Grey Beard Goes for Age Record on the A.T.
Age isn’t slowing down the adventures of Dale Sanders. The 81-year-old Tennessean, who lives in the Memphis suburb of Bartlett, has become known for tackling outdoor accomplishments that would likely seem daunting to most people in their golden years. After decades in the Navy, Sanders has been quite active in retirement. He completed a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon, and in 2015, at age 80, he became the oldest person to paddle the entire length of the Mississippi River.
In March, Sanders set off to attempt a thru-hike of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail, and if he’s successful he’ll become the oldest person to complete the trail’s full length in a single year. Sanders turns 82 in June, and if he hikes the entire A.T in his estimated six-month timeframe he’ll best the record set by Lee Berry, who hiked the trail in 2004 at 81. Sanders told the website Gearjunkie.com: “If I don’t fall down or fall ill, I’m going to do it. That’s the one thing about me—when I set my mind to something, I’m going to see it through.”
Plans Scrapped for Big Richmond Cycling Race
Back in 2015, the city of Richmond, Va., hosted the UCI Road World Championships, an event that brought some of the best cyclists in the world to the streets of Virginia’s capital city. Last fall it was announced that a follow-up race, the Commonwealth Cycling Classic, would bring pro cycling back to Richmond this August for a smaller race that was nonetheless still going to be sanctioned by the UCI, the sport’s international governing body, and slated to be a four-day multi-stage event. In March, though, organizers announced that the new race would no longer take place, citing not enough time to plan as a reason for the cancellation.
Commercial Wind Farm Approved in Virginia
Officials in Virginia recently approved the building of the first commercial wind farm in the Commonwealth. With a thumbs up from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Apex Clean Energy can now move forward with plans to build 25,550-foot-tall turbines on North Mountain in Botetourt County, ultimately creating the Rocky Forge Wind Farm. After multiple environmental impact studies, the agency approved erecting turbines on the 7,000-acre site with one condition. To prevent the turbines from striking bats, they must be shut off at night during the warmer months when the flying mammals are most active. A story in the Roanoke Times said the Rocky Forge turbines should be spinning by next year, which will make Virginia the 41st state to use wind as a source of renewable energy.
Whitewater Rafting: By the Numbers
West Virginia’s main whitewater rivers aren’t as crowded with rafts as they used to be. A recent report in the Charleston Gazette-Mail provided a round-up of the number of customers annually taking commercial rafting trips in the Mountain State. In 2016, 131,028 people paid for guided trips on the New, Gauley, Shenandoah, and Cheat rivers, down from 134,082 rafters the previous year. Most of those trips (100,312 in 2016) are taken on the New and Gauley, which offer the stomach-dropping excitement of class IV-V rapids and stunning surrounding scenery. Dave Arnold of river outfitter Adventures on the Gorge told the paper last year’s decline happened because of severe flooding in June, during peak rafting season on the New.
More long term, though, commercial rafting participation has seen a substantial dip in the past two decades. In 1998, 251,921 customers took rafting trips, with 223,860 of those rafters pouncing down the New and Gauley. Back then, 21 outfitters offered trips on those rivers and now, after consolidations and closures, that number is down to eight. Gazette-Mail staff writer Rick Steelhammer reported that the decline was due to “an aging client base, new competition from other outdoor pursuits, and declining interest in outdoor activities by young adults.”
New Adventure Park in Western North Carolina
Plans have been approved for a new adventure park to be built on the banks of the Tuckasegee River in western North Carolina. As a family-friendly outpost for paddling and rafting, the new operation will be located on seven riverfront acres in Jackson County, near Dillsboro, and reportedly be similar to the nearby, successful Nantahala Outdoor Center, which opened back in 1972. According to a story in the Asheville Citizen-Times, the new park will feature rafting on a class II-III stretch of the Tuckasegee, as well as zip lines, a possible climbing wall, and campsites. Kelly Custer of the project developer WNC Outdoor Development, LLC told the paper the park will likely be open in the summer of 2018.