FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Environmental Defense Fund:Coal plant closures are the clearest sign of how Texas’ electricity market is working. Running and maintaining coal plants is expensive (without even considering the hidden costs), and the majority of plants were built decades ago. Cheaper options – which often happen to be cleaner – abound.Recently the state’s largest power generator, Dallas-based Luminant, made a splash when it announced it will close three major coal plant complexes early next year. These plants have a combined seven units that represent over half of the power generator’s total coal capacity, and the state’s grid operator has officially given the green light to close them. Why close them? According to Luminant, the decision is “a result of challenging plant and market economics.”And it’s not just Luminant that is struggling. Last year, a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis looked at seven of Texas’ aging coal plants and “concluded that these plants’ days are numbered simply because they cannot compete.”The Vox article summarized it well: “The steady decline of coal in Texas has […] everything to do with relentless market discipline.”According to Environment Texas, since 2007, Texas has seen a remarkable 21,466 percent increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and a 639 percent increase in wind power production.As technology is consistently improved and refined, the cost of generating electricity from renewables continues to come down. And global forecasts show economics are on clean energy’s side: The International Energy Agency recently declared, “The era of expensive renewables is over.” Moreover, solar and wind basically have zero fuel costs since the sun shines and the wind blows for free.These favorable economics have helped boost wind and solar in Texas’ market. According to Environment Texas, since 2007, Texas has seen a remarkable 21,466 percent increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and a 639 percent increase in wind power production. There are now more than 10,000 wind turbines in the state.The transition to a clean energy economy is creating thousands of jobs, slashing pollution, and saving water. It’s also bringing investment to Texas: Big businesses – like Amazon – are investing in Texas wind left and right.All of these benefits should be enough to move decision-makers, and policy is undeniably crucial to delivering a clean energy future. But if state leaders won’t act, Texas is evidence that a well-designed competitive market can push coal plants to close and clean energy to soar.More: How clean energy is set to overtake coal in this competitive electricity market On the Blogs: Texas’ Electricity Market, in Uptake of Renewables, Is Working
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Business Insider:BlackRock CEO Larry Fink just sent a warning shot to CEOs across the world: start accounting for the societal impact of your companies, or risk disappointing the largest asset manager in the world.In a letter to CEOs of public companies, Fink, whose firm manages $6.3 trillion in assets, said that companies needed to demonstrate a strategy for long-term value creation and financial performance, and that understanding a company’s effect on the world was a key component.Simply managing for short-term shareholder profit is not an acceptable management strategy, according to Fink.“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”Fink said BlackRock would ramp up its investor-stewardship initiative, started in 2011 to favor engaging with companies and their management over proxy voting. The stewardship team will double in size over the next three years under the new leadership of Barbara Novick, a vice chairman who helped found BlackRock, Fink said.“BlackRock recognizes and embraces our responsibility to help drive this change,” Fink wrote. “In order to make engagement with shareholders as productive as possible, companies must be able to describe their strategy for long-term growth…. Companies must ask themselves: What role do we play in the community? How are we managing our impact on the environment?”More: BlackRock Puts CEOs On Notice: The Environment Matters BlackRock Puts CEOs on Notice: The Environment Matters
New transmission flexibility boosts renewables in Japan FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Japan transferred excess renewable energy supplies between two of its electricity regions for the first time since a major shakeup of its power sector, the country’s grid monitor told Reuters. The transfer of excess solar power supplies from the island of Kyushu to Japan’s main island of Honshu signals an increase in flexibility in the country’s previously regionalized electricity grid as the market opens up to competition.Kyushu Electric Power Co transferred up to 1.125 gigawatts on Monday to five utilities including Kansai Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power after approval from the grid monitor known as OCCTO, an OCCTO spokeswoman told Reuters.It was the first transfer since OCCTO was set up in 2015 to monitor the country’s electricity grid after the government stripped big power utilities of their regional monopolies and opened the $70 billion retail power market to hundreds of new entrants. The reforms came in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster, when an earthquake and tsunami led to nuclear meltdowns and widespread power outages, and included a government-mandated boost to renewable energy supplies.Solar power has grown particularly fast on the island of Kyushu, where Kyushu Electric operates, because of plentiful sunshine and available land. Monday’s transfer helped Kyushu Electric avoid having to cut third-party supplies of solar energy, a company spokesman said.More: Japan transfers excess renewable power between regions for first time
Puerto Rico utility debt deal could end up costing island consumers $23 billion FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Intercept:Environmentalists have long been accused of being closet austerians: hair-shirted hippies shaming everyone else for their wasteful ways. The Green New Deal even wants to take away your burgers, and you’ll only be able to watch television when it’s windy out.Yet it’s always been the capitalists, the people most opposed to curbing carbon emissions, who are the ones crimping on regular people’s lifestyles. In Puerto Rico, it’s the bona fide austerians — those looking to impose painful cuts to the public sphere — who are getting in the way of environmental progress, pitting payouts to bondholders against sustainability in almost every sense of the word.The fight against austerity and the fight for the planet are one and the same. At 22 cents per kilowatt hour, Puerto Ricans pay higher electricity bills than their counterparts in any state in the continental U.S. A deal to restructure debt incurred by the island’s sole electric utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, could raise electricity prices by 13 percent starting in 2020, funneling funds to the same bondholders who helped land the island in billions of dollars’ worth of potentially illegal debt.As it raises rates, the restructuring agreement could further thwart the island’s transition away from fossil fuels — a goal agreed upon by Puerto Rico’s legislature last month. For the next nearly half-century, residents with solar panels could end up paying bondholders twice: once for the electricity they get from the grid, and again for the power they generate for themselves.An analysis from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, or IEEFA, found that the agreement — meant to settle just over $8 billion of debt — could, after principal and interest payments, end up costing Puerto Ricans $23 billion through 2067. The deal allows the roughly half of PREPA bondholders included in the settlement to swap out their bonds for a new class of bonds whose repayment is pegged to ratepayer bills, and recover up to 75 percent of their initial investment — far higher than what financial analysts predicted just months ago.Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has argued that any higher rates will be balanced out by other cost-saving changes to the grid in the next several months, but those plans also remain vague. “We have a very certain and definite increase weighed against some very speculative changes,” said Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst with IEEFA. “It’s totally counter,” she said, to both the energy bill and PREPA’s most recently available fiscal plan, which they’re required to submit to the FOMB for approval. “Both said that the target was to get rates below $0.20 per kilowatt hour (kWh).”More: To help pay off bondholders, solar panel owners will be hit hard in Puerto Rico
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Power Technology:For more than two centuries coal has powered homes, businesses, and economies, providing the fuel of the industrial revolution and becoming an essential part of the world’s fuel mix. However, the days of thermal coal use could be numbered according to a recent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) report.The report shows more than 100 leading global financial institutions had effectively pulled the plug on funding, imposing restrictions on investments into the sector and making the climate significantly more challenging. This “progressive strangulation” is resulting in “coal companies’ inability to access capital markets for expansions, mergers or acquisitions,” as well as cutting the avenues for insurance it said.The World Bank was the first to announce this type of policy back in 2013; the end of 2018 saw the 100th such announcement coming from European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Since then five more – including Barclays Bank UK, Export Development Canada, Nedbank of South Africa, Varma of Finland, and Austria’s Vienna Insurance Group – have announced policy rethinks. From a slow beginning the pace of policy announcements has ramped up significantly, now coming as frequently as every other week.“You always have the leaders and the market generally ignores them, calling them idealistic or whatever,” says the report’s author and Director of Energy Finance Studies for Asia Pacific, Tim Buckley. “Once you start to get 108 or 109 globally significant financial institutions all exiting the door, and doing it faster than expected, everyone seems to evaluate and ask, ‘what are they seeing that we’re missing?’ That has happened in the last six months and that is globally significant.”Buckley says there are three trends, each building in momentum, all relating to the thermal coal market. The first is India and its growing hunger for renewable power, something he thinks is a considerable factor given the strong growth of the country’s population and economy today. “India is the third largest electricity market in the world and has absolutely embraced the huge energy security opportunities of renewables. They are now the low-cost source of supply…That is an absolutely critical fact.”The second significant factor is climate change, or more precisely, a changing climate for corporate and social responsibility. “Banks are not altruistic entities. They are very profit motivated, without a doubt,” Buckley says. However, they are being pushed, today with great vigour, by investors and regulators to wake up to their responsibility, he argues. Particularly given the majority of them signed up to acting by way of the Paris Agreement. Slowly, one by one, they’re realising that saying you’re committed to something actually brings about a fiduciary duty to have policies consistent with what you’ve said you’re going to do. Particularly around something as globally relevant as climate change.”The third significant factor, according to Buckley, is Japan. “Japan is going from a global laggard to a global leader. It’s a hypothesis of mine and I’m a bit of a lone voice on this, but I look at what countries and companies do, not what they say they’re going to do.”More: The big exit: why capital is deserting coal Financial institutions are leaving the coal industry behind—Buckley
Poland emerging as major growth market for renewable energy FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Poland, which currently relies on coal for more than 70% of its electricity generation, is stepping up efforts to replace the dirty fuel with renewable energy. As the country finalizes its 2040 energy policy, some of the world’s biggest players in renewables are seeking to capture a share of the market.“Poland is busier than any market I’ve seen since I’ve been working in renewables,” said Gary Bills, regional director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at energy consultants K2 Management. “There’s massive interest in on and offshore wind.”It marks a drastic turnaround for Poland’s ruling Law & Justice party, which went from a blocker of wind farms to booster, amid the plummeting cost of renewables and a public backlash against some of the dirtiest air on the continent. The government’s shift also comes as the European Commission proposes linking its 750 billion-euro ($841 billion) economic stimulus program to the bloc’s climate goals.Poland will increase its renewable power capacity by 65% from 2019 to 2024, mostly from onshore wind farms, according to International Energy Agency estimates. The country’s first offshore wind turbines, in the Baltic Sea, are expected to start producing power by 2025.The conditions in Poland’s Baltic Sea are ideal for the giant turbines increasingly common off the coasts of the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands. There’s strong wind resources, shallow waters and the sites are near to shore, Roszak said.Poland’s government estimates its offshore wind potential will be about 10 gigawatts of capacity, or about a quarter of the nation’s current total available generation. Industry groups think it could be nearly three times higher. That could unleash billions of dollars in investment over the coming years. PGE, the country’s biggest utility, estimates that it will cost about 12 billion zloty ($3 billion) to build every gigawatt of offshore wind capacity.[Will Mathis and Maciej Martewicz]More: Europe’s coal heartland is the hottest market for green power
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Eco-Business:Malaysian bank CIMB has unveiled a comprehensive climate policy that rules out any exposure to coal power by 2040, aligning Southeast Asia’s fifth-largest bank with the Paris Agreement on climate change.The Kuala Lumpur-headquartered financial services group announced on Tuesday (8 December) that it will prohibit asset-level or general corporate financing for new thermal coal mines, new coal-fired power plants and expansions, except where there are existing commitments in place. CIMB also said that it expects power generation companies such as national electricity utilities to provide a diversification strategy to reduce the share of coal in their power generation mix.The new coal policy makes CIMB the first bank in Malaysia and Southeast Asia to commit to phasing out coal from its portfolio by 2040, surpassing the pledges made by Singapore’s big three finance groups in 2019; the commitments made by Singapore’s banks do not include a portfolio phase-out date, only an end to new project-level finance.In a statement, CIMB chairman Datuk Mohd Nasir Ahmad, said the bank’s coal sector guide was the latest major milestone in its sustainability journey, and “part of our commitment to intensify our efforts on two fronts: grow our positive impact finance and enable a just transition to a climate-compatible future”.The policy will come into effect in 2021, and apply across all of the company’s operating markets, which include China, United States, United Kingdom, India and Sri Lanka as well as key Southeast Asian markets Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia.This move is in support of the Malaysia central bank’s agenda to build climate resilience in the country’s financial sector. In a speech in October, Bank Negara Malaysia governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus outlined a number of ways Malaysia’s finance sector needed to respond to the climate crisis, including the introduction of a Climate Change and Principles-based Taxonomy.[Robin Hicks]More: Malaysia’s CIMB bank unveils 2040 coal exit plan Malaysian bank CIMB to exit coal sector entirely by 2040
Illustration by Wade MickleyWhich is better in the Blue Ridge: road cycling or mountain biking?
Every September when I was a kid, I would get one Friday off of school. My brother and I would help my dad pack up a rented truck and we would drive up and over the mountains surrounding Big Island, headed for Camp New Hope.My dad was the head of the Lynchburg branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and each September starting in the early ‘90s, Camp New Hope, just past Natural Bridge, would open its gates to Big Brothers agencies from around Virginia. Each year, as we’d roll through the gate and the rough-hewn, wooden “Camp New Hope” sign would come into view, I’d feel a familiar pang. It wasn’t exactly excitement—though it was that, too—but more some distant awareness that this was how life ought to be lived.While the rest of the kids in Mrs. Lee’s class were desk-bound, taking turns reading aloud from Where the Red Fern Grows, I was breaking free, making my unencumbered flight into the mountains. I was happy to leave that world behind, though probably not as happy as most of the other kids who had gotten permission to skip town for the wilderness. All the other kids at Camp New Hope were part of the Big Brothers program.If the campers were struggling at home, they didn’t show it out in the woods. They were excitable, prone to telling long-winded and half-remembered ghost stories, and eager to make friends. In short, they were kids, and friendships came fast and easy.I still cringe at some of the outside-world posturing I brought with me to Camp New Hope each year. I remember trying to impress an older kid with my knowledge of the newly popular Marilyn Manson when I made the fatal mistake of calling him a “he.”“Dude, Marilyn Manson’s a girl,” he said, laughing. “Why would a guy be named ‘Marilyn’?”My mind raced, scanning my memory for any definitive proof that Marilyn Manson was a man. Nothing. Besides, what did I know? Just months earlier, I had sworn on my grandparents’ graves that the lead singer of Hanson was a pubescent girl.“Yeah, I know. I said ‘she.’” Crisis averted.But by and large, Camp New Hope lodged itself in my memory in less specific ways. It was at Camp New Hope that I came to love the steady, metronomic crunch of trail under boots. It was there that I came to love waking up to a dawn chill and glaucous sky after a hibernatory sleep. It was there that I came to love the sight of campfire embers swirling up into the night sky. That I came to love the outdoors.That was the point of the place: to use the outdoors as a tool to build character and inspire passion in kids before they’re too old for it to count. What I didn’t realize at the time—didn’t learn until this year—was that Camp New Hope sat on the sprawling grounds of the Natural Bridge Juvenile Correctional Center. It was a juvie camp, designed to be used by kids serving time a quarter-mile away.I went back to Camp New Hope recently, slipped past the gate and felt the old familiar crunch of trail under boot. The Commonwealth shut down the Correctional Center and Camp New Hope along with it in 2009, but they’ve been kept in semi-operational condition while the Department of Juvenile Justice waits for Bob McDonnell and the legislature to figure out what to do with the property. I went to see what had become of it since I was last there as a camper 15 years ago.Of course everything was smaller and a bit shabbier than I remembered, the cabins for the most part squat, utilitarian 70s relics that were much closer together than they were in my memory. This was all to be expected. What did come as a shock was the sense of sheer abandonment. Someone had come and boarded up all the windows, but otherwise, all was as it must have been in 2009 when they closed the place. Logs still tumbled out from under the woodsheds, rakes stayed propped up next to doors, rusty pails half full of ashes still sat perched on top of trash cans. It was like the owners had boarded up the place and gotten to higher ground ahead of a hurricane and then never came back.In my mind, this place had been brimming with life for the past decade and a half, but my memory crashed up against a present that was profoundly devoid of any signs of it. But as my eyes and expectations adjusted, I saw that life had found a way of filling in the cracks. Minnows swam lazily in the creek; daddy longlegs skittered along the paths; giant, seemingly prehistoric hummingbird moths wheeled through the air. The camp was boarded up and forgotten, but its essence remained, the air still rich with a sweet, camphoric smell and the constant hum of thousands of insects.As I walked back to the road, past the sun-bleached lodge, past the right turn in the path that delivered you straight into juvie—how had I not noticed that as a kid?—my vague senses of grief and wistfulness washed away. I saw that the only changes to Camp New Hope were cosmetic, that the essentials—the creek trickling over rocks, sunlight dancing through the leaves—had never left. I knew that it had done its job for me, given me a taste for the outdoors that would eventually come to define a major part of my life. I think, hope, that surely it did its job for kids in far worse shape than I had ever been, little brothers or sisters struggling to keep their heads above water or young offenders from next door whose lives could go one of two ways once they were out. It sits there still, abandoned but not defeated, waiting for the chance to do its job once more.I drove past the Juvenile Correctional Center on my way home. It was low-slung and institutional, but its setting spoke to the same philosophy behind Camp New Hope. Trees surrounded the place and the Blue Ridge soared behind it. It looked more like a summer camp than a prison. I passed an empty parking lot in front of the superintendent’s office. At the door, a light was still on.
Take to the highway for the best weekend adventures in the Blue Ridge.When school lets out and the heat index begins to climb, it’s time to head for the mountains. No need to pack a month’s worth of provisions for a road trip in the Southeast. You can pack in more in a long weekend than most can in a whole summer. The adventure of a lifetime is within striking distance of even the most carsick-prone traveller.Few things symbolize the spirit of this country as acutely as the great American road trip. Packing up the car and hitting the open highway is a summer tradition that runs back to horse and buggies making their way to county seats. When one thinks of American road trip icons such as Kerouac, Steinbeck, or Griswold, they are tied together by a craving of adventure and a willingness to go out into the world and seize it. Whether you are traveling across the country or across the state, anything can, and will, happen on the road. Of course, you’ve mapped out a route and planned everything down to the minutest detail, but if everything went according to plan, it would be called a road operation, and not a trip.Along with fuel and tunes, flexibility is one of the key components of a successful road trip. Don’t let your weekend jaunt turn into the Donner Party by losing your cool. Weather changes, campsites fill up, roads shut down; the ability to adapt on the fly will make or break the trip—especially as tempers and temperatures rise and the A/C breaks and someone has to use the potty and you sat on my sunglasses.But the road trip is not just about the road traveled and the sights from the car window. The journey may be the reward, but the destination is still the destination. Experiencing new and exciting places is the reason you got in the passenger seat to begin with, so don’t skimp on the outside adventure. Here are five easy weekend getaways.SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA DO IT ALLDAY 1: RIDE EXPLORE PARKLocated just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 115 outside Roanoke, Va., Explore Park is an easy respite from the rigors of the road. The 1100-acre park borders the Roanoke River with access to fishing, and paddling along with a beautiful river walk with nature observation and picnic areas. Also located in the park is the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center where you can pick up literature on the Parkway and some keepsakes from the gift shop. Explore is home to a living history museum as well as historic buildings and a restaurant; unfortunately, all are temporarily closed.No worries, mate. The big draw of Explore Park is the mountain biking that lies within its borders, and the trails are always open. Over nine miles of rolling singletrack loop through its hardwood forests. The trails were built by volunteers from the International Mountain Biking Association. Warm up those car legs with a spin on the one-mile beginners’ trail before hitting the longer and slightly more intense intermediate trail. If you feel up for it, take the expert trail down to the river.Stay: Plenty of places to stop for the night in Roanoke, or head for Roanoke Mountain Campground at milepost 120.5. Be sure to pop into Cardinal Bicycle for all your bike needs.Play: If riding is not your thing, take a stroll on the self-guided nature walk that connects with the bike trails. No bikes allowed, so you don’t have to worry about looking over your shoulder for downhillers.DAY 2: GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARKYou cannot travel in southeast Virginia and not stop by the highest point in the state, Mount Rogers. Though there is plenty to do in the Mount Rogers Recreation Area, bagging the 5,000-foot peak is at the top of the list. Combine that with a chance to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, and this landmark is a road tripping must.Begin by parking at the Massie Gap area at Grayson Highlands State Park off Rt. 58. Parking will cost you a few bucks, but it will be worth it. Grab a trail map at the Visitor’s Center before striking out for Mount Rogers via the A.T., hiking through upland pastures and thickets of rhododendron. Keep an eye out for wild ponies on the four-mile hike to the Thomas Knob Shelter and the base of Mount Rogers. A half-mile spur trail puts you at the top of Virginia.Stay: There is ample camping near the shelter.Play: Take Route 600 to the parking area almost at the top of Whitetop Mountain, the second highest peak in Virginia and northernmost bald in the Appalachians, to take in the views. Damascus is just east on Route 58, and is known as Trail Town, USA, the friendliest town in America. Be sure to stop in for lunch or dinner.DAY 3: PADDLE THE NOLICHUCKYJust over the Tennessee border is the Nolichucky River, holding some of the wildest whitewater in the Southeast. From its headwaters at Mount Mitchell, the Nolichucky snakes through the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, providing a dynamic backdrop as you run its Class II-IV rapids. The walls of the gorge rise from the river to over 5,000 feet, which will make you feel totally isolated. Though the upper section can be challenging, outfitters will take kids as young as 9 or 10.If you are looking for a more leisurely trip, skip the upper section and opt for just the lower section with gentler Class II-III. Outfitters like Cherokee Adventures launch from Erwin, Tenn., and have a range of trip options from scenic full day to half-day whitewater. The Nolichucky has something for everyone.Stay:The Nolichucky Gorge Campground at the takeout has primitive campsites along with cabins or bunkhouses if you are with a group. Be sure to hit up River’s Edge at the base of Devil’s Looking Glass Cliff for the most scenic barbecue sandwich you’ve ever had.Play: Erwin sits inside Cherokee National Forest with 150 miles of hiking trails, plus the Appalachian Trail. If you are feeling adventurous, check out Worley’s Cave for stalagmites, stalactites, and rooms with 100-foot ceilings.UPPER SHENANDOAH VALLEY JEWEL OF THE BLUE RIDGEDAY 1: CYCLE SKYLINE DRIVEOne of the best ways to see Shenandoah National Park is on two wheels via the Skyline Drive. The little brother of the Blue Ridge Parkway bisects the upper portion of the park and is full of the long climbs usually seen out West. The 50 miles from Front Royal to Big Meadows is a classic that will test even the strongest rider.From Front Royal to the north, the ride climbs over 3,000 feet in the first 20 miles and over 7,000 feet total on the way to Big Meadows Campground. This campground is vast, but make a reservation first, so you don’t have to slog the 50 miles back to your car.Stay: The campground is the natural choice here, but you can also reward yourself and opt for the rustic luxury of the Big Meadows Lodge just down the road.Play: Go nuts—you’re smack dab in the middle of Shenandoah National Park! If you want something more subterranean, check out the most popular cave system in the East, Luray Caverns just west in Luray, Va.DAY 2: FISH MOSSY CREEKIf you are a fly fisherman or fly fisherwoman, it would be reprehensible to pass up the opportunity to fish Mossy Creek. This spring-fed stream wanders through open fields and is one of the most famous stretches of water in Virginia for its huge brown trout and consistent dry fly action. Mossy is open to the public through a partnership with landowners, Trout Unlimited and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is stocked each fall, with significant holdovers. By mid-July and August, terrestrials or over-sized streamers are your best bet for coaxing hogzilla out from that undercut bank, so pack plenty of ants, hoppers, and double bunnies.Along with the usual Virginia fishing licenses, you’ll also need a free Mossy Creek permit from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries office in Verona, just north of Staunton. Be sure to stop into Mossy Creek Fly Shop in Harrisonburg to pick up some bugs and get the latest news on how the creek is fishing. As the name suggests, these guys know this water inside and out.Stay: Camping is available at nearby Natural Chimneys Regional Park, in the shadows of its 100-foot rock towers. With Harrisonburg just to the north and Staunton just to the south, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts to choose from.Play: Stop into Historic Staunton, a sleepy little mountain town with a lot going on. Stop by the tasting room at Ox-Eye Vineyards downtown before grabbing a bite and maybe taking in a show at Mockingbird, which features both national and regional bands on their stage.DAY 3: MOUNTAIN BIKE SHERANDOThe Sherando Lakes Recreation Area inside the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is known as the jewel of the Blue Ridge, but the riding here is no walk in the park. Sandwiched between Waynesboro, Va., the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Wintergreen Resort, the hills climb sharply from the lake. This makes for some epic up and down, big mountain riding through lush forest and rocky terrain.There are several trails emanating from the Sherando Lakes Recreation Area, and most have a significant amount of climbing involved. The punishment is worth the reward, though, as stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge await each summit. Plus, there is always the ride down. By linking up the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is possible to have a 10-mile descent back to the park.The best bet is to set out from the Mill Creek parking area and head up the Mill Creek Trail to the Parkway before descending down the Slacks/White Rock Gap trials via the upper Torry Ridge. If you’re feeling brave, take on the epic rock gardens of the lower Torry Ridge Trail, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. Or skip the switchbacks and shuttle a car from the Parkway’s Bald Mountain Overlook.Stay: The Sherando Lake Recreation Area has ample camping on site, along with several privately run campgrounds in the vicinity. Take a break at Devils Backbone Brewing Company at the base of Wintergreen Resort for local brews and vittles.Play: Plenty to do at Sherando with its trails and two spring-fed lakes. Relax with a picnic on the beach or hike into the adjacent Saint Mary’s Wilderness for a little small stream trout fishing.WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA HIT THE HIGHLIGHTSDAY 1: PADDLE THE NANTAHALAFor all the outdoor adventure immediately available in Western North Carolina, nothing defines the region as acutely as its rivers. From steep Class V creeking to casual floats on big water, Western North Carolina seems to have it all, and so does the Nantahala.Featuring Class II-III rapids, the 9-mile float from the dam to the Nantahala Outdoor Center is fun for the whole family, with just enough thrills to keep everyone happy. The NOC provides guided trips or rentals for the more experienced. Got your own boat? Feel free to take out at the NOC. Have a beer on the premises and watch the pros on the world-class slalom course or the man-made play wave. Just don’t miss the take-out or you’ll be heading over Greater Wesser Falls, which is not where you want to be.Stay: The NOC has a bevy of lodging options, from hostels to cabins.Play: The Appalachian Trail literally runs right through the NOC, so take a hike up to the A. Rufus Morgan shelter, which thru-hikers usually bypass in favor of the NOC hostel. A new play wave and slalom course also provides entertainment from the footbridges crossing the river.DAY 2: BIKE TSALITsali is one of the most well-known and well-traveled mountain biking systems in the United States. Do not let this deter you, however, as the trail system can handle the load.Over 40 miles of trails trace the border of Lake Fontana, adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the smooth and swift trails climb, enjoy the view before tearing down to the lake and taking a dip to cool off. Trails alternate daily between bike access and horse access, so make sure to check the signs before heading out. It’s also just another excuse to spend the night and get the whole experience.Stay: The Tsali Recreation Area has camping on site, and there are plenty of B & B and motel options in Bryson City.Play: Head for a hike to Deep Creek Falls at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and stop through Bryson City on your way. This mountain town is building its reputation as an outdoor mecca. Nantahala Brewing Company offers tastings, and you can grab lunch at the Filling Station.DAY 3: FISH THE DAVIDSON RIVERThe Davidson River outside Brevard is one of the Southeast’s premier trout hatcheries, and for good reason. Consistent hatches, gin-clear water, and big trout make this stream hard to pass up if in the area. Pack your 4wt., 7x tippet and small bugs in order to fool these experienced and occasionally quite large rainbows. They see a lot of pressure, so presentation and patience are the keys to success. Check in with the guides at the Davidson River Outfitters in Brevard for the river beta before heading out.From Brevard, Highway 276 follows the river all the way to the hatchery 4 miles upstream. Car pullouts are ample, but the fishing gets more technical the farther upstream you travel, so pick your spots. More technical fishing usually means bigger fish, though, so don’t play it too safe.Stay: Try the Davidson River Campground that borders the river or head up to the Sweet Peas Hostel in Asheville. The space is more hotel than hostel and sits adjacent to the Lexington Avenue Brewery.Play: Hiking trails abound in Pisgah. If there are too many rods on the Davidson, try the Avery tributary or head up the Boylston Highway to fish the North Mills River. For a history lesson, stop by the Cradle of Forestry inside Pisgah National Forest for a look at America’s first school for forestry.CANAAN VALLEY GO WILDDAY 1: BIKE DAVIS, WEST VIRGINIAWhen the snow is flying, Davis is a magnet for skiers from all over the East, but over the years, Tucker County, centered around Davis, W.Va., has become a premier mountain biking destination. This is a distinction in a state known for its singletrack. Ride out from downtown in any direction and you will hit a trailhead within a few blocks, then ride all day on interconnected trail systems. From the CVI to Moon Rocks to Plantation, the terrain around Davis varies from cruiser fire roads to supremely technical singletrack and everything in between. If going uphill doesn’t suit you, head for Timberline Resort just south of town for lift accessed downhill and more cross country riding, including the 24 hours of Canaan racecourse.There is more trail than one town should have, so the best way to decipher it all and find the best suited for you is to pick a local’s brain. Stop into Blackwater Bikes downtown for a map and local knowledge. This town has embraced its mountain biking status and welcomes all who ride, so don’t be afraid of being a tourist.Stay: Davis is chock full of motels and B & B’s to accommodate travelers. Blackwater State Park has ample camping with hot showers and laundry, plus a deluxe 54-room lodge.Play: Blackwater Falls is one of the most visited falls in West Virginia, but the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge offers relaxing trails and unique flora and fauna observation opportunities. Or head for the Dolly Sods area, with its highland plateau environment reminiscent of Canada.DAY 2: CLIMB SENECA ROCKSClimbers love the Seneca Rocks area because of its pillars of Tuscarora quartzite rising above the headwaters of the Potomac River. Even non-climbers, however, can appreciate the stunning beauty of these gray columns piercing the sky. The area holds hundreds of single and multi-pitch trad climbing and scrambling on routes ranging from 5.1 up to 5.11, so experience is necessary if striking out on your own. Don’t worry, though, as guides and classes are available from Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides or Seneca Rocks Climbing School.Stay: Camping at Seneca Shadows or Yokum’s Princess Snowbird will put you in the heart of climbing culture. For cabins, Harman’s North Fork Cabins are located five miles to the north and sit on privately stocked trout waters.Play: Nelson Rocks Via Ferrata will give you the feeling of high altitude climbing without the finger and toeholds. Fixed anchors and ladders allow even the most novice to summit their exposed fins.DAY 3: PADDLE THE NEW RIVERThe 53-mile stretch of the New River that runs through New River Gorge National River area is one of the brawniest in the South. As the river flows north from Bluestone Dam and gets choked into the gorge, the intensity of the river picks up dramatically. The southern (lower) portion of the river flows nicely over Class III rapids and long pools, perfect for a family-friendly leisure trip.When the river hits Thurmond, things get interesting; Class IV and Class V rapids make this section a popular destination for expert paddlers. You cannot go wrong with either section. ACE Adventure, North American River Runners and dozens of other outfitters run trips all summer long.Stay: National Park campsites are numerous inside the New River Gorge National River; try the Army Site or Glade Creek, both right on the river. Several outfitters, including ACE and NARR offer deluxe and rustic lodging on site.Play: The New River Gorge offers an abundance of hiking and running trails along the river. Mountain bike the impressive new Arrowhead IMBA trails or wet a line for trout in Glade Creek.CUMBERLAND PLATEAU ELEVATION EXHILARATIONDAY 1: BIKE BIG SOUTH FORK The trails inside the boundaries of 125,000-acre Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area are some of the only national park trails you can bike in the Southeast. Riders are rewarded with great lookouts and vistas of this Cumberland River tributary. Most trails inside the park are shared use between hikers, horses and bikes, but there are multiple bike-only options to choose from. Hit this on Friday or Monday to ride the Grand Gap Loop trail that hooks up to the John Muir Trail; this portion is closed to mountain bikes on the weekend. Most bike trails originate from the centrally located Bandy Creek Visitor’s Center just west of Oneida, Tenn. on Route 297.Stay: Bandy Creek offers a range of camping options right at the trailhead, or book a cabin at Big South Fork Wilderness Resorts just outside the park.Play: Rent a duckie or take a guided raft trip down the Cumberland for Class III excitement. For the history buff, ride the Big South Fork Scenic Railway to the Blue Heron Mining Community, an outdoor museum dedicated to life in a mining town during the 1940s.DAY 2: HIKE FOSTER FALLSFoster Falls is a gorgeous 60-foot waterfall that lies inside the Foster Falls Wild Area. A short hike from the parking lot will take you past an observation deck and suspension bridge. From there, scramble down to the base of the falls, or take the Climber’s Loop for a look at some of the best sport climbing in Tennessee. This is one of the wildest and most scenic areas of the Cumberland Plateau, so stop in for a picnic and a dip in the cool waters at the base of the cascade.If you are in the mood for a longer hike, shuttle a car a few miles down the road to the Grundy Forest State Natural Area trailhead off Fiery Gizzard Road. Taking the Fiery Gizzard Trail will put you on a 12.5-mile hike through forests, over boulders, and beside waterfalls. This trail can be difficult at times, so plan accordingly, but the trail ends at Foster Falls, where you can soak your bones and recover. If you make it a day trip, stop for lunch near scenic Raven Point at the midway point, or if you want to overnight, there are two campsites along the trail.Stay: Camping is available at both the Foster Falls and Grundy Forest trailheads. Slip into the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City for a snack at Tennessee’s oldest family bakery.Play: Sport climb the Foster Falls area or head to Signal Mountain right outside Chattanooga.DAY 3: CLIMB DEEP CREEKThe Deep Creek climbing area outside Soddy Daisy, Tenn., wasn’t discovered until 2007, but its rise as a Southern sport-climbing destination has been meteoric. Following a partnership between the Cumberland Trail State Park and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, and the purchase of land for a parking area, Deep Creek is now accessible. Trad climbing is available but the area consists mostly of sport climbing routes in the 5.11 range, although there are more moderate routes farther up the trail. The wall rises from the confluence of the Big Soddy Creek and Deep Creek and is located deep in a dense hardwood forest, so you can climb all day without overheating in the Tennessee sun. It’s hard to believe this place was a secret for so long.Because the area lies adjacent to private lands with sensitive access issues, check out www.secclimbers.org/deep-creek before heading to the trailhead.Stay: Camping is prohibited at the parking lot or on adjacent private lands, but Chattanooga is right down the road.Play: The Deep Creek wall is part of the Cumberland Trail, so hike a section of the Three Gorges Segment that wanders through the forest following Boardcamp Creek. •THE CUMBERLAND TRAILThe Cumberland Trail is an ambitious project that aims to cut a backcountry traversing the state of Tennessee from south to north. Although the actual trail is still under construction, in 1998 the Justin P. Morgan Cumberland Trail State Park was created as a linear park along the trail. Through the work of the nonprofit Cumberland Trail Conference and volunteers, 175 miles of the planned 300-mile route has been built.The trail will eventually link Cumberland Gap National Park in Kentucky in the north with Signal Mountain outside Chattanooga in the south, tracing the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau, one of the most scenic stretches of land in the Southeast, and through 11 Tennessee counties, two national parks, and one national scenic river area. As ambitious as this sounds, the ultimate goal is to make the Cumberland Trail a southern part of the proposed Great Eastern Trail, a western alternative to the Appalachian trail that will stretch 3,000 miles from Alabama to New York when completed.Find more info at cumberlandtrail.org.Now that you know where and what to do, enter our Ultimate Road Trip Giveaway to get you there!ESSENTIAL ROAD TRIP PLAYLISTCrank up the stereo, crank down the windows, and sing at the top of your lungs.“American Girl” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)“Ramblin’ Man” (Allman Brothers Band)“Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne)“Paradise City” (Guns ‘N Roses)“Graceland” (Paul Simon)“Running with the Devil” (Van Halen)“Radar Love” (Golden Earring)“Truckin’” (The Grateful Dead)“High & Dry” (Radiohead)“1979” (Smashing Pumpkins)“Windfall” (Son Volt)“Thunder Road” (Bruce Springsteen)“Caravan” (Van Morrison)Neil Young – He may be Canadian, but it doesn’t get any more Americana than Neil.