State judge’s ruling raises another hurdle for planned $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics plant in Louisiana

first_imgState judge’s ruling raises another hurdle for planned $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics plant in Louisiana FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Advocate:A state district judge sent critical air permits for a $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics complex back to state environmental regulators so they can take a closer look at the St. James Parish facility’s emissions impacts on Black residents living nearby.Nineteenth Judicial District Judge Trudy White issued the finding during a hearing Wednesday, telling the state Department of Environmental Quality to more properly evaluate the environmental justice questions surrounding the project, plaintiff’s attorneys said.White ruled two weeks after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would be suspending its wetlands permit for the facility along the Mississippi River to review its own analysis of alternative sites and failure to look at potential sites in neighboring Ascension Parish. Formosa officials said White’s ruling did not suspend the air permits in the interim, but her ruling does add another layer of uncertainty for a project that is expected to create 1,200 permanent jobs, tens of millions of dollars per year in state and local taxes, and millions more in spinoff benefits once built.Along with the Corps wetland permits and a local land use permit, the state air permits allow FG LA, the Formosa Plastics affiliate behind the project, to operate and help clear the path to significant construction investment. The Corps’ decision earlier this month had already halted major construction activities.Last year, a joint investigation by The Advocate, Times-Picayune and ProPublica using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency modeling data found Formosa and other new industrial proposals since 2015 posed an acute impact on predominantly poor and black river communities, though white communities hardly escape it either.Known as the Sunshine Project, the Formosa complex will produce the raw materials for a variety of plastics and has been permitted to emit more than 800 pounds of toxic pollutants, nearly 6,500 tons of criteria pollutants known to cause ground-level ozone and respiratory ailments, and more than 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, DEQ says.[David J. Mitchell]More: Judge delays crucial permit for Formosa plastics plant; requires deeper analysis of racial impactslast_img read more

Seven Natural Wonders of the South

first_imgScreen shot 2015-06-22 at 2.14.47 PMPhoto by Dion Hinchcliffe3. Seneca Rocks, West VirginiaThe Southern Appalachians may not be as rocky as their counterparts, the Rocky Mountains, but that doesn’t mean we have a shortage of cliffs and stone crags. From Rock City to Old Rag to the Potomac Gorge, we’ve got our share of stone. But the most impressive and unusual outcroppings in our region may just be Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. Seneca consists of a razorback ridge of sheer, vertical fins rising 900 feet from Seneca Creek. The rock is divided into two segments, North Peak and South Peak, divided by a notch. You can reach the top of North Peak via a steep, but accessible hike, but South Peak has the distinction of being the only peak east of the Mississippi that can only be summitted by technical rock climbing.Seneca Rocks loom high above the valley floor, acting as a focal point for the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.“There are other rock formations like this on the same ridge,” says Arthur Kearns, owner of Seneca Rocks Climbing School. “Nelson Rocks and Judy Rocks are similar, but Seneca is the highest concentration of this sort of cliff around. It’s a big uplift of sheer rock, and the quality of rock can’t be matched, which is why the climbing is so good.”It’s unknown who first scaled the rocks, though evidence of Native American villages has been found in the valley below the formation, so it’s likely that Seneca has been climbed for centuries. One of the first recorded ascents in the 1930s revealed an inscription at the top of the peak, that read “D.B. September 16, 1908.” Climbers started scaling the rocks for sport in the 40s and the U.S. Army used the area to train soldiers for the Italian campaign during World War II. Today, there are almost 400 mapped routes, ranging from 5.0 to 5.12. Seneca is known in the climbing world for its exposure. The climbing on these cliffs is very steep, with impeccable views at all grades. You can climb Seneca as a beginner and have 180 feet of air under your heels on a 5.2 route.See It For YourselfThe best way to experience the wonder of Seneca Rocks is to climb them. Kearns recommends Old Man’s, the most climbed route at Seneca. It’s a 5.3 that will take you to the summit in five pitches, and represents the easiest path to the South Peak.If you’re not up for sending the rocks, you’ll have to settle for hiking to North Peak via the popular Seneca Rocks Trail, which zigzags up the mountain for 1.5 miles starting at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center.4. BLK 69, North CarolinaThanks to the pervasive logging in the Southeast, most of our ancient trees were axed over a century ago. Patches of old growth still exist in the Southern Appalachians, with stands of trees typically dating no more than 400 years old. Patches of old growth bald cypress in the swamps of our piedmont, on the other hand, are often twice as old.  The Okefenokee has 1,000-year-old bald cypress trees, while trees inside the Congaree National Park in South Carolina have been dated to 1,500 years ago. But if you want to find the oldest trees in the South, you’ve got to paddle the Black River near Wilmington, N.C. There, within the pockets of swamp along the Black, you’ll find stands of 1,700-year-old bald cypress, including BLK 69, the oldest dated tree east of the Rocky Mountains. After taking a core sample of the gnarled cypress, scientists estimate BLK 69 took root sometime around 364 A.D.“It’s hard to say why these bald cypress escaped logging,” says Hervey McIver, Onslow Bight project manager for the Nature Conservancy, which manages a 3,000-acre preserve on the Black River. “It could be because loggers like solid trees and so many bald cypress are hollow, we don’t know. But the bald cypress has a knack for surviving. These trees can lose a limb and produce another without much of a problem. The tree just hangs in there.”The Nature Conservancy’s Black River preserve has roughly 1,000 acres of the ancient trees, and more exist outside of the preserve’s boundaries. The gnarled, pretty trees have huge buttresses popping out of the black water. Many of the trees have lost their canopies because of the frequent storms, and some are hollow, but most are still alive and kicking. Finding BLK 69 will be tough. It’s located downstream of the preserve in a swamp called Larkin’s Cove, but it’s unmarked and tough to distinguish from its neighbors.See It For YourselfYour only chance of seeing the ancient trees is by paddling the unmarked Black River. The oldest trees can be found inside the Three Sisters Swamp and Larkin’s Cove farther downstream. To get there, you’ll need to paddle a 14-mile stretch between Beatty’s Bridge and the Route 3 Bridge outside of Atkinson. Three Sisters is located between Henry’s Landing road and the Hunt’s Bluff Wildlife ramp.5. Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, West Virginia The Cranberry Glades may not be an obvious wonder like Mammoth Cave, but dig into the details of this ecosystem, and you can’t help but be amazed. The federally designated botanical area consists of a cluster of high elevation bogs spanning 750 acres at 3,400 feet in elevation. It is the largest system of bogs in the Mountain State, packed with plants that normally grow in much higher and colder climates. It’s a high elevation swamp with plants that are typically found in the arctic tundra of Canada.“You see lots of plants you’re not going to find anywhere else in the region,” says Diana Stull, director of the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center. “Basically, you’re looking at an ecosystem that’s left over from the last ice age.”A ghostly white sphagnum moss covers much of the ground, while short cranberry shrubs dominate other sections of the area. All of the surface vegetation is underscored by 10 feet of decaying plants, or peat, that gives the entire forest a spongy consistency. More than 60 unique plant species can be found in and around the bogs, including snakemouth orchids, skunk cabbage (a big, green leafed plant that stinks), wild cranberries, and carnivorous plants like the purple pitcher and the tiny sundew. Carbon dating puts the peat bogs at 10,000 years old, a holdover from colder times. According to a study by West Virginia’s Department of Natural Resources, there are fewer than 20 of these high elevation cranberry bogs in the world.See It For YourselfVisitors aren’t allowed to walk on the spongy surface of the bogs, but the half-mile boardwalk trail will take you through the heart of the ecosystem, and the eight-mile Cowpasture Trail is a natural surface path that forms a loop around the entire botanical area. Picking the cranberries within the botanical area is forbidden, but go early in the morning and you might see black bears foraging the berries and skunk cabbage.6. Stone Mountain, GeorgiaToday, Stone Mountain is etched with the portrait of Robert E. Lee and his Confederate cohorts; there’s also a light show during the summer, a snow park during the winter, and a tram running to the top. But imagine what Stone Mountain would have felt like before it became a tourist destination. Picture this massive granite dome as the Creek Indians saw it: a sheer mountain of rock, rising almost a thousand feet from the piedmont, unlike any other mountain within hundreds of miles. Even with the kitschy tourist trappings, Stone Mountain still looms impressively over its surroundings.Rising 786 feet from the forest floor, Stone Mountain is one of the most unusual granite peaks in the Southeast. Unlike other rock domes in our region, Stone Mountain is almost completely devoid of a forest canopy. Its summit stands bare, a solid rock monolith. And what you see is just the beginning. According to geologists, the rock mountain extends for nine miles underground.Stone Mountain’s history is equally fascinating. At least 12 Archaic Indian sites have been found around the mountain. On the summit, the prehistoric Woodland Indians built a rock wall encircling the top of the mountain. Later, Creek Indians called the peak Lone Mountain and used it as a sacred meeting place. Settlers moving west used the mountain as a landmark in late 1700s. Anything west was considered Indian Territory. Creek Indians finally ceded the land to the state of Georgia in 1821. On Thanksgiving night in 1915, a group of Ku Klux Klan members burned a cross on top of the mountain that was visible from downtown Atlanta. Over the next 45 years, Klan members held meetings on the mountain, which became a symbol of the white supremacist group. In 1963, Martin Luther King put an end to that dark era of Stone Mountain by mentioning it in his I Have a Dream speech, saying, “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”See It For YourselfForget the tram, climb the 1.3-mile Walk Up trail from the base to the summit and soak in the views of Atlanta from the top. On a clear day, you can even see the string of Appalachian Mountains rising in the distance. You can also hike or run the five-mile loop around the mountain’s base.Screen shot 2015-06-22 at 3.00.18 PMPhoto by David Wilson7. Natural Bridge, VirginiaThe 20-story limestone arch is 100 feet wide and 200 feet tall, forming a bridge over Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James. The bridge has amazed visitors for centuries. In 1774, Thomas Jefferson bought the natural arch and its surrounding land for 20 shillings from King George III and quickly built a cabin for visitors. In the late 1800s, Natural Bridge was considered one of the natural wonders of the world, on par with Niagara Falls as a must-see site for international tourists.Like most natural arches, the bridge was formed over millions of years. The waters of Cedar Creek slowly eroding away at the softer layers of limestone beneath the bridge that remains today. The Monacan Indian explanation for the bridge is a bit more exciting, though: Once, while fleeing a rival tribe, the Monacan came to Cedar Creek and prayed for a safe route across the bluffs and torrential whitewater. When they stopped praying, the bridge appeared, spanning the length of the canyon. The Monacans called it the “Bridge of God,” and named the route over the bridge, the “Great Path.” Later, the bridge would become an important trade route for settlers, and eventually, the path for Highway 11.See It For YourselfAn easy trail leads to the bridge, while a wax museum portrays prominent figures from American history. A light show illuminates the bridge at night. Also, check out the caverns adjacent to the bridge. You can take a self-guided tour that drops 34 stories into the ground and explores massive rooms of stalactites. •HONORABLE MENTIONSFireflies and FlytrapsSynchronous FirefliesFireflies are common to every backyard in the South, but the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the only species of firefly in the country that blink in perfect synchronicity. In fact, Photinus carolinus in the Smokies are one of only two synchronous firefly species in the entire world. Flashing is part of the firefly’s mating ritual. Males fly around and flash, while females remain stationary and send out response flashes when they see a suitor they like. For the synchronous fireflies, their flashing is a chemical reaction in their bellies just like other species of fireflies, but scientists aren’t exactly sure why, or how, this particular species has managed to become synchronous. The leading theory suggests it’s the result of stiff competition: each fly can sense when its neighbor is going to flash, and simply tries to flash first. The synchronicity occurs in short bursts and ends abruptly in darkness. You’ll get six seconds of total darkness followed by several rapid flashes, then darkness again.See it for yourself at the Elkmont Campground. The height of synchronous activity in the Smokies is a two-week period in early to mid June. And it’s possible that within the foreseeable future, the Smokies species may be the only species of synchronous firefly left in the world. The other species of synchronous fireflies live in Southeast Asia, but their numbers are dwindling because of timber production and light pollution, which have affected their mating habits.The Venus FlytrapThis famous carnivorous plant may seem exotic, but the boggy areas in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina are the only places in the world where it is found. The plant finds its home in soil that lacks nutrients, then makes up for the dietary imbalance by eating insects. When unsuspecting insects trigger hairs inside the plant’s “mouth,” the flytrap closes, forming a stomach that secretes digestive juices. See it for yourself in the Green Swamp, a preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy, that houses the flytrap and 13 other species of carnivorous plant.SOUTHERN SUPERLATIVESOldest River in North AmericaNEW RIVER350 million years oldHighest Mountain east of the RockiesMOUNT MITCHELL6,684 feetDeepest Gorge east of the RockiesLINVILLE GORGE2,000 feet deepTallest Waterfall east of the RockiesWHITEWATER FALLS411 feetLongest RiverTENNESSEE RIVER886 miles long according to USGSLargest Wilderness area in the SoutheastOKEFENOKEE WILDERNESS354,000 acres You may not have the opportunity to see all of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World for yourself. A trip to see the Aurora Borealis with your own eyes may be out of your price range, and visiting Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls in person might take longer than your one-week allotted vacation. Luckily, the South has its own suite of natural wonders—locations and phenomenon that will beguile even the most experienced adventure traveler. Some of the places that have made our list have been popular tourist destinations for more than a century, while others have only recently been discovered. They all are awe-inspiring in their own way.1. Whitewater Falls and the Blue Ridge Escarpment North CarolinaThere are waterfalls, and then there is Whitewater Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. You’ll hear that label applied to a number of impressive waterfalls in our region, but measuring 411 feet from top to bottom, Whitewater Falls is the one and true king of falling water in this half of the country. Even better? Just downstream, the Whitewater River drops again in another dramatic plunge that measures 400 feet. Both Upper and Lower Whitewater Falls drop along a topographical phenomenon called the Blue Ridge Escarpment—a drastic and sudden 3,000-foot shift in elevation from flat piedmont to steep mountains that forms an abrupt “blue wall.”The Escarpment is blessed with more dramatic waterfalls than anywhere else in the East. That’s because the severe uplands also act as a rain maker: only the Pacific Northwest has more rainfall than the Escarpment. As a result, the region has as many rare species as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it is the center of the world’s salamander population. With ferns, mosses, fungi, wildflowers, and spray cliffs, the Escarpment is a veritable rain forest, and Upper and Lower Whitewater Falls are the tangible manifestations of this dramatic ecosystem.See It For YourselfWhitewater Falls Recreation Area has a paved trail to overlooks of Upper Whitewater Falls. Follow the Foothills Trail for a short hike to see Lower Whitewater Falls in South Carolina. Better yet, hike the entire 80-mile Foothills Trail, which traverses the most severe Escarpment section.2. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky Mammoth is the world’s longest known cave system with 367 miles of explored underground rooms and passages. And there’s still plenty more to explore, with miles of “new” cave discovered every year.“We have a dedicated group of volunteers whose primary job is to explore and map the system,” says Vickie Carson, information officer for Mammoth Cave National Park, explaining that the cave runs beneath four above-ground ridges. “Our explorers drop into remote valleys and find new passages that eventually connect with the main system.”Some cavers estimate there are at least 600 miles of undiscovered cave still awaiting explorers underground. The terrain in Eastern Kentucky is perfect for caves. The soft limestone rock beneath the surface is tipped slightly toward the Green River, and underground streams and rainwater cut away at the limestone over years, slowly creating the passages we now know as Mammoth Cave. And Mammoth contains everything you’d want in a cave: claustrophobic passages leading to spacious cathedrals, underground rivers with blind fish, stalagmites, and stalagtites.See It For YourselfFor the general public, the only way into the cave is through a tour guided by the National Park Service. Check out the Wild Cave Tour for the most in-depth experience. You’ll get six hours underground, crawl through nine-inch-wide tunnels, see underground waterfalls, and drop 300 feet below the surface as you travel through 5.5 miles of cave.last_img read more

Wild Adventure Races

first_imgSheltowee Extreme 3 Adventure Race Morehead, Ky. • July 30 This epic 12-hour race takes place at the Cave Run Lake Recreation Area. Racers paddle the huge 8,270-acre lake, pedal miles of steep singletrack, and scale dramatic clifflines that are dotted with arches. A rogaine format allows beginners to only complete the basic course, while seasoned AR vets get extra points for tougher checkpoints. Backwoods Boot Camp 12-Hour Adventure Race Kingwood, W.Va • August 27 The good news is this race is hosted by West Virginia’s Mountain Area Rescue Group, so if you get lost you’ll most likely be found. The bad news is you still have to get through 12 hours of mountain biking, trekking, and orienteering in the remote Briery Mountains of Preston County. Plus, you have to build your own raft to complete the paddling section on the Cheat River and pass a set of boot camp drills at each checkpoint.Blackbeard Adventure Race Nags Head, N.C. • October 1 At this 50-mile USARA race, you’ll pedal 25 miles through the maritime woods, run on the beach, and paddle and swim in the ocean.Angell’s Adventure Once a top adventure racer, Ronnie Angell now owns Virginia-based Odyssey Adventure Racing. The company, which used to host grueling multi-day races, including the week-long, now-defunct BEAST of the East, has adapted as the sport’s demographics have changed.What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you got involved? I am still seeing growth, but it’s admittedly not the kind of growth we were seeing back in 1999 and 2000 when the sport was red hot. The encouraging thing is that around half the folks that are coming out are new to the sport.Why do you think there was a downturn in interest? Many expedition races like the BEAST of the East faded away because they required too much time for people’s busy lives. Training for a five- or 10-day race requires a huge amount of time that most people just don’t have. People are looking for more of a weekend warrior fix.How can you make the sport more accessible to beginners? Our longest races are now in the 24- to 48-hour range. We’ve also added some six-hour sprint races, and it’s attracted a new crowd that’s starting to realize adventure racing is not just for elite athletes. When many people hear the words “adventure race,” they think it’s something way out of reach. Now these people are starting to cross our finish lines.Why should people try adventure racing? You get to access parts of the wild that most types of races don’t offer. Also, you never get tired of one discipline. You’re always mixing it up between biking, running, and paddling.What’s the key to the sport’s future success? When I first started, race directors tried to make courses as hard as possible. They took great pride in having only 17 percent of the field finish an event. I am still all about creating a challenge, but I want to set people up for success. That’s why many races are now adding optional checkpoints. We’ve had to be creative and design courses that are for everybody. Quotable“This wave will redefine the Nantahala River and bring super-stud play boaters to the river for a long time.” —Chris Hipgrave, multiple US National Kayak team member, about building a world-class wave on the Nantahala River for the 2012 World Cup and 2013 World Championships. The wave will be enhanced this fall and ready to test in the winter. Assemble a crew and brush up on your navigational skills. Adventure races blend multi-sport competition with backcountry orienteering for a full team experience in the wild.Atomic Adventure Race Dawsonville, Ga.  •  May 14-15 The USARA National Championship Qualifier makes unsupported teams of two or three navigate their way through a rugged wooded maze that includes up to 60 miles of mountain biking, 30 miles of paddling on flat and moving water, and 30 miles of trekking. Special Operations Adventure Race Highlands, N.C. • June 11 Beginners can enter the seven-hour sprint race, while experienced racers can tackle the 12-hour option. Both races traverse Nantahala National Forest and include orienteering, canoeing, biking, and rappelling.SPROUTE (Spring Route) Adventure Race Organizers keep secret the exact location of this race near Richmond until one month ahead of the event. Racers in two categories—a beginner-friendly six-hour sprint and a 12-hour sport—should expect plenty of trekking and orienteering, mountain biking, and paddling in the piedmont woods. Odyssey Endorphin Fix Hinton, W.Va. • June 24-26 Probably the toughest two-day race in the country, the Endorphin Fix puts racers through an epic backcountry maze in West Virginia’s New River Gorge. Over 48 hours, soloists and teams of up to four cover 200 miles on foot, mountain bikes, kayaks, and even riverboards. Odyssey One Day New Castle, Va. • July 23 The One Day features a challenging 100-mile  course in George Washington National Forest. The race that includes biking, class II paddling, running, and bushwhacking. last_img read more

Beer Blog: Monday Night Beer Mile

first_imgThe Monday Night MileSo, how fast can you run…and drink a beer…and run again…The Beer Mile is one of the greatest athletic challenges of modern times, wherein a runner drinks a beer, runs a lap around a track, drinks a beer…until four beers and four laps are completed. Respectable Beer Mile times are in the double digits (it takes a looong time to chug a beer when you’re out of breath), but the World Record was recently broken by James Nielson, a runner living in California who ran his Beer Mile in an astonishing 4:57.The only thing more impressive than his running pace was his beer chugging time, which only took him a matter of seconds per beer. Quick off the heels of this record breaking feat, the first ever Beer Mile World Championships has been set for this fall in Austin, Texas. $5,000 is on the line for the winner.The race will likely see comers from all over the country. Monday Night Brewing Company, in Atlanta, is staging their own mass beer mile, asking 500 people to show up to drink beer and run in the name of charity. As a bonus, Monday Night makes some of the best beer in Atlanta.I’m not sure what beer they’ll have for runners to drink at every quarter mile, I hope it’s not their Blind Pirate, a double IPA that comes in at 8.2% ABV. That wouldn’t be pretty.The brewery has a knack for staging fun events. Last February, they organized a full contact football game where everyone was dressed in three-piece suits. Classic.Check out the video about the Monday Night Mile below. How fast can you run…and drink…and run?Visit http://mondaynightbrewing.com for more info.from Monday Night Brewinglast_img read more

Family Powder Day

first_imgI had the greatest day of my life yesterday. School was out because of the snow and there were several inches of fresh powder on the little ski resort just outside of town. So I spent the day shredding pow with my twin six-year-old kids.I’ve been working toward this moment for the last three years. I started taking the kids to ski when they were still two. We bought them these little plastic skis with soft bindings and we’d take them to the hill and push them down, build snowmen, drink hot chocolate, and feed them M&Ms every time we rode the magic carpet. The idea was to associate skiing with good times. We kept this practice up for the next three years, eventually trading their plastic skis for real skis and boots. I’d run up and down the baby slope helping each of them if they fell, plying them with M&Ms and hot chocolate, throwing snowballs…we’d watch Warren Miller ski porn on the minivan DVD player to and from the slopes and I’d make little ski movies of them mostly eating shit face-first into the snow. But I never got to ski with them because I was too busy trying to make sure they stayed safe and had fun.And it worked. The kids got better every time we’d hit the hill and, more importantly, their love for skiing grew. The M&M bribery lessened, their turns got better, and finally, they outgrew the baby slope. It wasn’t gnarly enough for them.So yesterday, we spent the entire day skiing fresh powder together for the first time ever. The kids rode the lift like champs, put their skis on themselves, and shredded the fresh pow like those pros in the Warren Miller flicks. We spent hours running laps, the kids combing the edges of the slopes looking for fresh powder and little jumps. Occasionally, they ate it, but always got up smiling, and when the lifts shut down I had to drag them off the mountain, promising that we’d come back on the next snow day.It was the culmination of three years of hard work. My kids are finally skiers. Legit skiers. The whole drive home, I imagined the years of epic ski trips in front of us. Weekends at Snowshoe, holidays in Vail. When they’re older, backcountry hut-to-hut missions…the future is bright.It’s the kind of day where you pop a bottle of champagne while you make tacos for your tired and hungry kids. But champagne gives me a headache, so I popped a Pisgah Brewing Graybeard IPA, which is my current hoppy obsession. Beer never tasted sweeter.I’ve had glorious powder days before—with deeper snow and bigger mountains—but I’ve never enjoyed them this much.last_img read more

150 Miles To Delfest

first_imgSummer in the South often brings to mind the sound of cicadas, sultry nights and outdoor concerts. But, when that idealistic notion takes place among the lush Appalachian Mountains with a cold craft brew in hand after a long day of pedaling to Delfest, a nostalgic satisfaction takes root as the late night set walks on stage. A music festival featuring some of the best Bluegrass and Americana acts in the U.S., Delfest occurs in Cumberland, Maryland each year. The 150-mile bike ride across the Mason-Dixon line, however, begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania along the Great Allegheny Passage. Arriving at the event quickly diverges into a celebratory welcome to summer over Memorial Day weekend.While the concept of the rails-to-trails pathway began in 1995, the first 100 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage, or GAP, opened in 2001. Now in conjunction with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, the project connects Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.. Once a trade route, the path follows alongside the Potomac River and is reminiscent of the western expansion George Washington once envisioned for the country. Today Cumberland, Maryland, dating to 1787, is a beautifully-preserved Victorian town that exemplifies the Appalachian culture, music, and lifestyle as the Potomac River Valley and its settlers grew.While the rise of rails-to-trails projects including GAP has drawn tens of thousands to the foothills region annually, slow travel has allowed travel-inclined cyclists to more deeply delve into their surroundings. Skittering along the packed, crushed limestone path in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, the trail never exceeds a two percent grade, which allows festival-going cyclists the opportunity to slip into a kicked back mindset before arriving at one of the region’s best music festivals.Photo: DelFestOnce immersed into the atmospheric landscape and refreshing temperatures en route to the festival, Delfest provides a unique way to experience the Potomac River Valley. The pickin’ begins at 10:30 a.m. each day and continues on three stages until the wee hours of the morning — 3:30 a.m. In a down-home atmosphere, the festival’s founder, Del McCoury, personally selected each of the 40 artists featured in the 11th annual Delfest.Things To Do At DelfestApart from the near round-the-clock performances, the festival brings guests an elevated experience. Morning yoga classes are offered daily, and the arts and crafts festival allows the chance to browse during a break from the stage. A wide array of globally-inspired dining options from vegan and vegetarian to Thai and locally made custard keeps crowds fueled and full.While on-site camping is classic, the event has added deluxe experiences including oversized pre-constructed tents or new, rented fully-equipped RVs. Guests opting for this festival package also receive VIP tickets, lounge access with complimentary snacks and beverages, drink vouchers, a festival shirt and even an invitation to the welcome party and farewell brunch.Bring your own instrument to participate in the “playshops,” or casual workshops which teach performance. Rather than focus on instruction, jump in jam sessions be they in the campgrounds or sitting in a picking session. For more musical instruction, plan to attend Delfest Academy, which occurs over four days leading up to the event. Select performers such as Frank Solivan, mandolin; Mike Munford, banjo; Chris Luquette, guitar; and Jay Starling, dobro, lend advice and instruction for their instruments.Planning your TripTo make it happen, select a nearby rails-to-trails project that connects to Cumberland. A friend or family member may drive a return car along the same route for support. Start the day early to complete the entire route in a single go, or divide the ride for a more relaxed descent into Delfest. Overnighting in a hotel provides a shower, but bikepacking is always a good option.Getting Ready To RideBe sure to gradually build up to a long-distance ride. Begin with a normal distance ride and add 15 to 20 miles each week. If splitting the ride over multiple days, attempt to ride several days in a row of approximately the same distance to ensure the body knows what the distance and multi-day rides feel like. Taper rides and workouts the week of the big day. Salt pills and magnesium tablets formulated for cycling, which replenish the salts sweated out and electrolyte levels, are very useful during particularly hot spells.last_img read more

Ways to Help and Explore the Outdoors Online

first_imgHealth care workers not only have the stress of serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the added stress of coming home at the end of the day and potentially exposing their loved ones to the virus.  A Facebook group called RVS 4 MDs seeks to change that, offering health care workers a safe and isolated place to stay between shifts. The idea is simple, the group connects health care workers needing a safe place to stay with RV owners willing to donate the use of their RV. When a connection is made, RVs are transported and set up at the home of the health care worker, providing temporary shelter. The group is growing quickly and has nearly 8,000 members.  Virtual Everest event seeks to fundraise for out of work Sherpas Backpacker Magazine has released a 3D map of the Appalachian Trail, which highlights the footpath’s best views and trail towns. Virtual hikers can travel through Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park, “climb” the trail’s highest peaks, and read tips from other hikers or share their own. The map is best viewed on a desktop or tablet. Click here to check it out.  Daily for the next two months, Arnette will outline what happens on Everest each Spring, from arriving in Kathmandu to trekking to Everest Base Camp. Through this platform, Arnette has set up crowd-funding sites, collecting money in April and May that will go directly to the impacted Sherpas.center_img COVID-19 has closed Mount Everest this year, leaving Sherpas who lead climbers up the world’s largest mountain without a job. Mountaineer Alan Arnette has devised a way to support the Sherpas through this difficult time, organizing a Virtual Everest event on his website.  You can’t thru-hike the AT right now, but you can virtually explore the trail with this 3D map Have an RV you aren’t using right now? A Facebook group connects RV owners with health care workers Photo of Sherpa Mountain Guide and his Client on Mountain Footpath from Getty Imageslast_img read more

Bike Salem in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

first_imgNo matter what kind of terrain you’re looking to ride, stop by Roanoke Mountain Adventures for bike rentals while you are in town. Or rent a kayak, tube, standup paddleboard, or crash pad for a different mountain adventure. Downshift Bikes & Brews is your one stop shop for all things bikes, coffee, and beer in Downtown Roanoke. They recently started offering e-bike rentals for those looking to get around the city.  Parkway Brewing Company, photo by Sam Dean, courtesy of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge After a full day of riding, visit Downtown Salem to kick back, relax, and try some local craft brews. Located just off Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail, Parkway Brewing Company offers a rotating selection of beers brewed and bottled right in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There’s a little bit of history in every glass at Olde Salem Brewing Company and something for every beer drinker to enjoy, particularly those with a penchant for sours.  DCIM\100MEDIA\DJI_0035.JPG Mill Mountain Overlook, photo by Sam Dean, courtesy of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, discover nine miles of trails by the Roanoke River at Explore Park. While you’re there, check out additional paddling, camping, and ziplining opportunities for a full day of adventure. If you’re looking to explore the whole area, the Roanoke Valley Greenways offer more than 30 miles of paved trails connecting public parks, the river, and downtown destinations.  VisitVBR.com  Start off at Mill Mountain Park in Roanoke’s city limits, one of the best urban parks in the country. Make sure to view the iconic Roanoke Star while you’re at the top before riding ten miles of intermediate and advanced trails down the mountain. Beginners will enjoy exploring Franklin County’s Waid Recreation Park, including several ADA accessible trails, winding paths along the Pigg River, and a jump line trail. Take your riding to the next level at Falling Creek Park with a skills loop and pump track to hone your technique. center_img carvins coveCarvins Cove Mountain Biking Trail, photo by Sam Dean, courtesy of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Find an adventure that fits your speed when you visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the only IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center on the East Coast. With over 400 miles of mountain biking trails, riders of all abilities can experience America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital.  Cover photo: Carvins Cove, photo by Sam Dean, courtesy of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge VisitSalemVA.com You could spend a few days riding the multi-use, singletrack trails at Carvins Cove. Less than ten miles from Downtown Salem, there are more than 60 miles of fire roads, cross county singletrack, and downhill trails to keep you entertained. For some backcountry riding, head to North Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest. Known locally as “Dragon’s Back,” ride the ridge of the mountain on challenging singletrack.  last_img read more

Weapons Destruction Progresses in Central America

first_img GUATEMALA CITY – The Organization of American States’ (OAS) mobile system to destroy weapons and ammunition is eradicating arsenals no longer being used by law enforcement and military personnel throughout Central America. “The idea is to destroy the explosives and weapons that could constitute a danger to the commandos and the surrounding population,” said Col. Rony Urízar, spokesman for the Guatemalan army. “These explosives are literally a ticking bomb where they are stored.” Carmen Rosa de León Escribano, the director of the Training Institute for Sustainable Development (IEPADES), a Guatemala-based organization that promotes the danger of firearms in the hands of civilians, applauds the OAS’ initiative. “It is a joint OAS and Ministry of Defense process to destroy conventional weapons that should be carried out more frequently to keep them from deviating to the black market and into the hands of organized crime,” she said. “[But a] system of arsenal management must be implemented to centralize the management of the weapons deposits at one entity.” The Guatemalan government has dealt with an influx in heavy weapons as the result of an increase in narcotics trafficking. Cartels have turned the nation into a hub in the narcotics trade, which has led to gunfights between rival gangs and between cartel members and law enforcement agents, according to police. Guatemala is one of Latin America’s most violent countries, with an average of 18 killings daily, according to police statistics. The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation reported Guatemala is home to about 10,000 gang members, who are involved in weapons and narcotics trafficking. Since the beginning of last year, about 400 tons of no longer used or damaged ammunition and grenades have been destroyed by the Guatemalan military, according to the OAS. Grenades and bullets are destroyed in a “poporopera,” a machine created by the OAS and Guatemala’s Department of War Materiel of the Ministry of Defense. “[The machine] heats up the ammunition until the gunpowder that impels the bullets explodes,” Urízar said. By Dialogo February 10, 2011 But the OAS and the Ministry of Defense destroy guns by placing them in a chopping machine. The goal is to take the machines on a tour of Central America, so officials throughout the region can destroy their unused arsenals and weapons seized from criminals, especially those belonging to narcotics and weapons traffickers. Why destroy them? In 2005, there was an explosion at a weapons warehouse in the Mariscal Zavala Military Zone located north of Guatemala City. No one was killed during the blast, but the explosion cast doubt on whether the army was storing its weapons safely. Officials also are concerned the unused weapons are being stolen so they can be sold on the black market, where the guns can be purchased by criminals, which is what happened in 2007. At least five hundred guns and 1,000 grenades had been stolen from a depository at one of the largest army bases in the country. The guns were later used during a firefight between narcotics traffickers in the northern city of Cobán, police said. Two years after the robbery, Congress approved the Law of Weapons and Ammunition, which allows someone found guilty of possessing an unregistered weapon without a license to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. “Under this law, we have seized weapons of war such as the AK-47, AR-15 or M-16, several grenades and even mortars,” said Donald González, director of Guatemala’s National Civil Police (PNC) Communications Department. De León Escribano said the country needs tougher laws. “The problem is that the law is too permissive, because DIGECAM can authorize several licenses for the same person and this person can have as many weapons as licenses held,” De León Escribano said. The PNC estimates nine out of 10 violent deaths in the country are gun-related. Officials estimate there are at least 15 million firearms in the country, most of which are illegal. PNC officials said about 150,000 rounds of ammunition are imported daily in a country that does not have any laws regulating the sale of bullets.last_img read more

Chile, Canada Support Honduras’s Security Reform Commission

first_img On June 1, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo installed a security commission to purge the police, infiltrated by organized crime, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the judicial system, with the assistance of two experts from Chile and Canada. “We all celebrate the full installation of the commission,” Lobo said at the ceremony inaugurating the work of the body, which has no time limit to complete its task. “We Hondurans face many challenges, but the security challenge ties us down from being able to generate the economic growth and income that our people need,” Lobo stressed. The president urged the police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the judicial branch “not to see (the commission’s work) as an intervention, but as a necessity, so that we Hondurans can have strong (…), transparent, and ethical institutions.” Honduras is confronting a serious security problem, with a homicide rate of 82 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the world, according to a United Nations report. Lobo named university professors Víctor Meza, Matías Funes, and Omar Casco to the commission, while Chile sent Aquiles Blu, and Canada sent Adam Blackwell (also representing the OAS), at the Honduran president’s request. Meza, the body’s chair, said that “the challenge that the commission faces is enormous: it’s aimed at reforming Honduras’s entire public-safety system,” and he emphasized that its establishment “is the state’s response to the crisis in the security system.” On January 31, the Honduran Congress approved the purge of the police by a commission with Honduran and foreign members, following reports that linked officers to organized crime, but it also included the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial branch. According to Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla, the purge will impact around 4,000 members of the police force, out of 14,500 currently serving. The Public Prosecutor’s Office reported in late 2011 that entire police precincts were involved with organized crime in offenses such as links to major drug traffickers, kidnapping, murder, robbery, and extortion. By Dialogo June 05, 2012last_img read more