Brew’s Blog

first_imgClick here to subscribe to the Pharr Out BlogHey y’all,My name’s Brew Davis, a.k.a. Jen Pharr’s husband and her sherpa, pit crew, pack mule, what have you, for her AT record attempt. Jen told me this past winter that she wanted to give this thing a go, and I said “sure,” so here we are. Whenever folks hear what I’m doing this summer, they instantly decide that I’m either a) totally whipped or b) the greatest husband in the world. Well, the truth’s probably somewhere in between. There are plenty of extenuating circumstances and factors that make this trip fun for me. And just so you’re privy to what went through the ol’ cranium when I signed up for this gig, I’ll run through them real quick …I’m a teacher so I’ve got the time to kill.I love hiking and camping. I’ve gone out west the past two summers to hike in the Tetons, the Wind River Range, the Rockies, North Cascades, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, the Utah parks, and the Sierras. Except for a little stretch near Asheville, I haven’t hiked the AT at all so the thought of hiking parts of it with Jen sounds really cool.I love driving “blue highways” so the thought of driving them along the Appalachian Mountains is appealing. Now, if Jen were hiking through Nevada or South Dakota or something, I’d probably be laying on a beach somewhere drinking a Sweetwater 420.Other than a trip to Boston, I’ve never been to New England, and I want the real, backwoods Yankee experience.Speaking of…I can’t wait to try fresh Maine Lobstah. And…I want to drink a beer at Farley’s in Scranton, PA, setting for only the greatest sitcom of the 21st century, The Office. I can hear Michael Scott bustin’ the rhymes right now… “Ain’t no party like a Scranton party, ’cause a Scranton party don’t stop!”I’ve got a bunch of books I want to read- Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Last American Man, Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, Naked by David Sedaris, Shelden Van Aucken’s A Severe Mercy- and this’ll give me time to do it.I love swimming in cold water. Last summer I swam at Crater Lake in Oregon and the water was fifty-one degrees. It was so cold it was hot, ya know? I’m hoping there’ll be some colder swimming holes in northern MaineDriving an hour or two every day will give me plenty of time to pray and think about God’s beauty and also to play some old CDs by my favorite musicians- Patty Griffin, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Chris Thile, Tony Rice, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, James McMurtry, etc.Getting bit by all those mosquitoes and black flies in Maine will make me appreciate the heat down South.I’ll get to hammer away at the ol’ guitar while I wait for Jen at the trailheads.We got new sleeping bags that zip together.I’m stocking up BIGTIME points for when I screw up later on.And finally…I love my wife and I want her to be happy. She really wants to set this record, so I want to help her do it.last_img read more

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Fear: The Whitewater Grand Prix

first_imgFearI have competed in many events in my life, but none are as ferocious and difficult as the Whitewater Grand Prix.Take 25 of the best paddlers in the world and challenge them to compete for two weeks against each other in some of the biggest whitewater they have ever faced. I’m honored to be invited, and excited to see what I can do against these athletes. I’m also nervous.I am 28 years old and have competed at an elite level in whitewater kayaking since I was 15. This means I’ve had a lot of incredible experiences throughout the world from the seat of my kayak, but it also means I have taken many risks. Whether running a 70+ foot waterfall first descent, surfing massive river waves, or running class V in the pitch black, I’m proud of what I have done in my career, and don’t regret a single decision that I made or risk that I took.But there’s no denying that my brain chemistry is changing, and I’m not quite as ready to “hang it out there.” I find myself asking how this is all going to play out for me. Athletically, I’ve never been stronger, but mentally this fear and respect is turning me into a much more conservative paddler.My experiences with fear have had many unscripted positive effects. My ability to manage adrenaline has led me to calmly avoid more than a few close calls in my car or navigate high-stress interpersonal interactions. It also helps me calculate risk in the business world without emotion. And the confidence that controlling my fear has given me means that I am very bold in life. I am not afraid to go after what I want, and as a result live a very happy and (by my standards) successful lifestyle.Dr. Bob Swoap, a sports psychologist who works with elite athletes to help them achieve peak performance, offered me some great insights into how our bodies deal with fear.The amygdala—the emotional center of the brain—becomes active as soon as fear or danger are perceived, he explained. When it lights up, the fight or flight response is triggered, resulting in adrenaline, a narrowing of focus, and an increased heart rate.This response can come from big water or from big moments in life, such as needing to give an important presentation, pass a critical exam, or nail a job interview. Physiologically, these are all handled in the brain the exact same way.“The critical component is the emotional transfer. These fight-or-flight functions can either paralyze us with emotions, or they can be channeled to lift us to performance levels that we didn’t think were possible,” explains Swoap.Apparently, this emotion transfer is what causes some people to choke in moments of extreme stress and others to excel. If used constructively, the narrowing of focus allows me to look positive and orient myself only towards my goal and not towards hazards, because my boat always follows my vision and body. Adrenaline is a game-face call to action, and I embrace it in any situation—on the river or in real life. It makes me feel alive and present.Dan Hartley, a strength coach at CrossFit Pisgah in Asheville, N.C., has worked with many elite athletes. One recurring quality that he has observed is a type of hyperfocus that—to the outsider—seems like fearlessness. “Particularly in those athletes who subject themselves to a rigorous training regimen, their goal has embedded itself in every part of their being, and impacts all facets of their lives. In the fervor of competition, their focus upon this goal has narrowed their perception of existence and consequence. They see only the end of the road, and there is no fear of failure.”One athlete who really embodies this trait is 18-year-old skiing phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. Made famous through her gold medal slalom performance in Sochi, Mikaela is a master of sports psychology and managing fear. Mikaela was known to wink at the camera before everything-on-the-line runs, and recovered calmly from a wild bounce halfway through her Olympics-winning run. Mikaela sees the world as one full of opportunities, rather than obstacles, and she visualizes all possible outcomes so that she is prepared for anything. Shiffrin’s coach says that while she is young, she is mentally the strongest skier on the circuit. Her approach reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar: “Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and capitalize on what comes.”It’s easy as an athlete to get caught up in the place, time, conditions, and other factors out of our control. But once we focus on the process rather than the outcome, things will work out in our favor.As I enter the next phase of my athletic career, my mentality has become more conservative. I will not be the one doing the wildest stunts anymore. I want to be around for the long haul and take part in all of life’s experiences, so that may mean changing my approach a bit. My new fear ideology will be based on one core tenet:Always trust my gut.This promise to myself may mean walking rapids that others are running, or passing on a river that I have styled many times simply because I’m not feeling 100%. It will mean not allowing peer pressure to sway me from the correct decision. And it will mean believing in any decision that I make with everything that I have, because life is self-fulfilling. When I do decide to push myself to my limits, I will commit with no doubt in my mind, and that belief will carry me through safely.A healthy fear has certainly developed in me through my experiences, and the massive rapids of the Grand Prix will be a mental test unlike any other. But as Dr. Swoap says, and I know in my heart, it’s all in the transfer.last_img read more

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Ruffwear and its Original Quencher Dog Bowl Turn 20

first_imgWhat started as a simple request from a friend is now celebrating 20 years of revolutionizing the way we play outside with our four-legged friends. While trying to give her dog Moqui a drink, Patrick Kruse’s friend Liz emptied half of her water bottle into a plastic bag and held it while the Rhodesian Ridgeback took a few slurps. Moqui then walked away and Liz was left holding a bag she couldn’t set down and she didn’t want to dump what was left back into her water bottle.That was 1992; Kruse was a kayaker and small business owner designing paddle sports apparel and accessories as part of Salamander Paddle Gear. With his experience in technical fabrics and design, he set out to build a waterproof bowl that would pack small for outdoor adventures. After 16 months of research, development, and testing, The Quencher dog bowl was created — the first known collapsible waterproof fabric dog bowl.The Quencher accompanied Patrick and Salamander to Outdoor Retailer in the summer of 1994. Set out on a table at the front of Salamander’s booth, the collapsible waterproof fabric bowl drew crowds, and a buyer at L.L. Bean placed an order for 8,000 units, setting in motion the official launch of Ruffwear and a new outdoor product category to enhance and inspire outdoor adventures for dogs and their human companions.“I had no idea that designing a collapsible waterproof bowl for outdoor-loving dogs would grow into a brand offering a full range of products,” said Kruse, founder/product development for Ruffwear. “Over the years we’ve listened to our customers and let them determine where we head next.”The driving force behind Ruffwear’s designs has always been solving problems — such as how to hydrate and feed your dog in the backcountry (Quencher Dog Bowl); how to protect paws from rough terrain(Summit Trex); and how to keep water-loving dogs safe (K-9 Float Coat). By combining technology, quality, fit, function and safety, the brand continues to evolve and lead in meeting the demands of adventurous canines.Ruffwear is committed to preserving open lands and waterways through partnerships with The Conservation Alliance and regional grassroots organizations. Based in Bend, Oregon, Ruffwear is available through specialty pet and outdoor retailers and at read more

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Gettin’ Fancy with New Belgium Le Terroir

first_imgMy wife got me addicted to those La Croix sparkling waters. They have no calories, no sugar. They’re like drinking air. The main tasting note is “carbonation.” There’s always some natural fruit flavoring in the drink, but it’s faint. You have to search for it. It’s all very fancy, I assure you.New Belgium’s Le Terroir is a little bit like those La Croix sparkling waters. There is some fruity sweetness hidden in the depths of this beer, but it’s buried deep under such intense tart and sour notes, you have to go digging for it. Le Terroir is a term borrowed from the wine industry, referring to the soil that the grapes of a particular bottle are grown in. Fancy, right? New Belgium chose an appropriate name because this is a fancy beer—a complex sour with a bit of funk on the nose, plenty of puckering sour notes on the palate along with some faint peach sweetness. It’s light on the tongue with a slight peppery finish. The beer was dry hopped with Amarillo and Galaxy hops and aged in big ass foeders for three years. Let the beer warm a bit in your glass, and the hop profile comes forward while the sour, lemon notes mellow out, allowing the malty sweetness to shine.Overall, this beer is refreshing as hell. If you like sours, seek our Le Terroir. If you don’t like sours, seek out Le Terroir and drink it until you like sours. Seriously, this is something you should do to further your education in beer. Some of craft brewing’s most interesting innovation is taking place in the realm of sours. Brewers are putting tons of resources into their barrel programs and funky yeast stocks, and they’re coming up with sours that are far more complex than just “sour.” Le Terroir is a great example of what’s going on in the brave new world of sours. And because New Belgium’s distribution is robust, you can find this beer at any decent bottle shop for a decent price, making it a safe and easy entry into sours.last_img read more

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Fridays on the Fly: Check out the 2016 Tenkara Jam

first_imgThose cooler mornings and Autumn leaves are just around the corner in the Appalachian Range.  The last few weeks of comfortable wet-wading is upon us, and the fly fishing scenery is changing.  In fact, it’s changing in more ways than one. The tenkara activity in our Southern region is increasing every week.  Have you seen it on the river yet?The online social media group, Appalachian Tenkara Anglers, is still leading the movement in sharing everything there is to know about these ancient Japanese fly fishing rods. What started with the original four has grown into a very interactive community of thirteen hundred members.  This Facebook group is more like a dynamic blog with one hundred different authors. The deep knowledge base of experience here is tapped into daily, constantly challenging existing fly-fishing paradigms. This is a great resource to start or widen your tenkara experience. Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 12.50.37 PMLegendary fly fisherman Lefty Kreh attends last year’s Tenkara JamMore anglers are getting their hands on the fixed line fly rods and associated information, but how are they doing it?  Some are listening keenly to their friends that have already joined the sensation and then borrowing their rod for an outing.Others have attended the free five hour “Tenkara 101” class that I present for North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission six times a Summer at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.  In that offering I will put a half dozen different rods in your hands for you to experience the balance and flex that these nine to fourteen foot rods provide.  You also can dive headfirst into a thousand hours of streaming video and a thousand more blog post on tactics and gear reviews. There is always the online resources from these rod companies. You will find close to a dozen reputable brands at company websites where you can purchase your gear straight from the source.  They offer great value in product pricing and you are afforded a single point of contact with tenkara smarts.  “Tenkara Bum”, “Badger Tenkara” and “Dragontail Tenkara” will come up pretty quickly in your favorite search engine.  Let’s not leave our Riverworks Tenkara that is crafting high end rods in Eastern Tennessee.There is a growing number of fly fishing shops and outfitters across our region that are authorized dealers for some of the leading brands of these telescopic rods.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have all this fixed line madness in one location?  I’ve been there before and let me tell you, it is pretty darn cool indeed.  This is the third year for the exposition that brings all this together into one place.  Let me tell you about the Tenkara Jam.  It is all things tenkara and then some.FB_IMG_1472829603244There will be over one hundred different models of rods that cover an entire spectrum of fixed line angling.This year the two-day Tenkara Jam will take place on the Eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, North Carolina. This will be the largest gathering on tenkara vendors in the United States this year. In this building will be the owners and operators of nearly all the established brands here in the US.  There will be over one hundred different models of rods that cover an entire spectrum of fixed line angling.  The event will also feature a line-up of presentations from some of the leading tenkara anglers in the United States?  This is a top-shelf list of friends that will be sharing lessons learned, tactical advice and advanced presentation techniques sure to help any fisher-person, regardless of your tool of choice.  This class room will be buzzing for two full days. To this let’s add all the attendees and the centuries of combined experience in fixed line angling they will possess. Who should consider coming to the “Tenkara Jam”? Everybody.  I could spend another ten paragraphs delivering my position in detail on these but I’ll keep it short for this blog post.New anglers.  What a great way to dive into fly fishing with a simple low cost method.Guides.  This long rod could help you get more cast in the water on your trips.Clubs. A great way to introduce fly fishing to large groups in minutes.Project Healing Waters.  A simple way to engage Vets and bring them into the program.Trout Unlimited.  A fantastic tool to increase interest and membership across all ages.Families.  A great way to get the entire family on the water.Outfitters.  This is an excellent product series to grow business in.Experienced Anglers.  This is a tool that will challenge your skill and enable incredible development in your “tackle box of tricks”.14231845_10153873051743097_1254875856020118900_oI continue to share these words often: “Tenkara gets Around”.  In a bit more than a half dozen years we have witnessed tenkara launch from grassroots efforts with the start on Tenkara USA to the branding efforts of Patagonia to bring tenkara and fixed line fly fishing to more and more people. Tenkara does get around.  How about you come join us and see what drives our passion with such a simple and effective fishing tool?  Come see us at The JAM !!Related:last_img read more

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National Recreation Areas

first_imgWhat They Are And Where To Experience ThemA mountain bike loop that plunges into one of the wildest corners of the Southeast. Trails to stunning natural bridges that welcome rather than forbid horseback riders. A backpacking route that takes trekkers across a prime stretch of the Cumberland Plateau without worries that it will be scarred by clearcut logging.These are all features of National Recreation Areas in the Southeast. It’s a varied group. Most are remote but one cuts through the region’s biggest metro area. They include some of the East’s biggest—and clearest—lakes, as well as its most ferocious rapids. Allowed uses range from hiking to riding all-terrain vehicles.Variety, in fact, is one of the few common qualities of National Recreation Areas. Each is created by its own federal law—a law that determines the government agency that supervises its operation and lists the activities that are and are not allowed. This can make forming new Recreation Areas a tough political process; witness the stalled plans to create the Pisgah and Grandfather national recreation areas. The upside: It puts power to determine uses of public land where it should be—with nearby residents, environmental groups and businesses interests, says Sam Evans, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center.“That’s the important thing about Recreation Areas. The designation is flexible enough to allow the people who use and protect these lands to decide what is special about them in the long run.”The other common thread of National Recreation Areas is right in the name; they encourage residents to go out and enjoy natural tracts such as these, some of the Southeast’s best destinations for mountain biking, paddling and hiking.Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area (featured) Bring food, water and at least one friend when mountain biking the Huckleberry Trail in the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, said Travis Olson.“When you go down the Huckleberry, you’re really getting into the deep woods. You need to be self-sufficient,” said Olson, an avid mountain biker and the organizer of the annual Gravel Race Up Spruce Mountain (GRUSK).He usually does the Huckleberry as part of a 50-mile loop that includes one of two routes in the recreation area designated as Epic by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. It includes a bombing descent from 4,862-foot Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia. This brings riders into “these really lush zones, which are almost like rain forests,” Olson said, followed by the Falls of Seneca “which are really remote and incredibly beautiful.”It may be his favorite ride in Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks—unless it’s the other Epic, the North Fork Mountain Trail, which “follows a really narrow ridge for 24 miles, so you get these incredibly vast views,” he says.The rides are far from the only attraction at Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks, established in 1965 as the first National Recreation Area supervised by the U.S. Forest Service, but they are typical. The Recreation Area covers about 100,000 of the more than 900,000-acre Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Its main draws are wilderness and adventure. Ask people about it and you’ll hear words such as “remote,” “backcountry” and “rugged.”That last description especially fits Seneca Rocks, a 40-minute drive north of Spruce Knob and one of the most famous rock-climbing destinations in the East—a bastion of “trad” climbers who carry their own gear and remove it once they complete the pitch.“Seneca Rocks is a freak of nature in the climbing world,” said Tom Cecil, 57, the owner of Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides and North Fork Adventures, who has been climbing here since 1973. The fin-shaped ridge juts 1,100 feet up from the valley floor and is topped with “300 feet of vertical rock,” he said. “Seneca has cracks and corners and overhangs and every type of architecture.” Of the roughly 300 established routes, he said, about 110 are “super-high quality, the greatest hits that people come here to do.”Not that you need to be super skilled or super fit to enjoy the area. The mountain bike trails that Olson raved about are also open to hikers. One of the area’s most acclaimed trails, the Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek loop, is just the right length, 16.5 miles, for either a monster day hike or more leisurely overnight backpacking trip.Visitors who have the desire to climb but not the skills or equipment, can spend a day at NROCKS, which not only offers caving trips, zip lines and canopy tours, but also one of the nation’s first “via ferrata” courses. Italian for “way of iron,” this feature provides harnessed climbers with stainless steel rungs to ascend dramatic outcroppings on private land south of Seneca Rocks.PlayAttend Treasure Mountain Festival held in September in Franklin, W.Va. The festival has celebrated mountain culture for 50 years and includes quilting displays, musical performances, and beard-growing and turkey-calling contests.StayAt Canaan Valley Resort State Park, a half-hour north of Seneca Rocks. It offers 160 rooms as well as cabins and campsites, golfing and mountain-bike rentals. Many of its 18 miles of trails connect to longer routes in the Monongahela National Forest.EatVisit the Front Porch Restaurant, Seneca Rocks. Situated above Harper’s Olde General Store, its namesake porch features stunning views of town’s namesake rocks. “I love the pizza at the Front Porch,” Olson said.Photo: Drew HudginsLand Between the Lakes National Recreation Area This recreation area has less to do with seeking adventure than with soaking up scenery and heritage. The most treasured views are not of mountains, but of calm, clear Kentucky and Barkley lakes—two of the largest such bodies of water in the East.“It’s just a peaceful place to be,” says Cindy Sholar, administrative assistant with the nearby Cadiz-Trigg County Tourist & Convention Commission.Covering 170,000 acres, it extends north to within a few miles of the Ohio River and south to beyond the Tennessee state line. It contains 500 miles of trails, many of them open to both mountain bikers and hikers, as well as 200 miles of forest roads. The prime backpacking route is the 56-mile North/South Trail, the northern portion of which passes seven seasonal springs, offers frequent views of Kentucky Lake, and skirts several of the estimated 240 cemeteries in the Recreation Area.Land Between the Lakes is one of the few places in the East to spot bison and elk, which were reintroduced in 1996. The recreation areas contain about 50 bison and 50 elk. Controlled burns and grazing keep sections of the land open and offer clear views for visitors who access the prairie’s 3.5-mile driving loop for a charge of $5 per car. At least the views are usually clear, Fowler said. “You can sometimes have four or five big old elk laying in that tall grass and nobody can see them.”The region’s 19th-century history is celebrated at The Homeplace, which is run as a 1850s-era working farm, with staffers and volunteers engaged in such activities as shearing sheep, spinning yarn, raising heritage chickens and pigs, and growing heirloom vegetables. “It’s a great place for folks to see how things used to be done,” said Emily Cleaver, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service.PlayDetour north to visit Paducah, KY, formerly a gritty river town transformed into a regional arts mecca designated as one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities. Attractions include the National Quilt Museum, and its transformative Artist Relocation Program has served as a model for cities across the country.StayIn a houseboat, the ideal way to soak up views of the lakes and access the wooded shoreline of Land Between the Lakes. Rentals are available at several marinas, including the Kenlake Marina at Kenlake State Park.EatAt Cap’n Jim’s Grill, on a peninsula on the eastern shore of Lake Barkley. “One of my favorite things to do is go to Cap’n Jim’s on a Saturday night when the water is just like glass,” Sholar said.Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area It’s one thing to read that Big South Fork contains the highest concentration of natural arches in the East, another to see it on the ground, said Scott Phillips, owner of Backwoods Adventures guiding service. “In a lot of places, you can hike up to an arch and go around to the other side of the hill,” he said, “and right there you’ll see another arch.”The most famous of these formations is Twin Arches, a pair of natural bridges that top out at more than 100 feet high. Combined, this formation is the largest of its kind east of the Mississippi River.These arches are far from the only appeal of Big South Fork, said Phillips. “Big South Fork caters to pretty much any outdoor activity. It’s sort of a one-stop wilderness destination.”Big South Fork, which in 1974 became the first National Recreation Area formed under the supervision of the National Park Service, covers 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. It is adjacent to the 700,000-acre Daniel Boone National Forest and near several smaller state parks. And though its visitors pump about $10 million into the local economy, according to the National Park Service website, it attracts fewer than 700,000 annual visitors. That number has dropped since the early 2000s, and is a tiny fraction of the count at popular destinations such as Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which draws more than 11 million tourists per year.Among the many attractions available to the park’s relatively few visitors, according to the Park Service: 141 miles of hiking trails, 182 miles of horse trails, 24 miles of mountain bike trails, and 244 miles of streams. That includes the north-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland which the American Whitewater website calls “one of the hidden crown jewels of the Cumberland Plateau.” The 6.2-mile stretch between confluence of streams that form the river and Leatherwood Ford includes several Class III and Class IV rapids, the site said, though the roughness of these runs varies with water flow, said Keila Egedi, of the Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort in Corbin, Ky.“This is not dam-release rafting,” she said. “We are totally dependent on Mother Nature and on how she feels.”The company offers guided rafting trips of the upstream section of the river on weekends from mid-April to mid-May, when water level are usually highest. It rents canoes and kayaks on downriver sections, which, though tamer, include rapids rough enough that the company requires them to be portaged by rental clients. No matter the route, she said, the views of the clear, cliff-lined river are spectacular. “The Big South Fork is just plain gorgeous,” she said.Backpackers can choose between two routes suitable for multi-day treks, the 44-mile John Muir Trail, and the 319-mile Sheltowee Trace, which extends north deep into Daniel Boone. Premier day hikes include the 6-mile Twin Arches Trail Loop and the 5.6-mile out-and-back hike to the Angel Falls Overlook, which offers what Park Service literature calls an “awe-inspiring view” of the Big South Fork.Hikers will see not only natural bridges, but another of the Plateau’s trademark formations—rock overhangs. And the park’s dense hardwood forests and clear, rhododendron-lined streams are sparsely populated versions of sights common at more popular destinations.“It’s not like the Smokies where you run into somebody every 15 minutes,” Phillips said. “You can go for days here without seeing another living soul.”PlayAttend one of the series of events, including storytelling sessions and an annual planting festival, at the park’s Brandy Creek Visitor Center and the Blue Heron Interpretive Center.StayAt Charit Creek Lodge (, which like the Smokies’ famous LeConte Lodge, offers comfortable lodging and dining in a wilderness setting. Charit is accessible only to hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders.EatAt Simply Fresh, in Jamestown. Selections include steaks, dinner salads and shrimp tacos. “Their food is amazing,” Phillips said.Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area Sally Bethea lives within the city limits of Atlanta and less than two miles from the Georgia State Capitol building. It’s about as urban as the Southeast gets.And yet, she said, “I can get to the lower end of the Recreation Area in probably 20 minutes.”Which sums up the appeal of Chattahoochee River NRA, a series of 15 park units called “the string of pearls,” scattered along 48 miles of the river from the northern fringe of Atlanta’s metropolitan area to its downtown. Signed into existence by President (and former Georgia Governor) Jimmy Carter in 1978 and managed by the National Park Service, the park is the city cousin in a generally backwoods clan of National Recreation Areas. Because of its proximity to the nearly 6 million residents of greater Atlanta, the park’s visitor totals and economic impact dwarf those of most other Recreation Areas; a recent Park Service study found the Chattahoochee drew more than 2.7 million visitors in 2016, supported 1,841 jobs and created a total economic benefit of $166 million. To encourage even more tourism and preservation, this stretch of the Chattahoochee was named the nation’s first National River Trail in 2012.But the Chattahoochee wouldn’t be so popular if it looked like it ran through a big city, said Bethea, who retired from her longtime role as Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in 2014 and now serves as board president of the Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy Inc. (“There’s this wonderful section of the river flowing through what’s called the Palisades,” she said. “Depending on water levels, you might see a little bit of white water, the Devil’s Race Course, where you may be dodging some rocks, and then around the corner you come to Diving Rock. The whole area is just beautiful on both sides of the river, with the vegetation you would find in North Georgia . . . rhododendron and mountain laurel.”One of the kayak rental landings run by Nantahala Outdoor Center is just off Interstate 285. But once you “get around the first bend you would never know you were near a city. It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle,” said concession manager George Virgo.The other outpost is at Johnson’s Ferry North, where southbound paddlers encounter flatter water flowing through upscale residential neighborhoods before reaching Park units that contain some of the Recreation Area’s 80-plus miles of trails. Among the most popular spots is Cochran Shoals, a hub for afterwork trail runs and weekend hiking and mountain biking excursions. It can get crowded, Virgo said, and so can the river. But the shallow water discourages motor boats and paddlers can easily avoid the rowdier floating parties, which tend to form late in the afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays.“If you come from Monday to Friday you’ll usually have the place to yourself,” he said. “And if you get out early in the morning, it’s beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.”The upriver basin contains little agriculture or industry, Bethea said, and the water quality is good enough to support a thriving fish population. When the water warms in the summer, striped bass, or “stripers,” are the main prey, Virgo said. The cold water released from Lake Lanier at the northern end of the National Recreation Area supports trout in nearby sections of the river throughout the year, and in the winter trout can be found in good numbers even on the lower, warmer stretches, Bethea says. “A half hour from downtown Atlanta, you can be fishing for trout.”PlayTo the Back to the Chatt River Race and Festival, hosted by the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Held annually for 16 years, it features races of different lengths, a beer barge, and a boat decoration contest.StayCamping is not permitted in the park and riverside lodging is scarce, but lists several options with river access, from single rooms to whole houses.EatAt Heirloom Market BBQ, a few blocks from Cochran Shoals, it’s a mecca of Korean-style barbecue in the Deep South. “It’s phenomenal,” Virgo said.Gauley River National Recreation Area The whitewater at the Gauley, in southern West Virginia, is far more challenging than the Chattahoochee’s tame riffles or, for that matter, just about any whitewater in the East. Even the normally subdued website of the National Park Service practically bursts its buttons raving about the river’s rapids:“Dropping more than 668 feet through 25 miles of rugged terrain, the Gauley . . . features more than 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, an incredible volume of water and huge waves. Its vigorous rapids, scenic quality and inaccessibility combine to make Gauley River one of the premier whitewater runs in the world.”The Recreation Area, which was established in 1988 and is operated by the Park Service, protects the gorges along 25 miles of the Gauley and nearly six miles of the Meadow River. The height of the rafting season, which annually attracts about 60,000 visitors, lasts only a few weekends after Labor Day, when the Summersville Dam begins releasing huge volumes of water.“It’s like Christmas,” says PJ Stevenson, a marketing director and longtime guide for Adventures on the Gorge, a company formed by four of the oldest rafting services on the river. “People come here from all over the world, guides and clients alike.”The first set of Class V rapids is called Insignificant, partly because it “doesn’t look like much going in,” and partly out of “total irony.”“In the middle section you come to this huge hydraulic. You have to get on one side or the other or it’s not going to be pretty,” Stevenson said.The name of another famous run is also misleading, she says. There is nothing comfortable about Pillow Rock, she said. “There is just a lot of volume of water pushing right into this giant rock,” she said. Pillow is followed by two hydraulics waiting to trap fallen paddlers, the Toilet Bowl and the Room of Doom, and a car-sized boulder called Volkswagen Rock.In lower water, companies lead tours of inflatable kayaks called duckies. And in warm weather, tourists flock to Summersville Lake, above the dam, the largest lake in West Virginia. Its clear, deep water is ideal for scuba diving and all forms of flatwater boating, “including stand-up paddle boarding, which has become immensely popular,” said Marianne Taylor, executive director of the Summersville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.And paddlers should not become so absorbed with running rapids that they ignore the animal and plant life that thrive in a distinctive habitat created by the rapidly flowing water and dramatic elevation changes. Federally protected species in the park include the Allegheny woodrat, cerulean warbler, Eastern hellbender,  and finescale saddled darter. Among its rare plants are the Appalachian blue Violet, balsam squaw-weed and Virginia spirea.PlayAttend the Gauley Fest, an annual celebration of the Summersville Dam release featuring a whitewater marketplace and live entertainment.StayAt Summersville Lake Retreat, which offers cabins and campgrounds on the shore of the lake just north of the Recreation Area.EatAt Maloney’s Pub in Summerville, which serves stir-fries and wraps along with standard bar food, and is packed with sports memorabilia and television screens. “It’s just a nice laid-back place to go after a day on the water,” Taylor says.last_img read more

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Escape from Reality in Tucker County

first_imgThomas and Davis are now both lively mountain towns providing distinct personalities that seem to fit darn near everyone.  Thomas is known for outstanding live music almost every day of the week and a resident arts community full of contemporary artists and their galleries.  Looking for national music acts on the down low or free afternoon shows?  The Purple Fiddle is your spot.  The art gallery count is now up to six in Thomas and there is no end in sight.   Add in unique stores, antique shopping, a classy coffee shop that will impress, and Mountain State Brewing, and you have yourself a mountain town full of life. That place is West Virginia’s best kept secret.  Tucker County, West Virginia is located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and shares its northern border with the state of Maryland.  Outdoor enthusiasts have been coming for decades to hike places like Dolly Sods Wilderness, ski at one of Canaan Valley’s three ski resorts, or fish for trout in cool mountain river waters.  As decades have passed, the county of 7,500 people and one stop light has blossomed into a four season mountain destination. The town of Davis, West Virginia sits on the banks of the Blackwater River and is known as the gateway to outdoor recreation.  Over 100 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to the Canaan Backcountry, Blackwater Falls State Park and Little Canaan Wildlife Area are found on the edge of town.  Trout fishing in the Blackwater River can be had while waiting for a pizza from Siriannis Café.  Davis is also home to the vast majority of restaurants, no franchises here, and award winning craft beers from Stumptown Ales. The art of planning a mountain vacation often begins withlofty inspirations of spectacular sunsets, pristine nature, and cozy cabins.  Where expectations can be exceeded.  A place that will truly take you away fromthe realities of life yet bring friends and family closer. Vast wilderness of public lands cover over 50 percent of theentire region.  Tucker County is home to StateParks, National Forest, Federal Wildlife Refuge, and designated US ForestService Wilderness Areas.  Dolly SodsWilderness and Blackwater Falls State Park are the most notable naturalattractions.  Dolly Sods is one of the highestplateaus east of the Mississippi River at 4,200 feet above sea level.  Flora growing throughout the sods is morecommonly found in Canadian forests.  Blackwater Falls is a towering 62 foot tallwaterfall with boardwalk access into West Virginia’s most visited state park.               River trips by canoe and kayak are extremely popular on the Cheat River Trail from Parsons, West Virginia to Saint George.  Designated parking with take-out and put-ins along the Cheat River makes easy access for fishermen and boaters alike.  Head to Blackwater Outdoor Adventures for guided whitewater trips down the Cheat Narrows, boat rentals, and shuttle service.  The Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail is another favorite of cyclists looking for that mountain experience. Where to stay?  Thepossibilities are endless with seven realty offices offering everything fromcozy cabins for two to luxury homes with indoor pools.  Classic B&B’s serve up the countryexperience while Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls State Parks each have grandlodges with full amenities.  The time isnow.   Check off Tucker County from thebucket list you never knew you had.   What were once booming lumber and coal mining towns 100years ago, have now been transformed by entrepreneurs and a local communitythat are ecstatic about where they live and what they do.  Thomas, WV was founded on the back of thecoal industry and finds its “downtown” brick buildings on the national historicregistry of buildings.  Only 2 miles downthe road is Davis, WV, a former lumber town with a population of 650, whichironically is almost the exact same population of Thomas.  These are true mountain towns where everyoneknows each other.  Waving from our car orporch 50 times a day are a part of everyday life.   Visitors are met with the same kindness, sobring that smile and a friendly wave to our neck of the woods. last_img read more

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September Quick Hits: Outdoor News

first_imgCompetitive Triathlon in the Time of COVID-19 The Asheville Triathlon, held at a new location in nearby Hendersonville’s Patton Park, set an example of what in-person events may look like in the future during the time of COVID-19. “This coronavirus has really forced us to make some big changes in the endurance event industry,” said Daphne Kirkwood, owner of iDaph Events and race director of the Asheville Triathlon. Cover Photo: A new look for competitors at the Asheville Triathlon. Photo courtesy of the Asheville Triathlon Great American Outdoors Act Signed Into Law During the swim portion of the race, participants were given a wave start time based on their projected swim time and were given a full minute before the next swimmer entered the pool. “We never had more than 25 swimmers at the pool or on the deck at a time,” said Kirkwood. “Everything was very spaced out from start to finish.”  “There just isn’t a cookie cutter way to design and produce an in-person event during a pandemic. But I’m really happy with how safely everything turned out.” And all of those cheering fans? Forget about it. “No spectators were allowed at the pool or at the finish line,” Kirkwood said. Currently, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country, faces a maintenance backlog of $236 million. Shenandoah National Park faces a maintenance backlog of over $90 million.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association are hosting a series of hikes called ‘Smokies Hikes for Healing,’ which use the backdrop of the park to inspire conversations about race and racial bias. “Making the Great American Outdoors Act law accomplishes what the outdoor industry has always endeavored to do – support thousands of jobs, open up access to outdoor areas for more people, and give local communities more tools to thrive economically,” added Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “This achievement is all the more important in today’s environment as it will bring much-needed hope back to communities and businesses reliant on outdoor recreation. center_img Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosting hiking series focused on diversity and equality The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but it couldn’t stop one group of hardcore triathletes from competing this summer. Last Sunday, just over 100 participants showed up at a park in Hendersonville, N.C., to do something that most athletes used to take for granted: toe the line at an in-person race.  Race participants wore face coverings before and after the event, had their temperatures checked, and stayed socially distant from other participants. Instead of having typical transition zones, which usually include close quarters, participants were asked to transition at their vehicles. The rebooted transition zones “went really well,” said Kirkwood. “[Racers] had plenty of room to set up their things… we also had spaces in between some cars giving additional space.” In late July the U.S House of Representatives voted 310 to 107 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, ensuring national parks and public lands receive the funding they need for years to come, and President Trump signed the bill into law soon after in early August. Lauded as the biggest conservation win in a generation, the bill permanently funds the $900 million annual Land and Water Conservation Fund and establishes the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund which will direct up to $9.5 billion in additional funding over the next five years to address the most pressing repairs needed in national parks and on other public lands. The Land and Water Conservation Fund directs royalties from oil and gas drilling toward the conservation of public lands. “Once signed into law, this bill will dedicate nearly $1 billion per year to address a variety of needs; from neglected hiking trails and visitor infrastructure in popular national parks, to U.S. Forest Service projects that ensure clean watersheds for local communities, to the restoration of coastal marshes that protect against flood waters,” said Reynolds.  “Our national parks and public lands are incredible shared resources,” Anders Reynolds, Southern Environmental Law Center’s federal legislative director, said in a statement. “They provide outstanding recreational opportunities for tens of millions of outdoor enthusiasts, supporting the economies of countless local communities while also preserving sensitive ecosystems and habitats from over-development. It’s past time we devoted the appropriate resources to their upkeep.”  Eight hikes will be held through December. During the hikes, a facilitator will lead discussion around race and help participants learn to identify biases through a deeper level of self-awareness and reflection, WKRN reports. Space is limited to 10 participants per hike. To learn more or to apply to participate visit  Eighty-three percent of participants indicated they would come back and do the race again. According to one satisfied participant, “I felt safer racing…than going to the grocery store.” last_img read more

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London Date For Jamaican Sprint King Bolt

first_imgBy Dialogo April 20, 2009 Jamaican Olympic sprint hero Usain Bolt said he will join a star-studded field at this summer’s Aviva London Grand Prix. “I’m definitely looking forward to running in London at the Aviva London Grand Prix. London is a great meet and the fans there really get behind everyone. I normally base myself there during the summer so it is like a second home,” said Bolt, who bagged three sprint golds in world record times at the Beijing Games. “As usual there will be strong competition but I guess that’s what I’ll need ahead of the World Championships,” said Bolt, who in Beijing became the first man to claim the Olympic sprint treble, all in world record times, when he won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. The 22-year-old will run the 100m at the two-day meeting in London on July 24 and 25 as top athletes seek to fine-tune their preparations ahead of the IAAF World Championships in Berlin three weeks later. “Last year at Crystal Palace, I felt great running the 200m. To win there in such style gave me a lot of pleasure,” Bolt explained. “That helped to build my confidence towards achieving the three gold medals in Beijing a few weeks later. “This year will be my fifth year in a row competing at Crystal Palace. On all four previous occasions I’ve run in the 200m so it will be good to go out there and see what I can do in the 100m. I’m sure I’ll be able to put a show on for the fans.”last_img read more

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NGO Calls ELN Guerrilla to End Kidnapping and Define Peace Agenda

first_imgBy Dialogo June 16, 2009 BOGOTA, June 14, 2009 (AFP) – An NGO that promotes peaceful ending of the Colombian conflict has asked ELN guerrilla to end kidnappings and to define an agenda to reintroduce the dialogue with the government, according to a letter revealed this Sunday. The message of ‘Colombianos por la Paz’ (Colombians for Peace) is the response to a letter sent by the National Liberation Army (ELN, Guevarist) –second guerrilla organization in the country- in May, accepting a letter exchange aimed at a reconciliation process. “We reiterate the call for them to expressly manifest their willingness to cease, unilaterally and immediately (the kidnapping) that practice which violates International Humanitarian Rights,” stated the NGO. The association, led by opponent senator Piedad Córdoba, added that “kidnapping should not be a subject of conversation in dialogue meetings and peace negotiations, but a decisive and unilateral commitment” on the part of the insurgents in “terms of stopping this practice of exerting economic and political pressure.” Likewise, she requested the rebels to formulate “the agenda they are willing to follow to return to negotiating a political solution.” Between 2005 and 2007, President Alvaro Uribe’s government and the ELN held several meetings in Cuba, aimed at starting a negotiation, but the dialoque was suspended when the parties failed to reach consensus regarding the terms of a “basic agreement.” On a communiqué issued in May, the guerrilla organization assured that the main “obstacle” to continue the dialogue is the government’s “claim” that the ELN can only be located in specific areas and has to identify all of its members, as conditions to move forwards in negotiations. “Colombianos por la Paz” consists of dozens of important figures that pursue a pacific solution to the conflict, and in February it achieved the liberation of four officers and two politicians, all hostages of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, Marxist).last_img read more

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