MagazineNovember 2008Blue Ridge Briefs for November 2008

Blue Ridge Briefs for November 2008


The cross-state path that traverses North Carolina from the Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast is edging closer to completion. By the end of this month, which is officially designated Mountains to Sea Trail Month in the Tarheel State, volunteers will have completed 500 miles of the 938-mile trail. The trail was first proposed in 1977 and has faced political, financial, and logistical challenges because the projected path passes through some of the most populated counties in the state. But North Carolina State Parks recently committed to purchasing 1,000 acres that will help bridge the gap between existing trails in the Piedmont. Soon, distance hikers will be able to enjoy a long trail experience like no other, beginning on Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies, and finishing beside the Atlantic Ocean.


The largest wilderness in the Eastern mountains is West Virginia’s Cranberry Wilderness at 35,864 acres. Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness is a close second at 35,268 acres.

Quote of Note

“I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of. If we create a new renewable energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.”

—T. Boone Pickens, Texas oil tycoon now working to build the world’s largest wind farm
By The Numbers: New River Gorge Bridge Day

The annual festival finds daredevils BASE jumping and rappelling from the famous New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, W.Va.

1 Days of the year it is legal to jump from the bridge. This year it’s October 18, between 9am and 3pm.

8 Seconds it takes to get from the bridge to the water below

450 BASE jumpers expected to launch this year

876 Height in feet of the New River Gorge Bridge

200,000 Spectators who watch the brave take the plunge

Endangered Species Get Bushed

Longstanding protections of the Endangered Species Act may soon be extinct. The Bush Administration wants to allow federal agencies to decide for themselves whether construction projects—including highways, dams, and mines—will be harmful to plants and animals. Agencies are currently required to consult experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before moving on a project. The new rules would cut out the mandatory government-scientist reviews, which have been in place for the past 35 years, and allow ill-informed, heck-of-a-job bureaucratic cronies to decide the fate of rare and endangered habitats. Putting these new regulations in place doesn’t require the approval of Congress, but a 60-day public comment period is coming to an end this month.

Reel Rockers

The Reel Rock Film Tour—a traveling climbers’ film festival that hits 80 cities around the world—makes its way into the Blue Ridge this month. Regional tour stops include the Rocktober Fest in Slade, Ky., on October 10, and Loyola-McGuire Hall in Baltimore, Md., on October 18.
Wind Power Facts

• A 2005 Stanford University study found that there is enough wind power worldwide to satisfy global demand seven times over—even if only 20 percent of wind power could be captured.

• Studies from around the world show that the Great Plains States are home to the greatest wind energy potential in the world.

• The Department of Energy reports that 20 percent of America’s electricity can come from wind. North Dakota alone has the potential to provide power for more than a quarter of the country.

Dominion Battle Moves to the Courtroom

Citizens and public health organizations have filed two lawsuits seeking to overturn the Dominion Energy power plant’s air emissions permits for Wise County, Va. If they win, it would bring construction of the power plant to a halt. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the petitions for appeal on behalf of five environmental groups seeking to stop construction of the 585-megawatt coal-fired plant, which began in June moments after the permits were issued. The groups allege that the permits issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are fundamentally flawed and fail to meet federal standards for protecting public health and the environment, because they were developed without DEQ having completed “complex, technical reviews mandated by the Clean Air Act.” The groups also seek to overturn current state legislation providing incentives for the plant to burn Virginia coal.

Hangdogging: Verb, usage: Climbing

The act of hanging from a rope while working on the difficult moves of a climbing route.

Virtual Foliage
Want to know exactly when the fall foliage is at its peak in your favorite parks? These websites update their info regularly so you know exactly when to visit.</em>

<a href=””>•</a>

This site alerts Shenandoah National Park visitors when the foliage is peaking and the best places to view it.

• <a href=””></a>

Regional breakdowns show peak foliage in color-coded maps. It’s updated twice a week in the fall.

• <a href=””></a>

This color-coded map of West Virginia also includes information on which trees turn which colors.

• <a href=””></a>

Weekly foliage reports cover the Great Smokies and all of Eastern Tennessee, along with web cams from the mountains, so you can check the foliage in real time.

• <a href=””></a>

This site provides fall foliage information and hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

When Gypsy Moths Attack

Gypsy moths have defoliated 112,340 acres of forest in Virginia this year. It’s more damage than the last four years combined. Dry spring seasons have prevented the growth of a specific fungus that feeds on the moth. Infestations continue moving farther south each year.


Want to find out how much coal money your legislators are taking from the industry that has buried more than 1,000 miles of streams and destroyed more than 470 mountaintops in Appalachia? Visit this website that tracks the flow and influence of coal money in US politics—in both parties.

Now That’s Good Pork

Three Southern states claim to be the Barbecue Capital of the World. North Carolina, famous for its vinegar-based sauce, claims to be the cradle of ‘cue, and it even boasts a Historic Barbecue Trail. Tennessee has perfected the sweet tomato sauce and has gained international acclaim because of the pulled pork and ribs that come out of Memphis. Meanwhile, South Carolina claims to be the unrecognized home and birthplace of barbecue, saying that barbecue was born when the Spanish settlers brought pigs to the South Carolina coast and Native Americans cooked them slowly over low heat. So which state can lay claim to the title Barbecue Capital of the World? Check out these barbecue festivals and decide for yourself.

Oct. 25 – Lexington, N.C.

<a href=””></a>

The festival attracts 100,000 people and has been going on for 25 years.


Oct. 24-25 – Lynchburg, Tenn.

<a href=””></a>

Sixty award-winning barbecue masters go toe to toe, and you get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.


Oct. 24-25 – Lexington, S.C.

<a href=””></a>

South Carolina is the home of the mustard-based sauce, but expect all major sauce options to be on display
Fall Foliage Fests

Need another reason to hit the mountains for peak leaf-peeping season? Here are some of the best fall festivals in the Southeast. Some center around outdoor sports, others around pumpkins, still others around Germans, but they’ll all put you in the heart of fall foliage territory.


Staunton, Va. – Oct. 17-19

<a href=””></a>

A weekend of road rides through southwestern Virginia. Choose from 15- to 100-mile course options through rolling hills alive with fall color. Traditional festival activities occur Saturday night, including an old-fashioned dance.


Helen, Ga. – Sept. 11-Nov. 2

<a href=””></a>

Forget the weekend Oktoberfest, this monster goes on for two months. Helen’s Oktoberfest has been a tradition in North Georgia since the ‘70s. Expect German bands, German food, and lots of German beer, all with the Unicoi Mountains as a backdrop.
Distance Persistence: Team Norm’s Maggots broke their own course record in winning their fourth consecutive Blue Ridge Relay, a 208-mile footrace from Grayson Highlands, Va. to Asheville, N.C. Stuart Moran carries the baton on an early relay leg.
Fayetteville, W.Va. – Oct. 18
<a href=””></a>
Fall’s vibrant colors not exciting enough for you? Why not jump from the New River Gorge Bridge? Or at least watch other people jump from the bridge. Hundreds will BASE jump from the 876-foot bridge while the New River Gorge is alive with fall hues.
Walhalla, S.C. – Oct. 17-19
<a href=””></a>
Not up for the throw-down that takes place at Helen’s Oktoberfest? Try Walhalla’s family-friendly version instead. Celebrate German culture on the edge of Sumter National Forest as the Blue Escarpment becomes a kaleidescope of color.

Places to Go, Things to See: