Be a Hero: Volunteer Ridgerunner Training for McAfee Knob Task Force

Have you hiked to McAfee Knob? If so, you probably had company! In fact, about 80,000 to 90,000 people a year hike to the Knob. Most of them have never been there. To help educate hikers on safety and Leave No Trace, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club has established a McAfee Knob Task Force of trained volunteers in concert with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, National Park Service, US Forest Service and Roanoke County Fire and Rescue.

One day of training and practice hike will make you good to go as a volunteer ridgerunners!

WHAT: McAfee Knob Task Force volunteer ridgerunner training

WHEN: Sunday, September 23, 2018

HOW: For details and to sign up, contact Kathryn Herndon-Powell kherndon@appalachiantrail.org or call 540.904. OR join the RATC Meetup group www.meetup.com/Roanoke-Appalachian-Trail-Club and sign up there.

See you on the Trail!

RATC Honored with Landsaver Award

Past RATC president Diana Christopulos accepts Landsaver Award from Blue Ridge Land Conservancy President Bill Hackworth.

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club was honored to receive the 2018 Landsaver award from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy in recognition of the club’s work in building, maintaining and protecting over 120 miles of the AT between Va 611 in Bland County and Black Horse Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. BRLC detailed the reasons for the award in its recent newsletter [with minor edits]:

In the backyard of the Blue Ridge runs the nation’s premier, continuous, long-distance footpath: the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly referred to as the “AT.” With a length of 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine that takes thru hikers from 4 to 7 months to complete, who takes care of this mammoth recreational gem?

That’s where groups like the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club step in. The recipient of this year’s Landsaver Award from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. the club was founded in 1932. It’s one of 31 similar clubs along the length of the AT, the purpose of which is to maintain, and address threat to the trail. This hard-working club oversees more than 120 miles of the trail between Bland County and Black Horse Gap in Virginia. Some volunteers walk a section assigned to them 4 times a year to monitor vegetation and pain the iconic white blazes. They do a great job, according to many thru-hikers. Jim Beeson, the current presidents of the club, completed the AT in 2016. For him, this area had some of the best parts of the trail in terms of maintenance and views. In fact, it encouraged him to join the club.

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Stop Work order? What’s a Stop Work order?

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED AS NEW EVENTS OCCUR. On July 27, 2018, a federal court ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and other plaintiffs that federal agencies (US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) had not properly examined Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposal before issuing permits for its construction through Jefferson National Forest. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) then issued a Stop Work order but has since allowed Mountain Valley Pipeline to rewrite the Stop Work order TWICE, and encouraged the company to build over 100 miles of the pipeline as fast as possible.

The court ruling directly affects the crest of Peters Mountain, where MVP proposes to bore under the Appalachian Trail, as well as construction areas where the pipeline route would have a significant impact on the AT off and on for about 100 miles.

This blog aims give a little clarity to a very complicated process by giving the names, dates and basics of the situation as it unfolds. LINKS will take you to the original documents.

HERE IS THE BASIC TIMELINE. IT WILL BE UPDATED AS EVENTS UNFOLD.

July 27, 2018  Federal Court withdraws (vacates) permits for the pipeline in Jefferson National Forest

August 3, 2018  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues a Stop Work order for the entire project

Local observers document ongoing construction during this time; at least one landowner is told by MVP representative that Stop Work order does not apply outside of Jefferson National Forest

August 9, 2018  MVP submits a “Stabilization Plan” that allows 45 to 90 miles of construction during the Stop Work Order

August 10, 2018  FERC approves most of the “Stabilization Plan,” with some decisions “Pending”

August 14, 2018  MVP requests that FERC modify the Stop Work order again so they can continue with construction. They offer their own version of “Stop Work” order, which would allow construction of over 100 miles of pipeline plus compressor stations.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018  Sierra Club and others file emergency legal challenge to FERC action in federal courts.

Thursday, August 16, 2018 FERC again revises the Stop Work to suit the pipeline company and urges work to be done as fast as possible.

Thursday, August 16, 2018 Market Watch reports that 50% of MVP workers have left the project and that earliest completion date is now 4th quarter of 2019. Natural Gas Intel makes same report.

Local observers continue to document MVP construction and violations

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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).”

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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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