Shorts: Blue Ridge Briefs

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Eastern Cougar Declared Extinct?

In June the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided it was ready to call the eastern cougar extinct. The particular subspecies of big cats has been on the Endangered Species List since 1973, and although there have been recent confirmed cougar sightings in the East, officials say those were likely western mountain lions that migrated to the right coast.

“We recognize that people have seen cougars in the wild in the eastern U.S.,” said Martin Miller, northeast chief of endangered species, in an AP report. “Those cougars are not of the eastern cougar subspecies.”

Eastern cougar populations declined rapidly in the 1800s, killed by European settlers protecting livestock as they harvested native forests. The large cats, known as mountain lions, pumas, and other names in different parts of the country, are still being spotted on the East Coast. A cougar was killed in Kentucky last December. A 60-day comment period on the proposal to remove the specific eastern cougar subspecies from the endangered list ends later this month.

Two Virginia Friends Visiting Every National Park in a Year

Two buddies from Charlottesville are currently on an epic road trip, traveling across the country with plans to visit all 59 National Parks in the continental U.S. within the next year. In June, Trevor Kemp and Darius Nabors both quit their jobs at the University of Virginia and set off to visit the 59 parks within 59 weeks, an excursion undertaken to commemorate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. “I’ve always wanted to go on the great American road trip, and this is like an extreme version of that,” Nabors told the Daily Progress. The pair left Virginia in a Dodge Ram truck borrowed from Nabors’ parents. They started at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio and plan to finish next August at Maine’s Arcadia National Park. Along the way adventure plans include canoeing in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and hiking the 93-mile Wonderland Trail in Washington.

—Follow the journey at

A.T. Plate Sales Raise a Million Dollars in N.C.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy announced in June that it has raised more than $1 million from sales of the A.T. license plate in North Carolina. Trail lovers willing to spend a little extra for the specialty plate, first offered in the state in 2005, are making a big difference along America’s Favorite Footpath. The conservancy funnels the cash raised from the plates—also offered in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and Pennsylvania—straight to trail maintenance through grants given to trail clubs and other organizations. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, this year the ATC has already given $30,000 to trail projects, monitoring, and outreach.

5point Film Fest Headed to Asheville, N.C.

On August 14-16, Asheville will host a celebration of the country’s top boundary-pushing adventure films. The festival weekend will kickoff with a free outdoor party before the films roll at 7pm on Friday. Saturday’s line up will include a community picnic, ice cream social, van life rally, dance party with DJ Marley, a youth adventure film program, and an amazing lineup of powerful films. BRO Editor in Chief Will Harlan will moderate a panel of top regional athletes on Saturday morning at the New Mountain Sol Bar—including elite triathlete and runner Jay Curwen, Girls at Play founder Anna Levesque, ultra running wild man Adam Hill, pro paddler Pat Keller, and champion mountain biker Sam Koerber—who embody the spirit of the film fest. Unlike other film fests, 5Point features films that are about more than heart-pumping adrenaline. They highlight people who go deeper and give voice to the places and issues that matter most.

Bikers Bare All

On June 13 groups of cyclists around the world once again stripped down and pedaled in unity as part of the World Naked Bike Ride. With bare butts on seats, bikers in cities across the globe from Barcelona to Chicago took short rides to raise awareness for alternative transportation and cyclist safety. In Portland, Oregon, an estimated 10,000 riders pedaled in the buff. A spokesperson explained why: “We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity and exposing the unique dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians as well as the negative consequences we all face due to dependence on oil and other forms of non-renewable energy.”

500-Pound Man Planning Marathon in December

Derek Mitchell is shedding pounds on race courses. Since March the Kansas City-based Mitchell has committed to running at least one 5K a month in an effort to lose weight, and so far it’s working. In March he weighed 570 pounds, and in late June he was down to 538 after finishing five races. Now he’s raising the bar and planning to run the Honolulu Marathon in December. He picked the race because it doesn’t have a time limit, but he’s taking the endeavor seriously, telling Runner’s World that he recently started a six-month endurance-building training plan. “I’m losing about 12 pounds per month, so if I keep that up, I’ll be at about 450 pounds by December, which, to think about that is awesome,” Mitchell told RW.


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