from being healthy.” With all of the programming, BLISS Meadows is meant to be a place for people to gather and enjoy the outdoors together. Ultimately, not everyone is ready to jump right into the backcountry and take off. “It’s kind of easing them into deep nature connection by starting with gardening,” Wells said. “When you’re out there, you can see other things that might interest you.”
Revealing the Landscape
Celeste Lomax started as a volunteer for the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill in Atlanta. “I live five minutes away,” she said. “A friend was telling me about the area and brought me over here. Things were actually dying. I took care of the herb space and the garden for the first year.” Now Lomax is part of the team taking care
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of the space and engaging the local community with its resources. As someone who lives in the neighborhood, Lomax said she feels like she’s in a better position to connect with other residents about the project. “This place is a healing place,” she said. “Unity is the main thing I would want people to get out of a space like this. We still have a few people that are skeptics. We’re trying to build trust. That’s the thing we’re working on now, doing outreach.” In addition to the fruit and nut orchards, community garden plots, medicinal herb garden, and apiaries, the space is also a place for the community to gather and learn about the environment. Mario Cambardella, the former director of urban agriculture for the city of Atlanta, said creating the food forest has been an evolving process. There have been tough conversations between community members and local officials on what the role of the city should be in the space, creating guidelines and structure for the food forest, and mistakes that were made along the way. While technically a public park, team members have emphasized that the food forest was designed for community members with limited access to fresh produce. As a former African American farmstead, the seven acres the food forest is now on has actually been providing food for generations, and now as the Browns Mill project, it is part of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s goal to increase access to fresh food and food systems in the city. “The city of Atlanta is a food forest,” Cambardella said. “The food forest is all around us in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our southern Georgia landscape provides fruits and vegetables to not just us, but also birds and bees in the neighborhood. It’s really upon us to understand that food system and how that food cycle works. We only reveal the food producing landscape at Browns Mill.”
( T O P ) T H E Y O U T H T R E E T E A M W O R K S I N T H E U R B A N F O O D F O R E S T. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T R E E S AT L A N TA ( L E F T ) T H E G A R D E N S AT B L I S S M E A D O W S . P H O T O B Y AT I YA W E L L S
Ked Stanfield, director of Louisville Grows in Kentucky, sees the community garden as a way to connect people with each other and with where their food comes from. “I take the definition of a community garden literally in that the community itself has to be the primary focus, the plants being secondary,” he said. “A lot of times, the successful community gardens are the ones that have a good leadership structure and have engaged people. They help their neighbors in the garden, and then they’re more successful growing plants.” Louisville Grows helps groups establish a garden through grants and training, working with community members on how to structure job roles within the space. “A lot of times, a garden leader will take on everything.” Stanfield said. “They’re the organizer, the composter, they’re pulling weeds, and mowing grass. They get burnt out, quit, and then nobody’s there to take it over.” In 10 years, the organization has helped almost 30 gardens around the city of Louisville get started, and although some have come and
gone in that time, many are still thriving. The most successful community gardens are the ones where everyone works together, pulling their weight and enjoying the fruits of their labor. And Stanfield said success isn’t necessarily measured by the pounds of produce grown. That number doesn’t tell the full story of what a space can provide. One project Louisville Grows worked with was a collaboration between a daycare center and a garden across the street growing sweet potatoes. The kids helped start the plants, pulling the shoots, weeding, and then digging them up in the fall. At the end of the process, the group cooked the sweet potatoes with the kids, who were able
to be a part of the process from start to finish. “The way they do it carries a lot more than just, ‘hey, we grew 200 pounds of sweet potatoes,’” Stanfield said. “That’s an important thing that community gardens offer—they involve other people from the neighborhood and get them access to how food is grown.” Other gardens they support are centered around a specific neighborhood or community. At the Hope Community Farm, refugees who have relocated from East Africa to Louisville use a fiveacre plot of land to farm for a local CSA program. They can also harvest foods they’re unable to find in local grocery stores, like an heirloom eggplant that plays a large role in many East African dishes. “They use them in a lot of their cooking as a soup thickener,” Stanfield said. “A very important thing for their diet is to make these traditional dishes. You got to have these eggplants. They’re not commercially available in the U.S. Nobody grows them. They bruise easily. They’re hard to transport. They don’t last very long. This gives them a way to have that connection to their culture that they’ve lost since moving to the States.” Although community gardens may be structured differently or have diverse goals across the region, each space is meant to bring the idea of food back into the neighborhood. “We’ve lost all that knowledge of where our food actually comes from,” Stanfield said. “Community gardens can be a way of just showing people where their food comes from.” M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
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LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE 30TH INTERNATIONAL WATER TASTING BY ELLEN KANZINGER
ater is an essential resource that's often taken for granted. Turn on the kitchen faucet, you have water to drink. Turn on the shower head, you have water to bathe. Turn on the washing machine, you have water to clean your clothes. But when something goes wrong, you start to pay attention to where that water is coming from and who controls it. At the time 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked from the storage container at Freedom Industries into the Elk River on January 9, 2014, Cathy Kunkel was working in Charleston, W.Va. She remembers she had just sat down for dinner with a friend, when the do not drink notice came in. Although the spill happened earlier that morning, West Virginia American Water, a private water utility company, did not notify its customers that their water was contaminated until that evening. The Elk River supplies water to more than 300,000 residents in West Virginia, or about 16 percent of the state’s population. “They could have decided to close off the intake for some amount of time, let the plum of pollution pass by, and then try to reopen it,” Kunkel said. “They made the decision to keep the intake open and hope their filters could handle it. And then the filters couldn’t.” T H E W O R L D - F A M O U S 3 0 T H I N T E R N AT I O N A L WAT E R TA S T I N G T O O K P L A C E I N W E S T V I R G I N I A I N F E B R U A R Y. P H O T O B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N
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Have a Big Vacation in a Small Town
BigVistas hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail along the highest peaks of the Smokies
Big Moments hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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3/31/20 5:40 PM
his is what I think about as I sit down at the 30th International Water Tasting in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., this past February. When I first agreed to be a judge for the largest water tasting competition in the world, I thought this would be a fun and unique event to look back on, even if I didn’t fully understand what to do. After all, how do you rank the best-tasting water, a drink that doesn’t always have a discernible taste? And memorable it certainly was. I learned how to judge water by appearance, smell, mouthfeel, and taste, something I didn’t think was possible until I sampled more than 60 waters from across the country and the world. By the end I was so overly hydrated that over the course of the tasting, I had gone to the bathroom eight times in eight hours. But as I sat at the Country Inn of Berkeley Springs in a quaint rural spa town and drank from each glass, tasting waters in the municipal, purified, non-carbonated, and sparkling categories, I couldn’t help but think about what a privilege it is to have access to clean drinking water. I thought about the J U D G E S TA S T E D WAT E R S A M P L E S I N F O U R C AT E G O R I E S — M U N I C I P A L , P U R I F I E D , N O N - C A R B O N AT E D , A N D S PA R L I N G . P H O T O B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N
people of Flint, Michigan, and the crisis to where their water is coming from. It was sobering to that began in 2014 when dangerous Water utilities face a number of sip some of the best problems, including weak source levels of lead were found in the city’s water in the world, protection plans, lack of financing water supply, and the sad fact that six years later, residents are still feeling for infrastructure improvements, while reflecting the effects, as not all of the lead pipes on the reality that groundwater overuse, and long-term have been replaced and distrust of water supply availability. cities and regions officials is still high. “The lead issue still has not been across the country addressed,” I also thought about my hometown Shipe said. “And here we and the world still are now dealing with PFAS on top of of Wilmington, N.C., where many exist where clean residents, including much of my family, lead. There are a lot of issues. They get their water from the Cape Fear water is not a given. [water utilities] have to face reality, River. A Chemours plant polluted the be transparent, and tell the American river for years with GenX, one of over public what’s going on. That’s the 4,800 PFAS chemicals used in a variety biggest thing that needs to be done, of products and services that doesn’t break down the leadership. People don’t want to step up under normal environmental processes. anymore because of the political suicide. Because It was sobering to sip some of the best water in water is a big deal.” the world, while reflecting on the reality that many This means citizens need to be extra vigilant places still exist where clean water is not a given. about what is in their water, asking questions of And I learned from others in attendance what needs their local leaders and water authorities. “What to be done to protect safe access to the precious are the levels?” Shipe said. “How often are you natural resource. sampling? How are we going to pay for all these At the event, presenter Scott Shipe, founder of projects? How clean do you want the water? You Water Advocacy, urged citizens to pay attention should be disclosing that kind of intelligence.” M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
he two chemicals that leaked into the Elk River in 2014, MCHM and PPH, are used to process coal. The treatment plant lacked the proper testing equipment because the parent company, American Water, had it removed in 2004, saying it was too expensive to maintain. While workers that winter day couldn’t determine the exact concentration levels of the chemical, they could smell the licorice odor coming from the water signaling something wasn’t right. With limited water stored in the tanks, the whole system would have gone dry in a few hours if they shut off the intake. Customers would then have to wait for the system to re-pressurize before getting back up and running. But with water still running through the system, some residents were using water they didn’t know was contaminated. Once the water supply was shut off, some residents and businesses went more than a week without running water. In the wake of the leak, residents began digging into the truth about their water supply as the water company continued to bill them for the contaminated water. “After we were meeting and talking about the billing issues, we started to ask a lot more questions about the water utility's preparedness,” said Kunkel, who was also a presenter at the tasting competition and spent time at the event raising awareness for how her community was affected after the leak. “Why T H E P U B L I C WA S A L S O I N V I T E D T O TA S T E T H E WAT E R S A M P L E S D U R I N G T H E C O M P E T I T I O N . P H O T O B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N
A M U N I C I PA L WAT E R E N T R Y. P H O T O B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N
hadn’t they shut off the intake? Why did they not know what was stored a half mile upstream?” As they were asking these questions, a group of local citizens, including Kunkel, eventually formed Advocates for a Safe Water System to get more answers on what went wrong that day. “People’s lives were totally turned upside down,” Kunkel said. “People were going to visit relatives outside of the area to do their laundry. People were going to stay in hotels outside of the area so they could take showers to go to work the next day. The National Guard was setting up these big tankers full of water around the area where people would stand in line for hours to get water. It was really disruptive.”
The group successfully lobbied the Public Service Commission to look into Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water, an investigation that would drag on for three years. They also advocated for stricter government oversight on source water protection plans and regulating above ground storage tanks. In the immediate aftermath of the leak, the West Virginia Legislature passed strong environmental legislation regulating water utilities and potential pollutants. “The source water protection plan requires the water utility to inventory what kind of facilities are located upstream and what could potentially contaminate the water system,” Kunkel said. “That has remained pretty much intact. But the
other part of the legislation was regulating above ground storage tanks like the one that had spilled, regulating what could be stored within a certain distance of water system intakes. That’s what has been continually rolled back pretty much every legislative session since then, mainly because the oil and gas industry has a lot of above ground storage tanks.”
unkel and others in her community are continuing to push for stricter water safety regulations and improved infrastructure to protect municipal supplies, because, as evidenced in Charleston, Flint, Wilmington, and many other places, when disaster strikes it’s the citizens who rely on the water coming out of their faucets who suffer. “We’re seeing a lot of crumbling smaller water systems, especially in rural areas that just don’t have the money to reinvest in treatment capabilities or replacing old pipes,” Kunkel said. “They can’t do that without massively raising rates to unaffordable levels. We need a renewed federal commitment to federal investment in safe drinking water infrastructure and wastewater infrastructure.” Contact your local water authority to find out what is being done to protect your water source. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group’s website for a variety of water related topics. Use your zip code in their Tap Water Database for more specifics about contaminants found in your water source.
GREAT WEEKEND MTB BIKEPACKING TRIPS PHOTO BY CHRIS HUNT
B Y E R I C J . WA L L A C E
THE SOUTHEAST OFFERS FANTASTIC OVERNIGHT MOUNTAIN BIKING EXPERIENCES. T H E S E U S E R - F R I E N D LY W E E K E N D R O U T E S A R E S O M E O F T H E R E G I O N ’ S B E S T. love the scenic immersion of long-distance backpacking—the isolated vistas and pristine ecosystems, the wildlife, the backcountry camping along walks less traveled. Yet I often end up fixating: ‘Wouldn’t these trails be great by mountain bike?’ Spot a flowy downhill run and I’m consumed by the need to thrash. It gets unbearable, quick. Seeking resolution led me to mountain bikepacking. On one hand, it’s about trekking into beautiful wild areas in the middle of nowhere and sleeping under the stars, but getting to the remote destination includes some righteous shredding along the way. Here we round up a trio of superlative user-friendly routes in the Blue Ridge. Each blends MTB rippers with awesome camping and backcountry experiences.
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
Stokesville 60K Loop MOUNT SOLON, VIRGINIA
Background: A 20-plus-year partnership between what is now the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition and the U.S. Forest Service has transformed the North River District of the George Washington National Forest into a mountain biking haven. Most trails were either purpose-built for bikes or retooled accordingly. Expect one of—if not the—best non lift-assisted systems in the state. Riding the Stokesville 60K route ensures a smooth, action-packed experience. Bonus: With lower trailheads located just 15 miles west of Interstate 81 and less than 20 miles from the city of Harrisonburg, access is incredibly convenient.
Scenery: This section of the Shenandoah Mountain Range is highly rural and backs onto the border of West Virginia. Routes carry you into the Alleghany Mountains and some of the highest MTB terrain in the state. Peaks at Reddish Knob, for instance, bring about 4,400 feet of elevation—and panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley. Dense forest abounds. It includes one of the last remaining stands of mature Canadian hemlocks in the Southeast. The Ride: Expect a hit-parade of about 40 miles of the area’s top trails interspersed by occasional gravel connectors. While there are some long climbs, efforts are rewarded with beautiful ridgelines and long, fast, and flowy descents. For instance, Tillman West brings 2.1 miles of modernized downhill thrills with loads of berms, rollers, and jumps. Parts of the Wild Oak Trail
Stay Safe, Stay Distant
While mountain biking has been a great solo activity for many during the pandemic, we ask that you respect all state and federal orders in regards to stay-at-home measures and accessing public lands. Certain locations in these itineraries may be restricted, so please verify, and perhaps save them for later this summer, when we’ll hopefully once again be safely free to explore.
(LEFT) FOREST SERVICE ROADS NEAR REDDISH KNOB IN T H E G E O R G E WA S H I N G T O N N AT I O N A L F O R E S T. P H O T O BY JESS DADDIO, COURTESY OF THE TRANSVIRGINIA TRAIL. (RIGHT) PHOTO BY LEON MCCARRON, COURTESY OF THE TRANSVIRGINIA TRAIL.
offer quick drops and rocky, technical sections. Camping: Pitch a tent trailside throughout most of the riding area. Some well-established sites can be found on Reddish, Bother, and Flagpole knobs. Alternatively, the loop is designed to begin and end at the Stokesville Campground. Situated on the edge of the national forest on the banks of the North River, it’s a great basecamp for exploration. Learn More: For trail maps and other information, visit svbcoalition.org.
Blackwater Falls to Canaan Valley Resort State Park WEST VIRGINIA
Background: Both state parks are staples of the West Virginia MTB scene and feature prominent trail networks. Both are surrounded by the Monongahela National Forest. Connect the two by way of a roughly five-mile segment of the 330-mile-long Allegheny Trail. The latter passes over the remote, high plateau of the Canaan Mountain Backcountry area, bringing 4,100-plus-foot peaks and a range of interesting habitats. Scenery: In the 2,358-acre Blackwater Falls State Park, its namesake river drops about 60 feet at the head of Blackwater Canyon. The relatively littlevisited national forest backcountry brings isolated high-elevation Appalachian red spruce forests and seasonal wetland areas that, during early spring and 42
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
summer, attract rare species of migratory birds—like colorful cerulean warblers and red crossbill. The Ride: Pick your poison. For those that like to go big, starting at Blackwater offers an epic 38-mile loop combining trails in the park and the adjacent national forest. Known as the Rattlesnake, it’s based on the 2012 course of a longstanding annual race. (Luckily, shortening it is easy.) Cap off a day of riding with camping along the Allegheny Trail. From there, proceed to Canaan Valley Resort park, which added six miles of modern, machine-built flow trails—and a pump track—in 2019. Camping: Options abound. You can nab a primitive site in either park, or pitch a tent between the two in the national forest. The former will run you $17 or $35, respectively. The latter is free. Learn More: For more info, including maps, visit the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association website, wvmba.com.
Upper Pinhoti Trail NORTH GEORGIA
Background: The northernmost portion of the 335mile Pinhoti National Recreation Trail offers some of the region’s best mountain biking. Access begins in the southern fringes of the Cohutta Mountains, about 13 miles from the small-town MTB outpost of Ellijay. Scenery: Trails are almost entirely surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. They deliver riders into densely wooded backcountry areas characterized
by 2,000 to 3,500-foot ridgelines and vistas, mountain streams, rhododendron thickets, hemlock forests, and more. The Ride: The prize run is a roughly 43-mile-long stretch that combines eight MTB trails by way of brief stints on forest roads and one annoying, but ultimately worth it, hike-a-bike. Start with the incredibly remote five-mile-long Mountain Creek trail on the periphery of the 36,977-acre Cohutta Wilderness. From there, it’s on to trails like Bear Creek, Pinhoti 1-5, and Dennis Mill, which end on the outskirts of the town of Chatsworth. Along the way, you’ll pass through Fort Mountain State Park. Trails are maintained by, among other organizations, the Northeast Georgia chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association. Look forward to loads of contemporary fast and flowy fun. However, creek crossings, technical sections, and climbs are found throughout. Camping: Riders can pitch a tent trailside essentially anywhere in the national forest. That said, there are a few prohibited areas, all of which are marked. For those seeking post-ride amenities, the Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way is located about 10 miles into the ride. Sites in their primitive campground run $19 a night. Facilities include a store (with craft beer), bath house and restaurant. They also offer shuttles, from $10. Learn More: Get trail-related info, maps and more from mulberrygap.com.
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Visit the newest national marine sanctuary Mallows
O PE N FO R
GHOS T HUNTE R S
Bay, aka The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay. This new marine sanctuary protects the remains of more than 100 abandoned steamships and vessels built as part of American’s engagement in World War I. Located along an 18-square mile stretch of the Potomac River coast in Charles County, MD. Sunday guided kayak tours are led by an experienced and knowledgeable guide. No experience is necessary, and the pace is very relaxed. Kayak tours are open to participants eight years of age and older.
OCTOBER 2–4, 2020 PLUS A SPECIAL “STEAL YOUR THURSDAY”
LINEUP TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON
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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
The New Classics WEEKS OF SOCIAL DISTANCING HAVE MADE US ALL A BIT STIR CRAZY. NEVER FEAR, THESE NEW ITERATIONS OF CLASSIC OUTDOOR GEAR WILL GET YOU ON THE PATHS, TRAILS, LAKES, AND STREAMS CLOSE TO HOME WHERE YOU CAN SAFELY AND RESPONSIBLY LET OUT SOME STEAM. B Y D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N
this steed and a componentry package that includes HED Tomcat tubeless rims that can handle a range of tires make it even more versatile. $3,000; diamondback.com
Oru Kayak Inlet If you face limited storage in your house and vehicle, kayaking seems out of the question. Hold it right there, because Oru specializes in “origami kayaks,” which pack down to fit in tight spots and fold out to get you on the water. Take the new Inlet: This beginner’s flat water boat weighs just 20 pounds and will hold 275 pounds of paddler plus gear, and it all breaks down into a neat 42”-by-19”-by-10” traveling box. $899; orukayak.com
Orvis Women’s PRO Wader Fly fishing is the perfect social distancing activity: Everyone wants their own personal space on the water away from other anglers. Breathable and super-tough, these waders can handle a wide range of temperatures on the water as well as rambling around off trail to find the right spot. Best of all, they come in a wide range of sizes for a fit that feels a bit stylish. A waterproof front pocket to hold essentials and fleece-lined hand warmer pockets seal the deal. The mens’ version is just as good. $498; orvis.com
Diamondback Haanjo 7C Carbon This multi-tasker of a ride can handle anything from a casual cyclocross race to a training ride to a day-long spin up into the hills—ideal for these times when you may be limited to adventure out your door. The carbon frame and fork are light, tough, and put you in the perfect position to comfortably hammer out long miles on pavement, gravel, and dirt. Endurance geometry and a relaxed headtube angle make it easy to spend long hours cranking
Nomader Bottle There are plenty of water bottles out there, but the smart, packable Nomader puts a new spin on the outdoor essential. This soft, BPA-free bottle rolls up to fist size when empty, making it simple to stash in a pack or in your crowded cupboard. A locking screw top makes it easy to drink out of on the go and prevents spills while it's in your pack. We are looking forward to taking it backpacking when we get back out in the woods. Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty. $25; nomader.com The North Face Ultra Traction Futurelight Futurelight is The North Face’s answer to Gore-Tex, a lightweight, super-breathable membrane that the brand spent a long time developing and claims is lighter and more effective. Put it to the test yourself in these spry, 10.6-ounce trail runners with a lug pattern that features alternating heights between 3.5 mm and 4 mm that will eat up slick rocks and roots. They are the perfect vehicle to run off your cabin fever no matter
P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F O R U K AYA K
the conditions out there. $155; thenorthface.com
Vasque Breeze All-Terrain GTX The new classic when it comes to a hiker needs to be a boot that has all the beef of a traditional backpacking shoe but none of the bulk, weight, and break-in time. Voila. Weighing in at two pounds, 11 ounces, this surprisingly light boot can tackle the nastiest of trails thanks to a leather upper and Gore-Tex membrane that sheds slop. Meanwhile, the sticky Vibram MegaGrip outsole breezes up scree and talus but also feels right at home when you are cruising on hard-packed dirt. It’s a boot that will stand up to big trips but feels just fine out on a casual hike. $190; vasque.com
Camelbak Octane 25 Even as we recover, the COVID-19 era has forced us to seek out responsible adventures that are close to home and far from other people. This light (one-pound, six-ounce) hydration pack proves the perfect companion whether you are hiking, bushwhacking, or off on an adventure run. The bladder holds 70 ounces of water and the pack can haul a jacket, lunch, and other essentials. $145; camelbak.com M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
This is Lynchburg.
Please check the status of these upcoming events:
Storming Thunder Ridge Bicycle Ride ~ May 17 James River Batteau Festival ~ June 20-27 LOCKN’ Music Festival ~ June 19-21
We look forward to seeing you … a little later During this time of refrained travel, we encourage you to keep those plans you made to visit LYH but change the dates to later this summer or fall. Lynchburg’s beautiful scenery will still be here, our chefs will be waiting to serve you their latest creations, and our must-see sites and attractions will be ready to welcome you with tales of historic moments and adventurous activities. Stay Safe ~ Stay Healthy!
Enjoy #UniquelyAlleghany beauty on Lake Moomaw & the Jackson River. #VaMountains
Plan your Uniquely Alleghany getaway at VisitAlleghanyHighlands.com
540-962-2178 · 888-430-5786 · #UniquelyAlleghany
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
AGE AND ADVENTURE
MITCHELL AND ME RETURNING TO THE MOUNTAIN HURTS LIKE HELL
BY WILL HARLAN
I WAS AFRAID TO GO BACK. YEARS AGO, I had spent my darkest, loneliest hours training and testing my limits on Mount Mitchell—the highest peak in the East. And for five straight years, I had run—and won—the Mount Mitchell Challenge—a 40-mile winter race to the top of Mount Mitchell. Some years, knee-deep snow and thick sheets of ice coated the trails. One year, torrential rain flooded the course. Even in the worst weather, though, I knew that I had not fully faced the mountain. I had always ascended Mitchell from the west, where the climb is gradual. But there is another, meaner path to the top of Mount Mitchell from the opposite direction: the Black Mountain Crest Trail. It starts east of Mount Mitchell and climbs 3,000 feet in the first four miles. Then it rollercoasters steeply across five summits over 6,000 feet and ends atop Mitchell. The entire trail is only 12 miles, but it’s earned the moniker of Toughest Trail in Appalachia. It had been over a decade since I had raced up Mount Mitchell. I was no longer the young, child-free, debt-free twentysomething who won the race five times. I was now a middle-aged dad with a wife, a mortgage, and a partially torn Achilles tendon. I had not returned to the summit of Mitchell since my last race in 2008. I had left everything out there on the trails that day and never looked back. I wanted the mountain to remember me at my best. But earlier this year my friend Sam dared me to run the Black Mountain Crest Trail with him. Sam is the most talented all-around outdoor adventurer I know: he wins mountain bike races, paddles the region’s rowdiest whitewater creeks, climbs iconic routes, and runs the region’s toughest trails. How could I say no to a guy like him?
FOLLOWING A TOUGH SUMMIT PUSH, T H E A U T H O R TA K E S I N S T U N N I N G SURROUNDING VIEWS. PHOTO COURTESY OF WILL HARLAN
Sam was planning an out-andback on the Black Mountain Crest Trail—around 25 miles. It was less than a marathon. I had run much longer distances. But the truth was: the trail scared the shit out of me. So did returning to Mitchell. I was afraid to see how age had diminished that younger version of myself. I had a choice: I could keep those shiny memories polished, or I could risk tarnishing them with an old-man DNF. I had plenty of excuses not to go: injury, work, kids. I almost bailed that morning on the way to meet Sam. But I couldn’t let him down, or myself. I arrived at the trailhead, where Sam was waiting. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said, and bounded up the trail. We began a steep ascent that instantly sucked all the oxygen out of my body. My lungs burned, my head fogged, and lactic acid scorched my legs. Clearly, I wasn’t the same runner from years ago. I was already thinking about turning back. Sam glided up the trail, chattering away. I sputtered one-word responses and tried to hide my gasps for air as we climbed to the shoulder of Celo Knob. From there, vistas revealed the five jagged peaks we would climb on our way to the distant summit of Mitchell. The boulder-strewn trail contorted
and jackknifed along the razor-sharp ridgeline. At times, the trail was so steep that climbing ropes were needed to scramble up sheer rock faces. We slogged to the summits of 6,000-foot peaks—Winter Star Mountain, Potato Hill, Balsam Cone, Big Tom, and Mount Craig—and then stumbled steeply down them. On the descents, Sam deftly picked his lines through granite teeth and ankle-twisting rock gardens, and I wobbled along behind him. For most of the way, we were cloaked in the darkness of spruce forest—until finally we spilled out into the sunlight of Mount Mitchell’s parking lot. Years before, I had sprinted this final stretch to the summit and bolted back down the mountain, eager to chase down competitors. This time, I paused for a few panoramic minutes to soak it all in: mountain melting into sky, ragged clouds, the bare quiet. There I was—standing atop that summit again—a shadow of my former self. I tried to remember what it felt like to be young, fast, and free. But all I could feel was the wind, weathering me and the 500-million-year-old mountain beneath my feet. Still, it felt good to be there. I was okay with not being young anymore. Even in my forties, I could still push my limits and dig deep. The contest had always been within. I scanned the
other side of the mountain and spotted the path I had once raced down. Those races never really mattered to anyone but me, I realized. And the only thing that endured was the resolve to keep going, no matter what. Those memories were long gone, and it was time to make new ones. Sam and I began the rugged 12-mile return trip. I felt a bit lighter— but maybe that was because I had guzzled most of the water in my pack. I relaxed into the run and savored the time with Sam. Most of all, I cherished the mountain—and all the peaks and valleys it had given me. I would have to make the most of the moments I had left up here, running across the sky. And it was time to start sharing them with my two boys, who might someday climb this mountain and ascend to even greater heights. Parched and punished, Sam and I silently soldiered through the final miles. It would take everything we had to make it back to the trailhead before sunset. There were no crowds waiting for us at the finish. And that was just fine with me. Breathless once more in the shadow of Mitchell, I had stopped chasing the kid I once was, and I had started becoming the man I didn’t think I could be.
M AY 2 0 2 0 | B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M
WITH SO MUCH LIFEBLOOD touring income lost in the last two months, the time to buy a physical album from your favorite band is now. It’s no secret that for musicians streaming income doesn’t pay the bills, so while that model unfairly is what it is, independent bands need direct support from fans through the purchase of records and merchandise. Here, we highlight some stellar new releases from artists that could use the support—acts that usually make a living through the nightly grind of playing clubs across the country.
We Need Music and Musicians Need Our Help BY JEDD FERRIS
“LP5” The past two months have been filled with brainscrambling what-ifs, but John Moreland puts the futility of worrying in perspective in “A Thought Is Just a Passing Train.” The meditative headbobber—full of comforting wisdom—is a standout on an album that’s an optimistic career breakthrough for the introspective Tulsa-based tunesmith. His raspy-voiced ruminations often evoke Springsteen, if he’d been raised on Red Dirt, and with help from producer/ multi-instrumentalist John Calvin Abney he’s found an atmospheric, slightly experimental space for his words to linger. Among mystical, airy arrangements, Moreland comes to grips with self-acceptance in songs like “Let Me Be Understood” and offers welcome solace in uncertain times.
“St. Cloud” Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield made some big life changes—getting sober and moving to Kansas City—on the way to making her stunning new album “St. 48
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
Cloud.” With the self-care comes a sweetly reshuffled sound that sheds some of the vintage fuzz of past efforts in favor of soulful, country-hued Americana arrangements that intentionally draw on her admiration of Lucinda Williams and Linda Ronstadt. The shift goes extremely well with Crutchfield’s usual soul-baring lyrics, as personal revelations patiently unfurl with intimate details (“Can’t Do Much”) and idyllic imagery (“Lilacs”).
“Better Hurry Up” North Carolina native Caleb Caudle fully embraced the vibe of his new home in Tennessee while making his latest album “Better Hurry Up,” which was released on April 3. To follow up 2018’s heartfelt indie-folk effort “Crushed Coins,” Caudle recorded his new effort at Johnny Cash’s rural Cash Cabin Studio, soaking in the lore of the Man in Black and enlisting an all-star cast of guests to contribute, including Elizabeth Cook, John Paul White, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Willie Nelson’s harmonica ace Mickey Raphael. The latter makes his presence felt in the joyous “Let’s Get,” a buoyant country-funk jam that exemplifies the album’s main sonic realm—loose, soulful roots-rock that recalls the vintage heydays of Little Feat and Leon Russell. With eight albums to his credit, Caudle is a prolific songwriter who specializes in down-home sentiments and has found a sound that suits him.
“Walking Proof” Guest appearances are also plentiful on “Walking Proof,” the upcoming album from twangy roots-rocker Lily Hiatt. The follow-up to the lauded breakout effort “Trinity Lane” features appearances
CALEB CAUDLE (PICTURED) RELEASED HIS N E W A L B U M , " B E T T E R H U R R Y U P, " I N APRIL. PHOTO BY MIKE DUNN
by Amanda Shires, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and her dad, ace Americana tunesmith John Hiatt. The record, produced by former Cage the Elephant member Lincoln Parish, is full of personal introspection, with Hiatt using gritty country-rock to make sense of her struggles with sobriety and her mother’s suicide. The positive message on standouts like the distorted lead single “Brightest Star” shows that Hiatt has been coming out on the right side of strife—inspiration for all of us navigating a new reality.
Hiss Golden Messenger
“Forward, Children" Once the moniker for singer-songwriter MC Taylor to release lo-fi folk tunes, Hiss Golden Messenger has evolved into an electrifying live band with songs extended and enhanced by gritty guitar breaks and soulful piano runs. A document of the group’s stellar growth from hard touring came unexpectedly in late March with the surprise live album “Forward, Children,” recorded just months earlier at a hometown show in North Carolina. The effort is full of uplifting versions of staples from Taylor’s back catalog, including “Southern Grammar” and “Red Rose Nantahala,” and a peak moment comes during the poignant crowd sing-along during “Heart Like a Levee,” a reminder of music’s unifying power. While physical copies of the live set aren’t available, Taylor released the album on Bandcamp, and he’s donating all proceeds to the Durham Public Schools Foundation in support of where his kids are educated and his wife works. “It’s my duty as a dad of students and the spouse of a teacher,” Taylor says, “to give what I can.”
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Travel in Virginia has always been about doing the things you love with the people you love most. For now, we’re sharing that love from a distance. But we look forward to the day when you can visit again - and we’ll be here when you’re ready. virginia.org
Blue Ridge Outdoors May 2020