Electricity-Generation Trends in New Mexico Reflect Larger U.S. Shift FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Santa Fe New Mexican:The Trump administration’s announcement Monday that it’s taking steps to repeal regulations on coal-fired power plants is unlikely to change the fact that market forces already are pushing the state away from dependence on coal.A large coal company operating in New Mexico says it supports the repeal. But, while some environmental groups decried the rollback as an affront to climate change policy, others said deregulation will not be enough to save an industry that is no longer viable.Public Service Company of New Mexico said it still plans to stop burning coal in the next decade or so.Public Service Company of New Mexico said last spring it plans to shut down the coal-dependent Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington by 2022 and entirely wean its energy production off coal by 2031. The company currently relies on coal for 60 percent of its energy generation but will drop at least 12 percent by 2025.To comply with the Clean Power Plan, PNM had already agreed to shut down two of its four coal-burning units at Four Corners and install pollution controls on existing units by the end of 2017.Four Corners is among a number of coal-fired power plants nationwide that have closed or are scheduled to close in coming years as a result of rising costs of burning coal compared to cheap natural gas and increasingly affordable renewable energy sources.In April, a survey by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that 46 coal-burning units at 25 power plants across 16 states will close or significantly reduce production by 2018.More: Rollback unlikely to reverse coal’s downtrend in N.M.
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg New Energy Finance:Utility companies, it seems, are just not that into coal anymore — or they don’t see it as a source of growth. Using the Bloomberg Document Search, I combed through investor presentations by 127 publicly listed U.S. utility companies since 2009 and discovered that four particular terms or keywords — “new technology,” “distributed energy,” “power/energy storage” and “batteries,” and “innovation” — are being mentioned with increasing frequency, indicating that companies view these new technologies and concepts as either areas for growth or material threats to their success.New Technology“New technology” made a big appearance in public filings by utility companies in 2010, then reached a new high in 2014. This year to date, “new technology” has been mentioned more than ever before.Distributed Energy“Distributed energy” — which includes photovoltaic solar as well as wind power and applications such as fuel cells or batteries — shows a similar pattern. The term hit an early peak in mentions in 2011, dipped until 2014, and has already reached an all-time high this year.Energy Storage, Power Storage and BatteriesThe assortment of words for power and energy storage repeat the pattern: a 2010 peak followed by a trough, and a much higher new peak in 2016 (though its 2017 mentions aren’t yet as high). “Energy/power storage” was mentioned at a significantly higher rate (26 last year) than “distributed energy” or “new technology/new technologies.”InnovationFinally, there is “innovation”: a conveniently vague term that has reached all-time-high mentions so far this year. Again, 2011 was an early peak for mentions that didn’t recover to that level again until 2015.There are two key takeaways from these data series.The first is that, in the early years of the Barack Obama administration, power companies were clearly making a case for pursuing new technologies and new businesses. Thanks to supportive policies for wind and solar energy and a loan guarantee program to fund the deployment of new technologies, the sector enjoyed a technological tailwind. NRG Energy’s November 2009 investor presentation is a useful example.That spirit, though, collapsed in following years — and that can be attributed to Solyndra’s implosion in September 2011 and a significant decline in the stock prices of publicly listed clean-energy darlings such as First Solar. The taxpayer-funded solar company’s abrupt fall cast a political pall over the government’s loan guarantee program while casting an equally dark cloud over institutional interest in radically different technologies. It took some time for the ideas mentioned above to recover, and in the case of distributed energy and energy/power storage, economics and consumer desires are bigger drivers than policy.The second takeaway is a note of caution for the concepts of distributed generation, energy and power storage, new technology, and innovation: It’s not clear that utility companies will naturally own any of those potential areas of growth. Utilities might own assets, but they do not own innovation. Even if innovation in business models is possible, innovation in parts of the value chain (hardware, software, finance) isn’t in the industry’s scope. Where those innovations occur, utilities might be a channel for delivery; they almost certainly wouldn’t be their owner.An interesting note: In searching through these investor presentations, the total mentions of “research and development” or “R&D” was six. Not six companies, or six in any year: six, total, in almost nine years.More: Utilities Accept the New, But Will They Embrace It? In Investor Presentations, Utilities Are Adopting the Language of Transition
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ReNews.biz:Commodity trader Trafigura Group has formed a new company to invest in solar, wind and energy storage projects globally.Nala Renewables, a joint venture with global institutional fund manager IFM Investors, is aiming to have 2GW of projects operational, in construction or in late-stage development within the next five years.The company will identify, build and operate projects that produce renewable energy in markets in which Trafigura already operates – primarily in Europe, Asia and certain emerging markets. It will also build and operate projects adjacent to the Trafigura Group’s mining, port and smelting infrastructure assets worldwide and the renewable energy generated will be used to power some of those facilities.In addition to developing greenfield projects, Nala Renewables will selectively pursue opportunities to acquire assets or companies at varying stages of development that fit the investment profile of the portfolio.“As highly experienced infrastructure investors, IFM Investors are an excellent partner for this ambitious and timely endeavour,” said Trafigura executive chairman and CEO Jeremy Weir. “The energy transition is driving the need, but also provides the opportunity to make strategic, long-term investments in renewable energy.”More: Trafigura Group forms new renewables company Leading oil trader Trafigura enters renewable energy sector
The Blue Ridge Outdoors Roadshow was on the move again this weekend, and this time we visited Richmond, Va., for the Dominion Riverrock Festival. This celebration of all things outdoors takes place on and around Brown’s Island on the James River right in the middle of downtown Richmond.Dominion Riverrock is an annual outdoor celebration highlighting a variety of outdoor adventure sports, including: kayaking, SUP, mountain biking, slacklining, freestyle mountain biking, (deep breath), adventure racing, bouldering, and boatercross. It also includes ultimate air dog performance, a 5K mud run, bouldering, and concerts from top regional headliners. This bonanza of outdoor fun is exactly where Blue Ridge Outdoors wanted to be last weekend.We set up our booth on Friday and Saturday, and were overwhelmed at how many people came to visit us. From families to Trek Bicycle Pros, a variety of readers and supporters took the time to say hi to us and learn more about what we do here at BRO. Later, we did a prize giveaway drawing. One lucky individual took home a brand new Crazy Creek chair, while the other won a new ENO light setup. Luckily we were located right next to the freestyle slacklining competition, musical stage, and beer tent. Needless to say we had a great time.Our two lucky giveaway winners, Go Dukes!Thanks to everyone who came out to see us. Dominion Riverrock was better than ever, Hope to see you at the next Roadshow event.
Knoxville is situated on the winding banks of the Tennessee River. It’s the gateway city to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which offers 900 miles of hiking and backpacking. The Appalachian Trail runs through the heart of the Smokies, and the highest point on the A.T.—Clingmans Dome—is a must-see for any mountain enthusiast.Surrounding Knoxville and the Smokies is Cherokee National Forest, which boasts an impressive array of outdoor opportunities, including whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River and hiking in the Bald River Gorge—the newest proposed wilderness area.But you don’t have to venture beyond city limits to enjoy Knoxville’s outdoor offerings. The city itself is home to dozens of urban parks, greenways, and gardens, many of which are linked together by Knoxville’s unique Urban Wilderness, a wild corridor and trail network running through town. One of the first of its kind in the Southeast, the Knoxville Urban Wilderness is home to 1,000 acres of hiking trails, mountain bike paths, civil war historic sites, and diverse ecological features, all just three miles from the heart of downtown.DID YOU KNOW? Most people think of the Smokies when they visit Knoxville, but another national park unit is just north of Knoxville. The Big South Fork National Recreation Area offers an oasis of scenic river gorges, remote wilderness, steep cliffs with incredible climbing routes, and some of the biggest arches in the East—without the crowds of the Smokies.Vote now at blueridgeoutdoors.com!
In March, we asked you, the loyal reader, to vote for a school of your choosing in our fourth annual Top Adventure College Tournament. Colleges and universities met in head-to-head match-ups in a 32-school bracket. The initial 32 colleges and universities were selected for their outdoor clubs and curricula, their commitment to outdoor and environmental initiatives, the quality of their outdoor athletes and programs, and their opportunities for adventure.Over 20,000 votes poured in—and school pride dominated our site for the duration of the contest. Each of the 32 schools in our bracket got lots of love, and for good reason: outdoor ed is thriving in the region. But one school in particular stood tall atop the heap when the feverish voting finally came to a halt.That school is Western Carolina University, a public college of about 10,000 students, tucked away in the mountains of western North Carolina.There are lots of things about WCU that make it an ideal school for the outdoor-minded student. It’s located close to renowned outdoors adventure havens like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.Photo Courtesy of Mitch BeardenThese public lands afford WCU students quick and easy access to some of the best landscapes the southern Appalachians have to offer. But what really sets it apart from similar mountain schools are WCU’s outdoor resources, experience, and leadership.Josh Whitmore is the director of outdoor programs at WCU. A western North Carolina native, Whitmore has taught outdoor adventure skills in places like Montana and Patagonia. Now he heads up Base Camp Cullowhee, an outdoor program that has been flourishing at WCU since the mid 1980s.“We have a staff of three full-time employees and about 25 students who help us achieve our goals,” Whitmore said. “We organize trips and events in places like Colorado and Utah, but we focus heavily on our own backyard.”The trips that Base Camp Cullowhee organizes cater to all skill levels and range from whitewater kayaking in the area’s numerous mountain rivers to sky diving, rock climbing, hiking, and an annual Tuckasegee River clean up.“Over the years Base Camp Cullowhee has evolved from a small outdoor program within the recreation department to its own entity with over 9,000 participant experiences per year. In 2008 we completed a 2,100 square foot indoor rock climbing facility, and just a couple years ago we added a seven-mile multi-use trail system,” Whitmore said. “Our staff does a lot of great work, but the students are the ones that really run the show here.”One of those students is Mitch Bearden. He’s been a serious whitewater paddler for four years and says that WCU’s reputation as a top-notch outdoor school was one of the reasons he chose the university.Photo Courtesy of Mitch Bearden“Over the years, we have really differentiated ourselves from other mountain schools,” Bearden said. “We are within striking distance of some of the best paddling in the Southeast and have quick access to some of the area’s best trails.”Bearden says his favorite place to kayak near campus is Upper Big Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.“You just can’t beat the scenery and the solitude of Upper Big Creek,” he said. “It’s challenging, but I love it.”Bearden has worked as a kayak instructor at Camp Timberlake for Boys in Asheville, a retail guide at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, and is now a guide for Basecamp Cullowhee. He says winning the Blue Ridge Outdoors Top Adventure College Tournament for the second consecutive year is a major source of pride for the university and its students.“It really means a lot to everyone,” he said. “We strive to brand ourselves around the outdoor lifestyle, and this is just confirmation that we are doing a good job of that.”A Close SecondWhile WCU may have taken the cake in this year’s Top College Contest, a fiery opponent gave the school a serious run for its money.Montreat College is a tiny school with an enrollment of just over 1,000, but it’s situated near four wilderness areas, four North Carolina state parks, several rivers, and the 14-mile trail that ascends Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River.Photo Courtesy Montreat CollegeAmid this backdrop, Montreat has developed one of the best outdoor programs in the country.“The outdoor program started in the mid-1970s at what was then a junior college known as Montreat-Anderson,” said Chair of the Outdoor Education Department Brad Daniel. “It began as a two year associates Degree in Outdoor Recreation and a 20-day Outward Bound-type wilderness expedition called Discovery. The first Discovery expedition went out in 1976. In 2016 we will celebrate our 40th year of wilderness programming, making it one of the longer college-sponsored extended wilderness programs in the United States.”Daniel says the primary purpose of Montreat’s Outdoor Education (OE) program is to prepare students to rise up to the everyday challenges of life while molding some of them for careers in the outdoors industry.Like Josh Whitmore of WCU, he sees the students as the primary engine behind the success of Montreat’s Outdoor Education.“Many students cite Discovery as one of the most important experiences in the program,” he said.Student participant Daniel Harmon says the program has helped him grow by making him step outside his comfort zone.“The OE program has helped me grow by forcing me to become the leader I knew I could be,” he said. “Through the leading of small groups, I’ve found that that I can not only handle leadership, but I can make a difference in the lives of those I lead.”Daniel’s OE classmate Kara Smith says that her involvement in the OE program sparked a desire to pursue a career in the outdoor industry.“I think the significant experience would of course have to be Discovery,” she said. “I had never experienced the outdoors like that, and it really affirmed my desire to be an outdoor professional and show others the beauty of the natural world.”Congratulations to Western Carolina University and Montreat, and look for an extended feature highlighting regional outdoor education in our August issue.
The concept of lugging portable, one-man rafts isn’t new to the world of adventure sports. Backpackers in the western United States and Alaska have been using this versatile mode of river transportation for decades. But as packraft technology has continued to improve in the past few years, so, too, have the possibilities for multisport river adventures.I have one person to blame for tempting my adventure itch with a packrafting trip. New River Bikes owner Andy Forron.A few months back, a photo popped up on my Facebook feed. It was a picture of Andy’s bike partially disassembled, strapped to the bow of a peculiar looking raft, floating against a backdrop of the New River Gorge Bridge at dusk.“Time for a whole new level of multisport,” the caption read.A paddler and cyclist at heart, that’s when I knew I wanted in on this packrafting thing. It was the perfect marriage of two worlds I never expected could overlap. In the past, I had certainly seen plenty of inflatable kayaks on the river, but never a packraft and definitely not a packraft with a bike secured to its bow. If these one-man rafts were so popular elsewhere in the country, why not here in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic where the paddling season is longer and warmer?The AdventureThus, the idea of a bikepacking packrafting (say that five times fast) trip was born. After securing a couple of Alpacka packrafts from Packraft America for myself and our third partner-in-grime, Annie Simcoe, the only thing left to figure out was the route.I’d like to say that we spent hours together pouring over maps, orchestrating the perfect three-day, two-night ride-to-float, but the fact of the matter is that Andy, our de facto local and guide, literally threw the route together at 11 o’clock the night before. Of course, Andy had been scheming this trip long before I ever approached him about it, so plotting the actual route on a GPS was a mere courtesy to Annie and me.The plan? Ride from Fayetteville to Richwood, W.Va., on over 100 miles of low-traffic country roads, gravel roads, and rail-trails until we arrived at the banks of the Top Gauley. From there, we would inflate our rafts and head downstream to where Route 19 crosses Summersville Lake, at which point we would pack up the rafts and ride 20 breezy miles back to town.Like any good adventure, our trip was destined for trouble before we even left. More than four inches of rain had dumped on southern West Virginia in the days leading up to our departure, and more was expected on day two of our journey. But when I finally mounted my loaded bike after a sheet-twisting sleepless night, rain was the last thing on my mind.Day OneThe morning dawned crisp and cool. We rode single file over the New River Gorge Bridge, which hummed with the morning commute. As I gazed at the New flowing big and brown below, it was hard to believe that this trip had been the result of Andy’s packraft picture—the raft, the bike, the bridge. It was all unfolding beneath my very pedals.Soon, we veered onto Lansing Road and away from the screaming semis on Route 19. Within the hour we were cruising with ease along the loose gravel of the Meadow River Trail. When we popped out of the forest, giddy with glee, we were met with the sobering sight of Nallen, a now mostly abandoned community that had been all but wiped away in last year’s historic flood. Dates and high water lines were scratched above the blown out windowpanes of singlewides, a somber homage to a still-fresh calamity.We started climbing almost immediately and, with the exception of a few downhill reprieves, continued climbing well into the afternoon. Neighborhoods gave way to bucolic farmscapes. We passed through the unincorporated community of Nutterville, which was nothing more than a pocket of homes and one-room churches. Over the course of three hours, the only traffic that passed was a rusty tractor and a Jeep.By early evening, we had arrived in the old coal town of Quinwood, population 285. With 30-odd miles yet to go, we restocked our water and candy supply at the B&M Grocery. Two guys in camo lingered outside by a four-wheeler. Feeling self-conscious in my lycra and neon yellow gloves, I hung by the bikes while Andy asked for better directions to the Beech Ridge wind turbines. Their input proved invaluable, shaving off eight roundabout miles of even more climbing.As the sun began to settle below the trees, we finally crested Beech Ridge. For a while, we marveled at a whirling wind turbine looming some 400 feet above us. Its breeze cooled the sweat on my back. We pedaled on, landing at a flat patch of forest along an overgrown logging road to camp for the evening.One of the many wind turbines atop Beech Ridge. / Photo by Jess Daddio.Camp, day one. / Photo by Jess Daddio.Day TwoBraced for rain, we woke to a pleasantly dry and warm day. My legs felt used, but not spent. The next 11 miles were mostly downhill as we followed the Cherry River into Richwood. Had I known what the afternoon would bring, I might have had a beer when we pulled into the Mountaineer Mart.Gas station resupply in Richwood, W.Va. / Photo by Jess Daddio.Annie diggin’ for a snack along the Cherry River. / Photo by Jess Daddio.Cranberry Tri River Trail. Note the trail user signs. / Photo by Jess Daddio.By 2 o’clock, the rain was falling in heavy sheets. We had long turned off WV-55 at the confluence of the Cherry and Gauley Rivers and onto an access road of questionable integrity. At first we passed by summer camps and rental homes, but before long, it was just the three of us, our bikes, and the raging river to our right. One by one we navigated around mud puddles ranging in size from small potholes to lane-wide craters. The going was slow, but enjoyable. We were wet already—what difference did splashing through a mud puddle make?But the overgrown rail bed continued to deteriorate. Bigger, deeper mud craters impeded efficient riding for miles on end. The soul sucking, muddy sand pits stopped my bike dead in its tracks and I fell twice in knee-deep water the color of heavily creamed coffee.The author at one of many creek crossings along the Top Gauley. / Photo by Annie Simcoe.The “road,” if you can call it that, was littered with leaves and fallen branches. I desperately looked to the river in hopes of finding a nice beach to launch our packrafts from, but the bank was steep, and the swollen Gauley River flowing high in the trees. We trudged on, slogging through stream crossings and picking our way over long stretches of baby head rocks.Eventually, we hit the literal end of the line. To our right was an unfortunately trashed, but level, riverside campsite. To our left, an impossibly steep four-wheel “road” (I use that term loosely) that climbed up and out of the river valley. We had a decision to make—float into the unknown on a flooded river, or hike-a-bike out of there.It was nearing dinnertime, and with no idea of what lay downstream, we hopped off our bikes and started to climb. For a mile-and-a-half, we pushed our 50-pound bikes up 700 feet out of the valley. In many places, the road was completely washed out, and in others, so rocky and steep as to hardly warrant being called a road.When we reached rideable terrain again, we mounted our bikes once more with a weary determination to camp as close to Summersville Lake as possible. Thankfully, the rain clouds parted. As we cooked dinner and reflected on the 100 miles we’d traveled so far, the gray sky melted to night in a brilliant swirl of stormy mauve, the color of my bruised legs.Day ThreeDuring the night, a thunderstorm rolled in. Even with my eyes closed I could see the bright flashes of lightning strike the ridgeline. A light drizzle still spat intermittently in the morning, but we weren’t concerned with being wet anymore. It was our final day.Within minutes of leaving camp, I got a flat tire and Annie realized her paddle was missing a connector piece. No matter. After two days of lugging packrafts and paddles and PFDs up and over mountains, we were determined to paddle, no matter the obstacle. We changed the flat, stabilized Annie’s paddle with some tent stakes and zip ties, and proceeded to load up the packrafts.Annie (left) and Andy (right), pre headwind-of-death. / Photo by Jess Daddio.Annie smiling big, despite paddling with a makeshift shaft. / Photo by Jess Daddio.Finally, we were floating. It wasn’t the downriver paddling adventure we had in mind, but still, we were on the water. Sandstone cliffs towered above us, reminding me of how very small we are compared to the natural world. And if those stoic rock formations hadn’t been enough of a reminder, the wind most definitely was.For two hours, we paddled into an angry headwind that only increased in intensity around every bend. The lake’s normally placid water lapped up and over the tubes of my packraft (which is not self-bailing). It took every ounce of dwindling energy I had to keep paddling. Stopping was not an option, for any lapse in forward motion would give the wind a chance to push us back.The author, relieved to finally be floating. / Photo by Annie Simcoe.Parched, spent, and nearing the limits of my patience, we finally landed at a beach just above the Summersville Dam. In an hour we had assembled our bikes again and were headed down the road. Were it not for the hot and noisy ride along Route 19 back to Fayetteville, I might have reveled more in our multisport success. After all, the packraft truly did add another element to the bikepacking adventure. But in the moment, I had three things on my mind—pizza, root beer, and a dry set of clothes.[nextpage title=”WANNA TAKE UP PACKRAFTING? READ ON!”]PACKRAFTING 101Know before you go!Check out these 10 tips before you hit the water in a packraft.Connect with other packrafters.Packrafters are a rare and enthusiastic breed of outdoor enthusiasts. Check out the forums on the American Packraft Association’s website to ask questions, learn more tricks, and find beta on river trips near you.Don’t buy a packraft before you’ve actually paddled one.The average packraft falls somewhere in the $800-$1000 range, which is a pretty penny for people just looking to get into the sport. A much cheaper, and smarter, alternative is to rent a packraft from Packraft America. Rates start at $30 per day for a five- or six-day rental.The OG of West Virginia bikepacking-packrafting, Andy Forron of New River Bikes.Bring a proper repair kit.Prepare for the worst. If you’re biking, this includes materials and tools to repair not just your raft but your bike, too. “I always carry Tyvek tape and some AquaSeal,” says Spencer Williamson, Kennicott Wilderness Guides packraft instructor and Brevard Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education graduate.Pack light.This is especially important if you’re planning a bikepacking packrafting trip, as heavy bike frames can easily max out the packraft’s weight limits. Try to keep the weight of food and gear under 50 pounds total so you don’t sink the ship.Leave the bulky raft pump at home. Packrafters utilize a lightweight bag inflations system.Invest in dry bags.It’s okay to be thrifty, but if you’re going to take the cheap road, don’t do it with your storage bags. Nothing sucks more than getting off the bike at the end of a long wet day and discovering your “dry” set of clothes and sleeping bag are now sopping wet.Have straps. Lots of ‘em.A basic array of dry bags and cam straps are sufficient to get you through your early adventures.Take a swiftwater course.Or, at the very least, join a local paddling club to get some hands-on whitewater paddling experience, says Roman Dial, author of Packrafting! An Introduction and How-To Guide. “Packrafting is still sorta a new sport,” says Dial. “You need to know how to swim, throw a throwbag, and ferry.”Make a Plan B.Any good adventure never goes according to plan. So when four inches of rain dump on the river you’re planning to paddle, it’s smart to have an alternate route in mind.Know the forecast.Rivers can rise and fall dramatically over a short period of time. Keep your eyes on the forecast before you set off, and if you’re unable to check the weather while you’re in the woods, ask a local if you should so happen to cross paths with one.Ask a local.Even though Andy was our bonafide West Virginia local, he stopped to ask for directions. If there’s a short cut or a scenic route or a road closure, the locals will know about it. They might look at you like you’re crazy, but you are, so own it.Pack It In, Pack It OutWhether you’re a hiker or biker, these trail-to-river trips are the perfect introduction to packrafting in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.[nextpage title=”READ ON FOR TIPS ON WHERE TO PACKRAFT IN THE BLULE RIDGE”]Where to go!New River Trail State Park + New RiverFries, VirginiaTrail Distance: 19 milesRiver Distance: 32 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class I-III riverWinding for 59 miles in southwestern Virginia, the New River Trail State Park is a linear multiuse park that parallels its namesake, the New River, for 39 miles. In its former life, the New River Trail was a railroad right-of-way, which makes the present-day trail well graded and easy on the legs. With a number of boat launches, primitive campgrounds, and parking lots up and down the trail, crafting your own packrafting adventure is a logistical cakewalk.For a weekend overnighter, park in Allisonia. Strap a pack on or load up the bike. It’s 13.5 miles to Fries Junction, where you can pitch a tent for the evening. In the morning, it’s 5.5 more miles to the boat launch in Fries, where you’ll blow up the packraft and float back downstream to your car at Allisonia.Greenbrier River Trail + Greenbrier RiverCass, West VirginiaTrail Distance: 9.4 milesRiver Distance: 10 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class I-II riverThough a few miles in the southern district of the Greenbrier River Trail are still closed due to heavy damage from the historic summer floods of 2016, the many miles north between milepost 13 and milepost 80.4 are untouched.Photo by Chris JacksonTake a long day in the woods and put in on the Greenbrier River in Cass. It’s a 10-mile float downstream to Clover Lick. The river here quietly meanders through the Monongahela National Forest, and though the rapids are small, the opportunities for fishing are aplenty. Once you take out at Clover Lick, roll up the raft, cinch it to your pack or bike, and hit the trail. It’s 10 easy miles back to your starting point in Cass, the literal end of the line for the Greenbrier River Trail. Extend your trip with ease by paddling farther downstream and utilizing one of the trail system’s numerous established campgrounds or trailside camping. Big South Fork National River and Recreation AreaStearns, KentuckyTrail Distance: 7 milesRiver Distance: 10 milesDifficulty: Intermediate-advanced trail, class I-III riverSpanning 125,000 rugged miles across the Cumberland Plateau and over the Tennessee/Kentucky border, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is revered for its remoteness and wild, pristine beauty. Unlike the rail-trail trips suggested above, this itinerary is recommended for more experienced trail and river users. Though most of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is flat, there are a couple of larger rapids, namely, a class IV chute called Devil’s Jump. This rapid can be easily avoided by portaging around it on river left.Park at the Ledbetter trailhead to begin your adventure. As of 2013, the Ledbetter Trail was opened to mountain bikes, so you can ride or walk the two miles south to where trail meets river. After some light bushwhacking to get to the river’s edge, switch gears and load up the raft. The riverside camping here is phenomenal, but be sure to choose a site that is elevated enough to keep you safe from the possibility of rising water levels. Your takeout is at Blue Heron on river right just below Devil’s Jump (which can be identified by the overlook tower above it on river right). Once you’ve packed up the raft, head back over the river toward Dick Gap and Big Spring Falls to your car at Ledbetter. Potomac River + Chesapeake & Ohio CanalHarpers Ferry, West VirginiaTrail Distance: 16.7 milesRiver Distance: 18 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class I-II riverRiding or walking along this part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is part history field trip, part adventure. Running for 184.5 miles in total, the C&O Canal traverses the Potomac River towpath, which once served as the economic and transportation lifeblood of the Mid-Atlantic.Photo by Chris JacksonBegin your multisport adventure by parking at the Dargan Bend boat launch just outside of Harpers Ferry. Once you’ve inflated the raft and secured your return transportation of choice, be it a pair of hiking boots or a bike, it’s time to hit the water. The Potomac is relatively mild with the exception of a two-mile class II stretch of whitewater between Dam 3 and Sandy Hook. Continue on for another 13 miles past Sandy Hook under the Route 340 bridge to Point of Rocks. There will be plenty of prime camping spots before you reach Point of Rocks—we recommend checking out Bald Eagle Island for some truly unique riverside camping. Once you take out, pack up the raft and hit the C&O Canal for a breezy ride back to Dargan Bend. Great Allegheny Passage + Youghiogheny RiverOhiopyle, PennsylvaniaTrail Distance: 12 milesRiver Distance: 9 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class II riverHidden in the folds of southwestern Pennsylvania’s ridges and valleys is the bustling whitewater hub of Ohiopyle. With a year-round population just shy of 100, what this quaint town lacks in full-time residents it makes up for in its seasonal paddling scene, which attracts some of the world’s best whitewater athletes. The most popular stretches of the Youghiogheny River here are the Lower and Upper, but for low river traffic and beginner friendly rapids, take to the Middle section.Park in the nearby town of Confluence, where you’ll launch your packraft adventure. From there it’s a mellow but fun nine-mile float to Ohiopyle. When you see an abrupt horizon line, that means you’ve arrived at Ohiopyle Falls. Take out on river left before plummeting over the 18-foot waterfall, which is technically allowed but only during certain times of the season. Deflate the raft, roll it up, and head back to Confluence via the Great Allegheny Passage. Don’t be surprised if your hike or ride feels especially slow—the slight uphill gradient can be deceptively taxing.South Fork Holston River + Virginia Creeper TrailDamascus, VirginiaTrail Distance: 32-41 milesRiver Distance: 8-14 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class II-III riverThe classic Virginia Creeper Trail experience goes like this: hire an outfitter for a shuttle ride to the top, cruise 17 miles downhill back to Damascus, be home in time for supper. A much more interesting way to experience the same trail, and then some, is to incorporate the river that runs alongside it—the South Fork of the Holston River.Photo by Chris Jackson.Stash your car just outside of Damascus at Alvarado Station. Once you’re packed, head upstream. If you’re on a bike and not pressed for time, we recommend climbing to the trail’s terminus at Whitetop Station, about 26 miles from Alvarado. The trail climbs gradually and parallels the idyllic Whitetop Laurel Creek, so take your time and soak in the rhododendron-packed scenery. Camping is available for free along most portions of the trail, so long as it’s not clearly marked private property. In the morning, enjoy an effortless cruise back to Damascus, where you’ll put in on the South Fork of the Holston River below the Drowning Ford bridge. Depending on water levels, you can put on the river right downtown and add a few extra miles to your float. The continuous class II-III rapids are easy to scout from the bank or read-and-run. You’ll be back in Alvarado before you know it. Shenandoah River + Appalachian TrailWaynesboro—Front Royal, VirginiaTrail Distance: 107.8 milesRiver Distance: 95 milesDifficulty: Intermediate-advanced trail, class I-II riverLooking to spend your precious vacation time on some hard-earned memories? Enter the region’s ultimate packrafting adventure. Popular among Appalachian Trail thru hikers as an “aqua blaze” alternative to hiking through the Shenandoahs, this portion of the Shenandoah River is floatable pretty much year-round. The outfitters between Waynesboro and Front Royal, Virginia, are accustomed to hikers ditching their boots for a canoe, but you won’t need to do either. You will, however, be required to thumb a ride. But what’s an Appalachian Trail hike without a little hitchhiking?Park near the Rockfish Gap Entrance to Skyline Drive where the Appalachian Trail crosses Afton Mountain. You can either arrange for a shuttle to pick you up off the mountain, or thumb a ride to the Port Republic boat launch a half-hour away. You can also put on the South River, a tributary to the Shenandoah, closer by in Waynesboro, but that will add some substantial distance to the packrafting portion. For the next few days, you’ll be floating the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Camping is available anywhere that’s not designated private property. Your takeout is the Karo boat launch just outside of Front Royal. Once in town, you can hop on public transportation which makes routine stops to where the Appalachian Trail crosses US-522. Follow the white blaze south back to Rockfish Gap.French Broad + French Broad River GreenwayAsheville, North CarolinaTrail Distance: 2.83 milesRiver Distance: 2.4 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class I riverThe French Broad River cuts right through the heart of Asheville and, as such, is fast becoming the city’s pride and joy. On any given summer day, the river is packed with inner tubers and paddlers out for a day float. Some of that energy is no doubt thanks to new greenway plans and riverfront development.Explore just a taste of the 140-mile long river where it winds below West Asheville. Park at Hominy Creek River Park and load up the raft. You won’t find many rapids here, as opposed to section 9 of the Broad, but this calm stretch of water is perfect for first-time floaters and families. Your takeout is just a couple of miles downstream at the French Broad River Park where you can hike or bike along the French Broad River Greenway and be back at Hominy Creek all in a day’s time.Lower Green River + Green River Game LandsSaluda, North CarolinaTrail Distance: 1.75 milesRiver Distance: 6 milesDifficulty: Intermediate trail, class II riverStep up your packrafting game on the Lower Green River in western North Carolina. A gem of a run largely recognized for the class V Narrows section farther upstream, the Lower Green itself is a great float for boaters of all disciplines wanting to learn more about paddling in current.Put in at the Fishtop Access parking lot on Green Cove Road. It’s impossible to miss, and will likely be packed with kayakers taking off the river after running the Narrows. From here it’s a pleasant six-mile float down to the takeout, if you’re willing to do a little road walking afterwards. If you’d rather skip the road walk, take out on river left when you see Green Cove Road cross the river. The Green River Cove Trail traces the winding path of the Green River back toward Fishtop. You may need to inflate your raft to ferry back over the river to the parking lot, but that’s the beauty of a packraft—it’s there when you need it most.Cumberland River + Cumberland River Bicentennial TrailAshland City, TennesseeTrail Distance: 6.7 milesRiver Distance: 6 milesDifficulty: Beginner trail, class I riverFloating along the Cumberland River near Ashland City, you’d never know you were just 30 minutes away from the metropolis that is Nashville, Tennessee. Bordered on one side by the 20,000-acre Cheatham Wildlife Management Area and the Dyson Ditch Wildlife Refuge on the other, the river here is a sanctuary for urban dwellers and wildlife alike.Park a car at the Marks Creek trailhead parking lot for the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail. Whether you’re riding a bike or walking, you’ll need to make your way down Chapmansboro Road toward the river, where you can inflate your packraft and head downstream. It’s a lazy float for almost six miles down to the Cheatham Dam boat launch on river right. Hop out here and head up the street to the end terminus of the Bicentennial Trail. After a short jaunt along half graded gravel, half paved trail, you’re back where you started. It’s the ideal day trip escape from the bustle of city life.
My kids are eight, barely 60 pounds and still have a baby tooth or two to lose, but I’ve decided that it’s time to let them loose in the world. Give them each a pocket knife, eight ounces of water and wish them luck in their endeavors. We spend a lot of time in the woods, but the key word there is “we.” As in, my kids and me. The munchkins are rarely out in the great big world on their own and it’s become increasingly clear that I’ve been stunting their growth as human beings by constantly monitoring their behavior and batting away any potential dangers with my mighty dad fists.Here’s how it hit me that it’s time to let the kids explore the world on their own: they’ve never whittled a stick. I learned recently that several of their friends have been whittling sharp poking devices basically since birth, and I’ve never once given my kids a pocket knife and let them loose in the world to carve mini bear figures out of broken red wood limbs. I probably should’ve cut the cord a while ago, but I’m a firm believer in the micro-managing style of parenting. If I’m not standing over them at all times, how will they know when they’re doing something wrong? What if a creepy clown comes out of the woods and tries to give my kids some candy? What if the salamander they’re chasing is actually a copperhead? These are the scenarios that run through my head when my kids are out of my line of sight, but I have to take a step back at some point and let them make their own mistakes. I have to let them play chase with poisonous snakes and cut off their fingertips while carving their initials into old growth hardwoods. I have to let them try candy from strangers. If my kids are going to grow into capable, confident individuals I have to let them go at some point. And apparently, that some point is now. While they still have fragile baby teeth. At least, that’s what everyone keeps telling me. That’s what all of the parenting articles say. The experts. Let your children play. On their own. In the woods. Close to that homeless camp. Alone. With no supervision. Alone. And these experts are probably right. My kids probably are ready to explore the vast frontier that is the neighborhood woods on their own. They’re smart kids who stick together and look out for each other. They’ll probably be just fine. Probably. An hour or two alone in the woods will probably do wonders for their character. They’re ready. I’m definitely not ready, but they are.
Dead zones are caused by excess nutrient pollution from agriculture and wastewater runoff. The extra nutrients cause algae to grow. When the algae sinks and decomposes it creates low oxygen levels. This year’s dead zone is expected to be large because of the high levels of rainfall the bay has seen since last fall. The Chesapeake Bay dead zone could be the largest in decades Ecologists from the University of Maryland have predicted that the dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay this year could extend 2.1 cubic miles, making it one of the largest dead zones in 20 years. A dead zone is an area of water with little or no oxygen. Scientists worry that if the Chesapeake Bay dead zone is as large as they predict it could impact animals that live in the bay and have a negative effect on the seafood industry.
By Dialogo February 17, 2009 The U.S. Navy is pursuing an active partnership with nations throughout the Americas, and a tour by the USS Swift is one of its most recent manifestations. The high-speed vessel has been to Panama twice since the beginning of the year, training students in the National Air and Maritime Service and the national police. U.S. Navy personnel have taught courses on waterborne security, small boat navigation and repair as well as port security. After completing instruction, the Panamanians will know how to conduct seaborne escort missions and high-speed evasive maneuvers. The U.S. sailors also offered a life-saving course and distributed $182,000 in medical supplies, surgical instruments and clothing. During an earlier stop in Colombia, Swift sailors and members of the Colombian navy together spruced up an old school in the coastal city of Cartagena, scraping and painting the walls for an excited group of kindergarten and elementary school children. For some American sailors, it was an opportunity to break away from typical tourist diversions, form new friendships and make a difference in a local community. Before the school rehab, Swift crew members turned over a ton of medical supplies to a Colombian charity for distribution. Under the Project Handclasp program, U.S. naval vessels transport donated humanitarian goods in unused cargo space and deliver them at scheduled ports of call. Training was also offered on how to use nonlethal weapons to control crowds — a fancy way to describe improving security through the use of pepper spray and tight anti-riot personnel formations. *Personnel Train For Disaster, Tourist Protection* The Swift’s five-month deployment to seven countries is part of a broader program known as the Southern Partnership Station, or, in Navy parlance, “SPS.” Every year the Navy sends ships to Central America, South America and the Caribbean to participate with partner nations in missions aimed at developing and testing the ability of civil and maritime services to respond to any number of situations. Sharing expertise is an invaluable way to promote military-to-military communications, in the view of the U.S. military. Such sharing also improves regional security needed to deal with transnational challenges, such as a colossal disaster, that are too great for a single nation to handle. During the Swift’s visit to Barbados, the focus was on subjects including harbor and airport security and small arms marksmanship. The Barbadian Royal Defense Forces were joined by personnel from Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia for the port-security portion of the training — a subject that is crucial for the tourism industry. The program generates a beneficial ripple effect as newly trained personnel go back home and set up their own training programs. Hands-on training in Barbados and aboard the Swift included pier, vehicle and container inspections and warehouse profiling, as well as anti-terrorism techniques. The Swift still has scheduled port calls in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. It is carrying personnel from the Navy’s Expeditionary Training Command, the Naval Investigation Service Security Training and Assessment Team, and the Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group as well as many information system technicians to help install and train partner nations on a new computer-based vessel identification program. During a stop in Port Antonio this year, the Jamaican Defense Force talked about counternarcotics missions and real-world problems. Swift teams were able to tailor training to the Jamaicans’ specific needs. In 2008, the Swift stopped in El Salvador, where combat leadership training was one of a number of specialized offerings. Swift Commander Christopher Barnes said the training experience was meant to build lasting partnerships, establish enduring relationships and enhance maritime security. The Southern Partnership Station initiative operates under the direction of the U.S. Southern Command based in Miami. The command oversees U.S. contacts in 31 countries in the region. The commander of the U.S. 4th Fleet said SPS 2009 “provides an excellent opportunity to facilitate cooperation, interaction and communication between regional partners’ civil and maritime services.” Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan said side-by-side training with partners will help build “strong relationships, improve interoperability and enhance regional maritime security.”