BLUE RIDGE BREW GUIDE | PRIVATIZED PARKS? | SKI SEASON PREVIEW NOVEMBER 2012
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contributors Favorite brew from the Blue Ridge?
E D I TO R I A L
Ninja Porter Asheville Brewing Company, Asheville, N.C.
EDITOR IN CHIEF WILL HARLAN firstname.lastname@example.org SENIOR EDITOR JEDD FERRIS email@example.com TRAVEL EDITOR JACK MURRAY firstname.lastname@example.org CALENDAR EDITOR DAVE STALLARD email@example.com
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jeddferris Full Nelson Pale Ale Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, Va.
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Copperhead Amber Ale Southern Appalachian Brewery, Hendersonville, N.C.
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grahamaverill Cold Mountain Winter Ale Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, N.C.
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jenniferdavis Golem Belgian Strong Pale Ale Wedge Brewing Company, Asheville, N.C.
davestallard Freight Hopper IPA Depot Street Brewing, Jonesborough, Tenn.
laurenellerman Foggy Ridge Cider Dugspur, Va.
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In TheaTers For a LImITed TIme Join us as we explore the National Geographic film
America’s Wild Spaces: The Appalachian Trail During our 2012 Fall Membership Drive
For show TImes, LocaTIons, or To reserve your seaT visit appalachiantrail.org/discover
EntEr Promo CodE:
For $5 oFF AdmISSIon
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REGISTRATION STARTS NOVEMBER 15
SESSIONS INCLUDE: Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Tunnel Birding, Pleasure House Point Bird Walk, Wildlife Photography, Owl Prowls, & Much More!
save the date!
JANUARY 25 - 27
Princess Anne Recreation Center â€˘ Virginia Beach, Va
Free and open to the public (with a fee required for some sessions), this event includes educational workshops and engaging excursions all around Virginia Beach and beyond that are sure to captivate outdoor enthusiasts, both novice and expert. Registration begins November 15.
VBgov.com/winterwildlife ur Sign up for o rs te email newslet / at VBgov.com eNews
VBGOV.COM/WINTERWILDLIFE OUTDOORS@VBGOV.COM 757.385.4461 (TTY: DIAL 711) Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation is accredited by CAPRA, certifying agency of the National Recreation and Park Association.
NOVEMBER 2012 A bear-like shadow comes out of hibernation each year in early November as the autumnal sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers, N.C
We’ve made a g reat discovery ~ the holidays and a state parks cabin. W e have the trails to ourselv es. The scenery is beautiful. An d Jim loves to show off his skills building a fire in the fi replace. Good thing the cabin s have heat !
20 PERFECT MOUNTAIN TOWNS The readers have spoken. Over 85,000 votes were cast in our Best Mountain Towns poll for 38 adventure hotspots. Which towns were tops in the mountains? Which big cities offer the best recreation? Find the crowdsourced favorite places to live, work, and play.
Trail runner Diane Van Deren shatters the Mountains to Sea speed record
18 1,000 MILES
RIDGE E U ST NS E B 2012AIN TOW NT U O M O AG OORS M
33 BEER HERE In the Blue Ridge, craft beer has become as ubiquitous as singletrack. Our Southern Appalachian Beer Guide highlights eight grassroots breweries located close to epic mountain adventure, along with the best regional brews.
9 EDITOR’S NOTE
Home is where the heart is
Ski season preview
Should parks be privatized?
42 FRONT PORCH
Race in space / 95-year-old whitewater paddler / Triathlete rides a street cruiser
Jimmy Herring goes solo
Photo courtesy of Bill Crabtree Jr., Virginia Tourism Corp.
800-933-PARK (7275) | www.virginiastateparks.gov
NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com 9/26/2012
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from the field
e d i t o r ’sn o t e
Where the Heart Is
By Will Harlan
Home—there’s no place like it. Our mountains are homelands, both for Appalachian natives and adventurous newcomers. This was made clear last month, when over 85,000 votes poured in last month for our Best Mountain Towns Contest. Readers rallied for their favorite outdoor towns and celebrated the trails, rivers, restaurants, pubs, outfitters, and especially the people of their favorite hometown hotspots. We’re highlighting all 38 of our nominated towns in this issue. Most important, though, are not the winners, but the overwhelming responses from our readers. You care passionately about your hometowns and favorite mountain getaways. These places touch something deeply personal. It’s not just family or childhood that can bind us to a place, but also experience and adventure, which etch their memories upon our hearts more deeply and indelibly. A place becomes home to us when we feel emotionally connected to it, when we know its chattering creeks, twisting trails, and whispering forests as intimately as we know a close friend. A town comes alive when we recognize its faces, hang out in its haunts, and know its streets like lines on our palm. These hometowns don’t survive without us. Thomas Wolfe was wrong: you can go home again, but only if you’re willing to protect it. These hometowns need more than your vote in an online poll. They need your visits and your voice. Your voice has already been essential in creating many of them. Perhaps the greatest success story is Chattanooga, which was declared the most polluted city in the U.S. in 1969. Today it’s the most celebrated new adventure hotspot in the country, with a thriving outdoor community and world-class rivers, rocks, and trails. Even classic adventure towns like Asheville depend on a dedicated outdoor community to fight for their future. In 2007, Asheville’s riverfront was slated for a giant oil-burning power plant. Most of the opposition came from health and outdoor
advocates. When the vote finally came, officials unanimously sided with them and stopped the power plant. Today, the river is home to new greenways, trails, parks, breweries, outdoor shops and outfitters, and some of the best paddling in the Blue Ridge. Many of our mountain town nominees were old mining towns, timber communities, and railroad hubs. While that heritage is an important part of their character, their future is in protecting the forests and mountains for tourism, recreation, scenery, and health. The short-term profits of extractive industries can’t match the long-term jobs and sustainable economies provided by recreation and tourism. Two roads diverge in our yellow woods, and I hope we follow the promising path of sustainable recreation and tourism instead of the rutted, washed-out road across moweddown mountains and clearcuts. Recreation is the region’s future, but mountain towns need our support to stay on that path. Asheville was once nearly the site of the country’s largest nuclear waste dump in the mid-1980s. A groundswell of opposition shelved the plan, but some politicians are once again eyeing the mountains of Western North Carolina as a possible nuclear waste repository. And just south of Roanoke, Va., winner of our best mid-sized mountain town, uranium mining has been proposed near the Roanoke River. Fishing, paddling, hiking, and the health of entire communities would be devastated. The corporations blowing up mountains and destroying the landscape only have to win once. The defenders of public lands and outdoor recreation have to win again and again. These towns need both the residents who have lived there for generations and the gritty, gutsy climbers and mud-splattered mountain bikers who visit them every weekend. We have the toughest people on the planet—from the pioneering mountain folk who have scratched a living out of the land for centuries to the modern-day mountain adventurists who huck their boats over waterfalls, hike for hundreds of miles, and hang from vertical rock ledges. If anyone can protect Appalachia’s mountain towns, it is our readers—the passionate people who live, work, and play here. The future of the mountains is in our sweaty, mud-splattered, chalkcovered hands.
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Compiled by Devan Boyle
YES No one wants a McDonald’s in front of Old Faithful, a fear I hear time and again when privatization is mentioned. However, once the government determines how to manage a particular park, should its operation be privatized? Sure. The National Park Service faces hundreds of millions of dollars in capital needs and deferred maintenance. It is crazy to use that limited budget for federal employees to clean bathrooms and man the gatehouse, when private companies have proven they can do a quality job much less expensively. The U.S. Forest Service, for example, has had private operators in over a thousand of its largest parks for nearly thirty years, and unlike state parks agencies or even the Park Service, it is not considering park closures or accumulating deferred maintenance, despite having its recreation budget axed. Why? Because its partnership program with private operators is a fundamentally sounder, lower-cost approach to park operations. In fact, such public-private partnerships are nothing new for the National Park Service. The Park Service was an early innovator in this field, and currently private companies operate many of the visitor services in parks, such as lodges and gift shops. The Forest Service innovation, which has been copied by many agencies including most recently California State Parks, has been to turn over operations of the whole park, not just the lodge, to a private company. These are highly structured contracts, wherein the private company cannot modify the facilities or change fees without agency approval, and must meet a range of detailed performance goals. Most critiques of private park operations center around quality and fees. While there certainly have been some isolated failures, in general the results have been quite good. In Arizona, a recent poll by CampArizona.com ranked the top 10 public campgrounds in Arizona. Of these, three of the top five were US Forest Service campgrounds run by a private operator, as was the top Arizona campground in Sunset Magazine’s “Best of the West” (OK, I have to brag, these are all run by my company). As for fee concerns, state-run parks in California charge $30 for a no-hookup camp site. Privately operated public campgrounds in California forests seldom charge more than $18. My company operates over 150 state, county, and federal parks. They are wellrun, generally with more staff than a typical state park, and have no significant deferred maintenance backlog. Oh, and not a single
one has a McDonald’s, a billboard, or a neon sign in front of a national monument. Warren Meyer is the president of Recreation Resource Management.
NO There are many things that business does or could do better than government. But twenty years of experience working on park issues convinces me that managing our national parks isn’t one of them. Every American is a shareholder of the natural and cultural heritage protected and made available by the National Park Service. The “profit” we shareholders receive for our investment is the knowledge that America’s stories and most precious natural resources will be accessible to our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Given the tasks of protecting fragile habitat, scenic vistas, historic character, and life-changing human experiences, most members of a board room would be way out of their element. The American public was recently asked this very question in a national poll conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic polling firms. While there is sometimes vehement disagreement about the proper functions
of the federal government, 95 percent of those surveyed said that protecting national parks is an appropriate role for the federal government. Further, when told the amount we currently spend operating our parks, 92 percent said that federal funding for parks should be maintained or increased, including 88 percent of Republicans and 96 percent of Democrats. In our deeply divided electorate, Americans are nearly unanimous about our national parks—and the role of government in protecting them. The argument that privatization is needed for the parks to succeed economically assumes there is a problem. Given that the “profit” we shareholders might expect also includes a healthy contribution to our overall economy, let’s examine how the parks are doing. According to a recent study, visitors to the national parks supported more than $31 billion in spending to local economies--$10 for every $1 invested--and more than 258,000 jobs in 2010. All of these benefits come from an agency funded by 1/14th of 1 percent of the federal budget. If the National Park Service were a Fortune 500 company, it would rank right above McDonald’s and close behind American Express. Privatizing national parks would be trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. It is the inability of Congress to work together for the public good that threatens our national parks as economic generators. Allowing sequestration or other funding cuts to diminish the parks would mindlessly impede America’s economic recovery. National parks aren’t part of the problem; they’re part of the solution, and cutting or privatizing their budgets would be about as penny-wise and pound-foolish as it gets.
Should national parks be privatized?
Don Barger is the senior regional director for the National Park Conservation Association.
what do you think? Join the park privatization debate at blueridgeoutdoors.com
NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
This winter, make your
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Winter is here.Where are you? Do the Valley your way…downhill, cross country, board or tube. Either way, you’ll learn (or remember) why we’ve become the winter pastime of the east. 76 slopes and trails, eight lifts, terrain parks, and a tubing park at two of West Virginia’s premier ski resorts, all well within reach. Make your holiday reservations now.
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the bike Sm When Jefferson athlon, Tri n’s tio Na transition at the ing on pp ho re we riders around him rigs. ad ro t weigh expensive, light red a on off took Smith, though, ted ren he t tha r ise 40-pound street cru ’s ton ing sh Wa re, ha from Capital Bikes . ram og pr tal ren e citywide public bik two hours to finish It took Smith over ts but for his effor the 25-mile leg, n tio rta po ns Tra of ent the D.C. Departm s. fee refunded his rental
Olympic snowboarding gold medalist and X Games domina tor Shaun White landed himself in a Music City pokey after being arrested for public intoxication and vandalism back in Septem ber. The 26-yearold boarding phenom apparently pulled the fire alarm at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel where he was staying, and after fleeing an employee, knocked into a fence, and gave himself a black eye . Police said White was acting drunk and reeked of booze.
B l in g a n d B a n g Atlanta, Ga.
Buy a diamond; ge t a free gun. That’s the promotion at Atlanta jeweler D. Geller an d Son, which is passi ng out vouchers for free rifles with a dia mond purchase greate r than $2,499. Business owner Mike Geller told a local news sta tion that many of his customers are hunte rs. Diamond purchase rs must redeem the voucher through a gun dealer after co mpleting mandatory legal requirements for gun purchases.
Rafts the New W.VA. New River Gorge,lma n celebrated his
Me In late summer Meyer itewater rafting trip wh a h 95th birthday wit ustry vet and managing on the New River. Ind old on the Gorge Dave Arn partner of Adventures is n lma Me zette he thinks told the Charleston Ga en tak r eve guides have the oldest person his n n, who bounced dow lma Me down the river. a is w, Ne stretch of the the class II-IV lower he il unt n’t start rafting retired grocer who did ond trip on the New sec his s was 80. This wa for his 100th birthday. and he’s vowed to return
Race in Space a Astronaut Sunit Earlier this fall ed the first triathlon Williams complet e g 240 miles abov in space. Hoverin e International Spac the Earth on the raced along with Station, Williams d Nautica Malibu the California-base r treadmill to run fou Triathlon, using a bike for the race’s miles, a stationary a strength-training 18-mile ride, and . te the half-mile swim machine to simula 3 the race in 1:48:3 Williams finished
Beyond the Blue Ridge Singletrack Settlement Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Mountain biking in Florida might not sound too extreme, but a woman—unnamed as settlement negotiations were still ongoing at press time—will potentially collect $17,500 from Broward County taxpayers after an endo on the trails of Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield left her with injuries. The woman claims she has incurred $81,000 in medical bills after fracturing her cervical vertebrae. County officials, though, claimed she was technically a trespasser who shouldn’t have been riding the trails, because she didn’t sign a waiver and watch an instructional video, both requirements for riding the IMBA-designed singletrack at Quiet Waters.
Flying Tomato Jailed
Not Your Average
Hey, Don’t Eat That Turtle Tampa, Fla.
A 15-pound endangered turtle nearly became a Florida fisherman’s dinner, but a neighbor blew the whistle before the big feast. The man found the rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle back in May and had been keeping it in a tank in his backyard. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued the turtle before it could become soup meat and rehabilitated it at an aquarium before releasing it into the wild.
Drunk Cyclist Rides into DUI Checkpoint Red Bluff, CaLIF.
Bad Neighbors Leechburg, Pa.
A Pennsylvania couple has been charged with conspiracy and not making a reasonable effort to return lost property after selling a neighbor’s dog that wandered into their yard. Scott and Roxanne Duff told police their neighbor’s Rottweiler puppy ran away, but it was later revealed they sold the dog on Craigslist for $50.
The Red Bluff Police Department didn’t arrest any drunk drivers while holding a five-hour checkpoint back in September. But when 30-year-old Christopher Pence pedaled right into the checkpoint area officers stopped him for riding without a headlight. The cyclist was visibly intoxicated and charged with suspicion of riding a bicycle while under the influence.
Living Not So Large San Francisco, CaLIF.
The city of San Francisco is considering approval of the smallest apartments in the country. While many people dream of owning vast acreage, people in the City by the Bay could soon be able to rent a pad that’s just 220 square feet—reported to be just double the size of some prison cells.
Compiled by Jedd Ferris NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
TAKE FLYING LESSONS
Stay DRY on your next adventure! Find Someing Remarkae
Photo © Truc Allen Media
a YEAR’S supply of
Bath County is an enticing place filled with scenic vistas, local flair and exciting adventures just waiting to be discovered.
Fly Fishing in Bath
Snowboarding at The Homestead
We Improved everythIng
except the Buckle on our lIghtest, most packaBle chaIr.
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There’s an App for That Wintergreen is introducing a mobile app this year featuring up-to-the-minute slope and conditions updates, special offers, trail map... wintergreenresort.com. Want something broader? On The Snow gives you surface conditions, weather, and general info for resorts all over the country. onthesnow.com
eight new state of the art guns for the 2012 season, which will mean deeper snow, faster and longer. All resorts make improvements to their snowmaking capacity each season, but Wintergreen took it to a new level by adding a new water tank that will double their snowmaking capacity this season. “This will help us open earlier in the season and get 100% of our slopes open sooner,” says Betsy Dunkerton, marketing for Wintergreen.
Cheapest Weekend Lift Ticket: $50 At Canaan Resort, for a weekend day ticket during peak season. canaanresort.com
Ski This Way
An optimistic look at the ski season ahead By Graham Averill There’s no way to sugarcoat it: last ski season sucked. After a big snowfall in October, which dropped a foot of powder on Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia (before the resort was open), Old Man Winter pulled a no-show. Virginia resorts were some of the hardest hit, reporting only 57 percent of their average annual snowfall. Worse yet, temps were so unseasonably warm, the mountains couldn’t get their snow guns going with any consistency. “It was one of the worst winters we’ve ever seen,” says Kenny Hess, ski operation manager for Massanutten Resort outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mass, which usually averages 35 inches of natural powder a year, didn’t even reach double digits last season. And they weren’t alone. Even looking to the Rockies didn’t offer any solace. Many Colorado and Utah resorts failed to reach the 200-inch snow mark. “Everyone took their lumps last year,” says Rob Schwartz, general manager for Bryce Resort, Virginia’s smallest ski resort. Skiers and boarders took their lumps too, dealing with spotty conditions and hopeful forecasts that rarely panned out. Some simply took 2011-2012 off. We cross-trained. We mountain biked through winter. But as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. As fall transitions to winter, we’re itching to hit the slopes hard. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of this ski season.
How’s the Weather? Last winter was a bummer, but this winter should be a winner according to leading
Go Lumberjack meteorologists. Long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok at Accuweather is calling for abovenormal snowfall for the majority of our resorts and Mid-Atlantic cities, based mostly on the weak presence of an El Niño pattern. At press time, the Old Farmer’s Almanac agreed, also siting the weak El Niño. Want some less scientific indicators of a good winter? How about a couple of longstanding folklore indicators of a harsh (read: great) winter. 1) For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in winter. 2) If the corn husks are thick during harvest, the winter will be cold and snowy.
Cheapest Ski Digs: $20 A hotel is nice, but camping is cheap. Canaan Resort has the best winter camping situation in our region. For $20, you get a pad, showers, and full power hookup at Canaan Valley State Park. And it’s all across the street from Canaan Resort’s 180 annual inches of snowfall and 850 feet of vertical drop, not to mention the cross-country trails that traverse the park. canaanresort.com
Tree skiing has long been a rarity in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, but our legal gladed terrain is growing this season. North Carolina’s Cataloochee Resort is officially adding Wildcat Glades, a short tree run beside Short and Sweet that skiers have “poached” in previous seasons when there was enough natural snowfall. This season, the resort has cleared the brush from the trees and added snowmaking. cataloochee.com Snowshoe Mountain is also set to unveil some new gladed tree runs this winter. The resort opened Sawmill Glades (the first official gladed terrain on the mountain) a few years ago and skiers have been anxious for more trees ever since. The resort couldn’t be reached by press time, so details about the new tree run are scarce.
Best Season Pass Perk: First Tracks, Wisp Resort Every Saturday from January to March, Wisp will open one of its chairs at 7:30am for season pass and multi-day ticket holders only. wispresort.com
Ski When You Want Appalachian Ski Mountain is introducing a Flex Ticket this year, which allows your ski day to start when you start skiing, instead of having to adhere to a strict 9am-4pm or 6-10pm ski schedule. Massanutten, Bryce, and Wintergreen in Virginia have a similar Flex Ticket program, but App is the only North Carolina resort to offer this sort of flexibility. appskimtn.com
Screw Mother Nature “Manmade snow is our product,” says Kim Jochl, marketing manager for Sugar Mountain. “And our product gets better every season, thanks to the evolution of snowmaking technology.” Sugar invested a quarter of a million in
By the Numbers Yes, last season was rough, but there were some shining moments. Here are the highlights from the 2011-2012 ski season.
Longest Ski Season, 2011-12 110 days at Cataloochee, November 12 to March 18
Most Snowfall, 2011-12 110 inches, reported by Timberline Resort
Biggest Single Dump 12 inches, Wisp, Jan. 3, 2012
NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
THINK. FEEL. RIDE. Experience the thrill of the mountain year-round. SKIING | SNOWBOARDING | TUBING
Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre | 4000 Candlers Mountain | Lynchburg, VA 24502 | (434) 582-3539 | Snowflex@liberty.edu | @LMSnowflex
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Run at the Rock Burlington, N.C. • December 1 With average highs around 55 degrees, it will be tough to find better running weather at this race in the Carolina Piedmont. Racers tackle one or two laps on this tough sevenmile loop course on the diverse terrain of the trails at Cedarock Park. Slog through wooded singletrack with a few hundred faithful for a hearty haul through rock gardens, mud patches, and plenty of short and stout rolling hills. runattherock.com
downhill stretches, as well as two half-mile flat stretches for kicking it into high gear. google.com/site/wrrclub
Road Warrior Half Marathon Greenville, S.C. • December 1 Known for over four decades as the Paris Mountain Road Race, the longstanding 20K has been expanded by .67 miles and officially become the Road Warrior Half Marathon. While the name has changed, one thing has definitely stayed the same—the toughness of this serious slog in the South Carolina Upstate. The course starts at Furman University’s McAllister Auditorium before winding its way toward a grueling ascent of Paris Mountain via Altamont Road. Then it’s back down through a circuit of secluded wooded roads before returning to campus. There’s a reason this race has long been dubbed the “oldest and toughest 20K” in the South. A little extra distance should only make it tougher. pmroadrace.com A runner sloshes through the course of the seashore nature trail 50K.
Chilled Out Runs
By Jedd Ferris
Cooler temps and smaller crowds make late fall the best time of the year to run a race. Find your distance at one of these under-theradar regional favorites.
Marshall University Marathon Huntington, W.Va. • November 11 Approaching a decade in existence this fall, the Marshall University Marathon has become a PR chaser favorite for a fast and flat course in the floodplain along the Ohio River. With no crowds (fewer than 500 runners) to maneuver and crisp fall temperatures to enjoy, the race provides the perfect combination of elements for a fast finish. Plus, you’re given the glory opportunity to carry a football during the last 100 yards for a big finish at the goal line of the university stadium. healthyhuntington.org Backyard Burn Trail Run Clifton, Va. • November 18 The fall portion of the Backyard Burn is a series of four trail running races in the Metro D.C. area. Using the best wooded sanctuaries surrounding the nation’s capital, each race in the series features both five- and 10-mile courses that wind through twisty singletrack, traverse grassy fields, and climb forested fire
roads. Two races remain in the series this year: November 18 at Hemlock Overlook in Clifton, Va., and December 2 at Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station, Va. ex2adventures.com
Tryptophan Half Marathon Cumming, Ga. • November 22 While thousands are strolling side by side at the Atlanta Half Marathon, you can earn your Thanksgiving Day dinner at this brand new alternative in the northern suburb of Cumming. This reasonably priced half will have runners hauling on an out-and-back course on the Peachtree Parkway from Ronald Reagan Boulevard to Johns Creek Parkway. A mellow elevation grade means you can post a fast time and make extra room for pumpkin pie. fivestarntp.com
Pine Mountain Trail Run Pine Mountain, Ga. • December 2 If you’re up for a long distance challenge, tighten your laces and head to FDR State Park for a 40-mile epic on the Pine Mountain Trail System. You’ll run a tough course on rocky, ankle-twisting singletrack that traverses both pine and hardwood forests. Along the way you’ll pass plenty of scenic rock outcroppings and waterfalls, and you may be required to get your feet wet during a few stream crossings, depending on water levels. This scenic terrain, 80 miles southeast of Atlanta, was a favorite spot for President Roosevelt to visit and think about world affairs. You’ll understand why when you get into a running rhythm and let your mind wander through the peaceful Georgia woods. getguts.com
Seashore Nature Trail 50K Mason-Dixon Line 6-Mile Hill Challenge Westminster, Md. • November 25 Burn off some of that turkey and stuffing and finish this fun race that rehashes the old Yankee-Dixie rivalry. Runners get to choose to represent the North or the South before running six miles along the country roads near a portion of the historic divide between Maryland and Pennsylvania. As the name suggests, the course has plenty of ups and downs, specifically three long challenging hills that are rewarded with three lengthy
Virginia Beach, Va. • December 15 One of the fastest ultra courses in the country runs through the flat seaside woods of First Landing State Park. If you’re looking for an ultra PR, you’ll have relatively mild temps and few hills as you stroll on hard-packed dirt trails through marshy swampland and maritime forest on the coast of Virginia. Last year the race yielded the 15th fastest female 50K time in the country. The field is intentionally kept on the small side, so register in advance as the past two years have sold out. tidewaterstriders.com NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
Diane Van Deren’s Record-Setting MST Run by Chris Gragtmans iane Van Deren is no stranger to adversity. Following a long professional tennis career, Van Deren developed epilepsy. After 10 years of battling seizures, trying every medication available, and with her family hanging in the balance, brain surgery was the only option. Fortunately, Van Deren’s surgery was successful, and while she was happy to be free of her ailment, the operation did have side effects. She now has some short-term memory loss, difficulty reading maps, and sometimes cannot recall how long she has been engaged in a particular activity. She uses a system of notecards and other reminders to navigate her way through her life. In spite of these limitations, Van Deren has continued to flouirsh athletically. She is now a professional athlete sponsored by The North Face, and she has competed in ultrarunning events and expeditions around the world. She has run on the Great Wall of China, completed the Hardrock 100 endurance race in Colorado, and trudged through -40 degree temperatures
in the brutal Yukon Ultra 300. She has embraced her new life and realizes that she is now capable of getting into the zone more easily than ever before. Van Deren recently set a new record on the 1,000-mile Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina, arriving beside the Atlantic Ocean in a time of 22 days, 3 hours, and 50 minutes. That’s over 45 miles per day. Her record-setting run was not without obstacles. Here is a look inside her mind during a few of the most dramatic moments: “We are in a war zone, and everything is threatening to rip out of the sand and fly away. There is nothing to do but keep placing one foot in front of the other. “The downpour is driving sideways and blurring the light of my headlamp. “The winds are fierce, the conditions are brutal, but they seem par for the course for this expedition. Nothing has come easily for us. Only 30 minutes after leaving the Clingmans Dome trailhead, I got lost. Dense fog and rain pressed
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down on me for the first six days, and I literally didn’t look up for that entire time. I have run all over the planet, but that was the most technical running I have ever done. One slip on the roots or mud, one twist of my ankle, and the trip would have been over. “So I didn’t slip. “Now I have traveled over 900 miles across the state, and I am closing in on the terminus of the trail in the Outer Banks. But I am being battered by the remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl. “Today I have 45 miles to go and eight hours to do it in, my crew tells me. I have to catch a ferry at the end of the day, or my record-setting attempt will be over. The team has become like a Nascar pit crew: I run into a stop, they sit me down and fly into action. Duct tape is put on my feet, food is shoved into my mouth, shoes are changed, and BOOM, I’m off again! “My body feels empty. I’ve been operating on less than three hours of sleep for 19 nights in a row, and the wind gusts are knocking me to the ground more and more regularly. We haven’t spoken for hours, but Chuck keeps nervously glancing at his watch. He tries to feign optimism, but I can tell that things aren’t looking good for us. “Suddenly, I hear a savage and malicious sound coming from the darkness to our right. ‘What is that?’ I yell to Chuck. He assures me that it’s an airplane and nothing to worry about, yet he continually looks over his shoulder as we run. I keep slogging in the darkness as the roar fades away. I am happy to have him with me in the midst of this chaos. “Finally, a cluster of lights come into view, and we are back on pavement again. With twenty minutes to spare, we run into the ferry terminal where the whole team is waiting. Chuck and I collapse, elated to be under shelter and with friends. One person chimes in: ‘Did you guys see the tornado that just touched down? It was less than a mile from the trail!’ Chuck smiles knowingly, but I am stunned. ‘Whose idea was this anyway?’ I yell. The ferry begins pounding into the waves and the wind, but my exhaustion makes it feel distant, and I slip into a muchneeded sleep. “Two mornings later, we are still running, chipping away at the final 82 miles to the finish. It took me a long time to stand up today. The past few mornings I have needed to crawl for a while before I could put any weight on my feet. They are in rough shape, and may need significant medical attention when I get home. As I plod through the sand, all of the faces of the people that I have met over the past 22 days flash through my mind. They represent the beauty of running—a loving, caring community that is brought together by one collective passion. I think about Annette Bednosky, an ultrarunner who I usually compete against. She gave up her own time to come out and support me in my journey. I know that all of these people will be friends for life. “Throughout the expedition, I have refused to allow myself to think of the end. Finally, after 1,000 miles of trail, I see one final sand dune come into sight. On top of that dune is a group of people cheering and yelling my name. Tears of joy overwhelm me.” •
Best of the
Blue Ridge Outdoors is excited to bring back our “Best of the Blue Ridge” reader’s choice awards. This year we are hosting a poll, and a write-in section, that will allow you to vote for your favorite things throughout the Blue Ridge. We have 13 questions ranging from favorite ski party to best festival food. Vote once a day for your top picks. Spread the word, tell all of your friends, and watch as your favorites make their way to the top of the list!
O R K
T E R G R E E
Vo te fo r yo ur fa vo ri te
blueridgeoutdoors.com/contests or on facebook
M A G A Z I N E
Every Day is a Snow Day. WintergreenResort.com
donate a coat let others feel your warmth freestyle will donate your coat to those who need it. Bring your gently used coat to Freestyle and receive a discount towards the purchase of a new coat.
Donate a coat and receive: • $10 off any new coat (purchased over $100) • $20 off any new coat (purchased over $200) • $30 off any new coat (purchased over $300) Expires 11/30/12. Not valid with other discounts.
freestyle 475 Westfield Rd. Charlottesville, VA 22901 434.978.4091 www.freestyleonline.com
Blue Ridge Outdoors • NOVEMBER 2012 • RICHMOND VA EDITION
D G I R E E U T S E S B N 2 201 AIN TOW T N U MOO AG OORS M
by JACK MURRAY
We asked. You voted. The results are in.
BEST OUTDOOR CITY
CHATTANOOGA, TENN. The city Walter Cronkite famously called the dirtiest in America in 1969 has reinvented itself into the outdoor mecca of the South and a model for green transformation. How did this traditionally industrial city once known as the “Pittsburgh of the South” accomplish such a feat? Turns out it’s because of its historical manufacturing background, not despite it. Spreading out from Moccasin Bend on the mighty Tennessee River, Chattanooga has always been a gateway to both the South and the West. The site was a hub of commerce as far back as the 17th century when French trappers established trade routes on the banks of the Tennessee. Chattanooga also played major roles in the French and Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil Wars, a testament to its historical significance as a linchpin city. The steel and coal industries helped the city earn its dirty reputation, but then a funny thing happened: Chattanooga’s leaders woke up. Community businessmen realized that the city’s trajectory was not economically or environmentally sustainable. We are talking about a downtown in which workers had to change their shirts at lunch due to the grit and grime in the air, where you could barely make out the surrounding mountains due to the smog. Chattanooga reached a cultural and socioeconomic low-point in the 1980s as
de-industrialization decimated its population. From those ashes, both figurative and literal, rose an idea to revitalize the downtown area with a $120 million investment in a riverwalk complete with paths, pocket parks, river access, and music venues centered around the Tennessee Aquarium and downtown art museum in one of the largest public/private development projects in the nation. Philip Grymes, executive director of Outdoor Chattanooga, says the changes not only affected the urban landscape, but the community atmosphere of the city as well. “Downtown Chattanooga was once a sleepy town you didn’t want to come into; once the doors closed at 5 o’clock it was like a runway to get out,” he said. “The community design has really changed. It’s no longer about how can we get people in and out of the city quickly. It’s more about how we can get people to enjoy the city and get out of their cars and walk around and get on a bike.” Those efforts include a progressive citywide bike share program, a model for larger cities such as Chicago and San Francisco, and because the public had significant input in the planning process, there is a sense of responsibility for the downtown area that was lacking before. “Collective ownership of this city has evolved so much over the last 10 years,” said Fynn Glover, who was born and raised in Chattanooga and is the founder of RootsRated, an outdoor startup providing grassroots trail reviews. “Chattanooga has a lot of very passionate citizens who are working very hard to continue the economic growth here in a way that does not lose our connection with our natural resources. People know that this playground is the most
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important thing. It’s what makes Chattanooga an attractive place to do business, an attractive place to live, and an attractive place to raise a family.” Spiral out from the revitalized downtown
CHATTANOOGA QUICK HITS
5 minutes Rent a board and SUP at Ross’ Landing on the flat water of the Tennessee River right downtown. Check out SUPPaddleboard.com for free clinics and rentals. Rent a bike and pedal the Tennessee Riverwalk over the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges.
15 minutes Grab your bike and ride the East Rim Trail on Raccoon Mountain for breathtaking views of the city and access to intermediate and expert trails like MegaWatt and Table Rock. Climb the best rock in the Southeast at Tennessee Wall, or just watch the experts do their thing from solid ground.
30 minutes Take a trail run to Lula Lake Falls in the Lula Lake Land Trust on Lookout Mountain. Get high—2,000 feet high—in a glider at the Lookout Mountain Flight Park.
and it’s easy to see how the city has put in the effort to re-label itself as a model for the outdoor lifestyle. The Rim Trail on Lookout Mountain and the new Stringer’s Ridge system two minutes from downtown offer some of the best trail running in the nation. Mountain biking at Raccoon Mountain and Five Points on Lookout each boast over 20 miles of classic singletrack. The Cumberland Trail over Signal Mountain and the soon to be completed Cloudland Connector Trail are long distance hiking trails with stunning views. Need something more extreme? Learn to hang glide at Lookout Mountain Flight Park. The fact that Chattanooga will host the U.S. Cycling Championships from 2013-15 along with established events like Riverbend, a nine-day riverside music festival, only add to the city’s
reputation. The recreation opportunities, Rock City, and Ruby Falls have always been there, only now the city attracts the outdoors enthusiast to not only visit, but also to stay. Those people include two of its greatest outdoor ambassadors. Grymes visited Chattanooga from western North Carolina with no plans to settle down; that was in 1996. Al Smith, the general manager at the Southside hostel The Crash Pad, came to Chattanooga for the extensive climbing opportunities at places like the famous Tennessee Wall and Sunset Rock, both 20 minutes from downtown. “You don’t have to live in the middle of nowhere,” Smith said. “You can live in the middle of a busy metropolitan city and still go rock climbing nearly every day. It’s a really easy
urban lifestyle here, and it’s not too expensive. Chattanooga is like a giant summer camp. It has a lot to offer many different types of people, not just the outdoorsy person but the artist, student, and entrepreneur as well.” As more and more people come to Chattanooga because of the culture and vibe, the city has grown an extensive community of citizens who are willing to put in the work building multi-use trails at places like the Lulu Lake Land Trust and Prentice Cooper State Park. Connecting all those hundreds of miles of trails within different systems is now the name of the game, says Grymes. “Thanks to the efforts of our outdoor community, all the trails will be connected right to downtown,” he said. NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
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A River Runs Through It: From Lookout Mountain, the Tennessee River snakes through the city.
The mix of urban and outdoor life seems to be ideal in Chattanooga these days. People come for the outdoor recreation opportunities and stay for the urban economy and low cost of living. RUNNERS UP
RICHMOND, VA. The mighty James River flows through the heart of the city, one of only a few truly urban whitewater runs in the country. The 2.5-mile run from Reedy Creek to 14th Street is a locals’ favorite, featuring Class I-IV whitewater and well known rapids such as Lulu and Hollywood, named after the Hollywood Cemetery that overlooks it – also a great place for a late afternoon run. You can pick up the James River Park system of trails at Belle Island and run, hike, or ride over 10 miles along both banks of the river and in Forest Hill Park. You can also get some urban climbing in at Manchester Wall, a set of four railroad pillars that offer over 40 routes in the 65-foot range. City pocket parks like Powhite and Larus maximize their space with honeycomb trail systems. Head south to Pocahontas State Park for over 40 miles of excellent singletrack surrounding scenic Beaver and Swift Creek lakes. Adding to Richmond’s outdoor cred is that it’s the host of the Xterra East Championship OffRoad Triathlon, which uses the James River trails for its running and biking portions. It will also host the 2015 ICU Road World Championships, one of the world’s premiere cycling races held for the first time in the U.S. since 1986.
WASHINGTON, D.C Despite the political gridlock of the District, the city has a lot to offer the outdoor enthusiast though, no matter if you are blue or red. In 2010, we named D.C. one of our top Southeastern running towns, thanks to running clubs like the D.C. Road Runners and Washington Runners Club. Runners can hop on the Capital Crescent Trail, a popular rail trail running from Georgetown to Silver Springs or join the Cherry Blossom 10 mile, one of the nation’s most popular races. Just upriver from downtown is Great Falls Park and Mather Gorge, with world class Class II-IV paddling, miles of hiking trails tracing the Falls, and biking for all skill levels. Northwest Branch outside College Park has established bouldering routes or top rope at Carderock in Great Falls. These urban adventures are great, but our founding fathers chose the site of our capital for a reason: its accessibility. Some of the best parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia are just a short drive from the city limits.
KNOXVILLE, TENN. This up and comer is starting to embrace its location on the Tennessee, Clinch, and Little Rivers, and investing in the Knoxville urban wilderness with over 40 miles of trails two miles from downtown. With epic biking and climbing in Big South Fork to the north and GSMNP to the
south, expect to see Knoxville contend for the top spot in the years to come.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. This finance hub is the home of the Charlotte Whitewater Center, training center for Team USA. Just outside of town, climb the summit of Crowders Mountain or head east to the Wood Run mountain bike trails of Uwharrie National Forest.
RALEIGH-DURHAM, N.C. Tobacco Road may be dominated by hoops fans, but water flows everywhere and this area boasts a thriving music and festival scene. W.B. Umstead State Park contains over 20 miles of secluded hiking trails and is one of the few North Carolina state parks that allows biking. Smallmouth and Roanoke bass fishing can be found just outside of town on the Eno River as it flows through Eno State Park.
GREENVILLE, S.C. From downtown paddling to downhill mountain biking, you can pretty much do it all in Greenville, which may become the next Asheville, with its ease of access and cool mountain vibe. The Mountain Lake Wilderness Area holds 50 miles of the best hiking in South Carolina, and the 371,000-acre Sumter National Forest is perfect for a weekend backpacking trip along the Chattooga River.
NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
ATLANTA, Ga. Hotlanta’s proximity to the mountains of North Georgia make it a hotbed of outdoorsy folks: excellent mountain biking, hiking, and fishing in Chattahoochee National Forest are just an hour north of the city. Meanwhile, Stone Mountain and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area are within city limits. Throw in urban bouldering at Boat Rock and the 1996 Olympic mountain bike course in the suburbs, and some of the world’s top runners in the Atlanta Track Club, and it’s easy to see why Atlanta is one of the region’s best outdoor cities.
Coolidge Park on the banks of the Tennessee River
BEST mid-sized MOUNTAIN TOWN ROANOKE, va.
The city of Roanoke is perfectly located: In the heart of the valley, with a river running right through town, and adjacent to George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Not surprisingly, it’s rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the country’s top outdoor destinations. From its beginnings as a railroad depot and industry-central town in southwest Virginia, Roanoke has transformed itself into an outdoor mecca. Built on the backs of blue-collar, industrious railroad workers, the city initially did not put much effort into its outdoor infrastructure because there was never a demand for it. As the population began to age, young people left in droves after high school, creating a generation gap. Many saw Roanoke as a quasi-retirement community. That began to change in the late 1990s as a group of concerned citizens made the push for a large system of greenways tracing the Roanoke River as it flows through downtown. Then in 2007, Roanoke Outside (RoanokeOutside.com) was created to promote the city as an outdoors destination, and soon after, Virginia Tech opened its medical school in the city. These two events had a dramatic effect on the populace, simultaneously bringing an influx of young professionals and revealing Roanoke’s worldclass outdoor offerings. “Roanoke has started to tout its amazing outdoor assets,” says Aaron Dykstra, owner of 611 Bicycles. “People who work for the city, even if they don’t ride bikes or hike or do anything like that, still support the outdoors because they know the impact it already has made here.” Dykstra is a case in point. After growing up in Roanoke, he bolted the city with all of his friends as soon as possible. Following stints in Chicago and New York, he returned to his hometown to start his business—611 makes handmade steel bicycle frames in a downtown shop—due to the low cost of living. As the city has changed, so has his attitude towards it. “It’s exciting to be a part of it and see the development,” he said. “I certainly take a lot of pride in the fact that every bike that goes out the
door here has a ‘Made in Roanoke’ badge on it.” Stratton Delaney, who owns Starlight Bicycles, a bike shop that also produces custom apparel, says he would not have started a bike shop in Roanoke 10 years ago. Now his business is thriving, and he credits the community working together as a whole for the city’s changing identity: everything from the dedication of the parks and recreation department to the development of downtown living space to the creation of events like Go Fest and bringing the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s Radical Reels to town. “It’s our community that has made the difference,” he said. “You can’t just be a mountain town because you’re in mountains. You really need a community that’s going to promote it and get new people out. It seems like now every other car has a bike or kayak on top.” The outdoor opportunites have been here for decades. The Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail run right outside of town. You can see McAfee Knob from downtown, and you
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can ride singletrack on Mill Mountain right from the greenway and Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is Virginia’s largest conservation easement, holding over 40 miles of multi-use trails. There’s also Douthat State Park, Smith Mountain Lake, and the New River all within an hour’s drive. Brent Cochran is another Roanoke local who returned after years out West. He has since helped create farmers markets and local nonprofits, along with a climbing gym integrated into a new residential/commercial space. He believes all these aspects of the community are connected. “People are coming here and saying, ‘These are the type of things we want in a community; we want that work/play lifestyle.’ That’s driving the food scene, that’s driving the music scene; it all works together. You don’t have one without the other,” he said. You can see it firsthand in the renovated Market Building downtown where locally sourced food is served at Firefly Fare or in the Carvins Cove parking lot after a Roanoke
Hidden Valley: Roanoke is nestled in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
ROANOKE QUICK HITS
5 minutes Grab your rod and fish the delayed harvest section of the Roanoke River as it flows downtown; check in with Tom at the Orvis store for info (orvis.com). Bike up local favorite Monument Trail or Big Sunny to the top of Mill Mountain, and don’t stop till you hit the star.
15 minutes Cycle out to the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy the best riding on the East Coast in either direction. Explore Park, right off the Parkway, has 10 miles of IMBA-built mountain biking trails.
30 minutes Hop on the A.T. and hike 3.5 miles to the most photographed spot on the entire trail, McAfee Knob. Over 40 miles of trail await hikers, bikers, and trail runners at Carvins Cove, just 20 miles outside downtown.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD MOUNTAIN TOWN?
Outdoor and Social Club meet up. Delaney credits outings like communal bike rides every day of the week and group hikes organized by the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club with developing a social scene outside of bar hopping for people just moving to the area. The city’s reinvention over the past five years has been remarkable, and Cochran only sees good things coming in the future. “Roanoke is definitely having a renaissance,” he said. RUNNERS UP
ASHEVILLE, N.C. Asheville may suffer from its reputation: it has been the prototypical East Coast mountain town for so long, people may be tired of hearing about it. Maybe it’s envy, maybe it’s just being worn down over time, but the undeniable fact is that Asheville could be the most authentic mountain town on this, or any, list. First, and most important, is Asheville’s location. Western North Carolina has everything the outdoors enthusiast could ever want, and Asheville is the hub. With the French Broad River dissecting town and the Nantahala and Nolichucky nearby, there is Class I-V whitewater for every level of paddler right out the back door. But Asheville is not just a river town. Mountain bikers can hop on the trails at Bent
o concrete criteria exist to quantify what makes a mountain town or how you achieve such a distinction. Not every town at a high elevation is a mountain town, but not every mountain town is in the actual mountains. So what makes a good mountain town? The simple answer, to quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, is “I know it when I see it.” You can usually tell if that dot on the map has an outdoor culture the minute you pull into town. Commuters on bikes, runners on a lunchtime jog, or a full tasting room at the local brewery are all good indicators you are in the midst of a mountain town paradise. These things are a big hint that the outdoor lifestyle is central to what makes up the fabric of a community, but ultimately they are a result and not a cause. The single most important aspect of a mountain town is, and always will be, the people. You can have all the open space and money in the world, but it is the people of any given town that define it as true mountain town or not. Without a community committed to building the infrastructure, you are left with just a town in the mountains, not a mountain town. It is the people that enable a place like Chattanooga to transform their city from the most polluted in America to the most progressive; or a sleepy stopover like Damascus, Virginia to become “Trail Town, USA.” That’s the funny thing about outdoor recreation: it takes a commitment from the people to maintain. Trails need clearing, rivers need cleaning, and access needs protecting. It would be easy for Asheville to rest on the laurels of its already robust outdoor reputation, but the community is constantly striving to improve the opportunities for its citizens to access the outdoors in any way possible. Sure, bike lanes and municipal parks are great—really great—but the bottom line is these improvements attract the type of person who will settle in a town and open an independent outdoor outfitter or climbing hostel. It is this independent, can-do spirit that sustains a mountain town’s economy and infrastructure for decades to come. What makes mountain towns special is the combination of local governments, entrepreneurs, conservationists, artists, and local outdoor enthusiasts working together to maintain their happy little hamlets.
NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
The Roanoke River as it flows through downtown, The star of Mill Mountain greets locals and visitors alike, The Greenway was a key to the city’s revitalization.
Creek Experimental Forest, a favorite of locals for an after-work ride. Beyond Bent Creek is Pisgah National Forest with its extensive, worldrenowned network of trails. For the road biker, the Blue Ridge Parkway section that runs just west of town holds some of the steepest climbs of its whole route. If hiking is your thing, you could not ask for a better place to start. Just to the south are the steep gorges and waterfalls of Nantahala National Forest or the Linville Gorge to the north. Don’t forget about Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the Appalachian Trail and miles of backcountry streams teeming with native trout. Back in downtown you can kick back to enjoy one of Asheville’s 11 craft breweries and, if you time it right, the Mountain Sports Festival along the banks of the French Broad. See what we mean about outdoor envy?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. With all the small mountain towns in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia, it would be easy to overlook Morgantown as an outdoor destination. That would be a mistake, however, as the city has more to offer than most its size. Located in the extreme northeast of the state, this college town nearly doubles in size when school is in session, but all that youth gives Morgantown a year-round buzz of energy. Two rivers flow near Morgantown – the Monongahela right through the middle and the Cheat to the east – giving the city a reputation as a river city. The Cheat has Class I-V rapids and flows into the 1,800-acre Cheat Lake before meeting the Monongahela just north of town. Morgantown has more than just water fun, however. A lengthy system of river-side rail-trails provide scenic river views and a one-
of-a-kind personal rapid transit system put Morgantown ahead of its time. They shut down city streets on Halloween weekend to hold the Mo-Town Throwdown, a ski and snowboard rail jam. Easy access to Coopers Rock State Forest and Cathedral State Park provide endless opportunities for hiking, biking and camping. Shoot over to Maryland’s Wisp Resort or down to Canaan Valley for skiing and the best mountain biking in the Mid-Atlantic. CLOSE CONTENDERS
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. The home of Mr. Jefferson’s University is located at the heart of it all, just a short jaunt from GW-Jefferson National Forest, Shenandoah National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
BOONE-BLOWING ROCK, N.C. Another western North Carolina entry, this metropolitan area is home to Grandfather Mountain and Appalachian Ski Mountain.
TRI-CITIES (JOHNSON CITYKINGSPORT-BRISTOL), TENN. Cherokee National Forest, Roan Mountain, and the Holston River make this triple dip an outdoor lover’s paradise.
HARRISONBURG, VA. Sandwiched between Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest, Harrisonburg is a mountain bike mecca.
CUMBERLAND, MD. The western terminus of the C&O Canal Towpath hosts DelFest and is within striking distance of Wisp Resort.
LYNCHBURG, VA. The James River runs right through this mountain town that Liberty University has turned into their own personal outdoor playground.
BEREA, KY. Located just outside Daniel Boone National Forest, this arts-focused community is the fastest growing town in Kentucky.
BEST small MOUNTAIN TOWN
hot springs, n.C. Named for the only natural hot spring in the state, the town has long been a destination for those seeking its healing powers. In 1837 Hot Springs reached its zenith as a destination resort when James Patton built the 350-room Warm Springs Hotel on the site of the spring. When that hotel burned 46 years later, another was built in its place, complete with lavish marble-lined tubs, tennis courts and the Southeast’s first organized golf club and 9-hole course. Things were looking up for Hot Springs, until that luxury hotel burned down as well. Following several more hotel burnings and rebuildings, Hot Springs was almost forgotten as a tourist destination and virtually fell off the map. Today, however, Hot Springs is again attracting visitors from all over the United States and beyond, and not just for the 108-degree NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
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Show your appreciation and support for the Trail each and every day with an Appalachian Trail (A.T.) license plate. A portion of all proceeds will help manage and protect the A.T.
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For more information visit appalachiantrail.org/PLATES
Lover’s Leap: The A.T.’s first trail town holds a special place in the heart of northbound thru-hikers.
HOT SPRINGS QUICK HITS
5 minutes Follow the white blazes across the bridge over the French Broad and get on the Lover’s Leap trail for great overlooks of the town and river. Finish with a soak at one of the streamside tubs at the Hot Springs Spa and a bite from Cliff at The Food Shack.
15 minutes Head east out of town to Route 208 and fish the delayed harvest section of Big Laurel Creek. Hike or ride the railroad grade Laurel River Trail to the abandoned mining town of Runion.
30 minutes Venture south to one of the most spectacular balds in the southern Appalachians, Max Patch. Grab a raft or kayak and paddle the Class III-IV Section 9 of the French Broad as it comes into town.
mineral water. Nestled in the heart of Pisgah National Forest, the town is located at the crossroads of two of the most important outdoor resources in western N.C.: the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River. “The three pillars of the town are the hot springs and the Hot Springs Campground; the river with the rafting, canoeing, and kayaking; then the trails, the A.T., and all the side trails around here,” explained Wayne Crosby, owner of Bluff Mountain Outfitters. The A.T. literally runs right through downtown: the sidewalk outside Bluff Mountain is marked with white blazes. Hot Springs is the first major town hikers pass through when heading north from Springer Mountain, Ga. This first trail town designation is one reason why thru-hikers have a special place in their heart for Hot Springs: after a humbling 200 miles, that first hot shower can leave quite an impression. When asking locals how they ended up in Hot Springs, more often than not you’ll hear a story that begins with “Well, I thru-hiked the A.T.…” and ends with “…and then I moved back.” This is the story of Crosby, who thru-hiked when he was 19 years old and spent a couple weeks in town painting porches. This is also the path of Sunny Riggs, who hiked the A.T. in 2002 and returned to open ArtiSUN Gallery, a local art boutique and café in the historic Iron Horse Station Inn building. Randy Anderson, more commonly referred to by his trail name “Chuck Norris,” jumped at the chance to relocate to Hot Springs and give back to the town that buoyed his spirits and re-energized his aching legs during his thruhike. He now manages the newly re-opened Laughing Heart Hostel, which sits a literal stone’s throw from the northern terminus of the A.T. as it comes into town. The hostel hosted over 850 hikers in its first spring, and Anderson says the
draw of the town is just as powerful as ever. “In the hostel we have come close to coming up with a three-day maximum stay because hikers get to town and they decide they like it so much that four days have gone by and they’re still here,” he said. “So we have to nudge them along quite often because they start to make this home and they really like the small town feeling.” The small town feeling is definitely hard to escape when visiting Hot Springs, mainly because it only has about 650 permanent residents. The population swells in the spring as northbound thru-hikers come through town, and in the summer when the French Broad, Spring Creek, and Laurel River attract whitewater and tubing enthusiasts from around the South. Folks also flock to the town for section hikes like the 20-mile Max Patch to Hot Springs overnight, and day hiking loops connected to the A.T. near town like the Pump Gap Loop and Roundtop Ridge. The French Broad attracts anglers with its smallmouth bass and musky fishing, while the abundant small creeks in the area hold healthy populations of trout. Hot Springs is also gaining a reputation as a romantic weekend and wedding spot. With accommodations ranging from $15 campsites to plush lodges in the severalhundred-a-night category, there is something for everyone right within the town limits. Despite the influx of out-of-towners, the locals have embraced visitors and now designate themselves the ‘Most Welcoming’ town on the A.T. Hikers low on funds frequently trade lodging for yard work at places like Laughing Heart and legendary A.T. hostel Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn, or take part in town-wide Thursday night potluck dinners. The town also hosts several music and outdoor festivals that draw thousands on any given weekend. “Our focus is on nature and people,” says Sandy West, who manages the Hot Springs Spa
with her husband, Rod. “We have no franchises, we have no red light, we are new to the cell phone world. Many people who live in Hot Springs do not have a car so they do not leave the area and yet, they are here and very open to people who visit.” The people of Hot Springs have embraced the town’s new identity as an outdoor destination at the crossroads of the A.T. and the French Broad. But it is the true small town atmosphere that keeps visitors coming back year after year. “We have figured out who we are and where we’re going. We’re pretty comfortable with that,” said Chuck Anderson, co-manager of the A.T. hostel who still goes by his thru-hiker trail name, Chuck Norris. “This is a town that not only has a river that runs through it, but has the world’s most celebrated trail running through it. How cool is that?” RUNNERS UP
DAVIS, W.Va. Davis is one of those mountain towns with so much going on, it’s hard to wrap your head around it, but this quaint West Virginia hamlet is best known for its world-class mountain biking. Ride out from town and in two minutes you can be on bomber singletrack like the rugged Plantation Trail or the appropriately named Moon Rocks. The opposite side of town features the trails of Blackwater State Park and the Dobbin House system and a great view of Blackwater Canyon. Literally everywhere you look there is a mountain bike trail, so stop by Blackwater Bicycles for all the beta before heading out. The Blackwater River and its tributaries are stocked with trout, so bring your rod in the spring and fall. In winter, hit the slopes at Canaan Valley or Timberline for alpine and White Grass for miles of backcountry cross-country skiing. No visit to Davis would be complete NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
without resting those quads at Hellbenders with a Mountain State brew and a burrito as big as your face. The locals are very friendly so don’t be afraid to chat them up at the bar.
lewisburg, W.Va. Lewisburg is the cultural center of West Virginia. Just a few miles from the Virginia/West Virginia border, it’s home to one of only four Carnegie Halls in the world. Its entire downtown is designated a National Register Historic District, so stepping into Lewisburg is like stepping back in time. It’s also fast becoming the outdoor center of West Virginia. The Greenbrier River flows just east of town and is a beautiful smallmouth bass fishery, and its tributaries run cold and clear, holding wild brook trout. From Lewisburg, you can easily hop on the 78-mile Greenbrier River trail or hike one of the many trails in nearby Greenbrier State Forest. Not into roughing it? Just down the road in White Sulphur Springs is the Greenbrier Resort, a luxury resort tailored to outdoor-minded folks. CLOSE CONTENDERS
BREVARD, N.C The gateway to Pisgah, Brevard is the capital of mountain biking in the Blue Ridge. Dupont Forest is just down the road, and hikers, trail runners, and anglers flock to the Davidson River.
TRAIL TOWN: The sidewalk of downtown Hot Springs is marked with the A.T.’s white blazes. The Laughing Heart Hostel is a stone’s throw from the A.T.
LURAY, VA. Surrounded by Shenandoah National Park, this valley town famous for its caverns has fishing and canoeing on the Shenandoah River to the west and cycling on Skyline Drive to the east.
DAMASCUS, VA. Trail Town, USA is at the crossroads of the A.T., Virginia Creeper, and Iron Mountain Trails. One of Virginia’s best trout streams, Whitetop Laurel, and Mount Rogers are right outside town.
BRYSON CITY, N.C. Tubing on Deep Creek, biking at Tsali, hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, running the Nantahala—what more could you ask for in a mountain town?
FAYETTEVILLE, W.VA. There is more to this town than just anchoring one side of the New River Bridge. This funky paddling town bordering the New River is also the gateway to the new Arrowhead Trail System, a boy scout built mountain bike mecca.
BLAIRSVILLE, GA. Blairsville is the closest town to the state’s highest point, and toughest cycling climb, Brasstown Bald, while Nottely Lake provides endless open water recreation opportunities.
BLUE RIDGE, GA. A gem of north Georgia, the Trout Capital of Georgia is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest and is on the banks of the Toccoa River and Lake Blue Ridge. The Cohutta Wilderness is the largest in the East.
CASHIERS-HIGHLANDS, N.C. Double dip with these twin towns inside Nantahala National Forest. Panthertown Valley, Whiteside Mountain and the Cullasaja River await your visit.
OHIOPYLE, PA. What Ohiopyle lacks in population (60 people), it makes up with some of the best whitewater in the U.S. on the Youghiogheny River and hiking in Ohiopyle State Park.
and more rivers than you could fish.
FRANKLIN, N.C. Seems all roads lead to this town smack in the middle of Nantahala National Forest, which is great for cycling or taking in the vast amount of area waterfalls like Bridal Veil.
SYLVA, N.C. With the Smokies just north and the Tuckasegee River flowing just to the west, Sylva is a fly fisherman’s nirvana.
Once you get past all the Native American tourist traps, Cherokee has some of the best trout fishing in N.C. and is the southern gateway of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Flanked by Jefferson National Forest, Pembroke is the take out for one of the most scenic sections of the New River—and also one of the most idyllic fishing spots, with abundant smallmouth and musky.
Bad Branch Gorge and Breaks Interstate Park are both within easy driving distance of this art community.
WAYNESVILLE, N.C. Just west of Asheville, Waynesville has great access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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This gateway to Chattahoochee National Forest is quickly gaining a mountain biking reputation and is also close to A.T. terminus Springer Mountain.
SLADE, KY. Inside Daniel Boone National Forest, Slade is the launch point for treks into the Red River Gorge and its epic hiking and climbing. •
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A. Morgantown, WV GREATER MORGANTOWN CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU (800) 458-7373 email@example.com tourmorgantown.com B. Ellijay, GA Gilmer County GA Chamber of Commerce (706) 635-7400 firstname.lastname@example.org gilmerchamber.com C. Tucker County, WV Tucker County – Canaan Valley – Blackwater Falls (800) 782-2775 canaanvalley.org
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More adventure, more excitement and more fun is waiting in Greater Morgantown, W.Va! Test your climbing skills at nearby Coopers Rock State Forest, home to some of the toprope routes in the eastern U.S. Then head to downtown Morgantown and experience the cool university culture and neighborhood pubs.
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Explore the Ellijays—where 80 miles north of Atlanta might as well be a million miles. Whether you’re looking to get away to our beautiful mountains for a little hiking or mountain biking, looking for a place to reconnect with family and friends, or for a place to kick back and relax, you’ll find it in Gilmer County. Quaint shops, local friendly people will make Whetherrestaurants,and you’re looking to get away to ouryou beautiful Explore the atEllijays—where 80 miles north feel for righthiking home. come staybiking, awhile looking and mountains or So mountain for of Atlanta as well beand a million findreconnect out might why Georgia’s Apple Capital is just miles. a place to with friends family, or for a medicine to keepyou’ll thetodoctor placeWhether to the kickright back and relax, findaway. it in ourtolittle you’re looking get away
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If you are thinking about chillin’ in the mountains this winter, make some memories smack dab in the middle of the Smokies.
Celebrate with a hike on the Appalachian Trail. C
Celebrate with a ride at Carvin’s Cove.
Celebrate over dinner with friends.
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our beautiful mountains for a little hiking Explorethemountains.com or mountain biking, looking for a place For a free Visitor’s 706.635.7400 to reconnect withGuide, familycalland friends, or for tuckerad_eighth2.pdf 1 10/12/12 facebook.com/theellijays a place to kick back and relax,17:46 you’ll find it in Gilmer County. Quaint shops, local restaurants,and friendly people will make you feel right at home. So come stay awhile and find out why Georgia’s Apple Capital is just the right medicine to keep the doctor away.
For a free Visitor’s Guide, call 706.635.7400 Start your trip with us!
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RIDE BIKES. DRINK BEER. REPEAT.
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you’re an angler, you can’t beat the crowd-free and gin-clear water of Curtis Creek, which drops steeply off the eastern wall of the Black Mountain Range, but has easy road access through most of its course.
BEER guide by GRAHAM AVERILL and JACK MURRAY
Biking Kitsuma. It’s a classic ride in the shadow of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi.
Mountain State Brewing Davis, W.Va. Mountain State has two restaurant and pub locations, one in Deep Creek, Maryland, and another in Morgantown, W.Va. Both of these pubs serve good beer near epic adventures, but we like their original brew house in tiny Thomas, W.Va. Much of the taproom was built by hand by founders Willie Lehmann and Brian Arnett, who’ve grown the brewery from an upstart into West Virginia’s largest craft brewery since 2005. mountainstatebrewing.com
Almost Heaven is one of Mountain State’s original brews, and still its most popular. This amber ale is lightly hopped with a caramel finish for easy drinking year round.
Serious beer with a side of adventure
Rumsey Rock Porter is named after James Rumsey, the Shepherdstown man who didn’t get credit for inventing the steam engine. It’s a dark and malty chocolate porter with plenty of hops.
Mountain State sits on the edge of the Canaan Valley, the perfect base for exploring some of West Virginia’s signature adventures. During the winter, Canaan Valley has two downhill ski resorts (skithevalley.com) and the most active backcountry center in the MidAtlantic (whitegrass.com). You have hundreds of miles of cross-country trails at your disposal. After the snow melts, those trails become mountain biker and hiker nirvana.
reek philosopher Aristotle famously said, “Everything in moderation.” We tend to agree. Except when it comes to adventure. And beer. What can we say? Sorry Aristotle, but good beer and good adventure are two hobbies we just can’t get enough of. Luckily, we live in the Southern Appalachians, where craft beer has become as ubiquitous as singletrack. Now, you find yourself a brewery that sits next to a killer piece of singletrack, and what you have there, is the “sweet spot.” We found eight sweet spots up and down the Southern Appalachians, so you can hit the mountains, then hit the brewery with a limited commute.
Pisgah Brewing Black Mountain, N.C. Pisgah Brewing was North Carolina’s first organic brewery and strives to get much of their ingredients locally, even looking to source local hops from fledgling hop farms in the near
future. In addition to the taproom (cash only), Pisgah has an outdoor stage and lawn where they host live music four nights a week (the Wailers are regulars). pisgahbrewing.com
Pisgah Pale, a cloudy, orange ale with organic malts that hits the hoppy notes just right.
Bacon Stout. What happens when you combine bacon with beer? Something great. This winter brew pours black, but balances the sweetness of a chocolate stout with the salty meatiness of bacon.
Pisgah Brewing sits at the base of the Black Mountains (the tallest range east of the Mississippi), giving you easy access to singletrack with monstrous downhills. Check out Kitsuma and Heartbreak Ridge, which are two of Pisgah National Forest’s classic descents, or hike-a-bikes, depending on your prowess. If
Hiking the Sods. Kate Lane, assistant brewer, opts for a simple hike. “Just pick any trail in the Dolly Sods. It’s all amazing.” The 17,000-acre Wilderness has a highcountry ecosystem more common to Canada. You have 47 miles of trail to choose from, with Red Creek Trail being the most popular.
Blue Mountain Brewery Afton, Va. Blue Mountain is one of the fastest growing craft brewers in Virginia, with a newly-opened production facility geared toward canning and distribution, a restaurant and smaller onsite brewery, even a cooperative hop farm project. The restaurant sources as much of their food as possible from local farms, and the brewery crafts a wide range of lagers and ales at the foot of Shenandoah National Park. bluemountainbrewery.com
Full Nelson Pale Ale, a pleasantly bitter American pale that uses five pounds of Blue Mountain’s own farm-grown hops in every batch.
The SeasonaL Blitzen is a classic Belgian NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
Christmas ale that has a drunk reindeer on the label. Thanks to the new expansion, this seasonal will be distributed beyond Virginia this winter.
Blue Mountain sits five miles from Shenandoah National Park, with 200,000 acres of Virginia’s finest ridges and valleys as well as a 100-mile chunk of the Appalachian Trail. From the pub and restaurant, cyclists can choose between the 100-mile Skyline Drive, which bisects the park, or the Blue Ridge Parkway, which heads south through Virginia into North Carolina.
Fly fishing the G.W. Owner Taylor Smack likes the hundreds of tiny creeks in the nearby George Washington National Forest, where native brookies thrive. “These are respectable fish too—9 inches, but honestly, I just like getting back into these tiny waterways, places you wouldn’t bother going if you weren’t fishing.”
Moccasin Bend Brewing Company Chattanooga, Tenn. Moccasin Bend is a nano-brewery just outside of downtown Chattanooga, crafting small batches of wildly inventive beers. Think barbecue-flavored porters and juniperinfused pale ales. Moccasin is in the process of expanding to meet distribution demands, but the brewpub already has a strong following among Chattanooga hop-heads looking for a beer with cojones. bendbrewingbeer.com
Moccasin’s diverse lineup resists the “flagship” notion, but Welter Weight, a light pilsner, is about as straightforward of a beer as you’ll find in the taps. It’s popular as hell too.
Dead Ned Imperial Red was a winter warmer that was so popular, it earned a permanent tap. It’s typically 8.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), but this winter, Moccasin is experimenting with an even higher, 10 percent ABV version that’s guaranteed to warm your cockles.
Moccasin’s small brewpub is located at the base of Lookout Mountain, on the edge of downtown Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain has some of the South’s best-known kitschy tourist traps (Rock City, Ruby Falls), but it also houses some world-class adventure. Cyclists revere the roads that ascend Lookout, one of which (Nickajack Road) was the time trial in the gone but not forgotten professional Tour de Georgia, and 2,000 amateurs battle their way up and over Lookout annually as part of the Three State Three Mountain Challenge. The hang gliding park is on top of the mountain, the nearest trail head is a quarter mile from the dog-friendly taproom, and the local climbing gym, the Bouldering Authority, is a block away.
In-town mountain biking. Owner Chris Hunt was a bike cop for 10 years, so mountain biking is his adventure of choice, particularly on Stringer’s Ridge, a newly conserved piece of forest inside Chattanooga’s city limits. “When I was training as a cop, I’d put
the lights on and hit this crazy off-camber trail there late at night,” Hunt says.
Devils Backbone Brewery Roseland, Va. Devils Backbone won the 2010 World Beer Cup Small Brewery Championship and pulled the gold for its Vienna Lager in 2012. The brewpub sits on 100 acres with 360-degree mountain views, but the crew has recently opened a production brewery in Lexington to fill the distribution demand in Virginia and beyond. DB is Virginia’s most decorated brewery, and one of the fastest expanding craft breweries in the South.
Wintergreen Weiss, a Bavarian style Hefeweizen, was modeled after founder Steve Crandall discovered it while on a ski trip in the Alps during the ‘90s. It’s a lowhopped lager with a smooth, malty flavor. And it’s named after nearby Wintergreen Ski Resort.
The Kilt Flasher (check out the label!), a Scottish wee heavy ale that’s a little higher in alcohol content (7 percent range).
Good News Virginia Virginia Senate Bill 604 This new law allows on-site tasting rooms at small breweries, similar to what you’ll find at Virginia’s wineries. The change is expected to result in a new batch of craft breweries, which can now sell beer directly to their customers without having to establish a restaurant.
The brewpub is perched at the base of Wintergreen Ski Resort and founder Steve Crandall is a life-long skier and backpacker. During warmer months, cyclists revere the long road climb up the mountain, and DB sponsors the popular Stampede mountain bike race in August as well as a 100-mile road race. The brewpub is a stone’s throw from the
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cycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is five miles from the Appalachian Trail. Even cooler, the brewpub will give hikers on the A.T. a ride from the trail to the brewery and let them camp on their property for free.
The Appalachian Trail, of course. Founder Steve Crandall chooses backpacking the A.T. “There’s a section of the A.T. that runs through the Three Ridges that might be the toughest part of the trail,” Crandall says. “You can do a great 10-mile backpack that drops 3,300 feet to the Tye River, then rises 3,000 feet back to the ridgeline.”
Hardywood Park Brewery Richmond, Va. Just a year old, the fledgling Hardywood Park Brewery has already endeared itself to the Richmond community, distributing its beer widely throughout the town and instigating cool city-based endeavors like the Community Hop Project, where local gardeners were given free hop rhyzomes to grow specifically for a special release beer. Hardywood is the hip establishment you expect from a downtown brewery, complete with Food Truck rodeos during the summer. Just don’t go looking for an actual park named Hardywood in Richmond. The brewery was named after the sheep station in Australia where founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh first discovered craft beer. Along with Devils Backbone and Starr Hill, Hardywood was instrumental in getting VA 604 passed (see sidebar). The tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday. hardywood.com
Hardywood Singel, a Belgian-style blonde ale with a mellow finish. It’s too high in alcohol to be considered a session beer (6.2 percent ABV), but it’s a great foodpairing beer. It’s also the only year-round beer Hardywood produces.
Blue Mountain’s family friendly atmosphere and outdoor patio make it the perfect spot for drinking in the Blue Ridge over some local brew.
At the base of Wintergreen Ski Resort, there is no better place for an apres beer than Devils Backbone
The SeasonaL Gingerbread Stout. This is an imperial milk stout brewed with fresh local ginger harvested from Casselmonte Farm and local honey. Sweet. And it packs a punch at 9.2 percent alcohol by volume. It was also this year’s bronze medal winner at the World Beer Cup.
Richmond. Geographically speaking, you’d be hard pressed to call it a mountain town, and yet there’s no denying that Richmond’s adventure portfolio is stout. A smokin’ class III-IV section of the James River runs right through downtown. Belle Island, in the middle of the James and connected with downtown by a bridge, has tight singletrack and a new bike skills park. The city was even picked to host the UCI World Road Cycling Championships, cycling’s pinnacle event, in 2015.
Fat tires. Both Murtaugh and McKay dabble in kayaking, but mountain biking is their go-to adventure. “From the brewery, you can ride a mile of pavement, then hit trail in Byrd Park for a 13-mile trail ride. Buttermilk Trail is the most technical piece of the ride, but I like coming out of the singletrack jungle and getting a big view of Richmond’s skyline,” says Eric McKay.
Dry County Brewing Spruce Pine, N.C. Dry County is a nano-brewery/pizza shop in the surprisingly hip Spruce Pine, N.C., a tiny outpost of a town with morethan-decent grub and quick access to some of North Carolina’s most iconic adventures. DC’s production is small, putting out 10-gallon batches at a time, but the brewers love to experiment, so they have a stock of 30 beers they like to rotate through their bar with six beers on tap at a time. And you can pick up a giant cheese pizza for under $12, making a visit to the small shop a win/win. drycountybrewing.com
Though locals love the Farmhouse Ale and IPA, there’s no real flagship beer here—the experimentation of brewer Chad Mohr resists that sort of consistency. Dry County tries to put out at least one new beer a month.
The Homewrecker is a Belgian strong ale with crystallized ginger and cherry. Does anything say Christmas like ginger and cherries? Just keep the name in mind when you find yourself ordering one after the other.
Spruce Pine is 15 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway and about 30 minutes from Roan Mountain and its string of high elevation balds. The North Toe River runs through downtown, offering in-town fly fishing. Cyclists have a love/hate relationship with Hwy 80, which leads up to the Parkway with a brutal ascent, and hikers and trail runners can explore miles of singletrack on the privately owned (but open to the public) Springmaid Mountain Retreat.
Hiking high. “We always go straight to Roan,” says Dry County Brewing owner Chad Mohr. “It’s a little further than some local trails, but the hiking is amazing.” Pick up the A.T. at Carver’s Gap and head east for seven miles of grassy balds, all of which stand over a mile high in elevation.
Nantahala Brewing Company Bryson City, N.C. Nantahala Brewing Company is still a relative newcomer to the Western North Carolina beer scene (the tasting room opened in March 2011), but in just a couple of years they’ve managed to make a name for themselves as a brewery with an adventurous mindset. Brewery founder Joe Rowland also owns a paddling guide and hiking guide business, local boaters and bikers frequent the taproom, and Nantahala
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even puts out a special limited edition Trail Magic series that helps support the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner program in the Smokies. The brewery is located in a converted warehouse on the edge of Bryson City, which is rapidly becoming a hot gateway town to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. nantahalabrewing.com
The Noon Day IPA was NBC’s first beer out of the tanks and is still the most popular. The pale ale gets plenty of hops throughout the brewing process, and has the citrus aroma and dry finish beer lovers have come to expect from an IPA.
Sticky Dog Stout is a straightforward stout without the typical hints of chocolate or coffee usually associated with winter stouts. Also look for the limited release Trail Magic Series in 22-ounce bottles.
It’s hard to beat Nantahala Brewing’s location. The brewery sits less than two miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and not much farther from Lake Fontana, which offers pristine flatwater paddling as well as a handful of wild islands for those seeking an isolated campsite. Drive a little farther and you have Tsali Recreation Area’s 20 miles of buffed singletrack to the south, as well as the Nantahala River’s eight miles of class II-III whitewater and newly enhanced surf wave.
Fat tires in town and out. Joe Rowland, founder of the brewery, loves paddling the lake, but his go-to adventure these days is mountain biking. “The new SORBA chapter has done such a good job maintaining Tsali, it’s a great ride now,” he says. “But I also like doing a 10-mile road loop into Deep Creek, because you can hit one of the only trails in the GSMNP open to bikes, then come back for a beer.”
Four essential items for backcountry beverages
by Jack Murray
The Wet Sand Principle. reef
Rail Belt There are plenty of ways to open a longneck, but nothing gets a conversation started like tucking your bottle under your shirt near the nether regions, then producing an opened beer. The opener, combined with the classy but sporty buckle and stylish lime green color, make this belt a go-to for any occasion. Don’t leave home without it. Dakine.com; $15 Hydro Flask
Loading up for the beach can make you feel like an underclothed Sherpa with all the chairs, books, coolers, and bocce balls. It is easy to let an opener slip through the cracks but Reef makes it as easy as slipping on your flops with the Fanning sandal, which features an opener in the sole. Too much walking around can gum up the system, but you know what they say: “A little sand in your beer is better than no beer at all.” Reef.com; $50 Yeti
The Hydro Flask Growler is the most deluxe way to carry your beer on the trail. The double walled, vacuum insulated construction keeps your liquid hot or cold all day and at 64 ounces, this bottle is big enough to quench the thirst of the whole campsite. Load it up with a hot toddy or cocoa in the fall and winter. More of a wine guy? The 24-ounce version fits a bottle of vino perfectly. Hydroflask.com; $50
Yeti coolers are the most respected in the industry and are used by outfitters and guides across the continent. Bomber construction will last a lifetime and extra thick insulated walls keep ice cold for days. Plus, Yeti coolers are certified bear-proof so there is no chance Yogi will sneak your picnic basket full of brew. You will certainly pay a little more for these coolers, but can you put a price on cold campsite beer? I think not. Also, there is a 5-year warranty. Yeticoolers.com; $200.
Nothing beats a cold beer at the campsite, but how do you get it there? There are numerous options for packing beer into a campsite—if you are willing to put in the effort.
Bottles in the backcountry are a serious faux pas. Glass can break all over you at any moment and allows light into your beer, which can affect its flavor. Plus, bottles are a pain to pack and aluminum cans are much lighter. With so many craft breweries canning their best products, there is no excuse to not opt for the old fashioned can.
If you are pitching your tent near the car—no shame in that!—then the cooler is the obvious choice. Don’t skimp on the ice and be sure to cool everything down before loading up; this includes the brews and the cooler. The warmer at the start, the more ice wasted cooling it down. Pro tip: a couple handfuls of salt mixed with the ice and water will lower the temperature.
Consolidate with a growler.
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Even a classic thermos would do in a pinch. The key here is to get as much into the container to maximize your effort and to keep the beer from sloshing around. Sloshed beer is no good.
The Mini Keg Think of this as grabbing the biggest aluminum can of beer available. Most run about 5 liters, which gets you about 14 beers at the campsite. Sure, this may be the most cumbersome to haul down the trail, but you will be the ultimate hero if you break out a mini keg as the sun goes down.
If you’ve managed to lug cans of your favorite brew into the campsite, they are probably warm. Grab a pair of socks out of your pack, toss the beers in, and then toss them in the river. Just like the old Busch Beer commercial, you’ll be pulling out cold ones in no time.
In the very near future you may be able to skip packing the liquid part at all. Pat’s Backcountry Beverages is working on a dehydrated beer concentrate system. Simply mix the concentrate with water and a carbonation agent in their bottle, and you have a full flavored, alcoholic microbrew….in the middle of nowhere. patsbcb.com —JM
Available at: Hudson Trail Outfitters The Trail House The Sole Source Casual Adventure Outdoor Trails
NOVEMBER 2012 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
This is the beer that will get macro beer drinkers hooked on craft beer. Available year-round on draft at the brewery’s three locations (Thomas, Morgantown, and Deep Creek Lake, Md.) and select bars throughout the Mountain State. mountainstatebrewing.com
Best Lager Vienna Lager • Devils Backbone Brewing Company • Roseland, Va. This amber-colored beer looks a little like the beers of your youth, but has a smooth malty finish that’s light and balanced. We’re not the only ones who love this beer; it won the gold for Vienna style lagers in the 2012 World Beer Cup, the biggest brewing competition in the world. Available year round at the brewery and in bottles throughout Virginia and beyond. dbbrewingcompany.com
in the by Graham Averill Remember when the only beer you could get in town was an Anheuser Busch product? It wasn’t too long ago when our only choices on tap were Bud or Bud Light. It was a coup when Coors started distributing east of the Mississippi. Finally, options! More recently, many of us packed an extra suitcase on our ski trips so we could bring back a couple of cases of Fat Tire from New Belgium. Oh, how things have changed. Today, breweries line the Southern Appalachians and surrounding foothills. Why? Apparently, there’s something to those old Coors commercials. “There’s a lot that goes into making a great beer, but the first thing you need is good water,” says Win Bassett, executive director of the North Carolina’s Brewer’s Guild. “That’s one of the reasons you see so many breweries popping up in places like Asheville. The mountains have good water.” Forget the Rockies. Tap the Appalachians with this list of our favorite beers in the Blue Ridge.
Best Field Beer Boxcar Pumpkin Porter • Starr Hill Charlottesville, Va. You can smell the pumpkin in this dark-pouring English style brown porter, made with caramel and chocolate malts. The sweet malts help balance the subtle pumpkin spice we’ve all come to expect from a pumpkin beer. It’s a combination that screams fall. The low alcohol by volume makes this the perfect cold-weather session beer. Available in the fall, distributed widely in the bottle throughout Virginia and beyond. starrhill.com
Best American Pale Ale Full Nelson • Blue Mountain Brewery Afton, Va. This perfectly bitter pale ale uses a dose of Blue Mountain’s own farm-grown cascade hops in the mix for that floral aroma, but you’ll also notice the malty, rich taste that helps balance the ale. Full Nelson hits all the American pale high notes. Available year round, on draft at the brewery and in cans and bottles throughout Virginia and beyond. bluemountainbrewery.com
Best Hefeweizen In Heat Wheat • Flying Dog Brewery Frederick, Md. Some beer drinkers steer clear of hefeweizens (too fruity!), but on a hot summer day, after a long run, you can’t beat the easy drinking goodness of In Heat Wheat. The golden-hued German-style hefe is way low on the bitter scale and has slight banana, orange, and lemon notes. Available year round in the bottle. flyingdogales.com
Best Stout TAYLOR SMACK OF BLUE MOUNTAIN BREWERY IN AFTON, VA.
Best India Pale Ale Sweetwater IPA • Sweetwater Brewing Company • Atlanta, Ga. Intense is the only way you can describe the hop character of this India Pale Ale. The aroma is thick with pine and citrus, and the beer starts sweet but finishes hoppy, thanks largely to an extensive dry-hopping process. The beer is a multiple award winner on an international scale. Most recently, it won the Gold for IPA at the 2012 U.S. Open of Beer. Available in bottles year round throughout the Southeast. sweetwaterbrew.com
Best Fruit Beer Pisgah Blueberry Wheat • Pisgah Brewing Company • Black Mountain, N.C. Hazy in color and light in body, the Blueberry Wheat is a thirst quencher on a hot summer day. A healthy dose of blueberry puree gives the beer its signature flavor, but it’s not too sweet for even the manliest of manly beer drinkers. Available in the summer on tap at the brewery and throughout the Asheville area. pisgahbrewing.com
Best Amber Ale Almost Heaven • Mountain State Brewing Thomas, W.Va. Amber ales are designed to be easy drinking brews, and Almost Heaven doesn’t disappoint. There’s nothing for hop-heads to get excited about, but the rest of us love the caramel finish.
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Black Mocha Stout • Highland Brewing Company • Asheville, N.C. Dark, rich, and sweet, you wouldn’t want to finish a six pack of Black Mocha solo, but taken singly, the stout’s chocolate and coffee flavor deliver the goods, particularly on a cold winter night. The beer has won silver medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Festival in the past. Available year round and distributed widely on draft and in the bottle. highlandbrewing.com
Best Porter People’s Porter • Foothills Brewing Winston-Salem, N.C. This tasty beer pours dark brown, the way an English-style porter should, and delivers hints of chocolate and toffee before finishing with espresso notes. It’s a moderately hoppy brew, but overall, beautifully balanced thanks to the deep malt character. Available year round at the brew pub and in bottles in North Carolina. foothillsbrewing.com
Best Session Beer Easy Rider • Terrapin Beer Company Athens, Ga. Session beers are low in alcohol and easy drinking ales meant to sip for extended periods of time. Think, car camping. Easy Rider has a hoppier finish than you’d expect from a session beer, taking it firmly into the pale ale category and giving pale ale aficionados something they can drink all night long. The beer won the silver at this year’s U.S. Open of Beer. Available during the summer in bottles distributed throughout the Southeast. terrapinbeer.com
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Blue Ridge Outdoors • NOVEMBER 2012 • RICHMOND VA EDITION
Remember when you were a kid sneaking MGD from your dad’s fridge? A beer was a beer, right? America’s beer scene has matured. The World Beer Cup gives awards to more than 100 different beer styles, from the straightforward American Style Pale Ale to the slightly more esoteric South German-Style Weizenbock. Yeah, we’ve never had one either. All beers can be broken into two broad categories: ales and lagers. The difference is predominantly the yeast. For an ale, the yeast ferments at the top of the vessel at higher temps for a shorter period of time. It produces a fruity aroma. For the lager, the yeast ferments at the bottom, slowly at lower temperatures and produces no aroma or strong byproduct. Most of the popular craft beer styles in America fall into the ale category. Here’s a breakdown of the five most common beer styles at your local brewery. Learn it, or you could just stick with the MGD from your dad’s fridge (that’s a lager, by the way).
American Pale Ale
Typically citrusy and hoppy, it’s the most popular craft beer style by far: think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Dale’s Pale Ale…The American Style India Pale Ale is even hoppier and more floral and citric. We’re talking a bitter-fest here. Think Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.
Typically a more mellow brew (not the hoppiness of a pale ale) the porter pours dark and takes on a smoky character. Brewers like to add coffee or chocolate. Barrel aging in whisky barrels is popular too.
If the porter is dark, the stout is black. The stout brings the hoppiness of a pale ale back, but keeps the smoky sweetness of a porter. So you get chocolate stouts, oatmeal stouts, coffee stouts…It’s a great winter beer.
This is the easy-drinking copper-colored beer that usually gets people hooked on craft beers. It’s low-hopped, but heavy on the malts for a slightly caramel character.
Hefeweizen A German-style beer that’s popular with the ladies (and everyone if it’s hot outside), the Hefeweizen is light, cloudy, and fruity. Forget hops—you’ll never detect them. Everyone adds an orange to enhance the naturally citrus flavor of this easy-drinking brew.
America’s version of the lager can be summed up in one word: balance. No characteristic dominates the other. It’s light, sparsely hopped and sparsely malted. This is the beer you grew up on. —GA
“So easy, a caveman can do it!” Well, maybe not that easy, but consider this: the first record of brewed beer dates back to 3500 B.C. As soon as humans began sowing cereal grains, they began transforming those grains into beer. From Mesopotamia to mountain monasteries, the history of beer is as old as civilization itself and almost as diverse. The beverage has changed over the millennia, but the beauty of beer is its simplicity. It only takes a few ingredients – in Germany you can only use three: water, barley, and hops – and a little time, and voila, you got yourself some beer. The recent popularity explosion in craft beer has had a similar effect on the popularity of homebrewing. Brewing beer in your basement may not have the lore of backwoods moonshining, but it was illegal until 1979 when Jimmy Carter passed a law allowing small batches to be brewed at home. Fitting that a peanut farmer would sign this bill considering beer has been credited with the rise of cultivation and farming. People needed more beer, so they made settlements and planted more grain, and in turn formed more complex societies and even gave rise to civilization as we know it. At least that’s how the theory goes. You don’t have to be a student of sociology to enjoy brewing your own beer at home, however. There are plenty of companies selling beermaking kits of varying degrees of difficulty but virtually all beer, commercial and domestic, is made the same way:
from the grain you are using. Essentially, you are steeping crushed grain in hot water and harvesting the “tea” that results. This darkly tinted sugar water is your wort, the backbone of your beer.
WORT The first step in brewing beer is forming your wort. This process involves extracting the sugar
DRINK You can figure this one out on your own. •
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BOIL Once you have your wort, it’s time to boil. Water is extracted during the boiling process, making the liquid more condensed. Boiling also kills any enzymes or bacteria present in the wort. HOPS During the boiling stage, hops are added in various stages. Hops added at the beginning contribute bitterness; hops added at the middle contribute flavor; hops at the very end contribute aroma. FERMENTATION Once the boil is finished, the final mixture is cooled and racked into the primary fermenter, where the yeast is added to jump start fermentation. During the fermentation process, the yeast and wort turn itself into beer and particles settle out to the bottom. CARBONATION Once the beer has finished fermenting – a week to a month, depending on the beer – the brew needs to be carbonated. This can either take place in the sealed bottle with a little sugar added, or in a keg system.
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Some of the album hints back at the free jazz elements from your days in Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, a band many feel broke up before reaching its potential. How pivotal was that group in your development as a player? My musical journey has been a little bit backwards. Guitarists generally grow up learning the fundamentals and how to serve songs appropriately. Usually you learn the rules before you break them. Bruce’s band was my first real band experience, and his philosophy is more about being in the moment. He’s really into Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman. The focus was on improvisation and changing the way things were played from night to night. It forced me to become fearless in my playing—not afraid to make a mistake. After my time in the Aquarium Rescue Unit I started getting calls from bands that wanted me to play more structured songs. In many ways I went from the avant-garde back to things that were more basic. It wasn’t always easy and not a path I would necessarily recommend to new players.
Guitar Hero: With free time during Widespread Panic’s hiatus, Herring recently released a solo album.
Rock’s Greatest Replacement
Jimmy Herring goes solo By Jedd Ferris
Jimmy Herring has been asked to fill some big rock ‘n’ roll shoes. In addition to a half-year stint in the Allman Brothers Band following the departure of Dickey Betts, he’s played lead guitar for some notable Grateful Dead spinoffs, including The Dead and Phil Lesh and Friends, which found him reinterpreting the licks of Jerry Garcia. These days Herring is a full-time member of Widespread Panic—a role established following the untimely death of the band’s guitarist Michael Houser. With Panic mostly off the road this year, Herring took the opportunity to release a new solo album, Subject to Change Without Notice. Backed by a band of ace players from his Atlanta hometown, Herring uses the instrumental effort to deliver his fluid style through a range of genres from country rock jams to the spacey free jazz he explored two decades ago in his first notable band the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Ahead of a tour through the South this month that includes multiple stops in North Carolina and Virginia, Herring chatted with BRO by phone.
BRO: You’re known for your work with wellestablished rock bands. When it comes to your solo work, what informs the various directions you take the music? JH: It comes from liking music from different places and cultures. For me, blues is the root of everything and from there my interests have grown to include a lot of jazz and funk, which is definitely heard a lot on this album. I cover the spectrum of American roots music that I listened to growing up, but the band and I also like to incorporate elements of Indian music and other sounds from abroad. On your new album you cover George Harrison’s “Within You Without You.” What makes you decide to interpret a lyrical song as an instrumental? To me, the human voice is the greatest instrument of all. But I don’t posses the ability to sing, so I try to do it with the guitar. If I am going to do a vocal tune, what grabs me is the melody. That song has such a strong melody, so when we’re playing it, I’m hearing the words and they’re coloring the way I play it in an instrumental situation. Jeff Beck is a master of playing vocal tunes on the guitar, and he’s a big influence. I also hang out with Derek Trucks, who plays guitar like a gospel singer. Hearing guys like that has also rubbed off on me.
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You’ve been asked to fill some big shoes on the guitar. Who are your heroes on the instrument? My older brother had a tremendous record collection, so Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers were in my DNA growing up. He also had a bunch of old blues stuff: Otis Rush, Albert King, and Freddie King. It was destiny for my brother to be my biggest influence. When the Allman Brothers called me, I didn’t believe it at first. The sound was already in my subconscious, but the struggle I had there was always thinking I was playing inappropriate things. The guitar sounds of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman are very distinct, so stepping out of that kingdom can send a song into another place that’s not in the expected style. I worried my vocabulary in free jazz wouldn’t sound right or I’d try to do too much. I admit that sometimes I play too many notes. I’m a long-winded person when I’m talking and playing. Since you’re now six years in with Widespread Panic, how have you settled in a permanent role with the band? The same struggles sometimes exist that I found in the Allman Brothers, but it’s a little different than playing with icons you’ve idolized since you were 14. Whenever you join a band that’s cultivated an established sound, you have to tip your hat to it. The difference in Panic is that the band members are my friends and my peers. I’ve known them since the late ‘80s; they used to bring Aquarium Rescue Unit out on the road and let us sleep on their hotel room floors. In the past six years the band dynamic has become a lot more fluid. They’ve never put any expectations on me, but I’m still always trying to make the right decisions for the music when we’re in the moment. Fortunately I’ve only been encouraged to play my way. •
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