Jim Beeson with his touring bike at the Pacific Ocean

So, at the last Hiker Happy Hour, several people asked about our former President Jim Beeson’s next adventure. For those of you who don’t know, Jim is starting a new long distance adventure. He and two friends are traveling by bicycle from the Pacific Ocean across country to the Atlantic Ocean via a route called the Southern Tier.

If you’d like to follow along on Jim’s adventure, he is keeping an online journal. You can read it at www.trailjournals.com/southerntier . The journal defaults to his latest entry. If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can either click “First” in the menu choices above the date in his journal entry, or click this link: https://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/632324 .

Also, for those of you wondering, “What’s this about Hiker Happy Hour?” We meet on the third Wednesday of the month at Olde Salem Brewery for a couple hours after work. Check the listings in our Meetup group for the next Hiker Happy Hour!

GOOD NEWS!

Beginning June 13. 2020 – The National Park Service reopened access to 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail known as the “Triple Crown”. The “Triple Crown” area includes the AT between VA Route 624 (Newport Road) and VA Route 652 (Mountain Pass Road), including McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. All sections of RATC maintained AT are now open.

Things to Remember:

Please follow all local health orders, including social distancing and practice Leave No Trace principles. No hand washing facilities exist on the trail, bring hand sanitizer. No restroom facilities exist on the trail or VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot

VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot is at 100% capacity and parking is not allowed on VA 311 – illegally parked cars may be ticketed and towed

No trail maintenance has been performed on the trail since March 15, 2020.Be prepared for trail obstructions.

Shelters and privies in all sections section remain closed

Plan your Triple Crown hike during the week, if at all possible. Weekend days can be crowded.

Enjoy your hike and BE SAFE!

https://www.ratc.org/membership

As you know, RATC is an active organization devoting countless volunteer hours to maintain and improve our 120 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Funds generated from membership play an integral part in the club’s ability to provide trail and shelter maintenance. If you are not an RATC member or have not renewed your membership please join or renew your Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) membership and support the stewardship of our 120 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) section with both your membership and financial support. Membership information is available at

https://www.ratc.org/membership

Questions? Please contact RATC Membership Coordinator – Steve Urbaniak 540-588-5410 – membership@ratc.org

Highlights of 2019 RATC activities include;
• Resurfaced McAfee Knob/VA 311 Trailhead Parking Lot – $2,000
• Supported the “Virginia Triple Crown” Volunteer Ridgerunner Program – 52 Volunteers/1679 Volunteer Hours
• Contributed $5000 toward purchase of Doc’s Way property to protect McAfee Knob view shed
• Replaced roofs on Catawba, Wilson Creek, Jenny’s Knob, Laurel Creek and Doc’s Knob Shelters – $2500
• Replaced fire rings for 5 Shelters – $1100
• Repaired foot bridges at VA 620, VA 621 and VA 785 – $1000
• Held weekly trail maintenance hikes resulting in 350 steps being installed on Dragon’s Tooth, Sinking Creek (Niday Shelter side), Curry Gap and AT/McAfee Knob.
• 83 RATC Trail Maintainers worked >5500 volunteer hours to maintain our section of the AT
• Assisted Konnarock Crew with War Spur trail relocation
• Performed emergency repairs to Fulhardt Knob Shelter after fire
• Offered 60+ recreational hikes covering a wide range of difficulty and distance

Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy released the following statement, March 23, 2020;

“In these unprecedented times, I am making an unprecedented request: please stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Whether your hike is for a couple of hours or a couple of days, staying away from the Trail minimizes the spread or contraction of COVID-19.

In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the Trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.

These same crowds accessing the A.T. may not know how a simple half-day hike can spread COVID-19. While hiking, they may have eaten lunch at a picnic table, taken a break in a shelter, used a privy, or shared a map or food with someone unknowingly infected with COVID-19 and carried this highly contagious virus back to their communities at the end of the day. They may not have realized that ATC staff and

Trail volunteers have been recalled from the A.T. and cannot maintain the footpath, trailheads, shelters and privies that may be heavily (or permanently) impacted by increased visitor use. And, they may not be aware of the rural communities adjacent to the Trail that may not have the healthcare resources to help a sick hiker or volunteer or manage a COVID-19 outbreak should a hiker transport the virus in from the Trail.

Many day hikers see the outdoors as an escape from the stresses of these difficult times. But with crowding from day hikers reaching unmanageable levels and the lack of any staff or volunteers to manage this traffic, it is necessary that all hikers avoid accessing the Trail. The A.T. is not a separate reality from the communities in which hikers live – so, until the risk of spreading COVID-19 has reduced significantly, hiking on a heavily-trafficked trail like the A.T. potentially increases rather than reduces harm.

The ATC does not want to do too little, too late. We cannot close the Trail. We cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. We can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice.

There is an unfortunate truth about this virus: unless everyone is safe, no one is safe. So, take a walk around the block. Spend time with your loved ones. And, please, stay home.”

https://wildeast.appalachiantrail.org/explore/plan-and-prepare/hiking-basics/health/covid19/

COVID – 19 Information

RATC Members/Supporters

As a result of the COVID -19 pandemic we are all experiencing new and challenging times in our lives and on the Appalachian Trail.

In response to the best guidance available on effective ways to slow transmission the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) is suspending all club and trail-related activities for a least the next month to give local communities and the country time to realize the full impact of the virus.

The RATC annual meeting scheduled for March 28, 2020 will be postponed and rescheduled at a future date.

This is a rapidly changing situation and acting with an abundance of caution is the best course of action.

Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!

Jim Beeson
RATC President

The Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club is looking for new volunteers to protect McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth as Volunteer Ridgerunners. The final Training Day of 2019 will be Saturday, September 7 from 9 am to 4 pm. Please email Kathryn Herndon-Powell or call her at 540-904-4316 to attend.

Volunteer Ridgerunners engage hikers in friendly conversations about the natural and cultural significance of this area and tips on best practices for enjoying the Trail safely and responsibly. They report on trail conditions and perform light trail maintenance to prevent small problems from getting worse–like dismantling illegal fire rings, packing out trash, and blocking social trails to discourage shortcutting. In 2018, 38 Volunteer Ridgerunners logged 1,125 volunteer hours, spoke with over 18,000 visitors and removed 570 gallons of litter!

If you want to join this lively group of dedicated stewards, you must:

–> Join the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club ($20/year)
–> Join the McAfee Knob Task Force Meetup group (free)
–> Commit to volunteer at least one weekend day per month (Fri/Sat/Sun), April through November
–> Attend a Training Day
–> Join an Orientation Hike

Read more »

(Note: this blog is based substantially on a filing by the Indian Creek Watershed Association/ICWA to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/FERC on December 21, 2018 – Accession No. 20181221-5334. As this blog was being posted, several more stories broke regarding likely violations of the Clean Water Act by Mountain Valley Pipeline. In a front-page story on January 23, 2019, the Roanoke Times reported a well-documented request by Roanoke attorneys to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for a criminal investigation of MVP On February 15, 2019 the Roanoke Times confirmed that the there is a federal criminal investigation of MVP underway. And Roberta Kellam, former member of Virginia’s State Water Control Board – charged with enforcing the federal Clean Water Act in the Commonwealth – revealed potential violations by Department of Environmental Quality staff and very questionable behavior by DEQ Director David Paylor. Kellam wrote articles for the Virginia Mercury in December 2018 and January 2019. )

Before approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had to show that it would do no substantial environmental harm, supposedly demonstrated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) they issued on June 23, 2017 (Accession No. 20170623-4000). In granting the FEIS, the FERC relied on MVP’s stream scour and erosion analyses and plan containing specific information about pipeline construction at stream crossings along the entire pipeline route.

Yet within months of starting the project, MVP submitted a variance request asking permission to change its plan. In doing so, MVP admitted to the FERC that:

MVP runoff a foot deep on Cahas Mountain Road

The [MVP plan] was a theoretical desktop analysis and did not take site specific constructability issues (elevations, terrain, and workspace) into account. During its subsequent field reviews, [MVP] determined that execution of the mitigation measures, as written, would pose increased environmental or landslide risks or be unsafe or impractical due to terrain or geology.”

In response, FERC’s own expert consultant stated that MVP should be required to “provide a site-specific scenario… for each location [where MVP proposed to change its original plan].”

So it is clear that the FERC-approved FEIS does not protect the environment. Despite MVP’s confession, Paul Friedman (FERC Project Manager) or someone at a higher level overruled the FERC’s own expert consultant by

  1. Rejecting the expert’s directive that MVP do a site-specific analysis of every water body crossing on the route where MVP proposed to change its original plan.
  2. Allowing MVP to produce revised plans with lower environmental standards (June 2018).
  3. Failing to provide state environmental agencies or the public an opportunity to comment on revised plans.
  4. Approving, without opportunity for public comment, a project-wide variance (MVP-006) on September 26, 2018 that allows MVP to violate Best Management Practices without oversight.
  5. Producing this hasty variance approval at EXACTLY the same time that MVP announced a lengthy delay and major cost increase. MVP and its investors – not clean water, landowner rights and protection of public lands – seemed to be the core FERC audience for this action.
  6. Hiding the relevant correspondence from the public, the courts and both federal and state regulators.
  7. Trying to hide the name of the FERC Project Manager in documents that ICWA acquired through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA).

BY KEEPING CORRESPONDENCE SECRET, FERC DENIED INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE INFORMED DECISIONS BY FERC COMMISSIONERS, THE FEDERAL 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS AND THE VIRGINIA STATE WATER CONTROL BOARD, among others. Surely it would have mattered if decision makers had Read more »

Many RATC members know Chris Means as RATC’s Membership Coordinator or as an early co-organizer of the Roanoke Outdoor Adventure Club. But there is a lot more to his story!

As Chris will soon be completing a long and successful career at Elizabeth Arden here in the Roanoke Valley, he’s already been thinking about the future. He still enjoys his work but admits that,

Undoubtedly I had the most fun in my working life at a skate/T-shirt shop in the booming metropolis of Charleston, West Virginia.  I of course never made much money at this and eventually moved on, but the atmosphere was fun, my co-workers were incredible, and the job was essentially easy as love mingling with the public. I recall this as the ‘good times’ era in my life.  Fast forward 30 years and I find myself entertaining the possibility of doing something similar, but with more thoughtful motivation. 

The result is Outdrz.net, Chris’s web-driven effort (also found on Facebook) to combine four goals:

  • Create and sell great quality products through his online shop.
  • Get others addicted to the outdoors by any means possible. Vicariously will work, but my aim is to help others find the medicinal value I’ve stumbled onto out there, and if I’m really lucky, ignite a passion for conservation in a few individuals along the way.
  • Generate enough income to keep this little venture solvent, and who knows, maybe even make a buck or two.
  • Contribute a percentage of all profit funds to groups currently doing vital work out there conservation groups and other nonprofits.

In 2018, Outdrz.net contributed to:

When asked why he started Outdrz.net, Chris said he was retrieving a part of his life that had slowly disappeared over the years. “I’d all but forgotten about walking in the woods,” he noted, even though he was a Boy Scout and grew up in a family of hunters who often wandered in the woods after a big meal to relax. He decided to make some changes.

As I started easing back out into the woods I can’t really label or give a name to the feelings I started to recall and the level of serenity that slowly came over me as I’d just walk along and sort through things mentally.  At this stage I don’t care to give this sensation a name or categorize it. I only care that I never lose the ability to be exposed to it, and I want it always to be available for anyone else who might draw the same experiences from a simple bit of time spent in the outdoors.

Going deeper, Chris shares the philosophy that has led him to early retirement, a new life split between Nova Scotia and Roanoke, and a deep commitment to the outdoors and thoughtful living:

As a species a lot of us humans appear to be in a constant battle to live up to or achieve the levels of suggested success that we’ve been fed and conditioned to understand as “correct.”  Some examples: the $250k house, 2 vehicles, 3 kids and at least 2 household pets.   Get, get, get; more more more and so on and so on.  In my humble opinion I’ve heard it said best as “We will not understand as a people the value of the pristine outdoors until the last fish is gone, there are no more trees to cut down, and the forest animals have diminished, at which time we’ll come to realize that you cannot eat a $100 bill,” although I can’t remember who said this.  

I’m just hugely grateful that the forests, trails, rivers and streams were there for me when it was time for me to revert back to what was once normal, and give a different life style a shot.  The outdoors are always open, they forever have a new and interesting story just waiting in them for me to uncover, and they’ve never left me feeling slighted.  The outdoors are there for me to utilize to my heart’s content. and that is one of the main motivating factors for me attempting this endeavor – to tell whoever will listen about what I’d forgotten about and since rediscovered, what it has done for me, where it resides, and lastly how we as a group can protect it for future generations…

RATC thanks him for his work on the AT and in the community. Check out his website and Facebook page!

The volunteers of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club wish everyone  a joyful holiday season! As part of the celebrations, RATC has added a new t-shirt to its store, honoring our section’s famed Triple Crown – Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. It can be ordered directly from the RATC store using this link and it comes in both red and green.

The back of the t-shirt, designed by RATC board member Chris Means, features the slogan, “Easy on the Eyes, Hard on the Thighs”  and photos of Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. The front has the RATC logo, designed by long-time RATC member Zetta Campbell. It features a hiker on McAfee Knob and the year of the RATC’s founding – 1932.

This is a great gift for anyone who has hiked the section or just loves the AT, and earnings go directly to the all-volunteer RATC, which maintains and protects over 120 miles of the AT in southwestern and central Virginia. We are one of 31 maintaining clubs along the AT and must earn all of our own funding.

The store continues to offer regular RATC t-shirts and hats in several designs as well through our partners at Press Press Merch.

For those interested in hiking the section, this RATC website has an entire page devoted to the Triple Crown, with detailed maps and information about camping and other special rules on the section.

For the past 3 years, trained RATC volunteer Ridgerunners have patrolled the Triple Crown section of the AT, which receives over 90,000 visitors every year, based on data from a year-round infrared counter. Under the leadership of Kathryn Herndon-Powell, Dave Youmans and Brian Boggs, the McAfee Knob Task Force completed a successful 2018 season:

  • 38 different volunteers completed 175 patrols (Friday-Monday, April-October)
  • They put in 1,125 volunteer hours and
  • Counted almost 20,000 visitors while
  • Removing 560 gallons of trash and
  • Dismantling 46 Fire Rings

See you on the Trail in 2019!

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.

Read more »