World Bank Says It Will Ramp Up Investments in Clean Energy FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享By Lalit K. Jha in The Wire: The World Bank has unveiled an ambitious climate action plan that will help developing countries add 30 gigawatts of renewable energy, bring early warning systems to a hundred million people and develop climate-smart agriculture investment plans for at least 40 nations.The target for achieving this is 2020, officials said as they released details of the Climate Change Action Plan, which comes just two weeks before world leaders officially sign the landmark Paris Agreement in New York. “Following the Paris climate agreement, we must now take bold action to protect our planet for future generations,” World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said.“We are moving urgently to help countries make major transitions to increase sources of renewable energy, decrease high-carbon energy sources, develop green transport systems, and build sustainable, livable cities for growing urban populations. Developing countries want our help to implement their national climate plans and we’ll do all we can to help them,” he said.To maximise impact, the World Bank Action Plan is focused on helping countries shape national policies and leverage private sector investment.International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, aims to expand its climate investments from the current $2.2 billion a year to a goal of $3.5 billion a year, and leverage an additional $13 billion a year in private sector financing by 2020. Apart from its own financing, the World Bank also intends to mobilise $25 billion in commercial financing for clean energy over the next five years.The Bank will also continue its work to help countries put a price on carbon pollution, in order to create incentives for public and private sector decision makers to make the right climate choices, a statement said.This is a plan that primarily targets developing countries that the Bank works with, helping them turn their ambitious commitments made in December in Paris into a reality, John Roome, the Bank’s senior director for climate change told reporters during a conference call. “It’s a plan that aims at swinging the pendulum away from investments in fossil fuels towards investment in clean energy, and to put new resources to critical areas like green transport and climate smart agriculture,” he said.Full article: World Bank Launches Ambitious Climate Action Plan
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Wall Street Journal ($):Just last summer, Northern Indiana Public Service Co. planned to retire two of its five remaining coal-fired power plants by 2023. Now, it plans to do away with all of them over the next decade, and buy more solar and wind power instead.The Midwestern company’s decision is part of a shift among some American utilities toward less costly energy sources. The companies are accelerating the closure of coal plants, as wind and solar power become more economical alternatives, aided by federal subsidies, and natural gas continues to be a cheap fuel for electricity in the U.S., thanks to the shale-drilling boom.The shift is taking place as the Trump administration tries to revive the coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations and easing restrictions on building new plants. Those efforts have done little thus far to curtail the closure of coal plants, which account for the majority of U.S. coal demand. The Energy Information Administration estimated that domestic coal consumption in 2018 fell to 691 million tons, the lowest level since 1979, and expects it to continue dropping this year.Xcel Energy Inc. said last month that it plans to shift entirely to 100% carbon-free power generation by 2050, becoming the first major U.S. utility to make such a pledge. The company, which covers parts of Colorado, Minnesota and six other states, says that coal could account for as little of 10% of its power mix by 2030. It was more than one-third of the mix in 2017. Xcel expects lower fuel and production costs will eventually offset some initial rate increases.Last summer, Colorado regulators approved Xcel’s plans to retire two coal units in 2022 and 2025, respectively, with each roughly a decade ahead of schedule. Xcel plans to replace them with renewable energy and battery storage, a shift the company says will at first be cost-neutral with longer-term benefits. Retiring the units more quickly is likely to reduce Xcel’s costs by as much as $215 million by 2054, the company says.The moves are leading some experts to step up estimates for the phaseout of coal power in the U.S. In 2017, research firm Wood Mackenzie projected that companies would retire 46 gigawatts of coal-generating capacity by 2027. Last year, it raised that projection to 57 gigawatts.More ($): Utilities speed up closure of coal-fired power plants U.S. utilities increasingly looking to speed coal plant closures
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CNBC:Vietnam is powering ahead of the rest of Southeast Asia as it pushes for greater reliance on renewable energy.The region, long criticized for lagging behind in its efforts to adapt to more sustainable ways, is still heavily reliant on coal consumption. Vietnam, however, has bold ambitions to use more renewable energy such as wind and solar.The country is aiming to boost its power output produced by renewable energy to about 23% by 2030, according to Andreas Cremer, director of energy and infrastructure for Europe, Middle East and Asia at German investment firm DEG.Citing the German Corporation for International Cooperation, a development agency, Cremer highlighted that 10.7% of the energy mix will be from renewables and 12.4% will be from hydro.“The power development plan of Vietnam is evolving continuously,” Cremer told CNBC at the Asia Clean Energy Summit last week. The government’s renewables and hydro targets for its energy mix was raised from 16% in 2011 to 23% in 2016.Global energy consultancy firm, Wood Mackenzie, said Vietnam is now the leader in Southeast Asia’s solar photovoltaic (PV) market and has the largest installed capacity in the region. Solar PV is a technology that converts sunlight into electrical energy.In an October report, Wood Mackenzie said Vietnam’s cumulative solar installation will reach 5.5 gigawatts this year — which makes up about 44% of Southeast Asia’s total capacity. In comparison, Vietnam produced just 134 megawatts — or 0.134 gigawatts — in 2018.More: Vietnam is pushing ahead of Southeast Asia in its drive for renewable energy Vietnam is accelerating drive for renewable energy
Watch these Olympic athletes from the Southeast this summer.The Olympic Torch has completed its tour around the U.K. to settle in London, and athletes are flooding in from over 200 countries to vie for their chance at the three coveted medals that represent the apex of performance in their respective sports.The Olympics is a global celebration of sport. For a few weeks, we watch athletes reach deep inside themselves to give their best. It inspires each of us to do the same.Our region boasts several athletes who will compete for the U.S in the Games. All have devoted their lives to reach this highest stage of competition. They compete for glory, for pride, for success, for sponsorships, and for their country. Most of all, however, they compete simply for the pure love of their sport.Here are seven Olympic-bound athletes from the Southeast to follow in the coming weeks, and a few of the regional facilities that help aspiring Olympians to achieve their goals.Scott Parsons returns to the Olympics in 2012.the redemption chaserScott Parsons • Bethesda, Md.Whitewater Slalom K-1Scott Parsons represents the old guard in the sport of whitewater slalom kayaking. The 33-year-old athlete from Bethesda, M.D., has already announced his retirement twice from the sport, but can’t seem to part ways without achieving his ultimate goal: an Olympic medal.After a respectable 6th place finish in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, Scott was poised to achieve his goal on a very challenging course in the 2008 Games in Beijing. Known as a powerful and smooth technician on the water, he was America’s hope in K-1 Slalom, and he was physically and mentally capable of medalling. However, his second Olympic quest ended in devastating disappointment due to a controversial gate touch.Scott stepped out of his boat after that run, and announced his retirement from the sport for the second time. In spite of his talent and lifetime devotion, he had come up short. It wasn’t until his wife, who has been the financial backbone for Parsons’ training, gave him her blessing that he decided to try one last time for what he knows he is capable of.This is it for Parsons – his third and final Olympics is here, and the fire that has been smoldering since Beijing has flared into a full-blown inferno.A UNC graduate, Shalane Flanagan now trains in Chapel Hill.the finisherShalane Flanagan • Chapel Hill, N.C. MarathonShalane Flanagan was the 2008 bronze medalist in the 10,000 meter event, and she could be one of the country’s brightest hopes for a track and field medal in the London Games. Flanagan stormed past the frontrunners in the recent marathon Olympic Trials to notch both an American Trials best and her own personal best marathon time at 2:25:38. That is a sub-6:00 mile average for 26.2 miles straight.Flanagan is a graduate of UNC in Chapel Hill, NC, and won two national cross country titles in 2002 and 2003 before going pro in 2004. After a successful middle distance career, she has stepped up to the marathon.Flanagan truly sets herself apart with her finishing strength. She is capable of hitting another gear and leaving her competitors powerless to match her final mile blitz.This Tarheel is on a mission to break the American women’s marathon record and attain another piece of Olympic hardware.Terrence Jennings is the underdog who could surprise everyone in London.the upsetterTerrence Jennings • Alexandria, Va. TaekwondoTerrence Jennings is a young Taekwondo athlete with some serious momentum as he goes into his first Olympics. This featherweight martial artist was able to pull off an incredible upset against superstar and 2008 Silver Medalist Mark Lopez in this year’s trials in March. Not only did Terrence beat Lopez, but he did so in true Cinderella-story fashion: he prevailed in a sudden-death elimination round at the end of a lengthy qualification match.He will actually join two of Lopez’s siblings in representing his country, but Jennings is fine with breaking up what has been referred to as the “royal family” of the sport. Jennings is a perfect example of the amateur spirit of the Olympics. His mother is a retired supermarket clerk, and his father is a retired Metro bus driver. Their steadfast support and sacrifices have been unwavering since young Terrence first started in the sport when he was 11.Under Master Patrice Remarck, Jennings tirelessly tackled the intricacies of the sport. He endured brutal workouts around his studies during the week, and eight-hour marathon sessions on the weekends to hone his skills and stamina. He overcame dual knee surgeries over the past four years, one of which kept him from the 2008 Games.Northern Virginia and D.C. is rallying behind their hometown hero, and the Jennings family is saving travel money to support their son in person.Jeremiah Bishop is aiming for a podium finish in London.the technicianJeremiah Bishop • Harrisonburg, Va.Mountain BikeThere is no more respected figure in the world of American cross country mountain biking than Jeremiah Bishop, and it’s no surprise that he calls the mountains of Virginia home.This 31-year-old athlete truly separates himself through his versatility. His resume includes victories in cross country, marathon, short track, and stage race events alike, but he is most dominant in the endurance and ultra categories. He has won the Firecracker 50, the American Mountain Classic Stage Race, the Fools Gold 100, and the Offroad Assault on Mount Mitchell. He has lived and trained in Southern Appalachia for over a decade, but he is perfectly happy hurting feelings wherever he shows up. His consistent performances have gained him a spot on the USA Cycling National Team an unprecedented 12 times.As a member of the elite Cannondale Factory Racing Team, Bishop is often called upon to fill the role of leader in the sport. He has been a leader in partnering with the US Anti-Doping Agency to take a stand for a clean sport and discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs of any kind. Using the tagline, “My Health. My Sport. My Victory,” Jeremiah is actively giving back to the sport that has been his passion for so many years.Huerta will fulfill his American dream this summer.the dreamerManuel Huerta • Miami, Fla. TriathlonBorn in Cuba, Manuel and his family were driven from the country as political refugees when he was 13. Leaving behind his young life and starting anew, Manuel held onto his perpetual dream of competing in the Olympics.This spring, Huerta realized that dream for the first time. He needed a 9th place finish to qualify to represent the United States as a triathlete. He poured his heart and soul into the race, and came away with exactly what he had hoped for – 9th place, and a spot on the 2012 Olympic Triathlon Team. At the end of the race, Manny scanned the other finishers to determine his fate, and was flooded with emotion when he counted only eight heads.Despite being slight of stature at 5’7” and 126 pounds, this athlete has a huge heart and a deep appreciation for what has gotten him to this point.“The U.S. opened its doors for me and millions of other immigrants who come here for better lives. To represent the U.S. at the greatest sporting event is my way of saying thank you. I will make you proud.”Olympic Training in the SouthU.S. Whitewater CenterCharlotte, NCThe U.S. Whitewater Center is the premiere training facility for aspiring whitewater slalom athletes. The Charlotte, N.C., course was designed by Scott Shipley, the same person responsible for the London course. This has been a powerful enabler for athletes who are trying to dial in their games in preparation for the big show in July.Pablo McCandless, former slalom Olympian and kayak instruction manager at the Center, says that the facility is a hub of Olympic development for one primary reason: “There is a great training group here, and that leads to success for all.” In spite of the fact that the U.S. has fallen behind European powerhouses such as Slovakia and Germany in the sport, Pablo believes that we could be on our way back to the days of Davey and Cathy Hearn, when our country was a dominant force on the international scene.“New courses, when coupled with excellent coaching and the next generation of young paddlers, are going to be the catalyst for excellence in the sport.”ZAP FitnessBlowing Rock, N.C.The ZAP Fitness Foundation is one of five Team USA training centers focusing on the training and support of young, post-collegiate American distance runners. Located in Blowing Rock, N.C., this facility provides for all the needs of aspiring distance athletes who have their sights set on the World Championships and the Olympics.Husband and wife team Pete and Zika Rea have set up the organization as a non-profit, and recruit athletes out of college. “Our goal,” says Pete, “is to put them in an environment of excellence. They live, eat, and breathe running 24-7, and their peers push them to new heights.”The Foundation also offers private coaching for all skill levels of runners, and works with Reebok as their title sponsor to keep everything running smoothly. With a growing Olympic hopeful list including 8th ranked U.S. marathon athlete Alissa McKaig, the proof is in the pudding. ZAP runners continue to make their presence felt in races worldwide.Lakeshore Foundation Paralympics FacilityBirmingham, AlabamaThis nonprofit specializes in creating independence and happiness for people from around the country with physically disabling conditions. The United States Olympic Committee licensed the 45-acre campus as its first-ever official training site for both Olympic and Paralympic Sports, and its heritage of helping disabled athletes is only growing.Within the facility are state-of-the-art resources for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, swimming, marksmanship, wheelchair tennis, and track & field. These training opportunities are augmented by the best athletic staff in the industry, as well as on-site lodging options for athletes.They also forged a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to develop a world-class research program in rehabilitative science. This confluence of extraordinary programs and research expertise has already enabled and empowered athletes and everyday citizens to reach their goals.Other Athletes to WatchCullen Jones • Charlotte, N.C. SwimmingAn N.C. State Alumni, Jones made a big splash in the 2008 Games as the third leg of Michael Phelps’ 400m Freestyle Relay team. That gold medal gave him the honor of being the second African American to earn a gold medal in the sport, and he will be back in 2012 to chase his dreams.Tyson Gay • Lexington, Ky. Track & FieldThis American sprint athlete is one of the fastest people on the planet. His personal bests place him 2nd in the history of 100m and 5th in 200m. A hamstring injury prevented him from securing any medals in the 2008 Games. He will be headed to London this month with his eyes firmly set on the podium.Check out one last Hometown Hero, we’ll give you a hint he’s 80 years old and has biked 165,000 miles…
April in the Blue Ridge is a beautiful time, but many view the coming of the month with dread due to one reason: taxes. Sure, Uncle Sam can take a bite—or a series of nibbles—out of your paycheck, but if you are in the 99 percent at least some of that money should be coming back to you. Splurge on one of these selections for every tax bracket.1. Korkers Redside Wade BootThis versatile wading boot features Korkers’s OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System, which allows you to swap out soles of different material on the fly, from studded felt to sticky rubber. Not only does this allow you to customize your traction for a specific river, it helps prevent the spread of invasive species. The Redside features waterproof material and integrated drainage ports to reduce weight and a cinch lacing system so nothing will slow you down on the water.$150 (with soles); korkers.com 2. Keen Ellwood DaypackThis 35-liter multi-use daypack provides ample space for all of the essentials, and it’s by far the most comfortable daypack we’ve tested, thanks to the wishbone strap and lumbar pad. We especially liked the large, easily accessible side water pocket, which makes it easy to grab fluids on the go.$125. keenfootwear.com 3. Specialized Bicycle Company Carve Expert 29For those in the upper brackets, tax return time means it’s a new big-ticket toy, and this is the year to upgrade to a 29er. The Carve is a XC race-inspired hardtail equally at home on flowy singletrack loops during lunch or comps on the weekend. A super lightweight frame, 10×2 drivetrain, and Shimano components make the Carve a lightning fast cruiser and climber.$1,800; specialized.com 4. Osprey Viper 13If you’re looking for a high-performance pack for running, biking, or hiking, the Viper 13 is the pack of choice. The fast-loading hydration sleeve makes it easy to refill water, and the breathable back panel kept our testers’ backs dry and sweat-free after long hours in the saddle.$109. ospreypacks.com 5. FITS Sock Co. Performance Trail SockThis sock is built to perform while you’re running or biking with cushioning in the heel and toe and vented upper. The merino wool and digit wrapping Dynamic Toe Cup virtually guarantee a tight fit with no extra fabric to chafe. $18; fitssock.com6. Stio Carter PantThe Carter Pant from Stio, a new lifestyle and technical clothing company out of Jackson, Wyoming is rugged enough to wear while you organize the garage or rebuild your bike, but classy enough for a night on the town with a fresh button down. The lightweight but durable cotton canvas and articulated knees combined with the stylish cut will make the Carter your go-to from the boulder field to the brew pub.$100; stio.com 7. Patagonia TorrentshellThis waterproof, breathable, windproof hard shell is lightweight and packs down to nearly nothing, perfect for throwing into a daypack and forgetting about…until the clouds roll in. Pit zips keep you cool when the sun pops back out, and storm flaps on all zippers provide an impenetrable barrier against the worst storms Mother Nature can dish out.$130; patagonia.com8. Smith Optics Frontman SunglassesPolarized lenses with Tapered Lens Technology provide an undistorted view of that feeding brook trout or that patio pale ale. Evolve frames with moisture-activated nose and temple pads are eco-friendly, lightweight, and will stick to your face during even the most active pursuits.$80, $120 (polarized); smithoptics.com9. Sierra Designs Flash 2 Ultralight Tent Who says an ultralight backpacking tent has to be bare bones and cramped? While the Flash 2 may not satisfy those counting ounces, for the average backpacker, the tent’s 3 lbs., 15 oz. weight is just fine. A roomy interior – nearly 30 square feet – and two vestibules will keep you comfy and well ventilated during a night in the woods.$340; sierradesigns.com
Dear Mountain Mama,My friends and I are headed to Gauley Fest for the first time. This year the entrance fee includes camping Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. While we’re up for partying, we don’t want to rage all night, especially before getting on the river for our first time. Will we get any sleep is we camp at the festival?Thanks,Snooze Happy———————————————————————————————Dear Snooze Happy,The decision to camp at the festival grounds all turns on your sleeping expectations. If you and your friends require total peace and quiet for a good night of sleep, your best bet is to check out one of the other camp grounds in the area (of which there are plenty of options). But if you don’t mind a little noise and a lot of neighbors, camping at the festival ground provides lots of entertainment, and no risk of getting a DUI.Simple festival camping etiquette goes a long to making sure everyone enjoys their Gauley Fest experience. Even the most conscientious among us sometime need a reminder, so I’ve posted some tips:1. Chose your campsite carefully. Avoid setting up your tent downwind of the port-a-potts or on a main route to the festivities.2. Say hello and introduce yourselves to your neighbors. That will prevent the absolute worst-case scenario of meeting them for the first time as you’re asking them to shut the heck up so you can sleep. Besides, if you get the impression that their idea of a good time differs vastly from your own, you can consider moving your tent while there is still daylight.3. Be considerate of others and avoid late night loud conversations or drum circles right outside of someone’s tent.4. Keep your camping area tidy, and if you are messy, at least don’t let it encroach into others’ spaces.5. Remember where you’ve camped to prevent stumbling into someone’s campsite late at night. Remember important landmarks to help guide your way back and remember a headlamp.Snooze Happy, bring along a good pair of ear plugs and a good book, just in case.Hope to See You There!Mountain MamaGOT A QUESTION FOR MOUNTAIN MAMA? SEND IT HERE
Youth Outdoor Participation Steady in 2013Compared to 2012, participation in outdoor activities increased or remained flat among youth and young adults, according to The Outdoor Foundation’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report, “the leading report tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation with a focus on youth, young adults and the future of the outdoors.”A record number of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2013 with nearly 50 percent of all Americans ages six and older enjoying the outdoors. That percentage equates to 142.6 million American outdoor participants, according to The Outdoor Foundation.Although the number of participants rose, the percentage of participants fell slightly from 49.4 percent in 2012 to 49.2 percent in 2013, due to population increase. Additional findings indicate that young participants were slightly more diverse in 2013 than they were in 2012. Hispanic participation increased from eight percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2013. Young females are now participating in outdoor activities at the same rate as young males. Since 2008, males had outpaced females in outdoor recreation participation.North Carolina License Plates Protect the Blue Ridge ParkwayFor more than three-quarters of a century, North Carolinians have helped make the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway one of the most popular parts of the National Park System. North Carolinians have also, since 2004, made the Blue Ridge Parkway’s N.C. license tag the most popular choice among purchasers of affinity tags for their cars and motorcycles. The familiar green-and-gold plate, found on more than 25,000 vehicles across the state, provides vitally needed financial support for Parkway programs, maintenance and capital projects at a time when the federal government has cut back on spending for parks generally across the country.Plate purchasers get an attractive license plate to put on their vehicles, the state benefits by getting a share of the $30 cost to improve access to way stations, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation gets $20 from each plate sold to help restore and upgrade facilities over the Parkway’s 77 years of operation.The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, created in 1997 as the Parkway’s official fund-raising partner, uses proceeds from the plate to fund hundreds of projects above and beyond those supported by public funds including the creation of a new communications center serving the Parkway as well as state parks in North Carolina and Virginia; restoration and upgrades at such popular facilities as Price Lake near Blowing Rock and Mabry Mill in Virginia; operation of programs at the increasingly popular Blue Ridge Music Center near Galax, Va., the Parks in Classrooms and Kids in Parks projects, construction of new restroom facilities and restoration of a number of Parkway original stone water fountains.This year, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees committed $700,000 to support projects identified by Parkway management as priorities, including rehabilitating the degraded Price Lake Loop Trail at the Julian Price Memorial Park near Blowing Rock; expansion of the Linville Falls Overlook and an enhancement project at Graveyard Fields near Asheville that will include a new parking lot, comfort station and trails.AT Self-Supported Record Holder Matt Kirk Markets His Fast PackAccording to the Times-News (BlueRidgeNow.com), Hendersonville, N.C.’s Matt Kirk — who holds the record for self-supported thru-hiking the AT in 58 days, nine hours and 38 minutes — is manufacturing the homemade pack he used to complete the feat.He designed and built his own ultra-light pack for his journey and due to its proven success, last year made about 60 of the “Sub-60 Fast Packs” with the help of an Asheville-based seamstress who also makes her own lightweight backpacking gear.The two sold through almost all of the packs, spending nothing on marketing or advertising. According to the paper, it’s a vest-style pack that weighs about 10 ounces with a mesh hip belt and lots of accessory pockets, with a capacity of 1550 cubic inches and a recommended carrying capacity of about 20 pounds.Learn more here.
If you’ve visited the town of Franklin, NC lately you know that the locals have been exhibiting some serious pride in their recent Top Small Town in the Blue Ridge designation lately. Custom made banners celebrating the award have been circulating the town for months and residents are hoping Franklin’s status as a Top Town will help bolster an already thriving tourism economy. We caught up with Franklin local and founder of Stay and Play in the Smokies to get the scoop on whats been happening in this burgeoning outdoor town.BRO: What did coming away with the Best Small Town award mean for Franklin?MB: It means everything to those of us trying to promote Franklin & Macon County as an outdoor destination. It also gives us a perfect opportunity to springboard into multiple new initiatives that promote our natural (outdoor) assets.BRO: What did you and others do to help get the word out while the voting was underway?MB: The Franklin Appalachian Trail Community Committee (FATCC), which I co-chair, took the lead on this “get out the vote” initiative. We used social media (mainly FB) to the fullest. We pounded it every single day. We shared the voting link in our newsfeeds, and we also utilized eNews lists via several local organizations to help get the word out about the voting process. It worked, and it’s something that I’m very proud to have been a part of. The Franklin community went all-in, and we won.BRO: The town seems to have really embraced the award. Have you noticed any immediate changes?MB: The town, as far as citizens and business owners, have really embraced the award. Since I started the #followthebanner campaign, I have been inundated with requests for pictures with the banner we had made for the Top Town award. Every picture we take gets posted on Facebook & Instagram via Venture Local Franklin‘s Facebook page, as well as my own personal page. I always encourage those in the pictures (business owners, employees, customers, etc.) to share them when they see them in their newsfeeds. It’s been a blast seeing everyone buy-in yet again – because you have to remember how they all bought in during the voting process.BRO: What is it that makes Franklin such a great WNC outdoor destination?MB: Franklin has so many options for outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of. For starters, our town is located right in the middle of the vast Nantahala National Forest. From endless hiking and trout fishing, to some of the best road biking anywhere in WNC, Franklin truly has it all. We are also fortunate to have two outdoor outfitters in town. And if that weren’t enough, Franklin was designated as the very first Appalachian Trail Gateway Community via the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We have it all, and we’re just now getting started. BRO: Franklin is an official AT Trail Town. How has that designation effected the outdoor culture of the town?MB: Franklin’s AT designation is huge. Our tourism season gets kicked off by the arrival of the A.T. hikers, and since the designation, our town has continued to embrace our hikers more and more. From our month long A.T. Celebration, to our super strong FATCC committee, we really have a unique outdoor culture that has been directly effected by our designation. No other town in WNC can claim such a culture. The designation has even affected our Town’s branding. If you take a look at the Town of Franklin logo, you’ll notice several natural elements, including the white blaze of the Appalachian Trail, Cullasaja Falls, a hiker, and a ruby that represents our many gem mines.BRO: What are some of the businesses and outdoor recreation options that you would recommend to a potential Franklin visitor?MB: I would highly recommend visiting our two outstanding outdoor outfitters. They have something for everyone. Franklin also has a local brewery in the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company, with an additional brewery on the way in Currahee Brewing Company. I would definitely plan on checking them out. The downtown area of Franklin has really come alive with young entrepreneurs taking the leap of faith and opening their own business, and it all can be easily walked. Outside of the local business scene, I would highly recommend taking advantage of Franklin’s National Park experience in the Appalachian Trail. Macon County, in which Franklin is the county seat, boasts 6 access points for the A.T. Many peaks along the A.T., like Siler Bald and Wayah Bald, are hot spots for section hikers and novices alike. We are also home to a large stretch of the ‘Mountain Waters Scenic Byway’, which offers multiple waterfalls, including, Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls which you can actually drive behind. [divider]more from blueridgeoutdoors.com[/divider]
Appalachia, Va. Rebuilds A Footpath and an IdentitySkip Skinner still remembers hiking up to Lost Camp as a kid. The “camp” was Skinner’s name for a spot nestled up a hiking trail above the town of Appalachia, Va., where a hand-built log shelter had been erected against the base of a cliff. The steep terrain of the Cumberland Mountains lends itself to isolation, and the spot was one of those places where you could find the wilderness fast.“It felt like we were the first ones to discover it,” he says.The trail Skinner remembers has its roots at least as far back as the 1950s, and throughout the years, it’s gone by any number of names—Lost Camp, the Appalachia Loop Trail, and the Dark Hollow Trail, to name a few. But until recently, it had been nearly forgotten, lost to a lack of maintenance and the economic collapse of the nearby town that hosts its trailhead.Just like the region that gave it its name, the town of Appalachia has a long and storied history, one inextricably linked to the boom-and-bust nature of the coalfields. Once a thriving hub for several coal camps along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, Appalachia at its heyday was one of the larger towns in the mountainous region where Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky intersect. A melting pot of ethnicities and cultures settled there to work in the mines, and for decades the town was a bustling commercial center.“We’re looking to rebuild and rebrand what our town is.”But that all changed with the collapse of the coal industry. Today, Appalachia is a shadow of its former self, with census tracts surrounding the town hosting poverty rates that approach double the national average. And as the town declined, so did the trail up to Skip Skinner’s Lost Camp. No one seems to know exactly when, why, or how the trail became abandoned, but by the time Appalachia found itself deep in the grips of economic distress in the early 2000s, the trail up Dark Hollow had been all but forgotten.The story of Dark Hollow illustrates a hard truth about any trail in the southern mountains: trails need caretakers, and without them, a footpath can disappear. Government agencies’ budgets change, shifting priorities away from recreation. Maintenance groups dissolve. Dedicated volunteers die or move away.Almost every part of the southern Appalachians has trails that have been lost to time. Many of the Smokies’ rugged, lesser-known “manways” are in reality former trails that have all but faded into obscurity. Even North Carolina’s popular Fires Creek Rim Trail—one of the few singular, long loop trails in the Blue Ridge—was on the verge of being lost as recently as 15 years ago, when a volunteer group saved it from the brink.For Brian Falin, that need for a caretaker has turned into a calling. Falin is a member of the Appalachia Historical and Trailheads Committee, a special interest group formed within the last year and officially recognized by the town’s government. The Committee, he says, set out with the idea that there was more to Appalachia than its economic hard times.“The town has been dependent on the coal industry for decades,” Falin explains, “and now that those situations have declined, we have to look for ways to bring renewed interest and energy to our town. We’re looking to rebuild and rebrand what our town is.”In just a few short months, the Committee has played an instrumental role in developing the Powell River Trail, a 1.7-mile, multi-use path along a former railbed on the outskirts of town. The trail traverses jaw-dropping scenery above Class IV whitewater and passes through two historic railroad tunnels. Group members have also been working to connect existing trails and develop historical designations for Appalachia’s downtown.Part of that work, Falin says, has focused on the trail—Skip Skinner’s Lost Camp is now officially called Dark Hollow—that had long since faded back into the woods. “The bottom section of that trail is just gorgeous,” he says, adding that the group found the route in better shape than expected when they recently set out to assess it.Over this past spring, the Committee worked to clear and reblaze the trail through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. Now, a 1.4-mile path climbs from the edge of Appalachia’s downtown district up the rugged backside of Cumberland Mountain, ending at a massive sandstone outcrop overlooking the gorge below.A less than two-mile trail might seem laughable at first as a revitalization tool, but there’s more to Dark Hollow than just a trail—it’s also about restoring local pride. “We just need to take the right steps to make sure that the citizens that are here are proud of the place where they live,” Falin says. “If the town’s going to be better, it’s the people that are here that have to make it happen.”Beth and Neil Walker are some of those people. Residents of nearby Norton, the Walkers recently seized on the idea of reconnecting residents to the outdoors. This spring, the couple opened Stone Mountain Adventures, a rental and guide service focused on exposing residents to the assets that towns like Appalachia have been building.Starting the business was a leap of faith, but Beth Walker says that she saw a gap to fill in terms of helping residents take their first steps into the woods. “A lot of people don’t even know where to get started,” she says. “I want to show people home.”While Appalachia still has a long way to go to solve its economic woes, the town’s work at Dark Hollow has been one spark needed to ignite that momentum towards new economic growth. Appalachia, Va., may be shedding its historic role as an example of struggling coalfield communities and becoming a model for how the outdoors can bring those communities back to their roots.This spring, for example, Skip Skinner went back to Lost Camp, nearly four decades after he’d first visited as a kid. Things had changed in all that time, of course. The forest was noticeably older, and Skinner was retired following a successful career leading the regional planning district. He wasn’t able to find the old shelter along the trail that he had visited when he was younger, but one familiar thing did stand out to him.“The water flowing across the rocks brought back lots of memories,” he says. “I remembered catching a lot of crayfish in that creek as a kid.”Before leaving, Skinner says he took a moment to record the sound of that water with his smartphone. After all, some places are just too special to lose.