FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:A Queensland wind energy project that promises to be one of the biggest in the country – and the biggest in that state, at least for a time – is one step closer to being built after clearing its final planning hurdle.Project developers Lacour Energy said on Monday that the 800MW Clarke Creek Wind Farm had secured environmental approval from the federal government, and was preparing for construction to begin in 2019.The $1 billion wind project, which will be delivered by Goldwind Australia, will be located around half way between Rockhampton and Mackay, in the Isaac regional council, adjacent to major transmission lines. The 195 turbine project won state approval in June, and has also secured approval for the addition of 400MW of large-scale solar and a grid-scale battery system, which would boost costs to $1.5 billion.Director of Lacour Energy, Mark Rayner, said the plan was for the Clarke Creek Integrated Wind, Solar and Battery Power Station to be located at one of the strongest locations of the Queensland power system – with no grid extension required. Lacour said the wind farm, once complete, would generate enough electricity to power around 590,000 Queensland homes, and supply around 4 per cent of the state’s electricity.The project, with its mix of wind, solar and storage, is also just the sort of project the Australian Energy Market Operator is hoping to see being developed in coal heavy states like Queensland and New South Wales, as the shift to renewables accelerates.More: Huge 800MW wind farm set for construction, with approval for solar and battery Massive Australian wind project gets federal environmental approval for 2019 groundbreaking
TVA closes last unit at Paradise coal plant in Kentucky FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Chattanooga Times Free Press:The Tennessee Valley Authority shut down the last operating unit at its Paradise Fossil Plant in Western Kentucky over the weekend, ending nearly 57 years of coal-fired generation at what was once one of the largest coal plants in TVA’s fleet.Despite opposition from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the TVA board voted 5-2 last February to retire the last Paradise unit, along with the Bull Run Steam Plant near Oak Ridge by 2023. Due to a turbine rotor problem at Paradise and the relatively stagnant power demand for TVA this year, the utility decided to shutter Paradise Unit 3 this month rather than continue to invest in trying to keep the aging power facility online.TVA determined that it could generate or buy cheaper and cleaner power from other sources rather than continuing to rely upon its coal-fired unit on the Green River in Western Kentucky. The other two coal-fired units at Paradise were retired in 2017 and were replaced by a $1 billion combined-cycle natural gas plant which is capable of producing 1,025 megawatts of power.“Paradise was designed as a major baseload power generating facility, which we no longer need,” TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said Monday.The first two units of the Paradise began power generation in 1963, each with a generation capacity of 704 megawatts of electricity. At the time, they were the largest operating coal units in the world. But TVA shuttered those units in 2017 and invested $1 billion to replace the coal units with a gas-fired power plant, which continues to operate at Paradise.TVA has already shut down a majority of the 59 coal-fired units it once operated, cutting the share of its power generated by burning coal from nearly two-thirds of TVA’s generation in the 1980s to 17% of TVA’s generation in fiscal 2019, Hopson said.[Dave Flessner]More: TVA shutters last unit at Kentucky coal plant
Germany planning for wind turbines of up to 20MW FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems (IWES) is gearing up to launch a mobile grid test simulator that will assess the impact of mammoth wind turbines with outputs of as much as 20MW, thanks to a €12.7 million grant from the German government.Fraunhofer IWES is launching its mobile test facility for grid compliance tests research project, or Mobil-Grid-CoP, which is aiming to develop and commission a mobile grid simulator which will serve to verify current and future grid system services as well as the electrical properties of wind turbines.Importantly, however, the Mobil-Grid-CoP will allow for the testing and optimisation of the grid compatibility of mammoth wind turbines – with the current focus being on wind turbines with individual capacity of up to 20MW.The world’s largest wind turbine about to enter serial production is the 12MW GE Haliade-X turbine, but manufacturers are actively developing ever-larger turbines with the hope of delivering 20MW turbines by the end of the decade.With wind turbines of such magnitude on the horizon a testing setup is necessary, as current test benches – which provide accelerated testing of the electrical properties of wind turbines – cannot cope with turbine output in excess of 15MW.“The mobile grid simulator will be connected directly to the grid connection point at a test site,” added Gesa Quistorf, project manager at Fraunhofer IWES. “The 80 MVA grid simulator enables the testing of objects up to an output of 20 MW, meaning that even entire wind farms and strings can be measured. Furthermore, active disturbance analysis during operation on the grid is possible.”[Joshua Hill]More: Germany gears up to test 20MW wind turbines
New Jersey moving forward with plans to build 7,500MW of offshore wind by 2035 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):New Jersey regulators released a draft of the state’s plan to build 7,500 MW of offshore wind power by 2035. The plan details how New Jersey will develop port infrastructure, training programs, supply chains and transmission networks to help the state meet that goal.Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 31, 2018 issued an executive order directing the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to develop and implement the plan. Regulators will hold a virtual presentation on the document on July 20, when members of the public will get a chance to comment on it.“The development of New Jersey’s offshore wind infrastructure will create thousands of high-quality jobs, bring millions of investment dollars to our state, and make our state a global leader in offshore wind development and deployment,” Murphy, a Democrat, said in the plan. “The Offshore Wind Strategic Plan is a critical blueprint that will guide us toward our goal of 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035 and help us achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”Murphy signed an executive order in Nov. 2019 establishing the 7,500-MW target, more than doubling the state’s previous goal of 3,500 MW. That capacity would represent half the state’s projected 2035 electricity load, according to the plan.The plan calls for protection of the state’s $2.5 billion commercial fishing industry, which has proven to be a formidable opponent of offshore wind development. The draft plan also recommends the development of offshore wind hubs along the coast, which already features numerous deep-water commercial and industrial ports. Investment in existing ports, such as Paulsboro, will “quickly meet the needs for laydown and staging components for the initial phase of the 1,100 MW of offshore wind development,” the plan said.Ørsted A/S in June 2019 won the state’s first offshore wind solicitation, for its proposed 1,100-MW Ocean Offshore Wind Farm.[Justin Horwath]More ($): New Jersey releases draft offshore wind plan
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Tech:Enel Green Power has signed an agreement that will see energy from one of its US solar projects converted into green hydrogen to be supplied to a bio-refinery.The company has penned a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Maire Tecnimont subsidiary NextChem, which will be the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the facility, which is slated to be operational in 2023.With a goal of growing its green hydrogen capacity to over 2GW by 2030, Enel said it is looking at the potential to co-locate electrolysers across its US development pipeline to help create integrated plants that can leverage on more sources of revenue. While it is unclear which solar installation is to be used for the new project, the company said it is focused on states where it has an existing operational presence, such as Texas, Utah and North Dakota.Salvatore Bernabei, CEO of Enel Green Power, said the company is “actively scouting for opportunities” for developing green hydrogen projects both in Europe and the Americas. “We look forward to joining forces with partners such as Maire Tecnimont to make the most of the significant potential that green hydrogen represents for the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors,” he added.Having recently completed the 245MW second phase of Texas’s largest PV project, the Roadrunner solar plant, Enel Green Power’s operational green energy portfolio in North America consists of around 70 facilities with a total capacity of more than 6GW.[Jules Scully]More: Enel pens deal for US solar-powered green hydrogen project Enel to produce green hydrogen at one of its U.S. solar sites
If you visited the Blue Ridge Parkway anytime between April 8 and May 12 this year, you might have seen an odd sight – a man backpacking its entire 469-mile length in a northerly direction. I say odd because most people visit this national treasure via car, RV, motorcycle or bicycle.He would have been toting an ancient, green, external-frame backpack which, if closely inspected, was still functional only through the assistance of duct tape and parachute cord.Except for his snappy-colored aluminum trekking poles, you might have mistaken him for a reincarnation of pioneering backpacker Colin Fletcher, author of 1960s-era books like The Thousand Mile Summer and The Man Who Walked Through Time. He would have been wearing a similar brown fedora and walking that same slow, deliberate gait.The man you might have noticed during your unseasonably cool spring visit would have been me.I can further confirm – with permanently wrinkled hands and feet – that it was also an unseasonably wet spring, as in seven inches of rain during the section between Roanoke, Va. and the Peaks of Otter.And why would one choose to walk that far down a ribbon of asphalt famous for seemingly unending steep grades and ankle-grinding, super-elevated curves rather than drive it?Simple. Ten years ago I tested and proved my theory that the most scenic drive in the world was also the most scenic walk in the world. Permit me to briefly rewind back to 2003.I had been retired from federal service only a year, and a book idea was rattling around in my head. The stories and experiences of having worked two summer seasons as an interpretive ranger and twelve years as a protection ranger on the Parkway were screaming to be published. It would be my first book, and I had to find it.So, on September 1 of that year, I strapped on the same old backpack loaded with the same old sleeping bag and tent and other necessities and began a sentimental journey down the Parkway southbound from Milepost 0 near Waynesboro, Va. looking for a unique backpacking experience and forgotten memories.Three days later I found the book at Boston Knob Overlook. What a story unfolded as I continued a 41-day, random interaction with Parkway visitors, employees, neighbors, wildlife and weather.By the time I reached the end of the journey at Milepost 469 near Cherokee, N.C., my head was about to explode with a book already written inside it. The Blue Ridge Parkway by Foot: A Park Ranger’s Memoir hit the shelves in 2007.By the time 2013 rolled in, I was getting a little anxious for another mega-mile hike and began toying with the idea of a second, ten-year anniversary hike of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This time, however, the thought came to walk it in reverse – northbound – during the spring season rather than fall.Left: Author on 2003 Parkway trek near Pineola, N.C. Photo: Travis Proctor. Right: Author on 2013 Parkway trek near Hillsville, Va.I would witness the season of rebirth this time rather than the season of decline, the fresh bloom of serviceberry instead of the musty bloom of goldenrod, bold springs versus those nearly dry. Rather than staring into the sun, I’d have it mostly to my back.Mere days before beginning, I accidentally learned that my plan coincided with the 25th anniversary of Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Executive Director Susan Mills and I quickly agreed to a hasty marriage of the two anniversaries and set up my journey as a per-mile fundraiser for their organization. Pledges can still be made at www.friendsbrp.org.As I began the murderous climb out of Cherokee, fully supplied, I shuddered at a statistic I had computed ten years earlier – one climbs a vertical distance of about nine miles over the full length of the Parkway. The downhill muscles would also have to brake the same distance. My dogs were already starting to bark.One could drive the full length of the thing nonstop in less than twelve hours at an average speed of 40 mph. So much easier, I thought. But such a visit would offer only visual treats that would disappear in seconds.Not content with a mere baptism by sprinkling, I was going again for the complete immersion experience. I wanted to hear again the lone coyote howling in the night. I wanted to smell again the sweet aroma of the teaberry leaf. I wanted to taste again the pure mountain water. So off I plunged into its very heart.Again came the random surprises, trail magic, observations, realizations and revelations I knew would come to a sojourner moving at a whopping average speed of 1.5 mph.For the first time in my life, I was struck by lightning while camped near a place called, of all things, Graveyard Fields. Fortunately, a tree next to my tent took the direct hit, but a root must have routed some of the current my way. Until a quick assessment determined that my heart was still beating and no body parts were smoking, I was ready to forsake the Great Outdoors.I saw some snow this time – at least the remnants from the last winter storm on Apple Orchard Mountain, the highest point on the Parkway in Virginia.Remnants of snow on Apple Orchard Mountain – the highest point on the Parkway motor road in Virginia.Mr. Bear made an appearance at close range – about fifty yards from my tent near dark one night. Two claps of the hand and a blood-curdling yell sent him running, and I quickly ate the last two slices of pizza that surely attracted him. I had known better but thought it a safe bet so close to the city of Asheville.Ten years ago I kept a road kill log. Live wildlife sightings seemed a more refined approach this time around. Some favorites I chose to count included: 44 red efts, 3 indigo buntings, 5 rabbits, 11 grouse, 11 turkeys, 40 deer and 2 bears.In the category of strange, I witnessed three sizeable rocks fall from cliffs onto the roadway, heard two large trees fall in the woods and found two waterlogged cell phones, one active debit card, one dollar bill, one nickel and five pennies.Some things had changed in ten years – some for the better, some for the worse.At several points along the way, I told people it appeared that the Parkway corridor had experienced a fair amount of seismic activity since 2003. To their puzzled looks I noted that many of the grades seemed steeper, then quickly offered that it probably had more to do with me knocking on the door of early Social Security retirement.Ten years ago the stately hemlock tree adorned the rich coves throughout many sections of the Parkway. Today they are gone, gone, gone, victim to a tiny bug known as the hemlock woolly adelgid. It’s as sad a story as the loss of the chestnut tree in the Appalachians a few decades ago.In better news, a new large mammal is being sighted on the southern end of the Parkway near Cherokee and Maggie Valley thanks to a successful elk reintroduction program in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the elk population continues to increase through natural reproduction, the migration could very well continue far enough to return validity to places along the Parkway like Elk Pasture Gap.Playing ranger again, I observed far fewer skid marks, gouge marks in the pavement, impacted guard rails and bits of glass and chrome – evidence of motor vehicle accidents. Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett later confirmed that the accident rate on the Parkway had, in fact, declined by about 50% over the past ten years. Stinnett also said that better signage had virtually eliminated fatalities in several “trouble curves.” Good news for all.The impact of sequestration this year adds more woe to a park which has already experienced a debilitating decline in its annual operating budget. Many facilities will have delayed openings. Some, like Smart View Picnic Area near Floyd, Va., will be closed the entire 2013 season. Several family reunions – held in this beautiful place for decades – will now have to convene elsewhere.Lack of funding equals lack of manpower equals milepost markers out of plumb and grass unmowed.Thank goodness the natural water supplies were plentiful this spring; hardly a facility was open whereby I could obtain tap water. I and thousands of other visitors found even fewer places to use the bathroom. Where I did remains classified.Closed restrooms at E.B. Jeffress Park.Ten years ago, Bunnie and Russell Richards of Boone, N.C. read of my walk in their local newspaper and speculated I would be hungry. Of meager means themselves, they tracked me down and offered gifts of cheese, crackers and a large homegrown tomato. I had never been more humbled.The natural course of life has taken both of them but, as I passed by Lost Cove Cliffs Overlook, I could feel their gentle spirits again in the wind.It’s the people, you see, that make the Parkway experience the ultimate it can be.Take J.C. Thompson, for instance, of Check, Va. When he rolled up one morning in his truck and asked if I needed anything, I replied boldly, honestly and forthrightly.“Yes. I could use a cheeseburger and a Mountain Dew.”A bit puzzled, he scratched his head and then smiled.“Don’t have them with me but jump in. I know where to find them.”Ten minutes later we pulled into a country store, and I concluded that moment that being homeless was not so bad when equipped with a credit card and a concealed gun permit, and in the company of trail angels like J.C.There were other times when just a few minutes of conversation and the exchange of something as simple as a banana was all it took to reconfirm one’s faith in the goodness of people. Carter Krewson did that for me one afternoon. His bicycle journey had begun months earlier from his home in Redding, Ca. The Parkway was going to be his final leg.Bicyclist Carter Krewson from Redding, Ca.I thought it pretty cool what he was doing at his young age. He thought it pretty cool what I was doing at mine.As I sputtered the final mile into Rockfish Gap with only a few Reese’s Pieces remaining in my food bag, a Joni Mitchell song came to mind, and I realized there were really two very different Blue Ridge Parkways – the one northbound and the one southbound. From both sides now, I had seen it all.Parkway entrance sign at Rockfish Gap.© 2013 Timothy Pegram
How many mountains does it take to reach the high country of the mind? We often glimpse it, but how do we get there? What does it take to bring the clarity of our experience of the mountains into all aspects of our lives?It is early evening, midsummer in the mountains. The sun disappears behind the high granite peaks. The air cools. The snow that remains here refreezes. Wildflowers which stood boldly open in the bright day— Kalmia, Dodecatheon, Potentilla—shrink back, as the light grows pale and the air cold. The wind that has whooshed and swirled through this place all day long lies down to rest. The land is hushed. I pull on long pants, two wool shirts, a warm hat, lace up my beat-up shoes, and set out up wide granite slabs for the alpine world.I move with fluidity and efficiency, like an animal. Each breath of the cool, thin air offers a little awakening, and I can feel my body assimilating oxygen molecules. They feel charged. Like the air’s equivalent of whitewater. I set my steps to the rhythm of my breath. My mind clears.Ahead and above is the wide world of granite, snow, streams and thin bands of green exploding with life, a glacial amphitheater ringed by splintered, serrated gray-and-white peaks which rise like enormous standing waves of stone. A few hundred feet above my camp, I reach a wide bench on which is set a deep lake. It is named Sky Blue Lake, but now it is stark, frozen white, its only open water at its outlet. But there are cracks set across its icy surface and some of these emit an eerie glacial blue color that I can only compare to the Himalayan sky. Above and around the lake the land rises in rounded heaps and benches of snow-covered granite, which form buttressed foundations of the surrounding peaks. Although I can hear the sound of dozens of small cascades of snowmelt, the basin seems silent. Underneath the silence is a deep drone, a humming, a persistent vibration. I have felt this before in the high mountains and on the Arctic tundra, but only a few times. It is hypnotic. It induces a trance-like state in me.Here, now, during the crack between the light of day and the dark of night, the brash world of our normal experience yields a little bit to the sublime aspect of reality that is always there but difficult to access. The rules of probability, set by reason, give way to a mysterious sense of possibility. It is not hard to imagine enormous mythical wolverines prowling around here or elemental titans acting as conduits for thunderbolts, casting and smashing boulders, raging and laughing and then growing quiet for an age. It is not such a stretch to relate to the sobering madness of legendary Chinese mountain poets, the transfiguration of Judeo-Christian prophets, the terrible and blissful epiphanies of American transcendentalist naturalists. They are all here amidst this utter stillness and freshening cold. Their story is told in the deep, humming song of this place. The Chinese Buddhist monk and poet, Han Shan tells us:I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,Already it seems like years and years.Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streamsAnd linger watching things themselves.Men don’t get this far into the mountains,White clouds gather and billow.Thin grass does for a mattress,The blue sky makes a good quilt.Happy with a stone underheadLet heaven and earth go about their changes.Why do we go to the high mountains? What have such places come to mean in the deep recesses of our consciousness? The answers to these questions lie in our own physical experience: the rhythmic synchronization of breath and step that it takes to ascend into the high country, the alchemy of time on the ground in motion through space, and in our mental process: the meditative trance of the summit experience, the reflections in camp or on the journey home. We respond to time in the high mountains by attaining a state that is relatively rare in the lowlands.Such a state of being has been described and extolled by many, easterners, westerners and indigenes alike. Han Shan says of life on Cold Mountain “silent knowledge—the spirit is enlightened of itself; contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness.” Henry David Thoreau exclaims of his glimpse into the high country of the mind while on Katahdin, the lone and barren granitic mountain of northern Maine, “Think of our life in nature,–daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it,–rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?” John Muir urges us to the high country by saying “climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” Here are the answers to the question of why we go to the high mountains.Hundreds of such descriptions made by mad mountain poets, philosophers, wilderness prophets, as well as explorers, mountaineers, rangers and other backcountry ramblers can be summed up in one short phrase: we go to the mountains for clarity. In the mountains we gain glimpses into the high country of the mind, where our fragmented and unrelated reality resolves into a single, cohesive whole, and the result is a degree of peacefulness and purposefulness seldom attained in everyday life. We feel this by degrees, each according to our own development in this life in space and time, but we all feel it. Thus mountains become temples in the sky, the original monasteries to which we retreat, sallying back to the mundane world of the lowlands, foray after foray, testing the clarity afforded by retreat against the infinite distractions of the marketplace.Why do we attain such clarity in the high country? The reasons are multiple. Biologically speaking, human beings evolved over a million years of hunting and gathering camp life. The rather sudden cultural transition to an agrarian and eventually industrial lifestyle has been, in short, unsettling to the Pleistocene-attuned human body and mind. Intentionally engaging in aspects of camp life come as a relief to us. As Doug Robinson articulates in The Alchemy of Action, regular physical activity and exertion is the most simple and ancient tonic, the original biochemical high, which makes us simultaneously more ready and more relaxed: more receptive to higher states of consciousness. Combined with the naturally meditative pace of human-powered foot travel, the biochemical and meditative benefits of moving across a landscape are reason enough for periodic refrains to such a lifestyle.Our minds are further stimulated by the multiplicity of organic, non-repeating forms in the natural world, each an expression of the expanding creativity of phenomenal nature, itself an emanation of the infinite creativity of the Absolute, the Tao, the Source, Ultimate Reality, “Tat”, which can not be named. Muir reminds us, “there are no square-edged inflexible lines in nature.” No two snow crystals are the same, but neither are any two leaves or flowers or fruits, streams, rivers, lakes, skies, stones, to say nothing of the more animated creatures of the world: warm and pulsing birds and mammals, intricately moving insects, sliding, oozing mollusks, all our distant kin. Enmeshed in such a matrix of life, we attend to meaningful activities: listening and smelling for water, finding and collecting fire wood, preparing the food that we need to keep warm, to keep moving. All of this amidst the “quietness”, in the vibrational sense of the word, of a place unsullied by too much human business. All of this is inherent in wild places, be they desert, mountain, forest or sea. But what of the mountains? What is so singular about the high country? Foremost is the perspective afforded by the combination of the extreme physical exertion implicit in working against the grain of gravity, along with attaining greater and greater heights. More simply put, we can see more the higher we go, and because of the nature of our efforts we are more fit to see. The alchemy of physical exertion is heightened by intentionally engaging in rhythmic breathing exercises while ascending, which alone is a powerful method of increasing one’s receptivity to higher consciousness. The physiological interactions of the body with rarified air exaggerates the effects of such exercise.At 10,000 feet the body is working with 75 percent the amount of oxygen it gets at sea level; at twenty thousand feet it is working with only 50 percent. As the amount of oxygen in the air decreases, the body’s efforts increase. As the air gets thin, life on Earth becomes more ethereal, and as we are pushed further through the curtain that separates life and death, we see much that was veiled before. Even without such exertion, attaining elevational heights can bring about notable shifts in consciousness, as experienced by many upon seeing the world from the perspective of an airplane. When combined, attaining a heightened alchemical state simultaneous with elevation gain is more powerful than either alone, and tends to dissolve the distinction between literal and metaphorical experiences of reality. As the distinction between these two ways of seeing becomes blurred, our perception on the wholeness of reality becomes clearer.We ascend into a world that is raw, elemental, primordial and dynamic because it is in a state of genesis. From a geological perspective the high mountains of the world have all uplifted in the Cenozoic Era, mostly in the last twenty million years, and all are tectonically active. In geographic lingo such mountains—those of the Alpine-Himalayan system and the Pacific Rim Cordilleran system—are diagnostically primary mountains, meaning they are happening now. Interestingly, most of these mountains are also primary in the ecological sense: their bedrock either recently erupted and cooled or scoured down to stark naked stone by the episodic comings and goings of Pleistocene ice. Here, then, is the earth still in the making, and here can be felt the atmosphere of infinite possibility inherent in such places. That high mountains tend to be non-arable, sparsely populated (if at all) by humans and biologically spare all contribute to their clean, monastic aesthetic and their wild nature. Their nature is wild, perhaps, along with the deepest oceans, the wildest on earth; they are freshly hewn and direct from the source, unpredictable, free, unsullied by the vibrations of human consciousness. As if to make certain of this, their heightened state often wreathes them in weather, shrouds them in storms, obscures them in clouds, and whitens their flanks. Forests are wiped out in furious avalanches, hundred ton blocks of rock are wedged off of cliff edges by incessant frost, and there is a catharsis of continual contact with the sky.The raw, elemental, nature of mountains, as well as their dynamic nature of being in a constant state of creation, loom large in the descriptions of those who have known their essences. Han Shan said of Cold Mountain “In the mountains it’s cold. Always been cold, not just this year. Jagged scarps forever snowed in, woods in the dark ravines spitting mist. Grass is still sprouting at the end of June, leaves begin to fall in early August. And here am I, high on mountains, peering and peering, but I can’t even see the sky.” Thoreau said repeatedly of Katahdin that it was raw and unfinished, that it was “primeval, untamed, and forever untamable Nature…the earth of which we have heard, made of Chaos and Old Night…it was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth as it was made for ever and ever.” Muir echoed similar sentiments in his own vernacular when reflecting on his experiences in the mountains of California: “…everything is flowing—going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks both in solution and in the form of mud particles, sand, pebbles and boulders. Rocks flow from volcanoes like water from springs, and animals flock together and flow in currents modified by stepping, leaping, gliding, flying, swimming. While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on forever like blood globules in nature’s warm heart.”The day wanes and the moon does not rise. The austerity of the landscape is exaggerated by the pale, cold light—there is neither brightness nor shadow. Above the basin, the high peaks grow gray and grim. Above, stars become visible.The peaks and ridges that surround this basin are alluring. Like all high mountains, they beckon me ever upward, closer to the gods, closer to madness, closer to transfiguration, epiphanies. In the mountains, one’s gaze is most easily drawn upward. Here is a vertical landscape which suggests both literal and metaphorical ascension. The first few high peaks I climbed each brought about a certain transformation. I remember every one of those climbs in detail.I came to expect such highs, to crave them, to look forward to the next one during the often long spells in the lowlands. The next few years of ascents were still satisfying but less and less remarkable. I can only recall the details of these climbs if I really set my mind to it, and some I have little memory of at all. As I continued to climb, my own attachment to outcome cast a larger and deeper shadow on my relationship with the mountains. Eventually, while teetering in the wind on one high alpine summit after another, I had to ask myself “what am I still doing here? What am I not getting?”I kept climbing mountains. Eventually, I began to realize that the peaks themselves, though physically the highest places on earth, are only encouragement, and hold no promise of attaining such heights in our own consciousness. I set out to find the high country of the mind. Others led the way:Men ask the way to Cold MountainCold Mountain: there’s no through trail.In summer, ice doesn’t meltThe rising sun blurs the swirling fog.How did I make it?My heart’s not the same as yours.If your heart was like mineYou’d get it and be right here.How many mountains does it take to reach the high country of the mind? We often glimpse it, but how do we get there? What does it take to bring the clarity of our experience of the mountains into all aspects of our lives? When, if ever, do we saunter to the Holy Land, find Cold Mountain, the Pure Land, Ixtlan, Elysium?The mountains themselves are just places, things, and as such they are ultimately traps. Eventually the rush of novelty passes over them like the ephemeral flush of alpenglow. We develop descriptions of the world and make agreements with others about the way things are. That which was once the most obvious: the numinous, ineffable quality of nature, becomes increasingly lost to us as our attention shifts to a phenomenal nature described in greater and greater detail. If we are not vigilant we bring the chatter and clatter and busyness of the marketplace with us wherever we go, and our forays into the mountains become increasingly disappointing. We keep returning there with secret hopes for an experience unusual enough to break us free of our agreements, our detailed descriptions. We come to expect something of them that ultimately we must find in ourselves. We mistake the physical emanation of the Source for the Source itself, even as we mistake the relativities of our bodies and our minds for our own eternal selves.No one knows for sure whether Han Shan ever lived on an actual mountain which fit the descriptions of his poems. As Gary Snyder observes, when Han Shan describes Cold Mountain he is describing himself, his state of being. For Han Shan, no mountain climbs were needed to get to the high country of the mind. He was always there and always will be. Thoreau, the transcendentalist-naturalist yogic renunciate of America, did not indulge in much mountain climbing following his ascent of Mount Katahdin. For someone of his disposition, that climb was enough to push him across the threshold into the high country of the mind, and his continual access to the high country is evidenced in the works that followed his experience on Katahdin, most notably in his philosophy of wildness as articulated in his lecture, and later his essay, Walking.Following Thoreau, John Muir spent ten years sojourning through the high country of the Sierra Nevada of California and the rest of his life in and out of the high country of the mind. I believe that these two, like Han Shan a millennium before them, passed on with the light of such high country in their eyes. There are others. But for most of us, a lifetime of climbing mountains is never enough, the mountains are mistaken for the high country of the mind and we become dependant on them, even while our experience of them diminishes, becomes dissatisfying and disappointing. I never got to meet the legendary Norman Clyde, and though I am in awe of his thousand ascents of North American mountains, I have never envied him. I do not know for certain, but I suspect (perhaps because I have observed this in myself) he passed on unfulfilled, identifying his self with his experiences of the mountains, suffering from attachment to forms, wavering at the threshold.As I look around at the high peaks and ridges that surround this basin, it strikes me that perhaps all these years I have been headed in the wrong direction, working against gravity instead of with it, climbing up mountains when they themselves are headed down. It strikes me that the ultimate source of every mountain is the sea, and that their story from the moment of their conception is one of gravity and water working together to bring every particle of them to the ocean. The bigger the mountain, the more this is true. I am reminded of the profundity of the hydrological cycle and its implications for the journey of the human soul. We are born like moisture vapor from the sea, gathered into clouds and rained or snowed down upon the world. We spend some time as snowpack, a few eons perhaps in the body of a glacier, then we are released into swift meltwater streams. We become creeks and lakes and rivers, move through plants and animals, eventually, inexorably, drawn back to the source from which we came, until, as the saying goes in the East, “the dewdrop slides into the shining sea.”This evening, these truths are especially evident in the rapid ablation of the snowpack, the steady exposure of granitic bedrock, the cracking and breaking up of lake ice, the release of the bare ground of gravel flats and alpine meadows, and the cold tumult of a hundred rills and runnels and meltwater streams all rushing downslope. Even now, as the land settles into the stillness of night, the water is ever on the move, flowing down a hundred thousand mountains, over and across the curvature of earth, going back to its source. An ancient passage from the Tao The Ching runs through my mind: “To go far is to return home.” And I am reminded of the even more ancient yogic prayer: “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond beyond, and beyond that to thy homage.”I stare awhile at the steady flow of water moving through the slotted outlet of Sky Blue Lake, then set my foot to the stone and begin to follow the water down.My home was at Cold Mountain from the start,Rambling among the hills, far from trouble.Gone, and a million things leave no traceLoosed, and it flows through the galaxiesA fountain of light, into the very mind—Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:Now I know the pearl of the Buddha-natureKnow its use: a boundless perfect sphere.–Author David Gilligan is a wilderness traveler, a naturalist and a writer. He teaches natural history and philosophy courses and leads wilderness expeditions for Sterling College, and has worked previously for Prescott College and the Sierra Institute. His work and personal interests have taken him far afield to mountain regions around the globe. His books include The Secret Sierra, In the Years of the Mountains, Rise of the Ranges of Light and Nature, Culture, Consciousness. Visit davidgilligan.netSELECTED REFERENCESBernbaum, Edwin. 1990. Sacred Mountains of the World. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.Gilligan, David Scott. 2006. In the Years of the Mountains. New York: Thunder’s Mouth.Lane, Beldon C. 1998. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. New York: Oxford University Press.MacFarlane, Robert. 2003. Mountains of the Mind. New York: Pantheon.Price, Larry. 1981. Mountains and Man. Berkeley: University of California Press.Snyder, Gary. 2009. Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint.Teale, Edwin Way. 2001. The Wilderness World of John Muir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Thoreau, Henry David. 1950. The Maine Woods. New Haven: College and University Press.
Not only is hip mobility essential to peak athletic performance, it helps maintain the natural range of motion we should have and helps prevent physical injury. Here’s our look at the top ten hip opening yoga poses for athletes.As children, we are naturally flexible, gumby-limbed little beings who can bend and stretch in any way we desire without anything locking up on us. As we get older, and if we have put in years of trekking, cycling, running, skiing, or even if we are chronic sitters due to career choice or leisure activities, physical discomfort is inevitable if we are lacking openness and balance in the hip region. Whatever the repeat activity we engage in, chances are we have all experienced hip tightness. Think about when you first rise from bed in the morning, walking like the Tin Man, going about your morning activities with a bit of nagging back pain or knees that will not bend until you become more mobile throughout the day.Hip tightness can cause an array of physical discomfort from literally altering your gait to making once-enjoyed activities painful and unpleasant. A lack of fluidity in the hips can exacerbate already-existing back and knee pain, or can eventually become the source of back and/or knee problems due to overcompensation in these areas of our body. Each muscle, joint, tendon, ligament and limb has its assigned duty to carry out the physical task we are attempting. When one body part is dysfunctional due to weakness, injury or immobility, our bodies compensate by relying on another part to take over a function. If we can take time — literally just 10 to 15 minutes a day — to focus on restoring functionality to that pesky part that is disrupting the natural balance and flow of our bodies, we can reduce or eliminate pain and increase our athletic agility, strength and stamina.Adding these top 10 hip opening yoga poses to the end of each workout (or after a hot shower or bath) will restore strength and openness in your outer hips, psoas muscles (located in the lumbar region), hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Try holding each asana for 10 slow, deep breaths. Ease into each pose slowly and do not force the stretch.Cobbler’s Pose with a Forward BendSit upright with your shoulders rolled back. Your knees are bent and opened to the sides and the bottoms of your feet are touching. Hold your feet with your hands and let your elbows gently push your knees closer to the floor as you take a deep breath and exhale bending forward at the waist. Continue to hold this pose for up to 10 breaths and try to deepen the stretch slightly with each breath. If needed, yoga blocks can be placed under each knee for comfort. This asana releases tightness in your lower back and opens the hips and inner thighs.Eye of the Needle Hip Opening Yoga PoseLying on your back, bend both knees with your feet flat on the ground. Cross your right ankle over your left leg with the outer part of your right ankle resting above the left knee. Slowly pull your left leg up and into the chest with both hands on your left hamstring. Hold for a count of 10 breaths then release and repeat this pose on the other side. This asana focuses on reducing tension held in your glutes and hamstrings.Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose)From Downward Facing Dog pose, bring your left leg through your arms and place your left knee on the floor, aligning it with your left thumb. Open your left foot to the side and keeping your right leg straight, slide it back until you feel as though you are in a bent legged split. Try to keep your left shin horizontal in front of you and root down with the right hip as much as your flexibility will allow. Steady yourself with your hands on the floor. Hold this pose for a count of 10 breaths. With each breath, lower your torso into the stretch with the eventual goal of folding completely over until you can rest your head to the ground in this hip opening yoga pose. This is my favorite asana for stretching the glutes and hip flexors. If you can rest your forehead on the ground, this pose will also release tension in your back.Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose, Variation)In Downward Dog Pose, lift your right leg high behind you with a flexed foot. Bend at the knee and start rotating your right leg out while keeping your hips squared. Keep your pelvis tucked under and inward to protect your back. This pose can be an intense hip opener and you may not be able to hold it for 10 breaths. Aim for 5 slow breaths then switch to your other side.Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)This pose is similar to the One Legged King Pigeon Pose above. From Downward Dog Pose, bring your left leg forward through your arms. Your left knee will be bent and your left foot will be flat on the ground. Your right leg will stay extended and your right knee will slightly touch the ground. Bend both arms and rest your forearms on the ground on the inside of your left leg. Repeat on the other side.Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)This asana is welcoming after some of the more intense poses. Lie on your back, bend your knees into your chest. With hands facing each other, loop your index and middle fingers around your big toes. Draw your legs outward with both knees bent and gently pull the knees down to the floor, deepening the stretch with each of your 10 breaths.Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (One Legged Bridge Pose)This pose will stretch your hip flexors and activate your glutes, and inner and outer thighs. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Arms are extended, resting on each side of your body and your hands will be flat on the floor. Push into your feet and slowly raise your hips towards the ceiling. You can clasp your hands underneath you which helps to open your chest and extend your upper back. Slowly raise one leg while maintaining this bridge pose and repeat on the opposite leg. Frog PoseYou will be positioned on all fours for this hip opening yoga pose. Bring your forearms to the floor and widen your knees as far as apart they will comfortably go. Think how a frog’s lower body appears when it is still. Come out of this pose by raising yourself up onto each hand then gently slide one knee in at a time by shifting your body weight to each side.Child’s PoseWhen you have eased out of Frog Pose and have returned to all fours, with knees wide, feet facing the ceiling and big toes touching, simply let your sit bone rest on the tops of your feet, hands outstretched in front of you and forehead touching the ground. This is a restful ansana that will help you prepare for your final pose.Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining bound Angle Pose)Lie down on your back with arms extended and relaxed at your sides, palms facing up. Bend the knees and touch the soles of your feet together so your knees open to the sides. Breath deeply and relax into this hip opening yoga pose for 10 breaths.— Shawna Sullivan is a Colorado-based writer, athlete and fitness competitor. Our yoga model Erin Bruce is a Registered Yoga Teacher. Photos by AHB Media.
When you think of the word “dirtbag,” what image comes to mind? Maybe a crusty climber perched in the back of a DIY van-house eating Chef Boyardee out of the can with a pocketknife? That certainly sounds about right, at least from what a quick cruise through the #dirtbag Instagram feed will tell you. Barefoot hula-hoopers. River rats. Surf bums. Couch surfers. They all seem to fit the bill for a grade A dirtbag.But what if I tossed the word “entrepreneur” into the mix? While a dirtbag entrepreneur may seem like just another oxymoron (like tight slacks and jumbo shrimp) the fact of the matter is the outdoor industry is ripe with them: from renowned climber-surfer Yvon Chouinard and his company Patagonia to paddler Eric Jackson and his kayak manufacturing company Jackson Kayaks, those outdoor brands on your clothing tags weren’t just started by dirtbags – they were started by innovative pioneers who combined their love of the outdoors with a steadfast commitment to providing quality tools for adventure. Although a booming interest in adventure sports contributed to serious growth among brands, the little guys are still out there making gear that competes with even the biggest cats on the market. Misty Mountain and Organic Climbing are two of those smaller companies who just so happen to be producing some of the highest quality climbing gear in the industry right in our backyard. From the crag to the shop and back again, these dirtbag climbers might have spent more nights sleeping under the stars than in a bed, but their stories are a testament to the greatness that can come out of following your passions.Misty Mountain – Valle Crucis, N.C.Mike Grimm, Co-owner of Misty Mountain Home Crag: Linville Gorge, Ship RockIntroduction to Climbing“A really good friend of mine had gone to summer camp and went rock climbing. That was 1980. He knew very little about it, but we got a rope, got some shoes, a little bit of gear, and just climbed basically by trial and error. Fortunately the errors weren’t too…erroneous.”The Birth of Misty Mountain“Our equipment choices early on were so barren,” Grimm says. “You couldn’t go to the store and buy a climbing harness. There wasn’t the store and there wasn’t the harness if there was.”Although Grimm was not the original founder of Misty Mountain, he joined the company’s mastermind, Woody Keen, in 1985, the year the business was officially incorporated. At the time, the standard climbing harness was a “Swiss-seat,” which was fashioned from either rope or webbing by way of adjustable knots. Woody’s first harness prototype, the Fudge, introduced a buckle to the harness and was such a success that it quickly became the standard for organizations like Outward Bound.Grimm was just a college student at the time but he had a very tangible obsession with climbing. Just over a decade later, he would buy Woody’s share of the company and become co-owners of Misty Mountain with longtime friend and climbing partner Goose Kearse.“When you’re sitting on a belay ledge, you have a lot of time to think about how [your harness] could be better,” says Grimm, who is now responsible for the design and production of Misty Mountain’s harnesses. “I’m the number one guinea pig,” which for Grimm means long hours behind the sewing machine eventually translate to long days on the rock testing equipment and embracing Misty Mountain’s humble beginnings in the mountains of western North Carolina.Organic Climbing – State College, Penn.Josh Helke, Founder of Organic Climbing Home Crag: Hunter’s RockIntroduction to Climbing“We used to live in a river valley in Minnesota, so there were tons of cliffs on our property,” says Helke. “Growing up, climbing was what we did as family trips.”The Birth of Organic ClimbingAfter college, Helke and his wife decided to do the most logical thing for two adventurous people who wanted to climb, travel, and scout locations for graduate school: they lived on the road.For one year, the couple traveled across the country, living, working, and playing out of the back of their Toyota Tacoma. They hit all of the major rock climbing hubs, from southern Utah to western Colorado and Wyoming. It was then, during their time in Wyoming, that Helke decided he wanted to start producing his own climbing gear, specifically bouldering pads.“In the late ‘90s, there were definitely people that bouldered, but they were typically people that were a little more anti-establishment,” he says. “I’ve seen [bouldering] grow from a skateboarding, alternative culture to a pretty mainstream sport.”In 2004, Josh officially incorporated Organic Climbing and that same year, both Rock & Ice and Climbing Magazine wrote up stellar reviews of Organic’s bouldering pads which sent business through the roof.“It very quickly turned real,” Josh remembers. “All of a sudden, I wasn’t going climbing everyday and I couldn’t keep sewing everything in a spare bedroom.”He moved the business to Philadelphia when his wife, a geologist, was offered a job in the area. Organic’s bouldering pad is still their flagship product and has quickly become the standard pad in the bouldering scene.“It sounds cliché but to anyone looking to start [an outdoor gear company], stick with your gut,” he says. “When I started, everyone we talked to said it was impossible to make all of our products in the U.S. Now, we’ve had 10 years of amazing success. So don’t worry about what others think. Throw convention out the door and keep going.”
Dane Jackson has had one epic year. The 22-year-old pro-kayaker from Tennessee won more events in 2015 than most do in a lifetime, interspersing the races and freestyle comps between a first descent in Mexico and other expedition adventures.Jackson also continues a legacy set forth by his father, world-renowned freestyle champion and kayak company founder Eric Jackson. Alongside him on the family tree is his sister Emily, also a longtime dominant force in women’s rodeo.As he was driving home to Rock Island, Tenn., from a family vacation, Jackson took the time to explain what factors made his 2015 season the strongest one yet and his plans to make 2016 even better.Summarize how this season went for you.Best season ever. Normally, I’d win just a few events, but this year I had only three results out of the 15 or 20 this season that I didn’t come out on top. Obviously, winning the ICF Freestyle Canoe World Championship on the Ottawa this season was the cherry on top. Besides that, at the GoPro Mountain Games, I won both the Men’s Freestyle and the downriver Steep Creek Championship. No one has done that before.How much do you devote to training? Not any, really. Kayaking is fun. As soon as you’re stressing, you’re never going to do as well. When it comes to Worlds, I definitely get a little stressed because I want to do as well as I can. But I don’t let that stress take away from that week of fun and paddling. My mentality for upcoming events is I have to relearn stuff, and that helps with my results.How has that approach helped you in competing?I feel strongest and am most known for freestyle, but the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to make a name in racing. That year was the Whitewater Grand Prix in Chile, and I didn’t think I had a chance to win because there wasn’t freestyle, so I didn’t have an edge. I also realized that my forward stroke was not as powerful as the others. Mostly it was less sprinting, and more like I needed to learn the forward stroke. So I worked on it, and that helped me in all the races since.What’s it like coming from a family of champion paddlers?My dad is the reason I’m a kayaker. He won his first World Championship title in 1993 and was a full-time kayaker when I arrived. From the beginning, he made it very clear he wanted it to be fun, a mentality he was really good at living by. I wanted to be like him. Instead of this being his sport that he does, he made a point to teach us and make it a family event. So we all paddled together and grew together. That’s the way he raised us, and my mom, too, because she was always there and supported him. I don’t know where we’d be if it weren’t for all they did.What are your relationships with the rest of your family?My sister and I pretty much just had each other growing up. Emily and I have a great relationship. Growing up, we paddled together, watched movies, played games. We’d play a dice game or Settlers of Katan; we used to play Life a lot, too, when we were kids. I guess I was more of an annoying little brother to her husband Nick, who’s been traveling with the family since he was 15.Where do you see yourself going? The next season, I plan to win even more races and head back to Veracruz and Chiapas. There’s possibly something in Hawaii, too.boxers or briefs?It depends on what I’m feeling. Boxers probably? It’s hard for me to go for tight stuff. My dad thinks Speedos are making a comeback and has Speedo Thursday where he’s in a Speedo.Are they?No, no, they’re not making a comeback. My dad doesn’t care what people think, and that’s probably how he got where he is. But that also means he wears Speedos.[divider]read more on blueridgeoutdoors.com[/divider]