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MADE IN THE BLUE RIDGE | GREEN RACE RUCKUS | GIRL GUIDE OCTOBER 2013

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Autumn

Adventures EIGHT WAYS TO GET YOUR FOLIAGE FIX

Get It Done MEET THE FIRST GREAT EASTERN TRAIL THRU-HIKERS

‘ROID RAGE LEGALIZE PEDs?

KIRK SMASHES A.T. RECORD EASY OVERNIGHT

PADDLING TRIPS


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Everyone has a story to tell when it comes to outdoor adventure. There was the time you broke your femur being towed by a snowmobile on a backcountry ski trip. The time you fell in love with that river guide. The time you led a climb that had scared you for years. The time you reconnected with your dad. The time you puked up that gallon of ice cream on the trail. But the best stories are in the telling. What did it mean? How did it change you? Here’s your chance to tell us... and the world. How does it work? Just submit your outdoor essay at blueridgeoutdoors.com for a chance to win a Deuter pack and have your story featured by BRO.

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What’s your favorite spot to check out fall colors?

laurenwalker Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, Va., is hard to beat.

E D I TO R I A L EDITOR IN CHIEF WILL HARLAN will@blueridgeoutdoors.com SENIOR EDITOR JEDD FERRIS jedd@blueridgeoutdoors.com

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ONLINE EDITOR JACK MURRAY jack@blueridgeoutdoors.com

Bicycle riding on the C&O Canal Towpath between Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Md.

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peterbarr Any fire tower in the Southern Appalachians, but the Yellow Mountain Lookout in the Nantahala National Forest is my favorite for leaf peeping.

nicknoe Anywhere that’s not on the ground in my backyard.

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johnnymolloy Gregory Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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ON THE COVER: Biking across a creek in Pisgah National Forest, N.C. © Steven McBride/stevenmcbride.com

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chrisgragtmans The Green River Gorge, N.C. Fall means nervous energy for the Green Race.

willharlan Stratton Bald in the KilmerSlickrock Wilderness, N.C. Big trees, big color.

dustyallison Hiking along the rugged Blue Ridge Escarpment of the Jocassee Gorges region, S.C.


OCTOBER 2013

What a perfec t time to visit. Yo u should join us.

Love, Virginia

features 18 THE NEXT A.T.

38 BIRD’S EYE VIEW

Meet the first thru-hikers of The Great Eastern Trail, a new 1,600mile footpath from Alabama to New York.

A newbie hang glider takes her first flying lessons.

25 ADVENTURE PALETTE

A father leads a hike in Shenandoah with his autistic son.

Soak in the color spilling down the mountains by boat, boot, boulder, or bike.

31 GREEN RACE RUCKUS Is the country’s premier downriver event allowing too many rookies to take lifethreatening risks?

41 A HIKE WORTH TALKING ABOUT

43 NO RUSH Take it easy on an overnight paddle along the new French Broad River Trail, or choose from four other scenic stretches of river.

departments Should performance-enhancing drugs be legalized?

hike record / Friberg SUPs Cuba to Florida / Day in the life of a raft guide

8 THE DIRT

16 THE GOODS

Black bear breaks into zoo / Dolphin deaths / Supersized South / Breathtaking skydive stunt

Made in the Blue Ridge

6 switchback

11 TRAILHEAD

46 TRAIL MIX Nora Jane Struthers’ acoustic carnival.

800-933-PARK (7275) | www.virginiastateparks.gov

Kirk sets unsupported A.T. thruBRO_Oct_2013.indd 1

OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com 8/29/2013

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9:15:00 AM


Should performance-enhancing drugs be legalized? Compiled by Devan Boyle

YES In theory, banning doping prevents athletes from taking unfair shortcuts and keeps sports on a level playing field. In reality, these bans have done less to protect fairness and punish rule-breakers and more to discourage athletes from reaching the highest levels of success. Lance Armstrong, the face of doping to many, is an example of the flawed logic behind bans. Yes, Armstrong had an advantage because of his illegal activities. But is it really an unfair advantage if the majority of your competitors are also using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)? According to Business Insider, 20 out of 21 top three Tour de France finishers from 1999 to 2005 were taking PEDs, and 36 of 45 top three finishers from 1996 to 2010 were also doping. While “everybody’s doing it” might not fly in a kindergarten classroom, sports can and should have an internal standard of behavior. The current bans simply don’t work, and keep rule-following athletes from being competitve with their peers. Sports are constantly evolving. Walter Payton wasn’t training with world-class coaches in state-of-the-art facilities when he dominated. Babe Ruth wasn’t drinking Gatorade or using creatine when he amazed his fans. We don’t ban the advantages that modern day athletes have over their predecessors, and that attitude of progress should apply across the board. Getting a better night’s sleep can enhance performance. Eating a healthy breakfast, taking vitamins and supplements, training harder or simple genetic advantages—there are countless factors that contribute to sports being “unfair.” But that’s the whole point of competition. How many people would have cared about the Tour de France without Armstrong’s stunning feats? Before failing a drug test in 2006, Shawne Merriman was in highlight reel upon highlight reel during his 2005 season as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Who can deny the excitement of 1998’s recordbreaking MLB home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? Recently busted Alex Rodriguez is a career .300 hitter with 647 career homeruns, a 14 time all-star, a 3 time AL MVP and a World Series Champion. We can continue the trend of handwringing and hysteria, with one doping scandal after another, further embarrassing the field of professional athletics – or we can legalize and regulate performing-enhancing drugs to the benefit of sports and sports fans alike. Let’s do ourselves and our athletes a service by allowing them to perform at their best. Mac McCann is a columnist for The Horn at the University of Texas-Austin.

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WADE MICKLEY

switchback

re a d er f or u m

No Americans love high performance and we love technology. Why, then, do we get our knickers in a twist when professional athletes—think Lance Armstrong or A-Rod—turn out to have achieved their great feats with a boost from performance-enhancing drugs and other banned technologies? Not everyone turns up their nose when a high-profile athlete dopes. Some offer excuses: the pressure to perform is overwhelming, and the rewards are too tempting to resist. We allow special diets, scientifically optimized training, and novel equipment, so why ban drugs, or, in Lance’s case, bags of whole blood? Aren’t they all just technologies intended to produce outstanding performances? In some sports in some eras, nearly every competitor was doping: how else could an athlete have a shot at winning? That last argument—everyone does it, so I’m just leveling the pharmaceutical playing field—provides half of the answer. When I first asked elite athletes more than thirty years ago why drugs were being used, the answer was unequivocal: Whatever reservations you might have, no one wants to give up a competitive advantage, especially to someone who might not be as talented or dedicated as you but can get enough of an edge from drugs to beat you. That story of a drug race spiraling ever upwards, much as the arms race drove nations

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to build more and deadlier weapons, is one of the best reasons to ban doping in sports. It doesn’t end with the pros either. Amateur athletes, including high school and perhaps younger participants, look to their heroes for examples of how to succeed in sport. If doping was allowed, we could expect nonelite athletes to pursue the latest advances in performance enhancing drugs just as they buy the latest running shoes, bikes, or tennis rackets. In no universe is this a healthy development. Pros and those who emulate them will be driven to use drugs in doses and combinations no scientist has ever studied. Doping in pro sports is a useful prod that forces us to ask what sport is all about anyway? Why do we play? When we see an exceptional performance, when we experience one of those moments of grace and excellence in ourselves, what makes it so special? If excellence in sport is the intersection of talent and dedication, as I believe, then drugs distort and distract. Our shared understanding of the meaning and value of sport will determine whether doping should continue to be banned. That decision is up to all of us. Thomas Murray is the president emeritus of the Hastings Center, a non-profit bioethics research institute.

what do you think? Join the drug debate at blueridgeoutdoors.com


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OUTDOOR NEWS

thedirt

BEYOND THE BLUE RIDGE

Black Bear Likes Leftover Chinese Food Ketchum, Idaho

In late summer, David Edwards woke up one morning at 3 a.m. to his dog Stanley barking. When he entered his kitchen, he found a black bear on his hind legs holding a pan with leftover Chinese food and enjoying its remnants. Edwards quickly decided to move his wife, who had fallen asleep on the couch in a nearby room. After relocating his better half to a safe area, Edwards went back to the kitchen to find that the bear had fled after licking the pan completely clean.

Semester on the A.T. Emory, Va.

Many college students get to spend a semester studying in Europe or Asia. Students at Emory and Henry College in southwest Virginia can now get credit for spending a semester thruhiking the Appalachian Trail. The school’s Semester-A-Trail program gives adventurous students the opportunity to hike the entire 2,200mile trail from Georgia to Maine—an endeavor that typically takes four to six months—while remaining enrolled at school. Students are eligible to attempt a thru-hike starting in the spring of their sophomore year, after completing Physical Education 164: Hiking/Backpacking with a grade of B or better. Students also put their time on the trail to scholastic use, incorporating it with studies in ecotourism, human physiology, water quality, wellness, and photography.

Black Bear Breaks into Zoo Knoxville, Tenn.

Over the summer, a black bear was spotted after breaking into the Knoxville Zoo. The loose bear was seen by a zoo employee, who then did a count of all the zoo’s bears and realized none were missing. The bear apparently climbed a 10-foot, chain-link fence that wraps around the zoo perimeter. After realizing the bear was an outsider, staff officials searched the zoo property but soon realized the visitor left the way it came. Black bears are relatively common in the city near the Smokies, so officials released a statement hoping the bear found its way back to a more rural area.

East Coast Dolphin Deaths Virginia Beach, Va.

The coast of Virginia was home to a large number of dolphin deaths this summer in the Atlantic from the Commonwealth up to New

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York. Over160 dead dolphins washed up on Virginia shores in a one-month period between late July and late August, including 24 in one tragic weekend. Experts suspected the cause could be a virus similar to an outbreak that killed hundreds of dolphins back in 1987. Susan Barco, a researcher at the Virginia Aquarium, said the dolphins had respiratory lesions and were noticeably thin.

Big Bucks for the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, N.C. The old school TV telethon still works. Back in late August, outdoor enthusiasts raised more than $200,000 for their local national park during the annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon. The yearly event takes place on local television stations in Knoxville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C., raising money to help the nonprofit Friends of the Smokies lead improvement projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The funds will be focused on trail work, education programs, and fighting the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid.

Supersized South Parkersburg, W.Va.

Bad news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently released a report from its Atlanta headquarters stating 30 percent of adults in 13 states were obese. The list includes Tennessee, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Kentucky. Dr. George Bray, an obesity expert at Louisiana State University, told the AP that poverty is the key factor in regional obesity rates, saying, “When you have a limited income, you have to buy foods that are cheap. And foods that are cheap tend to have a lot of sugar and salt and fat.” On a national level, nearly 28 percent of Americans were found to be obese—a stat that has remained the same since 2008.

New PCT Hike Record

Pacific Crest Trail A new speed record for hiking the 2,655mile Pacific Crest Trail was set this summer by Josh Garrett, a 30-year-old track coach and exercise physiology instructor from Santa Monica, California. Garrett completed the tough trail that runs from the border of Mexico to Canada in 59 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes, which bested the former record of 64 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes set by Scott Williamson in 2011. Along the way, while averaging 44.7 miles per day, Garrett battled 110-degree midJune temps and plenty of steep, rugged terrain in the Sierra Nevadas and Cascades of the Pacific Northwest. As a vegan, Garrett used the hike to raise awareness and funds for Mercy For Animals, a national nonprofit working to prevent animal cruelty.

Escaping Death Serena, Ill.

Famous escape artist Anthony Martin pulled off a stunning skydiving stunt in August when he freed himself from chained shackles and a closed casket, while freefalling from 14,000 feet. The Wisconsinbased Martin, 47, who completed the same stunt back in 1988, had to remove handcuffs that were secured to a belt around his waist and get past a prison lock on the casket door, before freeing himself and gliding safely into a farm 70 miles from Chicago. He had the assistance of fellow skydivers, including two who held handles to keep the coffin steady, while he worked on his escape. According to an AP reporter—also an experienced skydiver who came along for the adventure—Martin emerged from the box around 6,500 feet above the ground. —Jedd Ferris


9:00AM

Hiked the Appalachian Trail to McAfee Knob.

1:00PM

Pedaled a mountain bike trail at Carvins Cove.

4:00PM

Cast my reel on the Upper James River Water Trail. Autumn is a magical season when the Blue Ridge Mountains peacefully turn crimson, orange and yellow. It’s the ideal time to explore the Roanoke Valley’s many trails, rivers, lakes and scenic drives. Discover the many shades of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

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SHORTS

trailhead

Record Breaker

Matt Kirk completes the fastest unsupported hike of the Appalachian Trail By Adam Hill A handful of close friends awaited Matt Kirk atop Springer Mountain, Ga., in August, 58 days 9 hours and 38 minutes after he left Mount Katahdin in Maine. Sunlight filtered through the thick fog that was covering the mountain. Then a long and lean hiker appeared through the mist, and in a few final strides, he reached the summit plaque to the sound of cowbell and cheering. It was the accomplishment of a lifetime for Kirk. After being introduced to camping at age 17, Matt fell in love with the Appalachian Trail on a trip to the Grayson Highlands in Virginia with his parents. He tackled a northbound trek of the A.T. in 2001 when he was 20 years old. Long-distance running and hiking became an obsession. He went on to add thru-hikes of Vermont’s Long Trail, the Colorado Trail, California’s John Muir Trail, and in 2011, the Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina. He also set records thru-hiking the Bartram Trail and completing the South Beyond 6,000 Challenge. Now, at age 32, he has accomplished his toughest trek to date: an unsupported southbound thru-hike. He hiked to all of his resupply points and even made his own ultralightweight backpack.

What inspired you to hike the A.T. again, this time with a goal of sub-60 days? I learned about Ward Leonard’s extraordinary feat of hiking the A.T. in 60.5 days during my first thru-hike of the AT in 2001. He accomplished this back in 1990, and it fascinated me that the record had stood for so long. As my competence in fast packing grew over the years and I found myself in a position with summers off, I thought I’d give it a shot. Considering how hard it must be to train well for such an endeavor, how did you fit in the time and miles? During the year leading up to the attempt, we were living in downtown Brevard, N.C., where I could literally hike from our home into the mountains of Pisgah for weekendlong outings. My training was rather minimal, and I relied on the cumulative experience of 12 years of hiking and ultra running to be successful. What was your longest day? Shortest day? My longest day was my last day. From Low Gap Shelter, where I ducked out from the rain from one to four o’clock in the morning, it was 43.2 miles. My shortest day was on day 11 when I hiked 22.9 miles from Zealand Falls to Lonesome Lake Hut. Ironically, that was nearly the longest day in terms of daylight. The Whites are just that rugged. When, if ever, did you feel confident that you’d make it under 60 days?

I think it was around Hot Springs when I calculated that I could break 60 days by averaging around 35 miles per day for the remainder of the trek. My knee was feeling much better, so I started to feel really good about my chances at that point. What were the highs and lows of the journey? There are far too many to list! It’s interesting how highs followed lows. To give an example: I was cold and wet as I hiked out of the Mahoosucs in the dark. And yet, even before I reached the warmth and comfort of the White Mountain Lodge in Sherburne, NH, I came to relish the raw beauty around me: descending rugged terrain, spooking countless porcupines and feeling more alive than ever. The entire journey was an emotional roller coaster just like that particular night on the trail. What new insight have you gained after such an amazing accomplishment? I definitely learned a lot about myself. Moving quickly through the Appalachians also gave me a unique perspective of these finite and fragile mountains. I hope to share this experience with others as best as I can through writing. Were you still able to enjoy the typical AT thru-hiker’s social experiences? Yes, maybe not to the extent of most hikers, but it’s about quality, not quantity. I feel fortunate that I got to meet some really cool people, even if it was for a very short period OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

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SHORTS

trailhead

variety to the diet. I started with a budget of 3,500 calories per day in my drops, but quickly figured out that was insufficient, so I started supplementing whenever and wherever I could. What do you think about social media and/or forum posts revealing a hiker’s location? I think it’s ultimately the hiker’s responsibility to take the preventative actions required to ensure the safety and integrity of his/her hike since no one can control what others do or say. It’s important to be transparent about a record attempt, but not in real time.

of time. Talking with and getting to know these folks was a highlight of my journey. What was the longest that anyone hiked along with you? I recall bumping into and hiking with a father and son team for 10 miles or so in Vermont. That was probably the longest that I hiked with anyone along the entire trail.

How much did unplanned trail magic actually aid you in getting to your next resupply? I received trail magic on several occasions and I’m very grateful to the trail angels who came out to provide this support for all hikers. However, without this magic, I would’ve still made it to my next resupply. On a selfsupported hike, it’s equally foolish to rely on unplanned trail magic as it is to turn it down.

that really works, but also developed skills to be creative and resourceful on the trail. It’s a huge time investment, but it’s also time well spent. What was the most important piece of gear on this adventure? My brain.

Is it true that you make your own gear? If so, why? Yes, a lot of my gear is homemade. By making my own gear, I not only dialed in a system

How low do you think the record could go in the future? Who do you think could beat your record? I don’t think sub-50 would be possible without a support crew. But given a good year, I believe an experienced hiker could break 55 days. I’m not going to name any names, but there are several people who come to mind. I just hope they don’t make it look too easy.

What did you eat? How many calories per day? I ate a lot of peanuts, raisins, and a variety of snack and energy bars. I also cooked a dinner most evenings on the trail, which added some

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SHORTS

Ben Friberg is first to SUP from Cuba to Florida By Chris Gragtmans

“You only get one shot at something like that,” Ben Friberg said shortly after becoming the first person ever to paddleboard from Cuban to American soil. He crossed 118 miles of open ocean from Port Hemingway, Cuba, to Key West, Florida. “You have to make a call on your most likely weather window for success, and if you choose wrong, you cannot go back to Cuba and try again. You have committed by expending your body’s strength and checking out of the country.” After one possible window that Friberg and team member Kim Sutton

elected to skip immediately after arriving in Cuba, a new weather opening appeared four days later. The team spent waited in Port Hemingway, a suburb of Havana, and immersing themselves in the culture. As the window arrived, Friberg stepped into the sun from a press conference with Cuban politicians and international news organizations, including the BBC. It was time to go home. Friberg follows in the footsteps of swimmers who have made this historic crossing… names like Penny Palfrey, Diana Nyad, and Chloe Mcardel have made that swim in the past, braving jellyfish and shark hazards. But SUP has its own set of challenges. Ben stepped onto his board and paddled out of the harbor, with the Sunluver support boat on his left, piloted by Captain Bob Olin, and Hunt Jennings, a close kayaking friend, on his right. It was Thursday afternoon, and it was going to be a long night.

OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

trailhead

Havana to Key West on a Paddleboard

“I often compare endurance SUP to climbing, and every mountain has its own set of variables,” Ben said. “In this case, there is wind speed, the Gulf Stream current, personal fitness, and any number of other things. One of my biggest challenges is always my stomach.” In spite of the lower winds, the waves kept coming. As darkness fell over the Caribbean, Friberg battled the unending barrage of two foot seas. “Surely they’ll let up after dark,” he yelled to the crew. But the waves didn’t stop, and the darkness extended in front of them. Since he couldn’t read the chop in the dark, Ben soon became sick and started to dry heave. He collapsed on the board and did everything he could not to let the precious food and calories escape his body. Eventually he was able to stand up again and continue into the night. As the journey went into the early morning, Ben’s board and the support boat started to churn up spectacular trails of bioluminescent algae, and those lights seemed to be reflected in the stars, which extended all the way to the horizon. Even in his state of exhaustion, he couldn’t help but marvel at where this expedition had delivered him. The waves turned in a favorable direction for a while, and he was even able to get some good surfs. He fell into the ocean once in the darkness, but got back up and continued paddling. With the rise of the sun came good newsBen was going to be able to avoid a large eddy in the Gulf Stream. A successful crossing was looking feasible, and he needed every possible motivation on his side to make it happen. His goal was waiting 35 miles ahead of him, through a full day of toil in the tropical sun. “I definitely hallucinated that morning,” Ben said, “I thought I saw a giant manta ray beneath me at one point, but it ended up just being a reflection of a cloud.” The eyes can only process so much, and trying to read water for over 24 consecutive hours was taking its toll on him. The heat blasted down as Friberg’s team filled his Camelbak and neck shawl with ice to keep his core temperature down. Paddle stroke after paddle stroke, the U.S. edged closer. Friberg hadn’t told family and friends that he had even departed from Cuba, but the world tuned in once his Spot device started moving. He didn’t expect a large crowd as he closed in on Smather’s Beach, Florida, but that is what he got. As he paddled the last hundred yards to the beach, Friberg realized that this dream that he had worked towards for over a year was coming true. His BARK Dominator paddleboard glided to the beach, and he stepped off the board and onto American soil. He had been paddling for 28 hours straight. “I just wanted to show how awesome the craft of SUP is,” he said. “My way of doing that is through demonstrating it’s efficiency in ultra-endurance pushes and historic channel crossings. Cuba fit in perfectly with this, and I think I was able to bring SUP to the dinner tables of the world.”

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trailhead

SHORTS

Girl Guide

The boys don’t take it easy on her. Neither does the river. By Colleen O’Neil Tara Nathan stops adjusting her spray skirt for a minute to stand up in front of the sea of red rafts. She waves at the boats full of Boy Scouts (most of whom are a good five inches shorter than her) and grins, a flash of white teeth on tan skin, then plunks back down on her green kayak. She pulls at her shorts. “I wore the wrong underwear,” she says under her breath. “You think guys chafe. Ugh.” There aren’t many other women in her position. The whitewater raft guide scene is mostly dominated by tan, muscular dudes with bushy beards and questionable hygiene practices. For the next seven miles of class III-V whitewater, Nathan will be responsible for the lives of 80 strangers. There’s an epileptic, a diabetic, and a handful of unfit tourists on the trip. It rained the night before, and the water’s high. A raft will almost definitely flip. But she’s not worried at all. Curly blonde hair tucked under her river helmet, Nathan drags her boat down to the river, scoots inside, and paddles out. She floats, waiting. The trip goes smoothly. There are no injuries, and only a few swimmers. Sitting outside of the local pub afterward, she relaxes in the sun with a cold Sierra Nevada.

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On the river, Nathan’s a Youghiogheny River goddess. She often gets anonymous comment cards from Boy Scouts asking her on dates. She paddles smoothly around the rafts, shouting clear, concise instructions to each group as they float past. “I didn’t know I had a voice until I became a raft guide,” she says with a grin. But there aren’t many other women in her position. The water is mostly dominated by tan, muscular dudes with bushy beards and questionable hygiene practices. Nathan’s 22, a recent graduate from Keene State College with a journalism degree. Right now she works for Wilderness Voyageurs, a rafting company on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pa. But she started working as a guide in 2009 for a different company, where her family had gone rafting on their summer vacations. Nathan was just getting out of a bad relationship back home in Connecticut. She wanted physical work that she could throw herself into, body and soul. But her rookie year was rough. “I was at a company where testosterone rules,” she recalls. “They respect the big, strong guys who excel fast and do kinda crazy things. It was like a pissing contest all the time.” Every day she was constantly trying to prove herself—jumping over fires, swimming over the waterfall at midnight— to feel respected. But she wasn’t getting anywhere. They wouldn’t let her take on more responsibility. She was never a trip

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leader, never encouraged to take on bigger responsibilities. On the river, her coworkers made jabs at her for being a girl. “Hey, why didn’t Hellen Keller know how to drive?” they’d ask her boat. “Because she was blind? No! It’s because she was a woman! Good luck with Tara!” They’d laugh and paddle away. Nathan shakes her head. “I was taking so much shit, getting bogged down so much.” So she switched companies and went to work for Wilderness Voyageurs in 2012. “I think all companies are defined by their senior guides,” she says. “There aren’t a bunch of hot-shot studs running around trying to prove their masculinity. The guys there are really eclectic. Some of them are quiet, but they’re good leaders. One guy plays the mandolin. One of them reenacts Civil War battles. If you do something wrong, they still might come down hard on you, but the criticism is constructive.” In that positive environment, Nathan was allowed to learn and excel. She learned how to kayak, and now she paddles the river almost every day. (Sometimes twice in a day. Sometimes with beer.) Now, in her fourth year on the river, she’s completely immersed in the lifestyle—she lives in a guide house, hangs out with the other guides all day, and drinks with them every night. That isn’t to say that Wilderness Voyageurs is a shining beacon of feminist empowerment. Nathan still takes her share of ribbing and jokes about PMS (which is really a bitch on the river), shock and awe when she shows up in a skirt on her days off. But the banter is goodnatured. “It’s really taken a hit on my social skills,” she says with a laugh. “I spend all day shooting the shit with a bunch of guys. If I make the same joke in front of girls, they’re totally appalled.” Nathan’s boyfriend Mark, a bartender and fellow guide, swings by the table with a basket of tortilla chips and another beer. Guiding with her main squeeze on the river gets stressful, she admits. “I really don’t think we should work together. We care too much about each other’s safety. The nature of the job is to care about the customers, not yourself.” Even though she’s comfortable working in a predominately male field, Nathan thinks more women should give it a try. “I was never put in an executive position like this until I started guiding,” she says. “I was never the expert, never the person who could give orders instead of taking them. The fact that I have the confidence to yell and project—that’s important.” Still, there are only a handful of girls who work on the river in Ohiopyle. And right now, Nathan’s the only female at Wilderness Voyageurs who works on the more difficult sections of the river. “The average girl my age doesn’t think she can hang with this crowd,” she says. “But nobody starts as an expert. If more girls were encouraged, they could learn.”


SHORTS

The Hidden Life of the Secret Sandwich Society By Jess Daddio

No, it’s not a cult. The Secret Sandwich Society is a small, gourmet sandwich shop tucked away from the main drag in downtown Fayetteville, W. Va. Open since 2010, this small gem didn’t stay much of a secret for long; the SSS is quickly becoming the place to be for a low-key atmosphere and a high-quality meal. From the Polk, which is stacked high

with roasted chicken, bacon jam (that’s right), homemade aioli and LTO, to the Fillmore, a fried eggplant vegetarian delight, the SSS specializes in serious sandwiches that are seriously good (and named after presidents). But did you ever wonder what goes into the making of that meatloaf McKinley sandwich? Bacon jam aside, there’s something else special about the Society, and it has to do with the guys on the line. “We like working here because we’re surrounded by like-minded people,” says SSS staff Josh Williamson, “and we like to eat sandwiches.”

OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

trailhead

Cook or Climber?

When Williamson isn’t flipping burgers at the shop, you can find him 20 minutes down the road at one of the many local climbing crags in the New River Gorge. “The staff is fantastic here and it’s really cool that, at the end of the day, they all like to get outside and go do something,” says new SSS owner Lewis Rhinehart. “We cater to the climbers especially. We have guidebooks to look at and climbing magazine subscriptions. Plus climbers come here looking for beta all the time because they know our guys in the back live in the area and know the rocks really well.” An avid mountain biker himself, Rhinehart came to Fayetteville from South Central, Pa., for the multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities. “Fayetteville’s an awesome whitewater, climbing, mountain biking, and eating destination,” he says, “and it’s attracting cool and new people all the time.” Those cool and new people are starting to settle in Fayetteville, and out of the 15 staff members at the SSS, only three are from the town originally; the rest are skateboarders, climbers, paddlers, bikers, and fly fishermen who ended up in West Virginia for the area’s adventure scene. From Colorado to Ohio, and even as far away as Russia, the SSS staff brings years of outdoor experience to your plates, free of charge. But shhh. It’s a secret.

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GEAR

Made in the Blue Ridge Gear Built in Your Backyard by Jess Daddio

Local. It’s more than just a word. These days, it’s a mentality, a lifestyle, even a philosophy. If you are a supporter of local farmers, businesses, or musicians, you should check out these seven companies that house and manufacture their products right here in the Blue Ridge. 1. Jackson Kayak Sparta, Tenn. The Story: When Jackson Kayak co-owner Eric Jackson was six years old, he ran his first set of rapids, an event that would spark a revolutionary lifestyle for Eric. Aside from being one of the world’s top whitewater paddlers, Eric had also dabbled in boat design with Wavesport. When his first two children, Emily and Dane, began paddling more frequently, Eric thought it was time for kayaking manufacturers to start making boats for youth. When others didn’t agree, Eric went out on his own and started Jackson Kayak in 2003. The company released its first boat, the Fun1, in time for the 2004 boating season. The Fun1 was designed for kids and proved to be a hit in the kayaking community. Within a few short years, Jackson Kayak would become the number one seller of whitewater kayaks in the world. The Gear: 2014 Rockstar The new design of the Rockstar is, according to Jackson Kayak, their best hull design yet. Both shorter and lighter than previous versions, the 2014 Rockstar has a new hip locker pad system, more volume in the middle of the boat for better retentiveness and edge stability, and a shorter and slicier bow that still has plenty of space for the feet. $1,249, jacksonkayak.com

2. SylvanSport Brevard, N.C. The Story: SylvanSport owner Tom Dempsey is no stranger to the outdoor manufacturing business. As the former owner of Liquid Logic Kayaks, he’s well acquainted to what adventurers look for in a product. Tom sold Liquid Logic and invested his time into creating a lightweight, multifunctional camper. In 2004 he and his team of experienced outdoor designers founded SylvanSport, which now distributes their signature GO to customers across the country and overseas. The Gear: GO The GO camping and travel trailer has been described as more versatile than a Swiss Army knife. At only 840lbs, practically any car can pull GO. All parts are made and assembled in the United States. The camper

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itself collapses into a low profile design, which increases fuel efficiency while maintaining a ground clearance of 13 inches. GO acts like a pop-up camper, extending into a durable, specialized Kelty tent that sleeps as many as six people. When the tent is not extended, use the trailer to haul everything from kayaks to four wheelers and refrigerators. GO is truly customizable and fits any and every one of your needs. $8,495, sylvansport.com

3. YAMA Mountain Gear Charlottesville, Va. The Story: If you walk down the hall from the Bedrock Sandals warehouse, you’ll find the one-man-show, YAMA Mountain Gear. Gen Shimizu, who is the owner, marketing manager, product developer, and gear manufacturer of this lightweight tent and tarp making company, went to college for mechanical engineering. After thru-hiking

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the Appalachian Trail and spending three months on the Pacific Crest Trail, Gen started his company and has been spreading the good word about adventure and lightweight backpacking options ever since. The Gear: Cirriform SW 1P This lightweight tent is the perfect alternative for solo hikers who like a little breathing room. At 19.5oz, the Cirriform SW is handmade by Shimizu and comes complete with a Cuben Fiber Canopy, Silnylon Floor, and No-SeeUm Ultra Mesh. It packs down to a compact 10” x 7” x 5” size yet, when set up, provides backpackers with 41” of headspace and 26” at the rear. $420, yamamountaingear.com

4. Man-PACK Front Royal, Va. The Story: Aaron Tweedie was working as a general contractor when the idea for a Man-


GEAR

6. Farm To Feet

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Mt. Airy, N.C. The Story: Farm to Feet president Kelly Nester, also president of parent company Nester Hosiery, has been in the sock business for years. Nester wanted to see something out of a sock that transcended great performance. When the Great Recession hit and millions of Americans lost their jobs, the public began to consider where products were manufactured. That’s when Nester got his idea. He wanted a product that reflected the local mentality that was sweeping the nation. His brainchild, Farm to Feet, mimics the “farm-to-table” approach in its commitment to supporting and utilizing everything American, from wool suppliers to state-of-the-art machines.

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barefoot enthusiast, these are the sandals for you. Made with a 6mm Vibram rubber sole, military grade straps, and an elasticized rubber heel made from a recycled bike tube, these are about as lightweight and minimalist as you can get. Bedrock Sandals also come with a lifetime sole warranty and their attention to customer service will ensure that you get the right size sandal for your foot. $54 bedrocksandals.com

The Gear: Adventure Hike Series No matter which of the three styles of Farm To Feet socks you chose, each one is guaranteed to be 100% American. With everything from wool to nylon, elastic, and packaging sourced within the United States, you can be sure to feel good about supporting this domestic business. Each pair of socks has a compression fit from the Achilles through to the middle arch, seamless toe closures, and special cushioning to ensure a comfortable fit. The reinforced design of the sock allows your favorite pair to last for years. $23, farmtofeet.com

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7. Eagles Nest Outfitters

PACK came to him. He wanted something that was lightweight, durable, versatile, and manly. After some research, Tweedie concluded that a product like this simply did not exist for men. His solution? He made his own. After refining multiple prototypes, Tweedie launched his product on Kickstarter, and the campaign was a huge success. The Gear: Man-PACK Classic 2.0 This heavy-duty canvas bag can be worn three different ways to fit your activity needs. Whether you’re taking a hike or barging through city crowds, the Man-PACK can be kept on your back, by your side, or in front of you to keep your belongings safe and secure. The main compartment is ideal for holding 8”x11” files, laptops and e-readers. The adjustable chest strap has a quick-release clasp and utility pocket. The side beverage pocket is collapsible so it’s there when you

need it and out of the way when you don’t. For men with a larger girth, be sure to check out the Man-PACK 2.0 XL. $45, man-pack.com

5. Bedrock Sandals Charlottesville, Va. The Story: Bedrock Sandals co-owners Nick Pence and Dan Opalacz met on the West Coast through their involvement in AmeriCorps, but were drawn together more so because of their interest in minimalist footwear. Both were recovering from injuries at the time, and after some initial experimentation, the two launched their product on Kickstarter and made over four times the amount of money they had set as their goal. The Gear: Earthquake Sandals V2 As the benchmark Bedrock footwear, the Earthquake model is designed for everyone. Whether you’re a runner, hiker, or simply a

Asheville, N.C. The Story: Peter and Paul Pinholster are not only brothers but also lifelong adventure partners. They discovered the benefits of hammock living in the late 1990s while visiting Costa Rica and New Zealand. When they returned to the States, they realized the American version of hammocks were in need of an update and so, in the summer of 1999, the brothers turned their garage from storage shed to hammock warehouse. With the help of their mother’s Singer sewing machine, they created the first models of the parachute hammock. After relocating to Asheville, the company grew from a windowless, one-room facility to a renovated, 18,000-square-foot warehouse and office building. The Gear: The DoubleNest This small, lightweight hammock packs down to the size of a large grapefruit and weighs in at 19 ounces, making it the perfect addition to any outing. Crafted from 70D nylon, this hammock is breathable enough for hot summer days yet durable enough for any adventure. $70, eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

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Hillbilly Bart & Someday How did you get your trail names? Someday: I got my trail name on the A.T. I was in New Hampshire hiking southbound and I still hadn’t received a trail name. I was complaining to the guy at the hostel saying, “someday I’ll climb up these mountains without huffing and puffing, someday I’ll do this, someday I’ll do that…” I had a whole list. He looked at me and said, ‘I think you have your trail name.’ Hillbilly Bart: I took the alternative route and named myself. It seemed appropriate. Everyone at home calls me that. It was good too, even to bust a lot of stereotypes about what a hillbilly is. What is its geographic coverage? The 1,600-mile trail passes through nine states: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. Which preexisting trails are connected to form the GET? Alabama-Georgia Pinhoti Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Cumberland Trail, Pine Mountain Trail, Allegheny Trail, Bluestone Turnpike Trail, Mary Draper Ingles Trail, Tuscarora Trail, Headwaters Section, Green Ridge State Forest, Standing Stone Trail, Mid State Trail, Crystal Hills Trail

THE

Next A.T.

Meet the first thru-hikers of The Great Eastern Trail, a new 1,600-mile footpath from Alabama to New York.

How long will it take to hike? 4 to 6 months Who thought of the idea? Earl Shaffer, the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, wrote of the idea in a letter to his brother, circa 1948. Originally referred to as the Western Appalachian Alternative, the trail finally received its rightful name in 2007 when the Great Eastern Trail Association was formed. Is there a guidebook? Yes, but it is a work in progress. Consult greateasterntrail.net or Swanson and Houck’s blog, GEThiking.net, for more information.

by JESS DADDIO rom monsoon rains to the norovirus, this year’s Appalachian Trail thru-hiking season was one for the records. The stories of struggle and success have swept across the Blue Ridge, from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin in Maine. But while these sagas were still in the making, one hike in particular was setting a new record: the first thru-hike of the Great Eastern Trail. Meet Joanna Swanson and Bart Houck, or Someday and Hillbilly Bart if you encounter them on the trail. They are the first thru-hikers of the roughly 1,600-mile long Great Eastern Trail, which connects a series of preexisting trails and stretches from Flag Mountain, Ala. to the Finger Lakes of New York. With a lesser overall gain in elevation and a shorter length than the Appalachian Trail, the Great Eastern Trail rivals its Appalachian counterpart with a different set of

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challenges which, for Swanson and Houck, began even before they set foot on Alabama soil.

I said ‘Hell No’ Despite growing up in Willow River, Minn., Swanson was well acquainted with the opportunities for adventure on the East Coast. During two separate hikes in 2009 and 2010, Swanson successfully completed a southbound section hike of the Appalachian Trail. When she returned home, she realized those months on the trail had fostered a gnawing restlessness within her that could only be satisfied by embarking on another adventure. “I was looking for a trail experience,” Swanson says. “I came across the AmeriCorps website and they were looking for an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer in Mullens, W.Va.

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working for the Great Eastern Trail. I’d never heard of it,” she says, but that fact didn’t seem to faze her. She applied, was accepted, and moved to West Virginia in November of 2011. Mullens, W.Va., is home to just over 1,500 people including Houck, who was born and raised in the small coal-mining town. Houck always considered himself an outdoorsman, although he came to know West Virginia’s mountains and forests through a different lens than Swanson. “I’ve always hunted,” Houck says, “or, I’ve always ‘hiked with a gun.’” Swanson and Houck met through their involvement with the local TuGuNu Hiking Club, a relatively new group of outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to bring more than ATVs and hunters to West Virginia. “One day I showed up at his house with


The Great Eastern Trail


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Hillbilly BART (top right) and Someday (bottom right) forded creeks, climbed mountains, and crossed cold valleys and lush forests on their 1,600-mile thru-hike

bacon and a case of beer and he let me stay,” Swanson says, nudging Houck. The idea to thru-hike the Great Eastern Trail did not occur to Swanson until she was nearly a year into her service with AmeriCorps. Her duties primarily involved building official miles of the trail in West Virginia which, when she arrived, were nonexistent. In July 2012, Swanson realized that West Virginia was the part of the Great Eastern Trail that was logistically the most difficult, but for her was the section she knew best. “I knew it wasn’t a trail I wanted to do alone,” she says. “So, I asked Bart if he would come with me.” “And I said ‘Hell no. You’re crazy,’” Houck says. “When I had done all the planning,” Swanson continues, “when I had all the resources, bought all the guidebooks, he decided that was a good time to reconsider.” After nearly 10 months of planning and hundreds of hours of collaboration with the Great Eastern Trail’s board of directors, Swanson and Houck finally set out on their journey in January of 2013. Unlike either of the Appalachian Trail’s terminals, the trailhead for Flag Mountain, Ala., is not nearly as well-established,

tucked away in a one-horse-town known as Weogufka (wa-guf-kah): population, 282. Houck’s brother drove the two to the trailhead, and though both Houck and Swanson came from humble hometowns, the Alabama backwoods proved to be a far cry from home. “Along the way we stopped in this little town that had absolutely nothing but one convenience store,” Houck says. “We walked inside and asked the lady, ‘Can you tell us where Weogufka is?’ She said, ‘Weogufka? Honey, that’s way back in the sticks.’ I said, ‘Honey, we are in the sticks. How much stickier is it gonna get?’” Fortunately, Swanson had arranged to meet up with two trail angels who would help them find their way to the Pinhoti Trail, the first built trail of the journey. These two hiking enthusiasts would prove to be the first of many supportive followers that Swanson and Houck would encounter during their five-month trek. “Our experience really snowballed as we went along,” Swanson says. “In Alabama and Georgia, we were mostly flying under the radar.” “But the further we went, the more legitimate we became and the more we decided that this trail is bigger than both of us,” Houck says. “We decided to

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slow our trip down and become ambassadors for the trail.”

Almost Dead in an Alabama Snowstorm Although Swanson and Houck began their thru-hike in the middle of winter, the weather in the South remained relatively mild. As they approached the northern parts of Alabama though, the once-pleasant rain took a dangerous turn. “It had been raining for days and everything we had was wet,” Houck says. “We had 13 miles to go in order to make it to Cheaha State Park. The further we went up, the more it started sleeting.” Houck decided they should put on rain gear for some added protection, although by now he and Swanson were both completely soaked and still wearing shorts. They continued hiking, thinking the weather would break, but as their body temperatures continued to drop so too did any hopes of sunshine and clear skies. “Then it started snowing,” says Houck. “Then it started really snowing. Then it started blowing snow. The blazes on the trees were covered. Thirteen miles doesn’t seem very far until you’re stopping at every tree.” Despite their slow pace, Swanson and Houck had only one option and continued on, trudging through deep snowdrifts and squinting against the wind for any trace of a blaze. Houck periodically lost sight of Swanson and would wait for her to catch up before carrying on, but

he remembers one time in particular when it took her longer than usual to make an appearance. “I couldn’t wait long because I had to keep moving,” he says, so he walked back, hoping to find her a short distance behind. She was not close, however, and when Houck came upon her, she was nearly naked with her shirt stuck up above her head. “I was kinda like the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz,” says Swanson, “except I was frozen solid. I couldn’t move.” In an effort to replace her drenched clothes with warmer layers, Swanson says the freezing cold had quickly sapped any remnants of mobility. Her skin began to redden and chap from the icy air, and Houck knew that their situation was quickly worsening. “I helped her get dressed and told her we had to keep moving,” he says. “We played mind games to keep our mental clarity.” “I led us off the trail, downhill,” says Swanson. “Twice,” reminds Houck, “but you never heard me complain.” Finally, the two arrived at Cheaha State Park to find that the situation there was equally as dire: the park was closing and its employees were being sent to a nearby hotel to wait out the storm. “I slapped my credit card down so fast,” Swanson says, “I didn’t care. I was just thankful there was still one room left.” After shedding their soggy clothes and devouring a hot meal, Houck took to humor to relieve some of the tension. “I turned to Jo and said, ‘You realize that you’re from Minnesota, you lived in Alaska, and you just about died in an Alabama snowstorm? That’s the only reason I kept you alive. Nobody would have believed me.’” Although Swanson and Houck were not injured from their prolonged hike through the miserably wet and bitterly cold, the two decided to take a zero day to regroup and relax. “You know what we did on our day off?” Houck says. “We went for a hike.”

Wash, Rinse, Repeat “One of the biggest challenges was putting up with each other,” Swanson says. Unlike the social scene that

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accompanies the thousands of Appalachian Trail hikers, Swanson and Houck were alone on their thru-hike of the Great Eastern Trail. “It’s a lot to handle, being with one person for five months,” says Swanson. “The monotony of everyday living is hard too,” says Houck. “You pack up your stuff in the morning, hike for 10 hours, unpack…” “Wash, rinse, repeat,” says Swanson. Although both have extensive experience living with and off the land, they opted for the quick and easy when it came to backcountry meals. “Who was the cook? Let’s see, Food Lion, StarKist, Peter Pan,” Houck says. “At first I had made a beer can burner that was really lightweight, but it didn’t work very well in the wind. I abandoned that idea pretty quick.” With cool weather on their side, Swanson and Houck packed everything from cheese to meat. Because of their frequent road walks and town crossings, the two were resupplying every three to four days. “My luxury item was beer,” Houck says. “Cheap beer.” By the time Swanson and Houck arrived near the Great Eastern Trail’s terminus in Finger Lakes, N.Y., they had grown from two individuals with a common interest to a well-oiled hiking machine. The thru-hiking duo had acquired a number of fans through their GET Hiking blog, which they updated throughout their trip with photographs and thoughts from the trail. All eyes were on Someday and Hillbilly Bart as they embarked on the final miles of their hike. “We knew there would be some friends and different media outlets who would join us for the last mile of the hike,” says Swanson. “On the last day, we hiked about five miles before we came to the road crossing where everyone was waiting.” “We sat there in the woods alone and listened to car doors slam,” says Houck. “We ate our lunch alone, which was very fitting.” “We needed that time before sharing it with other people,” says Swanson. Radio stations, television reporters, friends, and trail volunteers joined Swanson and Houck at the endpoint, a shelter in New York known as the Moss Hill Lean-To. After an hour of socializing and taking pictures, the two were left alone again for their final night in the woods. “We could have gone somewhere to take a shower and everything, but we decided no, the last night on the trail was going to be spent on the trail,” says Houck.

Bringing Back the Future Being the first to accomplish something is never an easy task, especially when it involves being the trailblazers for a trail that’s not even technically complete. According to Swanson, the Great Eastern Trail is currently over 70% finished with fewer miles of road walking than what Earl Shaffer encountered when he first hiked the Appalachian Trail. Swanson and Houck agree that the real challenge of the trail will be getting it finished, particularly in West Virginia. Mullens, Houck’s hometown, is located in Wyoming County and is conveniently the halfway point along the trail. Though the hiking community in Wyoming


County is growing, Swanson and Houck say it’s not enough to get the Great Eastern Trail established in its entirety through the wild and wonderful state. “We need an organization that can make deals with landowners and represent the cause,” says Swanson. “One new hiking club is not old enough, strong enough, to do something like that.” Pocahontas Land Corporation, a company that manages natural resource properties, owns most of the land in Wyoming County but has shown support of outdoor recreation through its interactions with the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail system. “The Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority is a pretty big organization with a very strong board of directors and strong leadership and a very good insurance policy,” says Swanson, “and that is what the hiking community is lacking. We don’t have the funds to do it.” “We have to garner a state authority to serve as a go-between the hiking club and the Pocahontas Land Corporation,” says Houck. “Their concerns need to be on the table as well.” Though the development of full-fledged state parks seems highly unrealistic, Swanson says that many trails along the Great Eastern Trail are, in and of themselves, considered linear state parks. “That’s not a foreign concept,” she says. “We’re trying to work with the Wyoming County Commission to see if we can get a pilot section of trail built where there’s a gap. West Virginia will continue to be the hardest state logistically

for at least the next decade, but that doesn’t make it impossible. It can be done.” West Virginia has had a long history of economic success fueled by natural resources, but according to Houck, its coal-mining towns are withering and their economies struggling to stay afloat. “If you want to create an environment of economic growth, you can’t depend on something that’s going to die,” he says. “Beauty in the mountains is never going to die unless you outright kill it. I think the natural beauty of trails and recreation can bring West Virginia into the future.” The future for West Virginia’s acceptance of the trail seems positive thus far. Pocahontas Land Corporation has expressed interest in opening the dialogue between hikers and landowners. Should the Great Eastern Trail be officially established in West Virginia, its route would go through five different communities. Four of those five communities have already signed a town agreement in support of the trail. “This trail has the potential to bring in so many tourism dollars,” says Swanson. “If West Virginia lets this go, it will be a very big disappointment,” Houck says. “That’s one of the reasons I hiked this: to show that it can be done.” The board of directors for the Great Eastern Trail has backup plans to reroute the trail through Virginia, bypassing West Virginia entirely save for a small section near the northern end. This, says Swanson, would be a great setback, since one thing that makes the Great Eastern Trail different

from the Appalachian Trail is its route through the Mountain State. “There’s such a great hiking culture in the East that another long trail should be welcomed by everyone,” she says. “We’re not trying to take away the glory of the A.T. It’s its own unique trail. “I think the Great Eastern Trail is also different in that it links a lot of trails that already exist,” says Houck. “They are smaller in and of themselves, but linked together they make a ‘great’ trail.” Swanson and Houck say the overall highlights during their experience was not any particular view or wildlife sighting; it was the overwhelming support they received from the various trail volunteers, club presidents, and trail angels. “These people are active all the time,” says Houck. “They aren’t just a name in a pamphlet.” What words of wisdom and knowledge can Someday and Hillbilly Bart provide? “Know your limits,” says Houck. “Start out small. Plan, but be flexible. You can create and accomplish goals so easily out there. Each day is a goal, each state is a goal.” Houck said the best part of the journey was waking up everyday to go hiking. “It’s also really cool to be yourself,” he says. “To be able to enjoy yourself by yourself is really important.” Swanson agrees. “I think people have gotten disconnected from their natural world,” says Swanson, “so it was nice to feel the miles and know the miles.” •

OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

23


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Adventure with a Splash of Color

MICHAEL MCCUMBER

I

by JESS DADDIO

t’s hard to be sad about the passing of summer when autumn’s cool weather and majestic colors make their way to the Blue Ridge. Whether you’re a paddler, climber, biker, or hiker, we have a trip for you that will revamp your faith in the beauty and power of nature.

to the take out at Garden Hole, a great class II-IV run. For experienced creekers, try the class IV+ Russell Fork Gorge, which starts at Garden Hole and takes paddlers through a 1600-foot gorge of full-on whitewater.

PADDLE

Stretching for 115 miles through parts of North Carolina and Tennessee, this natural flow river typically has at least one section that runs yearround. The challenging and scenic class III-IV gorge of this river starts near Poplar, N.C., and ends eight miles downstream at the Nolichucky Gorge Campground in Erwin, Tenn. Playboaters especially should enjoy this run, as it offers multiple opportunities for surfing.

Russell Fork, Va./Ky. Starting in southwest Virginia and running north through parts of Kentucky, the Russell Fork offers novice and advanced paddlers alike the chance to see some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. For newer paddlers, catch the whitewater releases in October to run the stretch from Flannagan Dam on the Pound River

Nolichucky River, Tenn.

CLIMB

No Place Like Home (5.11c): Red River Gorge, Ky. For sport climbers looking for a good challenge and some epic exposure, try this Red River Gorge classic. The 100-foot arête requires climbers to use a minimum of a 60m rope (although 70m is preferred). The run-out leading to the first high bolt can be intimidating but is manageable. If you’re feeling leery, bring a #4 Camelot and some slings.

Photo Finish (5.9): New River Gorge, W.Va One of the most iconic climbs of the New River Gorge, this route affords climbers a chance to literally have a photo finish, so make sure OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

25


MICHAEL MCCUMBER

to bring a camera. The 40-foot trad line is an extension of its neighbor, the 5.9 Super Crack. The surrounding Beauty Mountain area is a must-see when climbing in the Gorge and a great place to catch the sunset.

BIKE

Bear Creek: Ellijay, Ga. For advanced bikers, Bear Creek offers a challenging 10-mile loop that can give out-oftowners a true taste of the Blue Ridge. The trail is about 50 percent narrow singletrack and 50 percent doubletrack on old fire roads and can be started at a variety of trailheads sprinkled throughout the area. The final climb is rewarding for two reasons: one, for the stunning view at the top and two, for the beastly downhill spin that finishes up the loop.

26

Virginia Creeper Trail: Damascus, Va. Family vacations don’t have to be painful. Grab the kids, dogs, and grandma for a cruise on the Creeper. No bikes? No worries. Hit up one of the bike shops in town for a rental bike and helmet as well as a shuttle to the top. The most popular section takes you from Whitetop Station back to your car in Damascus, a 17-mile downhill cruise that follows the scenic Whitetop Laurel Creek.

HIKE

Cold Mountain: Pisgah National Forest, N.C. Nestled in the Shining Rock Wilderness of North Carolina, Cold Mountain is known for more than its blockbuster claim to fame. At 6,030 feet, the climb to Cold Mountain is steep and traverses some of the region’s highest peaks. For a

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challenging 2-day hike, take the Ivestor Gap and Art Loeb Trails for an 18-mile taste of stiff climbs, unparalleled views, ridgewalks, and hollows thick with rhododendron.

Baughman Trail: Ohiopyle State Park, Penn. If you’re driving through the area and want a challenging out and back hike, take the Baughman Trail to the Baughman Rock Overlook. The trail can be accessed from two trailheads, one near the Middle Yough takeout parking lot and the other at the Sugarloaf Snowmobile and Mountain Bike Area. The going gets tough pretty quickly, so be prepared for some strenuous hiking but some truly rewarding panoramic views of the Laurel Highlands and Ohiopyle State Park. •


r e v e F n i Cab ALLSTAR LODGING VACATION CABIN RENTALS • Luray, VA AllStarLodging.com • (540) 843-0606 Various Cabins, Cottages, Vacation homes. Sleep 2–22 guests, 1–10 private bedrooms and 1–12 baths. Rustic to luxury rentals, Honeymoons, Romantic Getaways, Family Vacations or Company Retreats. Relax and enjoy each other’s company with beautiful views, and the peaceful surroundings that nature has to offer.

DAMASCUS • Damascus, VA Damascus.org • (276) 475-3831 Located one mile from TN and 20 miles from NC, Damascus, VA is the gateway to Mt. Rogers National Recreation area, home of White Top and Mt. Rogers mountains.“ Trail Town USA” has seven intersecting trails, state of the art campgrounds, three top trout streams, and over 50 lodging options. Damascus, Stay a While!

BIG LICK RETREAT • Warm Springs, VA BigLickRetreat.com • (540) 947-1862 Nestled on 2900 mountain acres with private access to Lake Moomaw, surrounded by National Forest, Big Lick Retreat is the perfect outdoor getaway with unparalleled views. Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and boating; trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding – enjoy your own private wilderness!

GILES COUNTY • Pearisburg, VA Gilescounty.org/lodging • (540) 921-2525 Private riverside retreats with lodging and full amenities as well as a number of experienced outfitters can arrange guided or unguided float trips for single, multi day or weekly adventures. Public boat ramps are located throughout the county for your convenience.

BLAIRSVILLE-UNION COUNTY • Blairsville, GA VisitBlairsvilleGA.com • (877) 745-5789 Hiking, mountain biking, boating, camping, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, water skiing, golfing. With breathtaking waterfalls, mountains, lakes, and valleys, Blairsville is your next perfect outdoor getaway. We are home to Vogel State Park, the Appalachian Trail, and Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak. Choose to stay in a cozy cabin, or better yet, camp under the stars!

GILMER COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE • Ellijay, GA ExploreTheMountains.com • (706) 635-7400 The Ellijays in Gilmer County are nestled in the mountains just an hour north of Atlanta. Proud to be the Mountain Biking Capital of Georgia, more than half of the county is designated public land and perfect for hiking, paddling, and fishing. Visit Ellijay today!

HAYWOOD COUNTY HOTEL & MOTEL ASSOCIATION • Maggie Valley, NC Hike-Bike-Ride-Smokies.com • (828) 734-7596 Come to Western North Carolina’s center of hospitality and choose which mountains to climb, roads to travel and trails to hike. Bring your desire for natural beauty and adventure. There is so much to see and do, you’ll want to come back again and again.

MOUNTAIN LAKE LODGE • Pembroke, VA MtnLakeLodge.com • (540) 626-7121 Mountain Lake Lodge is a newly opened lodge with mountain cabins featuring 22 miles of hiking and biking trials, a new aerial ropes adventure course, and Mountain Lake Outfitter that can arrange on and off the mountain adventure including activities on the New River! SNOWBIRD MOUNTAIN LODGE • Robbinsville, NC SnowbirdLodge.com • (800.941.9290) With an abundance of outdoor adventure opportunities waiting for you outside the door, Snowbird Mountain Lodge is the perfect hub for exploration and relaxation in the mountains! Complimentary outdoor gear, a 10,000 volume library, gourmet cuisine, elegant and rustic accommodations and more trails, lakes, and rivers than you can ever imagine. Visit us online or call us today!

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Visit Damascus, Virginia In the heart of the Creeper Trail, stay in one of our 50+ cabins, campgrounds, inns and more. Damascus, Stay a While! 276.475.3831 • damascus.org

Trail Town, USA

ALLSTAR LODGING Dozens of Unique Shenandoah Valley Vacation Rentals and Cabins. Conveniently located near Luray Caverns and Skyline Drive. Fireplaces, hot tubs, jacuzzi, canoes and fully equipped kitchens.1-10 bedrooms on the Shenandoah River or nestled in the mountains near Luray for 1-22+ guests. Also offering ATV / jet ski rentals, canoe/kayak/ tube rentals, horseback riding, or fishing excursions. Only 90 miles from Washington, D.C. 120 miles from Richmond. Pets welcome.

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We’re ready to welcome your family for the holidays! Open all year! We have a wide variety of accommodations during every season. Ask about our Blueberry Ridge – fully furnished mountain homes that truly are your home away from home! The Main Stone Lodge is newly refreshed and waiting to be your weekend getaway! Special Holiday Packages available.

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IN THEATERS FOR

THE MONTH OF OCTOBER ONLY! Join us as we explore the film Appalachian Impressions During our 2013 Fall Membership Drive

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EVENT HIGHLIGHTS: Admission to view this breathtaking film, free admission for children, guest speakers including a 2,000-miler, 1 year membership or gift membership to the ATC, door prizes, and much, much more!

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Two men enter.

Many fish leave.

Rumble in the Rhododendron November 1-3 | $10,000 in prize money Welcome to the most pristine, well-stocked waters you can find east of the Mississippi. Here, you can fill your basket with more than just fish. This is where historic cultural stories and experiences enrich every vacation. Learn about ancient fishing weirs that once helped the tribe eat, or catch the entertainment of Harrah’s® Cherokee Casino Resort nearby. Just get a room, then grab a multiday permit at any of our 28 fishing license locations in Cherokee or online at CherokeeFishing.com | 828.497.6700 30

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Renee Bombardier

The Gr een R ace :

Disaster

Waiting to Happen? Green River community: it’s time to tighten up.

T

by Chris Gragtmans

he Green Race started as a legendary day in which a few local paddlers lined up at the top of the “monster mile” to test their personal limits and earn bragging rights. A self-regulated community, that elite group of paddlers was able to vet newcomers and make sure they weren’t getting in over their heads. Now in its 18th year, that tight-knit style cannot be maintained with thousands of paddlers running the Green every year. As a result, there is a new term that I am hearing far too often in the same breath as Green Race: shit show. Last year, I realized that I was more nervous spectating than I was racing. I sat below the crux of the race, Gorilla, and cringed as I witnessed some horrific lines. One after another, paddlers pinballed down, sometimes upright and sometimes on their heads. Many lacked basic kayak survival skills, like the ability to orient and drive their boat to safety, surf out of a hole, or even roll. I’m not sure what steps transpired to get them there, but had I been asked individually about their readiness for the Green Race, I would have told at least a third of the field that they should keep practicing and wait for another year. Fortunately, in spite of the bad lines and 20-plus swims, every paddler came out of the experience without injury. Five-time women’s champion, Adriene Levknecht, sums up this trend well: “I’ve been racing the Green for seven years, and every year has been sketchier than the last.” So, at the heart of it, why are people paddling

over their ability levels? Race organizer John Grace suggested one possibility. “The safety during Green Race day is unparalleled. That live bait rescue system is on display to all spectators and aspiring racers, and paddlers believe that no matter what happens on race day, ‘they’ve got me.’ This mentality breeds complacency, and paddlers do irresponsible things like run Gorilla for their first time ever on race day.” Unqualified paddlers may also get drawn up in the energy and aura of the race. The put-in speech by figurehead Jason Hale is nothing short of legendary, and I can’t blame aspiring athletes who want a piece of that bedrock coliseum with 1000+ spectators. It’s easy to get drawn into this energy, especially when it involves peer pressure from buddies, and the desire to add that fantastic and universally recognizable accomplishment to the resume. “The number of new competitors has consistently averaged 35% of total racers over the past five years,” says John Pilson, keeper of the Green Race Information Page. “I love the race so much, but during a time of alarming spike in whitewater fatalities, it’s unsettling to witness that carnage during race day.” The issue is particularly precarious this year because of the high water levels. The Green could be at over two times the normal flow for the race. This is thrilling news for top athletes, but it does not bode well for the borderline racers. The river turns into a liquid locomotive: the holes get bigger, the rapids more continuous, and the ability to help paddlers in trouble drops

dramatically. That safety net that so many rely on is simply not there at high water. So what is the answer? This challenge has been dealt with in other top-level races by creating an invitation board or a qualifying round. Races such as The North Fork Championship, Sickline World Championships, and the Whitewater Grand Prix all have some form of screening process before paddlers are allowed to compete. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of these steps, because those races all see minimal carnage. While this is an option, part of the draw to the Green Race is its grassroots nature. This race has always been completely free to enter, has no cash on the line for the winner, and has no specific protocol for spectators, yet it is among the most prestigious races in the world to win. Grace sums up balancing that heritage with managing its growing pains: “Every year, we tighten up the Green Race just a bit. Whether that is through insurance, safety, or media, we work to improve it so that it can be sustainable. After watching what happened last year, the next step may be some kind of intervention. If competitors can’t clean it up and self-regulate, our hand will be forced to create an application process.” This is simple self-preservation. If unqualified racers continue to compete, math dictates that a serious accident or death is likely to occur. To protect organizers and the race itself, people must start making honest assessments about their own abilities to run the course smoothly under pressure. If they are incapable of doing this, other steps will be taken. Of course, class V whitewater is inherently unpredictable, and no one can have smooth lines 100 percent of the time. I have swum during Green Race practice, and many great paddlers have done the same during the event. It happens sometimes. As Jeff Paine, racer and American Whitewater staffer says, “Even with several hundred laps on the Green, each year I think critically about my readiness to race. If I’m not ready, I could put myself, other competitors and safety crew in danger.” Fortunately we have some incredible personalities in the sport who are leading the way. Rafa Ortiz recently announced that, in spite of huge investment of time and sponsorship dollars, his would-be first kayak descent of Niagara Falls didn’t feel right, and he was pulling the plug. Robin Betz, long-time Green Racer, decided at the last minute in 2008 that she didn’t feel right about racing, and chose to follow her gut and spectate instead. She was the defending champion at the time. These are the types of decisions that are overlooked, but are infinitely important for the next generation to hear and think about. Paddlers call Green Race “the greatest show in sports.” It will continue to be a huge source of pride for its local community only if we can collectively work to glorify good decisions and honest self-assessment. Let’s race the Green at high water this fall, and let’s do it well. •

Pilot Collective Media

Green Race 2012 Carnage Reel youtube.com/watch?v=hiWSI8iMeJE OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

31


There’s Only One Kentucky...

A place of unmatched experiences and un�idled spirit. traveled to and through Kentucky.

stretches through the Daniel Boone

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areas all cater to the self-powered

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900,000 acres of national forests, your adventure awaits. Trails in Kentucky come in all shapes and sizes. As pioneers and settlers traveled westward, many

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Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and the Big South Fork National Recreation Area have earned reputations as being top trail destinations. Kentucky is the Horse Capital of the World, which means some fabulous trail riding for equine enthusiasts. Horse camps across the commonwealth connect horse and rider into some the best trail systems around. The newest multi-use trail, the Dawkins Line in eastern Kentucky, is 18.1 miles and has a unique feature – a 720 foot tunnel. Those looking to pedal their way around have plenty of options in Kentucky as well. Mountain bikers will find great single track, and road cyclists are sure to enjoy one of the

dozen popular paved routes.

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ATV and off road vehicles in the country. Thousands of miles have been developed on reclaimed mine lands and wooded forests. The views from atop these popular ATV parks are sure to make you come back again and again. Whether you are looking for a month-long backpacking adventure, or a short Sunday afternoon stroll, Kentucky has a trail for you. Adventures are happening in

Above: Off road adventure area at Black Mountain in Harlan County

Kentucky above and below ground. From tree top canopy tours and zip lines, to the largest cave system in

Top & Above:

Opposite page: Wrangler’s Camp at Land Between the Lakes

the world at Mammoth Cave

Trail riding at Land Between the Lakes

National Park, there are plenty of

Hiking at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

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Rock Climbing at Red River Gorge

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BELL COUNTY

BOURBON HORSES HISTORY

CU M BER L A ND GA P, T HERE’S ON LY ONE

We all know Louisville offers all the action of the big city, but do you know about the surrounding small towns with big offerings of their own? If bourbon is what you crave, take a tour of the eight bourbon distilleries in neighboring Lebanon, Shepherdsville, and Bardstown - the Bourbon Capital of the World! Want horses? Visit Oldham and Shelby Counties!

Hike our trails; see our gorgeous fall mountain vistas. Take the shuttle to Hensley Settlement at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Play golf and stay at Pine Mountain State Resort Park or play at Middlesborough Golf Course, one of the oldest in the nation. Ride 9,000 acres at Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park or fish in nearby Cumberland River.

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PIKE COUNTY Fall Foliage in Pike County Fall foliage is coming to Hatfield-McCoy feud country, Pike County. The wildly popular feud tours will be available, along with exciting outdoor adventure attractions. Tour the locations where the Hatfields and McCoys feuded, and learn the history behind America’s most famous feud. Every Saturday and Sunday during October, thrill seekers from across the nation come to the Russell Fork River for white water rafting and kayaking in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Take in scenic displays of vibrant colors on our hiking, biking, and horse trails. Pike County, Kentucky, “Where Beauty Abides & Hospitality Flows!” w w w.tourpikecount y.com • 8 0 0 - 8 4 4 -7453


HOPKINSVILLE

SHEPHERDSVILLE

A Wealth of Adventure, History & Mystery! Hopkinsville is a haven for outdoor adventure featuring a thriving cycling community, a plethora of golf courses and gorgeous hiking trails! Walk through history at the Trail of Tears Park. Experience fun on the farm during Christian Way Farm’s harvest activities. Learn about the grain to glass bourbonmaking process at MB Roland Distillery!

Explore the Outdoors in Jim Beam Country!

www.visithopkinsville.com 800-842-9959

Bernheim Forest offers over 14,000 acres of beautiful fall foliage, miles of trails, tranquil lakes and year-round events. Bourbon and Wine Passport Tour: Jim Beam American Stillhouse with behind the scenes distillery tour and Four Roses Bottling and Warehousing Tour and Tasting. Four award-winning wineries round out the experience. Minutes south of Louisville, far beyond expectations.

800-526-2068 www.jimbeamcountry.com

KENTUCKY SOUTHERN SHORELINES REGION Explore Southern Kentucky Shore to Shore More miles of freshwater shoreline than the entire coastline of Florida! Plan a Kentucky vacation to Dale Hollow Lake, Green River Lake, Lake Cumberland and the Big South Fork National Recreation Area featuring endless adventure, unlimited water sports and renowned fishing spots. Raft or canoe rivers, play 18 holes with scenic views, ride a train and hear coal miners’voices from the past, hike to waterfalls, view wildlife and gorgeous foliage. Unique shopping awaits in every town along with special events including car shows most weekends, Civil War reenactments, fishing tournaments, fall festivals and hometown celebrations. “Dock for the night” at a charming inn, state park lodge, resort with private dock, cozy cabin, marina or camp under the stars. We’re well known for houseboat vacations, but see what lies beyond our shores. You’ll be amazed at our miles of fun!

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Unbridled adventures waiting to be discovered. Kentucky has thousands of miles of

Above: Rafting on the Big South Fork National River. Right: Cumberland Falls, known as the Niagra of the South.

of outfitters and guide services in

navigable water flowing through it

Kentucky for all outdoor activities.

and there’s plenty of ways to get out

Shuttle services, retail stores, repair

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white water rush through the Russell

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around one of our excellent lakes, we’ve got more than enough options to get on the water. Anglers and boaters will find an abundance of fish to pursue and hidden coves to explore. There’s no question Kentucky offers some of the best in outdoor recreation. Many activities require specialized gear or knowledge to be fully enjoyed. Not to worry, there are a number

L ONDON - CYCL IN G CA PI TA L OF K EN T UCK Y ™ The Thriller Ride - October 12 In the Peak of Kentucky’s Fall Color Season This Halloween Themed Ride offers three routes: The Thriller, a hilly, metric century; The Zombie, a 44.5 rolling route that may leave you feeling like the living dead; and The Halloweenie, a 25 mile route that rambles along flat country roads. All three routes offer SAG support and rest stops and cover scenic and lightly-traveled roads in Laurel, Jackson and Clay counties in Southeastern Kentucky. Register today for the Thriller Ride at http://beta.active.com/london-ky/cycling/the-thriller-ride-2013?cmp=29-101-1 for only $30.

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WIN AN UNBRIDLED ADVENTURE IN KENTUCKY! Blue Ridge Outdoors and Kentucky’s tourism partners are offering you a chance to win one of two fantastic getaways in Kentucky. Go online to learn more about each, and to register for a chance to win.

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• Tickets to tour Jim Beam American Stillhouse • Passes to Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

For more contest details go to: Blueridgeoutdoors.com


Fly, Fly Away

Learning to soar like an eagle at Lookout Mountain

M

y first dreams were of flying. I stood on the top of the bunk bed I shared with my brother and started flapping my arms. As an adolescent, I climbed onto the roof, extended my arms into the night air, and fantasized that angelic-like, golden feathered wings sprouted from my shoulder sockets. In college, I climbed water towers. Up in the dark night’s sky, I imagined leaping off and flying above campus, free from the worries of exams and career planning. I clenched my eyes tight, and wished I could fly away. I wanted to soar. I finally had the chance to take flight at Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding School just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Just after sunrise our class gathered around a petite, tanned blonde named Julie. Four others were learning to fly. There was Joe, a grandfather fulfilling a bucket-list goal. He brought along his entire family for a weekend in the mountains, but only convinced his daughter, Mary, to fly. Mary was terrified of the prospect of actually being airborne, but delighted by the prospect of spending an entire day away from her four children. Andy and Mandy, adorable newlyweds, rounded out the class, yearning for adventure on their honeymoon. We gathered around a hang glider as Julie explained how to put on our harnesses and connect the harnesses to the gliders. She quizzed us on the basics of performing safety checks before we headed over to the bunny hill, a gentle grassy slope. Beneath the glider, I felt transformed into my alter-ego, one with flying superpowers. The resplendent red and yellow striped wings of

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by Ky Delaney the glider extended from my shoulders, and I became a mythical half-butterfly, half-woman creature. Julie did one last wind check before giving me the go-ahead. “Raise the glider for the perfect angle of attack. Pick a visual out there.” Julie said, pointing to the mountain ridges on the other side of the valley. The age-old adage of looking where one wants to go holds true for flying. Julie had warned that if I looked down, I’d end up going down. Instead, I fixed my gaze on a single tree on top of the peak just opposite of me, just slightly higher than eye level. “Perfect! Now jog!” Julie instructed as I started trotting down the hill, “and now run!” Determined to fly, I ran as fast as I could, never taking my eyes off that mountain. Julie jogged next to me yelling, “Think Wiley Coyote.” Just like the cartoon character, Julie had told us to keep on running even if our feet lifted off the ground because sometimes it took a few ups and downs before the glider truly took flight. As long as students keep running, the glider will fly again. “And let go!” Julie reminds me, “let it fly, let it fly!” When students hold on too tight, which we all tend to do in life when we get nervous, we hold ourselves back from taking flight. As I opened up my hands, I let the glider slide through my fingers, and felt a light breeze lift the glider. My feet ran through the air for a few seconds before I realized I was flying. I was flying! The sensation of flying was the pure expression of freedom. In the air, the terrain blended seamlessly together. The individual blades of glass blurred into a soft dreamy

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green contour. The streams, fields, trees, and mountains stretched before me, a feast for my eyes. I heard the call of a hawk and the water flowing below, and always the sound of the breeze. In that moment, I felt as if I had taken my place in nature. The perspective showed me just how connected we are to the environment. I was no different from other feathered flyers, reliant on the whims of the wind. As my glider dropped nearer towards a grassy landing, intuitively I pushed away from the control bar, my body stretching out horizontally. The glider slowed down, and then the wheels touched the ground, a gentle reintroduction to reality. As the glider came to a stop, I looked up the hill to see my classmates jumping up and down for me, their whoops and cheers echoing in my head. I pulled the glider back up the slope, and reveled in the incredible feeling of flight. Taking off gave me that perfect, zen-like-feeling of balance, just like rolling a kayak or jumping a horse for the first time. One by one, each of my classmates took flight. I watched Joe realize a dream, I watched Mary become revitalized, and I saw Andy and Mandy share one of their first adventures as a married couple. As I stood watching the brightly colored hang gliders swirl like a leaves in the breeze, I realized that hang gliding is the perfect metaphor for life. If we can fix our gaze on a goal with determination and run toward that goal with speed and steadiness, and at the same time manage to let go, anything is possible, even flight. •


THE

Forgotten River Rescuing the Anacostia in D.C.

J

by Jeff Kinney

orge Bogantes Montero has just led us a short distance into Pope Branch Park, a tiny splotch of forest sheltering a tributary that feeds the Anacostia River, which slices through the nation’s capital and is arguably one of America’s 10 most polluted urban waterways. Although the forest looked and sounded healthy—crickets sang, the nearby creek burbled—mostly what we saw was ivy. It blanketed the vegetation, the ground, everything, weakening tree bark, out-competing native plants for sunlight, and ultimately degrading the ecosystem upon which the river depends. It had to go, and this group of hardy volunteers was teaming up to make a small dent. I admired their pluck but, gazing at the sea of green, did not envy their enormous task. Like many urban rivers, the vast, 176-squaremile Anacostia River Watershed has been hammered by human encroachment. But the so-called “forgotten river” is suffering more than most, and its prodigious filth has become something of a legend in the D.C. area. The manmade insults include wholesale colonization by numerous invasive species, rampant stormwater runoff funneled by thousands of acres of concrete and asphalt, toxic chemicals disgorged by farms and factories, trash carelessly tossed, trees shorn from now-eroding riverbanks, wetlands drained and shriveled, and raw human waste leaked from decrepit sewage systems. It didn’t have to be this way. The formerly untouched watershed, which feeds the iconic Potomac River and encompasses most of the eastern half of the District of Columbia and

large parts of two adjacent Maryland counties, has a tragic history. The once-pristine, fishfilled Anacostia helped sustain the Nanchotank Indians until the early 17th century when Europeans arrived and began decimating the area’s dense forests to make way for tobacco and other cash crops. Since then, the river has slowly succumbed to creeping urbanization and everything that goes with it, resulting in a degraded watershed that reflects its former glory like a shattered mirror reflects a beauty contestant. Hamid Karimi, deputy director of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), wants to change that. He spearheads the District’s part in the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership (AWRP), an unprecedented, multi-jurisdictional, all-hands-on-deck effort to make the watershed fishable and swimmable again. The partnership has its roots in a 1987 agreement among various local, state, and federal agencies. The resulting Anacostia Watershed Restoration Committee set some pollution-reduction targets, but many of them were missed. By 2006, everyone knew that a more comprehensive approach was needed. Thus the AWRP was born. Its goals, which are nothing if not ambitious, include cutting pollutants of all sorts, revitalizing fish populations, restoring wetlands, increasing biodiversity, reforesting denuded slopes, and— perhaps most important—helping the locals understand their part in all of this. Karimi’s immediate objective is more modest: he just wants to take his children canoeing on the river without them contracting some exotic

disease. “If my kids fall in, I don’t want to worry about their health,” he said. “What fun is that?” Such worries are understandable. One look at the trash-laden water, one whiff of the fetid stench emanating therefrom, and it’s easy to write off the entire area as a no-go zone. You might as well tell little Johnny to play on the train tracks. But this ugly facade disguises hidden potential. For all of its flaws, the river is home to a surprising variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, great blue herons, red foxes, and even a few hardy fish. “It’s still a major resource, but it could be used a lot more if it were protected and promoted,” Karimi said. “In the past, the river has been perceived as a liability. We are trying to develop it into an asset.” The issue is how to accomplish this when so many government entities have a vested interest in the outcome. After all, there’s no point in the District cleaning up its part of the river if the feds ignore theirs just upstream. It has to be a collective effort. But that’s easier said than done in an age of warring government fiefdoms. This explains Karimi’s excitement about the AWRP, which to his knowledge is the only watershed restoration plan in the country that encompasses so many local, state, and federal agencies. Progress since the group’s formation has been spotty but real. For example, stormwater runoff is the largest source of diffuse pollution fouling the river. To help curtail the flow, the District has installed more “green roofs” on its buildings in the past two years than any other North American city. Unlike regular roofs, the green variety features grasses and other plants that soak up rainwater, which otherwise would bounce off and wash all manner of street crud right into the Anacostia. Another prong of the District’s stormwater management plan is aimed at new developments and substantial redevelopments; these are now required to capture a large majority of the runoff from their properties before it can enter the watershed. Karimi cites other signs of improvement too, including the District’s five cent charge for plastic bags in retail stores (also implemented by the state of Maryland), which has been credited with eliminating about 50 percent of the bags that end up in the river; passive trash facilities that sweep detritus from flowing water; combined sewer tunnels that help contain overflow; reinforced riverbanks; and measurable progress in restoring many of the river’s 13 major tributaries, including Pope Branch. Perhaps as a sign of such progress, the river is now part of the Captain John Smith water trail system. Established in 2006 as the nation’s first all-water national historic trail, it covers some 3,000 miles throughout the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed and more or less traces routes the colonial-era icon took from 1607 to 1609. Given what has been accomplished so far, Karimi said he is cautiously optimistic about the future. “Although the Anacostia has a lot of issues and there is much more to be done, it’s still beautiful, even now,” he said. • OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

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A Hike Worth Talking About

A

fter a daylong hike in Shenandoah National Park, our Boy Scout troop huddled in the November cold around a one-pot jambalaya bubbling on a camp stove. The scouts traded favorite horror stories from the hike, which featured 16 stream crossings, not all successful. My son Daniel, though, sat off to the side on a camp stool. I normally try to prompt conversation with him after an outing, but held off this time. He had had a difficult day and I wanted to allow some time to soften the rough edges. But one of the adults in our group, John, looked over and asked, “So, Daniel, how did you like the hike?” I winced. “I was going to wait a bit to ask him,” I said. “He was a little cranky the last mile or so.” John shrugged, and chuckled, “I was, too.” We all had been. But the rest of us could laugh about it now. Daniel wasn’t the only one in our group to get sore legs or wet feet that day. But he understood the least that it was part of hiking and would be a learning experience, even a funny story, once he was wearing dry socks and enjoying a hot meal. What makes an experience like that different for Daniel, now 15, is that he has autism. Autism covers a wide band of social, communication, and learning disorders. In Daniel’s case, one of the manifestations is living in the here and now, with little foresight into outcomes, good or bad. That’s one of many symptoms of Daniel’s autism that I hope experience in the outdoors will moderate. For many reasons related to his autism, Daniel isn’t one to go outside and play with his friends – and reap all the related mental and physical development. His communications skills

by Bernard Adelsberger

are poor – he usually has to be prompted before he’ll say anything, and then it’s usually two- or three-word blurts. My wife, June, and I signed Daniel up for Boy Scouts when he was 11. He took to camping right away, but hiking was something else. We started with some low-level 5-milers – sneakers, no packs, but he dragged. He didn’t seem to understand that the slower you go, the longer it takes. So why sign him up for a 10-mile hike involving more than a dozen stream crossings? To get him outside in the crisp mountain air, to help build his coordination and motor skills, and to engage in the teamwork and camaraderie that goes with backpacking. Our hike had sounded like a picnic-basket stroll; the trail is called Jeremy’s Run. A trailhead off the Blue Ridge Parkway leads to Neighbor Mountain, then down a steep switchback to Jeremy’s Run. You follow the stream for about six miles as it curves around the base of Knob Mountain, then ascend back to the parkway. Trail guides mention 14 stream crossings, but friends who had hiked it before remembered only stepping across a small creek a few times. Once on the trail in the early morning, our crew of 8 scouts and 4 adults made good time tumbling down the switchback to the stream before we stopped for a late-morning lunch on an outcrop of large rocks. When the trail seemed to dead-end at the stream, we looked for a blaze on the far side, picked out the best stepping stones to cross, and continued up the trail. But the crossings seemed to get a little more complicated as we progressed. Maybe our energy was waning, or our patience. Maybe a rain a couple days before filled Jeremy’s Run above its normal level. At some crossings,

stepping stones were underwater and we walked up and down the bank looking for a better crossing or a downed tree reaching across. After a few successful crossings, one scout slipped off a damp, mossy rock, his foot plunking into chilly, calf-deep water that filled his boot. Dry socks came out of a pack. Each crossing seemed more challenging than the one before, and more scouts felt the stinging chill of lateautumn water in their boots. Eventually, Daniel slipped. Once he got to the far bank, I felt inside his boot and his wool socks were still dry. We pushed on. At the next crossing, it was my turn. My boot slipped and I cringed at the cold water rushing into my boot. At the next crossing, Daniel slipped again. And so did I. And so did another scout. Daniel became more careful with each crossing. Finally, after the last crossing and a dozen or more wet boots, the trail began to turn away from Jeremy’s Run and rise toward the trailhead. The sun was dropping fast, taking with it what little afternoon warmth we had. We trudged up the hill with squishy boots and sore legs. We couldn’t get up soon enough for Daniel, though. His sunny morning mood was shot. He nagged, “Go back to the car.” He tugged on my pack. He tried to sit down on the trail. He wouldn’t believe that we were nearing the end, not until we reached the end. That night, I never did get around to asking Daniel how he felt about the hike. A couple days later, though, he was out with his mother when a sudden chilly breeze stirred up memories of Jeremy’s Run. Unprompted, he said to June, “Cold. I had fun at the hiking ... camping ... sleeping in the tent. Cold. Water. Wet. Water. Fall.” Which, to me, pretty much summed up a great hike. • OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

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Taking it easy on the new French Broad River Trail by Graham Averill artwell Carson has a lot of stories. Stories about boats falling off of cars. Stories about standup paddle boarders too hungover to stand on their boards. Stories about farmers pulling guns on the riverbank. Stories about sneaking upriver in the middle of the night to sample bacteria levels. He’s telling me about a guy, a sales rep from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, who can open a beer bottle with a folded up napkin (“like a ninja”) as we paddle separate canoes down the French Broad River just east of downtown Asheville. Carson is the French Broad Riverkeeper for the Western North Carolina Alliance. Picture a job where you paddle the French Broad, test water quality, raise funds for environmental protection, and generally try to get people stoked about boating and fishing a river system. As the Riverkeeper, Carson is the primary protector of the French Broad, a 215mile river that runs northwest from Rosman to its confluence with the Tennessee in Knoxville. If you’re an angler, and you notice something green oozing from a drain pipe into the river, you call Carson and he gets in his canoe and checks it out. “That’s my favorite part of the job,” Carson says. “Getting in my canoe around sunset and paddling upstream, trying to be all stealth, like Natty Bumppo.” We’re paddling a short, two-day section of the French Broad so Carson can show off his latest achievement, the French Broad River Trail, a new blueway that covers 140 miles of the French Broad through North Carolina with half a dozen paddle-in-only campsites spaced every 15 miles on islands and riverbanks leased from private landowners and the state of North Carolina.

Carson and the WNCA opened the trail last summer. He can rattle off all the statistics that justify the creation of the trail from an economic standpoint (paddlers on a multi-day trip will spend $88 a day in local communities according to a 2001 impact study), but paddle a few miles with him and he’ll give you the straight dope. “This whole trail is a selfish endeavor,” he says, leaning back in his canoe, his dog June Bug on high alert at the bow. “I love paddle trails, but I was tired of driving six hours to paddle and camp. Now we have this amazing adventure in our backyard.” We put our boats in near Mills River and paddle past corn fields and the site of the future Sierra Nevada brewery (they’ll have their own boat launch and an island campsite island a halfmile upriver from their property). We move past kids on four wheelers exploring their family’s farm. The river is high thanks to an unusually rainy summer that’s left most creeks at flood stage levels, so we move fast down the river, barely having to paddle at all except for the occasional correction stroke. My neighbor and good friend, Kevin Palme, is at the helm of my canoe. When I told Palme I was going to spend two days paddling the French Broad with Carson, he was hesitant. When I told him we were packing a cooler of beer to consume on an island in the middle of the river, he was sold. Paddling from one campsite to the next is a different sort of adventure than what I’m used to. Most of my excursions into the backcountry involve contusions, the frantic rush to beat sunset, and at least a brush with hypothermia. Paddling the French Broad, heading toward an island where we’ll leisurely set up camp and cook and drink, is downright relaxing. I’m not prepared for this sort of adventure. My gear is

too minimalist. I keep wanting to paddle faster, to make good time. Carson is used to new boaters having to make this mental adjustment. Every year, he spearheads a nine-day journey along the entire length of the river trail and every year, it’s the same thing: “I spend the first couple of days having to convince everyone to slow down. There’s no rush. And there’s no need to be hardcore.” As we approach Firefighter Island, our home

Paddle the French Broad Plan on nine days to run the whole 140mile river trail. You’ll paddle the winding headwaters that stretch through Pisgah National Forest then hit easy water and farmland as you make your way towards Asheville. Expect mild whitewater near Marshall and big whitewater on the edge of Hot Springs. Carson’s favorite section surrounds Marshall, where two-miles of mild whitewater lead to Evan’s Island, a campsite in the middle of the stream, followed by three miles of more mild whitewater. Here, the mountains rise straight from the riverbanks.

Paddle Trail Info: wnca.org Outfitter: Asheville Adventure Rentals has boats and will run shuttles (ashevilleadventurerentals.com).

OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

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Paddle more Five more canoe trails with paddle-in-only campsites

Greenbrier River Trail, W.Va. This 80-mile canoe trail has mild rapids and campsites every five miles. Bonus: a crushed-gravel bike path parallels the river, making self-shuttling easy for multi-sport adventurers. greenbrierrailtrailstatepark.com

Upper James River Water Trail, Va. Paddle 45 miles of the Upper James backcountry through valleys and farmland. You’ll see some class II whitewater and camp at a mix of private and forest service campgrounds. upperjamesriverwatertrail. com

Tennessee River Blueway

for the night, Carson tells us about how he used to love backpacking—going deep into the backcountry and not seeing another person for days at a time. “Lately though, I don’t see the point. Why carry a backpack with just the necessities when you can put everything you could imagine in a canoe and float down the river? People need to evolve and put their shit in a canoe.” When Carson says “put everything in a canoe,” he means everything. Here’s a rundown of our rations for the two-day trip: A cooler full of Sierra Nevada, one bottle of bourbon, one bottle of champagne, one bottle of orange juice (for mimosas). And that’s just the alcohol. For dinner, we’re cooking apple-smoked chicken sausage with peppers and onions over couscous, and a side of asparagus. In the morning, we’ll have grits and bacon and mimosas. Don’t get me started on the snacks. Or the full living room set complete with a stereo that Carson somehow squeezed into his canoe. Firefighter Island has a winding trail running through its center that connects four or five campsites, a beach with a fire ring, and a composting toilet that Carson built last summer. It’s hard to say you’re roughing it when you have a working toilet, but at the same time, it’s difficult for us to reconcile the fact that we’re maybe seven river miles shy of downtown Asheville. We haven’t seen another boater all day. It’s quiet on the island, which is surrounded by farmland, without a sound other than the rush of the water all around us. And the gangster rap coming from the stereo. Turns out Carson hates jam bands. It’s a secret he’s harbored for decades. He’s a big fan of Tupac, though. The tents go up fast and Palme quickly builds a fire. Then we hit the bourbon. As it gets dark, we keep hitting the bourbon and Kevin falls down in a thick mud pit near the water line, getting stuck for at least seven minutes while Carson and I laugh. The whole evening unravels from there, culminating in an absurd campfireside discussion of the Biggie/Tupac rivalry. I fall asleep humming Tupac’s “Changes” as the river

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gurgles a few feet from my tent. The French Broad isn’t the wildest river in the South. It’s not even close. The Big South Fork, The Chattooga—those are primitive rivers cutting through pristine gorges unlike anything else in the South. The French Broad is like a lot of other Southern rivers. It’s pretty, passing through some of the oldest mountains in the world, but it’s been abused. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, locals say you could smell the river before you could see it. Author Wilma Dykeman summed up the French Broad’s state in the ‘50s: “It’s too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” “It’s dramatically cleaner than it used to be, thanks largely to the Clean Water Act,” Carson says. “Even just eight years ago, I couldn’t convince anyone to go tubing with me on the river. Now, the river is packed with tubers and boaters. That’s a good sign.” Hopefully, it’s a sign of good things to come. Carson is still concerned about the amount of bacteria in the river. There’s still a good bit of agricultural runoff affecting water quality. And a power plant east of Asheville leaches heavy metals into the groundwater. Keeping the river clean is a constant battle that will have Carson in his boat, sneaking around like Natty Bumppo for years to come, but that’s one of the reasons he pushed so hard to create the paddle trail. “Everyone points to the economic benefits of paddle trails, which are significant,” Carson says. “But the main reason we wanted to implement this trail was to prompt environmental protection. If you can get folks on the river canoeing and camping and tubing, those people will develop a bigger sense of stewardship. We want to leverage that enthusiasm to better protect the French Broad.” After packing up our bourbon and tents, we continue the languid paddle west toward Asheville. The Biltmore Estate occupies a shocking amount of riverside acres near town, and we see the occasional family riding on horseback through the pastoral backyard of the Vanderbilts. The mimosas and bacon and eggs

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This could be the perfect urban adventure. The blueway runs 50 miles from Chickamauga Dam south through downtown Chattanooga to the Nickajack Dam. Island camping galore, even downtown. canoetennessee.com

Etowah River Water Trail The 165-mile Etowah River Trail is still a work in progress, but if you paddle the full length, you’ll pass Indian Mounds, skirt hip towns like Ellijay, and see some of North Georgia’s wildest country. etowahwatertrail. org

Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail, South Carolina Don’t let the color of the water full you, this blackwater river could be the cleanest stream on this list. Paddle by cypress swamps and camp in tree houses during this 57-mile journey. canoesc.com

helped put me in the proper state of mind for a canoe trip, where the biggest concern I have is trying to find a good place to beach the canoe for a bathroom break. We see more people on the river the closer we get to town: kayakers and tubers, outfitters who run shuttles, the occasional rope swing. Carson spends half of the morning lying down in his canoe, letting the current carry him downstream. At one point, I hear him quote David Wooderson from Dazed and Confused: “This is living. L.I.V.I.N.” None of us are ready for the trip to end when we reach our take out. For a few minutes, we talk about continuing the trip. We could just head farther west past Asheville to the next campsite somewhere downstream for another night. We have a quarter bottle of bourbon left. A few beers. We’ll need food, but we could work that out. Alas, we all have children to go home to. Deadlines and responsibilities. But it’s comforting to know that the opportunity exists. It’s in my backyard. I can hit the river and just keep going for as long as I can take it, or until I run out of booze and food. •


Join us for some good food, great wine and lots of family fun. And you’ll have plenty of time to talk shop with the wine makers as you taste away.

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OCTOBER 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com

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trailmix

C U LT U R E B I N

Americana Circus

Nora Jane Struthers’ Acoustic Carnival By Jedd Ferris

Nora Jane Struthers didn’t take the most direct path to Nashville. She started out as a Jersey girl. Her dad taught her to sing traditional country and bluegrass songs, and the family pastime was extended with trips to fiddle conventions in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. “That was a life-altering experience,” Struthers said of attending the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va., among others. “I became aware of this wide community of people who are passionate about music and have this beautiful thing in common.” Music, though, wasn’t an immediate career choice. Struthers earned a degree in English education at New York University. But after a couple of years of teaching at a charter school in Brooklyn, she eventually packed up her belongings and moved to Nashville. “At a certain point I fear regret more strongly than I fear change,” she recently reflected. “When I realized being a professional musician was an attainable goal, I knew if I didn’t try, I would forever regret it.” After arriving in Music City she started working with producer Brent Truitt (Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss) and recorded a wellreceived self-titled debut album with backing support from ace players like Bryan Sutton, Tim O’Brien, and Stuart Duncan. She also put together a road band and started working the acoustic music touring circuit. In 2010 her

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group won the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Contest, which put her in elite company with acts like the Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek. Struthers then took an opportunity to join lauded Alaska cum Nashville bluegrass outfit Bearfoot. Despite gaining a wealth of experience with a seasoned group of players, she ultimately resigned and set out to record the batch of songs that became her latest album, Carnival. Fans helped Struthers get the record made by funding it through a Kickstarter campaign, which raised $22,000 and supported recording sessions, once again with Truitt at the helm, in Nashville last fall. The album, released last April, is a bold, varied Americana effort. With a set backing band, The Party Line, behind her, Struthers put together a concept album of thoughtprovoking story songs delivered with her alluring tender vocals and a mix of old-time strings and driving rock edge. She can evoke both the smooth grace of Krauss and the emotional grit of Brandi Carlile. The willingness to mingle the past with the present has enabled Struthers to fit into a variety of circles in the acoustic music world. Just last month she performed at both the Americana Music Festival in Nashville and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass Conference in Raleigh. “I wanted to move into a more contemporary sonic space,” Struthers said of her latest album. “The success of Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers has opened a lot of doors for artists who are using stringed instruments to try and create new sounds. The community of Americana musicians is raging right now. It’s strong and exciting.”

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With a firm direction in place for her solo career, Struthers is focused on bringing her sound to stages across the country. She has a hearty slate of dates booked into next year, including stops this month in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., and an open mind about the new songs in her head. “The sound is going to keep evolving,” Struthers said. “For the next record I’m thinking pedal steel and distorted guitar tones. That can be strange for listeners, especially in the acoustic genre, but as an artist I need my music to grow.”

Asheville Electronic Summit People with certain interests might already call Asheville, N.C., a mountain oasis, but a new festival is making it official. Mountain Oasis, which is being billed as an Electronic Music Summit, will fill five venues around downtown Asheville during the weekend of October 25-27 with a full line-up of electronic and experimental rock acts. Headliners include Nine Inch Nails, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Animal Collective, and a recently reunited Neutral Milk Hotel. The festival, created as a spin-off by the former promoters of Moogfest, will bring approximately 50 acts to venues of varying size, including the Exploreasheville.com Arena, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, the Orange Peel, Diana Wortham Theatre, and Asheville Music Hall. mountainoasisfestival.com


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Autumn Adventure

Get in gear for the most colorful time of the year.

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Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20

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Designed for backcountry ease, this tent for two features a waterproof coating for dry nights under the stars. Color-coded poles and clips also ensure a quick pitch.

Get cozy in this great all-around backpacking and camping synthetic bag that features offset quilt construction to prevent cold spots. Available in regular and long sizes.

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Blue Ridge Outdoors October 2013  

BRO October 2013

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