New Record Set on Appalachian Trail

It’s been less than three years since Niki Rellon lost part of her left leg in a canyoneering accident, so her recent record hike on the Appalachian Trail can be considered part of a grueling rehab process. At the end of December, Rellon finished a nine-month journey and became the first female leg amputee to thru-hike the A.T. To set the record, Rellon, who goes by the trail name “Bionic Woman,” had to overcome frostbite and leg infections, as she pushed through the East’s most mountainous terrain and remained diligent in her quest to complete the trail’s 2,189 miles. The native German will document her experience in a new book titled Niki Rellon: A Walk to Recovery on the Appalachian Trail.

SELC vs. TVA

The Southern Environmental Law Center recently announced plans to sue the Tennessee Valley Authority. The nonprofit SELC is alleging that the TVA knowingly, by its own reports, stored toxic coal ash in pits without protective lining at its Cumberland Fossil Plant in Cumberland City, Tenn., for more than four decades. The lawsuit will be brought on behalf of the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club.

Take the 100-Mile Challenge

New River Gorge, W.Va.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and get locals moving, rangers at the New River Gorge National River are hosting a 100 Mile Challenge on area trails. Each month rangers will lead hikes in the New River Gorge, as well as the Bluestone National Scenic River, giving participants a chance to reach the century mark by year’s end. So far, response to the challenge has been impressive. In early January, 110 hikers came out for a short hike on the New’s Grandview Rim Trail, which offers stunning views of the gorge and river below. Interested hikers can sign up for the challenge here: www.nps.gov/neri.

Free Admission Days in National Parks

The National Park Service is celebrating the big birthday by offering 16 admission-free days at every park in the U.S. this year. There are 409 national parks, and more than a quarter of them charge an entrance fee between $3-30. Only one of the fee-free days has taken place so far (January 18), leaving 15 more chances to visit  parks without dishing out any cash. The next opportunity will take place during National Park Week, which runs from April 16-24. The NPS will also offer free admission August 25-28, September 24, and November 11.

Moving Beyond Coal in Virginia

As the coal industry continues to decline in Appalachia and beyond, the federal government recently opened its wallet to help former miners develop new employment skills in Virginia. The Commonwealth’s community colleges will receive close to $2 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Labor to help 210 former employees of Alpha Natural Resources in southwest Virginia. The money will be used to teach the laid-off coal miners trades in different industries, including manufacturing, tourism, and outdoor recreation. Based in Bristol, Va., Alpha Natural Resources filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy last August.

BEYOND THE BLUE RIDGE

Ultrarunner Goes for Cross-Country Record

This month ultrarunner Adam Kimble will attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the fastest crossing of the United States on foot. 29-year-old Kimble is planning to leave Huntington Beach, California, on February 15 with a goal of reaching New York City in less than 46 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes—the current record set by Frank Giannino Jr. in 1980. Due to winter weather, Kimble has planned a route that dips down into the country’s southernmost states before climbing towards the big city. His 3,030-mile course includes terrain in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Kimble is able to choose his own coast-to-coast route, as long as the distance exceeds the 2,766 miles from Los Angeles to New York.

In 2008 Marshall Ulrich and Charlie Engle attempted to break Giannino’s record with a run from San Francisco to New York. Engle had to quit after 18 days due to injury and the 57-year-old Ulrich finished in 52 days, setting a masters’ record.

The Protesting Professor

Bill Crain believes bear hunting is unethical. The 72-year-old psychology professor at City College of New York is so passionate about the cause he’s been arrested six times during protests. The latest came in mid December, when he was charged in New Jersey with, according to the AP, “using a state wildlife management area contrary to posted regulation,” after standing in front of a truck that was carrying a dead bear. During Jersey’s most recent annual hunt, more than 500 bears were killed.

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