Australian Election Bodes Ill for Adani FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Wire:The Adani group’s chances of getting a $900 million (AUD) concessional government loan — crucial to its Carmichael coal mine project — are approximating close to zero as the Australian Labour Party (ALP) is set to form the government in Queensland — the north-eastern Australian state home to the proposed Adani coal mine.The ALP went into polls with the promise that they will veto the prospective Federal government loan to the Adani group, and that became the critical point of difference between the Liberal National Party (LNP) and the ALP — the two major parties that went head-to-head in the elections held on November 25.The $900 million (AUD) loan with an interest rate lower than commercial lending rates and a repayment period longer than commercial lending periods would have reached the Adani group through the Federal government body, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF). The tax-payer subsidised loan was being seen as a lifeline for the project which has huffed, puffed, but struggled to raise any finance as banks and financial institutions across the world have decided to stay away from the project due to the uncertainty around the global coal market and due to the project’s controversial nature.Three weeks prior to polling, on November 4, leader of the ALP in the state and the sitting Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced that her government will veto the prospective NAIF loan to the Adani group. The announcement came as a surprise as Palaszczuk had previously stood steadfastly behind the project even as the project faced massive public opposition.ALP’s definitive stand ensured that the Adani loan issue — which was already one of the top-most elections issues — became the most significant talking point leading up to polling day. “It had always been a very significant issue. But, with the Premier’s decision to veto the loan, it became the most significant issue going into the elections as it became the point of difference between the two parties,” said Joshua Robertson, correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and earlier with the Guardian Australia, and someone who has covered the Adani mine project since 2014.Various social organisations and activist groups have been protesting and lobbying against the Adani coal mine for the last three years with the protests gathering momentum in the last few months as the organisations came together under the ‘Stop Adani’ alliance, which, like its name, used uncomplicated messaging to try and convince the Australian people that the Adani coal mine would do more harm than good.“It has been a very smart and effective campaign. People across the country have become more opposed to the mine and I don’t think anyone wants to see tax-payer’s money given to a billionaire,” said Paul Williams, senior lecturer in politics at Griffith University in Queensland.On October 4, a month prior to ALP’s announcement that it would veto the NAIF loan, a survey of 2,194 residents across Australia was conducted and the results showed that 55.6% of those surveyed were opposed to the Adani coal mine. When asked if the Queensland government should veto the Federal government loan to Adani, 65.8% of the respondents said yes.“The public opinion and the campaign against the mine caught up with the Labour party (ALP). We have been tirelessly campaigning against the mine for the last two-three years, and politicians sooner-or-later had to bow down to public opinion. That’s what happened with the ALP’s veto announcement,” Sam Regester, campaigns director at GetUp, an activist group part of the ‘Stop Adani’ alliance, told me in a phone conversation.As growing public opinion against the Adani coal mine cajoled the ALP into saying no to the NAIF loan, the mine’s dependence on the subsidised loan grew. As many as 24 Australian and international banks either refused to fund the project or introduced rules that would make the Carmichael project out-of-bounds for them. The options that remained for Adani to finance the project such as Chinese state owned enterprises — which the Adani group had approached — also depended on the explicit endorsement of the project by the Australian government in the form of the NAIF loan. “I don’t think the Chinese state owned enterprise would even contemplate doing a project in Australia without an explicit endorsement of the project by the Australian government. And there is nothing more explicit than being a key funder. If the Chinese knew that the NAIF wasn’t available, I don’t think they would even give it a moment’s thought. It is too controversial a project,” Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, within the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a pro-renewables energy research firm, told me in October.After losing out on the NAIF loan, there was more bad news for the Adani group as Buckley’s words turned prophetic, and Chinese banks started distancing themselves from the project, almost on cue, as results of the Queensland elections started trickling in and it appeared certain that the ALP would form the government in Queensland meaning that there would be no Federal government NAIF loan for the Adani project.Between December 1 and December 5, three Chinese banks publicly stated that they will not be financing the Adani coal mine project. These banks include some of the biggest banks in the world — Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Bank of China.More: Election Will Impact Adani’s $4-Billion Mine
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Rome News-Tribune:If the Georgia Public Service Commission approves Georgia Power’s plan, Plant Hammond would be taken out of service as soon as the order is signed. A hearing schedule established by the PSC indicates that could happen as early as August.Georgia Power has planned to decertify Hammond for years and, in fact, committed during the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan to limit capital investment at the plant to no more than $5 million annually.In the meantime, Georgia Power is moving forward with plans for the development of a demonstration of solar power on closed coal ash ponds at Plant Hammond.The PSC had previously approved the solar project to evaluate different technologies including both traditional and non-traditional racking systems. Specifically, the project will provide the utility with a hands-on detailed understanding of the requirements to permit and build solar generation facilities over closed solid waste sites, remediated sites and undeveloped plant properties.Preliminary plans for the development of up to 10 megawatts of solar demonstration projects are currently under review by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division as part of the coal ash pond closure permits.The IRP also includes accounting language related to the cost recovery time period related to the retirement of certain assets at Plant Hammond. “The years for the remaining useful lives were set in the last rate case in 2013, and recovery over those lives means a smaller impact on annual rates than a quicker recovery,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft.More: Hammond closure would be immediate following PSC approval Soon-to-close Georgia coal plant could host new solar power demonstration project
Desjardins, largest financial cooperative in North America, to stop coal industry investments FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Desjardins Group, the largest financial co-operative in North America, said it will almost completely stop financing companies in the coal industry.The Canadian co-op said it won’t provide investments, loans or underwriting for businesses that operate or develop coal mines, plants or infrastructure, according to a statement posted on Friday. It may still work with some businesses that are transitioning away from coal, in line with the Paris Agreement’s phase-out beginning in 2030, and currently use coal to produce no more than 10% of their power, Desjardins said.In recent years, many European banks and money managers have announced plans to end financing or investments in coal, along with oil sands producers and Arctic drillers. In the Netherlands, Robeco said in September that it plans to bar investments in the most environmentally harmful fossil fuels from its mutual funds by the end of the year, one of the first money managers to do so.The biggest U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. have set some restrictions on coal investments but haven’t stopped participating in all coal deals.Desjardins said that in May it had joined Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of businesses pledging to stop financing coal power.[Saijel Kishan]More: Desjardins vows to sharply cut coal investments to aid phase-out
I love starting the day off with a workout.There’s nothing like a morning bike ride, attainments session, or gym workout to set the tempo of your day. They remind me of a quote that I was turned on to a few years ago:“Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”-Mary Anne RadmacherAs an entrepreneur and freelance type, I am not guaranteed the biweekly paycheck and dependable stream of income that it affords. I cannot just survive “off weeks” in which my productivity and creativity are down, and rest assured that it will blow over in the future. I need to be on-point, organized, and creating value every single day, or I won’t be generating the income that I need to survive. It’s a lot to balance and can be overwhelming at times, but I always find that I am more efficient when I have had a good workout in the morning.I’ve never studied the science behind this phenomenon in the past, but I recently looked into the benefits of working out first thing in the morning. Needless to say, I found many more than I had originally thought existed, and it has cemented my desire to make morning exercise a part of my schedule for a lifetime. Here are just a few highlights:1) Once in a routine, it will help you to sleep better. Rather than being alert and energized by a late workout, your body is anticipating the exertion of the next morning, and your endocrine system and circadian rhythms pave the way for better rest.2) Research has demonstrated that exercise increases mental acuity. This lasts for four to ten hours after the workout.3) Exercising in the morning boosts your metabolism and keeps it elevated for hours. You will burn more calories throughout the day simply because you exercised early.4) For those individuals with a weight loss goal, exercise on a pre-breakfast empty stomach coaxes the body to burn a greater percentage of fat for fuel, rather than relying primarily on carbohydrates.5) Many people find that it regulates their appetite for the day, and the “healthy mindset” that they started their day out with helps them to make better food choices.6) 90% of people who exercise consistently do so in the morning. We are creatures of habit, and morning is a great time to guarantee that you get your workout done in spite of the distractions and challenges that may derail your plans later in the day.These are just a few of the compelling scientific reasons to work out early, but the most important factor for me is that it makes me a more positive person. It is much easier to go through the day with a positive attitude when I feel good about the successful completion of another challenging workout.And what can be better than starting your day off by exploring these mountains that we live in? We have the opportunity to see the sun rise while on our bikes or in our running shoes exploring the trails, or in a kayak/canoe exploring the river. There are few things on Earth that can compare to witnessing the dawn of a new day while doing something that we love.I know that when I sit down at my desk after a morning like that, I am ready for anything.
The Thanksgiving holiday is coming up next week, one of my favorite times of the year. I begin salivating for turkey, gravy, and stuffing as soon as the leaves begin falling from the trees. The food is great, but for many Thanksgiving also means hosting or travelling to visit family. Depending on where your family falls on the crazy/sane scale when they all get together, you may consider this a blessing or a curse. Regardless, it’s going to happen, so you better get used to it. Traditionally, a Turkey Trot is run on the Thursday morning of Thanksgiving, giving runners a way to break a sweat, get out of the house, and feel a little better about themselves gorging on calories before falling asleep on the couch during the Lions game.But, let’s be honest, trying to rally a crew – or even yourself – to the start line on Thanksgiving day can be a chore, especially if Aunt Claire forgot she was supposed to bring the mashed potato and needs everyone to pitch in or Thanksgiving WILL BE RUINED! It just may be better to get that Turkey Trot self-esteem booster out of the way before the big day. Good thing there are plenty of holiday-themed runs in your area this weekend, including the 32nd annual Turkey Trot in Pinehurst, N.C. Registration is open up till 45 minutes before the gun and distances range from a mile to half marathon.If you want to hold off and run your Turkey Trot on Thursday, try the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8K, the largest in the Southeast with 10,000 runners.View Larger Map
The beauty of Independence Day falling on a Thursday is that you get to spread the holiday out over three or four days. Unless you have a tyrannical boss or work for a company that puts a premium on “productivity,” in which case you’re probably stuck at your desk right now nursing a patriotic hangover. Bummer for you. My condolences. Go back to your TPS reports. This blog is for the four-day Fourth of July celebrants, those patriots that put the Star Spangled Banner and drinking in the sunshine above the bottom line. By now, you’re deep into day two of your American Pride bender and are looking for something different to drink. I imagine you’re hold up on a bass boat in the middle of a manmade lake, rubbing aloe on your tomato red shoulders, your belly swollen with smoked pork and Doritos. You’ve got third degree burns on your fingers and other unmentionable crevasses from setting off “the good” fireworks you got from the guy selling pyrotechnics out of his van on the four-lane. You are celebrating America’s birthday the way our forefathers intended, but you’re thirsty. The American Flag Budweisers just aren’t cutting it anymore, even though they go great with your girlfriend’s bikini. So, here are a couple of other libations that will fuel your bender while satiating your intense patriotic streak.Patriotic Beers:Sam Adams: Anything from this brewery will work since it’s named for one of the country’s most pronounced proponents for the Revolution and a signer of the Declaration on Independence. How’s that for patriotic street cred? samueladams.comAnchor Liberty Ale: A hoppy IPA brewed in San Francisco, the circus notes hit you hard, like, um, freedom. anchorbrewing.comDC Brau Citizen: Not only is this Tripel Belgian Ale brewed in our nation’s capitol, it’s named for the ratification of the 23rd amendment, which allowed DC citizens to vote for the president and vice president of the United States. Dcbrau.com21st Amendment Brew Free! Or Die: A punchy IPA out of San Francisco (the fact that San Fran has made two appearances on this Patriotic list is killing the Republican readership of this blog, but you can’t deny facts. Not even if you’re a Republican) that’s loaded on the hop front. The name of the brewery celebrates the amendment that repealed prohibition, making us all just a little bit freer to get drunk and do dumb things. God Bless America. 21st-amendment.comMoonshine: Speaking of prohibition, freedom, the Constitution and American Flag bikinis, there’s perhaps no beverage more patriotic than a swig of moonshine distilled deep in some backwoods Appalachian holler. I’m not talking about the legally distilled moonshines that have hit the market today. I’m talking about the white lightning that comes from some dude’s bathtub that the USDA knows nothing about. Now that’s American.
I’m a slow healer and my scabs are just now peeling (this was a few weeks ago when I started this article). A few weeks have passed since the Trans-Sylvania Epic and it’s taken about that long to find a moment to settle down. Stage racing, although challenging, is more about vacation than anything else. It’s a chance to see a new place, enjoy others company, and to indulge in the petty nuances of bike racing. With a full life of work and kids, taking the time to make it to the race was no small thing, but, with a fresh batch of chocolate raisin oatmeal cookies, a complete and professional assembly of tools and camping supplies, and a few hidden inspirational note cards, Trish sent me off like a kid to camp. This was going to be a treat.State College is not such a far drive from Asheville as it turns out. I was lucky enough to make the trip with the everywhere legend, Jon Stang. A lifetime of stories to catch up on, and a new one in the making, make time roll along like a Virginia ridge line. Nolichucky, Holston, the New, the Roanoke, and the Shenandoah, they flowed by, some going east and others west. Beyond that, the terrain takes on its less familiar Pennsylvania form, the ridges veer to the east and the roads go this way and that. Mennonite farm country and small ridges are overrun with oversize highways. In between the roads and the farms, the wilderness remains, unaware of any changes beyond. Uniformly rocky, ferny, and wooded, the terrain is green, and rugged; the trails are well built but un-groomed.With a fairly successful spring training drive and a feeling of form building, my hopes were high coming into the race. My weight was a little below average, my power seemed high, my bike was ultralight, and my tires correct. I raced hard in the prologue and got 5th, 4 minutes off Justin Lindine. I thought I was going fast but apparently not enough. “Ok” I thought, “what now?” I came for competition and competition is what I got. I spent the night trying to figure out which tools not to carry and scheming about my moves on day two.I felt a little better the next day, warmed up, and focused. I’m glad I wasn’t just in town for a two hour Norba XC because what lay ahead was a week of battling at blistering speed. The courses are generally shy of three hours for the leaders and as a result the pace is relentless. I rode a wave of motivation into the first singletrack climb on day two; it was rocky, hard just to stay upright and moving forward. I know better than to look back but I never had the chance anyhow. The rocks were riveting, there are no lines, only the line you invent with the your body English; it’s hard stuff. The constant threat of sabotage left its mark early on my face. I went for a big move up on rock to the right to avoid a pile of little sharp rocks, going over the bars I waited too long to eject and couldn’t get my hands in front of my face. I knocked my teeth on a rock and broke the front two but no blood. Scrambling back on and pushing even harder I kept about a minute lead for the first half of the race before a proper introduction to the competition. Justin Lindine and Brian Matter charged from behind on a double track climb and kept the pace high. They made it clear that I wasn’t going to gain anything in the singletrack no matter how rocky and Justin, at least, made it clear, that he had no weakness whatsoever. In the end I couldn’t quite match Justin’s pace on the last climb, I felt successful by only losing two minutes and getting 2nd. I went harder for three hours than any effort of any length since wearing a heart monitor, harder than I ever thought I could, I was getting what I came for.The rest of the week, for me, became a close battle for second place, a chance to reflect on a lot of old memories, racing and otherwise, and a time to camp out. The venue is about perfect for such an event, a boy scout camp surrounded by state parks and miles of singletrack. The race has a fun, and professional character that can be both relaxed and serious as the mood demands. The racing is top notch and the courses are challenging but makable by the majority of the peloton. The evening slide show and the daily films are a lot of fun, seeing the pictures solidifies a memory and gives you a chance to relive the day in a different light.I left the race feeling like it was a success. Every category had a real race, including a strong U25 men’s field. My legs were toasted seven times over. I felt pretty well versed on what central PA looks like on a mountain bike. With my mental map enlarged I returned to Asheville to pick up work where I left off. In the weeks following the race I’ve managed much less riding, which more than proves the point that for me having an event on the calendar that I’m excited about forces me to get out and ride. Some downtime has not been too bad but its about time to start scheming about 2013 phase two, Colorado Trail bike packing in August with my wife Trish, Shenandoah 100 on Labor Day weekend, and Pisgah Stage Race after that; with a big price decrease, Pisgah’s looking like the working man’s stage race. I hope it pulls a strong field. All right, the motivation is returning, I’m ready for the next adventure. Check out these links: Prologue, Stage Two – Coopers Gap, Stage 3, Stage 4 – Enduro, Stage 6, Stage 7.
Alpine skiing isn’t the only way to enjoy the slopes. Shake up your ski season and lift up your heels – it’s tele-time.This Saturday, February 7, Beech Mountain Resort in North Carolina will host the 5th Annual High Country Telemark Festival. Telemark, the mother of all contemporary ski methods, combines today’s Alpine and Nordic approaches. The idea is pretty simple: take an Apline-style ski, strap on Nordic-style bindings, and hit the snow. The actual execution? Maybe not so simple, but Beech Mountain is here to show you the ropes and celebrate all the fun that a little extra effort can bring.The festival will run from registration time at 8:30 Saturday morning to 4 PM that afternoon, and offers skill clinics for skiers of all levels, a gear swap, group skiing, raffles, and the ever-essential commemorative t-shirt. Plus, Friday night will feature a pre-event party at Footsloggers in Boone, N.C., to pump up the early birds with some extra psych for the big day.The whole day runs for $50 per person, and includes all of the above plus a lift ticket and mountain-top Bald Guy Brew coffee. For more information, contact [email protected]
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?In 2009, kayaker Tyler Bradt soared 77mph over the lip of Palouse Falls in Washington State. When his boat hit the water, it disappeared beneath the falls’ pummeling for nearly seven seconds. He eventually surfaced, still inside his boat and with a broken paddle in hand, but surprisingly he was unharmed and, it should go without saying, stoked at having set the record for the tallest waterfall ever run in a kayak. It was 189.5 feet in height.Bradt’s accomplishment was considered groundbreaking by some, insane by others. No one at the time knew if the human body could withstand such an impact and live to see another day, and no one’s topped that record since. At 167 feet, Niagara Falls would have come in at a close second, but Red Bull paddler Rafa Ortiz backed away from the challenge in 2013 after three years of meticulous planning and preparation for the first descent.“I walked to the drop like I’ve done with many waterfalls in the past, looking for that last positive feeling,” Ortiz said on social media afterwards. “It wasn’t there.”While Bradt and Ortiz’s vertical exploits represent the fringes of the sport nowadays, it’s only a matter of time before running 100-plus-foot waterfalls becomes mainstream. Just 30 years ago, the kayaking community would have never considered running a 100-footer in a boat (and surviving it) as even a remote possibility. The early days of the sport were focused more on slalom paddling and downriver races. Kayaks were 13 feet long, homemade, and, consequently, easily breakable. Impacts from plunging over a waterfall like Palouse would surely result in serious injury if not death.But that doesn’t mean the early pioneers of the sport weren’t lured away from the slalom world by the call of the unknown, that tantalizing prospect of possibility. In fact, had it not been for renegade paddlers from the ‘70s and ‘80s who crashed their awkwardly long boats down steep creeks no one had ever seen before, Bradt might never have developed the skills or found the courage to buck up and huck Palouse Falls.A lot has changed within the sport of kayaking in just a few decades. Between boat redesigns, new moves and skillsets, and beta galore on rivers and creeks previously deemed unrunnable, the paddlers of today are presented with a new challenge—what next? And more importantly, will the risk of taking that next step be worth the reward?To help visualize just how far the sport has grown, and to provide some insight into the paddler’s psyche, I talked with six boaters, past and present, who have tread that line of possibility, battled risk for reward, and helped to progress the world of kayaking in the Blue Ridge and beyond.Charlie’s ChoiceIt was the spring of 1972. Pennsylvania born-and-raised Charlie Walbridge sat in his boat below the class IV rapid Bastard on the Upper Youghiogheny River, trembling, barely able to pull his skirt over the cockpit.Walbridge was just a 20-something-year-old at the time with a c1 (that’s a one-man canoe with a covered cockpit) and a wild hair. He was a seasoned paddler who frequented the rivers of western Pennsylvania and the northern parts of Virginia and West Virginia. Having paddled extensively for the past five years, Walbridge was well versed in the ways of whitewater.But that day, Bastard got the best of him.“I got run off the Upper Yough,” Walbridge remembers. “It was my first time. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t put the skirt back on. That’s when I knew I didn’t belong there.”Walbridge decided to walk out (hence the rapid’s name, Charlie’s Choice). Keep in mind this was the early ‘70s. Runs like the Upper Yough and the Upper Gauley, now still considered classics but by no means legitimate class Vs, were among the stoutest of the stout in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Walbridge’s decision was respectable, not cowardly.Though he would later take part in some of the first paddling expeditions to navigate the waters of the notoriously steep upper section of the Blackwater River (before the flood of 1985), Walbridge never had his mind set on chasing first descents or making a name for himself among the paddling community. He was in it for the sheer enjoyment of the river.“We were all just trying new things out,” he says. “That was the fun of it. There’s nothing better than going down a river that you don’t know and that there’s not very much known about it. It’s as good as it gets.”Walbridge never stopped paddling. Even at age 67, he still runs the class IV+ Big Sandy (so long as it’s under six feet) and stays involved with the boating community at large. For over 40 years, Walbridge has written accident reports of whitewater-related incidents and has even served as the Safety Chair for the American Canoe Association (ACA) and American Whitewater (AW). In addition, he has helped to develop swiftwater safety curriculum for ACA and oversees whitewater-canoeing instruction.There’s no doubt about it—Walbridge has seen some big change come to the paddling world. So what does he think about its future?“People are clucking and shaking their heads at the hot paddlers today who are running waterfalls, but I remember people clucking and shaking their heads at us for playing at Pillow [on the Upper Gauley]. The young guys make me nervous, but that’s their job. We made the old guys nervous when I was in my 20s!”[nextpage title=”Next Page”]The Will to Survive“John, you could die right now.”Those were the last words John Regan remembered telling himself before he slipped into an adrenaline-fueled survival mode. It was 1989, and Regan had agreed to show his friend down the Upper Blackwater in West Virginia, a class V stretch of whitewater known for its heinous sieves and big boulders. He was paddling a 13-foot slalom boat, which he preferred, he says, because “plastic boats at the time weren’t high performance—they were dogs.”But it was precisely the boat’s low volume and unwieldy length that got Regan in a position that had just recently killed his friend and fellow paddler: a vertical pin. Regan was trapped, upright, quite literally between a rock and a hard place. Somehow, Regan managed to maintain his air pocket while he shifted his weight and maneuvered the boat out of the predicament. The next rapid down, however, he pinned himself again above a significant drop. His nerves were shot.“I’ll never forget, my buddy was there, and he got me out of the pin and immediately slapped me across the face and said, ‘If you can’t handle this we’re walking outta here right now,’” Regan remembers.That slap back to reality was all it took, and the two successfully finished the run, but Regan remained acutely aware of the risk that inherently came with the sport.“I’ve lost 30 friends through my kayaking career,” Regan says. “There’s no rule or reason, no why or who. Anybody can die no matter how good you are, but we wouldn’t be pushing the limits if we didn’t have people that seek that balance of risk and reward.”Soon after the Upper Blackwater run, Regan ditched the slalom boat and picked up a Prijon T-Canyon, one of the early plastic prototypes, and did just that—he pushed the limits. From the North Fork of the Blackwater to the Upper Otter, Overflow Creek, and Red Creek, Regan knocked off first descent after first descent throughout the Mid-Atlantic.He’s no stranger to mishap—adversity has played quite a part in his decades of kayaking and snow kiting and backcountry skiing. But he also knows what it means to see potential in something seemingly impossible, to go against the grain, to trust your gut and roll with it.“It’s not for the glory. It’s not for the picture. It’s a personal test, ” he says. “To see what these young guns have accomplished, you gotta believe that the next generation is gonna accomplish more. I mean, just think about Dane Jackson’s kid! What’s next?The Forbidden KingdomWick Walker never took ‘no’ for an answer. ‘Can’t’ was simply not in his vocabulary. It was a mentality that had served him well all his life, so much so that it’d helped him gain a spot among the United States whitewater canoe team at the World Championships of 1965, 1967, and 1971, as well as the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.So when the National Park Service personnel patrolling the Great Falls of the Potomac told Walker he couldn’t make the first descent of those yet-unrun rapids that straddle the Maryland/Virginia border, Walker smiled politely, then went and grabbed his gear.“They were hell bent on stopping us,” he remembers. “Of course, that made it that much more tempting.”On a Sunday morning before dawn, Walker, local legend and longtime friend Tom McEwan, and their mutual friend Dan Schnurrenberger put in on the Potomac River and paddled a mile and a half upstream. It was 1976 and by the time park service patrollers arrived at their post just a couple hours later, the three men had already checked off the first descent of what would become one of the most iconic class V runs in the Mid-Atlantic.“That run took three years of preparation,” Walker says. “We proved you could build the skills to do something that looks darn near impossible.”After the Great Falls success, Walker became hungry for more. He was part of the second crew to run the Meadow River and Upper Blackwater (pre-flood) in West Virginia, one of the first to navigate the Linville Gorge (though not in its entirety). He lived in Europe for a number of years, paddling everything he could in the Alps. But all the while, his eyes were set on another goal: the forbidden kingdom of Bhutan.“Nobody in, nobody out,” Walker says of Bhutan’s power-hungry government. “There had been no climbing expeditions, and ours would be the very first paddling expedition. That’s why it was such a super fun challenge.”Walker and his crew of five spent four weeks in Bhutan in 1982, racking up first descents on the Paro, Thimphu, and Pho Chu Rivers. The experience did little to satisfy Walker’s need to explore. He continued to kayak throughout North America, Mexico, and Europe and eventually landed in Pakistan by way of his career as a military advisor. He’s experienced a number of traumatic incidents on the river, lost friends and fellow paddlers, found himself caught in rising flood waters, and blacked out from a lack of oxygen while finagling his way out of a vertical pin, but his dedication to pushing the boundaries of the sport remained tried and true throughout his paddling career.“I am astounded every time I see what some of these guys are doing these days,” he says of the current generation of paddlers, “but on the other hand, we did think that we were just at the very beginning, that all sorts of neat stuff was gonna be done.”It’s AssumedDark was nearing. The clouds overhead had opened up into a mid-winter storm, pelting sheets of ice onto the river below. It was December of 1987, and Lee Belknap and his paddling partner Victor Jones stood to the side of the Horsepasture River in North Carolina, contemplating their next move.Behind them rose the steep canyon walls, sheer 60-degree slopes that were now slick from frozen precipitation. Ahead of them? A series of cascades dropping over 700 vertical feet in less than a quarter mile, the infamous Windy Falls.“Our only option really was to do this 35-foot rappel, which we’d have to do with my throw rope,” Belknap remembers. “I know it was 35 feet because it used up half of my 70-foot throw rope.”Though the two had started the day early with every intention of finishing the first descent of the Horsepasture down to Lake Jocassee, the fact of the matter was that, unless they wanted to paddle their half-frozen, exhausted bodies through the night to the lake, they would need to hunker down and finish out the run the next morning. Fortunately, the pair was prepared with bivouacs and camped out on a surprisingly level spot just two-thirds of the way through their portage of Windy Falls.“Our wet gear started freezing about 10 that evening,” Belknap says. “We had to improvise heavily but we were able to keep warm. I’m not sure what Victor thought about it, but I slept like a baby.”With a fire roaring and a full moon lighting the rim, Belknap, actually, couldn’t have been happier. Though that would be his first and last time down the Horsepasture by boat, Belknap never forgot the sound of the thundering falls luring him to sleep and that quiet satisfaction of being surrounded by wilderness, a feeling that outweighed any sense of bravado he might have felt at being the first to descend what would become a classic class V run in the Southeast.“I just love the exploration,” Belknap says, “but I spent 25 years playing lifeguard and I can’t tell you how many people I’ve saved.”Having served as Safety Chairman for American Whitewater for 12 years and kayaked around the country for three decades, Belknap has seen it all. One of his most stressful moments occurred on the Chattooga River when friend and fellow paddler Rob Baird found himself pinned underwater at Hydroelectric Rock. Baird went without oxygen for nearly seven minutes.Belknap and his crew didn’t waste a single second, though. Belknap hopped out of his boat and into the water, working quickly at extracting Baird’s body. When he came free, the other paddlers began resuscitating him and making plans to execute an evacuation. Thanks to their valiant efforts, Baird would go on to make a full recovery.“Whitewater is an assumed risk sport,” Belknap says. “You assume there’s a risk, and part of the sport is to figure out what those risks are and how to manage them. I spent a lot of time doing stuff people thought I shouldn’t be doing, but kayaking is a sport of risk managers, not risk takers.”Kids These DaysWith shoes like that to fill, it’s hard to imagine that the sport could go any further. The heyday of paddling was, debatably, the 80s and 90s when kayakers were building new boats, stomping steeper runs, and creating today’s top whitewater-specific gear manufacturing companies in their garages.The young guns of today have it made. They don’t have to build their own boats or suffer through the cold in their rain jackets and heavy wool—they have high performance drysuits and pogies and large-volume, lightweight creek boats made from durable plastic. They don’t have to wonder what lies around the river’s bend, for someone has already been there, already seen it and photographed it and put up reports of it on Boater Talk and American Whitewater. Kids these days get to sit back, relax, and ride the currents of blood, sweat, and boat pins laid down by the pioneers before them.That is, of course, unless they have it, that fire-in-your-belly, call of the unknown that can’t be answered, can’t be satisfied by simply following in the flow of their whitewater forefathers. As T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” Geoff Calhoun and Pat Keller are among those who are willing to risk just that.“It’s such an awesome experience to be doing something people didn’t know if you could do or not,” Maryland-based paddler Geoff Calhoun says. “What hasn’t been done around here is really low volume manky stuff that requires huge amounts of rainfall.”In 2010, Calhoun got that huge amount of rainfall and knocked off the first descent of Jordan Run in West Virginia, a decent-sized drainage with a boxed-in gorge and a sizable 30-foot waterfall. Setting out on Jordan Run required more than just a hearty sense of adventure and class V creeking skills—it required total commitment.“I was scared,” Calhoun remembers. “I get nervous about doing big things, but we scouted the waterfall diligently. It was either run it or do a pain-in-the-ass portage.”Calhoun and his paddling partner decided on the former, both successfully running the entirety of Jordan Run and the falls twice in one day. Calhoun’s since revisited the creek and discovered that, despite having paddled it a few times now, “there’s still a bit of mystery around it,” something he says, that makes him respect the river that much more.Calhoun never imagined racking up a first descent. Jordan Run was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. But for Asheville-based paddler Pat Keller, first descents are his bread and butter.Linville Falls, Toxaway Falls, Cane Creek Falls, Ozone Falls, Shining Rock Creek, Noccalula Falls, Laurie’s Falls, Upper Creek—the list goes on and on, and these are just a handful of Keller’s first descents in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, but this guy’s been around. He’s also joined Red Bull athlete Steve Fisher on a first descent of the Hanging Spear Falls Gorge on New York’s Opalescent River, a run that drops over 950 feet in three quarters of a mile. He’s been the first to huck the 70-foot Big Brother Falls on the Valser Rhein in Switzerland and the 65-footer Aldayjarfoss in Iceland. He’s put kayakers to shame year after year at the Great Falls Race on the Potomac and the Green River Race in North Carolina, kickflipped Oceana on the Tallulah, and even spearheaded the creation of a new boat and new racing class specific to the Green River Race. He’s done all of this, and more, before he’s even hit the big 3-0.It’s no wonder, then, that Keller was voted Canoe and Kayak Male Paddler of the Year in 2014. But behind all of the first descents and record runs, Keller’s certainly dealt with his fair share of bad days.“When I was 15 I watched my best friend drown in British Columbia,” Keller says. “The risk is not lost on me. If I feel like I’m trying to talk myself into something, I won’t do it.”Keller’s a competitive type, there’s no doubt about that. Having been raised in a river loving household with a background in slalom racing, Keller has spent the better part of his life learning how to go bigger and faster. But Keller has it, that need to explore, the compulsion to push, to not just wonder what’s around the bend but to put body, blade, and boat there and see for himself.“It’s just that primal desire to explore combined with the satisfaction of using your body as one mechanical system,” he says, “because part of living is exploring. Water is such a powerful thing. It moves boulders, it changes mountains. To be able to dabble in that power is pretty freakin’ amazing.”Keller lives and breathes the world of whitewater, and if there’s anyone who can comment on the future of the sport, it’s this guy. With the advent of kayaking schools, safer and more dependable boats, and more accessible beta, the popularity of the sport has blown through the roof. Kayakers are firing up class IV-V rivers in their first year of paddling, something that would have been practically unheard of back in the days of Walker and Belknap. But is it all bad, or is there a silver lining to all of this gung-ho energy?“Do I think we’ve reached the limit of what can be run in a kayak? Absolutely not. Are we pushing the limits of possibility? Sure,” Keller says. “Waterfall running has a ways to go before we reach the ragged edge, but to ponder what we as humans can set our minds to and then do, it’s amazing. LEE BELKNAP’S TOY AUTO, A 1986 TOYOTA TRUCK THAT TOOK HIM TO COUNTLESS ADVENTURES DAVID “PSYCHO” SIMPSON RUNNING SINGLEY’S FALLS ON OVERFLOW CREEK, HEADWATERS OF THE WEST FORK OF THE CHATTOOGA RIVER Save for your own heart thudding behind your chest, the only noise you can hear is that of a thundering freight train. It’s a low rumbling, a guttural churning. It’s the sound of unseen whitewater, of hundreds of cfs (cubic feet per second) of surging current charging toward a horizon line before dropping off into the void. Steep canyon walls rise from the river’s edge, boxing you in, committing you forever downstream.The late afternoon sunlight filters into the gorge, but soon it will be gone. You and your partner stare at the lip from the safety of your cockpits several yards upstream. An almost foreboding sense of dread coupled with the enticing allure of the unknown tempts you to carry on. The only assurance you have that anything even exists beyond the river’s edge comes in the form of mist spraying intermittently into the air. Aside from that, you know nothing of what lies ahead.To some, kayaking at even its most basic level seems counterintuitive, reckless, a sure sign of a death wish. At first blush, the sport may certainly seem that way—after all, you are strapping yourself into a plastic boat and hurling yourself down a natural force that carves out mountains, for Pete’s sake. Undoubtedly, kayaking is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the media coverage that the whitewater community, and the adventure sports world at large, receives does little to resolve any misgivings about outdoor recreation.The news celebrates the dramatic and mourns the traumatic. Sensationalized reports like that of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s record free climb of the Dawn Wall or the tragic unveiling of kayaker Shannon Christy’s death on the Great Falls of the Potomac River lead the public eye astray, to the idea that the world of adventure is either awe-inspiring or foolishly dangerous and nothing in between. And the adventurers themselves? Well, they can be heroes one day, adrenaline-crazed junkies the next.But what about you and your partner, sitting there above a rapid you’ve never run before? Maybe it’s the first time any human being has seen this river from the cockpit of a kayak. Or perhaps you’re just another paddler, one of the hundreds who will navigate these same waters during the season. You’re not out there for the fame and glory of it. You’re definitely not out there with a death wish—actually, you’d prefer to make it downriver alive so you can paddle again tomorrow.So why do you do it? Why spend your free time dancing with danger, risking life and limb for an activity of no apparent societal value while cozy couches and the latest Netflix releases sit unattended? What is it about kayaking, about riding, about climbing, that beckons to you, that begs and pleads then outright demands you to ditch work early and head for the mountains? What is it that keeps you coming back for more even after the worst of swims? What is it?French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau called it l’homme sauvage, the wild man that lies beneath our civilized exterior. English explorer Sir Richard Burton blamed it on “the devil [that] drives.” Scientists worldwide have attributed a heightened presence of it in humans that carry the 7R variant of the DRD4 gene, a dopamine-receptor in the brain that elicits restlessness and encourages novelty-seeking behaviors.Whatever you want to call it though, we all have it. It’s what makes us climb up trees as children, date new people as teenagers, and take jobs and move away as adults. It’s what makes us fire up the rapid we always used to portage and charge the cliff we normally sneak. It’s the call of the unknown, the longing for the land of Beyond, but it’s about time we asked ourselves—will it ever push us too far? WICK WALKER, VALLEY FALLS, TYGART, 1975 WICK WALKER, WONDER FALLS, BIG SANDY, 1975
Memorial Day Weekend is a great excuse to get outdoors and enjoy the plethora of outdoor recreation we have at our fingertips here in the Blue Ridge Mountain region. And with tons of scenic high elevation lakes to choose from, why not spend your three-day weekend on the water? Here are eight Blue Ridge lakes that make for the ideal last-minute Memorial Day destination.Lake James, North CarolinaThis 6,812-acre reservoir is located in far Western North Carolina not far from the famed Linville Gorge. Because it is largely contained by Lake James State Park, it’s primed for outdoor recreation and makes for a great last minute getaway. Come prepared for paddling, mountain biking, fishing, and camping. Learn more here.Fontana Lake, North CarolinaNestled deep in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, Fontana is an iconic lake known for housing the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains—which actually doubles as the Appalachian Trail. With more than 200 miles of shoreline and unparalleled scenery in every direction, this Smoky Mountain treasure will keep you busy with hiking, paddling, camping, and fishing not to mention mountain biking at the nearby Tsali Recreation Area.Smith Mountain Lake, VirginiaThis Virginia jewel covers parts of three counties: Franklin, Bedford and Pittsylvania. Like Fontana, it is home to hundreds of miles of shoreline and flanked by the scenery of rolling Appalachian peaks, and like both Lake James and Fontana it plays host to miles of well-maintained mountain bike trails. Other popular outdoor pursuits include camping, hiking, and fishing. Learn more here.Deep Creek Lake, MarylandMaryland’s largest fresh water reservoir, the 3,900-acre Deep Creek Lake is home to sixty-plus miles of shoreline and offers great opportunity for camping, fishing, boating, and mountain biking. The area is home to the beautiful Wisp Resort, but those looking for adventure on the cheap should check out nearby Deep Creek Lake State Park. Here you’ll find boating access, camping loops, and the locally-loved Mountain Meadow Trail system. Click here for more info.Lake Jocassee, South CarolinaNot so long ago National Geographic named Jocassee Gorges as one of “50 of the World’s Last Great Places”. Take one look at the photo below and it’s easy to see why. Accessible by way of Devil’s Fork State Park and South Carolina’s renowned Foothills Trail, Jocassee is ideal for lakeside hiking and many different types of flat water paddling trips, from a leisurely afternoon paddle to a multi-day kayak camping trip. Learn more here.Carters Lake, GeorgiaThe deepest of North Georgia’s mountain reservoirs, Carters Lake was formed by the damming of the Coosawattee River in the late 1970’s. Before being dammed the Coosawattee was widely regarded as one of the best whitewater paddling destinations in the eastern United States. Today, the area is still draws outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. If you plan on visiting, come prepared for hiking, paddling, camping, and mountain biking in nearby Ellijay, the MTB capital of Georgia. Click here for info about the outdoor scene at Carters Lake. Bear Creek Lake, North CarolinaBear Creek Lake is one of North Carolina’s many hidden gems, offering those who can find it a sense of remote solitude that’s hard to come by in the Southeast. In addition to prime trout fishing and amazing flat water paddling opportunities, Bear Creek Lake is the only way to access the 120′ Sols Creek Falls. Be sure to throw some camping gear in the boat too, as beach camping is plentiful when water levels are sufficiently low.Lake Lure, North CarolinaLake Lure is a beautiful mountain reservoir less than forty-five minutes from the small mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina. If it’s outdoor recreation in a lakeside setting you’re seeking, you’d be hard pressed to find a better destination than Lake Lure. Popular activities include paddling, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, and rock climbing. Learn more here.Related Articles: