Best of the Blue Ridge 2020

People

Regional Athlete

Jennifer Pharr Davis’ The Pursuit of Endurance

Jennifer Pharr Davis (Asheville, N.C.)

Since 2005, Jennifer Pharr Davis has hiked over 14,000 miles on six continents, setting numerous records and writing seven books
along the way. She set a fastest known time record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011, completing the almost 2,200-mile trail in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes at an average of 47 miles per day. 

Although she still sets aside time to hike each year, Davis’ focus has shifted to sharing the love of the trail with her children and others. In 2019, she opened up a backpacking boutique in downtown Asheville and a bunkhouse on the A.T. as part of her guiding company, Blue Ridge Hiking Company.

“I feel like there’s certainly people out there who are much more intense athletes than I am at this point,” Davis said. “But I also feel like there’s something notable about the fact that in this season of my life, I have a three-year-old and seven-year-old, there’s this recognition that being an outdoor athlete as an adult takes different forms and has different seasons. It’s not always going to be extreme or it can be extreme in a different way. I’m not setting records or doing 2,000-mile trails, but putting in 300 miles a year feels relatively extreme with work and family.”

Runners-Up

—Ben King (Charlottesville, Va.)
—Mark Miller (Asheville, N.C.)

Thru-Hiker

Daniel White (The Blackalachian)

Since completing his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in September 2017, Daniel “The Blackalachian” White has been challenging himself to keep getting outside. In 2018, he biked the Underground Railroad from Alabama to Canada. This past year, White completed the Great Outdoors Challenge, a coast-to-coast hike across Scotland, and the Camino del Norte, a 518-mile trek along the northern coast of Spain. As for what’s next, he’s still trying to decide what 2020 will look like. 

“Either I’m trying to hike 5,000 miles or buy land to start a homestead in Maine, which can also double as a summer camp/educational skills retreat for at-risk youth,” White said. “Whatever funding allows.”

Runners-Up

—Jennifer Pharr Davis (Odyssa)
—Tied: Julia Sheehan (Rocket) and
Rachel Boice (Nav)

Fly Fishing Guide

Eugene Schuler (Fly Fishing the Smokies, N.C.)

A third-generation fly fishing guide and the youngest Southern Trout “Legends of the Fly” Hall of Fame inductee, Eugene Schuler has been leading fly fishing trips in the Smokies for more than two decades. Anglers benefit from his years of experience and knowledge of the best spots on the water.  

Runners-Up

—Bobby Bower (Pro River Outfitters, W. Va.)
—David Stelling (High Country Guide Service, N.C.)

Raft Guide

Nick “Nugget” Parsons (ACE Adventure Resort, W.Va.)

Nick Parsons has been a raft guide since 2005 when he got hooked on whitewater as a teenager. Right now, Parson’s favorite run when he’s not guiding is Lower Meadow.

Runners-Up

—Grant Seldomridge (River and Earth Adventures, N.C.)
—David Swagger (RVA Paddlesports, Va.)

Environmentalist 

Photo courtesy of Andy Hill

Andy Hill (Watauga Riverkeeper, N.C.)

Andy Hill started out as a volunteer before stepping into the role of Riverkeeper three years ago. “I’ve always loved the Watauga River,” he said. “It’s my favorite place to fish and swim. The more I learned about conservation and the river, the more concerned I became. The desire to protect it moved from part-time volunteering passion to full-time.” 

Hill is one of four riverkeepers under MountainTrue, an environmental nonprofit in western North Carolina. In his role, he helps collect data about water quality and engage the public in the process to help ensure the long-term health of the river. 

“The more people who love a river and use it, the more advocates it will have and the healthier it can be,” Hill said. “You can’t do it without broad community support.”

Runners-Up

—Doug Coleman (The Nature Foundation, Va.)
—Jessica Sims (Sierra Club, Va.)

Sports Doctor

Aaron Vaughan (MAHEC Sports Medicine, Asheville, N.C.)

In addition to his role as a sports medicine doctor and director of a sports medicine fellowship program, Aaron Vaughan, MD, is the team physician for Warren Wilson College and other local sports teams. Vaughan is also the medical director for events like the Lake Logan Triathlon, Shut-In Ridge Trail Race, and Hellbender 100.

Runners-Up

—Moose Herring (Bon Secours, Va.)
—Matthew Panzarella MJH Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, (Charlottesville, Va.)

Physical Therapist

Jordan Chang (Virginia Tech, Va.)

As an ultramarathoner, Jordan Chang said he has a passion for working with other runners in addition to other populations in the area. 

“Being a runner is really important in my practice,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about recovering from injuries and what it takes to get someone back to doing what they want to do. As a runner, I understand the frustration an athlete can go through and the importance of motivational rehab.” 

He’s run the Hellgate 100K every year since college and enjoys the challenge of the West Virginia Trilogy, a three-day stage race. 

Runners-Up

—Wes Miller (Anti-Fragile PT, N.C.)
—Lesley Powers (Active Fitness, W. Va.)

Bike Mechanic

Kelsey Harrington (Downshift, Va.)

When Kelsey Harrington started as the general manager at Downshift, making the move from the nonprofit and marketing field, she didn’t have any prior experience as a bike mechanic. As she started picking up things from the other mechanics in the shop, Harrington decided to apply for the QBP Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship. In 2018, she attended the United Bicycle Institute in Oregon for a two-week course on the basics of bike mechanics.

Now she’s bringing her knowledge back to the cyclists of Roanoke, offering classes and group rides for people who might not have felt comfortable in that space before. 

Runners-Up

—Andy Forron (New River Bikes, W. Va.)

—Joey Riddle (Joey’s Bike Shop, W. Va.)

Coach

Bill Baldwin (Pisgah Running and Racing, N.C.)

Whether you’ve been running for years and are training for your next marathon or you’re new to trail running and are working up to your first 5K, coach Bill Baldwin can help you meet your goals. 

Runners-Up

—Andrea Dvorak (Miller School, Va.)
—Harlan Price (Take Aim Cycling, Va.)

Brewer/Distiller/Winemaker

From left to right: Nathan Herrold, Adam Herrold, and Ken Linch. Photo by Digital Relativity

Nathan Herrold (Bridge Brew Works, W.Va.)

Nathan Herrold started brewing beer in his garage back in the mid-90s. In 2010, Herrold and Ken Linch, another avid home brewer, established Bridge Brew Works to bring their craft beers to Fayetteville. His brother, Adam, joined the team in 2016. “It was a hobby that turned into a passion that then turned into a career,” Herrold said.

Runners-Up

—Nate Kelischek (Appalachian Mountain Brewery, N.C.)
—Christine Riggleman (Silverback Distillery, Va.)

Food Personality 

Photo courtesy of Lewis Rhinehart

Lewis Rhinehart (Secret Sandwich Society, W.Va.)

In the early 90s, Lewis Rhinehart started visiting Fayetteville to play and hang out. He eventually sold his pizza shop back in Pennsylvania to live in the area full time. He started working for Secret Sandwich Society when it first opened, eventually buying the Fayetteville location in 2012.

In addition to their community engagement programs and 100 percent wind-powered operations, Rhinehart said mental health in the food industry is an important issue for him. “Be kind to your restaurant workers,” he said. “They work long hours. There’s a lot of stress. It’s physically and mentally taxing.”

Runners-Up

—Ian Boden (The Shack, Va.)
—Shaena Muldoon (The Palisades Restaurant, Va.)

Photographer 

Leslie Restivo (Boone, N.C.)

Photographer Leslie Restivo first picked up a camera to capture photos of her daughter as she grew up. In addition to shooting landscapes and portraits on her own, Restivo is also a member of Appalachian Explorers and Roam Outdoors. She said these groups have provided a platform through which she can connect with other creatives and show off the beauty of the region. 

Runners-Up

—Lindsay Kagalis (Richmond, Va.)
—Gabrielle Van Wyck (Luray, Va.)

Instagram Account

Blue Ridge Mountain Guides (@blueridgemtnguides)

Follow this climbing company for excellent climbing spots and views of the region to inspire your next adventure. 

Runners-Up

—Sweetwater Brewery (@sweetwaterbrew)
—FloydFest (@floydfestva)

Adventurer

Will Horton skiing Winterplace. Photo courtesy of Horton.

Will Horton (Princeton, W.Va.)

Since Winterplace Ski Resort opened for its first season in 1983, Will Horton estimates he’s taught thousands of people how to ski. As Winterplace’s last original ski instructor, he’s been around long enough to see two of his children join the resort as instructors and part of ski patrol. “It’s that camaraderie of friends being together, having a good time, and being outdoors,” he said.

  During the off-season, you can find Horton visiting the highest peaks on the East Coast, kayaking, mountain biking, and enjoying the outdoors. But winter is still his favorite adventure season, when he gets to strap on his skis and share his passion for the snow with others.  

Runners-Up

—Leslie Restivo (Boone, N.C.)
—John Forbes (Kingsport, Tenn.)

Musician/Band

The Kind Thieve’s debut album, “Many A Thief.”

The Kind Thieves (W.Va.)

From the heart of Appalachia, the Kind Thieves bring audiences dynamic, adventurous live shows. Influenced by classic rock, funk, and bluegrass, they released their debut album, “Many A Thief,” in 2017. You can find this jam-band playing all over the region.

Runners-Up

—Steel Wheels (Va.)
—The Company Store (W.Va.)

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