RED WOLVES | HIKE FOUR STATES in A DAY | SPRING SOAKS APRIL 2013
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Undiscovered A.T. ALL THE SCENERY, NONE OF THE CROWDS
SURVIVAL IN THE BLUE RIDGE HOW TO SURVIVE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE SHOULDHIKERS PAYFORTHEIRRESCUE?
GRAVITY ON WHEELS
DOWNHILL GAINS MOMENTUM TAX RETURN
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peterbarr Picante chicken ramen noodles mixed with peanut butter. I ate it twice a day for five months on an A.T. thru-hike.
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johnnymolloy Grilled kielbasa and a can o’ beans, all done over the fire.
travisgraham The first Hardees I get to after arriving back to the truck.
charlesleonard Beef jerky and bourbon…what a combo.
chrisgragtmans Honey Stinger—a sweet and delicious blast of energy to cover more miles.
willharlan Good ol’ fashioned oatmeal with apple slices.
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features 19 SURVIVAL GUIDE
Learn the stay-alive skills to survive in Southern Appalachia from top outdoor schools and experts. Even if you never get lost or have an accident, these essential survival skills will change the way you see the woods.
27 THE uNDISCOVERED A.T. You might think there are no secrets left along the most famous footpath in the world belief, but hikers can still find solitude on the A.T. Here are four of the least crowded and most scenic section hikes.
37 THEY PUT ME ON THE PRAYER LIST A rookie hiker’s first overnighter on the Appalachian Trail reveals some unexpected friends and discoveries.
39 THE FOUR-STATE CHALLENGE
and Pennsylvania. Several gungho hikers attempt to complete it in a single day.
47 Gravity on wheels Southern Appalachia is starting to dominate the downhill mountain biking scene, thanks to bikefriendly ski resorts, the Gravity East Race Series, and some gutsy young bikers—including champ Neko Mulally.
50 zombie apocalypse Armageddon is sort of an adventure opportunity.
52 I PICK UP Hitchhikers One writer opens her car door— and her heart—to Appalachian Trail hitchhikers.
53 AFTER THE A.T. An A.T. thru-hiker returns home and adjusts to the real world— with a little help from a long lost friend.
A 44-mile stretch of the A.T. spans West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland,
Photo courtesy of Bill Crabtree Jr., Virginia Tourism Corp.
departments 7 switchback Should hikers pay for their rescues?
9 HEADLINES A.T. Ministry / New camping fees in the Smokies / Lion loose in Norfolk? / Goats honorably discharged
17 THE GOODS
54 TRAIL MIX
Red wolves in the crosshairs / Best spring soaks
The global groove of Toubab Krewe / Doc Watson tribute
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APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com 1/29/2013
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Tim Milton is the executive editor of EasternSlopes.com and lives and hikes in New Hampshire.
NO: Don’t Charge for Rescues We live in a sound-bite culture that seduces us with remarks like “let the idiots pay for their mistakes.” This is the same mentality that says
recognize the incredible risks careless hikers impose on their rescuers when they stray from the trail and remain lost for days. I just don’t think forcing the rescued to pay for their rescues is a humane response to any of these issues. Few things in life are more disorienting and terrifying than being truly lost in the woods. The one thing that sustains hope is the prospect that people will come looking for you. It’s a pretty short trail from billing for rescues to placing a dollar estimate on the value of human life. And let’s not forget the unintended consequences of what lost hikers might do if they know they’ll get stuck with a $25,000 tab for a rescue. Will they panic at the first sign of being lost? Will they take even more risks to get “found” sooner, and get themselves into deeper trouble? Will they never step foot off the main trail and abandon the spirit of adventure that got them hooked on hiking to begin with? I’ve seen the “you could be billed for your rescue if you get lost” warnings at trailheads and they make sense to me, especially at remote wilderness locales. And I understand when an agency might feel an outdoor adventurer has behaved so recklessly that he deserves punitive damages. But when it comes to setting a general policy I say: We find our people in the hope that on the day we’re lost, they’ll find us. Don’t put a price tag on that. WADE MICKLEY
YES: Live Free and Die I was born and raised in New Hampshire, home to the state motto “Live Free or Die” and the White Mountains National Forest, a big chunk of wilderness that attracts hikers, climbers, skiers, and snowshoers. More and more of these folks need rescuing every year. The Fish and Game Department oversees all search-and-rescue missions, with much of the field work done by volunteers and, in certain areas, by rangers employed by the U.S. Forest Service. Since 2006, there have been 957 missions costing $1.8 million. Even with a New Hampshire law that allows negligent hikers to be charged for rescue, fewer than 60 percent pay up. Every rescued wilderness traveler should pay a portion of the cost. Negligent or not, prepared or not, accidents happen. Rather than place blame on the lost and injured, we should assign shared responsibility for all those using the wilderness. As for the notion that some people might not call for fear of getting a bill? Well, isn’t that one of the categories for getting a Darwin Award? One solution, currently under consideration in New Hampshire, is a voluntary, once-yearly “Hike Safe Card,” which would entitle the bearer to no-charge search and rescue, with an estimated cost of $18 per card. This shares the cost and undercuts the risk of stranded hikers being too scared to call for help. And if it works in New Hampshire, maybe other states, not to mention the National Park Service, can also ease the massive cost of their rescues with similar
measures. If the card becomes a reality in New Hampshire, you can bet I’ll be the first in line. In fact, I’ll give them as birthday presents until everyone I know who might need one has one. Until then, if someone needs rescuing in the wilds, send ‘em a bill.
Should outdoor adventurers pay for their rescue?
lion attacks strengthen the zebra herds, but there are two small problems: We’re not lions, and we’re not zebras. We’re people, and we take care of our own. I can see why people are tempted to think it’s a good idea to force lost hikers to pay for their rescues. And I can see why cash-strapped agencies would like to recoup some of their costs. And I would like to do something to
Tom Mangan is a hiking enthusiast and freelance journalist hailing from North Carolina. He shares his hiking thoughts at Two-Heel Drive.
what do you think? Join the debate at blueridgeoutdoors.com
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
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$4 to Camp IN THE SMOKIES
Tennessee/ North Carolina Back in February, the National Park Service started charging $4 per person to camp in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The new fee, which was approved last year, will be used to fund additional staff, including more backcountry rangers, and expanded hours for the backcountry office. Other initiatives planned with the extra cash flow include better education programs on Leave-No-Trace practices and proper food storage, as well as better maintenance of shelters.
Lion Loose in Norfolk? Norfolk, Va.
Was a lion walking down Granby Street? Many Norfolk residents thought so—enough to prompt the Virginia Zoo to check and make sure all of their lions were secure. But the shocked Tidewater residents were actually seeing a Labradoodle named Charles the Monarch, who was sporting a creative mane-style haircut that gave the visual impression that he was more ferocious feline than cuddly canine.
A.T. Ministry Bastian, Va.
This year’s class of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers will have some spiritual guidance along the journey this year, if desired. Josh Lindamood, 26, is hitting the trail this month as the Appalachian Trail Chaplain. Lindamood, the son of a preacher, will thru-hike the trail as a representative of the United Methodist Church, specifically three small congregations in Virginia located near the trail that have become known for providing food and shelter to hikers in the past. As part of the churches’ Appalachian Trail Outreach Ministry, Lindamood will try to reach even more people on his trek north to Katahdin.
Feeling the Heat Tennessee
Last year was the warmest ever recorded in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s also recently been reported that Tennessee had the highest heat records of any state in the U.S. in 2012. In late January, the National Resources Defense Council released state rankings for the percentage of weather stations that reported a broken heat record last year, and Rocky Top took the prize with 36 percent. The state had 96 new heat records in 37 counties.
Goats Honorably Discharged Fort Bragg, N.C.
Thanks to a new law passed by Congress, goats will no longer be used to train Army medics. A story in the Fayetteville Observer reported that the National Defense Authorization Act is forcing the Department of Defense to find an alternative to using animals for medical training. While the newspaper couldn’t get officials to reveal how many animals were killed during testing, the story did reveal that 3,600 goats were requested by Army Special Operations Command last year.
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Daniel Keaton pours beer at Bend’s Boneyard Brewery, and not too long ago he decided to share the craft goodness with someone special in his life— his dog Lola Jane. Keaton created a non-alcoholic brew for dogs made from organic vegetable broth and spent grain from the brewery. Lola Jane loved it so much that it’s now being extended to other canines. Keaton now sells his Dawg Grog locally in Bend and on his website at dawggrog.com
Climbing’s Olympic Pitch
Lausanne, Switzerland The International Federation of Climbing recently made its case to be included as a discipline in the Summer Olympics. IFC President Marco Scolaris traveled to Switzerland to meet with the International Olympic Committee Program Commission in an effort to get lead climbing included in the games starting in 2020. Climbing has some competition against other new sports being considered, including karate, roller sports, squash, and wakeboarding. A decision will be made in September.
Seven-Year Walk Herto Bouri, Ethiopia
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Slopek has recently undertaken the boldest assignment of his life. Slopek is planning to retrace the steps of human history; earlier this year he embarked on a sevenyear walk from Ethiopia to South America. His plan is to follow the steps of early humans; as he told BBC News, he’ll be “retracing the pathways of the first human diaspora out of Africa, which occurred about 70,000 years ago, as authentically as possible, on foot.” Slopek will move east in Arabia and then follow the western coast of the Middle East before a massive 14-month walk through China. Then he’ll journey through Siberia before taking a boat across the Bering Strait and wandering south through North and South America. The journey will be documented online by National Geographic, which is footing the bill for the epic adventure. —Jedd Ferris
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APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
ryan nordsven USFWS
The Red Wolf AT A GLANCE
HABITAT: An estimated 100-120 red wolves roam a 1.7-million acre landscape in Eastern North Carolina. It’s the only wild red wolf population in the world. Pack Life: Red Wolves live in “family packs” of five to eight, consisting of the parents and offspring. Average size: 50-80 pounds. Diet: white tailed deer, rabbits, raccoons and small rodents. Life expectancy: Under 10 years in the wild. Maximum penalty for shooting a red wolf: one year in prison and $100,000 in fines.
The Last Howl
The endangered red wolf is accidentally being hunted in North Carolina. By Graham Averill Outside of illustrations in fairy tales and pictures in magazines, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen a red wolf before. Most of us never will. Thanks to aggressive wolf pelt bounties, the largely nocturnal animals were hunted into near-extinction by the ‘60s. Today, roughly 100 to 120 red wolves live in the wild, reintroduced to the landscape by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within a five-county recovery zone in Eastern North Carolina near the Alligator River. It’s the world’s only population of red wolves living in the wild, and they may once again be under the gun. Only this time, it’s a case of mistaken identity. Gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death for red wolves in North Carolina. In many cases, the hunters responsible for the deaths are unaware they’re shooting wolves. They think they’re shooting coyotes, a species
that has migrated back East in abundance. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has allowed unlimited hunting of coyotes on private property for decades. But in August 2012, the commission enacted a temporary rule allowing spotlight hunting of coyotes at night. Unfortunately, coyotes and wolves look similar, especially at night, a move that may put red wolves at risk. “We have nothing against hunters,” says Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition. “But the number of accidental deaths of red wolves from hunters increases every year. Ideally, we’d like to see no coyote hunting in the five-county recovery zone. We’re certainly pushing to stop night hunting. A gun in the dark is just nuts.” Gordon Meyer, director of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, says hunting coyotes at night is simply too effective to dismiss. “It gives landowners the tool they need to manage coyotes and protect their private property.” The trouble is, some landowners may not recognize what animal they’re actively managing when they’re hunting. Coyotes and
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red wolves have similar colored coats and are similar in size, making it easy for a hunter to mistake a red wolf for a coyote. According to the most recent Fish and Wildlife Service’s report, gun shot wounds are the leading cause of death for red wolves. In 2012, eight wolves were killed by hunters. Two have already been shot in 2013. Most of the wolf deaths are the subject of ongoing investigations, but in at least three of those incidents the responsible hunter confessed that the shootings were cases of mistaken identity. “That’s clear evidence that wolves are being mistaken for coyotes,” says Derb Carter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The Wildlife Commission is taking the view that hunting coyotes poses no threat to the red wolf, but after the Fish and Wildlife Service report, that’s no longer a viable stance.” After SELC challenged the rule, the Wake County Supreme Court blocked the temporary rule that allowed spotlight hunting of coyotes at night in the five-county wolf recovery zone. But a separate, permanent rule is still on the table and scheduled for a vote by the North Carolina Legislature in the Spring. If the rule passes, and night hunting is allowed permanently within the red wolf habitat, the SELC is prepared to bring a federal lawsuit against the NC Wildlife Commission for allowing an action that violates the Federal Endangered Species Act. “We’re working with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the recovery of red wolves, but we have two responsibilities in this situation: recover the wolf species and manage the growing coyote population,” says Meyers of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. It’s a difficult situation to strike a balance. If we don’t allow coyote hunting, you’re telling the landowner that they can’t protect their private property.” •
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Going the Distance
Warren Doyle’s A.T. Institute Gets Aspiring Thru-Hikers Mentally Fit By Johnny Molloy
Warren Doyle is an Appalachian Trail icon who has thru-hiked the A.T. 16 times. And his pupils at the Appalachian Trail Institute are three times more likely to finish than those who attempt a thru-hike on their own. They complete the AT at a 75% rate versus around 25% for those who don’t take the class. Often regarded as eccentric for his unique ways on the trail (read: having taken only Little Debbies with him on extended hikes, never carrying or treating water), Warren Doyle has methodically created a successful “path” to help potential Appalachian Trail treaders complete the entire 2,180-mile trail. The most important piece of equipment?
According to Doyle, it is your mind. Training your brain to handle the vagaries of the trail is the key. A typical potential thru-hiker trolls websites and tramps to outfitters, learning about the latest packs, the best boots, the hardest hills and the coolest trail towns. Some also train their bodies. Yet almost none consider toning their mental muscles in order to fulfill the dream. Doyle started the Appalachian Trail Institute in 1989. Prior to that, he had hiked the Appalachian Trail multiple times, at one time holding the thru-hike speed record. Introduced to the Appalachian Trail while in his home state of Connecticut, the retired college professor, now living near Mountain City, Tennessee, has made the A.T. a driving force in his life for 40 years. Doyle runs the Appalachian Trail Institute out of his home, a 19-room rambling old farmhouse complemented with an assortment of outbuildings. His compound is designed to host groups for educational endeavors extending beyond the A.T., including other outdoor adventures and Doyle’s other passion -- contra dancing. Doyle’s most famous Appalachian Trail Institute graduate is Jennifer Pharr Davis, a three-time AT thru-hiker and current thru-hike speed record holder at 46 days. Another is Bill Irwin, a blind hiker who completed the A.T. with his seeing-eye dog. Another man, whose trail name was Gutless, took Doyle’s class and completed the A.T. journey despite having his
stomach removed due to cancer. Students of all ages and backgrounds travel from across the country and around the world to attend the one-week workshop. They all attended the Appalachian Trail Institute to “shorten the learning curve,” as Doyle puts it. Doyle’s students learn the psychological and philosophical aspects of the thru-hike. It boils down to his 13 statements of wisdom. Here are a few Doyle nuggets: • Walking the entire Appalachian Trail is not recreation. It is an education and a job. • Time, distance, terrain, weather, and the trail itself cannot be changed. You have to change. • It is far better, and less painful, to learn to be a smart hiker rather than a strong hiker. Doyle also reminds his students to take control of their individual temperaments, levels of comfort, and thresholds of pain. If they can match these mental states with the requirements of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike, then they will likely complete your pilgrimage. Classroom workshops cover lessons about trail safety, goal setting, sponsorship, hitchhiking, and handling the domestic front. Afternoons are spent hiking the A.T. near Doyle’s home. This gives students a taste of the trail, learning to set their pace, feel the mountains, and discover a Doyle axiom: “The trail knows neither prejudice nor discrimination. Don’t expect any favors from the trail. The trail is inherently hard. Everything has to be earned. The trail is a trial.” •
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SHORTS travel Berkeley Springs
Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
A Guide to Southern Healing Waters
The best spots to take the waters after tackling a nearby adventure. By Ky Delaney
Even the fittest among us experiences ailments. Mother Nature provides her very own cure-all—mineral water—and it costs much less than a visit to the doctor’s office. This is your guide to the best mineral water sources east of the Mississippi.
Only 90 minutes from the Washington/ Baltimore metro area, Berkeley Springs State Park offers the simple delights of yesteryear. West Virginia’s smallest state park is located in the middle of the charming town with the same name. What the park lacks in size, it more than makes up with serene mountain views and the natural mineral spring that flows through the park. Children love splashing in the springs, and parents enjoy the free summertime concert series on Saturday afternoons. For a modest fee, visitors can soak in the quaint Roman baths or the more modern jacuzzi tubs, both of which are heated to 102 degrees. Or visitors can swim in the pool filled with the legendary mineral water. A bathtub bears George Washington’s name, because he soaked in the springs and wrote about the healing waters in his journal. A museum in the park displays exhibits showcasing the geological and local history of the area.
C&O Canal Towpath Just six miles north of town, the packed dirt trail follows the Potomac River. While rides can be tailored to a rider’s preference, avid cyclists might consider riding thirty miles to check out the awe-inspiring Paw Paw Tunnel. Once referred to as one of the “Wonders of the World,” the hand-carved tunnel is one of
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
SHORTS the longest canal tunnels. Cyclists should bring a light if they plan to ride through the tunnel.
JEFFERSON POOLS WARM SPRINGS, VA.
Soaking in the buff in Warm Springs has been a tradition since colonial times, when the springs first opened to the public in 1761. The same wooden octagonal building today referred to as the Gentlemen’s Pool housed the first pool. The springs’ namesake, Thomas Jefferson, visited the area for three weeks in 1818, seeking respite from rheumatism. A separate ladies pool opened in 1836, which Mrs. Robert E. Lee is rumored to have frequented. Taking the waters inside the original wooden spa structures remains just as restorative today as it was in the nineteenth century. Underground natural mineral springs continuously provide crystal clear water for the pools heated a constant 98 degrees. Skinny dipping is an option during single sex soaking times in either the Gentlemen’s Pool or the Ladies’ Pool House. For those wishing to soak with their significant other, family hours permit soaking together, and everyone is required to wear a bathing suit.
George Washington National Forests The pools aren’t the only thing that look like they haven’t changed since the 1800s.
Nearby George Washington National Forests are also steeped in history, evident in the ruins of an iron furnace or remnants of a homestead encountered while hiking in the area. Close to Warm Springs is the sevenmile Beard’s Mountain Trail, which crosses a swinging bridge over the Cowpasture River before climbing up a mountain that provides stunning views of sun-dappled valleys.
Hot Springs, N.C. Surrounded by mountains, the confluence of Spring Creek and the French Broad River provides the idyllic setting for the 100-acre resort, more reminiscent of a hippie retreat than a spa. The Cherokee Indians first discovered these hot mineral springs long before white men arrived. Today the springs are privately owned. The modern jacuzzistyle tubs are separately housed in wooden structures dotting the river banks. The only thing more mystical than the thermal mineral water are the views from the tub. The steam rising from the tub creates a dreamy lens through which to gaze at the tranquil views as blue herons majestically fly overhead.
Appalachian Trail The town of Hot Springs is a whitewater mecca. The put-in for Big Laurel, one of the few creeks appropriate for intermediate paddlers, is just outside the town of Hot Springs. The French Broad provides tubing, rafting, or inflatable kayaking options for the less experienced paddler. If you’re a hiker, the town also serves as an intersection along the Appalachian Trail.
BLACKSVILLE, S.C. Part of the Virginia Triathlon Series
June 22, 2013
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One sip of the water reputed to be the best tasting water in the world will make a believer of even the most cynical. Lab tests confirm that there is indeed something special about this water – the minerals. Water at the springs contains barium, calcium, cadmium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, nitrium, phosphorous, silicon, titanium, and zinc. “It’s the only water I ever drink,” declares a nearby resident, one of many who descend upon the springs to fill up jug
after jug of water. Many believe in the water’s healing properties. During the American Revolution, six British soldiers were left at Healing Springs to die. Six months later, all six soldiers miraculously returned to their post in Charleston, claiming the water had healed them.
Congaree National Park Less than two hours by car through the cotton and tobacco flatlands, South Carolina’s only national park beckons visitors to explore its old growth floodplain forests. The best way to see the park is from the water. Backcountry campsites along the 20-mile marked canoe trail on Cedar Creek might be wet and junglelike, but the towering bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss are spectacular. •
God’s Tax-Free MINERAL SPRINGS
When Nathanial Walker learned of the mineral springs near Blacksville, S.C., over 300 years ago, he decided to purchase the springs. Today God owns the springs. When the then-owner of the springs, Lute Boylston died in 1994, he deeded the springs to “Almighty God” for the use of the people forever. A big sign at the springs announces, “This historical property has been deeded to God for public use, please revere God by keeping it clean.” Deeding to the springs to God might not be as altruistic as it sounds. The deed freed the property from taxation and forced government to assume responsibility of upkeep. The state routinely tests the springs to ensure the safety of the water for the carloads of people who visit the springs.
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April in the Blue Ridge is a beautiful time, but many view the coming of the month with dread due to one reason: taxes. Sure, Uncle Sam can take a bite—or a series of nibbles— out of your paycheck, but if you are in the 99 percent at least some of that money should be coming back to you. Splurge on one of these selections for every tax bracket.
time means it’s a new big-ticket toy, and this is the year to upgrade to a 29er. The Carve is a XC race-inspired hardtail equally at home on flowy singletrack loops during lunch or comps on the weekend. A super lightweight frame, 10x2 drivetrain, and Shimano components make the Carve a lightning fast cruiser and climber. $1,800; specialized.com
1. Korkers Redside Wade Boot
4. Osprey Viper 13
This versatile wading boot features Korkers’s OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System, which allows you to swap out soles of different material on the fly, from studded felt to sticky rubber. Not only does this allow you to customize your traction for a specific river, it helps prevent the spread of invasive species. The Redside features waterproof material and integrated drainage ports to reduce weight and a cinch lacing system so nothing will slow you down on the water. $150 (with soles); korkers.com
If you’re looking for a high-performance pack for running, biking, or hiking, the Viper 13 is the pack of choice. The fast-loading hydration sleeve makes it easy to refill water, and the breathable back panel kept our testers’ backs dry and sweat-free after long hours in the saddle. $109. osprey.com
2. Keen Ellwood Daypack This 35-liter multi-use daypack provides ample space for all of the essentials, and it’s by far the most comfortable daypack we’ve tested, thanks to the wishbone strap and lumbar pad. We especially liked the large, easily accessible side water pocket, which makes it easy to grab fluids on the go. $125. keen.com
3. Specialized Bicycle Company Carve Expert 29 For those in the upper brackets, tax return
5. FITS Sock Co. Performance Trail Sock This sock is built to perform while you’re running or biking with cushioning in the heel and toe and vented upper. The merino wool and digit wrapping Dynamic Toe Cup virtually guarantee a tight fit with no extra fabric to chafe. $18; fitssock.com
6. Stio Carter Pant The Carter Pant from Stio, a new lifestyle and technical clothing company out of Jackson, Wyoming is rugged enough to wear while you organize the garage or rebuild your bike, but classy enough for a night on the town with a fresh button down. The lightweight but durable cotton canvas and articulated knees combined with the stylish cut will make the
Carter your go-to from the boulder field to the brew pub. $100; stio.com
7. Patagonia Torrentshell This waterproof, breathable, windproof hard shell is lightweight and packs down to nearly nothing, perfect for throwing into a daypack and forgetting about…until the clouds roll in. Pit zips keep you cool when the sun pops back out, and storm flaps on all zippers provide an impenetrable barrier against the worst storms Mother Nature can dish out. $130; patagonia.com
8. Smith Optics Frontman Sunglasses Polarized lenses with Tapered Lens Technology provide an undistorted view of that feeding brook trout or that patio pale ale. Evolve frames with moisture-activated nose and temple pads are eco-friendly, lightweight, and will stick to your face during even the most active pursuits. $80, $120 (polarized); smithoptics.com
9. Sierra Designs Flash 2 Ultralight Tent Who says an ultralight backpacking tent has to be bare bones and cramped? While the Flash 2 may not satisfy those counting ounces, for the average backpacker, the tent’s 3 lbs., 15 oz. weight is just fine. A roomy interior – nearly 30 square feet – and two vestibules will keep you comfy and well ventilated during a night in the woods. $340; sierradesigns.com
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
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WHAT IT TAKES TO SURVIVE IN THE BLUE RIDGE
by JACK MURRAY
t can happen to anyone out on the trail: one false step, one wrong turn and you may find yourself out in the middle of the woods with only the clothes on your back and your wits to get you through. The
chances of spending an unexpected night or two in the backcountry are not as slim as you think and the consequences can be dire. Try to stay calm, this is your guide to survival in the Blue Ridge.
andi Bird was beginning to worry. What was supposed to be a short day hike was turning into a nightmare she was not prepared for. It was a pleasant spring day when she set out hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail outside Roanoke, Virginia. Sandi was on a trail leading down from McAfee Knob, one she had never hiked before and fellow hikers were few and far between. The trail was still covered with heavy leaf fall from the past autumn, the spring foliage yet to take hold. As she lifted her eyes from the path in an effort to spot her destination, the Tinker Cliffs in the near distance, something under the leaves caught her foot and sent her reeling down the pitch. It was a bad fall, her ankle twisted enough that it was difficult to put weight on it. She tried to hike out, but as the skies darkened and day turned into night she ran through two sets of flashlight batteries and the slow, limping hike down the mountain became more and more dangerous. She realized she would not be able to make it back to the trailhead; Sandi would have to spend the night in the woods. Overwhelmed with fatigue and underequipped, Sandi did the only thing she could think to do on an unfamiliar trail: she sat down. With her back against a rock, her butt on the trail, and her legs dangling over the edge of a steep hill, she slept the night in the open, exposed to the elements, injured and alone. The next morning she awoke cold and stiff, but alive. In the daylight, she was able to slowly and carefully navigate back to the trailhead and get to the emergency room, where she was treated for a severely sprained ankle. A hike that should have only taken an afternoon had turned into a 24-hour affair that could have turned out much worse. Had it been a month earlier or the weather changed dramatically, as is common in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we may be telling a different story about Sandi Bird. Sandi’s story is a typical one when it comes to survival situations in the Appalachians. She was an experienced hiker, taking a day hike on a well-used trail, relatively close to civilization. Yet, she found herself in a dangerous predicament due to unforeseen circumstances outside of her control. “You say, ‘OK, well you’re close to home,’ but still it was in a season when there were not that many people around and it was still a long hike back out, several miles out,” she said of the ordeal. “You don’t have to be that far from home, you don’t have to be in the middle of the wilderness to be in a survival situation.” Following her night on the trail, Sandi sought out training that would enable her to better handle an unexpected night in the backcountry. She eventually landed at Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba, Virginia. Former United States Air Force Survival Instructor Reggie Bennett started Mountain Shepherd nine years ago to continue his passion for teaching. At Mountain Shepherd, Bennett takes the basic outline of what he taught Air Force pilots and translates it to the general public – minus the “classified stuff,” – instructing classes around the country and in various environments. His courses are developed around the Air Force’s SERE school lessons – SERE
stands for Survive Evade Resist Escape, so the more advanced courses can get fairly intense. He also consults on survival and backcountry gear and equipment for manufacturers trying to cut weight while upping efficiency. Needless to say, Bennett knows his stuff. He says a common misconception about wilderness survival often gets in the way of learning: survival does not have to be difficult. “I think sometimes the mentality is, ‘Look what I suffered through, and I made it and that makes me great,’” says Dina Bennett, Reggie’s wife.. “It doesn’t need to be hard, it doesn’t need to be difficult to make it through if you know how to do things easily.” Virtually all survival situations involve either lost or injured day hikers so the chances of being rescued or found in Southern Appalachia are dramatically higher than say, if you were lost in the vast woods of Montana. “Most survival situations are just three days,” says Bennett. “The majority of them are just 24 hours. The likelihood that any one of us is going to be in a survival situation for more than three days is very rare.” To handle any crisis as short as a couple hours to as long as three days, Bennett teaches his students seven priorities of survival. This is not only an outline of what to do and how to do it, it is a tool unto itself; a way to cope with escalating catastrophe beyond the standard ‘Rule of Threes’—a person can go three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food.
BEPREPAREDGEAR Being prepared does not mean you have to overstuff your daypack with enough gear to make it through the apocalypse every time you take a two-mile hike. It does mean you should have some bare essentials to make sure you get out of the woods in one piece. Here is a list of common items to pack in an emergency survival kit, all of which can be packed into a small sack weighing less than a pound: Knife (fixed blade is best, but a high quality folding knife will suffice) Trash bag (55 gallon, heavy duty) Fire starter (waterproof matches, flint and steel, or lighter) Fire tinder (WetFire, Vaseline-soaked cotton balls) First Aid (Band Aids, ibuprofen, antiseptic, moleskin, QuikClot, gauze, antidiarrheal, adhesive tape) Water transporter: You can use the sealable bag that carries the rest of the kit Mini flashlight Signal Mirror Whistle Water purification tablets
1. Positive Mental Attitude
“There is no average emergency.” Priority number one in any wilderness survival or emergency situation is maintaining a positive mental attitude. This principle is echoed by every survival expert and applies to every predicament you could find yourself in no matter the setting. “People that do very well in a survival situation are people that realize that there is going to be physical and mental stress applied to them,” said Bennett. “But if you can recognize that stress, that’s the key.” Positive mental attitude is number one because everything else affects it. For example, having a positive mental attitude will help you stay cool and collected when trying to start a fire in the wind; in turn, having that fire gives you a positive mental boost. Carrying a basic emergency kit is the easiest way to elevate your morale. Just having some equipment goes a long way, but having some knowledge can make the difference between getting out alive and not. “The more you know, the more that you feel like, “It’s all right, I got this,’” says Jeff Gottlieb, who manages the survival school at SOLO Southeast. “A lot of wilderness survival is feeling like it’s OK to be there. A little bit of comfort in a trying situation can make the difference in a successful attitude and whether you are going to make it.”
Snack (energy bar)
2. WILDERNESS FIRST AID “You are help.” Every emergency pack should include some version of a first aid kit with the bare essentials: bandaids, bandages, Advil, and disinfectant to
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treat scrapes, blisters, and bee stings. Other common injuries like twisted ankles and knees, or deep flesh wounds will require professional medical attention that only a Wilderness EMT or First Responder can provide. More important than running for help in a situation like this is assessing the situation so you can inform rescue personnel of the number of people injured, severity, environment, etc. “You’re help; there isn’t help immediately available,” says SOLO Southeast Director and paramedic Jono Bryant. “Even if you get them on the cell phone, it’s going to take ages for anyone to come and get you. The care is essentially the same [as front country medicine] other than the improvisation, but the environment can change everything. Suddenly that broken ankle has turned into a hypothermia victim.” The biggest dangers to anyone in the backcountry are the double threats of heat and cold. Either can be deadly if not taken seriously, but the warning signs or hypothermia and heat stroke are easily spotted, if you know what to look for. Hypothermia There are two main components of hypothermia: the first is getting cold and wet. This can be easily prevented with the proper clothing. The relatively warm state of Texas has one of the highest rates of hypothermia because people
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S L A I R T M 8 2 A E 6 ORGE T 2 L I S U APR A G
SOL Core-Lite Multifunction Tool This steel folding blade contains an LED light and a 100-decibel whistle in its handle. At a scant 1.5 ounces, it can travel easily in your pocket or pack. $25. surviveoutdoorslonger.com
L A H NTA
SteriPen Adventurer The SteriPen is the quickest, safest, and easiest option for clean water. Whether in the backcountry or the bathroom of a dirty motel, the SteriPen provides clean water by sterilizing it with 48 seconds of ultraviolet light. $63. campingsurvival.com
Gladding Paracord Used by the military, 550-grade parachute cord is a survival essential. It can be used as a tourniquet for first aid, fishing line, or fire bow, and it’s critical for shelter building. $9 (100 feet). campingsurvival.com
E R O M S ’ E R E H
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SOL Escape Bivvy This waterproof emergency shelter/ sleeping bag with a drawstring hood and side zip keeps rain, snow, and wind on the outside while reflecting your body heat back to you. $50. surviveoutdoorslonger.com
M O C . 3 G 201
don’t realize you get cold 25 times faster when you’re wet. Never wear cotton in cold weather, opt for polypropylenes or wools, which stay warm even when soaked. The second is fuel or food: you burn twice as many calories in cold weather, so eating food rich in calories and fats will help stave off hypothermia. “The trouble with hypothermia is that the first thing that is affected is your judgment and you start making poor decisions,” says Bryant. “There are many documented cases of people who were found frozen to death on the side of a mountain and they go into their backpack and they had food, fuel, a stove, a sleeping bag, but they just started making poor decisions. You just have to
KIN A Y A YLE K
21 APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com 3/7/13 7:36 PM
WILDERNESS SURVIVAL SCHOOLS The only way to be truly prepared for a survival situation is to take a wilderness survival course. Here are some options in the region: SOLO Southeast Bryson City, N.C. solosoutheast.com Southeast School of Survival Cartersville, Ga. southeastschoolofsurvival.com Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School Catawba, Va. mountainshepherd.com Living Earth School Charlottesville, Va. livingearthva.com Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival Fredericksburg, Va. earth-connection.com Landmark Learning Semester Cullowhee, N.C. landmarklearning.org Medicine Bow Wilderness School Dahlonega, Ga. medicinebow.azurewebsites.net
recognize when someone is entering this stage.” Recognizing the onset of hypothermia is as easy as keeping an eye out for the “umbles,” says Bryant. It begins with a general discomfort (the grumbles); then the mumbles where speech is slurred; then motor function lapses (the fumbles—if you have difficulty touching your pinky to your thumb); then the stumbles and tumbles; and culminates with the crumbles which is the beginning of the end. If you see any of these signs, it is time to act. Get the person under jackets or a sleeping bag, and off the cold ground onto a tarp or more jackets. Start a fire immediately. Providing the victim warm liquids and food will help keep the core temperature up. Heat Stroke As dangerous as cold is, heat can be equally threatening but not as noticeable in the field. Heat injury begins with dehydration: if you feel thirsty you are already significantly dehydrated and may begin to feel dizzy or nauseated. A hydrated person should be urinating every two hours. Heat exhaustion is the next stage and you will begin to feel lethargic, weak and may be pale and clammy. Heat stroke is characterized by the body being red and flushed or having seizures and can be fatal if not treated. Getting out of the sun and getting some food and water in the victim is essential if any of these symptoms arise. Pour water over their body to cool it, but not to the point of shivering, as this will only generate more heat.
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“You never know what’s coming.” In the Blue Ridge Mountains the weather can turn at any moment; it may be sunny and 65 one moment and raining and 40 the next. The changes in weather and temperature are especially apparent when day turns to night, when the temperature plummets and wetness seeps in everywhere. Improvised insulation is your only friend when you have nothing, helping to retain the heat you already have. The clothes on your back are the first line of shelter: stuffing dry leaves or other insulation into your jacket and pants provides extra protection against cold. Dry leaves or grasses are great filler. You can get away with damp leaves some of the time, but having a grasp of the physics of insulation is vital if you are out in the winter months. “Your margin for sloppiness is smaller,” says Gottlieb. “If it’s June and you don’t understand shelter insulation very well, you will probably be fine, but if it’s January and you don’t understand insulation very well, it could be life threatening.” Having a heavy duty, 55-gallon trash bag in your emergency kit gives you the most bang for your buck of any other piece of equipment. They are large, waterproof, windproof, tough, and can be used as a tent, poncho, and rain collector. String a trash bag between two trees and you have instant protection from the wind and rain Watch Bennett demonstrate how to make a shelter from a trash bag at blueridgeoutdoors.com
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3. SHELTER CRAFT
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that compound the effects of cold—especially wind. “People don’t understand how insidious that wind is,” says Bennett. He tells a tale of soldiers sitting in a 35-degree cold chamber in their underwear and making it two hours before they couldn’t take it anymore. When they added a mere three-mile per hour wind, the soldiers only lasted 20 minutes. If you don’t have a trash bag, a suitable shelter can be made by propping up a long log with one end on the ground and one in the crux of a tree, bracing it with stick ribs along its length, and piling dead leaves on top of the shelter and inside it for insulation. It may not sound like much, but this style of shelter is surprisingly adept at keeping rain and wind out. Always build your shelter away from hanging branches or boulders, on a rise so water does not seep under and point the door of the shelter to the east or southeast so the prevailing wind does not blow rain in.
4. FIRE CRAFT “Fire is life out there.” When used incorrectly, fire has the power to injure and destroy. When used correctly fire has the ability to warm, light, dry, cook, boil, defend, signal, and otherwise keep you safe in the backcountry. “Fire is a priority, but fire helps out all the other priorities,” says Bennett. “Fire is life out there.” A lighter, waterproof matches, or some type of flint and steel should be part of any emergency kit, as should a ‘fire bug’—tinder that can take a spark and light almost instantly. These include products like WetFire, a lightweight cube developed for the military that takes a spark and burns at 1,300 degrees, even when wet. A DIY alternative is to soak cotton balls in Vaseline and store them in a pill bottle. In the wild, tulip poplar fibers or birch bark make the best tinder. Building a pit will help protect the fire from the elements. Pile rocks around the fire to reflect the heat toward you and then use the heated rocks in your shelter to help you stay warm through the night. Do not put wet stones directly into the fire, however, as they have the potential to explode due to the expanding steam inside the rock. Building a fire becomes more difficult without a spark, but not impossible if you know what you are doing. A fire by friction using the bow drill technique will produce a flame, but without practice your chances of pulling it off are greatly diminished in a stressful situation. Knowledge and practice are the only things to fall back on when out in the wilderness, so get plenty of both in regards to fire making. “If you do it right and you have equipment that is up to your standards, it shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds to have a glowing ember ready to feed into the tinder, and maybe have a flame in one minute,” said Gottlieb. “When your hands are freezing and you have no backup is not the time to learn how to make a fire by friction.”
5. SIGNALING “Your best chance of survival is getting rescued.” Signaling for rescue is one of the most important, but often overlooked, priorities for anyone lost in the woods, says Bennett. “Signaling is being proactive, helping rescuers rescue you,” he said. “Most people are not ready; they are so focused on surviving that they forget that they should be prepared to signal any rescue that comes by.” Signals can be as easy as tying a bandana to a tree branch or banging a stick against a hollow log. Save your voice by whooping or yipping instead of yelling “help,” and keep in mind the international signal for distress is a series of three – the Morse Code for “S.O.S.” is three dots, three dashes, three dots. Have a stash of flammable debris near the fire so if you hear a helicopter or plane, you can dump the debris on the flame to create a smoke pillar that can be visible for miles.
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6. WATER CRAFT “Walk downhill.” After protection from the elements, finding potable water is the most vital factor in any survival situation. Humans can only go a few days without water, and you are losing it constantly through your sweat, breath, urine, and other basic functions. Fortunately, this is the Blue Ridge so locating a water source is not usually a problem. “The East Coast is a water-rich part of the world,” says Earth Connection School founder Tim MacWelch. “Walk downhill for a couple hundred yards and you are either going to see some kind of sign of water or actually see water.” Water is all around us in the Appalachians, but water in the wild suitable
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
STAYORGO? When lost or injured in the wilderness, conventional wisdom says it is better to stay where you are and hunker down to await rescue. More often than not, trying to self-rescue only makes the situation worse, says Bennett. “Once you start moving you are subjecting yourself to injury, fatigue, and dehydration,” he said. “So in most cases, if you can, it’s better to stay put.” Going mobile also elevates your chance of missing a rescue team that comes through your area; if they clear the area and don’t find you, they probably will not be back. There are some circumstances in which your only option is to try to get out yourself. Bennett advises you to travel if: Nobody knows where you are. They don’t know where to look for you. Always tell someone or leave a prominent note whenever hiking or camping. The environment is dangerous enough that it would be more hazardous to stay where you are. We want your feet to be free. TrekSta with NestFIT™ free. Free from crowding. Free from pain. Free to explore, adventure, discover. So we’re offering free trials at events all around the country. And we’re giving away a free pair of TrekStas each week on Facebook for a year. FOR FREE.
You are running out of supplies. You see the lights of a house, road, or town during the night and can navigate safely toward them. Otherwise, it is almost always safer and more successful to stay where you are and hope rescuers pick up your signals.
for human consumption is hard, if not impossible, to come by. Rain water and snow are as clean as the air they fall through and surfaces they touch. Drinking untreated water from even the most seemingly pristine mountain stream is still an invitation to an army of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and protozoa, any of which can do you harm. Boiling water for 10 minutes will make it suitable to drink, but lucky for us there is a great water treatment arms race going on currently in the outdoor industry. Fueled by the ultra light hiking movement, companies are bending over backwards to come up with the latest, greatest, lightest water purification treatment system on the market. This means tossing a filter or some chlorine tablets in your pack is much easier than even a couple of years ago.
7. FOOD CRAFT Find us on Facebook for a list of events and to enter our weekly drawing for a FREE pair of TrekStas.
T R E K S TA U S A . C O M •
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“Everything is edible once.” Food is fairly low on the totem pole when it comes to survival since the body can manage without it for weeks if necessary. That being said, a full or even partially full belly will go a long way to maintaining a positive mental attitude. Edible plants and animals are abundant in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, but so are poisonous ones, and it can take a lifetime of study to know them all. Hub Knott is the founder and director of the Living Earth School, and says a great way to begin building a knowledge bank of edible wild plants is to start with a fatal flora process of elimination. “Once you know what harms you in your environment, then you’re pretty safe,” said Knott. “If you try something else, some things aren’t super edible but you know it’s not going to kill you.” Knowing what to avoid will help you locate the nuts and flowers that won’t make you sick like walnuts, hickories, pawpaws, dandelions, and wood nettles. Wild greens are more nutrient packed and filling than store bought greens so you don’t need as much in one sitting. Opt for water creatures over land creatures; crayfish, frogs, and snails are easier to locate and catch which will cut down on calories burned versus earned. When it comes to the glamorous world of eating insects, there are a few guidelines to follow, although it is not an exact science: six legs and under and only natural colors like blacks, browns, or greens. Use nature against itself by only eating insects that are hidden or want to hide – the evolutionary defense mechanism to hide means they seldom have other defenses like poison or foul taste. •
Old School PRIMITIVE SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES ARE YOUR LAST LINE OF DEFENSE by JACK MURRAY
t’s 36 degrees and drizzling rain—a perfectly impossible day for making fire. I am on my way to a primitive firemaking skills course taught by Tim MacWelch, a survival expert and instructor who founded Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival 16 years ago as an outlet for his teaching passion. MacWelch sends us on our first assignment: find some fuel to make a fire, no easy task given the conditions. We scatter, looking for anything dry that will burn. I gather some leaves from beneath a cedar tree and some sticks I find under a downed tree—slim pickings—and return with my meager bundle. Back at camp, MacWelch is analyzing our efforts and weeding out the good from the bad. I watch carefully as he whips up a friction fire using a bow drill. There is something mystical about creating a fire without the use of modern technology. How could rubbing sticks together create a flame? It must be magic. But it’s not magic; it’s science. The friction of the sticks rubs off a fine dust called char while simultaneously creating heat. When enough heat is created, 800 degrees
normally, the char begins to glow as an ember, which can then be used to light tinder and create a flame. The physics is undeniable; the application is something else entirely. MacWelch provides us with bow drill kits and gives us another quick demonstration, listing all the things that can go wrong. The fire won’t light if there is too much friction, or not enough, if the wrong type of wood is used, if the strokes of the bow are not fast enough, if the char is not fine enough, if there is not enough air in the tinder, or too much. It’s a wonder anyone has ever done this successfully. We oil the socket with pine pitch to help the drill spin, adjust the tension on our bows to get the proper rotation, and align our boards so the char collects in the right spot. Using a smooth fast motion, the bow spins the drill, obliterating tiny wood fragments into a fine dust, the heat building with every pass. Just as the sweat begins to bead on my forehead and it looks like a lost cause, a wisp of smoke emerges. The pressure builds: this is it; this is the moment. This is not it, this is not the moment. The rhythm gets thrown off; the wisp dissipates into
e, ains t g n d u i o R M One fo ot in the Blueegheny the othe in the All r
See how to make a fire using both primitive and modern techniques at blueridgeoutdoors.com
the atmosphere, my dreams fading just as fast. The second attempt proves more fruitful, the rhythm consistent enough that the wisp turns into a waft, a waft into a puff. It is remarkable the change of pace that happens at this significant juncture in the process. What was at first an exercise in power and swiftness becomes a delicate procedure of fine movement and caution. I gently transfer my smoldering pile of wood dust into my waiting bundle of tulip poplar tinder, caressing the fibers around my energy source. A soft breathe, a silent whistle and I can see the ember glow hot in its nest, being coaxed by the soft breeze into a flame. I imagine myself trying to pull this off in the rain, stranded on a mountainside with no supplies. It is a daunting daydream, but I try to keep my number one priority: positive mental attitude. Finally my flame ignites; my life is saved. •
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www.alleghanyhighlandstrails.com 888-430-5786 APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
The last few secrets of the A.T. revealed
it the Appalachian Trail on a warm weekend and you might think there are no secrets left along this 2,180mile trail. After all, a visit to one of the A.T.’s hotspots like McAfee Knob or the Roan Highlands can leave you feeling awestruck by the crowds alone. But contrary to popular belief, hikers can still find solitude on the A.T. Here are the last great undiscovered hikes on the world’s most famous footpath.
Siler Bald, N.C. Not to be confused with Siler’s Bald in the Smokies (though it’s named after the same family), Siler sits south of the uber-popular Nantahala River and yet, the legitimate highelevation bald sees a fraction of the hikers that flock to its nearby counterparts. “People go to Wayah Gap and hike north to Wayah Bald and its fire tower. Hike the other direction, and you’ll hit Siler Bald, which has just as good of a view,” says Andrew Downs, trail resource manager for the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Downs adds that in general, any part of the A.T. south of the Nantahala River is going to be less crowded than the trail to the north between the river and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Access is
by Graham Averill limited because of the presence of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area and the biggest population center south of the Nantahala River is Franklin, which isn’t exactly a metropolis. Siler has the goods hikers crave. At 5,216 feet high, the grassy mountaintop gives you a 360-degree view that stretches into Georgia to the south, includes a piece of Lake Nantahala to the west, and the Wayah Bald fire tower to the north. Expect wildflowers around the bald during the spring and blueberries in the fall. Logistics: Park at Wayah Gap and hike two miles south to Siler Bald. The climbing is gradual and the payoff is big. Turn the trek into a multiday by continuing 14 miles south to Albert Mountain, where a fire tower will give you another nearly mile-high 360-degree view. An abundance of shelters in this stretch will help keep your pack light.
White Rocks and Blackstack Cliffs, Tenn./N.C. This section of the A.T. follows the North Carolina and Tennessee border, tracing the crest of the Bald Mountains Range that divides the two states. Interstate 26 is nearby, as are a few
recreation areas popular with equestrians, but the Appalachian Trail hugs the ridgeline, too far removed from any large population centers to attract the casual hiker. So the views you’ll bag from the A.T.’s rocky outcroppings will be all your own. An eight-mile lollipop loop will deliver you to stunning views from two separate cliff bands and take you over the most underrated ridge walk on the trail. White Rocks Cliff is a quartzite outcropping on the Tennessee side of the trail with views into Greenville, Tennessee below. Blackstack Cliffs is a similar outcropping on the opposite side of the trail with a big view into Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Shortly after hitting these two cliffs, you’ll find yourself climbing the stone steps to Firescald Ridge, for nearly two miles of narrow ridge walking and rock hopping with endless views in all directions. Logistics: Pick up the A.T. six miles north of Allen Gap at Camp Creek Bald, then follow the white blazes north as the trail shimmies along the edge below the summit. You’ll hit the side trail to White Rocks Cliffs in two miles, and a couple hundred yards farther you’ll see the spur trail to Blackstack Cliffs. Keep hiking the A.T. north beyond Bearwallow Gap to the rocky, APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
Bly Gap, Ga. and N.C.
GA precarious, and stunning route over Firescald Ridge. The Carolina Mountain Club sweat blood to move the A.T. over the most dramatic route possible along this ridge. After rock hopping your way across the crest, you can create a loop by taking the old A.T., which is now marked Bad Weather Trail, south back toward Bearwallow Gap, Blackstack Cliffs, and your car.
Chestnut Knob, Va. As everyone knows, the A.T. runs north and south, but in Southwest Virginia, as the trail leaves the High Country of Mount Rogers, it cuts west toward Pearisburg and the West Virginia border. Here, it becomes a washboard trail, climbing up and over peaks like Walker Mountain and wrapping around Burke’s Garden, a farming community and valley known as “God’s Thumbprint,” because it’s surrounded by a 360-degree ridge, like someone squished their thumb into the mountains. Here lies what might be the most remote and least traveled section of the Appalachian Trail below the Mason Dixon. Road access is scarce, federally designated Wilderness areas are plentiful, and hikers are few and far between. “Just getting to the A.T. in this corner of Virginia is part of the adventure,” says Steve Yontz, trail maintainer for the Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers. “Honestly, the easiest way to access the A.T. at Burke’s Garden, is by hiking the A.T.” Make the effort, and you’ll be rewarded with constant views for nearly two miles on Chestnut Knob, a high elevation bald that was grazed by livestock until the late 1980s. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rogers 80 miles south, and even Grandfather Mountain farther into North Carolina. Go north from Chestnut Knob onto the crest of Garden Mountain, and you’ll get more views into pastoral Burke’s Garden below. Logistics: For a short trip, access the A.T. from Walker Gap and hike south a mile to Chestnut Knob and carry on south until the trail runs out of views. Retrace your steps and go across the gap north onto Garden Mountain for an extra leg-stretch. But if you truly want to experience
SC the solitude and beauty that this stretch of the A.T. affords, start where the A.T. crosses Hwy 11 and climb Walker Mountain on your way to Chestnut Knob. You’ll put in big miles, but walk through old farmsteads, bag big views, and get to stay at Chestnut Knob shelter, which offers excellent star gazing thanks to the lack of ambient light.
The Roller Coaster, Va. To say that any section of the Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia is “undiscovered” is a bit of a stretch. “There’s no unpopular section of the trail in this day and age, but certain pieces aren’t necessarily in the limelight like the more well-known destinations,” says Bob Sickley, Mid-Atlantic trail resource manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Roller Coaster, a 13.5-mile length of trail packed with non-stop ups and downs, is one of those under-appreciated stretches of trail. Consider it the “overshadowed little brother” to the A.T. inside nearby Shenandoah National Park. The Roller Coaster is the A.T.’s swan song in Virginia, offering the last memorable piece of trail before reaching the “psychological half-way point” at Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. Known for its constant elevation change, you’ll climb more than a dozen significant hills for a total of 5,000 feet of gain as you make your way toward West Virginia. The tread is rocky, and the climbing is short but steep without a switchback in sight thanks to an unusually narrow right of way for the trail. The Roller Coaster is a hell of a workout, and a great place to test your mettle if you’re just breaking into backpacking. You’ll also get to enjoy the primo view of Shenandoah Valley to the west from Raven Rock, aka Crescent Rock. Logistics: Pick up the A.T. at Ashby Gap, where the trail crosses Route 50 and head north towards the Blackburn Trail Center. Prepare yourself for nearly constant ups and downs with 200-500 feet of elevation for each hill. The section offers a no-brainer overnight opportunity, thanks to the Bears Den Trail Center, a popular hiker hostel located 100 yards off the trail roughly half way through the Roller Coaster.
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The 16-mile stretch of the A.T. between Dick’s Creek Gap in Georgia and Deep Gap in North Carolina is in a sort of “no-man’s land,” far enough removed from hot spots like the Southern Terminus at Springer and the booming Nantahala Gorge. Hike the whole 16 miles, and you’ll cross the Georgia/North Carolina border at the halfway mark, but not a single road. In fact, the majority of the A.T. in this remote corner of the Appalachians hugs the western edge of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area, a relatively large but unknown federally designated Wilderness that covers the N.C./Ga. border. Access is so limited, that if you wait out the thru-hiker rush that comes in early spring, you’ll probably have the two trail shelters all to yourself. The climbing starts early as you leave Dick’s Creek Gap and yo-yo your way up and down ridges on your way to the state line. But consider the Georgia section of trail a warm up for the climb up Courthouse Bald in North Carolina, where the trail gains 1,500 feet via a series of relentless switchbacks. The views in Georgia are limited, but there’s a killer campsite and long-range view into the mountains of North Carolina at Bly Gap, 8.5 miles into the hike. From Muskrat Creek Shelter, take a .5-mile blue blaze to Ravenrock Ridge, a cliff with one of the most underrated views along the entire A.T. Other highlights include blooming rhodo in June. And did we mention the complete lack of roads? Logistics: Begin at Dick’s Creek Gap, where US 76 crosses the trail and head north. The climbing comes fast and builds as you move towards Deep Gap, N.C. where USFS 71 provides your “take out.” The forest road is gated during the winter. Two shelters sit on this portion of the trail, but their awkward location (Plumorchard Gap Shelter is just 4.5 miles into your hike) make it more practical to set up camp at Bly Gap just inside North Carolina. If you’re looking for a longer hike, the possibilities for side hikes through the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area are plentiful. •
What’s more fun than running, biking, swimming and paddling in the Alleghany Highlands? Testing your skills in a head-to-head competition.
That’s because we’re at the crossroads of the great outdoors. From the largest municipal park east of the Mississippi to the Appalachian Trail,
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APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
r e v e F n Cabi BEAR RIDGE PROPERTIES • Brevard NC (828) 553-5788 We welcome you to our mountain getaway! Three miles from the entrance to Pisgah National Forest, our properties are surrounded by the best outdoor recreation in the Southeast. Stellar mountain biking, trout fishing, hiking and hundreds of waterfalls await exploring with all the luxuries of home.
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GILMER COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE • Ellijay GA ExploreTheMountains.com • (706) 635-7400 The Ellijays in Gilmer County are nestled in the mountains just an hour north of Atlanta. Proud to be the Mountain Biking Capital of Georgia, more than half of the county is designated public land and perfect for hiking, paddling, and fishing. Visit Ellijay today! ALLSTAR LODGING VACATION CABIN RENTALS • Luray, VA AllStarLodging.com • (540) 843-0606 Various Cabins, Cottages, Vacation homes. Sleep 2–22 guests, 1–10 private bedrooms and 1–12 baths. Rustic to luxury rentals, Honeymoons, Romantic Getaways, Family Vacations or Company Retreats. Relax and enjoy each other’s company with beautiful views, and the peaceful surroundings that nature has to offer. BIG LICK RETREAT • Warm Springs, VA BigLickRetreat.com • (540) 947-1862 Nestled on 2900 mountain acres with private access to Lake Moomaw, surrounded by National Forest, Big Lick Retreat is the perfect outdoor getaway with unparalleled views. Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and boating; trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding – enjoy your own private wilderness! BUCK LAIR CABIN • Newport, VA HomeAway.com (property ID#3013466) • (540) 320-2123 With two bedrooms, plus sleeper sofa, Buck Lair Cabins provides the solitude mountains yet next door VA Tech Blacksburg (just 8 miles away). Come stay in a full featured cabin with modern amenities, a large sheltered picnic area, and a small pond with native rainbow trout waiting to be fed.
GILES COUNTY • Pearisburg, VA VisitGilesCounty.org • (540) 921-2525 Giles County is bursting at the seams with opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts & adventure lovers of all ages. The area is full of great places for hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or just kicking back to relax. Come to enjoy the natural beauty, then stay awhile to hear some old-time music or enjoy one of our unique dining or lodging destinations.
ADVENTURES ON THE GORGE • Lansing, WV NewRiverGorgeGetaway.com • (888) 383-9933 Deluxe 1-4 bedroom cabins with full amenities located within walking distance of the New River Gorge. 26 year-round cabins with hot tubs. 70 seasonal cabins. On campus with 3 restaurants, swimming pool, 3 bars, outdoor recreation launches, disc golf, playground, hiking trails & more.
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COUNTRY ROAD CABINS • Hico, WV WVCabins.com • (888) 712-2246 Deluxe log cabins with hot tub and fireplace located in the heart of the WV New River Gorge. AAA triple diamond rated! Available year round. Romantic getaway packages perfect for honeymoon or anniversary stays. Packages available with tree canopy zip line, white water rafting, biking & more!
NEW RIVER’S EDGE • Pembroke, VA NewRiversEdge.com (540) 599-8382 Family and Friends All Inclusive. New River vacation supreme. Lodging, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, picnic pavilion, riverside gazebo, night time bonfires, great fishing, swimming, snorkeling, user friendly section of the river even for over protective parents, very private. Come on, “let the river love on ya.”
HARMAN’S LUXURY LOG CABINS • Seneca Rocks, WV WVLogCabins.com • (800) 436-6254 In the heart of the Spruce Knob - Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, our Luxury Log Cabins are located on a private trophy trout stream. With private outdoor hot tub, complete kitchen, fireplace, satellite TV and wifi, your outdoor adventure is not roughin’ it at Harman’s. PAPPY’S CABIN AT THE POND • Madison, WV PappysCabinAtThePond.com • (304) 687-5985 A unique destination in the mountains of West Virginia, offering guests exclusive access to 77 acres of wilderness. Fishing, hiking, camping, shooting range, swimming, zip line, water slides & more are all included with your stay at Pappy’s Cabin at the Pond. Fun for the entire family!
TERRAPIN CABIN • Blue Ridge Parkway, VA TerrapinCabin.com • (804) 241-2692 Nestled high in the Jefferson National Forest, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoy spectacular mountain views and serene nights star gazing. This log cabin sleeps six, with two bedrooms, a full bath, a fully stocked kitchen and modern amenities throughout. Nearby outdoor recreation include Hiking, Biking the Parkway, paddling or swiming Balcony Falls, and Fishing stocked trout waters.
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Come and spend some time making cherishable memories in the breathtaking mountains of Giles County, Virginia. Giles is known for her 37 miles of the beautiful New River, historic covered bridges, spectacular waterfalls, and Appalachian artists and musicians. Stay at one of our quality cabins, inns or lodges and we guarantee it will leave you wanting more. You’ll enjoy award winning restaurants, music festivals, trophy smallmouth bass, muskie and trout ﬁshing, Appalachian Trail hikes, mountain biking, and backroad adventures.
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BLACK MOUNTAIN, NC Fall 2013: Oct 17-20
Play outdoors at LEAF’s friend-&-family festival tradition: zipline, camp, paddleboard, canoe, kick back, dance, relax with yoga in the beautiful mountain camp setting. Featured Performers Include: Mavis Staples • Steel Pulse • Ozomatli • Abigail Washburn • Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band Oliver Mtukudzi & the Black Spirits • Solas • Papa Grows Funk • MC Yogi • Lizz Wright Ben Sollee • Honey Island Swamp Band • Orgone • Yungchen Lhamo & more!
Explore LEAF! Also, check out LEAF MemberSHIP.
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
what’s in your pack?
Women’s Backpacking / Mountaineering
April 18–21 2013
On-site camping Kids’ activities • Music
Food • Workshops Fun for everyone!
Keller Williams & The Travelin’ McCourys, Oliver Mtukudzi & The Black Spirits, Donna the Buffalo, Solas, The Horse Flies, Preston Frank, Locos Por Juana, John Brown’s Body, Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, Thousands of One, Joan Soriano, David Wax Museum, The Beast + BIG BAND, Dirty Bourbon River Show, The Brothers Comatose, Dark Water Rising, Greg Humphreys, Lizzy Ross Band, Cyril Lance, Ben Miller Band, John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff, Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles, Sarah Shook & The Devil, Loamlands, Noot d’Noot, Ironing Board Sam, Randy Dean Whitt, Gasoline Stove, Big Fat Gap, Lynn Blakey, Equanimous Minds, The Tender Fruit, Big Ron Hunter, & many more...
Pittsboro, NC shakorihillsgrassroots.org 919-542-8142 36
Blue Ridge Outdoors • PRINTED ON 100% RECYCLED PAPER
They Put Me On The Prayer List unexpected adventures on My First appalachian trail Hike much of my first five miles alone other than wanting to shake a hiker named Just Mike whose dog Hicks kept trying to hump my leg. I hoped I could catch the two hot guys whom I learned from shelter journals called themselves The Southern Miss. Boys. I reached an area that just screamed “bear habitat” and became very alert. I stopped at a small stream to wet my face and neck to offset the heat. I soon reached a beautiful two-story shelter where the log stated that the Southern Miss. Boys had just seen a bear and her cub cross the path. “No interaction and no picture” the entry stated. A few minutes later, Just Mike and Hicks came into the shelter for the night. I enjoyed the company, but he had been out hiking for only one day and was already asking me to drive him north to his car and telling me how he needed a hot shower.
Insights from Lorax
It dawned on me how I missed the owls, coyotes, and woodpeckers that seemed to follow me for three nights. by Julie “Blacksheep” Buchikos s a teacher, the repeated question weeks before spring break is, “Where are you going to spend your vacation?” Nervous but proud I responded, “I’m going hiking for a week on the Appalachian Trail.” This statement elicited a number of responses from, “Why are you doing that?” to “You aren’t really going out there alone, are you?” Many felt impassioned to begin a public safety lecture about how I should have someone or at least a weapon with me. I had been reading idiot guides, gear guides, and how-to books since Christmas, eager to learn all that I could. I had collected lightweight gear and practiced with it for weeks. As I left work Friday evening, eager to get home and begin packing, my boss turned to me and said, “I put you on the prayer list at my church. You be safe out there.”
With this additional insurance policy, I smiled and headed home.
Did You Bring Any Condoms? My friend Ron picked me up Monday morning. He looked over my gear and, being a lightweight guru, asked how much my pack weighed. I proudly stated, “24 pounds.” He looked displeased with this number, and after a few changes to my gear, drove me to the trailhead near the Cove Mountain Shelter. Along the way, we saw eight hikers, including two tall men, tan and gorgeous despite their obvious rugged beards and coatings of dirt. Ron asked if I had brought along any condoms. At the trailhead, he advised me to “get a running start.” And so I did. I don’t remember
After literally jogging out of camp the next morning, I had a new set of goals: stay well ahead of Just Mike and attempt to catch The Southern Miss. Boys. No luck. The next two days were cold and rainy, even snowing on me twice on high summits. I spent the next two nights freezing privately in my tent in make-shift campsites between shelters. I was too fast to stop at one but not moving fast enough to catch the next before nightfall. I jogged to keep warm and kept summit overlooks to an “Okay, I’ve seen it, now keep moving” technique. On my final day on the trail, I heard bounding steps coming up behind me. I turned and met Lorax, a thruhiker. He quickly asked if I was Blacksheep and that Mike had sent an “I’m only fifteen minutes behind” message. What?! I hadn’t seen him for two days and he was still hoping I’ll drive him into town? I felt guilty leaving Just Mike, but we each need to have our own A.T. experience; he needed to have his. I gave Lorax every bit of food I had left in my bag and twenty dollars. I was grateful to have been a trail angel for a thruhiker.
Sounds of Nature After reaching my car at the James River Bridge, I just sat there, not wanting to leave the trail, but also not wanting to see Just Mike. Fortunately, I knew he would be able to catch a ride with one of the almost 50 women picking weeds near the James River Bridge. I drove home to Roanoke and stayed out front of my house and found a home for the rock I removed from the trail as a token. On the trail I set camp at dark. At home I noticed myself very tired around eight. It dawned on me how I missed the owls, coyotes, and woodpeckers that seemed to follow me for three nights. So I changed my sound machine to the rainforest setting to drown out the sounds of the city. •
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
9 1 7 1 Y A M A I N I G R I V , D N O M H C I
stival! e f c i s u m rts and o p s r t visit o n o e d t m u n o i a r t e nd enter â€™s premi a n , o i c i t s a u n ce the orts, m ckRVA p o s r l r l e a v i n r Experien / details o ook.com e b t e e l c a p F m For co om or c . k c o R r Rive Dominion
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Hikers love Maryland so much, they’re hiking through it as fast as they can. by Graham Averill In Maryland, the Appalachian Trail runs for 40 miles along the crest of South Mountain, traversing the entire state as it heads north toward Katahdin. Maryland’s A.T. is regarded as the flattest 40 miles of the entire trail. By the time most thru-hikers reach Maryland, a solid 1,000 miles into their journey, they’re in killer shape and a little bit bored. After knocking out some of the most mountainous terrain along the footpath, the relatively flat stretch of trail through Maryland presents an opportunity for a speed hike. Enter the Maryland Challenge, a perennial thru-hiking test where backpackers attempt to push through the entire state in 24 hours. Tack on a couple more miles on either side of the state and you can set foot in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in the same day. Call that the Four State Challenge. Thru-hikers tend to refer to the challenges as simply “the Death March.” The A.T. may be flat through
Maryland, but 40 miles in a day is never a piece of cake. “After finishing the challenge, we hitchhiked to the nearest town in Pennsylvania and crashed in a hotel with a case of beer and a lot of Domino’s pizza,” says Ian Mangiardi, a 2009 thru-hiker who completed the A.T. and Four State Challenge with his best friend Andy Laub. Together, they were known as The Dusty Camel. “We had to take a zero day after hiking through Maryland.” Just because the A.T. is consistently flat through Maryland doesn’t mean it’s boring, a common misconception among thru-hikers entering the state for the first time. The trail follows South Mountain as it heads north, offering views from rock outcroppings and some of the spiffiest shelters on the entire trail. The A.T. in Maryland also gives hikers access to some of America’s most significant history. Brutal Civil
Do It Yourself The Four State Challenge requires roughly 43.5 miles of hiking from the Potomac River to the Mason Dixon Line. Arrange for a shuttle or park two cars, one at the train station in Harper’s Ferry, the other in Pen Mar County Park in Pennsylvania. Plenty of hikers have tried the challenge only to fail, so don’t let the flat terrain fool you. Most knock out the state in under 20 hours. To give yourself the best opportunity for success, start well before daybreak and hike the first couple of hours in the dark. The Mountain Club of Maryland’s organized Challenge hike takes place on May 4. mcomd.org
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
War battles were fought on South Mountain and the first memorial to George Washington sits along the trail. You also get to walk across the Mason-Dixon line at the north end of the state. There’s plenty of reason for a backpacker to linger, but the flat terrain and “manageable” miles make the Four State Challenge too tantalizing to resist for most thru-hikers. “We pushed ourselves throughout the entire A.T. trek, averaging 19 miles a day,” Mangiardi says. “When we reached the flat stretch through Maryland, we wanted to rock n’ roll and see how far we could push our bodies in a day.” The allure of the Four State Challenge has spread beyond the thru-hiking community, with weekend warriors testing their own limits on the Maryland stretch of A.T. The Mountain Club of Maryland even organizes a march through the state every other May, attracting 150 masochistic hikers from all over the country. Maryland’s a gorgeous state. Why not walk it all in a day?
Highlights OF THE Four State Challenge You’ll hike just under 45 miles to complete the Four State Challenge. But it’s not all about knocking out miles and watching the clock. There’s plenty of reason to stop and smell the roses along the trek. Here are a few highlights from the Four State Challenge.
Harper’s Ferry: Walk through downtown Harper’s Ferry, in West Virginia, which is the “psychological halfway point” for thru-hikers
because the A.T.C. head office is located in town. Most would-be thru-hikers drop off the trail before reaching Harper’s Ferry. Walk through downtown, then cross the Potomac on a trestle foot bridge.
After climbing from the Potomac to the ridge of South Mountain, take the short side trail to the edge of Weverton Cliffs for a killer view of the Potomac below.
Gathland State Park: There’s only one memorial to war correspondents in the U.S. You’ll walk by the 50-foot arch/castle dedicated to the men and women who tell the stories of war in Gathland State Park.
WASHINGTON MONUMENT: Just 100 yards off the trail, you’ll find the first monument ever constructed in honor of our First President, a 30-foot high stone cylinder.
If you’re really trying to make time, you can skip most of the spur trails to overlooks throughout the Maryland section of the A.T. But the quarter-mile side trail that leads to Annapolis Rocks is worth the effort thanks to the view of Greenbrier Lake to the south.
High Rocks: As you get closer to Pennsylvania, you can also take a quick detour to High Rocks where, if you’re lucky, you’ll see hang gliders launch. The loop trail leading to the rocks is only one-tenth of a mile.
Mason Dixon Line:
Just after crossing into Pennsylvania, you’ll see a wooden sign marking the Mason Dixon Line. Be careful. You’ve just entered Yankee territory. •
3 More A.T. Challenges Thru-hikers have to keep themselves entertained when slogging through “the green tunnel.” Here are three off-the-wall challenges commonly undertaken during the epic journey along the A.T.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park, in Pennsylvania, marks the geographical midway point for A.T. thru-hikers. Tradition dictates that all thruhikers buy a gallon of ice cream and try to eat the whole thing in an hour.
West Virginia Challenge: The A.T. only runs through West Virginia for 2 miles. Consider this anti-challenge-challenge: try to spend as many nights as possible in the Mountain State, moving at least 200 yards from your previous campsite each day.
Facial Hair Challenge:
Sorry ladies, but this is just for the boys. No shaving from day one. How fabulous is your beard after six months in the woods?
Get lost in the trees!: A Guide to Aerial Adventures in the Blue Ridge
CAROLINA ZIPLINES CANOPY TOUR • Westfield, NC CarolinaZiplines.com • (336) 972-7656 The first and finest zipline canopy tour in North Carolina. Traversing our 26 acres near Hanging Rock State Park gives you an adrenaline rush from a bird’s eyeview while navigating through the trees. Family, Friends, Teams, Youth, Corporate Excursions. Ages 3 to 103. “Taking Nature to Extreme Heights.”
THE GORGE • Saluda, NC TheGorgeZipline.com • (828) 749-2500 Zip from the rim of the Green River Gorge on the steepest canopy tour on the east coast -descending a jaw-dropping 1,100 feet in elevation through 125 acres of old-growth forestoffering 75 mile panoramic views from Mt. Pisgah to Rumbling Bald. 11 zip lines, sky-bridges, and 3 huge rappels. NAVITAT CANOPY ADVENTURES • Asheville NC Navitat.com • (855) 628-4828 Hiking and mountain biking in the Coleman Boundary area of the Pisgah National Forest, hike to Douglas Falls, picnic areas on-site at Navitat. At Navitat, we do tree-based adventure and only tree-based adventure. With a world-class canopy tour and a new mountaintop zipline experience in the works, Navitat strives to lead the industry in sustainable design, development, and operations. Join us! Your inner tree-hugger will thank you! RIDGERUNNER ZIPLINES • Andrews, NC RidgeRunnerZips.com • (828) 421-8119 Looking for Adventure…Zipline in the Mountains! We provide a SAFE and FUN experience on our fully guided canopy tour. Eleven lines from 300 to 600 ft long and up to 80 feet high. Minimum age 10 yrs old. Weight between 70 & 250 lbs. U.S. NATIONAL WHITEWATER CENTER • Charlotte, NC USNWC.org • (704) 391-3900 Travel through the trees as you explore the woodlands along the Catawba River on the Canopy Tour at the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC). The tour, which features spectacular views from over 60 feet high, includes sky bridges, cargo net climbs, rappel stations, seven zip-lines and more. LOUISVILLE MEGA CAVERN • Louisville, KY LouisvilleMEGACavern.com • (877) 614-MEGA (6342) Visiting Louisville, KY? Don’t miss MEGA Zips, the “World’s ONLY ALL Underground Zip Lines & Adventure Tour” - 6 zip lines & 3 challenge bridges – 2 hours of adrenaline, speeds up to 40mph. Louisville MEGA Cavern’s MEGA Zips is consistently
ranked a TOP attraction by TripAdvisor. MEGA Zip Tours operate DAILY! Rates $59 - $79 per person.
ACE ADVENTURE RESORT • Oak Hill, WV AceRaft.com • (800) 787-3982 Featured on the Travel Channel’s “Extreme Resorts”, ACE is North America’s largest adventure resort. It encompasses 1,500 acres of wilderness with everything from whitewater rafting, rock climbing and mountain biking to its own zip line tour, five-acre lake and miles of trails. ADVENTURES ON THE GORGE • Lansing, WV NewRiverGorgeGetaway.com • (888) 383.9933 Deluxe 1-4 bedroom cabins with full amenities located within walking distance of the New River Gorge. 26 year-round cabins with hot tubs. 70 seasonal cabins. On campus with 3 restaurants, swimming pool, 3 bars, outdoor recreation launches, disc golf, playground, hiking trails & more. NELSON ROCKS OUTDOOR CENTER • Circleville, WV NelsonRocksOutdoorCenter.com • (877) 435-4842 Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center is home to our unforgettable via ferrata climbing route and our high-flying zipline canopy tour. Our cozy, on-site lodging options make it easy and affordable to stay and explore the mountains of West Virginia. MASSANUTTEN ZIPLINE AND CANOPY TOURS • McGaheysville, VA MassResort.com/canopytour • (540) 289-4042 Massanutten Resort is now home to three unique zip line experiences! Feel the rush of our the 800’ Mega Zip Dual Racer, test yourself on the Z Tour featuring four zip lines, hanging vines, and the burma bridge or watch your kids play on our expanded kids zip tour!
GO-APE • Williamsburg, VA; Rockville, MD GoApe.com • (800) 971-8271 All of Go Ape’s US courses are located in public parks which offer a variety of outdoor recreation, including hiking and bike trails, picnic areas, boat houses, archery, and more! Zipline, swing and climb through the treetops! Go Ape is a highly interactive 2-3 hour outdoor adventure course featuring 5 ziplines and awesome obstacles 40-50 feet up in the trees. RIVERSIDE OUTFITTERS • Richmond, VA RiversideOutfitters.net • (804) 560-0068 Get out and stay out with Riverside Outfitters - Richmond’s outdoor excursion company. Guided trips and rentals (free shuttle) available for whitewater rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, tree climbing, kayaking, tubing, mountain biking, and more!! Come see us at 6836 Old Westham Rd. or at our Brown’s Island Outpost. WISP RESORT • Deep Creek Lake, MD WispResort.com • (301) 387-4000 Wisp Resort offers 2 zip lines! The Flying Squirrel Canopy Tour features 5 zips ranging from 180’ to 400’ along with numerous obstacles along the course. The Chipmunk Challenge Course has 2 zips, 60’ and 200’, and 5 fun obstacles.
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That’s Pretty Muddy. A WOMEN–ONLY MUD RUN SERIES.
WHAT IS PRETTY MUDDY? Pretty Muddy is a new national series of women-only adventurous obstacle course “mud run” events for people who want to get outside, spend time with friends and have lots of fun. More than a race, it’s a “non-competitive” personal challenge, bonding experience and party all rolled into one. This year, Pretty Muddy will unite women who want to live life to the fullest... and build a spirited, health-focused community that will live well beyond a single day.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE IT! • A chance to try something new, have fun with your friends and feel the empowerment of accomplishing a goal. • Team focused and laughter inducing. • All ﬁtness levels embraced. • No time keeping, means no anxiety. • Obstacles are optional.
Find your event. Sign up. Tell friends. Tell everyone. Do it. Love it.
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• 5K Adventurous run or walk course • Best-in-class obstacles • Mud... lots of MUD • Epic ﬁnish line party with music, entertainment, drinks and celebration galore CONNECT WITH US
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Gravity Wheels East Coast Downhill Riding Gains Momentum
by Chris Gragtmans
eko Mulally sits quietly on his bike at the top of Beech Mountain near Boone, N.C. After years of training, the 18-year-old athlete from Reading, Pa., knows he has a unique opportunity today at the Downhill National Championships. In a sport dominated by mountain and West Coast athletes and events, he is ready to for the East to rise. Neko has studied every rock and root of this three minute track, and knows what it is going to take to win. Victory will not come easily, though. Torrential rains have turned the track into a macabre of slippery terrain. At the breakneck speeds of elite downhill racing, the slightest split-second miscalculation can lead to a highspeed crash, breaking a bike, hitting a tree, or worse. These risks are multiplied exponentially with bad conditions. But a smooth run is all that is in mind, because a positive reality is manifested through confidence. 3…2…1… GO! Ten powerful pedal cranks and a rapid upshift of gears, and Mulally is on course. Mud slings up from both tires and cakes the treads, but his focus is always two moves ahead, calculating rocks, roots, drops and jumps as they come into sight. Senses are redlined with stimuli, but obstacle after obstacle pass, and everything seems to be piecing together as he flies down the mountain. Mulally sits at the forefront of gravity mountain biking. With 13 years of experience racing BMX and five in downhill mountain biking, he is in the right place at the right time. His vast bike skills and wisdom have propelled him to a berth in the elite Trek World Racing Team, and he now races against the absolute
best in the World Cup circuit. Mulally’s numerous international and domestic results are opening up opportunities for him as a young athlete, but his roots will always be at home in the Appalachians. Though these mountains have always been blessed with great cross-country riding, and have produced several international and Olympiccaliber athletes, the East Coast hasn’t always kept up with the gravity side of the sport—until now. Mulally describes his home turf with pride: “Summer in eastern North America is one of the best places to ride on the planet. While the West has traditionally produced the best riders in the scene, the East is definitely on the rise. We have conditions and terrain that are similar to the biggest European races.” Gravity riding involves speed and fluidity, using the bike as an extension of the body to descend steep terrain, pump and drop through all obstacles, and fly over sizeable gap jumps. It involves a combination of guts, skill, and fitness that makes it as exciting to watch as it is to participate in. Gravity consists of two general disciplines: individual time trials (downhill, or DH) and head-to-head (dual slalom and 4x, involving two or four people, respectively). While many racers compete in both disciplines, the skills and equipment are very different. Downhill riding requires eight-inch full suspension bikes, while dual slalom and 4x are usually held on smoother tracks, thus requiring smaller three- or four-inch suspension bikes. The foundation of a great athletic community will always be its youth. When young athletes
receive the coaching and knowledge that they need, their community (and their sport) is accelerated to the next level with their growth. In the Southeast, the leading youth development program is certainly Gravity Riders On A Mission (GROM) Racing. Originally started by World Cup racer Chris Herndon, the program coaches riders from the age of 11 to 17 to become downhill teenage rockstars. The next developmental step is collegiate competition and programs. Riders in over 100 schools have access to intercollegiate gravity competition. The season begins in each individual conference, and then culminates in the national collegiate championships. The heavyhitting schools in the East are certainly Warren Wilson College, Appalachian State, Virginia Tech, Brevard, and Lees McRae, with Warren Wilson and Brevard touting several national championship titles. For the post-collegiate crowd, several series of races allow riders to continue pushing themselves and trash talking with their friends well into the 50+ Masters class age groups. Beech Mountain and Snowshoe Bike Park both hold high quality and highly contested race series from early summer well into fall. Perhaps the most competitive series is the Gravity East Series, spanning venues from Virginia to New York, and delivering sizeable cash prizes. The sport and amateur classes in these races and others in the Southeast mean that it is possible for first-time racers to brush shoulders with the elite riders. Gravity riding is driven not only by the ragged edge competitor but also the recreational rider who enjoys dropping some APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
NEKO MULALLY soars down the beech mountain course at the 2012 world championships.
altitude on the weekends. This enthusiast has more opportunities than ever before to ride their bike. Well known bike parks such as Snowshoe, Massanutten, and Wisp offer full-time trail crews yielding beautifully built tracks across the difficulty spectrum. These are perfect opportunities to work on skills and take advantage of chair lift convenience to get as many runs as the legs and forearms can handle. The other side of the picture is grassroots trail building on public or privately owned land. There are excellent natural terrain downhill tracks on national forest lands and more than a few backyard pumptracks and bike parks. One local company responding to this trend
is Elevated Trail Design, run by Peter Mills and Andrew Mueller. Drawing on years of experience building Crankworx courses and other highdollar freeride terrain, the crew can build your own personal bike park, taking Friday night get-togethers to the next level (along with participating riders’ skills). A small group of young riders who call themselves Dirt Passion—among them Chris Annesi, Sam Anderson, and Jacob Teer—have grabbed the reigns of the gravity video world. Their first production, Finding Flow, was created on a sub-shoestring budget, but featured spectacular 50-foot homemade gap jumps, cable cam shots, and elaborate time lapse images.
They were commissioned to cover the National Championships at Beech Mountain. The Dirt Passion camera crane rotates quickly as young Neko Mulally flies past. Neko is on a perfect run, and as he breaks out of the final wooded section, caked in mud, he can see the finish line 200 vertical feet below, and he can hear the roar of the crowd. The rest is full speed ski hill, with a series of large tabletop jumps. In spite of the beating that the rocky section above has taken on his body, adrenaline overcomes him, and Neko charges towards the finish line. He scrubs one jump after another, trying to keep his trajectory as low and efficient as possible. The wind roars outside of his helmet. He lands the final jump already on the pedals and squeezes out a few milliseconds of time by manualing his front tire up and out in front of him. “Neko Mulally takes the win!” The crowd explodes as Mulally slumps on his bike with one hand raised, having put everything he had into his run. As if it wasn’t enough to win the junior class of the event, Neko still had the fastest time once the dust had settled from the pro class. His 2:43.17 bested the 2:44.73 posted by first-place pro Logan Binggeli as well as the 2:48.27 posted by Trek teammate and World Cup Champion Aaron Gwin. After rounding out his weekend with a second overall in the dual slalom event, Neko hit the road home with a happy thought in his mind: East Coast gravity riding is back on the map. •
ORDER YOUR A.T. LICENSE PLATE AND SUPPORT THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL!
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North Carolina Appalachian Trail
License Plate Application
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) now has a specialty license tag in the state of North Carolina. By getting your tag today, you’ll help the ATC protect and maintain America’s Facts Favorite Long Distance Trail! The ATC will receive $20 annually for each AT plate purchased or renewed. How Much Does It Cost? $30 Regular Appalachian Trail plate* $60 Personalized Appalachian Trail plate* You are allowed four (4) spaces for a personalized message. __ __ __ __ 2nd Choice __ __ __ __ 3rd Choice __ __ __ __ 1st Choice Name (as shown on certificate of title): FIRST
A portion of all proceeds will help manage and protect the Trail.
VALLEY VIEW | DOWNTOWN ROANOKE | LEXINGTON | HARRISONBURG Current North Carolina Vehicle WALKABOUTOUTFITTER.COM HOME PHONE
For more info visit appalachiantrail.org/PLATES OFFICE PHONE
_______________________ ____________________________________ PLATE NUMBER
VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
______________________ ____________________________________ DRIVER’S LICENSE #
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You must already have the vehicle registered in North Carolina. You receive a FREE ATC Membership with the purchase of your NC AT Tag. *The $30 or $60 annual fee is in addition to regular annual license fees you have already paid. Personalized tags may be relinquished to someone else, but once a numerical tag expires without renewal, that number can never again be reissued. If you change your mind, you can go back to a regular license plate at any time. There will not be a refund of unused portion of special fees. Additional applications can be found online at
Owner’s Certification of Liability Insurance I certify for the motor vehicle described above that I have financial responsibility as required by law. FULL NAME OF INSURANCE COMPANY AUTHORIZED IN NC – NOT AGENCY OR GROUP POLICY NUMBER – IF POLICY NOT ISSUED, NAME OF AGENCY BINDING COVERAGE
get to vast tracts of protected forest land. Once you’re in the woods, ditch the bike and hit the trails. More on this later.
Bring a smartly stocked portable survival kit I’m assuming that you have a portable Zombie Apocalypse survival kit in your closet. If you’re a fool and don’t, my biggest piece of advice as you put one together is to be realistic. Act like you would when packing for an ordinary long-distance hike or bike trip--carry only what’s absolutely necessary and leave behind extraneous little luxury items like a portable espresso machine. Consider what a Tibetan monk once told me: when the undead take over the world, there are no sherpas. My survival kit is a fully stocked backpack that contains a bivy sack, big knife, stove, magnifying glass, lighter, basic climbing gear, insulated clothing, sleeping bag, about a week’s worth of freeze-dried food, and some other, dangerous MacGyver-like trapsetting materials that I don’t want to reveal in case anyone reading this column un-dies someday.
Get onto a long-distance hiking trail
Zombie Apocalypse The Ultimate Adventure
by Greg Melville
uring most of my long-distance runs with friends, the conversation always drifts from the serious to the ridiculous. They may start out being about politics, our kids, or why our wives have decided not to talk to us on this particular week, but inevitably end up being about whether a polar bear and grizzly can really mate (they can) or if Taylor Swift or that girl from the Hunger Games are old enough yet to go out with fit, good-ish looking 40-something guys like ourselves (they are). So I was taken by surprise near the very end of a workout on the Mountains to Sea Trail with my friend Walter when, during a lull in the conversation, he posed a deadly serious and relevant question: “Greg, what should I do when the Zombie Apocalypse happens?” It’s a topic that I’ve given quite a bit of thought. We all know that the inevitable zombie takeover will occur—whether it’s tomorrow, 10 years from now, or sometime farther down the line is the only mystery—and we need to be prepared for it. Even the slightest hesitation in response can mean the difference between being alive or un-dead. Fortunately, our proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains gives us a natural advantage in the battle for survival over reanimated corpses. In fact, in some ways, you could look at a Zombie Apocalypse as a sort of adventure opportunity. It gives you the excuse to leave your material possessions behind and settle off the
grid in the Appalachians, just like so many of our ancestors did in these parts generations ago— minus the brain-eating monsters chasing them. Then, when the dust settles and good inevitably conquers evil, you can join the scattered bands of remaining humans to form a new, better, and stronger society. Here are the tips I gave to Walter.
Flee the population centers by bike Think like a zombie for a second: If you’re hungry for human brains, where’s the best place to get a bite to eat? The urban centers, of course. No selfrespecting flesh-eating corpse is going to forage for food in Shenandoah National Park. His first thought would be to head somewhere like the drum circle on Friday nights in Asheville. He’d hardly look out of place. Your first action when zombies attack should be to get a bike. You have to assume that auto traffic will be at a standstill because of accidents and downed electricity lines. If you’re not close enough to home to get your own bike, steal someone else’s. Don’t be squeamish about this little act of larceny. We’re talking about the Zombie Apocalypse here, so civilized society will be in a shambles, and the cops aren’t going to chase you down. Take the shortest route that will lead you to rural or undeveloped areas, and get off the interstates as quickly as possible. Fortunately, many of the cities in Southern Appalachia have easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you can quickly
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Long-distance footpaths like the Appalachian or Mountains to Sea trails serve as the perfect escape routes from the Zombie Apocalypse. Let’s face it, the un-dead don’t want to go into the woods. Despite their many strengths, they’re slow, clumsy walkers who can easily trip over a rock or root and lose a decaying limb. Could you ever imagine a zombie shuffling to the top of Mount Mitchell? Ridiculous. Not worth the burned calories. Other advantages to the woods are that you can hide more easily there, and set booby traps for intruders (see reference to the girl from Hunger Games, above). Long-distance trails allow to you keep moving through the wilderness without being bottled into one place and surrounded by bad guys, and you’ll have the assurance of water sources, primitive campsites, and other bare-bones facilities within reach. Some sociologists (or at least my sociologymajor roommate from college) believe that small societal networks of Zombie Apocalypse survivors will link together along the Appalachian Trail, warning each other of attacks, sharing damn fine moonshine, playing bluegrass, and even creating a loose code of conduct and system of laws and justice.
When zombies give you lemons, make lemonade I know, easier said than done, right? But you might as well make the best of a bad situation, or you’ll be miserable out there. Enjoy your travels in the Southern woods. Savor the sunsets, the songbirds chirping overhead, the azalea blooms in the spring, and your time away from the stresses of civilization. Embrace the long hair, and be like a Charlottesville hippie by laughing off your lack of shampoo and that musk from the chronic absence of deodorant (without the $5 latte in hand). Be proud of your survival skills. Celebrate each day like it may be your last—and make sure that it isn’t. •
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I Pick up
s r e k i h h c t i H
by A.M. Murphy
confess. I pick up hitchhikers. I can almost hear the collective gasp of horror at the reading of that statement. Didn’t we all learn our lesson about this in the ‘70s? Consorting with hitchhikers can generally up your chances of encountering the highest order of creep. But I only pick up a very special type of hitchhiker, the Appalachian Trail hiker. This rare breed of man or woman voluntarily chooses to spend their vacation time, money, and collection
of blister pads trekking their way 2,180 miles through fourteen states, from Georgia to Maine, on this, the granddaddy of all hiking trails. Along the way they invariably encounter hunger, exhaustion, dangerous animals, and all other dreaded discomforts that the rest of us work so hard to avoid. Some of them hike for the physical challenge, some for the camaraderie, and some as an exercise in personal rediscovery. By the time the hikers get to my neck of the woods, they
have been trudging along the trail for five long weeks and have made it to the North Carolina and Tennessee line and the center of the Great Smoky Mountains. Here in the Smokies the passage of the intrepid A.T. hiker is as much a rite of spring as the blooming of the red bud tree. At this point the hikers invariably decide to hitch a ride down to the bustling streets of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for supplies and a little taste of civilization. I can spot an A.T. hiker from 500 yards; scraggy hair and beards abound, giant packs and bed rolls are piled up on the grass, and tattered cardboard signs plead wearily for a ride to town. They have nicknames born of the trail like Toybox, Postman, or Bootstrap, and when given a ride they are as grateful as adopted pound puppies. They tell harrowing tales of animal encounters and sounds in the night, blaspheme the names of hikers who don’t follow accepted trail etiquette, curse their failed waterproof packs, and bemoan the constant aching of feet. However, they also extol the beauty and wonder of the trail, marvel at the sense of self and serenity they are gaining with each conquered mile, and share their hopes and fears of making it to the end. The ride to town is about 20 minutes, just enough time to tell their tall tales and provide me a vicarious escape into a world of forest primeval and supreme self-discovery. By the end of the brief ride I am dreaming of leaving all my responsibilities behind and beginning a new life on the trail. Those fleeting moments of delicious escape are why I keep opening the car door of my heart to them. •
The curtain rises on another day
in historic Abingdon.
How will you spend iT? Catch a performance at
bArter theAtre. Catch a trout in a clear
MountAin streAM. pedal along the scenic
VirginiA creeper trAil.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Ingram
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t had been almost two months since I left the Appalachian Trail, and I was working as a barista, when a friend from high school sent a text: “I’m in town! Want to catch up?” I agreed to stop by her place after work. My destination was a small, cozy apartment on the outskirts of town. Though it was drizzling, I contemplated walking…until I remembered that although three miles wasn’t far in the scheme of a day on the A.T., my friends would not be expecting to wait an hour for my arrival. I opted for the 12-minute drive. I was welcomed by hugs from my friend and a “don’t I know you from some place?” Trey had graduated a year before us. We’d been mutually acquainted, but never familiar. He was training to be a pilot. The way he talked about flying made me finally understand what other people saw in my face when I mentioned the Appalachian Trail…the glow of remembered amazement. We shared photos and bonded over the rays of sunlight through the clouds, which Scott had called “Jesus fingers,” and the way you notice the slow approach of fall, if you’re paying attention. Trey, like me, was still adjusting to life back in the ‘so-called-real’ world. He had spent the last several years overseas as a civilian contractor for the military. He’d lived in a tent in the foothills of the Hindu Kush and on military bases from Baghram to Burma. He showed me pictures of his mountains. I was impressed. “You could walk in the woods and still see 60’s-era shells half-buried in the ground.” “Wow,” I said. “I should do that.” “You really don’t want to,” he replied. “You saw some pretty bad stuff, huh?” “It’s not like they say it is on the news. I wasn’t directly in danger, but every night the
by Ayla Arsel Wilk helicopters would fly into base and you knew something had happened.” I had no way to relate. The closest thing I could think of was an old T.V. show. “Like in M.A.S.H.” “Yeah, just like that.” I told him about the folks who hiked the whole Appalachian Trail. Though the stakes weren’t nearly as dire, some of the thru-hikers talked of homecoming like a return from war. One man had reportedly reached Katahdin in the company of his wife and photographed her sobbing over the signpost, feeling nothing himself. Even my hiking partner had spent the first month off the Appalachian Trail in a tiny camper on the wrong side of the tracks in New Orleans, barricading the door with his walking stick. I tried to imagine how two-and-a-half months on the Appalachian Trail could compare to two and a half years in a combat zone. Though an A.T. hike was tough, it was nothing like a soldier’s dangerous, deadly daily experiences. I couldn’t fathom how Trey could be impressed at what I’d done. He boasted to another friend at the bar about my hiking accomplishment. Her response was: “I don’t know if I could do that.” This woman was only 22. She was about to be promoted to officer and was up for another tour. “I went over there with the maturity of a 14-year old boy,” Trey said. “Came back totally changed.” “I scratched the surface of that on the Trail,” I said. He told me a few funny, scary stories about how he’d narrowly escaped disaster because of this or that little thing. I showed him pictures of the memorial to Audie Murphey, a WWII pilot who survived only to crash his private plane in
the Southwest Virginia Blue Ridge. Hikers had piled stones all over it and someone had even arranged a little peace sign on a large, flat rock in front. “Yeah,” Trey said. ”It happens.” “Even though I didn’t go crazy or anything… being over there still affected me,” Trey said. “Yeah?” “One night, someone told me there had been an attack on the other side of the base. Someone I knew had been badly hurt. ‘At least he’s not dead,’ I shrugged, and went back to my room. Later, I stopped to think about it and couldn’t believe I’d just… gotten used to that sort of thing. That’s when I realized I needed to get out before it was too late. Now I need to do something like you did, something like hike the A.T.” “Do it now,” I encouraged. “It isn’t hard to get out there for a weekend, for a start.” Later, it dawned on me that between work and catching up with friends, I’d spend every night that week in some sort of social engagement. I was tired of smiles, entertaining, and politeness. Authentic conversation with Trey had been a relief, but what I really wanted was to get back to the trail. I looked at the schedule ahead. Another friend was coming to town the week following, during which of course I’d also be working, and then there was my cousin’s wedding after that. I began to feel a hint of despair. Would I ever escape? Or would I have to barricade the door to my heart with an aluminum trekking pole? I wanted to retreat again to the solitude of the forest, which at that moment seemed like the only home I had ever had. Suddenly, though I was not nearly as war-torn and ravaged, I felt a little hint of what it might be like to be a veteran, lonely for someone who could understand what I had experienced and how it changed everything. •
APRIL 2013 • BlueRidgeOutdoors.com
C U LT U R E B I N
New Doc Box
Knob Turning: New Toubab Krewe studio work will hopefully surface this year.
The Cross-Cultural Jams of Toubab Krewe By Jedd Ferris he music of Toubab Krewe creates a meeting of the mountains of Western North Carolina and the desert of West Africa. The Asheville-based quintet has cultivated a cross-cultural fusion of traditional Afro grooves and high-energy roots rock. Since emerging in 2005, the band has consistently delivered a percussive, dance-friendly sound that bridges musical influences from around the world. In certain moments it floats melodically with Justin Perkins’ traditional string toys, the kora and kamelengoni, while during others it pulses with hearty funk struts or blasts off with the Dirty South distortion of Drew Heller’s guitar runs. The dynamic and diverse sonic exploration has garnered the band a loyal fan base with international reach. The craft has been honed with a tireless touring ethic and diligent study of musical interests. Early in the band’s existence, members (founders also include David Pransky on bass and Luke Quaranta on percussion) traveled to Mali to learn from traditional players and perform at the famous Festival in the Desert. The result has been torch-bearing interpretation of originators like Ali Farka Toure in the context of modern jamrock journeys. In the past year, the group’s sound has particularly evolved thanks to the acquisition of drummer Terrence Houston—best known for his work with New Orleans bass legend
George Porter, Jr. (The Meters), and Houston’s current band, the Runnin’ Pardners. Houston contributes some driving Crescent City backbeat to the band’s broad instrumental forays. “He’s definitely pushed us and affected the way all of us play,” says Heller of Houston. “The sound is continuing to change, as far as our approach and just the way it feels on stage.” Toubab hasn’t released an album since 2010’s “TK2,” but with the revised line-up new material is currently being developed. Last fall the band recorded some tracks in Brooklyn with a full horn section. “Those sessions yielded a much bigger sound for us,” says Heller. “It shows the more orchestral side of what we do.” The band is currently gearing up for festival season with an appearance slated for Camp Barefoot in Bartow, W.Va., on August 24. While new studio output is still incubating, there are plans to release some live recordings from two particularly energetic shows in New Orleans, where the band performed this past New Year’s Eve and has fostered a particularly fervent following. “It’s a really inspiring place with so much music happening,” Heller says. “That infectious carnival spirit has started to influence our sound. It’s about revelry for life, including life on stage.”
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Two days after the first Merlefest (April 25-28) since his death, late flat-picking folk icon Doc Watson will be honored with the release of a new four-disc box set curated by his only daughter, Nancy. The tribute, Milestones: Legends of the Doc Watson Clan, features rare, previously unreleased songs and stories from throughout Watson’s musical evolution, as well as music from various family members that influenced Watson’s career. The release features 94 songs and more than 500 Watson family photos. Material dates back to Watson’s early days growing up in the mountains of Deep Gap, N.C., and also includes latter-day recordings of the multi-Grammy winning folk hero who died last May. “This set is a broad and personal offering from within the Watson family itself and is presented with such care,” says project producer Roy Andrade, a member of the Bluegrass and Old Time Country Music Studies faculty at East Tennessee State University. Unlike an expected greatest hits collection with repackaged favorite songs, Milestones will feature home recordings dating between 1954 and 2007. Much of the music and commentary was only recorded for personal entertainment. The set will offer plenty of intimate moments like Doc and his wife Rosa Lee singing “I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again” in 1967 and a Doc and Nancy duet of “Let The Rest of The World Go By” from 2006. “I’m so happy that my project is finally seeing the light of day,” says Nancy Watson about the release she curated with input from her father before his death. “I’m looking forward to inviting everyone to be part of the family for a bit.”
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Published on Mar 19, 2013