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NOVEMBER 2016

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November 2016 CONTENTS

FEATURES

21 TOP ADVENTURE TOWNS

Readers selected their favorite outdoor hubs. Find out which towns are tops in the mountains. Plus: how are many mountain towns transitioning from coal economies to recreation destinations?

35 PEAK GEAR AWARDS 2016

8 QUICK HITS

Our athletes, editors, and experts select their favorite gear for every sport. Want to buy from Blue Ridge-based companies? We've also highlighted locally loved outdoor products.

10 FLASHPOINT

Travis Muehleisen used to be strung out on opiates. Now he's hooked on running.

photo by JESS DADDIO

DEPARTMENTS Train interrupts marathon • D.C. Bike Share expands • Newborns in Nikes Unsolved mysteries: four crimes and disappearances from parks and forests in Appalachia.

17 THE DIRT

Water in Appalachia—the next Flint? • What thru-hikers carry— and drop.

50 TRAIL MIX

Q&A with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. COVER PHOTO BY

44 EXERCISE ADDICT

45 CAVING CONUNDRUM

Should caves be closed to climbers in order to protect bats? Scientists and spelunkers are coming together to save an endangered species.

49 WHY I AM A RAFT GUIDE

New River Gorge paddler John Bryant Baker pens a love letter to his oneyear-old daughter explaining why he is drawn to rivers.

SAM DEAN / SAMDE ANP HOTOGRAP HY.COM N OV E M B E R 2 016 / B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M

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CONTRIBUTORS

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PR ESI D EN T

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ED ITOR I N C H I EF

WILL HARLAN

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Editorial & Production JEDD FERRIS

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PAIGELEE CHANCELLOR

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MASON ADAMS, GRAHAM AVERILL, LUCIE HANES, LAURA INGLES, WADE MICKLEY, DAVE STALLARD, DANIELLE TAYLOR C OPY ED ITORS

JULIA GREEN, ROBERT MCGEE Advertising & Business SEN I OR AC C OU N T EXEC UTI VE

MARTHA EVANS

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KATIE HARTWELL

Buy beer online.

No subscription fees. No gimmicks. Just the beer you want, delivered to your door.

katie@blueridgeoutdoors.com B U SI N ESS M A N AG ER

MELISSA GESSLER

melissa@blueridgeoutdoors.com CIRCULATION MANAGER

HANNAH COOPER

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Digital Media ON LI N E D I R EC TOR

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Along with plenty of other good, fresh, local craft beers to chose from.

D I G ITA L M ED I A SPEC I A LI ST

TRAVIS HALL

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(704) 527-1003 125-B Remount Rd., Charlotte NC Some shipping restrictions apply. Visit shop.goodbottleco.com to see if we can ship to your state.

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B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S / N OV E M B E R 2 01 6

CHARLI KERNS Looking up at the Green Narrows. My life changed as soon as I saw it. I fell in love with the river, the natural beauty surrounding it, and the community supporting it. I left my job, moved to Asheville, and couldn't be happier.

EVANS PRATER A glorious mountain vista with lots of people using their bodies to do what they love, using their one life and one body to appreciate all the wonder that we're given.

JOHN JETER May your gratitude exceed your expectations. Nature always exceeds expectations, so my gratitude is always profound whenever I'm outside.

GORDON WADSWORTH My canvas would include friends and family paying back the earth for the amazing artwork she's already given us.

MASON ADAMS Creek, holler, ridge, sky and the endless variety of interplay between them. Capturing that on a canvas of words is a lifetime goal.

JOHNNY MOLLOY It would be God smiling down on creation while we explore His glory manifested in the mountains of the Southern Appalachians.

JESS DADDIO SUMMIT

shop.goodbottleco.com

IF GRATITUDE WERE A PAINTING, WHAT WOULD BE INCLUDED ON YOUR CANVAS?

JESS DADDIO

jess@blueridgeoutdoors.com

W W W. C O L D P R U F. C O M

11. 16

PUBLISHING

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A flotilla of friends paddling in the dead of winter, not because we enjoy losing feeling in our extremities but because to not paddle when there's water would be sacrilege.

WILL HARLAN Grateful for the green earth that— despite our insults—still sustains us.


Load Carbs Italian Style!

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529 E Broad St Richmond, VA 804.644.2466 Corner of 6th & Broad St Entrance faces Broad St

Artisans Studio Tour November 12 & 13, 2016 • 10 am – 5 pm

Forty-two artisans will showcase their work in 23 studios in Charlottesville and surrounding counties with local refreshments in all studios.

Experience fine craft • Free, self-guided tour Enjoy Central Virginia in the fall

Complimentary Valet Parking at Hilton Hotel on 5th and Broad St. lagrottaristorante.com

Visit www.artisanstudiotour.com for information and maps.

Equipping Life & Adventure Barracks Rd Shopping Center Charlottesville 434.995.5669

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Join Us For a Group Hike on a Trail Near You!

Local GetHiking! Meetup Groups: GreatOutdoorProvision.com/gethiking

N OV E M B E R 2 016 / B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M

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QUICK HITS

11.16

BEYOND THE BLUE RIDGE

SHORTS

ADVENTUROUS GOVERNOR MAKES BIG DESCENT TO FIGHT CANCER As we get set to head to the polls, many of us are rightfully quite tired of election news. But here’s a story about a politician not running for office, instead rappelling for a worthy cause. Back in September, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper strapped on a harness and rappelled down a 380-foot high-rise apartment building in downtown Denver. The feat was undertaken to benefit the Cancer League of Denver as part of the annual fundraiser Over the Edge, which this year included an opportunity for a limited number of people to descend the 32-story building if they raised a minimum of $1,000 for the cause. Hickenlooper described his noble adventure as "pure fear, but nothing like facing cancer."

BLUE RIDGE BRIEFS by JEDD FERRIS TRAIN HALTS PENNSYLVANIA MARATHONERS ON COURSE In September, runners at the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon were stopped in their tracks, or rather at the tracks, when a slowmoving train crossed the course at the race in Allentown, Pa. The Associated Press reported that more than 100 runners were held up for approximately 10 minutes, which ended up being a big bummer for runners like 22-year-old Charlie Young, who missed his Boston Marathon qualifying time by eight minutes. Marathon officials said they would review and address the times of all runners affected by the race interruption. HUNDREDS OF BABY SQUIRRELS RESCUED AFTER TROPICAL STORM HERMINE Animal rescue groups in and around Virginia Beach were quite busy after the high winds from Tropical Storm Hermine blew through the area in early September. According to a report in the Washington Post, the big gusts came through during a time when many baby squirrels are born, resulting in many of them falling from trees and becoming displaced. Helpful residents started finding the squirrels and bringing them to places like the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which took in about 78 babies. Evelyn Flengas, who runs her own refuge that took in about 50 squirrels and seven baby raccoons told the paper: “There was a steady stream of cars coming down the driveway with boxes filled with little critters.” Flengas noted it can take months of rehabilitation, including time in an incubator, special diet, and medicine, before the squirrels can return to 8

the wild. “It is not just taking in an animal and feeding it,” she said. WATCH YOUR YETI The State recently published an interesting story about the frequent theft of Yeti coolers in South Carolina. Writer Jeff Wilkinson of the Columbia-based paper touched on a growing number of theft incidents that police are now calling a “Yeti ring,” due to the coolers—expensive, durable, and highly insulated—being stolen so often. Since January 2015, 43 Yetis, also known as “redneck Rolodexes,” were reported stolen in Horry County, and back in April, two men reportedly walked into a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Columbia and stole 10 of the coolers at one time. D.C BIKE SHARE PROGRAM EXPANDING Since its inception in the fall of 2010, the Capital Bikeshare program has successfully put a steadily growing number of people on bikes in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas. Started as

B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S / N OV E M B E R 2 01 6

a joint program between D.C. and Virginia’s Arlington County, the alternative transportation initiative launched with 1,100 bikes at 114 stations. Program officials recently announced that it now has 400 stations offering bikes in more locations surrounding the National Capital, including Alexandria, Va., and Maryland's Montgomery County. In six years, Capital Bikeshare riders have made approximately 14 million trips covering an estimated 23 million miles, and those numbers should only continue to grow. The program will see the addition of 29 new bike stations this fall in Fairfax County, Va. NEWBORNS GET FREE NIKES IN MARYLAND Nike is hoping a new crop of competitive runners come out of Annapolis and other cities where recent Olympic gold medalists were born. The iconic shoe company recently donated 70 pairs of shoes to newborns at the Maryland city’s Anne Arundel Medical Center. The gesture came in honor of Nike runner Matt Centrowitz, a native of nearby Arnold, Md., who won gold in the 1,500 meters at the Rio Olympics. As part of its “Unlimited Future” campaign, Nike is giving the limited edition Nike

Waffle 1 newborn shoes to babies born in the hometowns of medal winners across the country. Little ones also received new kicks in Seat Pleasant, Md., since Kevin Durant grew up in the area, and Spring, Texas, where Simone Biles was raised. Trying to inspire future athletes, Nike included a note with the shoes for Annapolis newborns that said: “It all starts now. 26 years ago, it started in Arnold for a little champ just like you. And in Rio Matt Centrowitz conquered the world. Maybe, someday, that could be you. Or maybe you’ll choose to do something else. There really are no limits to your potential.”

illustration by WADE MICKLEY

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FLASHPOINT

11.16

UNSOLVED MYSTERIES

FOUR CRIME CAPERS FROM PUBLIC LANDS IN THE SOUTHEAST by MASON ADAMS

U

nsolved mysteries fascinate because of their mix of true crime and ambiguity, which creates endless opportunity for speculation and armchair sleuthing. Unsolved mysteries that occur on public wildlands carry an extra wrinkle, as they take place on lands where we play. It’s an eerie feeling to pass a spot that once was the site of a violent crime. Statistically, crime in public wildlands is relatively rare. Most crime there tends to be vandalism or illegal dumping. As is the case with crime generally, violent crime on public lands tends to be domestic, occurring between people who know each other. The chance of being assaulted in a national park is one in 1 million. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the average chance of being assaulted in the country at large is 3,100 times higher. Still, attacks sometimes occur for no discernable reason. Federal agencies recommend using caution and common sense, especially if you are alone. At least three out of the four cases profiled here involve foul play, and investigators still are pursuing leads even decades later.

JULIANNE MARIE WILLIAMS AND LAURA "LOLLIE" WINANS SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK 1996 The murders of Julianne Marie Williams and Laura "Lollie" Winans 20 years ago in Shenandoah National Park remain unsolved today, though 10

at one point federal officials thought they had their man. Williams and Winan, 20-something New Englanders arrived at the park on May 19 with plans to stay through Memorial Day weekend. They were noticed missing after failing to show up for work on May 28, and on June 1, the two were found at their secluded campsite, which faced the eastern face of Stony Man Mountain, with duct tape binding their wrists and covering their mouths. Both women were nude with their throats cut. Neither had evidently been sexually assaulted and the only items that seemed to be missing were Williams' personal belongings, including a journal and her driver's license. The case generated a huge amount of publicity and tips from the public, but no leads. A year later, Darrell David Rice was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for stalking and assaulting a woman bicycling on Skyline Drive. Federal officials identified him on cameras entering and leaving Shenandoah National Park around the time Williams and Winans were murdered. On the testimony of a fellow inmate who played in a prison band with Rice and said he’d spoken of killing a woman in the park, Rice was indicted in 2002. Federal prosecutors dropped all charges two years later, however, based on holes in their case. One potential witness, for example, said he and his wife had been camping in the park around the time of the killings. He noticed a creepy man staring at him across a clearing, and later chose a photo of Rice out of a line-up, but said he was only 65 to 70 percent sure of the identification. The camper’s wife said she’d heard screams the night before; she also said she had then astrally projected out of her body to explore the crime scene. The biggest blow was DNA testing from a male hair found on the duct tape used to bind the women. It did not match Rice. Still, U.S. Attorney Thomas Bondurant said he still

B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S / N OV E M B E R 2 01 6

LAURA WINANS (ABOVE) AND JULIANNE WILLIAMS (RIGHT) WERE MURDERED IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK IN 1996. photos courtesy FBI

considered Rice a suspect. This summer, the F.B.I. renewed calls for assistance in solving the murders of Williams and Winans. Rice was released from prison in 2007, then did two more stints for parole violations. In 2014, police in Durango, Colorado, asked for calm after reports that Rice had been spotted in the area sparked a flurry of social media activity and calls to area law enforcement agencies. Police Chief Jim Spratlen told BlueRidgeOutdoors

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FLASHPOINT

11.16

the Durango Herald, “We have to just realize that he has the freedom to walk about the area. He has the freedom to get a job here, have a house and everything else…All I know is he’s not wanted, and we ain’t looking for him.” Meanwhile, back in Virginia, the deaths of Williams and Winans are considered an ongoing, active investigation, according to Dee Rybiski, public affairs and outreach specialist for the FBI’s Richmond division. Indeed, in early June the FBI marked the 20th anniversary by issuing a renewed call for tips about the killings. Anyone with information about Williams’ and Winans’ deaths should contact the F.B.I.’s Richmond office at 804-261-1044 or go to tips.fbi.gov.

SCOTT LILLY

APPALACHIAN TRAIL | 2011 Scott Lilly set out to hike the Appalachian Trail from Maryland to Georgia as a way to find himself, but his journey ended in northwest Amherst County, Virginia. Lilly’s last contact with the world had been at the end of July 2011, when he was climbing the Priest, a landmark mountain in Nelson County. In August, a group of weekend hikers discovered Lilly’s body in a shallow grave just off the trail near Cow Camp Gap, in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area of George Washington National Forest. His gear, including his shoes and backpack, was nowhere to be found. A medical examiner ruled that Lilly, who was from South Bend, Indiana, and used the trail name “Stonewall,” had died of “asphyxia by suffocation,” and ruled it a homicide. Family and friends said that Lilly, 30, was a Civil War enthusiast, thus his trail name’s reference to Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and that he had set out on the trail as a journey of self-discovery.

STICK IT TO WINTER. LEFT: DAVID METZLER AND HEIDI CHILDS DISAPPEARED FROM JEFFERSON NATIONAL FOREST IN 2009. RIGHT: THE BODY OF THRU-HIKER SCOTT LILLY WAS FOUND IN A SHALLOW GRAVE NEAR COW CAMP GAP, VIRGINIA.

In the days following the discovery of his body, the FBI—investigating his death because it occurred on public lands—sought to contact a number of other hikers thought to have had contact with Lilly, including “Mr. Coffee”, “White Wolf ”, “Papa Smurf ”, “Combat Gizmo” and “Space Cadet.” True-crime and Appalachian Trail online forums buzzed with rumors and speculations about Lilly and the hikers identified by the FBI, but five years later, no arrests have been made. Anyone with information about Lilly’s death should contact the F.B.I.’s Richmond office at 804-2611044 or go to tips.fbi.gov.

HEIDI CHILDS AND DAVID METZLER

CALDWELL FIELDS | 2009

Heidi Childs and David Metzler had spent four years together, but as rising college sophomores just a couple of days into the 2009 fall semester, they still had their whole lives ahead of them. On the evening of August 26, they got into Metzler’s 1992 Toyota Camry and drove out Craig Creek Road to talk and play guitar at Caldwell Fields, a recreation site in Jefferson National Forest. Ridges rise on each side to form a narrow valley around the site, which is home to three mowed fields, large shade trees and a stocked trout stream.

The next morning, a man walking his dog down the road found their bodies—Metzler in the car and Childs outside. They had been shot with a .30-30 rifle sometime between 8:25 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to authorities. At a news conference soon after the bodies were found, the Montgomery County sheriff called the killings “brutal and ugly.” Since then, a coalition of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have investigated the case, offering a reward of $70,000 for information leading to an arrest. In 2012, officials released new information: That Childs’ purse, which included her cell phone and credit card, had been taken from the scene, and that investigators had recovered DNA evidence, which was tested against nearby residents. Seven years after the homicides, however, no arrest has been made. However, “this is not a cold case,” said Lt. Kenny Light in August. “This is still a very active investigation, to the point that when you called, I was writing up something on this case.” Montgomery County law enforcement officials request anyone with information about the crime to contact them. They’re looking for information on people or vehicles that may have been in the area that night. Contact Light at 540-3826915, ext. 44422 or lightdm@ montgomerycountyva.gov.

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N OV E M B E R 2 016 / B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S . C O M

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FLASHPOINT

11.16

STAYING SAFE ON THE TRAIL

DENNIS MARTIN

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK | 1969 The sudden disappearance of 6-yearold Dennis Martin on June 14, 1969, sparked the largest search-and-rescue operation in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The ultimate failure of that effort left a nearly 50-year-old mystery that still haunts many hikers and parents visiting the park today. Dennis was part of a multigenerational overnight hike into the Smokies that spent its first night in Russell Field before moving on to meet more family the next day at Spence Field. Around 3 p.m., Dennis and three of the other Martin children decided to set off into the woods but circle back around to surprise the grown-ups. Three of the kids went one way, and Dennis went another. That was the last time Dennis was seen. When he didn’t show up with the others, the adults waited a few minutes before going to look for him. That evening, as darkness fell, a storm dumped more than 2 inches of rain on the Smokies, setting a wet weather pattern that continued into the following days as the search expanded. Over the next week, hundreds of people descended on the park to help in the effort, growing to a peak of 1,400 a week after Dennis had disappeared. The searchers included volunteers of all ages, law enforcement and public safety personnel, and even 60 Green Berets. But Dennis disappeared in rugged terrain, covered in rhododendron and mountain laurel, with roaring creeks obscuring sound, which hampered searchers’ efforts. Park officials later produced a report blaming the search’s failure in part on the fact that the arrival of volunteers outpaced the organization, resulting in confusion and the possibility that searchers had destroyed evidence that might have helped locate Dennis. 14

• Use common sense and caution when exploring the outdoors. Most wildland crime occurs in places where people gather, whether along roads, in campgrounds, or at trail shelters. • Let someone know your plans. • Carry maps and know how to use them. • Stay alert. Pay attention to details of your surroundings and people you encounter, and look for anything that does not fit or sends a red flag. • Use extra caution if hiking alone. If you are by yourself, there is no need to broadcast that you are hiking alone or give information about your plans. • Be wary of people who make you uneasy. Avoid or get away quickly from people who act suspicious, hostile, or intoxicated or exhibit aggressive curiosity or any other behaviors that just don't feel right, even if you can't explain why. Trust your instincts. • Don't camp or linger near roads or trailheads. DENNIS MARTIN DISAPPEARED NEAR SPENCE FIELD IN GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, N.C. NEARLY 50 YEARS AGO.

What happened to Dennis? No one knows, although a range of anecdotes that emerged after the search offer a range of possibilities. A little more than 3 miles from Spence Field, some searchers found the footprint of a shoe that would have fit Dennis. However, it was initially dismissed as the footprint of a searcher and wasn’t pursued. Another man reported hearing screams and noticing a ragged man he initially mistook for a bear. Because this sighting occurred 9 miles from Spence

B L U E R I D G E O U T D O O R S / N OV E M B E R 2 01 6

Field, it too was initially dismissed. Finally, a ginseng hunter said he found the bones of a small child, but didn’t report them because he had been poaching the medicinal plant. When he finally did report the bones years later, they could not be found. Most people believe that Dennis either died on his own, was attacked by a predatory animal or was abducted by a person. Nearly 50 years later, no one knows for sure—and it’s increasingly unlikely that anyone ever will. BlueRidgeOutdoors

• Eliminate opportunities for theft. Don't bring jewelry. Keep money and credit cards well hidden. Don't leave your equipment unguarded. Don't leave valuables or equipment in vehicles (especially in sight) parked at trailheads. • Use trail and shelter registers. If you need to be located in case of a family emergency, your register entries provide the best tool for finding you. • Be wary of posting your location or itinerary on online journals in real time.

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45 Years Running

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THE DIRT

11. 16

IS APPALACHIA THE NEXT FLINT? VIRGINIA TECH PROFESSOR MARC EDWARDS’ RESEARCH BROKE OPEN THE FLINT WATER CRISIS. HERE ARE HIS THOUGHTS ON APPALACHIA’S WATER QUALITY. by JEFF KINNEY

I

t’s easy to take clean drinking water for granted, but we shouldn’t. Because what happened to the poor souls in Flint, Michigan—the highest-profile example of serious water pollution in recent memory—can easily happen elsewhere. Anywhere, really. And according to Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor whose water quality studies broke open the Flint water crisis, Appalachia’s water woes might actually be worse. Gulp. As everyone knows by now, widespread elevated levels of lead and dangerous Legionella bacteria were found in Flint’s drinking water supply, potentially causing serious long-term health problems for residents, especially children. What many people don’t know is that Edwards and a team of students were the first to discover the issue after conducting a series of water quality tests, partially in response to the complaints of one Flint resident who, along with her children, suffered rashes, hair loss, and other serious health problems. Edwards said various government agencies knew about the problem but sat on their hands. He thus spent $250,000 of his own money on essential steps like additional testing, Freedom of Information Act requests, and efforts to publicize the danger. Along the way, he got plenty of help from Flint citizens, the ACLU Michigan, and others. “We had to do the job that government agencies are paid to do but refused to do,” he said.

“In the end, we showed that Flint water wasn’t meeting federal safety standards. This was an environmental crime.” Edwards said his experience working on a similar lead crisis in Washington, D.C. 25 years ago was instructive. “We learned what it takes to expose something like this,” he said. “You have to act immediately and marshal an incredible amount of resources. In Flint, we tried hard to make sure the lessons of D.C. would be learned.” The good news is that exposing and addressing the problem took eight weeks in Flint, compared to about eight years in the nation’s capital. The bad news is that everyone else in the country, notably in Appalachia, still faces a similar threat. While drinking water pollutants differ by region (in Appalachia, high levels of fecal and other forms of bacterial contamination are some of the main culprits), the cause is the same no matter where you tip a glass to your lips: stripped-to-the-bone municipal budgets and lax enforcement. Edwards pointed out that there’s no consensus about what to do with post-industrial cities across the nation that have lost thousands of jobs and many of their residents, causing tax

revenues to crater. For example, many Appalachian towns burdened by legacies of pollution and hard-hit by job losses in coal and other industries simply can’t afford to meet federal or state water quality standards. Doing so would require huge financial outlays to replace creaking, decadesold water and sewer infrastructure. Moreover, “people in small towns are hardy folk and not likely to complain, and there often aren’t enough to generate a critical mass and a news scandal,” Edwards said. In that respect, at least, Flint residents were lucky. The upshot is that the EPA doesn’t bother to enforce water regulations that cities can’t comply with anyway. “All across America, one of the biggest untold environmental stories is what will happen to rural towns where agencies look the other way because these towns can’t afford to maintain their vital infrastructure and follow existing law,” Edwards said. That’s arguably worse than having no regulations at all, he added, because “why have a law giving people a false sense of security if you’re not going to follow it?” In that respect, many towns in the U.S. are actually worse off than those in Third World countries, where the residents are

THE JAMES RIVER NEAR RICHMOND IS THREATENED BY COAL ASH AND OTHER POLLUTANTS.

at least aware that their water is undrinkable. As with all seemingly intractable problems, lasting solutions will require Herculean efforts and wholesale cultural changes that might not be in the offing. Consider that according to the American Water Works Association, our buried water infrastructure will need more than a trillion dollars’ worth of maintenance over the next 25 years just to keep it in reasonable shape. Where’s that money going to come from, especially for small, post-industrial towns that can barely make ends meet? “As a society, we need to think about how we help places that have been left behind and ask whether water is a right or a privilege,” Edwards said. “We have to decide whether we’re going to follow existing laws and what to do about cities that chronically violate them. Is this the end game, where the regulator tells the city to stop breaking the law and the city keeps on doing it because it couldn’t do anything else? Maybe our solution is to let these towns die, and in the meantime say you live there at your own peril.”

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED (AND WISHED THEY HADN'T) A FIELD SURVEY OF THRUHIKERS' BACKPACKS by CAROLINE LELAND

O

n my recent two-week solo backpacking excursion on the Appalachian Trail, I asked one survey question to 67 people with whom I crossed paths: “What’s the least practical thing you’re carrying?” Five backpackers wished they hadn’t brought towels. Six people named a book as their least practical item. Twelve of the survey responses were related to electronics. Four backpackers admitted to carrying alcohol, two said they brought candy, and one said tobacco. Four said the A.T. was more shaded than they expected, so they regretted bringing sunglasses or sunscreen. Once, I got the same answer from two people for opposite reasons: a sleeping pad too big and one too thin. Some people described items I considered completely necessary for myself—such as tent (two people named this), sleeping bag, bear spray, and water bladder. And of course

several people named objects I found laughably absurd, such as a big glass jar of jam, a two-pound wax pirate, LOWA Boots & Shoes Can Be Found at These Specialty Outdoor Retailers: a large makeup bag, a razor with shaving gel, and heavy foods like non-dehydrated salsa, almond milk, ©2016 LOWA Boots, LLC. pickles, and applesauce (all four of these food items were carried by one person). LOWA BRO_Nov16_Final.indd 1 9/28/16 Very few of the answers were sentimental: a few people, like me, carried a notebook or a journal, but only one woman described a gift from a family member. This woman, who called herself “Meemaw Bobbie,” carried a stuffed owl toy her granddaughter gave her. In parallel, my least practical item was a watercolor painting and letter from my sister. Like Henry David Thoreau, we go to the woods because we wish to live deliberately. Backpacking represents maximum simplicity in a time when life is often overwhelmingly complex. My survey was perfectly VIRGINIA suited for the Appalachian Trail because backpacking makes you think Where the Blue Ridge Mountains about what’s really, truly important Meet the Shenandoah River to keep with you—knowing that • CAMPING • SKYLINE DRIVE each item has a price in weight. In a • CANOEING • SKYLINE CAVERNS world of disposable everything and a • HIKING • GOLFING constant push for more-more-more, • HISTORIC DOWNTOWN • WINE TASTING backpacking stands out as a unique opportunity to distill your life into W W W . D I S C O V E R F R O N T R O YA L . C O M what’s essential.

Experience

10:00 AM

Front Royal

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Manicured groomers or challenging steeps? Wicked features or hidden glades? Spicy cocktails or sweet desserts? Fluffy pillows or pulsing beats? Some say the choices on the mountain are endless. We say, when in doubt, mountain more. Welcome to Snowshoe.

snowshoemtn.com/mountainrules


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he Blue Ridge boasts dozens of towns with vibrant outdoor scenes and access to worldclass adventure. In August, thousands of readers voted for their favorites. Readers selected the top outdoor town in three categories: large town (population 100,000+), mid-sized town (population 10,000 – 100,000), and small town (population less than 10,000). Congratulations to our three winners—and to all 48 towns in the running.

Adventure Towns

2016 TOP SMALL TOWN

FRANKLIN

NORTH CAROLINA Established: 1855 Population: 3,898

“L

by JESS DADDIO

ife just always seems to get better in Franklin.” So says Ben Wendell, 33, a husband, father, and pastor who moved with his family to the mountains of western North Carolina to escape the bustle of Miami. “Our kids just love it here,” he says. “There’s a truckload of things to do, and the people more than anything else, they’re real." “We have a great sense of community,” says Franklin business owner Tim Crabtree. “Everybody tries to work together. There are enough dollars to go around.” Crabtree moved to Franklin during middle school and decided to come back to town after college. Like the Wendell family, Crabtree says he values the proximity to outdoor recreation, and also the small town know-your-neighbor mentality. “If we get too big, we’ll lose what makes us special,” he says. “What’s great is that everybody around here wants to take care of our resources. We’ll continue to grow but at a sustainable pace.” With the recent addition of a THE CULLASAJA GORGE IS AN ICON OF THE REGION AND CONVENIENTLY LOCATED IN FRANKLIN, N.C.'S BACKYARD. photo by JESS DADDIO


the Shenandoah River. There’s also an arboretum, a public library where you can rent fully equipped daypacks for hiking, and a trolley that stops at the trailhead twice a day during peak thru-hiking season. The city recently announced plans to develop a 15-acre solar farm.

2016

Adventure Towns

HOW TO PLAY

riverside brewery, a food truck, and an ever-growing outdoor community, life really does appear to be getting better in Franklin. “It’s like that hipster quality of, ‘I heard of that band before you heard of that band,’” says Wendell. “There’s definitely that sense in Franklin.” Better hop on board now.

Take a Sunday drive or road ride along Skyline Drive, float the South Fork of the Shenandoah, explore underground at Skyline Caverns, savor a homemade and locally minded meal at Blue Wing Frog, and sample northern Virginia brews at Pavemint Taphouse & Grill.

WHERE TO STAY

HOW TO PLAY

Cozy up at the Blue Ridge Mountain Escape (rooms starting at $145 per night) or get away from it all at the Shenandoah River State Park (tent sites from $20 per night, cabins from $62 per night).

Hike the Bartram Trail to Wayah Bald, ride the Little Tennessee River Greenway, grab a handcrafted meal at the Root + Barrel, and cap it all off with a brew at Currahee Brewing Company.

WHEN TO GO

WHERE TO STAY

The Oak Hill Country Inn & Cottage (rooms starting at $100 per night) for a secluded country oasis, or the Mi Mountain Campground for a family friendly car camping experience (tent sites starting at $20 per night).

WHEN TO GO

Spring for the wildflowers and roaring waterfalls; fall for the foliage and Naturalist 25K and 50K. 2016 TOP MID-SIZED TOWN

FRONT ROYAL VIRGINIA

Established: 1,788 Population: 14,899

W

hat if I told you just 70 miles west of Washington, D.C., was a mid-sized city with a peaceful small-town vibe, a wealth of outdoor recreation, and low property taxes to boot? That place exists, and it's name is

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Summer for fishing on the Shenandoah, fall for the gorgeous displays of autumn brilliance along Skyline Drive. FRONT ROYAL SITS JUST MINUTES FROM THE ENTRANCE TO SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK AND THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL.

Front Royal. Located only two miles from the Appalachian Trail, Front Royal is an Appalachian Trail Community, the Canoe Capital of Virginia, and the literal gateway to all things Shenandoah—less than a mile from town stands the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park and just a few minutes further is Shenandoah River State Park. Flanked by the Blue Ridge to the east and the Massanutten Range to the west, Front Royal provides a base of operations for any outdoor activity, no matter the season. “I’ve hiked every trail in the park,” says Front Royal resident Sonja Carlborg. “I’m in the park two to four

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times a week.” Carlborg is a non-profit consultant in town and one of the leading committee members responsible for establishing Front Royal as an official Appalachian Trail Community back in 2012. Carlborg is also a former thru-hiker herself (class of ’00, trail name of Sirocco), and says that, though the parks, the river, and Skyline Drive have always been there, the in-town opportunities for recreation are just beginning to take shape. “Outdoor recreation has been steadily increasing as has the awareness of that as both a local benefit and an economic benefit,” Carlborg says. Recent additions to Front Royal have been a four-mile multiuse greenway that currently connects the Visitor’s Center to the South Fork of

2016 TOP LARGE TOWN

ROANOKE VIRGINIA

Established: 1,838 Population: 97,032

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rive through Roanoke tomorrow and you’ll see runners along the Roanoke River Greenway, cyclists heading up Mill Mountain, and kayaks on roof racks. The outdoor renaissance started about 20 years ago. In 1999, Wes Best, co-owner of East Coasters Bike Shop, and a handful of Roanoke citizens helped spearhead the opening of Carvins Cove to the mountain biking community. That moment, says Best, was like opening the floodgates—the surge of interest in the outdoors grew seemingly overnight.

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“Carvins Cove at this point is sorta old news,” Best says. “Now it’s all of these other little projects that pop up like the blueways and the fantastic trail running events.” “We’ve really got it all here,” adds Steve Powers, a Roanoke area paddler and biology professor at Roanoke College. “When water levels are right, we’ve got everything from really fun class I-III rapids on the Roanoke to class IV Johns Creek to class V Bottom Creek, which is the best whitewater I’ve ever paddled in my life, and it’s all within a half hour of Roanoke.” Paddlers fought hard to gain access to Johns Creek, and now Roanoke’s reputation among flatwater and whitewater enthusiasts alike is rising to the top. There’s even talk among Roanoke paddlers about creating a play park downtown. “I ROANOKE'S MILL MOUNTAIN RISES ABOVE THE TOWN AND IS A LITERAL MECCA FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS, WALKERS, AND RUNNERS. photo by SAM DEAN

Does it seem like weekends are never long enough? It’s time for a getaway to the Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, where you can hike the famous Appalachian Trail, bike at Carvins Cove or enjoy a peaceful run on the scenic Roanoke River Greenway. It’s also the largest metropolitan area in Virginia’s Mountains, which means you’ll find great dining, nightlife and award-winning craft beer.

ENJOY EVERY MOMENT ON BLUE RIDGE STANDARD TIME.

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2016

Adventure Towns think the uniqueness [of Roanoke] is that there’s so much happening from the top down,” says Best. “It’s the mix of passion for the outdoor community with passion for the simple way of life that Roanoke offers.”

HOW TO PLAY

Ride the Roanoke River Greenway to Mill Mountain and back, SUP the Roanoke River, hike the Star Trail, splurge with a southern style meal at Blue 5, and kick back to some live tunes and great beer at Parkway Brewing Company.

WHERE TO STAY

Kanawha State Forest, laced with 30 miles of hiking and biking trails. MORGANTOWN, W.VA.: Coopers Rock State Forest offers 13,000 acres of adventure for hikers and bikers. HARRISONBURG, VA.: Mountain bike in the GW, and then hit the ski slopes of Massanutten Resort. CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.: The Rivanna Trail encircles the city, and O-Hill is a popular trail network on UVA’s campus, but the most magnificent trails are in nearby Shenandoah National Park. MORGANTON, N.C.: Just north of town, explore the rugged, remote trails and crags of Linville Gorge. HENDERSONVILLE, N.C.: The Blue

Ridge Parkway, DuPont State Forest, Green River, and Pisgah National Forest are all within striking distance. WAYNESVILLE, N.C.: Ride Coleman

Mountain Panther Creek Loop or hike up Cold Mountain.

Go back in time and treat yourself with a room at the Black Lantern Inn (rooms starting at $135 per night).

GREENVILLE, S.C.: Hike or bike the

WHEN TO GO

at Bent Creek, or paddle the French Broad River through downtown.

Winter for the uncrowded hikes and expansive views; fall for the festivities like Roanoke GO Outside Fest. EXPLORE MORE

TOP TOWN ADVENTURES

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.: Hike the

Tuscarora Trail, a 242-mile blue blazed side trail that runs parallel to the Appalachian Trail.

MARTINSVILLE, VA.: Paddle the Smith

River Trail System and attend the Smith River Fest.

FRANKFORT, KY.: The Sheltowee Trace

National Recreational Trail stretches 319 miles through the Daniel Boone National Forest. CHARLESTON, W.VA.: Load up

the bikes and explore 9,000-acre

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Swamp Rabbit Trail, or summit Sassafras Mountain.

CHARLESTON, S.C.: Explore the 7-mile

LEXINGTON, KY.: Kayak Elkhorn

COLUMBUS, GA.: Riverwalk provides 15 miles of trail around the Chattahoochee River.

BALTIMORE, MD.: Explore the Battle

Palmetto Trail via foot or on wheels.

BIRMINGHAM, ALA.: Moss Rock

Creek; fish the 47-acre lake at Jacobson Park.

Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary, home to 1,000-year-old trees.

ASHEVILLE, N.C.: Get on two wheels

Preserve offers challenging rides, and Red Mountain State Parksoffer tons of trails for hiking and running.

BREVARD, N.C.: Brevard serves as the gateway to Pisgah National Forest, DuPont, and Gorges State Park.

EVANS, GA.: Explore the Fork Area

GREENSBORO, N.C.: Take in 42 miles of rolling Piedmont foothills around Lake Higgins on foot or by bike.

BOONE/BLOWING ROCK, N.C.: Take

KNOXVILLE, TENN.: Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is a unique urban playground offering 50 miles of trails.

DAWSONVILLE, GA.: Explore Amicalola Falls State Park and the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Trail System (aka: FATS) for 37 miles of trails.

your fishing poles to the Watauga River, or take your skis to Beech Mountain Ski Resort.

JOHNSON CITY, TENN.: Hike Roan

Mountain, paddle the Nolichucky, or go for a trail run at Warriors’ Path State Park. CHATTANOOGA, TENN.: Explore

Lookout Mountain by boot or bike, or go for a trail run at Raccoon Mountain or Stringers Ridge.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Rock Creek Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country. RICHMOND, VA.: Rock hop on Belle

Isle, an island in the James River and part of James River State Park.

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.: Explore Back

Bay and paddle through over 12,000 acres of protected coastal marsh and marsh habitat.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Paddle at the U.S.

LOUISVILLE, KY.: Head down to the

ATLANTA, GA.: Run at Kennesaw

CHESAPEAKE, VA.: Paddle the Great

National Whitewater Center; explore Sherman Branch MTB Park.

Mountain or at Cochran Shoals along the Chattahoochee River.

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Ohio Riverfront and play in the Louisville Waterfront Park.

Dismal Swamp Canal, or take a canoe to paddle around Lake Drummond.

SYLVA, N.C.: Hike in Pinnacle Park or anywhere in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or paddle the Tuck. CHEROKEE, N.C.: Cherokee offers front

door access to Mingo and Soco Falls, the Oconaluftee River and Trail, and the Great Smokies.

BRYSON CITY, N.C.: Mountain bikers

should hit up Tsali Recreation Area. Steep creekers can paddle the Cascades of the Upper Nantahala.

ELLIJAY, GA.: The mountain bike capital of Georgia is at the doorstep of endless trails in Chattahoochee National Forest. WALHALLA, S.C.: Paddlers will want

to add the nearby Chattooga and Tallulah Rivers to their bucket list.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.VA.: The New


MOUNTAINS OF MONEY BUSINESS ONCE CAME TO THE MOUNTAINS FOR THEIR BOUNTY. NOW IT’S ATTRACTED BY THEIR BEAUTY.

by MASON ADAMS

H WITH FRONT DOOR ACCESS TO NATURAL RESOURCES LIKE JEFFERSON NATIONAL FOREST AND HIGH KNOB RECREATION AREA, THE CITY OF NORTON IS HOPING TO GROW ITS RECREATION SCENE IN YEARS TO COME. photo by JESS DADDIO

River Gorge provides world-class whitewater, top-notch sport and trad climbing, bouldering, and hiking. LONDON, KY.: The cycling capital of

Kentucky, London offers easy access to the Bluegrass Tour Bicycle Route.

MCHENRY, MD.: Visit 3,900-acre Deep Creek Lake or tackle class IV rapids and slalom course at Adventure Sports Center International. ABINGDON, VA.: The Virginia Creeper

Trail starts in Abingdon and spans 34 well-graded rail-trail miles. DAVIS, W.VA.: Cross-country ski at

White Grass Ski Touring Center or backpack through the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

LEXINGTON, VA.: Hike to Devil’s Marbleyard or fish and float the Maury River through Goshen Pass. OHIOPYLE, PA.: Hike the Laurel Highlands Trailor paddle the class II Lower Youghiogheny River. WOODSTOCK, VA.: Explore Skyline Drive and adventures in Shenandoah National Park.

ere’s the dirty secret behind the so-called “war on coal,” however: Even if Donald Trump wins the presidency with huge Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Appalachia coal will never return to the heights it reached in the 20th century. Coal employment never truly recovered after its mid-century peak, in large part due to technological advances that reduced the need for manpower. Even if Trump were to reverse the Clean Power Plan on his first day in office, power companies already have closed or converted to gas an estimated 72 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generating capacity due to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. Most of the plants affected were near the end of their operating life anyway, so they won’t be reopened even if the rule is stricken. Factor in competition from KNOXVILLE’S URBAN WILDERNESS

Knoxville has long been the Gateway to the Smokies, but now it has its own wildlands right within city limits. The 1,000-acre Knoxville Urban Wilderness Corridor along Knoxville’s downtown waterfront contains ten parks and more than forty miles of recreational trails, along with three civil war forts, historic settlement sites, and diverse ecological features. The trails are a mix of rugged singletrack, crushed gravel, and mown grass pathways. The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, Knoxville Track Club, and Knox Greenways Coalition provided thousands of hours of volunteer labor and helped acquire much of the land. Most of the trails are nestled along the Tennessee River, which flows through the heart of Knoxville.

natural gas and you can understand why officials from the region’s biggest electrical utilities say they’ve built their final coal plants and are instead shifting to gas and renewables. The bottom line: Politics can’t save the coal industry, which has seen its largest companies fall into bankruptcy the last few years. It will continue but never in the once dominant form of “King Coal.” The question now is what can be done to save those communities that have depended on coal for a century or more. The answer may have been under our noses all this time. The same bright air, pure water, wilderness and wildness that first drew settlers to Appalachia now may provide for its economic future. Make no mistake: There are no easy answers in this complicated, ever-changing world. There are, however, examples of Blue Ridge communities who seem to be thriving, or at least tolerating, the world’s rapidly changing economic conditions. Asheville and Roanoke have become hip urban centers that are gaining new residents and businesses. Meanwhile, the small towns of Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Floyd, Virginia, have seen a resurgence of entrepreneurs and small-business activity driven by locals. What do these places have in common? They’ve taken advantage of their outdoors to attract not just tourists and new residents, but outfitters, advanced manufacturers, craft breweries, distilleries, and other employers. The outdoors is common ground for red and blue America—a place where hunters, fishermen and offroaders share space with hikers, bikers and climbers. Access to wildlands doesn’t just draw visitors but also employers seeking a high quality of life to attract skilled, happy workers. Outdoor branding also translates into a positive self-image that lends confidence to pursuit of business prospects. If enough people believe

something about a place, that it’s a rundown shell of a city or a thriving outdoor town, then that’s what it becomes. The power of the outdoors doesn’t work alone. Natural amenities must be paired with a vibrant culture, regional cooperation and smart investments that may take decades to pay off—all easier said than done. The overall impact of the outdoors as a singular economic development factor is difficult to measure, but the sense of place that nature brings can make a powerful difference at a time when an individual can do business from anywhere in the world with a good enough broadband connection. That’s not to say that communities successfully tapping into their outdoor amenities don’t have problems. Economic success can create new challenges—income inequality, gentrification, an escalating cost of living—while exacerbating those that have existed for centuries, such as segregation and racial disparities. However, the challenges facing those communities that haven’t begun the transition away from stagnating industries, especially in rural areas, feel even more overwhelming. Funding initiatives such as the president’s POWER initiative, which is sending more than $38.8 million to West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Alabama for education, infrastructure, business development, manufacturing expansion and workforce training in coal communities, represent a step, but they must be paired with a recognition of the importance of the outdoors in economic development. The businesses that are thriving in today’s Appalachia aren’t trying to turn back the clock on outdated industries. Instead, they’re taking advantage of a global market, applying a mix of cultural tradition and technological innovation, and leveraging the region’s natural beauty to attract and retain skilled workers. It's a solid and sustainable blueprint for an Appalachian renewal that protects the long-term value of its mountains by keeping them intact.

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IN A KENTUCKY TRAIL TOWN

Dawson Springs


Olive Hill Morehead

Royalton berea

mckee

livingston london columbia

Elkhorn city

Manchester Harlan tri cities

jamestown Stearns

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2016

Adventure Towns A BRIGHTER FUTURE AS SMALL-TOWNAPPALACHIA STRUGGLES TO FIND A NEW IDENTITY, THESE FOUR SMALL TOWNS ARE LOOKING TO OUTDOOR RECREATION FOR THE ANSWER.

by JESS DADDIO

NORTON, VIRGINIA

ESTABLISHED: 1894 POPULATION: 3,958

I

meet Shayne Fields at the Sugar Maple trailhead in Flag Rock Recreation Area. Save for Fields’

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red Ford Explorer, the parking lot is empty. He shakes my hand, cracks a corny joke. Instantly, I feel like I’ve known him my whole life. That’s the way it is in southwest Virginia. Hospitality is more than just a dogma of Appalachia—it’s bred into the very marrow. Fields is trail coordinator for Norton, and he has big plans: among the 30+ miles of singletrack he intends to build, there will be a pump track and an intermediate skills course, gravity trails and rock features. Situated in the westernmost part of Virginia in Wise County, it’s hard not to see the city’s potential as a recreation destination. Above Norton sits Flag Rock Recreation Area, a 1,000-acre parcel of municipal land. Higher still above the city is High Knob Recreation Area, home to a fire tower and impressive boulderfield littered with stunning highball boulders begging for first ascents. Just 15 minutes out of Norton is the Guest River Gorge, yet another bouldering,

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climbing, and paddling gem that, with the exception of Fields and a handful of area climbers, has largely gone untouched. “Norton’s had the idea [to support outdoor recreation] since the early ‘90s I think, but sometimes you need an instrument to point in the right direction,” Fields says. For better or for worse, that instrument became not so much a person as it did an event—the decline of coal. Driving around Norton, it’s impossible to miss signs of the city’s once-lucrative industry. US-58 passes beneath a now-defunct coal conveyor belt before entering city limits. Gargantuan coal haulers idle in parking lots. The coal tipple along the Guest is quiet. This area once hauled close to one million annual tons of coal from the hills and hollers of Appalachia. “It was like the money was flowing out of everywhere,” Fields, now 52, says. “This area felt like a boom town.” And it was. But when Fields

returned to his hometown back in 2003, coal was on its way out and the city’s residents were left reeling in its wake and asking—what next? Fields, a longtime climber and active member of the local Lonesome Pine Cycling Club, wasn’t sure he had the answer, but he knew if there was one thing besides coal that Norton had an abundance of, it was recreation. “Normally you go before a city with a proposal and all they have are worries and concerns, but [Norton’s] perspective is always, ‘How can we make this work?’ There’s this community understanding that if we want to survive, if we want to grow, it’s gotta come from us.” That’s Brad Mathiesen, a 28-year old transplant to Wise County and the Director of Campus Ministry at UVA-Wise. Mathiesen is also the co-founder of the Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition and, like Fields, he knows Norton has what it takes to become the next best adventure destination. In the two

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BRAD MATHISEN TOPS OUT DURING A LATE SUMMER CLIMBING SESSION IN THE GUEST RIVER GORGE. photo by JESS DADDIO

years Mathiesen has lived in Norton, he’s put up close to 100 new routes between Flag Rock and the Guest, and he says that’s hardly scratching the surface of the area’s potential. Still, there’s no denying that Norton has a long way to come before hipster climbers overrun the city. For starters, says Mathiesen, the city needs jobs that would appeal to recent college graduates and replace at least some of the void left by the coal mines. Toss in a few more restaurants, maybe a coffee shop with some WiFi, and Norton could really shine—the highway and hospitality infrastructure is already a mainstay here. “I think the town is really starting to recognize and say, 'Hey, let’s embrace this [outdoor] identity. It’s not something we have to work for or pay for. It’s something that’s been given to us, so instead of ignoring it, let’s try to build our city around it.'” In addition to completing Fields’ trail network in Flag Rock Recreation

Area, the city is currently working on plans for a Norton Riverwalk, a two-mile multi-use path that would connect downtown Norton with the community of Ramsey and clean up an abandoned coal tipple along the Guest. Mathiesen is also collaborating with the city to develop an officially sanctioned bouldering field on High Knob. HOW TO PLAY: Hike the High Knob

fire tower for 360-degree views of the Jefferson National Forest with the newly established High Knob Outdoor Club. Cruise the trails at Flag Rock Recreation Area by bike or foot. Explore the class IV-V Guest River Gorge by boat or stay high and dry on the Guest River Gorge Trail.

WHERE TO STAY: Journey’s End at

Camp Bethel for a bed and breakfast experience (rates vary). Pitch a tent closer to town at Flag Rock Recreation Area for $20 per night.

WHEN TO GO: Summer for the hiking

(High Knob is always 10 degrees cooler than Norton), fall for the climbing.

SPENCER, WEST VIRGINIA

ESTABLISHED: 1858 POPULATION: 2,248

High above Spencer sits a placard with a black and white image of the town from the 1900s. Today, there’s a Wal-Mart and a bridge that crosses Spring Creek, but in general, 2016 Spencer looks pretty much exactly like its 1900s version. “It’s downhome, country charm, Spencer, Mayberry, USA. After 63 years, it’s still a pleasure and a lot of fun to live here,” says Spencer-bornand-raised Jeff Fetty. In the early ‘90s, mountain biking took off in West Virginia. Fetty, who raced throughout the state, knew that Spencer was prime for the picking—situated an hour north of Charleston, the city had 3,000 acres of undeveloped land, undulating terrain, and most importantly, the support of the local government. So, with a number of volunteers, Fetty helped create the trails at Charles Fork Lake. In ’94, he organized the city’s first mountain bike race, the Tour de Lake, at which 103 racers showed up. The next year, exactly 206

racers competed. The word was out. Spencer was on the map. “The groundwork that we laid 25 years ago, it’s really starting to pay off,” says Fetty. Last year, Friends of Charles Fork Lake Vice President Philip Smith received a $40,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Highways to build the trails at Ben’s Run. Smith, whose family has lived in Roane County for six generations, is Spencer’s biggest advocate, especially when it comes to expanding outdoor recreation in town. “One of the reasons that most people don’t think of Roane County or Spencer when they think about public lands is because we don’t have a state forest, we don’t have a state park, we don’t have a national park,” he says. “Most people don’t really think about municipal properties, but out of this entire state, I would challenge you to find a city, especially a city the size of Spencer that has better municipal lands.” It’s this, says Cycle-Smart Coach Jacob Fetty, Jeff Fetty’s son and a native of Spencer, that should make the city flourish. After years of traveling around the world, Jacob

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PHILIP SMITH HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL NOT ONLY IN REVITALIZING THE TRAILS AT CHARLES FORK LAKE, BUT ALSO IN ADVOCATING FOR SPENCER'S POTENTIAL AS AN OUTDOOR DESTINATION.

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Adventure Towns moved back to Spencer upon retiring from a full-time career in road and mountain bike racing. “Spencer is unique in that the municipality owns thousands of acres of land and by such controls its own destiny,” he says. When you couple that city land with low property taxes and cheap rent, you have what Smith says ought to be the next Fayetteville. "In Spencer, most businesses here are small businesses, and by small I mean micro-small, less than 10 employees,” Smith says. “People have been really resilient and tried to figure out how to create income for themselves.” Smith and the Fettys agree that fostering the continued growth of recreation tourism could be, at the very least, a part of the economic puzzle for Spencer. The challenge, says Smith, will be pulling in new out-of-towners. Winding two-lane roads lead to Spencer. With the exception of a small section of I-79 at the southern edge of Roane County, there are no four-lane highways here. “I think the town has a lot of potential for tourism,” Jeff Fetty says. “We’re not going to get another hub cap manufacturing company or sweater factory. But if you have someone come into your community to kayak or ride the trails, the dollar that they spend turns around seven times before it leaves.” The Tour de Lake now serves as the opening race in the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association point series. This past September, the city hosted its first trail race, the Charlie’s Challenge 5K/25K/50K. Be on the lookout for more races like these as well as the completion of the Spencer disc golf course in the months to come. 30

photo by JESS DADDIO

HOW TO PLAY: Ride the 10.1-mile

race loop at Charles Fork Lake. Be on the lookout for such highlights as the Mystery Mailbox. Paddle and camp on the lake itself—backcountry camping here is free. Ride or run at Ben’s Run before grabbing a glass (or bottle) of wine at Chestnut Ridge.

WHERE TO STAY: The Arnott House

Bed and Breakfast provides a quirky look back in time thanks to the everentertaining hostess Dilya (rates from $79 per night). Camp at the base of Charles Fork Lake on electric hookup sites starting at $14 per night.

WHEN TO GO: Spring for the riding,

fall for the foliage (and of course, the West Virginia Black Walnut Festival).

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DAHLONEGA, GEORGIA

ESTABLISHED: 1833 POPULATION: 6,049

The history of Dahlonega is rich. Visitors to the quaint north Georgia town need only scan the horizon to see signs of Dahlonega’s storied gold mining past—high atop the University of North Georgia's campus sits the iconic Price Memorial Hall steeple, covered in Dahlonega gold. The largest gold deposits east of the Mississippi River were found here, a discovery made 20 years before miners even thought about rushing off to California. Yet what fueled a surge in population and development some two centuries ago has largely kept

the look and feel of present-day Dahlonega unchanged. The quiet beauty and natural splendor of Dahlonega are inspiring a new wave of out-of-towners to tap into the “new gold” of north Georgia—the great outdoors. “Dahlonega is still on the list of what’s vanishing in America,” says Appalachian Outfitters owner Ben LaChance. “You still have mom-andpop restaurants. Just 15 minutes from my house I can be hiking the A.T. or paddling on our beautiful little reservoir.” For LaChance, that juxtaposition between small town living and boundless recreation is exactly the reason he moved to Dahlonega over 30 years ago. His outfitter, which offers guided trips on Yahoola Creek and the Chestatee and Etowah Rivers, has grown alongside the town. Business, he says, is better than ever, but what of the future? “The people that stay here and tend to own property are usually more [in their] 40s to mid-60s,” he says,” but so many college students have four years in Dahlonega and they’re all around recreating, biking, running through town, coming into the restaurants.” That young energy has certainly paid off—there’s a vibrant arts community, a dynamic live music scene, and the best wine tasting in the state of Georgia. But with a tax exemption provided for Dahlonega residents 65 and older, it should come as no surprise that the majority of those who settle in town are retirees. “Right now there are as many students at the university as there are in the community of Dahlonega,” says Tourism Director David Zunker. “The university is producing students who want to stay and we have to find opportunities for them.” The potential is there. Now, more than ever, young professionals are


working remotely, creating their own businesses, and freelancing. Just an hour north of Atlanta and within minutes of the Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus, Dahlonega couldn’t be better positioned not only to attract tourists but to also cater to its residents who might need to hop on a plane for business. The town, says Zunker, recognizes this evolving concept of the workplace and has plans to improve its technology infrastructure in the years to come. “We want to continue to evolve as a tourist destination but also as a place that welcomes new millennials.” HOW TO PLAY: Float the Etowah, hike

to Amicalola Falls, then round out an evening listening to music at The Crimson Moon.

WHERE TO STAY: The Smith

House (rooms starting at $99/ night) is charming, historical, and conveniently located just one block from downtown Dahlonega. There’s even an original gold mining shaft visitors can view in the basement of the house. You can also rough it at the Foothills Campground for $25 per night.

WHEN TO GO: Spring for the

waterfalls, summer for the paddling and the annual Dahlonega Trail Fest.

EDEN, NORTH CAROLINA

ESTABLISHED: 1967 POPULATION: 15,488

Known mostly as a tobacco, and later cotton and textile, hub, Eden has long boasted fertile land, rolling hills, and clean water at the confluence of two rivers. It’s no wonder William Byrd II, upon establishing a home here in the early 1700s, deemed it “The Land of Eden.” But in the past few years, a number of major employers, including Miller Coors, have closed their doors. Combined with the negative attention that stemmed from a recent coal ash spill, the question of how to redefine Eden’s identity has elbowed its way

to the forefront of minds like Mike Dougherty, City of Eden Economic Developer. “Your natural resources, that’s what you have that differentiates you from everyone else,” Dougherty says. “In Rockingham County, we have four rivers, two state parks, and two lakes. We really should be the mecca of outdoor recreation in this area.” Within the next decade, Dougherty is hopeful that Eden will come into its own as a literal outdoor lover’s paradise—there’s already a planned expansion of the Smith River Greenway as well as in-town trail projects and boat launches in the works. The nearby Dan River crisscrosses the border eight different times. “Lots of folks enjoyed the river when I was growing up, but there weren’t as many recreational opportunities on the river because there weren’t public accesses,” says Three Rivers Outfitters co-owner Mark Bishopric. “As the public accesses have increased, we’ve seen significantly more activity in terms of canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding,

and tubing.” Bishopric grew up in Eden and worked for the textile industry as a young adult. In 2004, he joined two other locals to start Eden’s first outfitter. At first, business was slow but the team saw an inherent need in the community to provide a means of experiencing “The Land of Two Rivers,” and so, they persevered. Now, on any given year, Three Rivers Outfitters can have as many as 1,500 people on the water, the majority of whom are visiting from Raleigh, Greensboro, or Danville. “It’s a stick-with-it-and-growover-time type of business,” Bishopric says. “That’s what it takes. For each new trail you put in or each new water access or amenity, it’s just another piece of the puzzle and that just has to grow slowly over time.” The momentum is definitely building. Thanks in part to the creation of the Dan River Basin Association in 2002, the watershed that has for so long powered not just industries but the homes of some 1.5 million citizens is getting its due attention. The association hopes

DAHLONEGA'S HISTORY IS RICH IN GOLD MINING, BUT THE TOWN IS HOPING A COMBINATION OF THE OUTDOORS AND WINE CAN BE ITS "NEW GOLD." photo by JESS DADDIO

to bring together the 16 counties within the Dan River basin to further promote and protect this precious resource in the years to come. “We have a long way to go, but we’re a resilient bunch here,” says Dougherty. “The best is ahead of us.” HOW TO PLAY: Paddle and fish on

the Dan River, ride the Smith River Greenway, pack a picnic for Freedom Park, and grab a glass of wine at Autumn Creek Vineyards.

WHERE TO STAY: Pitch a tent at Dan River Campground starting at $25 per night for primitive sites. These guys can also hook you up with rentals should you decide to float the Dan during your stay. WHEN TO GO: Summer for the

festivals. Our favorites are the annual Charlie Poole Music Festival and River Fest.

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FALL IS THE PERFECT SEASON FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURE IN APPALACHIA. IT'S ALSO THE PERFECT TIME TO RE-UP YOUR GEAR STASH. WE’VE CONSULTED TOP CONTRIBUTORS AND GEAR-OBSESSED MEMBERS OF OUR BRO ATHLETE TEAM FOR ESSENTIAL BETA ON THE MUST-HAVE PIECES OF GEAR FOR FALL ADVENTURE IN THE BLUE RIDGE AND BEYOND. by TRAVIS HALL

HIKE NO.1 KEEN APHLEX WATERPROOF BOOT KEEN has always been known for coupling performance with comfort, but their new Aphlex Waterproof Boot takes both of these aspects to a whole new level. Combine comfort, increased toe and heel protection, and extremely effective waterproofing and you’ve got a boot that is meant to go straight from the box to the nearest trailhead. $150

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NO.2 PATAGONIA NANO PUFF Built for winter excursions in the rugged backcountry, the Nano Puff shell is made from moisture-shedding, wind-blocking 100% recycled polyester and insulated with lightweight, highly compressible Primaloft Gold insulation. The sculpted fit and zippered chest pocket self-stuff sack makes the jacket an easily portable must-have on any mountain adventure.

$120 NO.3 OUTDOOR RESEARCH FORAY RAIN JACKET Its superb breathability is enhanced by its Torsoflo design, which allows you to unzip the side of the jacket from the armpit down, providing increased ventilation even while wearing a heavy pack. Throw in GoreTex and you’ve got a top of the line rain shell. $215

NO.4 OSPREY ATMOS AG 65 The AG stands for anti-gravity, Osprey’s new suspension system that helps evenly distribute weight while simultaneously keeping a few inches away from the user's back. The opening it creates between your back and the bulk of the pack allows wind to pass through, providing increased ventilation

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5. and comfort. $260 Who we talked to: BRO Contributor and Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Chris Gallaway Where he took it: The Appalachian Trail.

NO.5 BLACK DIAMOND IOTA HEADLAMP It’s the smallest, lightest, brightest, rechargeable headlamp on the market. The Iota is ideal for early morning training sessions or evening runs with a three-hour burn time and rainproof exterior. It also incorporates PowerTap technology which makes for an easy to use dimming or light change system.

$40

CLIMB NO.6 BLACK DIAMOND OZONE AND HARNESS The Ozone is one of Black Diamond's top of the line lightweight harnesses. Carefully designed with a heavy emphasis on comfort, sleekness, and breathability, the Ozone features Kinetic Core Construction and a 3D mesh interior. Few harnesses on the market today can offer climbers the same level of trust and confidence. $100

NO.7 SCARPA VAPOR CLIMBING SHOE This is the perfect shoe for climbers who want to experiment on different types of terrain. The full length outsole and increased stiffness are matched with Vibram XS Edge rubber to offer Scarpa’s most supportive lace yet. $159

NO.8 MAMMUT MULTI-PITCH CHALKBAG Unlike most chalkbags which hold chalk only, this has been been designed to hold a few essential items as well—think keys and small snacks. With these items in tow, the multi-pitch climber can enjoy a more streamlined experience without constantly fumbling through a bulky pack. $40 Who we talked to: BRO Athlete and Climbing Fanatic Pat Goodman Where he took it: Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

BIKE NO.9 STUMPJUMPER FSR PRO CARBON 29 The Stumpjumper is a true MTB classic that debuted in 1981 as the world’s very first mass produced mountain bike.

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The new carbon model for 2016 brings some significant upgrades, including a top-notch internal cable routing system, dropper posts, which allow riders to adjust seat levels on the fly, and a built-in storage hatch on the frame. $6,500

NO.10 BONTRAGER RALLY MIPS The Rally MIPS, or ‘multi-directional impact protection system’, works by separating the outer shell from an inner shell, which keeps your brain better insulated from the rotational forces involved in most mountain bike crashes.

$125

rack is compatible with a variety of axle standards and will easily attach to your vehicle’s factory crossbar. Whether you’re toting the MTB to the nearest trailhead, taking your commuter across town for a tune up, or heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a long overdue road ride, this rack is a great go-to. $220 Who we talked to: BRO Athlete and 2015 Blue Ridge Outdoors Adventurer of the Year Gordon Wadsworth Where he took it: The Pinhotti Trail in North Georgia

RUN

NO.11 PIVOT CYCLES VAULT

NO.13 PETZL REACTIK +

BRO Athlete Gordon Wadsworth calls this bike “the single best looking and best performing multi-discipline steed since the invention of the horse”. From winding pavement descents to the rigors of the cross course, the Pivot Cycles Vault performs incredibly in every terrain. Thru axle disc brakes, a lower bottom bracket length, shorter chain stays, and increased tire clearance make the Vault the ultimate cyclocross machine.

With 300 lumens, the REACTIK + offers long distance trail runners and other outdoor enthusiasts a smart phone enabled, rechargable headlamp. Bluetooth technology that allows the user to connect to a mobile app to check remaining battery life, activate, customize lighting, and adjust brightness. $110

$3,899

The rugged, responsive trail runner features a newly added rock guard, making this shoe ideal for mountain running and technical training on hard,

NO.12 THULE THRURIDE 535 This no nonsense fork mounted roof 36

NO.14 LA SPORTIVA HELIOS SR

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rocky surfaces. The SR stands for “sticky rubber”, and the acronym has lived up to the hype. $130

NO.15 HOKA SPEEDGOAT Run in the shoe inspired by Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer. With 4 mm lugs and an injected EVA midsole, the Speedgoat is built for tough terrain. Yet it weighs in at a mere 9.7 ounces, and breezes across even the most technical trails with ease. It’s our go-to shoe for long training runs and ultra races in the mountains. $140

NO.16 NATHAN SPEEDDRAW PLUS INSULATED FLASK This water bottle was designed specifically with long distance runners in mind. Its ergonomic shape makes for a natural hold while running, and it's encased in insulation so your water stays cool for hours. $35 Who we talked to: BRO Athlete Alicia Huddelson Where she took it: The Appalachian Trail through the Smokies

FISH NO.17 SAGE X ROD, 8 WEIGHT WITH SAGE 6280 REEL SPOOLED

WITH RIO’S REDFISH SALTWATER LINE If you’re going after bull redfish, you’ll need the acclaimed new X from Sage, preferably in the eight to ten weight range. This rod has an unbelievably fast action that allows anglers to cast faster, farther, and more accurately with greater ease. Pair it with the Sage 6280 Reel and spool that with RIO’s Redfish saltwater line. Rod: $895 | Reel: $459

| Line: $62 NO.18 STREAM MAP USA This impressive app turns your mobile device into a handheld GPS with an emphasis on fishing. Your location is mapped and the map follows you as you travel along the water, even when you’re in far flung locations with no cell service. Stream Map USA is currently available for purchase in five editions covering 33 states on the App Store and Google Play.

$8.99 NO.19 SMITH GUIDE’S CHOICE WITH CHROMAPOP LENSES The lenses are the business end of these glasses, featuring ChromaPop polarized tech that greatly enhances color and cuts through any body of water that a fish might call home. Stainless

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27. 26. steel spring hinges allow for maximum flexibility. $179 Who we talked to: North Carolina-based fly fisherman and tattoo artist Danny Reed Where he took it: The Coastal Flats in and around Beaufort, South Carolina

CAMP NO.20 JETBOIL MINIMO Unlike the original cylindrical Jetboil, the MiniMo’s cooking pot is wide-mouthed and holds up to one liter of liquid. The improved regulator provides the user with much more control of the heat output. Expect to get about 20 meals out of a standard four ounce gas canister.

$135 NO.21 MSR CARBON REFLEX 2 Weighing in at just over two pounds, this two-person, three-season tent owes much of its packability to its ultra thin carbon fiber tent poles and super light micro fiber mesh. At just 17 inches long and 5 inches wide, it's an efficient space saver that’s useful on an A.T. thru-hike or a weekend excursion in the Linville Gorge. $500

NO.22 MARMOT PLASMA 15

This lightweight and super packable fifteen degree bag features some of the best down insulation on the market—900 fill down if you want to get techy about it— while the innovative vertical baffles transfer body heat evenly throughout the bag. If you’re looking to stay warm and dry during a long stint on the trail, this is the bag for you. $679 Who we talked to: BRO contributing photographer and all around adventure enthusiast Justin Costner Where he took it: The Linville Gorge and the Grayson Highlands.

NO.23 DMOS STEALTH SHOVEL Built specifically for adventure, the Stealth Shovel folds down into an easily portable 18” and expands into a 56” powerful aluminum shovel. Its precision teeth are sharp enough to break snow and ice but not your pack. Weighing only 3.3 pounds, it’s a must-have for any backcountry snow adventure this winter.

$129 NO.24 CHIMNEY CREEK 6 MTNGLO You’ll have campground neighbors buzzing with envy when you set up your Chimney Creek mtnGLO® tent. Illuminated with patent-pending mtnGLO

Tent Light Technology featuring LED lights integrated into the tent body; experience ambient light in your shelter with the click of a button. Ample living space and head height in this double door/double vestibule design will make your camping experience more comfortable than ever before. $599

NO.25 YETI HOPPER FLIP 12 The Flip is an extremely portable, 100% leakproof, tough-as-nails soft cooler boasting an inch of YETI’s ColdCell foam insulation to keep your food and drinks as cold as possible all day long. Its compact cube shape is perfect for strapping onto your kayak, day trips to the mountains, and campground hangouts. $280

PADDLE NO.26 BOARDWORKS SHUBU SUP Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to the SHUBU SUP series from Boardworks. This wide series board comes in lengths of either 9’ 6” or 10’ 6” and is great for still water paddling, fishing, yoga, surfing, and more. The generous width of these boards offer maximum stability in flat, turbulent,

or choppy water, and because they’re inflatable and come with an easy to use backpack, you can take them just about anywhere. $1099

NO.27 DAGGER ROAM, $859 Are you stuck on the fence between buying either a whitewater or flatwater kayak? Your solution lies in the new Roam kayak series from Dagger. A sit on top kayak equipped to face off with moderate whitewater, the Roam is the perfect way to break into the world of whitewater without breaking the bank or sacrificing the gear-hauling, adventureenabling benefits that traditional sit-ontop kayaks provide.

NO.28 WERNER ODACHI PADDLE, Designed in collaboration between engineers and some of the best racers in the world, the 2016 model provides race-grade control with its carbon shaft and greater leverage with its increased blade length.

$350 for straight shaft, $450 for bent shaft Who we talked to: BRO Athletes and pro paddlers Chris Hipgrave and Adriene Levknecht Where they took it: The Nantahala and Green Rivers and Lake Jocassee

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Find Trรถegs: troegs.com/beers @troegsbeer


BEST OF THE REST/ EDITOR’S PICKS NO.29 DEUTER AIRCONTACT 65 + 10 Extremely durable with a modern and slim look, the Deuter pack has been a staple for backcountry adventure. The new flexible Active Fit shoulder straps and the revised hip wing construction provide optimum comfort. $279

NO.30 STANLEY ADVENTURE STACKING VACUUM PINT Keep craft beer cold for up to 4 hours and iced beverages for as long as 15 by adding a set of Stanley’s Adventure Stacking Vacuum Pints to your base camp mess kit. $15

NO.31 WACACO MINIPRESSO Who says you can’t have great coffee in the backcountry? Wacaco has shattered that myth with the brilliantly engineered and super affordable Minipresso. This hand pump espresso maker produces a velvety and flavorful shot of espresso with ease and simplicity every time. $59

NO.32 COLDPRUF QUEST PERFORMANCE BASE LAYER The Cold Quest Performance base layer is basically a high performance set of long underwear capable of keeping you warm in extreme conditions while wicking moisture and inhibiting odor causing bacterial growth on fabric. Shirt

$40, Pant $32

ROOTED IN THE BLUE RIDGE APPALACHIA IS KNOWN FOR ITS SUPERB CRAFTSMANSHIP, AND THE WORLD OF OUTDOOR GEAR IS NO EXCEPTION. SOME OF THE INDUSTRY’S BEST EQUIPMENT IS MADE RIGHT HERE. NO.1 BLUE

RIDGE CHAIRWORKS

NORTH CAROLINA

Alan Davis, founder and chairman of Blue Ridge Chairworks, found his way to chairmaking by way of whitewater rafting. In the 1970s he guided on the

famed Cheat and Youghiogheny Rivers of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. When screen printing came into popularity in the late 70s Allen and his fellow guides decided to cash in on the trend by making T-shirts pressed with raft company logos. So began his love affair with making and selling goods in the outdoor industry. Soon he discovered woodworking and began creating custom canoe paddles. Today he has taken his craftsmanship to a whole new level with an entire product line of hand made wooden chairs. Carefully fashioned in the heart of the Western North Carolina Blue Ridge, these chairs are perfect for the outdoor enthusiast on the go. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: Caravan Chair and the Pisgah Forest Table

NO.2 MONOLITH VIRGINIA

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Zack Worrell is a self-taught artist and designer who comes from a long line of Appalachian adventurers and craftspeople. For much of his life he dabbled in various disciplines within the construction industry—from reclamation to timber framing. But it wasn’t until 2012, after spending time on a sabbatical with his family in Spain, that Zack began to take up to the age old art of knife making. Today, this Virginia knife maker’s portfolio is full of impressive works of art that span the gamut from large butcher knives and other types of hand forged kitchen knives to smaller, sheathed knives ideal for camping and other outdoor pursuits. “The knives we make at Monolith Studio are suited for kitchen culinary aficionados and knife users who love the outdoors,” Zack says. “Quite simply put, we make functional art and tools for living with an emphasis on design without compromising functionality, reliability or longevity.” WHAT WE RECOMMEND: The Mount Kilimanjaro Survival Knife

NO.3 LIGHTHEART NORTH CAROLINA

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The idea for LightHeart Gear was conceived on the Appalachian Trail when a nurse practitioner and lifelong seamstress named Judy Gross realized that the four pound tent she’d be hauling around for hundreds of miles was inadequate and decided it was time to make her own.

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“While hiking the Appalachian Trail, I met a guy who had a tent that, quite frankly, pissed me off. It was a lot lighter than mine and it was huge – like a palace,” Judy remembers from the experience. “I was schlepping a 4 ½ lb, 2-person tent. A tent that was really only large enough for 1 ½ people." With a strong knowledge of pattern making, she set about designing her own tent. The original plan was to just sew one for herself, but that was before Judy showed her prototype to a few friends and received some seriously positive feedback. She made the decision to launch the LightHeart Solo, and Lightheart gear was born. The unusual design of the LightHeart Solo provides for spacious headroom, allowing even tall individuals to sit up inside without hitting their head and plenty of length for sleeping comfortably. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: The Lightheart Solo Tent

NO.4 YAMA VIRGINIA

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MOUNTAIN GEAR

Like LightHeart, YAMA Mountain Gear was born on the trail—in this case both the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest Trails. Gen Shimizu founded the company in an effort to regain some of the novelty he felt while thru hiking these trails, and it’s resulted in some of the sleekest and most packable hand made shelters around. “Throughout life, I've had a strong passion for the outdoors,” Gen says. “I've also always found myself driven to design and work with my hands. YAMA Mountain Gear is the confluence of my passions.” His outdoor passions are diverse and varied—in 2012, after hiking both the AT and the PCT, Gen Embarked on a mountain unicycle ride along the 2,755mile Continental Divide Trail—and the tents reflect his sharp eye for design and craftsmanship. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: The 1-person Cirriform Shelter

NO.5 OYSTER BAMBOO RODS | GEORGIA

8.

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FLY

Bill Oyster has been designing and handcrafting fine bamboo fly rods for over twenty years, and his rods have been drawing wide acclaim the entire time. He was commissioned to craft a rod for former president and Georgia native Jimmy Carter. In his workshop, nestled deep in the mountains of North Georgia, Oyster carefully creates some of the best bamboo rods in the world. He even offers

classes on the art of rod making and intricately engraves beautiful artwork on his fly rod’s accent pieces. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: The 3 piece extra tip Master Series

NO.6 EAGLES NEST OUTFITTERS | NORTH CAROLINA

ENO is one of the longest standing and most reputable outdoor gear builders in Western North Carolina. Founded by brothers and adventure partners Peter and Paul Pinholster in the summer of 1999, ENO has grown from its original incarnation as a small mobile company popping up sporadically along the East Coast to sell handmade hammocks to music festival attendees, into the nation’s most recognizable hammock brand. Over the year’s they’ve gotten better and better at designing hammocks and other accessories for the outdoor lifestyle, and now they’re out with one of their lightest, most backpack-friendly hammocks yet. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: Sub7 Hammock with the lightweight Helios Suspension System and the Moonbeam Headlamp

NO.7 ORION TENNESSEE

COOLERS

Eric Jackson of Jackson Kayaks founded his company in 2003 as a way to help kids experience kayaking. Today his local kayak company, based out of Sparta, Tenn., has morphed into one of the most recognizable names in paddlesports, and he has even branched out into the highly competitive world of high performance ice chest-style coolers. Features of the Orion 45 include six tie-down points, four bottle openers, low profile camping latches, a variety of different color options, and a highly functional tray system. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: The Orion 45

NO.8 FARM TO FEET NORTH CAROLINA

SOCKS

Some of the most technologically advanced hiking socks are made in the foothills of the Blue Ridge near the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Farm to Feet offers a full line-up of high tech merino wool socks designed for everything from hiking and fishing to snow sports and multi-day backpacking. Farm to Feet is known for quality and sustainability, demonstrated by their commitment to sourcing U.S.-based materials. WHAT WE RECOMEND: The Mid Weight Damascus Crew

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S P E C I A L A DV E RT I S I N G S E C T I O N

23ZERO ROOF TOP TENT The 23ZERO roof top tent has an Australian born heritage that gives you the freedom and confidence to tackle the outdoors. Whether it’s a journey into the desert, along the coast or along that new route you’ve been wanting to explore, it’s easy to set up and ensures a good night’s sleep.

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ADIDAS MEN’S & WOMEN’S FLYLOFT JACKET Our lightest synthetic insulated jacket uses clusters of synthetic insulation that mimic down in warmth, weight and compressibility, but retains warmth when wet. An ultralight face fabric for protection, and of course, this jacket packs into its own pocket. Two zippered hand pockets and internal security pocket to keep all belongings safe.

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ICEMULE PRO The IceMule Pro in Realtree is field ready, leakproof and ultra portable, making it perfect for all your food and drink needs while in the blind. Every IceMule is engineered to be extremely tough w/a sturdy exterior and interior 3x thicker than most soft coolers. They are equipped w/padded backpack straps to ensure you can carry your cooler everywhere. With IceMule’s unique roll top design, getting in/out of your cooler is hassle free - no other soft sided cooler compares.

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ENO DOUBLENEST LED The DoubleNest LED boasts the same amazing characteristics as the original DoubleNest, but features a festive integrated light strand – with bright, dim, and strobe functions – to inject fun into any hammock sesh. When the party is over, tuck the DoubleNest LED into its attached stuff sack and you’re ready for your next adventure.

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GSI Glacier Stainless MicroLite 500 unimaginably light, locking, flip-top vacuum bottle. This clever, pushbutton, vacuum-insulated bottle is 1/3rd lighter than traditional designs while still keeping drinks hot or cold for up to 8 hours. Even better, the rugged 18/8 stainless walls are just 2 mm thick, making for an incredibly compact footprint which slips into bags, pockets and cup holders with ease.

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BRIDGEDALE WOOLFUSION TRAIL SOCK Bridgedale’s Woolfusion® Trail socks withstand the elements for an experience unlike any other. From the Appalachian to the Pacific Crest Trail, go farther with Bridgedale’s hiking and trekking socks that keep your feet dry, warm and comfortable on and off-trail. Designed for year round use, Bridgedale is the choice for dedicated outdoor enthusiasts.

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S P E C I A L A DV E RT I S I N G S E C T I O N

HELINOX The Helinox Beach Chair is a versatile camp chair for sticking your toes in the sand, keeping your backside out of the dirt and snow, and keeping your eyes on the sunset. A super comfortable and supportive back and neck rest along with the simple shock cord poles make this the must-have chair.

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COLDPRUF HONEYCOMB FLEECE TOP ColdPruf’s Women’s Honeycomb Fleece top uses a performance polyester honeycomb fleece / Spandex blend to provide excellent moisture management, warmth and comfort. Features include an extended body, longer sleeves with thumbholes, extended tail, flatlock seams and a tagless design. The stylistic touches make it perfect as everyday active wear or as a base layer.

DEXSHELL WATERPROOF TREKKING SOCK The granddaddy of all hiking socks. Featuring a 4-way stretch nylon outer combined with moisture-wicking Merino Wool, this sock provides excellent fit and all-day comfort. The real magic happens inside the sock, where the Porelle® membrane keeps water out, yet allowing your feet to breathe. Forget everything you knew about waterproof socks - DexShell is a game changer.

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Developed in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with feedback from professional guides,ski patrollers and dedicated weekend warriors, the women’s Kresta and men’s Kamber packs are obsessively designed to match the passion and needs of off-piste professionals and recreationalists from Thompson Pass, Alaska, to the Chilean Andes or your local backcountry runs.

Fall is the perfect time for adventure. Whether you are hitting the water or the trail, the Mariner Unsinkable has you covered. Our Vaporlite™ Frames are 20% lighter with the look and feel of regular sunglasses, but they float. And if you happen to lose or damage them, we have you covered with our industry exclusive Lifetime Plus Loss™ Warranty. So get out there and Be Unsinkable.

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MUEHLEISEN’S MENTAL MARATHON When Travis Muehleisen ran his first full marathon, what got him through it was this:

EXERCISE ADDICT A former opiate junkie finds redemption in running.

by MARK CUCUZZELLA, M.D.

A

cross the country—and especially in the South— opiate addiction is a catastrophe. People have asked me if I have ever met anyone who has come off opiates successfully without substituting another opiate or drug. In over twenty years of medicine, I’ve known only one: Travis Muehleisen is a former opiate addict now running addict. Muehleisen did not choose to take pain meds. He was given them by physicians after four back surgeries to treat spinal stenosis. Muehleisen was obese, weighing 330 pounds at the time. He also suffered from depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease. “I didn’t like this way of life, but knew no other way,” says Muehleisen. “I knew I had to change or I was not going to be alive much longer.” He decided to make a change. In the winter of 2010, he started walking a mile on the treadmill in his sister’s basement. Within a month, he was up to three miles. The next summer, he ran his first lap around the track at Martinsburg High School. Slowly he kept increasing his distance, and a year later, he ran his first half marathon. 44

As an opiate user, Travis knew only one way to enter running: all in—and often to excess. “If I do not run and run hard, I literally feel pain,” says Muehleisen. “It takes me around six miles to get the substitute.” Since he has started running, Muehleisen has lost over one hundred pounds from exercise and eating right. “I no longer take any medications. I am really proud of that, And I am in the best shape of my life and back to working full time.” Travis is one of the few people I know who has come off disability. There is little incentive to work when you are getting a paycheck and insurance not to work. But Travis wants to work to keep his brain and body highly engaged. Desk job? Not for Travis. He is a steel worker and builds bridges. Muehleisen is now six years opiate-free. He has run 14 marathons in 4 years and plans to run the JFK 50 Miler this fall. He recently shared these insights from the past six years: What have you learned about running’s role in treatment of opiate addiction? Running has shown me that there is a productive life after addiction. If you want a good life bad enough, it’s up to

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you to take control of it. Do you think the symptoms of addiction ever go away? Just speaking for myself, I don’t think the addiction ever goes away. I think addicts just learn to cope with it. How do you feel if you miss running? If I miss running, I find myself experiencing pain and depression. Any other activity substitute in the same way? I haven’t found anything to substitute this addiction with besides running and the challenge of it. What advice would you give someone of pain medication now who wishes to get off them? Stay strong. It’s a long journey but it’s very rewarding once you have it under control. Find something that challenges you physically and mentally and just dive in. What do you think are the biggest barriers to people coming off the meds? Believing in yourself, getting your self esteem back, trusting that there is a life after addiction, and mending the damage you have caused to family and friends. BlueRidgeOutdoors

Mile 1: I ran for God for giving me the strength and another chance at life. Mile 2: For my two children, Jordan and Jessica, whom I love so very much. Mile 3: For my parents, my father in heaven who always believed in me and my abilities to do anything I wanted to do. For my mother, for always being there for me through the good and the bad. Mile 4: For my soul mate and best friend, T, for instilling confidence in me and for supporting me. Mile 5: For all of those disabled who can’t run. Mile 6: For those children being bullied. Mile 7: For my family, for believing in me. Mile 8: For people fighting cancer. Mile 9: For the US troops for fighting for my freedom. Mile 10: For all the victims affected by an act of mother nature. Mile 11: For those who are homeless. Mile 12: For all my medical doctors, especially for my neurosurgeon. Mile 13: For all abused animals. Mile 14: For those struggling with addiction. Mile 15: For all who are battling depression. Mile 16: For all my true friends. Mile 17: For all my coworkers. Mile 18: For all my teachers and coaches. Mile 19: For those suffering from hunger. Mile 20: For children battling obesity. Mile 21: For those who are missing loved ones. Mile 22: For abused women and children. Mile 23: For babies “born too soon.” Mile 24: For Chandler (my boxer) and Mallory (my Maltese) for accompanying me on several runs. Mile 25: For my health and happiness. Mile 26: I ran for me, for having the guts and courage. And the last .2 I ran for chili and cheese nachos! GoOutAndPlay

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W

THE END OF BATS? How Scientists and Cavers are Coming Together to Save the Bats by JESS DADDIO

hen native Rockingham County caver and biologist Pete Barlow first went to Breathing Cave in Bath County, Va., as a youth, the one thing he remembered, more than the elaborate passageways and 40-foot canyon walls and vaulted chambers, was the thousands of bats looking on from above. “There were so many, we’d sometimes put a few bats in a CheezIt box and release them in the gym to freak the girls out,” Barlow recalls. Today, of course, Barlow would never dream of plucking a bat from her roost, let alone shoving her in a box and releasing her into a gym full of equally mischievous teens. But now, he says, even if he wanted to catch a bat in Breathing Cave, he’d be hardpressed to find one. “The extent of white-nose devastation on bats is really obvious when you go there now,” he says. “You just don’t see the numbers that you used to.” Since WNS was first discovered in New York during the winter of 2006, it has now spread to 29 states and five Canadian provinces. Some estimate more than seven million bats, primarily Indiana, northern longeared, little brown, and tri colored bats, have perished due to the fungus. In many caves throughout the East, mortality rates are up to 95 percent. Take Black Diamond Tunnel in Rabun County, Ga., for example. In 2013, the tunnel served as the hibernacula, or winter hibernation grounds, for 5,517 tri-colored bats. The colony was thought to be the largest in the state. Now, only 220 tricolored bats remain. “In Georgia, we’re nearing complete loss of these populations in a timeframe that is really impressive in wildlife disease,” says Dr. Chris Cornelison, a senior scientist at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “It’s hard to find any hope. We try to use that as motivation to continue to work and develop tools that can curve this loss of organisms.” Cornelison is hoping his research on the bacteria Rhodococcus

rhodochrous will be one of those tools. The bacteria originally proved useful in its ability to delay the ripening of fruit. But when Cornelison learned that the fruit responded without ever coming into direct contact with the bacteria, they need only share the same air-space, and that exposed fruit showed significantly fewer amounts of mold, the lightbulb went off. Could this same bacteria save our bats? “It’s still very much in the developmental phase, but we have several field trials planned for this coming winter,” he says. In effect, Cornelison and his team will be installing bacteria misters in caves, small devices not unlike those time-release air fresheners you see at the store. The idea is that hibernating bats exposed to mists of the moldresistant bacteria will be spared the fatal effects of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus responsible for white-nose. If bats can remain fungus-free during hibernation, when their immune systems are down, they may stand a chance of enduring and, eventually, recovering their numbers. Sounds easy, and in a lab, where every variable can be controlled, it certainly has the appearances of being a successful treatment. But what is the effectiveness of Rhodococcus rhodochrous on a larger scale? Will it damage other characteristics of caves or species that reside in them? The answers to those questions, Cornelison says, will only come with time. CAVING FOR A PURPOSE Considering bats normally produce just one pup per year, and that WNS has now spread as far west as Washington state, time is something these mammals can’t afford. With increasing disturbances from timber harvesting and wind turbines, too, bats have a lot working against them. “It’ll take a lot more time than we actually have,” says Joy O’Keefe, Director of Indiana State University’s Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation. “This fungus moves and doesn’t wait for research projects to be completed or permits to be approved.”

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P R O T E C T I N G W I L D P L A C E S F O R T H E I R H A B I TAT A N D R E C R E AT I O N VA L U E S.

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Bats are important in pollination, sure, and eat what many say equates to their body weight in insects every night. By some reports, the loss of seven million bats could equate to one billion dollars lost on, essentially, free predation of pests, which means farmers will need to start spending more on pesticide, and consumers more at the grocery store. “We can’t afford to lose all of the bats out of the ecosystem,” says Dennis Krusac, Endangered Species Specialist for the Forest Service’s Southern Region. More importantly, adds Krusac, we can’t afford to be part of the problem. WNS is proving to be one of the deadliest wildlife diseases in history. Once scientific evidence showed humans, specifically cavers, were capable of transporting the fungal spores responsible for WNS, the Forest Service had to act. In 2009, select caves and underground mines on Forest Service property were gated. Five years later, the Forest Service signed a blanket memo that restricted

recreational access to all of its caves in the South. The closure, which will remain in effect until 2019, was controversial, exacting, and according to Krusac, 100 percent necessary. “The first couple of discoveries were long-distance jumps,” says Krusac. “[WNS] went from New York to West Virginia, and then from West Virginia to central Tennessee and where it was going were popular caves in the caving community with small bat populations.” Bats are social animals and migrate between their winter hibernacula and summer maternity sites, says Krusac, so bats will inherently spread WNS amongst themselves. But leaps of 450 miles, and most recently 1,800 miles from Minnesota to Washington state? “If I was a betting person, I would bet that [the discovery of WNS in Washington] was a human-caused transmission,” says Krusac. Cavers in the community balked at the closure. Caves, they said, needed the protection of the caving community. In 2009, five years before

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the official Forest Service blanket closure, the National Speleological Society (NSS) had enacted a voluntary moratorium on caving only to see instances of cave graffiti and littering increase. If anyone should be allowed underground, they argued, it should be cavers. In some ways, Krusac agrees. “They’re basically the eyes and ears underground,” he says. “We rely on the caving community. [The Forest Service] doesn’t have a lot of people trained in caving, particularly in these technically difficult caves. We know there are members of these national cave conservation organizations that are cave conservationists. They understand the importance of conservation and decontamination.” That’s why, he says, legitimate cavers weren’t altogether banned from entering caves. In fact, in all of the closures since 2009, the Forest Service has explicitly stated that “persons with written authorization by a Forest Service Officer” could enter caves, so long as the cavers were assisting in “cave resources management”—

activities such as cave mapping, white-nose syndrome surveys, bat monitoring, water quality monitoring, and biological inventories. Still, says Krusac, it’s impossible to limit access to caves altogether—the Forest Service ban only addresses caves and underground mines on Forest Service property which, in the Southeast especially, amounts to a very small percentage. Most caves are still on private property, which means access is left up to the landowner. Krusac doesn’t encourage newcomers to the sport, especially during this extremely sensitive time, but he suggests getting involved with cave conservation grottos if people are genuinely interested in protecting and advocating for these resources. “It’s not a total ban but it’s not recreational caving anymore,” adds Krusac. “It’s caving for a purpose.” PASSING THE TORCH James River Grotto’s Education Coordinator Ken Mays, or “Gizmo,” as most people in the caving

community know him, recognizes the need for this citizen science research. A number of his fellow cavers became part of a Smithsonian research team back in 2009, the year when Gizmo and many others throughout the region simply quit caving out of respect of the NSS voluntary moratorium. Gizmo started recreationally caving again in 2011. He doesn’t take WNS lightly and follows all of the necessary steps in decontamination, but says that there’s another problem the caving community should be addressing, and it has nothing and everything to do with bats. “When I joined the James River Grotto in 2008, I was the youngest member at 42,” says Gizmo. “A lot of the grottos are getting older.” Gizmo worries that if the older generation of cavers dies off without a younger group to step in, who will be the voice for caves and the species therein? “The education of people about caves and bats by introducing them to caving is, in my opinion, crucial to

saving [them],” he says. There is still a lot to learn. As climate change continues to alter the environment, caves that once might not have supported any bat populations may be deemed suitable sites for hibernation in the future, which makes protecting them now from WNS and any other invasive more important than ever. Back in Rockingham County, Pete Barlow believes protecting endangered bats deserves priority over recreation needs. “The loss of any species from my point of view is devastating in its own right,” Barlow says, “and caves are the underground capillaries and blood vessels that feed our region with water.” Still, he recognizes that responsible caving can help with scientific research and public awareness. “We need an experiential appreciation of caves in order to know what we are protecting,” he says.

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WHY I AM

A RAFT GUIDE

For Ulani, my 11-month-old daughter, so that you might know, in the depths of your Papa’s soul, there is a wild, raging river.

F

or 41% of my life now, I have been guiding people down the magical ribbons of rivers. Each river has its own personality and lessons to teach, yet everywhere water is doing the same thing: seeking balance. Engulfed by the currents and the colliding of water and rocks, my soul sings and I know what it means to be alive. But I don’t want to romanticize the river guide life. The days are long and the work is hard, both physically and mentally demanding. I’ve been on trips where the temperature is well over 100 degrees and on others when it has barely gotten into the 30s. I’ve paddled through every kind of weather from snow flurries to wind storms to rain so hard I could hardly see past the front of my raft. All the while, no matter what the conditions,

by JOHN BRYANT BAKER no matter how long of a day it’s been or what the circumstances are, it’s my job to get my guests safely down the river and have that trip be a positive experience for them. Anybody can learn to guide a raft down a river, even the hardest of rivers. What separates those who thrive at being river guides from those who can simply get a raft down the river is the ability to also guide people. People are the wildcard. The river lives by a few set, unchanging principles, the first and foremost being to seek equilibrium. The same has never and will never be said about people. Every trip, I get to meet a completely new group of people. I get to facilitate one of life’s great adventures for them. Just as in regular, everyday life, there are some people who simply suck. Every now and again, those people go rafting. But the vast majority of people show up excited and enthused and ready for an

experience, and I consider it one of life’s greatest privileges to be able to share in that experience. Being a river guide does not build up my bank account. It has not gotten me ahead in life financially, nor has it ever offered any kind of health benefits or a retirement plan. But for all that it lacks compared to so many other professions, it easily makes up for and surpasses them in stories and experiences. Life is nothing without relationship, without connection, and there are four relationships we all need to foster: with ourselves, with others, with creation, and with our creator. How lucky am I that a trip down the river allows for all of these. I received a letter from the mother of a family of four whom I had guided, which read: “When I was expressing a little frustration with the lack of cell phone connection, and you replied, ‘That’s the beauty of it,’ it has led me to think over and over again

about what the important things are. Thank you for bringing me back to the precious moments of living.” Once, I took six blind people down the Lower Gauley one fall. I don’t know if I had ever before or since been so gripped, so focused. The group was amazing, by far the best listeners I have ever interacted with. They asked me to describe everything in as much details as possible as we moved downstream. Before too long, they had attuned their ears so that they could hear specific waves and features that I was describing. At on point, as we were approaching a rapid called Canyon Doors, one of the guys reached out his right hand and finished my sentence for me, “... because all down right side of the river are huge cliffs rising up from the water.” Those six blind folks taught me how to “see” the river in a way like I had never before. I’ve been caught out on the river during a flash flood, navigated rapids at water levels not seen before, and escaped flood waters rising so fast that the safest way out was to hike. I’ve been lucky enough to have certain groups come back for trips time and again, and every time we pick up right where we left off, enjoying some time on the river together. I’ve hugged and held grown men and women in tears on the last day of a one or two week trip. Time on a river gets to people. Stepping into adventure with people and sharing experiences and meals and weather and stories and stars, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever known, and that is why I’ll do it until my body won’t let me anymore. Lessons are best learned through experiences, not words. So my hope for you is that you go and have your own experiences on the water. Go run the rivers and see where they take you and whom they bring across your path. Spend time with the water, so that you’ll always remember that magic exists. Find whatever it is that makes your soul sing, and live it out. Just like the water, in your search for balance, onlookers will be captivated by the beauty you make.

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TRAIL MIX

11. 16

KELLER WILLIAMS’ BLUEGRASS THANKSGIVING

PEACEFUL PROTEST

Keller Williams nimbly jumps between genres. He’s best known for performing as a one-man band, an acoustic troubadour with a loop rig that allows him to incorporate a wide range of additional sounds beyond his guitar. But in recent years Williams has been collaborating with other musicians on a more regular basis. He often tours with his hard-hitting funk band, More Than a Little, or in projects with bluegrass greats Larry Keel and the Travelin’ McCourys. He’ll lean on the latter style later this month during two shows Williams is calling “Thanksforgrassgiving.” For the pair of gigs, taking place at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., on November 25, and at the National in Richmond, Va., on November 26, Williams is assembling a roster of string band all-stars, including Jeff Austin on mandolin, Jay Starling on dobro, and Nicky Sanders of the Steep Canyon Rangers on fiddle. Starling’s band, Love Canon, which plays bluegrass versions of 80s hits, will open both shows. Williams also announced he will play a New Year’s Eve show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Md., that will include a set of Grateful Dead tunes from his Grateful Gospel project, which features guitarist John Kadlecik, formerly of the Dead side project Furthur.

JIM JAMES CALLS FOR CHANGE ON NEW SOLO RECORD

by JEDD FERRIS It’s been a relatively light touring year for My Morning Jacket. But one of the popular Southern-flavored altrock outfit’s sporadic gigs included an appearance in the Blue Ridge back in August—a headlining slot at the annual Lockn’ Festival in bucolic Nelson County, Va. During the set the band ripped through some of the biggest tunes from its near-twodecade career, which started back in Louisville, Ky., in the late 90s. From the space-jazz jam in an extended “Steam Engine” to the twangy, fullthrottle garage rock of old-school favorite “Mahgeetah,” the group delivered a commanding performance that lasted for more than two hours. A surprising moment in the extended festival set came when Jacket frontman Jim James started crooning a version of Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s 1965 ballad “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Midway through the song James addressed the crowd, saying “The world is a crazy place right now. We need to let each other know how much we love each other, regardless of race, regardless of creed, regardless of sexual orientation.” Dropping such a saccharine song into a show filled atmospheric, edgy sounds could’ve come across as cheesy or ironic, but after a long summer of headlines dominated by social and political unrest, it managed to bring an exhausted, sweaty crowd into a unified sing-along. James, to his credit, has long been full of surprises that seem to work. As the shaggy, somewhat iconic leader of a band that lives just below the mainstream but possesses a fervent fan base and teeters between the worlds of indie 50

and jam rock, he’s often been willing to experiment. Beyond My Morning Jacket’s seven studio albums, James has released two solo efforts. The first, the 2009 EP Tribute To (released under the name Yim Yames), is full of quiet George Harrison covers that sound like they were recorded in an attic, and the follow up, 2013’s full-length Regions of Light and Sound of God, was an ambitious piece of DIY electrorock, influenced by Lynd Ward’s wordless novel, God’s Man. This month James is releasing another full album, Eternally Even, out November 4. Like the message he shared during the Lockn’ set, James is using the album as a call for humanity during indisputably troubled times. In a statement released on his latest effort, which will be released intentionally just ahead of the U.S. presidential election, James said: “I wanted to make an album that hopefully speaks to the issues of the day, many of which, sadly, are issues we have been dealing with since the beginning of time. Most of what I think about right now is how so many things in the world are SO f#@ked up—our political system is broken and corrupt ... our Earth is being destroyed by climate change ... people are not treating each other with equality and respect ... and I think, 'Are we going to make it? Are we going to figure it out and fix it before it's too late?

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Jim James will support his new solo record with a limited run of tour dates, including a handful in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast: November 19 at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., November 22 at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga., November 23 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., and November 25 at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, Ky.

Can we ever truly open our hearts and embrace love in all its beautiful forms?' I think it's still possible." That optimism doesn’t immediately shine through in the lyrics of protest song “Same Old Lie,” which on paper look like they should be coming from Woody Guthrie strumming an acoustic guitar: “Hate crimes/Shelter lines/They try to take what’s yours and mine.” But James delivers them in a way that doesn’t wallow in darkness. The song cruises with a soulful pop groove that belongs in a dance club, and as the album progresses any hints of anger evolve into pleas for peaceful unity. The two-part “We Aren’t Getting Any Younger” starts with a moodshifting, down-tempo electronic instrumental before segueing into a seize-the-day acid jazz poem. Similarly, “In the Moment” rebukes apathy through a hazy retro funk jam. Slightly reminiscent of Sam Cooke’s Civil Rights anthem “A Change is Gonna Come,” James ultimately sees good things on the

horizon in the R&B-fueled “The World’s Smiling Now,” a melodic meditation on finding comfort through chaos in the held hand of another. Inspiring music is just a part of what the world needs, and fortunately James has that covered.

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