Want to bring your dog on an AT hike? Be prepared!

We love our dogs, and they love us. Should you hike together? If so, what common sense rules and actual regulations need to be kept in mind?

Should you hike with your dog? “Maybe” is the only accurate answer. We love many people who, for a wide variety of reasons, would not be good hiking companions. Same with dogs. The trail is physically challenging for both dogs and people. Hot weather, cold weather, and other factors can increase the challenge. Some dogs who are perfectly well-behaved at home are very territorial around other dogs and strange people. And then there are all the wonderful strange new sights and smells on the trail. I have seen a leashed dog slip the leash to chase a deer on the trail to McAfee Knob. A hiker was recently injured in Southwest Virginia when her dog decided to chase a bear and she intervened when the bear stood its ground.(Unleashed dogs are more likely to aggravate bears than leashed dogs.)

As with friends and family, just because you love to hike does not mean your dog will enjoy it. So start with shorter walks and work your way up, just as you would do with a person.

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MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE DROVE ATVs ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL FOR 19 DAYS

The rules about vehicles on the Appalachian Trail are very clear. You can’t ride a bicycle on it. Nor

can you use a motorized vehicle.

36 CFR 7.100 – Appalachian National Scenic Trail. (a)What activities are prohibited? (1) The use of bicycles, motorcycles or other motor vehicles is prohibited.

The US Forest Service knows this and says so on the website for the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest:

The A.T. is marked with white vertical paint blazes, two-inch by six-inch.  It is a foot trail – travel by horse, bicycle, or motorized vehicles is not allowed.

And according to a more specific order for this national forest, “Vehicles, horses, pack animals’ and bicycles” are prohibited on the A.T. unless there is “a permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.” We have seen no such permit, nor does any closure order we have seen state that Forest Service personnel are authorized to use motorized vehicles on the A.T.

“Violations of these prohibitions are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. (16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C 3559 and 3571).”

According to the Roanoke Times, though, security forces for both Mountain Valley Pipeline and the US Forest Service road ATVs up and down the AT for 19 days with Forest Service permission, avoiding a walk of less than 1/4 mile to and from a round-the-clock camp where they were denying access to food and water for a protesting tree sitter.

Kris Schneider (a 2002 AT thru hiker who moved from Ohio to the New River Valley after seeing the area) discovered the damage and reported that the AT had become a muddy road six to eight feet wide. Andrew Downs of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy followed up with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

One day after the original story appeared in the Roanoke Times, a law enforcement agent for the US Forest Service issued an apology, claiming that they were using the ATVs “to conduct welfare checks” on protesters. It seems much more likely that these were shift changes for the armed security forces. At times they traveled two abreast, buzzing past a hiker on the AT:

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Hiker Happy Hour at Parkway on April 18: drink beer, support Bent Mountain community!

Happy Hiker Hour is moving outdoors to Parkway Brewery in April!

The Bent Mountain community in Roanoke County, concerned about its land and water, is teaming up with Parkway Brewery on April 18, 2018 at 5:30 to enjoy a special brew, with all sales proceeds going to benefit the community in its struggle against Mountain Valley Pipeline. So RATC is moving Hiker Happy Hour outdoors and joining in. This will also be Trivia night at Parkway, so feel free to team up and play.

Parkway’s General Manager has expressed concerns about the impact of the pipeline on the brewery’s water, which is drawn directly out of the Roanoke River by the City of Salem downstream from over 100 crossings of the the river’s tributaries on steep slopes where all the trees are being removed. This will unleash sediment that has been buried for many years.

See you there!

Mountain Valley Pipeline has not completed the permitting process

AT on Peters Mountain, looking into Peters Mountain Wilderness and West Virginia. Close to proposed MVP crossing.

There are many moving parts to this story. Here is what we can tell about the current status:

No trees have been cut to date in Virginia, though cutting has started in West Virginia. MVP would need to cease cutting by March 31 due to the presence of endangered bats in trees along the routes, and they will be unable to resume until October.

MVP still needs permits from the US Forest Service, historic preservation office in in Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Numerous court cases are pending, including one brought by landowners that is being in heard in Roanoke. EQT, the Pittsburgh fracking company that is the primary owner, operator and customer of the pipeline, is splitting into two companies at the behest of hedge fund managers who are keeping the company afloat; fracking loses money, while owning a federally-subsidized pipeline makes money.

Same location as above – AT in ORANGE, dangerous parts of pipeline route (identified as dangerous by USFS) in RED – steep and landslide-prone slopes in middle of active Giles County Seismic Zone.

Details:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is giving authority to go ahead for much of the route, and timber cutting has occurred in West Virginia but not Virginia.  Even with FERC approvals, all conditions have not been met. FOR EXAMPLE:

MVP needs a timber permit from the US Forest Service for the 3.5 miles in Jefferson National Forest and a notice to proceed in the National Forest from FERC. We believe this will happen soon. The National Forest may be the first place in Virginia where trees are cut – very disappointing, since many counted on the FS to help protect the Appalachian Trail and water quality to downstream communities. Erosion and sedimentation from streams originating in these uplands will affect areas as far away as Smith Mountain Lake, according to a study completed for the Forest Service by MVP’s own consulting firm.
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Join “Ellie on the AT” at the RATC Annual Meeting and Potluck, March 3, 2018

It’s time for the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s Annual Meeting and Pot Luck Dinner!

This year’s speakers will be Derrick and Bekah Quirin, who completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2017 along with their baby, who celebrated her first birthday on the Trail. They are ready to answer your questions!

WHEN: Saturday, March 3, 6 PM ~ PLEASE BRING A DISH TO SHARE

WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Church [please note different location!] ~  2015 Grandin Rd SW, Roanoke, VA 24015

To help our event planner, please RSVP on our Meetup page if you are a member. All are welcome.

In addition, we will have:

  • Pot Luck dinner – bring a dish to share
  • Election of new board of directors
  • Recognition of 2017 hike leaders and trail maintainers
  • Our new RATC hats and t-shirts

Contact Linda Akers lakers4350@mail.com   540-774-4391 with questions

Join the party! RATC Holiday Pot Luck, December 2, 2017

Every year the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Conservancy has 3 casual social events – an outdoor Corn Boil in the summer, a Holiday Pot Luck in December, and the Annual Meeting/Pot Luck in March. This year’s Holiday Pot Luck will be

WHEN:     6 pm, Saturday, December 2, 2017

WHERE:  Christ Lutheran Church (in the back), 2011 Brandon Ave SW, Roanoke

WHAT:      Bring a dish to share and join us in celebrating the holiday season with AT friends and family!

There’s always a wonderful array of food! Bring a food item for RAM’s food pantry if desired.

Help us recognize and honor volunteers from this year and the past.

Please contact Linda Akers if you have questions about the event. 540-774-4391 or lakers4350@mail.com

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RATC member launches Trailfoody project for on-the-go adventurers

Food is an obsession for hikers. But what about the chore of buying and packing food for a weekend or week-long adventure? Blair Garland, an RATC member who lives in the Roanoke Valley, has launched a company called Trailfoody, a  monthly subscription service for people who love to go on outdoor adventures but lack the time or inclination for serious meal planning. You can see a third party reviewer’s opinion here.  As noted in Blair’s guest blog below, RATC members who would like to try out Trailfoody get 60% off for the first month by using the code RATC at checkout.

This is What Led to the Idea Behind Roanoke-Based Trailfoody

By Blair Garland, Trailfoody Founder

I fell in love with mountains the weekend before starting the seventh grade. Borrowing an old, rickety frame backpack from my brother, I went on my first backpacking trip to McAfee Knob with a couple of friends. I was hooked. Fast forward years later, and I was still at it. While backpacking was my favorite, I found that I spent more of my time on weekend adventures. Hiking on Saturday; fly fishing on Sunday. Next weekend:  do it again.

Where the Idea Came From. Many adventures took a bit of a drive to reach. So, to make it easier to get out the door, I set up a gear closet. Each piece of gear had its own place, and I could very quickly grab what I needed for the adventure at hand. No more futzing around looking for that water filter or first aid kit. I always needed food for these weekend adventures–not the dehydrated kind you take overnight, but food to fuel your hike throughout the day. Then, I realized how convenient it would be if I could extend my gear closet idea to include food. The idea for a monthly grab-and-go stuff sack full of Trailfoody was born!

What’s Trailfoody? In a nutshell, it’s a service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, but geared toward outdoorspeople who adventure often. Each month, we send trailfood to your doorstep that you keep in a stuff sack, ready to go. Each kit includes the “day food” to fuel your adventure, such as premium energy bars, jerky, artisan trail mix, dried fruit, and more. You choose your level based on how often you venture outdoors, and then further customize your kit with gluten-free, vegetarian, or regular options. Read more ›

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Graceful farewell from Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times reporter

Duncan Adams (checked shirt in center) says farewell to Roanoke and heads to Montana

Those who have been following the Mountain Valley Pipeline story know that Duncan Adams has provided extraordinary coverage for over 3 years in the Roanoke Times. He has asked hard questions, shining light on a story that many outlets ignored or glossed over. Recently, Duncan accepted a long-sought offer to edit a newspaper in Butte, Montana, and his last day at the Roanoke Times was November 11, 2107 (two experienced reporters – Laurence Hammock and Jeff Sturgeon – will now cover the story).

Like me, Duncan has the West in his bones, and the call is strong. We wish him all the best and hope Montanans know what a great gift they are receiving.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club honored Duncan for his in-depth reporting at the ATC office in Roanoke on November 13. He responded by reading the hand-written note below, which he has allowed us to share:

A true writer, Duncan composed his note on paper without a single error. How is this possible?

The rain started after my brother dropped me at the Dragon’s Tooth trailhead. On that April morning in 1978, I was 23 years old and a backpacking novice.

I walked into the woods woefully unprepared. I had not been a Boy Scout. My parents weren’t campers. I had stuffed the flimsy, exterior frame backpack, bought on the cheap from a discount retailer, with way too much stuff, including – incredibly – an array of books.

I toted a thin sleeping bag and a tube tent, a plastic shelter open on both ends.

As it turned out, my trail maps were outdated. That first night, as the rain intensified, I searched in vain for the shelter in which I’d planned to sleep. The rain gleefully sluiced in through both ends of the tube tent.

It was a long night. The next day it snowed. A few days later, I hitchhiked into Blacksburg, where I bought a decent jacket and mailed home the books.

By the time I reached Damascus I felt like a seasoned outdoorsman. I felt stronger, leaner, less fearful.

Like many people who hit the trail, I sought healing and solace on that first outing. I found just enough of both to initiate a love of hiking.

I am grateful to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for your stewardship of this remarkable resource. And I am also grateful, and deeply honored, by this award. Thank you.

Earthquakes and pipelines: recipe for disaster

Red line = proposed route of Mountain Valley Pipeline

On September 13, 2017, Monroe County, West Virginia experienced the largest earthquake in decades, with the epicenter 1.5 mile from the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline route.

The Roanoke Times  reported that more than 200 calls came into the Giles County Sheriff’s Office dispatch in the half hour after the quake. Within a day, over 500 citizens notified the USGS that they had felt the earthquake.

The Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory rated it a magnitude 3.7 earthquake, while the US Geological Survey pegged it at 3.2 (they use slightly different measurement strategies).

Wednesday’s earthquake is the second one that was felt within 4 months in the GCSZ, with another on May 12, 2017 near Narrows, Virginia (magnitude 2.8).

 

WHY PIPELINES AND EARTHQUAKES DON’T MIX

Well, these weren’t huge earthquakes, so what’s the problem? Very simply, Mountain Valley Pipeline has chosen to place a very large (42”), explosive pipeline under enormous pressure (1,440 pounds of pressure per square inch) on a very dangerous route. Threats to communities near and downstream from the pipeline include:

  • Increased leakage of hazardous materials such as methane, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and radon from the pipeline into drinking water wells and public water supplies.
  • Increased risk of pipeline failure, producing catastrophic damage within as much as 7,700 feet on each side of the pipeline. WANT TO SEE WHAT A MUCH SMALLER 20″ PIPELINE LOOKED LIKE WHEN IT EXPLODED AND MELTED PART OF INTERSTATE 77? THIS IS THE SISSONVILLE, WV PIPELINE IN DECEMBER 2012.
  • Increased risk of major wildfires due to potential explosions on a route that is very heavily forested.

 

WORST POSSIBLE LOCATION: PROPOSED CROSSING OF APPALACHIAN TRAIL

If you were going to combine all possible risk factors for the Mountain Valley Pipeline in one location, the proposed crossing of the Appalachian Trail could be that spot. The September 13, 2017 earthquake was only 5-6 miles from the proposed crossing of the AT on top of Peters Mountain, immediately next to the Peters Mountain Wilderness on the Virginia/West Virginia border. Risk factors include:

  • Location in the middle of the very active Giles County Seismic Zone.
  • Location between what the US Forest Service has identified as two High Hazard zones that combine very steep slopes, with landslide prone soils, and high exposure to seismic action.
  • All of the dangers are increased if the soil is wet.
  • The bottom of the slope on the West Virginia side is full of karst, as noted by Dr. Kastning, so that a failure would impact a wide area.

At a live meeting in Salem, Virginia on June 15, 2017, I asked an MVP construction supervisor to cite one example of a pipeline this size that was successfully constructed in an environment of steep slopes, landslide prone soils, karst and an active earthquake zone. His answer was: “FLORIDA.” Obviously, Florida has karst. But none of the other hazards are present.

Mountain Valley Pipeline seems largely unaware of or unconcerned about the risks. They seem to believe that stating there is no problem in fact means there is no problem. Since the company itself is not being required to post any bond nor pay the cost of any damage that is done to the surrounding area, it is not surprising. All of the costs would be borne by those who are most directly impacted and who have the least resources to spare.

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Hands Across the AT Celebration, Saturday, August 19 in Pearisburg

Are you tired of partisan bickering? Join us at 10:30 am tomorrow for a bipartisan celebration of the Appalachian Trail at the Pearisburg Community Center in Giles County. Google Earth map link here.

  • State Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and Delegate Joseph Yost (R-Pearisburg) will speak, showing the bipartisan opposition that Mountain Valley has earned due to its disregard for landowners and the environment. Edwards and Yost simultaneously introduced legislation in the 2016 session of the General Assembly to rescind the state’s current survey law.
  • Diana Christopulos, President of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, will recall why we love the Trail and Trail towns like Pearisburg
  • Songwriter Leslie Brooks will provide entertainment, including her new anti-pipeline ballad.
  • Strange Coffee will offer coffee and donuts, with all proceeds donated to the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club!

See you there!  WANT TO DO MORE? SEND A COMMENT TO THE VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY BY AUGUST 22. A SAMPLE LETTER AND ALL THE OTHER INFORMATION YOU NEED ARE HERE.

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