FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Houston Chronicle:Texas might have the perfect environment to quit coal for good.Texas is one of the only places—potentially in the world—where the natural patterns of wind and sun could produce power around the clock, according to new research from Rice University.Scientists found that between wind energy from West Texas and the Gulf Coast, and solar energy across the state, Texas could meet a significant portion of its electricity demand from renewable power without extensive battery storage. The reason: These sources generate power at different times of day, meaning that coordinating them could replace production from coal-fired plants.“There is nowhere else in the world better positioned to operate without coal than Texas is,” said Dan Cohan an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University who co-authored the report with a student, Joanna Slusarewicz. “Wind and solar are easily capable of picking up the slack.”Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the United States, generating about 18 percent of its electricity from wind. Most of the state’s wind turbines are located in West Texas, where the wind blows the strongest at night and in the early spring, when demand is low. The resource, however, can be complemented by turbines on the Gulf Coast, where wind produces the most electricity on late afternoons in the summer, when power demand is the highest. Solar energy, a small, but rapidly growing segment of the state’s energy mix, also has the advantage of generating power when it is needed most — hot, sunny summer afternoons.Coal still generates about 25 percent of the state’s power, but its share is shrinking. Since 2007, coal used in generating electricity has decreased 36 percent. Last year, Vistra Energy of Dallas shut down three coal-fired plants in Texas, citing changing economics in the power industry that make it difficult for coal to compete.More: Texas has enough sun and wind to quit coal, Rice researchers say Renewables, geography make it feasible for Texas to quit coal, Rice study finds
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Guardian:A group of powerful HSBC shareholders have written to the bank’s CEO, John Flint, urging him to close a loophole in its energy policy that allows the lender to bankroll coal projects in certain emerging markets.Investment management firms Schroders, EdenTree and stewardship provider Hermes EOS have also called on HSBC to impose a ban on corporate loans, underwriting and advisory services to bank clients that are highly dependent on coal. The letter, which was coordinated by campaign group ShareAction, stresses that HSBC must adopt a “clear, timebound plan” to phase out its existing exposure to the dirty fuel.HSBC was commended by activist groups including Greenpeace last year after releasing an energy policy that aimed to phase out lending for new coal-fired power plants in high-income countries and cut its commitment to oil sands “over time”. But that policy also left a loophole that allows the bank to finance new coal-powered plants in three countries – Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia – until 2023.Flint defended the move at last year’s annual meeting, saying that it was a “short window” of time and covered areas where many people “don’t have access to any electricity” and there may not be a reasonable alternative. But the shareholder letter says that coal power has “received too much credit historically for poverty reduction” and that 84% of the world’s electricity-poor households live in rural areas out of reach of coal-powered electricity. That challenge needs to be solved by extending grid infrastructure or installing decentralised energy systems which may be best served by renewable technologies, the letter says.Roland Bosch, the Hermes EOS associate director, said: “We expect that financing new coal-fired power will prove to be highly risky, given the increasing competitiveness of renewables, and [it] is incompatible with the goals of the Paris agreement. Although HSBC has not financed any new coal-fired power plants since the release of its new energy policy, we want to see the bank evolve its policy to rule out all investment in coal and instead to focus on financing low-carbon energy across emerging markets.”ShareAction noted that HSBC is lagging behind peers, including Standard Chartered and Barclays, which now have blanket exclusion policies for coal power financing.More: Investors urge HSBC to close coal loophole in energy policy Investors target Southeast Asia coal financing loophole adopted by HSBC
Tech companies call for more renewable energy in Virginia utility’s resource plan FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):A letter from 10 technology companies targeting Dominion Energy Inc.’s future resources plan may be the first domino to fall in the sector’s push for more renewables to run their energy-hungry data centers.For the first time, cloud computing and internet companies may have the upper hand over utilities when it comes to increasing renewable power generation, Fitch Solutions Macro Research said in a May 13 note. As the world’s biggest consumer of electricity, the technology sector is looking to its sources of energy as a clear-cut way to demonstrate its sustainability initiatives amid pressure from customers, investors and governments.However, tech giants’ efforts to meet their environmental, social and governance goals have come face-to-face with their electricity providers’ energy portfolios, which often times relies on fossil fuels. Fitch Solutions notes that tech companies’ financial clout could push their utilities to start divesting from coal and gas.“Where tech companies are now the dominant customer and have the cash and the longevity to reliably pay up-front for future power suppliers, some power companies will begin to see their future investment strategies being dictated by external influences for the first time,” Fitch Solutions said.These differences could play out in Virginia, where a number of companies have located data centers. On May 1, 2018, Dominion’s local utility Dominion Energy Virginia doing business as Virginia Electric and Power Co. proposed its latest 15-year integrated resource plan to state regulators. Dominion plans to add about 3,670 MW of natural gas capacity and 4,720 MW of solar generation by 2033, but Fitch Solutions said some of the utility’s priorities, such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which would in part supply gas to the company’s power plants and an expected slow phase-in of the new solar resources do not mesh with tech companies’ sustainability goals.That prompted a slew of tech companies including Apple Inc., Amazon Web Services Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and Microsoft Corp. to sign a letter criticizing Dominion’s plan. While gas is technically the least expensive option right now, pairing solar with storage will likely become the more affordable option for power companies, particularly as energy efficiency technology continues to improve, the tech firms said in their May 8 letter.More ($): Fitch Solutions: Tech giants may have power over utilities on energy sourcing
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Japan will aim to make hydrogen a power source viable enough to produce the output of more than 30 nuclear reactors by 2030, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Tuesday.To achieve that goal in its bid to reduce carbon emissions Japan will have to make a technology now in its infancy commercially viable at scale, as the world accelerates an energy transition to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.The government will provide 2 trillion yen ($19 billion) of funds to support efforts to make hydrogen viable as a fuel for electricity generators that burn without emissions, the Nikkei reported, without citing the source of its information.Costs will have to be cut drastically to achieve a target of burning 10 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030, with costs around 10 times higher for combustion of the fuel that only emits water vapour, the Nikkei said.The country will also aim to develop more renewable energy supplies to produce hydrogen for later use at times of plentiful sun or wind, the Nikkei said.Japanese companies including Toyota Motor Corp on Monday said they established a new organisation, the Japan Hydrogen Association, to promote the creation of a hydrogen supply chain in the country. By Monday 88 companies had joined the initiative, including Japan’s biggest refiner Eneos Holdings Inc and trading house Mitsui & Co Ltd.[Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Obayashi]More: Japan to make hydrogen major power source by 2030: Nikkei Japanese government to invest $19 billion to support 2030 hydrogen commercialization goal—report
Photo: Hunter DavisDooley Tombras was kneeling in his boat at the top of Triple Falls last spring when he became convinced he was going to paddle off the edge of the earth. Triple Falls is a three-tiered waterfall that drops 125 feet inside North Carolina’s Dupont State Forest. Occasionally, a brazen kayaker runs the falls, but nobody had ever done what Tombras was about to attempt. The 29-year old Knoxville paddler was about to bag the first descent of Triple Falls in a whitewater canoe.“It’s really intimidating to be in a boat at the top of a set of massive waterfalls,” Tombras says. “I’ve never had that perspective before, where it looks like the world just ends. The tourists standing there were looking at me like I was crazy.”It was just another day of work for Tombras, star of Canoe Movie 2: Uncharted Waters, the second whitewater canoe film produced by paddling collective Amongstit (the same group that puts together the popular Lunch Video Magazine). The movie follows Tombras and other whitewater canoeists as they systematically knock out first canoe descents of burly creeks and waterfalls all over North America and Mexico.Whitewater canoeing was relatively popular until the early 2000s when kayaks evolved into smaller, lighter, and more stable boats, which allowed paddlers to run more advanced water. Whitewater canoe design didn’t progress as quickly. Open boats were markedly slower and less maneuverable than kayaks. Whitewater canoes nearly became relics of a bygone era.“Suddenly, it was much easier to run hard whitewater in a kayak, so everyone abandoned their canoes,” says Tombras, who’s been paddling whitewater in a canoe since the mid 90s. “People were fleeing the sport. All I ever heard were stories about people ditching their open boats.”Luckily for Tombras and other die-hard open boaters, the paradigm shifted again two years ago, when Canadian canoe manufacturer Esquif developed the L’Edge, a shorter, more stable canoe with a radical rocker that allows a skilled canoeist to run hard whitewater almost as easily as a kayaker.With the original Canoe Movie, which was released in 2010, the Amongstit crew wanted to introduce the world to whitewater canoeing, detailing its history and some of the key players in the niche sport. With Canoe Movie 2, Hunter Davis, one of the owners of Amongstit, hopes to show the world exactly what can be done in an open boat.“Anything you can do in a kayak, these guys can do in a canoe. You can run class V. You can run waterfalls,” Davis says. “With Canoe Movie 2, we want to blow the doors off of adventure canoeing. We want to show them running these huge drops, and show that they’re not just daredevils throwing themselves off of waterfalls. They’re making big, beautiful moves just like a kayaker.”In the process of filming Canoe Movie 2, Tombras and his cohorts have notched out first descents all over North America, including 40-foot waterfalls in Mexico and wilderness runs in the Carolinas’ Jocassee Gorge. One of the most impressive first descents has to be Road Prong in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a skinny tributary of West Prong that’s accessed from the Chimney’s parking lot. It’s only runnable after a massive rain, and by all accounts, it’s the steepest river ever run in a canoe. The Road Prong drops 750 feet per mile with no necessary portages. By comparison, the Green River, arguably the most famous steep creek in the country, drops only 300 feet per mile.“It was scary,” Tombras says. “To be honest, I only ran it because the film was rolling.”While the new boats are more maneuverable on the water than the older models, they’re no lighter. Esquif’s L’Edge comes in at 70 pounds, and canoeists often have to carry on their shoulders for long hikes if they want to bag the more remote rivers in the region. For the Road Prong descent, Tombras had to lug his boat up a hiking trail that gained 1,000 feet in elevation before he could dip his paddle in the water.Beyond the added weight, there are still some performance limitations to open boating. Canoeists still only have one paddle and they still have a big hole in the top of their boat, so they’re always going to take on water. It’s a trade off, according to Tombras, who never once considered abandoning his canoe for a kayak.“I like the added challenge and the aesthetic value of running a river in a canoe,” Tombras says. “It’s like telemark skiing or fly fishing. Yes, it’s harder, but that’s part of the beauty.”More paddlers are drawn to the aesthetics of canoeing now that the boat designs have caught up to kayaks. Canoeists are now able to style big drops and tight creeks as well as most kayakers, pushing the limits of what people thought was possible in an open boat. More often than not, those limits are being pushed right here in the Southeast.“There are small pockets of open boaters all over, but the Southern Appalachians are a mecca,” Davis says. “The guys who are pushing the sport are doing it right here in our backyard.”The majority of Canoe Movie 2’s footage was shot on Southern creeks, and it wasn’t just a matter of convenience. According to Tombras, Southeastern rivers are ideal for open boating.“It’s the geology. We have drop and pool rivers, where you can run a big waterfall, then recover in an eddy and dump the water out of your boat before moving on to the next big drop,” Tombras says. “In the Rockies, though, the whitewater is more continuous, so if you’re in an open boat, you could easily get beat down for a mile of nonstop whitewater.”As for Davis, he’s excited about being able to show off some of our local rivers in a cutting-edge film like Canoe Movie 2.“You see a lot of adventure films set in places I’ll never get to go,” Davis says. “New Zealand looks amazing, but I’ll probably never get to paddle there. But I know I can get to the West Prong, which looks just as amazing, and I’ve never seen a film like this set there until now.”Video Bonus: See a teaser of Canoe Movie 2: Uncharted Waters:
Hit the Appalachian Trail on a warm weekend and you might think there are no secrets left along this 2,180-mile trail. After all, a visit to one of the A.T.’s hotspots like McAfee Knob or the Roan Highlands can leave you feeling awestruck by the crowds alone. But contrary to popular belief, hikers can still find solitude on the A.T. Here are the last great undiscovered hikes on the world’s most famous footpath.Siler Bald, N.C. Not to be confused with Siler’s Bald in the Smokies (though it’s named after the same family), Siler sits south of the uber-popular Nantahala River and yet, the legitimate high-elevation bald sees a fraction of the hikers that flock to its nearby counterparts.“People go to Wayah Gap and hike north to Wayah Bald and its fire tower. Hike the other direction, and you’ll hit Siler Bald, which has just as good of a view,” says Andrew Downs, trail resource manager for the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Downs adds that in general, any part of the A.T. south of the Nantahala River is going to be less crowded than the trail to the north between the river and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Access is limited because of the presence of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area and the biggest population center south of the Nantahala River is Franklin, which isn’t exactly a metropolis.Siler has the goods hikers crave. At 5,216 feet high, the grassy mountaintop gives you a 360-degree view that stretches into Georgia to the south, includes a piece of Lake Nantahala to the west, and the Wayah Bald fire tower to the north. Expect wildflowers around the bald during the spring and blueberries in the fall.Logistics: Park at Wayah Gap and hike two miles south to Siler Bald. The climbing is gradual and the payoff is big. Turn the trek into a multi-day by continuing 14 miles south to Albert Mountain, where a fire tower will give you another nearly mile-high 360-degree view. An abundance of shelters in this stretch will help keep your pack light.White Rocks and Blackstack Cliffs, Tenn./N.C. This section of the A.T. follows the North Carolina and Tennessee border, tracing the crest of the Bald Mountains Range that divides the two states. Interstate 26 is nearby, as are a few recreation areas popular with equestrians, but the Appalachian Trail hugs the ridgeline, too far removed from any large population centers to attract the casual hiker. So the views you’ll bag from the A.T.’s rocky outcroppings will be all your own.An eight-mile lollipop loop will deliver you to stunning views from two separate cliff bands and take you over the most underrated ridge walk on the trail. White Rocks Cliff is a quartzite outcropping on the Tennessee side of the trail with views into Greenville, Tennessee below. Blackstack Cliffs is a similar outcropping on the opposite side of the trail with a big view into Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Shortly after hitting these two cliffs, you’ll find yourself climbing the stone steps to Firescald Ridge, for nearly two miles of narrow ridge walking and rock hopping with endless views in all directions.Logistics: Pick up the A.T. six miles north of Allen Gap at Camp Creek Bald, then follow the white blazes north as the trail shimmies along the edge below the summit. You’ll hit the side trail to White Rocks Cliffs in two miles, and a couple hundred yards farther you’ll see the spur trail to Blackstack Cliffs. Keep hiking the A.T. north beyond Bearwallow Gap to the rocky, precarious, and stunning route over Firescald Ridge. The Carolina Mountain Club sweat blood to move the A.T. over the most dramatic route possible along this ridge. After rock hopping your way across the crest, you can create a loop by taking the old A.T., which is now marked Bad Weather Trail, south back toward Bearwallow Gap, Blackstack Cliffs, and your car.Chestnut Knob, Va. As everyone knows, the A.T. runs north and south, but in Southwest Virginia, as the trail leaves the High Country of Mount Rogers, it cuts west toward Pearisburg and the West Virginia border. Here, it becomes a washboard trail, climbing up and over peaks like Walker Mountain and wrapping around Burke’s Garden, a farming community and valley known as “God’s Thumbprint,” because it’s surrounded by a 360-degree ridge, like someone squished their thumb into the mountains. Here lies what might be the most remote and least traveled section of the Appalachian Trail below the Mason Dixon. Road access is scarce, federally designated Wilderness areas are plentiful, and hikers are few and far between.“Just getting to the A.T. in this corner of Virginia is part of the adventure,” says Steve Yontz, trail maintainer for the Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers. “Honestly, the easiest way to access the A.T. at Burke’s Garden, is by hiking the A.T.”Make the effort, and you’ll be rewarded with constant views for nearly two miles on Chestnut Knob, a high elevation bald that was grazed by livestock until the late 1980s. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rogers 80 miles south, and even Grandfather Mountain farther into North Carolina. Go north from Chestnut Knob onto the crest of Garden Mountain, and you’ll get more views into pastoral Burke’s Garden below.Logistics: For a short trip, access the A.T. from Walker Gap and hike south a mile to Chestnut Knob and carry on south until the trail runs out of views. Retrace your steps and go across the gap north onto Garden Mountain for an extra leg-stretch. But if you truly want to experience the solitude and beauty that this stretch of the A.T. affords, start where the A.T. crosses Hwy 11 and climb Walker Mountain on your way to Chestnut Knob. You’ll put in big miles, but walk through old farmsteads, bag big views, and get to stay at Chestnut Knob shelter, which offers excellent star gazing thanks to the lack of ambient light.The Roller Coaster, Va.To say that any section of the Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia is “undiscovered” is a bit of a stretch. “There’s no unpopular section of the trail in this day and age, but certain pieces aren’t necessarily in the limelight like the more well-known destinations,” says Bob Sickley, Mid-Atlantic trail resource manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Roller Coaster, a 13.5-mile length of trail packed with non-stop ups and downs, is one of those under-appreciated stretches of trail. Consider it the “overshadowed little brother” to the A.T. inside nearby Shenandoah National Park. The Roller Coaster is the A.T.’s swan song in Virginia, offering the last memorable piece of trail before reaching the “psychological half-way point” at Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. Known for its constant elevation change, you’ll climb more than a dozen significant hills for a total of 5,000 feet of gain as you make your way toward West Virginia. The tread is rocky, and the climbing is short but steep without a switchback in sight thanks to an unusually narrow right of way for the trail.The Roller Coaster is a hell of a workout, and a great place to test your mettle if you’re just breaking into backpacking. You’ll also get to enjoy the primo view of Shenandoah Valley to the west from Raven Rock, aka Crescent Rock.Logistics: Pick up the A.T. at Ashby Gap, where the trail crosses Route 50 and head north towards the Blackburn Trail Center. Prepare yourself for nearly constant ups and downs with 200-500 feet of elevation for each hill. The section offers a no-brainer overnight opportunity, thanks to the Bears Den Trail Center, a popular hiker hostel located 100 yards off the trail roughly half way through the Roller Coaster.Bly Gap, Ga. and N.C. The 16-mile stretch of the A.T. between Dick’s Creek Gap in Georgia and Deep Gap in North Carolina is in a sort of “no-man’s land,” far enough removed from hot spots like the Southern Terminus at Springer and the booming Nantahala Gorge. Hike the whole 16 miles, and you’ll cross the Georgia/North Carolina border at the halfway mark, but not a single road. In fact, the majority of the A.T. in this remote corner of the Appalachians hugs the western edge of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area, a relatively large but unknown federally designated Wilderness that covers the N.C./Ga. border. Access is so limited, that if you wait out the thru-hiker rush that comes in early spring, you’ll probably have the two trail shelters all to yourself.The climbing starts early as you leave Dick’s Creek Gap and yo-yo your way up and down ridges on your way to the state line. But consider the Georgia section of trail a warm up for the climb up Courthouse Bald in North Carolina, where the trail gains 1,500 feet via a series of relentless switchbacks. The views in Georgia are limited, but there’s a killer campsite and long-range view into the mountains of North Carolina at Bly Gap, 8.5 miles into the hike. From Muskrat Creek Shelter, take a .5-mile blue blaze to Ravenrock Ridge, a cliff with one of the most underrated views along the entire A.T. Other highlights include blooming rhodo in June. And did we mention the complete lack of roads?Logistics: Begin at Dick’s Creek Gap, where US 76 crosses the trail and head north. The climbing comes fast and builds as you move towards Deep Gap, N.C. where USFS 71 provides your “take out.” The forest road is gated during the winter. Two shelters sit on this portion of the trail, but their awkward location (Plumorchard Gap Shelter is just 4.5 miles into your hike) make it more practical to set up camp at Bly Gap just inside North Carolina. If you’re looking for a longer hike, the possibilities for side hikes through the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area are plentiful. •
2:34 Audio PlayerThe Secret StormFast LaneUse Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.00:000:00 / 3:37 Fast Lane The Secret Storm 3:56 Red Letter Ric Todd 4:29 Holy cow! We’ve reached the end of the line for 2015! Hard to believe another twelve months of Trail Mix has passed us by!Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 songs have been featured here this year, along with scores of artist interviews, ticket giveaways, and insights into the national roots music scene.All in all, it has been a hell of a year and, in keeping with that spirit, it would only be right to bid farewell 2015 with a bang.That means, of course, another collection of killer tunes.Featured this month is Leftover Salmon, the the Colorado godfathers of the jamgrass scene, who released High Country, there most recent record, just last week. Though the line up has seen some transition since the band’s inception in 1989, Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt – the driving forces behind the band since its earliest days – remain committed to the band’s singular purpose; hard driving, genre bending acoustic music. Be sure to check out “Gold Hill Line” on this month’s mix.Also on this month’s mix are Jordy Searcy, who appeared on NBC’s The Voice in 2014, and longtime blues master Bobby Rush, who recently released a four disc compilation chronicling his fifty years in the blues game.Be sure to check out brand new tracks from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Wild Child, Barrule, The Secret Storm, The Black Ships, Ric Todd, Husky Rescue, Peter Case, Moa Holmsten, Ben Millburn, Pete Lanctot, Narc Twain, and The Paperboys.Stay tuned to the Trail Mix blog this month. Upcoming are chats with Town Mountain, up and coming old time musician Sam Gleaves, and Hot Buttered Rum, along with New Years resolutions from musicians and music fans from across the region.And, of course, get out and buy some of the music from these great artists. Tis the season for stocking stuffers and what not. What better way to take care of the music lover in your life than to hit him up with some great music you discovered right here on Trail Mix?Photo by Jay Blakesberg. 4:04 Pelican Bay Peter Case 3:37 Embed You’re Missing mp3 Moa Holmsten Walk Right Pete Lanctot 4:10 2:56 4:10 3:56 Far From The Storm Husky Rescue Ain’t We Brothers (with Tim O’Brien) Sam Gleaves 2:16 4:01 Bone King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Gold Hill Line Leftover Salmon 3:46 Weary Ways Hot Buttered Rum 5:29 3:56 Copy and paste this code to your site to embed. Big River Town Mountain 4:03 3:35 Seasons Jordy Searcy 3:21 Chicken Heads Bobby Rush Break Bones Wild Child Kinnoull Barrule Twice Born The Black Ships 4:15 Downhill Narc Twain 3:03 Take Me Ben Millburn Back To You The Paperboys
We can’t believe it’s already April, but we’re happy to announce that our April 2018 issue is live and available for pickup at your local newsstand. In this issue, we discuss a proposed bill allowing mountain bikes in wilderness areas, the outdoor family guide, best trails for toddlers, endangered species, outdoor education, and Cherokee’s booming outdoor industry. Check out the articles below:[column size=one_half position=first ][/column][column size=one_half position=last ][/column][column size=one_half position=first ][/column][column size=one_half position=last ][/column][column size=one_half position=first ][/column][column size=one_half position=last ][/column]
New programs are making camps more accessible and affordableHannah Sjovold credits the Blue Sky Fund Outdoor Leadership Institute for helping her “develop who I am and who I want to be.”Blue Sky Fund brings youth from all over Richmond, Va. together through outdoor adventure and service. Rising ninth through twelfth graders spend a few days learning wilderness survival skills like how to set up a tent and light a stove before embarking on a week-long trip to the Grayson Highlands and the summit of Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia.Although she had previously hiked with her dad, Sjovold said she had never done a multi-day trip this long and strenuous with a group of people she had never met before.“The first day, definitely, we were all a bit timid,” Sjovold said. “But it’s incredible being out backpacking together. You meet someone in a way that you can never know them again. By the end of it, we really created our own family. I keep in touch with all of the participants to this day. We still hang out together sometimes. Such a community is built.”The students learn to navigate each other’s strengths and weaknesses while out on the trail, taking on different roles each day.“We hiked basically the entire day,” Sjovold said. “Some people wanted to hike faster, and others couldn’t keep up with that pace. Bonding with each other through that and getting through the tough parts. Some people got blisters on their feet and that’s not a fun experience. There was one day where it rained the entire day. That’s hard on the morale but getting through that together is incredible.”But the program doesn’t end after those two weeks over the summer. The boys’ and girls’ crews come together to meet throughout the school year, volunteering one Saturday a month in urban gardens, parks, and homeless shelters around Richmond.“I am definitely more aware of my surroundings and the impact that I have on the environment,” said participant Malik Ahmad. “I’ve become more conscious of what I can do to help my environment and to help my community and my earth.”Although Ahmad had participated in Blue Sky’s afterschool program through the local Boys and Girls Club, he wasn’t as sure about signing up for the backpacking trip. At the encouragement of his grandmother, he applied for the institute and went on the trip the summer before he started high school.“It pushed me to try harder and made sure I was being honest with myself and honest with how I felt,” Ahmad said. “I’m typically a pretty nonchalant, non-argumentative person, or I was at the time. I was always hesitant to share my opinions or say how I felt at the moment. Then I realized that if I wanted my needs to be met, I needed to make them alert to myself, my counselors, and my team.”Building the TEAMBly Sky Fund’s Outdoor Leadership Institute students are nominated by a teacher, mentor, or alumni of the program and then interview with the program directors. For the students selected, payment is based on a sliding scale to give every student the opportunity to participate.Starting in the summer of 2019, Blue Sky will accept up to 40 students for four summer sessions.“We try to get a diverse range of students from different backgrounds because when we’re talking about race, leadership, and unity in our communities, it’s really important for them to learn some new perspectives,” said Program Manager Dustin Parks.The students build the foundation to have those honest conversations through outdoor adventure and teamwork.“They really just form this unit,” Parks said. “The students work together to set the pace of the day, to figure out where we’re going, how many miles we’re hiking. It’s just a really cool time to see all of these students who four days ago, didn’t even know each other, didn’t really know how to read a map, and they’re navigating the wilderness together… Our students are not only walking away feeling supported by a group of people that are really different from them, but they are also learning a new skill that they can then use in other walks of life.”Once students finish the year long program, culminating in a graduation in June, they are invited to join alumni trips the following summers to continue building that self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.With these trips, the students have more control over where they go, learning how to plan, budget, and execute a trip of their own design. Blue Sky provides them with the funds, transportation, and facilitators to make it happen.After his hesitation about the initial trip, Ahmad was all in on the alumni trip. The group biked from Pittsburgh, Penn., to Washington, D.C. along the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage.“I think the impact of our programming really creates a safe place for students to come and explore the outdoors,” Parks said. “And explore themselves and kind of learn who they are and learn what they’re passionate about away from the norm of school and sports and stuff like that.”Similarly, Sjovold found she still wanted to be involved with Blue Sky but could not make it on the alumni trip. During the summer of 2018, the program managers invited her to work as a guide in training.“It was an opportunity to see it from the other side,” she said. “I wasn’t really a participant in the way that the other girls were participants… I helped to plan some of the in-town days and the lessons we wanted them to understand. It was a really interesting experience, very fulfilling.”The support from the program leaders extends beyond the institute itself.“They came to one of my cross country meets and cheered me on,” Sjovold said. “It really makes you feel loved and a part of something bigger than yourself.”Follow ThroughThe Outdoor Leadership Institute is only one part of Blue Sky Fund’s mission to engage more students through the outdoors.The organization partners with eight Richmond public elementary schools, working with second through fifth graders on experience-based science instruction. They lead after school adventure clubs at ten locations throughout the city for middle schoolers.“We see a lot of our students who are in our elementary school program in our middle school program,” Parks said. “And we’re starting to see our elementary schoolers making it to our high school program. They know we’re consistent, they know we’re going to show up, they know that we care… We’re basically able to see students from second grade to twelfth grade and support them along the way.”Over the summer, Blue Sky offers a six-week camp to expand on the programming they offer during the school year.A full day of camp gives them more time to take the students to places outside of Richmond, including an overnight camping trip each week.The summer program costs $10 per week but the program works with each individual family so that cost is not a barrier. With all Blue Sky’s programs, most of the funding comes through donations, grants, and private partnerships to reach more children through the outdoors.Brittany Bailey started working with Blue Sky Fund as an intern in 2013 before coming on full time in 2017. As the adventure program manager, she works with students across all grades and heads up the summer program.Each week, the campers learn various outdoors skills such as paddling, rock climbing, Leave No Trace principles, and first aid, venturing out to George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park.“We would love for them to be able to take this and then go to these places with their families,” Bailey said. “Somewhere like Shenandoah, where it’s a paved road that they can get to, it’s really well marked, it’s something that could be really accessible for some of our students to go outside of our program.”Getting the ExperienceFor college students, summer is a time for learning the skills needed for after graduation. Whether it’s through a job, an internship, summer classes, or study abroad, it’s an opportunity to explore.photo courtesy of The Greening Youth FoundationThe Greening Youth Foundation started as an environmental education program, partnering with public schools in Gwinnett County, Ga. to teach students about nature and wellness.As their mission evolved and grew, the foundation began partnering with the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and several outdoor retailers to offer internships for diverse and underrepresented students among the next generation of environmental leaders.Eboni Preston, the director of programs, said these partnerships present an opportunity for young adults to gain experience in the field and build professional networks. They place around 500 students in a variety of positions every year.“I tell them all the time I am living vicariously through them,” she said. “They’re working on everything from hydrologist assistants to interpretation, graphic design, social media, historic preservation, and architecture.”Students apply through the foundation which then works with the partner organizations to match students with positions and parks.“We are engaging an audience that hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, especially when it comes to this space,” Preston said. “So that screening is we’re talking with them to see what their interests are, who is going to be a good fit. That is really big when it comes to these programs. Like you say that you like nature but are you okay sleeping in a tent? Are you really scared of bugs? Having some conversations so that we can make sure that what the young people enter into will help them be successful there.”Once students start their internship, the foundation is there to provide support throughout the experience. In addition to summer internships for undergraduate students, there also longer internships available for graduate students.“We’re uprooting a lot of these young people, sometimes it is for six months to a year,” Preston said. “So, making sure they have somewhere to stay, being an advocate for them, making sure they’re getting a stipend that will help them with whatever expenses they may have is really important for us…It’s really about making sure these young people are successful and getting to the root of different types of issues they may be having or issues that are within the agency.”At the end of every internship, Greening Youth asks the students to submit a multimedia reflection piece about their experience.“For the folks that go outside a lot or have been fortunate enough to visit [national] parks, it’s just something special,” Preston said. “People always talk about their first park experience. It’s breathtaking and it’s life changing. Folks in that space working for one of these agencies, they definitely take growing opportunities from that.”While studying biology at Spelman College, Cristha Edwards worked with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for two years as a conservation and biology intern through the foundation. During the summer, she worked full time in the molecular, tissue culture, and GIS mapping labs.“Because you spend two years there, you really got to take time and see a project through from start to finish,” Edwards said. “The skills that I learned there actually helped me in the writing of my first publication.”Now, Edwards is working with the foundation and the Forest Service on a faith-based forestry program at Proctor Creek while she pursues her Master of Divinity at Emory University.“Even if I don’t end up staying in environmental justice or anything like that, just the skills that you learn, you can take it into any field,” she said. “I think professional development is one of the largest things Greening Youth Foundation has to offer… So not only lab skills, but how to communicate with people in an effective manner that is also professional, the importance of punctuality, and networking.”Through it all, Edwards said the team at Greening Youth Foundation has been there for her.“In your 20s, you’re finishing college and it’s a time of transition,” she said. “They’re really good at working with you throughout that time.”For the youngest and the smallestFree Forest School is not a summer program as the weekly meet ups happen year-round. And it’s not a camp. But it’s a chance for children to spend some unstructured time outside, engaging their sense of wonder at a very young age. It caters to families with children from newborns to six year olds.Forests schools are not a new phenomenon. This style of learning encourages people of all ages to interact with the world around them, promoting independence and creativity.But unlike many outdoor programs for young kids, Free Forest School is exactly that. Free.“We were looking for things to do outdoors with our family here in Baltimore and I just found a lot of the outdoor programs for families with young children were just so expensive,” said Atiya Wells.Wells is a pediatric nurse in Maryland and mother of two. After learning about Free Forest School, she went through the process of starting a chapter when she learned there was not one near her family.“It’s all a child led environment,” she said. “The kids pick which way we go on the hike. They pick where we stop. They pick mostly everything we do out there.”The group meets once a week at the same local park, averaging around 12 families. They typically walk between a quarter mile and half mile before setting up base camp. The children are then given at least an hour of free play before coming together for snacks and story time.“Prior to Free Forest School, as a parent with two small children and as a working mom, I was always trying to find something for my kids to do,” Wells said. “After starting Free Forest School, going and observing, I’m thinking I really don’t need to provide them with anything. Everything that they need is already out here. That helped me get them outside, even in our backyard more… It’s really made me more of a relaxed kind of parent. I don’t have to be on edge all the time.”Since starting the Baltimore chapter over a year ago, Wells said her five-year-old daughter has become more independent when it comes to play.“She has never really been one to play by herself,” she said. “It was always, ‘Mommy, can you play with me? Can we do this? Can we do that?’ Now she’s started playing by herself a lot more. She’s more comfortable being outside by herself in our backyard.”Her two-year-old son, who started the program at an earlier age, is more confident on his feet, climbing hills and rocks without any hesitation.Getting involved with Free Forest School also inspired Wells to enroll in the state master naturalist program through the local extension office.“This has also sparked more of an interest in me to learn more about nature from the questions that the children were asking me,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about being outside, honestly. Growing up as an African American and living in the city, nature was not a part of our everyday, even once a month. It’s not something that we did at all. I was under the impression that everything that was green was poison ivy. There were bears everywhere and snakes and everything was going to get you… I was like I really need to know more about what’s out here for the safety of people. From there I realized there’s really nothing to be afraid of.”The class has helped her identify plants, wildflowers, and rocks with her daughter when they are at their weekly meetups.Wells also sits on the board of directors to help guide the organization at the national level and promote the accessibility of the program.“I thought once I started Free Forest School, it’s a free program, there will be more black people and more people of color out there,” she said. “And that was not the response. It really made me do a deeper dive of what’s really going on here. That has led me down the history of institutional racism and why a lot of people of color are not comfortable outdoors and what needs to happen in order for that to be more of a comfort for them.”One of the things facilitators like about Free Forest School is the flexibility it offers depending on location. With dozens of chapters across the country and a handful internationally, it looks a little different in each place.SarahRuth Owens heads up the Southern Blue Ridge chapter with groups meeting in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The group she facilitates rotates locations after 12 weeks, giving the children time to learn an area but also experience new places.Owens plans to homeschool her five, three, and two-year-old so Free Forest School gives them a chance to interact with other children, especially her oldest.“I’ve really seen him take a leadership role in a way I haven’t seen him do,” she said. “He is one of the oldest children. He’ll be like, ‘I know the trail!’ when new kids come. ‘Come with me!’ He’ll race ahead. In other environments, he can be very cautious and not as confident.”Owens said her group likes water, so the parents consider how deep and swift the water is when scouting locations.“There are times I can hear him, but I can’t visually see him anymore,” she said. “I know where he is. He knows that area really well. With that in mind, when we go scout, we’re actually scouting for safety so that when we bring groups of children, we don’t really have to be on guard.”That idea of self-directed play is what drew Matt Jarman and Janice Adelman to the program.“We are both research psychologists and a few years ago we were looking into how to raise a child that is connected with nature in today’s kind of disconnected way of living,” Jarman said. “There’s more and more research showing the benefits of being in nature for everyone, kids and adults. So, I think they’re doing a great job making this an accessible opportunity for people everywhere.”The parents of a four-year-old and a four-month-old started a chapter in Rockbridge County, Va. a few months ago. Although the group is still small, they already know this is something they want to continue growing for other families in the area.“This is what we’ve been needing and what’s been lacking,” Adelman said. “Just that aspect of community building has been really impressive to me, to get people to come together… The organization is really great about putting those ideals and those values first and offering a platform of support to do that.”For decades, campers of all ages have flocked to summer camps around the Blue Ridge Mountains for adventure. Set in the heart of Appalachia, these summer camps offer outdoor experiences for kids and teenagers of all ages. Camp Hidden MeadowsBartow, W. Va.Surround by the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, Camp Hidden Meadows offers adventure for campers ages 6-16. Spend your summer learning outdoor living skills, farm to table cooking, mountain biking, and more. Older campers have an opportunity to venture further beyond the base camp on one of the Earth Expeditions. Spend a week backpacking to the top of West Virginia’s highest peak, whitewater raft down the New River Gorge, and climb the rocks at Seneca Falls.Green River PreserveCedar Mountain, N.C.With over 3,400 acres to explore, Green River Preserve has plenty of space to explore, create, and learn. During the Mentor Hike, campers explore the many ecosystems of the preserve led by naturalists. These hikes encourage campers to slow down and connect with the natural world. Rising high schoolers through rising college freshmen are invited to return for one of the graduate expeditions in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Outer Banks.Smoky Mountain Adventure CampCosby, Tenn.What better place to spend the summer than in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Campers build relationships with each other, staff members, and the environment through hiking, camping, and paddling. Explore well known areas like Max Patch and Pigeon River, spend a night in the Lost Sea Caverns, and take a turn on the climbing wall. Each session ends with a trip to Ober Gatlinburg for some summertime ice skating.
The road team has a guest suite! This year we’ve partnered with Roof Nest to show-off their line of light-weight, low profile, easy-to-use rooftop tents. Anywhere you can find the LOAP van you can find a RoofNest. We’ll be demo-ing this awesome tent all over Colorado and the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’re excited to climb up there at night to get closer to the stars, or take a break from the mid-day heat with an elevated nap. Now that we have a guest room, there’s no excuse not to come on a camping trip with us, we supply the sleeping arrangments. As with past years, we’ve got a few awesome companies keeping us going for the next few months. We’ll be rocking their gear and putting it to the test. We want introduce you, and share some fun facts. Stio, born in the Tetons, knows a thing or two about making apparel that’s ready for the mountains. Stio is new to the Live Outside and Play program and we couldn’t be more excited about this partnership. Founded in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Stio specializes in beautiful, functional products infused with a mountain soul. Technical performance, quality, and versatility are what stands out in Stio’s product line. Aside from making top-notch products Stio also walks-the-walk so to speak. They use Bluesign approved textiles in their apparel and do their part to advocate for conservation, climate change, and sustainability. Mountain House has been with us since the beginning and we’re excited to have them back! If you’ve seen us at an event, then there’s no doubt you’ve gone home with a sample or two of a tasty Mountain House meal. Mountain House has a lot of exciting things in the works this year but what we’re most excited for is their partnership with TerraCycle to offer a FREE recycling program for their used pouches. TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that specializes in giving new life to hard-to-recycle products. For those who can make it out to Appalachian Trail Day’s, bring us your empty pouch and we’ll give you a new one and recycle your old one! Sea to Summit has a bunch of exciting things happening this season. They’ve updated and added to an already extensive line of sleep systems; including the addition of women’s specific sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping mats. They’ve also added an exciting product to their fan-favorite line of Aeros Inflatable Pillows to include the Aeros Down Pillow. The new pillow combines the softness and supportiveness of the Aeros Pillow series but with a luxurious down pillow top. Bonus points for using sustainably sourced goose down. Lowe Alpine Photo by Noah Wetzel. Big Agnes We will be all over the Blue Ridge Mountains and Colorado this summer, attending festivals and hosting meetups. We hope to see you out there! Mountain House Welcome back Leki! This season we’re excited to show off Leki’s entirely updated line of aluminum and carbon trekking poles. Leki has been at the cutting edge of comfort and performance since they were founded in 1948. Leki has become synonymous with a perfect grip, easy length adjustment, and outstanding support. Throughout our 2019 tour, we’ll have a full demo fleet of poles featuring all sizes and price-points. So, come say hi and see what you’re missing. Sea to Summit Roof Nest Hello again! It’s Roxy and Ben, your Live Outside and Play Road Team. We are back for another year of adventures, with an incredible summer of travels laid out in front of us. We can’t wait to get back on the road. Franklin County, VA We’ve been using Sea To Summit’s cookware in the van for a while now. For us, it’s as practical as it is packable. This season they have released the Sigma Series. A new line of packable, all stainless steel pots. Keep an eye out for some more cooking videos and how-tos! Leki Stio No doubt you’ve seen Big Agnes gear out on the trail. Their tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are a staple in most camps. Big Agnes also knows a lot about camp comfort. They’ve been specializing in it for a long time. Now they are bringing their expertise to their new line of Camp Furniture. You’ll find a lot of similarities with their other camp gear; simple and intuitive setup, thoughtful and innovative design, and most of all comfort. When you come hang out with us this summer, you can bet you’ll have a comfortible place to hang out! Lowe Alpine has been making framed packs for outdoor lovers since 1967. Founded in Colorado by the now-famous Lowe Brothers, Lowe Alpine packs have been a staple in the global climbing community since Greg Lowe designed an external framed pack that gave climbers more freedom of movement in the mountains than ever before. This year Lowe Alpine is launching two new technical backpacks. The Altus and the Manaslu. Both new packs come in both men’s and woman’s versions. This year, for the first time, we’re thrilled to announce a different kind of partnership. We’re happy to say that Franklin County, Virginia has joined our adventure. We’re excited about this because we spend a lot of time in this area of the Blue Ridge. From an outdoor recreation standpoint, Franklin County has something for everyone. Fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding — you name it. We’re particularly excited because Franklin County is home to Smith Mountain Lake and we’ve heard it’s the perfect place to cool off during the summer.