Photo of Lauren Hughes by Tyler Allen\n\n\n\nMeet 16 Young Athletes and Outdoor Entrepreneurs who are changing the face of Adventure \n\n\n\nIn a time where our environment faces threats from every angle, it is encouraging to learn that not all hope is lost. We searched high and low for young environmentalists, athletes, musicians, and outdoors fanatics who will carry the next wave of Blue Ridge enthusiasts. These young individuals are just a few of countless others who are staying true to the spirit of the region, while simultaneously adapting to the modern world. \n\n\n\nAlice Clair, 22\n\n\n\nMusician\/Activist, @aliceclairmusic\n\n\n\nCombining a passion for music and the environment, Alice Clair is an unstoppable force in the central Virginia community. \n\n\n\nWhile juggling a double major in music and biology at UVA, she garnered recognition in the central Virginian music scene, released her first album, managed the student radio station, and remained active in the fight against the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline in her home of Nelson County. \n\n\n\nClair\u2019s passion for music began at age eight when she started taking guitar lessons and grew exponentially as the years passed. By the time that she was 14, she performed her first paid gig and was a regular at open mic events. At 17, Clair joined The BLNDRs, a band she regularly performs with, and never looked back.\n\n\n\nNowadays, Clair is a regular in the Charlottesville music scene, playing consistent gigs with the BLNDRs or on her own at local bars, restaurants, vineyards, and breweries, as well as bigger venues in the area. \n\n\n\n\u201cThere are a good number of flavors of art and music here, and I have an appetite,\u201d she said.\n\n\n\nClair released her first solo album, Loop, this February, featuring her own powerful vocals and guitar skills backed by an array of local musicians. \n\n\n\nHowever, music isn\u2019t the only driving force in Clair\u2019s life. She is also deeply connected to her roots in Nelson and is a passionate protester of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Clair attends meeting and protests pertaining to the pipeline and uses her music as a platform to share information about it. \n\n\n\n\u201cActivism is plain citizenship,\u201d Clair said. \u201cMy home, my friends and family, my land, my water, my community, and my neighbors have been threatened. I was not given the opportunity to choose.\u201d \n\n\n\nClair\u2019s deep connection to Nelson County is an intrinsic part of her persona that shines through in her music, even in songs that aren\u2019t directly related to environmental issues. \n\n\n\nIn \u201cPatience,\u201d a folky single from the album Loop, Clair sings, \u201cThese hands of mine have lost their softened spotsGouging out the rotten weakened partsAnd all of the patienceIn the world, I find,Is our love\u2019s only costI pray that this patience won\u2019t lead me \u2018til I\u2019m lost.\u201d\n\n\n\nLater on, Clair reflected on how patience helped her wait to \u201csee our triumph at the end of this dark, dark tunnel.\u201d\n\n\n\n Alice Clair | Photo by Clara Castle Photography \n\n\n\nLauren Hughes, 24 \n\n\n\nNantahala Outdoor Center\n\n\n\nBorn in the suburbs of Virginia Beach, Lauren Hughes was raised with a respect for nature that continued to grow as she got older. \n\n\n\n\u201cMy dad did a lot of surfing and fishing, and by tagging along with him, I discovered an appreciation for nature,\u201d Hughes said.\n\n\n\nHer appreciation for nature hit its peak when 17-year-old Hughes watched 180 Degrees South for the first time. The documentary film follows Jeff Johnson's travels from California to Chile while he retraces the travels of Yvon Chouinard. Chouinard, an American rock climber and environmentalist embarked on this journey in 1968 with his close friend Doug Tompkins. Seeking new climbing adventures, this journey inspired Chouinard to create the brand Patagonia. \n\n\n\nAfter watching the film, Hughes began to look at adventure in a new way. \n\n\n\n \u201cIt really opened my eyes to what outdoor recreation looked like and how critical the conservation of nature is,\u201d Hughes said. \n\n\n\nChouinard\u2019s philosophies regarding the connection between outdoor recreation, sustainability, morals, and business acted as an inspiration for Hughes to begin a more personal relationship with nature. \n\n\n\nHughes lives this philosophy of simplifying your life in order to live a more examined life in the natural world. Living minimally, Hughes spends more time focusing on the natural world rather than the material products of society. \n\n\n\n\u201cI\u2019ve strived to simplify my life by focusing my energy on the things that are most important to me,\u201d Hughes said. \u201cReally examining my life and asking myself, \u2018Does this make me happy?\u2019 And getting rid of things that don't.\u201d\n\n\n\nNow living in Asheville, North Carolina, both Hughes\u2019 professional and personal life revolves around nature. Working as the Nantahala Outdoor Center Logo Merchandise Buyer, Hughes can explore her passion for adventure through sharing it with her customers. \n\n\n\nWhen she\u2019s not working, Hughes spends most of her time in Asheville hiking through the Black Balsam forest. With her passion for the outdoors, she carries a newfound respect and responsibility towards the land. \n\n\n\nJoey Noonan\n\n\n\nJosephine (Joey) Noonan, 22 \n\n\n\nFounder of Joceanic, @joceanic_\n\n\n\nJoey Noonan came up with the idea for her t-shirt company, Joceanic, as a way to combine her two passions: art and environmental conservation. She likes to joke that \u201cthe whole business started by accident\u201d after she posted a few pictures of shirts she made herself on Instagram and friends \u201creached out saying they loved my designs.\u201d \n\n\n\n\u201cI didn\u2019t want to promote the consumerism that our culture is so obsessed with, so instead I chose to use shirts from thrift stores to encourage people to reduce their consumption,\u201d Noonan said. \n\n\n\nThe thrifted t-shirts are printed with silk screened designs, including seals, sharks, jellyfish, and sea dragons. A portion of the proceeds go to a designated environmental nonprofit, changing every six months.\n\n\n\n\u201cI wanted Joceanic to be about more than me selling repurposed shirts,\u201d Noonan said. \u201cMy goal is to educate because knowledge is a huge part of making a change.\u201d\n\n\n\nJoceanic has donated to the Surfrider Foundation, a network focused on hosting local, volunteer-based beach cleanups, and Project Aware, an organization advocating for policy that will preserve the oceans from pollution and overfishing, specifically the protection of shark and ray populations. \n\n\n\nNoonan said she \u201chopes that her shirts and business model encourage people to look deeper into what\u2019s going on in our world.\u201d \n\n\n\nThe company hosted its first clean-up in April of 2019 and hopes to organize and host many more in the coming months and years. \n\n\n\nIn addition to creating and selling tee-shirts through Joceanic, Noonan is extremely passionate about conservation and sustainability in all aspects of her business and daily life. She posts blogs with advice for those looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle, including a tutorial on making beeswax wraps to replace plastic cling wrap or aluminum foil.\n\n\n\nNoonan\u2019s \u201crecipe\u201d for beeswax wraps is simple: 100% cotton fabric, parchment paper, and beeswax pastilles combined with the aid of an iron. \n\n\n\n Cash reaches Katahdin. photo by John McCurry \n\n\n\nCaet Cash, 29 \n\n\n\nBackpacker\/Van Dweller, @woodswomyn\n\n\n\nFor long-distance backpacker Caet Cash, what began as an inexpensive resume \u201cgap-filler,\u201d quickly developed into a lifestyle. \n\n\n\n\u201cAfter college, I didn\u2019t find a job right away, and I was mortified about having a gap on my resume,\u201d Cash said. \n\n\n\nAfter exploring her options, she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. In July of 2014, she set out on the trail heading south for her first real backpacking trip, starting off with Mount Katahdin. \n\n\n\n\u201cEveryone was very taken aback,\u201d Cash said. \u201cI hadn\u2019t been camping since age seven, and I hated it.\u201d \n\n\n\nNow, she\u2019s hooked. Cash is currently challenging herself to \u201cgrid\u201d the Southeast\u2019s 40 peaks above 6,000 feet by hiking each peak once a month for the year, a total of 480 summits. \n\n\n\nCash describes her \u201cgridding\u201d challenge as an adaptation of the South Beyond 6,000 peak-bagging challenge. She hits the trails two or three times a week, sometimes hiking as many as 50 miles in one day, and plans on finishing her challenge over the course of about two years. \n\n\n\nMost impressively, she\u2019s doing it all from the less-than-26-square-foot van that she calls home. \n\n\n\n\u201cI think [living out of a van] is probably easier after coming back from a thru-hike,\u201d Cash said. \u201cBecause you go from living out of a backpack to living out of a van, which feels very luxurious.\u201d \n\n\n\nHer key tip for staying sane while living out of her tiny van is to get out often\u2014either onto the trails, into local coffee shops, or just into parks around Asheville. \n\n\n\nCash\u2019s favorite place to hike? North Carolina\u2019s Smoky Mountains. Piece of gear she can\u2019t live without? Her hiking dresses from Lightheart Gear, which she says have amazing ventilation. \n\n\n\n\u201cWe need more outdoor gear made by women, period,\u201d Cash said. \n\n\n\nMatt Reilly with a Musky photo by Connor Tapscott \n\n\n\nMatt Reilly, 23 \n\n\n\nFishing Guide\/Environmental Writer, @mattreillyflyfishing\n\n\n\nOperating in the Southwest region of Virginia, Matt Reilly is an accomplished fly fishing guide who dabbles in journalism for magazines like Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine and The Rural Virginian. \n\n\n\nReilly became an avid fisher at a young age, fishing the Rivanna in his hometown, as well as in the Shenandoah National Park on trips with his father. \n\n\n\n\u201cI just love to fish, and I love to be outside,\u201d Reilly said. \u201cI\u2019m not sure how the passion evolved, but it did pretty quickly.\u201d \n\n\n\nReilly began his guiding business, Matt Reilly Fly Fishing, during his senior year of college at Randolph College and \u201cworked out the kinks\u201d during his first few months. After graduation, Reilly began guiding full-time, offering guided smallmouth bass, trout, and musky trips in Virginia\u2019s southwestern region, often on the New River. \n\n\n\n\u201cIt is a world-class smallmouth bass fishery and a world-class musky fishery,\u201d Reilly said of the New River. \n\n\n\nFrom late March to early October, Reilly leads smallmouth trips on the New, and during the other half of the year, he takes clients fishing for musky. \n\n\n\nReilly says he was lucky to form connections and friendships in the guiding community during his teenage years, finding a mentor in experienced Charlottesville fishing guide Chuck Craft, before breaking into the guiding business. Now, Reilly is a mentor in his own right to his clients and friends. \n\n\n\nBella Jariel | Photo by Jennie Jariel\n\n\n\nBella Jariel, 17\n\n\n\nClimber, @bjariel\n\n\n\nIt wasn\u2019t easy to balance a rigorous training schedule with high school, but top climber Bella Jariel somehow managed. The 17-year-old came out of Riverrock in Richmond, Va., with first-place wins in both the Boulder Bash and speed divisions this year.\n\n\n\n\u201cDepending on the season, I usually train 3-5 days a week,\u201d Jariel said. \u201cWhile ideally, my schedule would be more regular, juggling climbing with school can sometimes be difficult, and I have to occasionally prioritize my studies.\u201d\n\n\n\nJariel\u2019s passion for climbing started when she was seven as a fun weekend activity that she did with her parents. Eventually, she joined her gym\u2019s climbing team and started attending practices and competitions.\n\n\n\n\u201cThe climbing community is super collaborative,\u201d Jariel said. \u201cEven though competitions can be intense, competitors are quick to help each other and constantly cheering for one another and are always sharing information about how to ascend climbs.\u201d \n\n\n\nJariel\u2019s favorite spots to climb are Hueco Tanks in Texas and Red Rocks in Nevada. \n\n\n\n\u201cThe rock quality and features are incredible, and the locations are also picturesque,\u201d Jariel said. \u201cI also enjoy fun day trips to local areas like Great Falls and Carderock on the Potomac River when I can. While indoor competitions can be fun, I love the outdoor aspect of climbing.\u201d \n\n\n\nHung TaDalton Perry\n\n\n\nThe Blue Ridgers\n\n\n\nPhotographers, @theblueridgers\n\n\n\nIn 2017, a group of young photographers came together to create The Blue Ridgers. Together, this collective of photographers seeks to showcase the beauty of the Southeastern United States by connecting with young artists from the Smoky Mountains to the foothills of Appalachia. \n\n\n\nThis group is comprised of 9 young photographers, including Dalton Perry, 29, and Hung Ta, 22. Although Perry and Ta, have only known each other since 2017, they share a bond through their mutual passion for capturing the beauty of the outdoors. \n\n\n\nPerry's career in photography stems from his appreciation for travel and adventure. In 2016, Perry decided to buy his first camera before taking a trip out West to visit a few national parks.\n\n\n\n\u201cI wanted to get involved with photography for the sole reason that my wife and I love to travel,\u201d Perry said. \n\n\n\nKnowing only the basic information about photography and cameras, Perry taught himself how to use manual mode. As he got more into photography, he started connecting with other photographers through Instagram, including Ta. \n\n\n\nTa moved from Vietnam to Boone, North Carolina, ten years ago, later attending Appalachian State University. He fell into the photography business because he wanted to show his family the beauty of Boone.\n\n\n\n\u201cThe majority of my family still lives in Vietnam and may never have the opportunity to travel here,\u201d Ta said. \n\n\n\nPerry, Ta, and other area photographers began going on hiking and photography trips together. In 2017, they formed The Blue Ridgers on Instagram. \n\n\n\nThey host meet-ups to form relationships between like-minded photographers. In the long run, The Blue Ridgers hope to collaborate with local businesses, tourism boards, and outdoor apparel companies to promote the region and the outdoors. \n\n\n\nBoth of these photographers' careers have been deeply impacted by their relationship with the outdoors. For Perry, his career has allowed him to experience the beauty of hiking, traveling, and experiencing other cultures while deepening his desire to do his part in caring for the earth. \n\n\n\nTa is grateful for the friendships that he has gained through his career.\n\n\n\n\u201cThey continue to inspire me every day to spend more time outside and to respect our environment, wherever we may be,\u201d Ta said. \n\n\n\nLuke Paulson \nphoto by \nJustin Keefe\n\n\n\nLuke Paulson, 27\n\n\n\nUltra Runner\/Sustainable Chef\n\n\n\nLuke Paulson never expected ultra running to become an essential component of his lifestyle. \n\n\n\nWhile he competed in shorter races, it wasn't until he spontaneously signed up for the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2017 that he attempted an ultra race.\n\n\n\nTen races later, the sport has become one of his top priorities. Of those races, Paulson has placed either first or second in every single one, including a first-place finish at the 2019 Mt. Mitchell Challenge with a time of four hours and 29 minutes.\n\n\n\nPaulson first began his running career in middle school after joining his cross-country team in 6th grade. \n\n\n\n\u201cI have always loved the outdoors and running on trails,\u201d Paulson said. \n\n\n\nDepending on what phase of training he\u2019s in, Paulson tends to run anywhere between 80 to 115 miles a week. Typically, he saves his long run for Sundays, which can range anywhere between 16 to 36 miles. \n\n\n\nWhile racing, Paulson is able to use his competitive personality as a tool for self-motivation. But that competitiveness can only take him so far in a race. \n\n\n\n\u201cAt that point, all my thoughts pretty much go straight towards literally just finishing the race,\u201d Paulson said. \u201cI like to remind myself that the pain is only temporary. I sometimes also think back to all the training that I have put in in preparation for the race, which serves as a reminder of what I know is possible.\u201d \n\n\n\nWhen Paulson is not on the trail, he is working as a sustainable chef at Rhubarb, a restaurant in the heart of downtown Asheville. The restaurant serves local dishes, supporting the farmers of Western North Carolina. He seeks to minimize his impact on the environment through buying meat and produce that is grown in the least destructive way as possible. \n\n\n\n \u201cOne of the best things you can do is to eat lower on the food chain,\u201d Paulson said. \n\n\n\nHe began his career in the food industry during college, working at commercial kitchens near Colorado College. Since then, he has spent time at various establishments.\n\n\n\nPaulson's interest in sustainable food grows from his love for the natural world.\n\n\n\n\u201cGrowing food, living a healthy lifestyle, and cooking all come together to help form my interest in sustainable food,\u201d Paulson said. \n\n\n\nWant to cook the best things possible? \n\n\n\n\u201cUse locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible and make sure they are in season,\u201d Paulson said. \n\n\n\nThe Asheville community has provided Paulson with the perfect environment to grow his passion for both running and sustainability. Looking forward, Paulson is training for the Shut-In Ridge Trail Run in Asheville and the JFK 50 Mile in Maryland, both taking place this fall.