Your outdoor news bulletin for May 8, the day Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto reached the Mississippi River just south of modern day Memphis, Tennessee, on his quest to find gold and silver in the new world – and we all know how that turned out:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Hands Out Honors

She may not be a backcountry ranger or a superintendent, but Heather Wood knows how to make an impact. On Monday, Wood was honored as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Employee of the Year for 2012 for her work as an administrative support assistant for the park’s resource and visitor protection division. Woods, chosen from a pool of five candidates nominated for the award, was acknowledged for her character, hard work, and “willingness to assist any employee within any division at any time.” For her service, Woods received a monetary gift from Friends of the Smokies, a gift basket, engraved clock, and two paintings from the local communities. Not a bad haul for doing something she says comes naturally. Congratulations to Heather and all the other nominees.

Speaking of GSMNP, they are still looking for volunteers at the Clingmans Dome Information Center. More details here.

Asheville Up for Beer Honor Again

Considering we just released our annual Southern Brew Guide, and one of our offices is in this town, this story is super relavant. Asheville, North Carolina is once again up for the honor of BeerCity USA in the annual Examiner poll, now in its fifth year. Last year’s poll saw undefeated, 4-time champion, Asheville split the title with Grand Rapids, Michigan, a newcomer. In the article on the BeerCity USA poll, the Examiner emphasizes the poll is “not a measure of beer quality, number of breweries, volume of beer enjoyed nor any kind of ‘best-of-show’ measurement.” So what is it, if not all those things? Good question, and I’m not sure we have an answer. The official word is “it’s an indicator of the coherent nature of beer communities.” Say what? Whatever it is, Asheville has been dominating so scoot over to the poll and vote for your favorite beer city before Friday. Blue Ridge towns also included in the list are: Raleigh, N.C. and Richmond, Va.

Got a Green Idea? Call Yvon

Patagonia has been on the giveback kick pretty much since its inception, with founder Yvon Chouinard at the forefront. It gives one percent of profits to grassroots environmental organizations, last year told outdoor folks to quit buying their stuff unless they really, really need it, and now they are really putting their money where their mouth is while trying to get a little back – they still are a major retail company after all. Monday, Patagonia launched what they are calling $20 Million and Change, an in-house venture capitalist entity that will invest in start-up, for-profit, sustainable, businesses involved in food, water, energy or waste. Companies elegible for the investments – ranging from $500,000 to $5 million depending on company needs – will need to have $1 million in revenue or capital (hedge those bets) and obviously have some sort of green angle. Through this effort, Patagonia will certainly help fund a company that could eventually become a direct competitor, which is crazy enough that it just might work (see the “don’t buy our clothes” movement they started). With over $400 million in annual sales, and a business plan virtually unaffected by the economic downturn (profits have tripled since 2008 and last year was the companies best in terms of sales), Patagonia continues to prove that doing the opposite of what makes sense, makes the most sense.