The top outdoor news stories of June 2019

Want your kids to be happy adults? Get them outside as children.

A recent study published in the journal PNAS found that growing up near green space is associated with an up to 55 percent lower risk of mental health disorders in adulthood. The study is the largest ever look at the association between mental health and green spaces. 

Hike Naked Day

On June 21, many Appalachian Trail hikers will be strolling in the skinny. It’s not just an Appalachian Trail tradition; hikers across the region let it all hang out, even for just a short stroll, on the summer solstice.

A.T. Hall of Fame Class of 2019

Four new members of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame were inducted in May: Paul Fink, a Tennessee-based historian who helped create Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Jean van Gilder Cashin, information specialist for Appalachian Trail Conservancy who became known for taking pictures of all attempting thru-hikers; longtime trail crew leader Robert Proudman; and Donald King, who handles land acquisition for the trail as the chief realty officer of the National Park Service.

MURDER ON THE A.T.: man previously arrested for threatening a.t. hikers in tennessee kills a hiker and stabs another with 20-inch knife

A man who has been terrorizing hikers on the Appalachian Trail since at least April has been charged with murder after the brutal attack of two hikers. James Louis Jordan, 30, also known as “Sovereign,” was arrested on May 11 after police followed the SOS signal triggered by one of the victims. 

     A group of hikers camping on Friday night reported being threatened by a man wielding a large knife. The man pursued two of the hikers who fled north, but they were able to elude him and reported the incident to the sheriff’s office. The other two hikers in the group fled south, and the man caught up to and attacked the hikers. The male hiker triggered the SOS signal on his phone before his murder. The female hiker suffered defensive wounds and was seriously injured. She played dead until the attacker left the scene, and then ran for help, eventually encountering another group of hikers six miles away.

     A Wythe County tactical team entered the forest Saturday morning to locate the SOS signal. While talking with other hikers, Jordan’s dog wandered up to the police and led them to the suspect who was arrested without incident. A 20-inch knife was found along the trail shortly before police discovered the male victim.

     In late April, Jordan was arrested for drug possession and using a fake ID in Unicoi County, Tenn. Though it was well known that Jordan was threatening hikers along the trail, he was sentenced to probation, fined, and released from jail. Police say they knew Jordan was a threat, but because hikers refused to press charges and testify against him in court, their only recourse was to fine and release him. Homicides are rare on the Appalachian Trail. The last homicide to take place on the famous footpath happened in 2011. 

Ouch. Young camper’s snakebite cost $142,000

Nine-year-old Oakley Yoder was walking back to her tent at summer camp last year when she was bitten by a copperhead. First responders recommended Yoder fly via air ambulance to the hospital 80 miles away. Once at the hospital, Yoder received four vials of antivenin called CroFab, the only antivenin available in the U.S. at the time. Less than 24 hours after beng bitten, Yoder was healthy and released from the hospital. Then the bill arrived: $142,000 (Yoder’s parents were responsible for only $3,500 out of pocket). Over $55,000 of the bill was for the air ambulance transport, but a big portion also came from the nearly $17,000 Yoder was charged for each vial of antivenin—more than five times higher than the asking price. A new antivenin called Anavip is just $1,220 per vial—a price that doesn’t bite nearly as much.

Camping is on the rise and campers are more diverse than ever

Over 78.8 million Americans went camping last year. Among first-time campers, 56 percent are millennials and 51 percent are from non-white groups. And African-American, Hispanic, and Asian American campers now comprise over 27 percent of all campers.

Are you a risk taker? Hiking trails in South Korea’s DMZ are now open.

The United Nations has approved the opening of hiking trails along the heavily fortified North and South Korean border.  The “Peace Trail” project, which includes plans to build three trails along the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), launched on April 27 with a hiking tour that began at the Unification Observatory and ended at the Mount Kumgang Observatory. The DMZ is 160 miles long. Shut off from the rest of the world for six decades, it has become a haven for an estimated 6,000 species of plants and animals and now, perhaps, hikers as well.

700

Number of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups Korey Nolan, of Hampton Falls, N.H., used to make a surfboard out of recycled materials for the Upcycle Contest organized by surfing apparel brand Vissla.

The Snot Otter wins as Pennsylvania’s official amphibian

Pennsylvania lawmakers have approved the eastern hellbender, also known as the snot otter, mud devil and by other not-so-flattering names, as the state of Pennsylvania’s official amphibian. Once common throughout the eastern U.S., the animal’s numbers have dwindled. Just last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to grant protections to the eastern hellbender under the Endangered Species Act.

Fighting Food Deserts

More than 120,000 people in Louisville, Ky., live with food insecurity. The nonprofit Hope Buss has stepped up to help those who don’t have access to fresh, healthy food, providing free grocery store trips for those in the city without personal transportation.