FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Bond Buyer:Ohio-based American Municipal Power Inc. says it has resolved a Securities and Exchange Commission probe triggered by the troubles of the coal-fired Prairie State Energy project in Illinois.The resolution was disclosed in an offering statement for the refunding of up to $67 million of debt tied to the project.Proceeds will refund debt sold in 2008 and 2009 to finance AMP’s share in the campus. The refunding will lower debt service requirements over the next five years to better position the project cost structure in relation to participant billings.The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, an environmental group that promotes renewable sources of energy, said that even after the refinancing of Prairie State bonds, the cities and towns throughout the Midwest that signed contracts to purchase power from the Prairie State plant are paying almost twice the price for power sold on the energy markets.“Some are finding themselves in a position where they are using up reserves or can’t provide money from the electric funds to support their general revenue funds,” executive director of the IEFFA Sandy Buchanan said. “For example, IEEFA found that in 2016 the city of Galion, Ohio paid $2.3 million more for power from Prairie State than it would have paid had it purchased power through the wholesale market. Even with a series of bond refinances and other measures aimed at mitigating the city’s participation in the plant, the Galion Electric Fund has used up a sizeable portion of its reserves, and is now considering whether it needs to raise electric rates.”More ($): No SEC action as probe into AMP’s Prairie State bonds concludes In Prairie State Settlement, AMP to Refund $67 Million
Ott says planned coal and nuclear retirements on PJM grid are not a threat FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:About 18,000 megawatts of coal and nuclear plants — enough to power 13.5 million homes — are slated to permanently shut across the eastern U.S. grid. And the region still has enough electricity to keep the lights on, according to the chief executive officer of the grid operator.In fact, “we could sustain essentially in the 30,000 megawatt range,” PJM Interconnection LLC Chief Executive Officer Andy Ott said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “If it gets beyond that, then we start to look at the alternatives for firming up resources.”Ott’s comments echo the results of an analysis PJM conducted last year that showed the grid remains reliable despite the dozens of coal and nuclear power plants going out of business because of cheaper natural gas generators and new renewable energy sources. The findings fly in the face of the Trump administration’s warnings that the retirements threaten the resilience of the grid and the nation’s security.PJM runs a grid that stretches from Washington, D.C., to Chicago and a market that supplies power to more than 65 million people. Should it need to firm up resources, Ott said, the region could look into options including building more natural gas storage tanks; sourcing more trucks to deliver fuel; and finding ways to keep at least some coal and nuclear plants online.Gas plant operators should meanwhile increase the amount of supplies they keep on site to five days’ worth, he said, up from about 30 to 40 hours’ worth now. Adding battery storage to wind and solar farms could also improve reliability, Ott said.More: CEO of largest U.S. grid says it’s fine if 30,000 megawatts shut
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:Six months after inking California’s largest single energy storage procurement, utility Southern California Edison has added another three massive utility-scale battery projects to its portfolio—plus a behind-the-meter battery project with Sunrun.Monday’s new contracts include 585 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries: NextEra Energy’s 325-MW Desert Peak project, Recurrent Energy’s 200-MW Crimson project, and 174 Power Global / Hanwha Group’s 60-MW Eldorado Valley project. It also adds a 5-MW behind-the-meter battery aggregation from Sunrun, expanding on a pilot project with the solar-storage provider earlier this year to add a full-scale deployment for delivery in 2023.The four-hour duration 2.63 gigawatt-hours [adds] to an SCE battery portfolio that’s already topping the U.S. utility record books. In May, SCE announced contracts for 770 megawatts of large-scale battery contracts with vendors including NextEra, TerraGen Power, LS Power and Southern Power, equating to more than 3 gigawatt-hours of storage capacity set to come online by August 2021.The new contracts bring SCE’s energy storage total to just more than 2 GW installed and procured to date. If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the NextEra contract is set for delivery in 2023, while the other two utility-scale projects are scheduled to come online in 2022.The new projects will help meet both short- and long-term goals for California’s only electric-only investor-owned utility. In the short term, the new procurement meets last year’s California Public Utilities Commission order to deliver a combined 3.3 gigawatts of resources by 2023 to help the state manage grid reliability.SCE has taken the lead in securing battery storage to meet those targets, but others are following suit. Pacific Gas & Electric is contracting seven battery projects totaling 423 megawatts, or nearly 1.7 gigawatt-hours of energy storage capacity, for August 2021 delivery. Municipal utility Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has contracted for up to 300 megawatts/1.2 gigawatt-hours of storage being built alongside 400 megawatts of solar power being built by 8Minute Energy.[Jeff St. John]More: Southern California Edison inks another massive round of utility-scale battery contracts Southern California Edison signs contracts for another 590MW of battery storage
The Digital Generation. Echo Boomers. Generation Y. Millennials. Whatever you call those twenty-somethings and early- thirty-year-olds, you likely come into contact with them every day. Born between 1981 and 2000, Millennials comprise roughly one-third of our population, making them the fastest growing demographic in a highly competitive workplace. As if finding a job and getting out of debt wasn’t enough of a concern for these young adults, they have to deal with the ongoing deluge of criticism: Lazy. Narcissistic. Uncreative. Addicted to technology.I am one of those largely criticized twenty-something-year-olds, and I’Il be the first to admit that I’ve taken these generational bashings to heart. But the Millennials as I know them are a far cry from this warped portrait of young adults.The following seven Millennials live in our Blue Ridge backyard and share a love of their surroundings. I wondered, going into these interviews, if a vibrating iPhone would interrupt our talks. But what I found as I listened to each individual talk about their passions was a refueling of my own fire.In an era of instant gratification, Millennials might very well tweet from the tops of mountains or post a photograph of our locally grown dinner on Instagram, but we’re contributing to a movement.We are students and entrepreneurs, tradesmen and teachers, but in the end, we are all explorers. We emphasize the necessity of engaging with and protecting the natural world. We chase our dreams with a stubborn persistence. We are the future of the mountains. These are #myfellowmillennials.AmbitiousHannah ClaytorMeet Hannah Claytor, a 22-year-old graduate student in the Agricultural Resource Economics department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Although she is studying to become an economist, Claytor is a tree hugger at heart. In 2011, Claytor enrolled in a study abroad semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School in India’s rugged Himalayan mountain range. When she returned, she was restless, eager for more. So, in the spring of 2012, she loaded her pack and headed south to Springer Mountain, Ga., to begin her northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Although many of Claytor’s undergraduate professors questioned her decision to take a year off from school to “be in the woods,” Claytor says it was anything but a vacation.“There’s a checks and balance system within me, where I can tell if I’m acting complacent, lazy, or coddled,” Claytor says. “As soon as I recognize that, I try to do something that counteracts and nullifies it.”Those long months spent trekking in the Himalayas and trudging along on the A.T. would prove to be some of the most challenging and rewarding days of Claytor’s life. She says that in those experiences, she found much more than a sense of connectivity to the natural world.“I realized I was a bit of a punk,” she says. “I had poured all of my money into this image that I reject now, so when I returned from thru-hiking, it was hard to get back to a society that puts so much focus on monetary value and superficial things. Being healthy and comfortable were the main objectives on the trail, and everyday-life complexities simply weren’t present.”Claytor adopted the lessons she learned on the trail and integrated those values of simplicity and personal well-being into her daily life. Although she contemplated applying for law school after college, she recognized that a commitment like that might mean sacrificing the small things that make her happy, like being able to go for a trail run after class or spend a weekend backpacking in the mountains. Claytor admits to being an ambitious goal setter, one who thrives in the face of challenge, but she is also realistic about what she can achieve in the short term.“I think people tend to get into this rut where they have to have big accomplishments all the time, which can be damaging,” she says. “You have to realize that life is about the simple challenges and simple successes.”The simple successes for Claytor come in all forms, from good quiz grades to resisting a bowl of ice cream for a day. Upon completion of her graduate program, Claytor is planning to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail before continuing to pursue her passion in protecting Earth’s natural resources.GroundedBen CasteelSouthwest Virginia native Ben Casteel was just 21 when he finished his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2006. He had always had a relationship with the land, both in a recreational and practical manner, but he claims that it was this 2,180-mile immersion into the wilderness that opened his eyes to the wonders of the world.“It was an amazing journey,” he says, “and it’s something that I’m still learning from today looking back on it seven years later.”After his hike, Casteel headed west. He attended Prescott College in Arizona where he majored in environmental studies with an emphasis on agro-ecology and wilderness leadership. He traveled throughout the region, roaming from Oregon to Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, California, Nevada, Colorado. Wherever he went, Casteel couldn’t get enough of the West with its dramatic landscapes and progressive culture. Yet there was something very important to him that was missing from that scene: his roots.“The family unit is really why I came back here,” he says, sweeping his arm to take in the mountains surrounding Meadowview, Va. “Nearly all of my family lives within 100 miles, and that’s really important to me, to be able to see them.”Now, Casteel is the co-owner of Appalachian WildSide, an edible landscaping company that also sells vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market and to local restaurants. Casteel created his business in 2012 after working for a number of different landscaping companies that succeeded in making yards pretty, but not practical. His hands are strong and rough with dirt embedded beneath the fingernails, his cheeks rosy from endless hours in the sun, telltale signs of a true steward of the land.Although many Millennials try to avoid returning home after college, Casteel takes pride in bettering the place where he grew up. In fact, at the top of his lengthy list of life goals, which includes everything from writing and producing a play to climbing the highest peak on all seven continents, is the daunting task of making southern Appalachia food-secure.“I know it won’t be achieved in my lifetime or by myself by any means,” he says, “but that’s what is important to me and what I want to do with my life.”Even if Casteel does not accomplish this formidable undertaking, he says that if he enjoys what he is doing every day, if he appreciates the life he has to its fullest, then he would consider himself “successful.”“My dad was the one that really pressed upon me to live in the present moment,” he says. “That doesn’t mean you can’t look to the future or harness the past. It just means be here now. Once I figure out how to do that, that’s when I’ll be successful, whether I have rags or riches.”ToughGuy LoveWhen you first meet Guy Love, you’d never assume that his humble disposition and unassuming build are just the undercover agents for his hardcore self. At 22 years old, Love is one of only a handful of Millennials in the area who regularly train and compete in ultramarathons (that’s anything over 26 miles). On top of spending upwards of 20 to 40 hours a week running, Love also balances an internship at a physical therapy clinic, a part-time job, and the demands of being a graduate student in Virginia Tech’s Human Resource Development program.“When I was in undergrad studying philosophy, there was one quote that always stuck with me,” Love says. “It comes from Ovid, and he said, ‘Be patient and tough. Someday this pain will be useful to you.’”To say Love is both patient and tough is a serious understatement. Blue Ridge, Ga.’s Cruel Jewel 100 is well known as one of the most challenging ultra races in the region. With 60,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in the span of a 100-mile out-and-back course, Love was well aware of some of the obstacles he might face. When the clock started ticking on day one, Love was in a positive mindset. Only 40 hours later, though, Love would barely stumble past the finish line in the predawn dark, weak from exhaustion, soaking wet and cold with blisters covering the bottoms of both feet. Although it would take him nearly three weeks to recover from the race, he says that 100-milers like the Cruel Jewel are his favorite events.“You really have to find yourself out there,” he says. “You have to find some place, it’s not really mental, not really physical, emotional, or anything like that. You have to tap into that and keep grunting forward.”Love says he finds happiness “in odd places,” such as those moments of utter pain and despair, when it takes everything he has to place one foot in front of the other. For him, though, physical exhaustion is tangible evidence of his passion and diligence, no matter how fast his time or where he placed.“It’s a simple act,” he says, “but one that I can suffer through and come out on the other side knowing I worked hard for it. I get some satisfaction from that alone.”Love recently placed fourth in a 50-miler on the Iron Mountain Trail in Damascus, Va., but not without his share of suffering. When he crossed the finish line after eight hours of running, his body crumbled and he was immediately rushed to urgent care to receive an IV. He recovered and has since completed his 20th ultramarathon since beginning to race in 2010.InspirationalCaitlin BrashCaitlin Brash will always be a climber, but she wanted to do something in the education field. She had worked for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, but she fantasized about combining her love of the outdoors with her career interests. Now, at 24 years old, Brash will soon be one of the first Montessori guides in Fayetteville, W.Va. Montessori is an alternate method of schooling, teaching young children to be independent and curious on their own accord. The learning environment is filled with tools and activities that engage students and encourage them to be mindful of others and the natural world around them.“In learning to be a Montessori guide, I’ve learned some things about myself,” Brash says. “I always knew I’d never be the type to be in a job for the money, but now I know that teaching people to love what I love is what’s important to me.”Brash grew up in a tight-knit family that shared similar values to the Montessori method. Although she wanted to do well in school, Brash says her parents never pressured her to be the best; so long as she tried her hardest, it was more important that she maintain a hunger for learning new things. Her father, Nick Brash, was one of the region’s early pioneers of rock climbing and helped develop the New River Gorge as a climbing destination. Brash says her respect for and appreciation of the outdoors blossomed in the fourth grade when she started joining her father on climbing excursions.“Not only was it the thing my dad and I had together and could share, but it was a way to get in touch with nature and see what’s out there,” she says. “It really taught me to respect the environment.”After graduating from college, Brash moved to Fayetteville to climb and work. When winter came and the rafting scene in town had all but died, she began to see the issues that lie beneath the surface of this seasonal community. The most prevalent and demanding of those issues was the need for a comprehensive alternative to the local K-12 education system, which has consistently ranked in the bottom tier of schools in the United States.“One generation plants the trees and the next gets the shade,” she says, paraphrasing a Chinese proverb. “It’s crazy that, in such a great outdoor town, recreational programs in the local schools are nonexistent. It’s important to teach others how to be respectful of our environment now because the next generation is going to see our impact.”Brash has 20 students in her class and works daily with the community of parents in Fayetteville. On any given weekday, Brash can be found guiding her students toward the discovery of new passions through activities such as yoga and river cleanups.RadicalTaylor KirklandTaylor Kirkland never dreamed of actually owning his own business. When he returned from a two-year stint in Belize, he thought he would be more interested in studying culture, not business. He applied and was accepted into the Appalachian Studies program at Appalachian State University, concentrating his path on sustainable development.Throughout his schooling, Kirkland worked a number of contracting side jobs to help pay for his education. Despite his extensive experience in manual labor and love of woodworking, he says that a career in the industry was never on his radar.“A lot of people degrade manual labor,” he says, “and maybe it’s a cultural thing, but when you think of construction workers in any capacity you think of some dude in a hard hat on the side of the road.”Kirkland knew firsthand how demanding and tedious trade work like carpentry could be, and he struggled with the disconnect he felt between talented tradesmen as he knew them and that hardhat stereotype. In his second year of graduate school, he decided to combat that disconnect by examining the oral history of Appalachia through the eyes of the region’s finest craftspeople, activists, social entrepreneurs, and artists. His first interview was with agrarian, environmental activist, and writer Wendell Berry.“The conversation we had really blew my mind,” Kirkland says. “We discussed what it meant to be radical,” a term Kirkland had long associated with his own active involvement in environmental movements.Berry, then already in his mid-seventies, was a well-known literary figure, but he had only recently begun to publicly denounce issues in Appalachia like strip mining and mountaintop removal. He told Kirkland that being radical is not nearly as extreme as modern society suggests. The word itself is defined as arising from or going to a root or source, so in Berry’s eyes, he was getting more radical by the day.“He was really trying to hack at the root of problems in this country and in his community,” Kirkland says, “and after that talk, I realized I didn’t need to go to protests to be radical. I can do it at home, and I think that’s where we’re supposed to start.”Now, at only 30 years old, Kirkland is the sole owner and operator of Appalachian Homestead, a company based out of Black Mountain, N.C. He is a jack-of-all-trades, creating everything from custom wood furniture to energy efficient homes. Kirkland sources locally for a lot of his building materials, using reclaimed wood or old barn slats to add another layer of authenticity and history to his craft. He inspires his community, one customer at a time, by being a reliable, talented, and locally sustainable businessman.“For me, radical is getting deeply rooted in place,” he says.PatientJustin Douty25-year-old Justin Douty of Buena Vista, Co., is the first to admit that he’s not typically a very patient person. But throughout his life, he has been surrounded by the culture of the mountains. Douty has spent the past year working in Fayetteville, W.Va., as the kitchen manager for a local restaurant, the Secret Sandwich Society. While this is by no means what he would consider a “dream job,” he takes solace in the ability to live where he can pursue his passions for paddling, climbing, mountain biking, and most importantly, fly-fishing.“It’s more than just catching a fish,” Douty says as he leisurely casts his line into the water. “It’s artistic. A painter with a paintbrush is like a fly fisherman with his cast.”On any given day, Douty is typically at the restaurant long before it opens, prepping food and ordering supplies for the days ahead. When the summer rafting season starts, Douty says the restaurant scene can become chaotic and stressful.“I have a pretty busy brain, but fly-fishing forces it to stop and focus on the one task in front of me and not be everywhere at one time,” he says. “You can feel the fish and the struggle the fish is battling. You fight that fish, and maybe it’s insignificant at the end, but it could symbolize the struggle you had that day or in life.”Douty is a Millennial who opted out of college after graduating from high school. Although he did spend a couple years taking college courses, he ultimately dropped out, recognizing that he would be better suited to find his passion in the world than in the classroom. His decision, which he struggles with at times, has helped him adapt to a wide variety of work environments, from guiding zipline tours to painting houses.“The days I feel most content are the days where I end up feeling pretty beat down,” he says. “Even if it’s just a fun day playing on the river or on the rock, I want to feel like I used my mind and my body.”He says that even if he struggles with patience in his day-to-day affairs, his interactions with the great outdoors remind him of his place in the world and the importance of being proactive in pursuing the things you love in any capacity.“Live life and love life,” he says, looking down at his tattooed version of the quote. “All in all, it’s a battle to do that every single day, but it’s the very small things, like a simple breeze, that are often overlooked and taken for granted.”FearlessRachel WilliamsonAt 29 years old, Rachel Williamson is one of just a few young farmers whose main income comes from selling her products every Saturday at the farmers market in Charlottesville, Va. Her parents were back-to-the-land homesteaders in the Blue Ridge, so she’s had a longstanding relationship with the natural world. After working a number of jobs as a field biologist and as an outdoor educator, Williamson realized the one thing she was lacking in her career was, quite simply, her home.“I didn’t want to commute 10 hours a week to and from town, but I did want to find a way to be here on this land and make my living here,” she says, “so I took any interest I ever had and tried it out.”Now, Williamson is the one-person-show of Fairweather Farm where she grows, harvests, and dries her own tea blends. She also fashions baskets from tulip poplar bark and sells them at local craft shows. Although she typically works seven days a week, 16 hours a day, it’s impossible to catch her around the farm without a smile on her face.“That connection to the earth is what feeds me,” she says. “I think a fear of failure prevents a lot of people from trying something new. Nut you should be okay with not being perfect at something. It’s a big responsibility to be 100 percent entirely responsible for your life, but I love that because it also gives me the freedom to create that happiness for myself.”Ryan WilliamsonHer older brother Ryan shares his sister’s sentiments on life, happiness, and work. Ryan began his own business making recycled fleece hats when he was just a freshman in high school. Now that same business, The Mouse Works, as well as his 80-some beehives, remain Ryan’s sole sources of income.“It seems our culture has a big push toward always growing and growing bigger,” Ryan says, “but I don’t want that. I want free time to do the things I love.”Despite working long hours in the field harvesting spices or in the shop bent over a sewing machine, both Rachel and Ryan still find time to indulge in their other passions, like adventure. A few years ago, the pair set off in their kayaks down the New River, paddling from its headwaters in Snake Mountain, N.C. to its ending point in Ohio. Ryan has also section-hiked multiple trails, including the Appalachian Trail, the Long Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Rachel and her father recently repeated a similar long-distance kayaking trip, this time paddling from the nearby Moormans River to Jamestown, Va. She says that whether she is working on the farm or playing outside, her main objective is to find balance, something she defines as the “perfect trifecta” of providing for herself, for others, and for the land.“Our lives are precious and short and we should work as hard as we can to figure out how to live them fully,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s everything right with that, because in the end, if you love what you’re doing, it’s going to bring more joy to everyone else as well.” •
Clips of the WeekWe got to hang out with some of these extreme fishermen last year off the coast of Los Angeles at Catalina Island, one of the most beautiful and remote yet easily accessible get-aways that you don’t need a passport for. This sport combines kayaking, diving, sometimes free-diving, and spearfishing for one of the coolest foraging experiences ever.
Last Thursday evening, I drove into Fayetteville, W.Va., to set up camp for the weekend. Still on the road to recovery after the head-cold-from-hell, I had finally regained enough energy to get out for a quick bike ride the day before. Even so, I wasn’t feeling 100%, which was terribly irritating given what the weekend lay in store.Gauley Fest, Craggin’ Classic, the New River Gorge SUP Race. Paddlers and climbers from near and far were, like me, flocking to Fayetteville at that very moment in anticipation of an epic weekend.And the weather looked epic too. Mid-60s and dry.“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a 0% chance of precipitation in the New,” I kept hearing in town.Climbers were stoked. Paddlers could really care less. They’d be getting wet anyway and really, what fun is a kayaking festival without a downpour?I could feel the adrenaline in the air as soon as I passed the green sign off the side of Rt. 19 denoting Fayetteville as “the coolest small town.” Adventure-mobiles of every type lined the streets, loaded down with boats and bikes and coolers and lawn chairs (my rig certainly felt in good company). Quality restaurants, locally made beer, good music, world-class rivers and rock. I’ve lived and guided in the New for a couple seasons before, so I may be a bit biased, but I’d say that “coolest small town” decree (made in 2006) hits the nail on the head. The people here, whether they’re first-time visitors or year-round residents, come for the mountains. It’s a fact – cool small towns attract really cool people.So why had it been such a struggle to get any of my friends to join me for the weekend?School. Marital obligations. Vacations. That head-cold-from-hell. It seemed everyone I asked had one excuse or another for why they couldn’t make it to West By God for the last weekend of summer.Herein lies the issue with traveling solo: people are flaky. The week had started out with the usual array of vague commitments – the “I’ll see you at the put-in” and “Let’s climb!” But by the time Friday morning rolled around, my last hope for a climbing partner fell through and I was left, alone, to begin picking up the scraps of what I thought was sure to be an awesome weekend.Gene and Maura Kistler, two of the brains behind Water Stone Outdoors and the nucleus of the local climbing community, very kindly let me set the Go up in their yard for the weekend (thank you!). If I could describe these two in three words, it’d have to be generous, selfless, and freakin’ awesome (okay that’s four). ** Warning: tangent. Bear with me.There are a few “scenes” in Fayetteville, the largest two probably being the climbing and paddling communities. They’re friends with each other, there are a few folks who cross over into both realms, but mostly, these two mico-villes have their own potlucks, and, per this weekend, their own events. I never got to know the Kistlers during the two summers I worked in the New River Gorge, but they’re the type of good people that make you feel like family the first time you meet. They were some of the original shaker-movers in town who moved to West Virginia in the early ’90s and saw the potential in Fayetteville. They are super-involved in everything, from planning committees, to green initiatives, jam circles, and community events.Consequently, they were up and at it early that Friday morning, busy with preparations for the Craggin’ Classic festivities. My friends in town were already at work in the restaurants or on the water. I was beginning to feel very much like everyone had something better going on…except me.I dutifully sat down at the Kistler’s kitchen table and began plugging away at writing, returning emails, making phone calls. Given the cloud of disappointment looming over my shoulder, I remained relatively productive until lunchtime when I could no longer ignore the turquoise-blue skies and warm sunshine. But what to do? I’d never had this problem before, finding a crew, especially in the New River Gorge where most everyone would rather play hooky than work.And then, as if the Universe had had enough of my moodiness, in walked Karen.“Hey! Want to go climbing?”What. I stared at her wide-eyed for a second, wondering if I had somehow hallucinated this apparition of a woman who just solved all the complaints I’d been whining about in my head. I’d never met her before, but she stood there smiling at me like we’d been friends for years. She told me she was in town from New York to visit her boyfriend Paul, the local AAC campground host and a stout-climbin, mandolin-playin fool. Unbeknownst to me, she had also been cranking out some paperwork and was ready to get outside and climb.“I’m meeting some friends at Bridge Buttress – you’re welcome to come,” she said, smiling brightly.I about leaped out of my chair. Things were starting to look up.Though I only ended up on a few top rope climbs, my earlier feelings of self-pity waned with every minute we spent at the crag. Perfect weather, new friends, and fun routes kept our little group occupied until the sun sank below the tree line. In the evening, we crowded underneath a tent and drank beer and looked at gear and listened to podcaster Chris Kalous interview local New River Gorge climbing legends Kenny Parker and Mikey Williams.I found myself enjoying, for once, the novelty of showing up to a niche-event solo. I sat there among the salty crew of climbers as they talked about the weather and their summer projects, drinking my Bridge Brew IPA and feeling no particular need to contribute my pathetic history of climbing (or, more appropriately, following and belaying). Instead, I was just happy to melt into the crowd and ride the vibe.And then I got the text. Two words.Upper. Gauley.While I certainly enjoy climbing, I’d rather be on the water. After stepping it up on a few runs this spring and summer, I’d decided that I wanted to check off a run down the Upper Gauley in a hard boat, something I had yet to do. I never thought it’d be feasible though, given that 1) this was the one weekend I’d likely be around for the release and 2) none of the people I paddled with regularly were in town. Like the climbing partner I’d quit searching for that morning, I’d also abandoned any notion that (heaven forbid) I might actually paddle the Upper Gauley during this year’s Gauley season.But there it was, falling straight in my lap, the chance to paddle the Upper Gauley. How could I say no?Immediately, my relaxing evening was over. A gnawing pang in my stomach that would grow to a raging nausea over the next 12 hours distracted me from the beer in my glass and I tossed the remaining half of it. It’s a familiar feeling to me, that nervous energy. Its side effects can often include (but are not limited to) loss of appetite, feigning physical illness, inventing prior commitments, and occasionally bailing. I’ve resorted to this once or twice before, particularly in the wintertime.But I’d been talking to everyone about running the Upper Gauley this year. I wanted to do this. I was ready for this. Right? Sure, I didn’t know the people I’d be paddling with, except for my WFA instructor Jason (!!), but they supposedly knew the lines. Plus, I thought to myself, I can read water and roll…what can go wrong?By 8 o’clock the next morning, that conviction was becoming harder to stand by. I packed up the camper and force-fed myself half of a peanut butter and honey sandwich. It was all I could do to swallow, but by the time we were at the put-in for the Upper, I was glad I’d managed to down something.In total, there were four of us in kayaks and a couple in a shredder. The parking lot was packed with kayakers, open boaters, rafters, shredders, river boarders. Paddling enthusiasts of every type were there. Crews of men were even wrestling creature crafts into truck beds. From the newbs (like me) to the Demshitz crowd, everyone was there for that little slice of whitewater heaven. As I slid into the water and took a few strokes, my uneasiness started to edge away.“Which rapid is this?” I asked Sarah, one of the kayakers in our group, shortly after we put on.“Dunno,” she said, smiling wide.Incredulously, I paddled silently beside her until I could no longer fake my fear. It returned, full force, and I floated to the rear of the pack to berate myself for making such a careless decision.What am I dong out here? I thought. What if these people are terrible kayakers? Would they help me if I got in trouble? Was I going to have to save them? But I don’t even know the lines!Panic set in. I scanned my brain in vain for the rapid descriptions I’d stared uselessly at the night before. Before fear could sink its teeth in too deep though, we were suddenly sitting above Insignificant. Jason gave me a little beta, something about a hole in the middle and some holes at the bottom to stay right or left of… I struggled to retain anything he said, but when he peeled out into the current, I followed suit and purposefully took one stroke after the next, downstream into the unknown.I hit that hole at the top, rolled, got off line (if I was ever on it) and proceeded to punch most every hole after that (I think they call that the hero line). Still, I made it, and I let out a “hell yeah” at the bottom eddy.In general, that was the theme of the day – nervously sitting above a rapid or scouting from the bank, vaguely hearing Jason describe his plan, crashing through the biggest waves and holes I’ve ever seen, then laughing hysterically at the bottom. In all, I had good lines with the exception of Pillow, in which I shot straight into the eddy above the Room of Doom, flipped against the wall, had my skirt implode, then swam with shame into the pool below. As if that embarrassment wasn’t enough, of course Eric Jackson himself would be the one to rescue my Mamba.“What happened man?” he said.“Skirt implosion,” I managed to stutter in between gasps for air.“Bummer,” he said before cartwheeling back out into the current.By the time I’d made it to Sweets Falls though, I couldn’t have cared less that my skirt imploded or if EJ thought I was a beater or how many friends bailed on me that weekend. Maybe it was because I was too exhausted to even lift a can of Devils Backbone to my lips, but I think that mainly, I was just high on life.Sure, sometimes it’s hard to roll into town without so much as a plan on where to sleep, but that’s when the adventure really starts. As I sat there among a group of people I’d just met that morning at the bottom of one of the most iconic rapids in the world, I couldn’t help but be proud of me. I could finally see that I was the one who made this moment happen. I felt very much in charge of my life, like I’d successfully grappled that fear of being alone by the horns and kicked it to the dirt. When I ditched my comfort zone and charged full steam ahead, I realized that I’m bolder, braver, and a little crazier than I give myself credit for. I saw, for the first time, that being on my own isn’t a hurdle and it’s certainly not a weakness. It’s an open door.###Check out these photos from the SUP race, which I did not participate in. Sunday was very much my recovery day. Great event, Mel!
and the race was on. Yea! Headlamps, essential for the first several miles, bob-bobbed off into the dawn.I’m slogging along now, alone and looking forward to Aid Station 3 where Hannah and her cheerful cohorts will encourage me with their great smiles, not to mention their candy. My water bladder tube is frozen solid and I haven’t been able to drink from it since pulling it out of my womb-like sleeping bag early this morning. So I carry an inaccessible bag of water on my back, and hydrate at aid stations. Oh well.The Holiday Lake 50k course consists of a 16-mile loop which returns the racers to the starting point where they then reverse the route to arrive back at the same place for the finish. It works very well. By the time I arrive at the turnaround point my wife Marybeth and son Taylor are there to greet me and send me back, “inbound” to the finish now. Race director Horton exclaims that I’m the first “old man,” that is age 50+. But no, that’s not true; my “old man” friend Matt is a few minutes ahead of me at this point. That gap would grow as the race wore on and I wore out. Way to go Matt!So it’s working out to be not my best race, this “easy” 50k. Heehee! Nevertheless I take in the beauty of the course -the orange glow sunrise was amazing- and I make sure to appreciate the folks out there with me, volunteers and racers alike.An out-and-back course like Holiday Lake allows each racer to pass face-to-face everyone else at some point. It is always cool for me to see those fast front-runners on their inbound return trip, and I calculate about how far behind them I am and how that distance will only increase as the miles to the finish unfurl. Holding solid to first place is Shaun Pope, who offers me a hearty, “good job!” as he trots by. In the small, eccentric world of ultra running camaraderie is affirming, and encouragement and inspiration is freely shared by all. I certainly get a further morale boost, along the beautiful Lakeshore Trail part of the course particularly, as I pass friends and we exchange brief words of connection and encouragement, including of course the occasional “Hey loser!”Returning to Aid Station 3 I fuel on banana and what looks like pieces of Milky Way. Good, but actually I’m not that hungry and don’t have my usual mid-race appetite. I head out again feigning competence and optimism and accompanied by another racer…hey! it’s my buddy Jeff. What a nice surprise. He just turned 50 last year and I’ve welcomed him into the Grand Master category. We run together for an hour talking, covering a broad array of topics, before I send him on ahead of me. I’m having trouble shifting into a higher gear and I can’t hang with Jeff; he’s strong and relaxed and now he’s disappearing around the bend up ahead. Go Jeff!The remainder of the race I feel like I’m slowly grinding to a halt. I just hope the finish comes before then. Every few minutes someone passes me. They give me encouragement and rocket on. At least it seems to me that they “rocket on”. I’m not overtaking anyone myself; my machinery is breaking down. A bit of bonus discomfort occurs when only a few miles from the finish I have to succumb to the urge to “go behind a tree,” and not just for a quick leak. I’d hoped I could make it to the finish before that. Oh well.The sun is shining brightly now, the sky brilliant blue as I emerge from the trees and onto the hard surface road to gallop the remaining .7 mile of the course. What’s that I feel? A spring in my step! From within my weary body wells up a fount of freshness and I virtually fly down the road and through the finish chute and under the banner to the generous cheers and congratulations of the folks gathered there. I’m forty-ninth place overall out of what turns out to be 236 finishers. My time is 5:04:48. I could pout that I coulda shoulda run faster and stronger and finished higher up in the standings but you know what? It feels so good to be living in the moment, as fully as I can, surrounded by cheery -ok nutty- souls with warm hearts on this chilly gorgeous day that I’m just -above all- feeling super grateful. About 6 miles into the race there’s a creek crossing where feet immersion is mandatory. The air temp is a bracing eighteen degrees, so the ice water is especially invigorating. I splash through the calf-deep pool abreast of Josh, with Matt just behind. We’re feeling good and chatting about this and that, while keeping up what I’d call a respectable pace. Conditions are great; the course is predominantly smooth, rolling single track and it’s dry, occasional creek crossings notwithstanding. Yeah we’re going to cruise this thing.It’s an hour later and I’m not feeling so much that “we” -as in me- will “cruise” the course today. Josh and Matt are slipping away from me—on a good day I can hang with them, and I truly thought that this was going to be one of those days. I’m having a hard time keeping pace. Others also slowly gain on me and pass, often running with me for a few minutes before pulling ahead. They’re all friendly, the camaraderie of ultra trail racing being no exception here at the Holliday Lake 50k.I’m competing in the twentieth running of the event, an ultra held at Virginia’s Holiday Lake State Park. I had arrived last night in time for race check-in and to get my Honda Element situated for its role as camper for the night. The weather forecast was for clear and cold overnight, down to 15 degrees or so, but I would surely be cozy in the car with my assortment of various pads and sleeping bags. I had gotten everything set up just right, laying out race things for today’s early am start. Shoes, socks, shorts with race number pinned on just so, favorite technical race tee, fleece zip neck, Grindstone 100 beanie cap, thin gloves, Gorilla tape for my nipples. And stashed in my hydration pack along with the 1.5-liter water bladder were my super light Hoodini jacket and a few Cliff bars and gels. And some toilet paper of course.Race director David Horton led the shenanigans at the pre-race dinner and briefing at race headquarters, the park’s 4H Center. Lots of excited faces shared anticipation and laughs over voluminous plates of delicious spaghetti and lasagna. Friends old and new caught up with each other, and all looked forward to today’s race. I got to sleep pretty early, hunkered down in the Element, after my requisite few-minutes-at-least of reading, this time from a book on nineteenth century polar exploration.“The Holiday Lake 50k is a relatively easy ultra,” you might hear a veteran say, due to the rolling non-mountainous nature of the terrain of the Virginia piedmont course. Whatever. I’d say don’t fall for that line, because all you’ll hear is the “easy” part, and then you might be getting into a little trouble. The first time I ran the race there was 8 inches of snow on the course, and the nature of said precipitation changed diabolically throughout the day, from hard crust to muddy slop. It was miserable. And even when it’s dry…well it’s not so easy.The race started at 6:30 am in the cold dark, bringing to a close the chaos of the previous hour. I had risen and quickly dressed in the freezing Element with that familiar what-am-I-doing-here feeling. I choked down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and forced a half liter of water. Then bathroom business. And second guessing my choice of clothing. Stumbling to the starting line, we raised an off-key version of the national anthem Relaxing in my post race reverie I see my friend Michelle approaching the finish line. It’s her first ultra and she’s ecstatic to be finishing it. She made it. I make my way to her to offer a hug and my congratulations, passing on to her what so many have conveyed to me, the bond, that is, of a kindred spirit.
Though native and once abundant in the South Carolina Upstate, elk have been completely absent from the area since early colonial times.That changed recently when a lone bull elk was spotted wandering through northern Pickens County, not far from the Foothills Trail and the Eastatoe Heritage Preserve.“This is a historic moment that some of us knew would eventually come,” noted outdoorsman and Pickens County resident Dennis Chastain told the Greenville News. “This is the first wild elk to roam the woods and wild places in South Carolina since they disappeared in the early 1700’s.”According to witnesses, many of whom posted images and videos of the elk on social media, the animal does not seem to be wary of humans.Some are speculating that the elk has been displaced from the well known Cataloochee Valley herd in the nearby Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.Thanks to the work of Chastain and others through a conservation group called the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, it is currently illegal to hunt or kill elk in the state of state of South Carolina.Related:
Let’s face it. As much as you want to live your days out on the water artfully casting flies to hungry river creatures of all kinds, this lifestyle is simply not pragmatic for the vast majority of us. Work and the everyday obligations of day to day life tend to get in the way. When that happens you can temporarily escape by checking out these fly fishing Instagramers who are using their accounts and their photography skills to bring the stream to you.1. @oliviadwilOlivia Williams has been fly fishing for a little over a year now. During that time, a period she describes as a long, strenuous learning process, she has documented her journey as a budding angler every step of the way. Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Olivia is a self-taught angler. When she’s not fishing she spends her days working at the Asheville-based Hunter Banks Fly Fishing where she maintains and cultivates the shop’s social media presence in addition to her own. Keep up with Olivia’s adventures here.2. @katiecahnYou might recognize Katie from the March 2016 issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors where she is featured prominently. Katie learned to fish while earning a degree at Western Carolina University. These days she spends much of her time with a fly rod in hand, combing the rivers and streams of Western North Carolina in search of wily brook, rainbow and brown trout, and outfishing most of the guys in the process. Lucky for us she documents her adventures on Instagram. 3. @laferriere.photographyKyle Laferriere is a Virginia-based photographer who specializes in documenting his passion for hunting and fishing. His fly fishing material is top notch. Spend a little time on his Instragram feed and you’ll temporarily forget that you’re stuck behind a computer screen. You might also find some inspiration for your next fly fishing excursion.4. @maddiebrennemanThis fly fishing prodigy is all over the place. When she’s not guiding in her native Colorado she’s probably criss crossing the country in search of the next best fly fishing opportunity. Luckily, you can follow along and at least pretend that your life is as cool as Maddie’s.5. @thefiberglassmanifestoCameron Mortenson of the Fiberglass Manifesto has been producing high quality fly fishing content for awhile now, and his Instagram account proves it. In addition to frequent #troutporn postings on IG, Mortenson manages his own blog where he documents his personal fly fishing exploits, reviews all kinds of gear and preaches the gospel of the fiberglass fly rod. #glassisnotdead 6. @drewfullerphotoWe introduced you to Boone-based Drew Fuller in last week’s installment of Fridays on the Fly with a beginners guide to fly fishing method known as ‘Blue Lining’. Be careful. One look at his Instagram account and you might find yourself packing the truck and heading of the mountain streams of the Western North Carolina High Country.7. @badfishtvWhen you’re looking for your coastal fly fishing fix head over to the IG feed of @badfishtv. This Charleston, SC-based media company is fly fishing obsessed, and they focus much of their work on the captivating redfish of their native Low Country. But they don’t stop there. They’ve got amazing shots of everything from tarpon to wild mountain browns, all caught #onthefly of course. But their Instagram account is just a tool for promoting their video production company. Check them out here for hours upon hours of high quality fly fishing entertainment.More from the Fridays on the Fly blog:
Since 1975 the grizzlies have been considered endangered everywhere outside of Alaska. Only 1,500 grizzlies call the lower 48 states home, 600 living in Montana, 700 hundred in the Yellowstone area, and the rest dispersed through Idaho and Washington. There are no grizzlies in the East; only black bears live here.Last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed delisting grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park. Grizzly populations have rebounded, and some argue that the Endangered Species Act protections of their critical habitat are no longer necessary. The estimated 700 grizzlies in Yellowstone exceeds the species recovery plan goal of 500.Others against the delisting argue that the recover plan number is low and the critical habitat protections are more important than ever with increased hunting and development threats to grizzlies.Grizzly bears used to roam much of the United States, roaming from Alaska to Mexico and as far East as the Hudson Bay. Clearly, this is not the same today. Grizzlies have the widest range of any bear, being found in the North America, Asia, Europe, and can be seen in North Africa and the Middle East. The bears have been pushed out of most of their native lands due to hunting, development, and the loss of habitat.Is it time for the grizzlies in Yellostone to be removed from the Endangered Species list?Read more here.