The Paralyzed Thru-Hiker 

Two years ago, Stacey Kozel’s ongoing battle with lupus paralyzed her from the waist down. But that hasn’t deterred her from attempting to achieve the goal of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. The Ohio-based Kozel, 41, has spent the summer hiking northbound 20 miles a day with the assistance of high-tech leg braces that allow her knees to bend as she uses her upper-body strength to move forward. The braces, which cost $75,000 each, need to stay dry and have to be charged every two days. Although she had to fly home once to get one of her braces fixed, she has no plans to stop hiking until she summits Katahdin.

Local Community Helps Homeless Teen Who Biked 50 Miles to College

Fred Barley was intent on getting to college by any means necessary. For the 19-year-old from Conyers, Ga., that meant biking 50 miles to Barnesville to register for classes at Gordon State College. Barley’s story came out when police officer Richard Carreker found the homeless teenager sleeping in a tent on campus. Carreker put Barley in a hotel room, but the generosity from the local community in Barnesville didn’t stop there. Debra Adamson heard that Barley, a biology major about to start his second semester, needed a job, so she immediately hired him to work at DB’s Pizzeria. Another local, Casey Blaney, set up a Facebook page to raise money to help pay for Barley’s education, and the effort yielded a whopping $184,266.

Land Protected on the Parkway 

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina recently acquired a 50-acre property along the Blue Ridge Parkway known as the Open Branch Headwaters tract, which is located near milepost 452. The tract reaches an elevation of 5,400 feet and includes rare spruce-fir habitat. Soon to be donated to the National Park Service, the land is also a key connection in a much larger piece of preserved land that will soon become a new park along the Parkway at Waterrock Knob.

Virginia Woman Killed on Cross-Country Cycling Trip

A 22-year-old woman from the Richmond area was killed in Idaho on a group cycling trip. Anne Davis was struck by a car while riding with a group of 22 cyclists on a trip from Virginia to Oregon that was organized by Bike & Build, a nonprofit that raises funds for affordable housing. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Davis was hit by a Chevrolet Malibu driven by 33-year-old Patricia Beyer. Another cyclist, Laura Stark, 26, of Michigan was injured in the accident and in critical condition as of press time. A recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, Davis was dedicated to social environmental issues. She was set to take a job as a fellow for hunger and nutrition in the William & Mary Office of Community Engagement. “The Earth has lost one of its most passionate advocates,” wrote one of Davis’ friends in tribute on Facebook.

Record for World’s Largest Square Dance Likely Set in Tennessee

At first, it appeared there weren’t quite enough people ready to swing their partners round and round. By her initial count, Gloria Christy, president of the Uncle Dave Macon Days old-time music festival in Murfreesboro, tallied 736 participants, shy of the 806 needed to set the Guinness World Record for the largest square dance. Fortunately, though, Christy’s last-minute rallying call for extra dancers at the event in early July was fruitful, and she estimated another 200 kicked up their heels while the Hog Slop String Band picked a tune in an effort to make history. The record had yet to be verified at press time, but according to a story in the Daily News Journal, participants came from across state lines and as far away as Sweden to join the effort, which took place around the inner circle of the Rutherford County Courthouse. There will be a record-breaking attempt again next summer. “We’re going to do it every year,” Christy said. “It’s going to become part of the fabric of the festival.”

5Point Film Fest Returns To Asheville In October

Asheville will host one of the country’s premier outdoor film festivals on October 6-8. 5Point Film Fest will showcase their best adventure films and also bring together top regional adventurers for lively, candid, and powerful conversations about outdoor issues. 5Point will also help lead a French Broad river clean-up and host a van life rally. Learn more at 5pointfilm.org.

Beyond the Blue Ridge

Running Couple Reaches 25,000 Miles

In July, Illinois-based married couple Jamie and Lynn Parks celebrated 25 years of running races together by reaching another milestone—running their 25,000th mile. It’s been quite a journey for the Parks. On their runs, Jamie pushes his wife Lynn in a wheelchair, as she was seriously injured in a car accident back in 1987 and can only walk with the help of a spotter. According to a story in Runners World, the couple averages between 35-40 miles a week and has run more than 300 races together. One of their biggest accomplishments was a 2:57 finish at the 2008 Boston Marathon, but they decided to make mile 25,000 a casual affair—a one-mile run from their Tinley Park home with their 17-year-old daughter Annalyn.