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Snowshoe, Canaan Valley Gearing Up For Holiday Recreation

The Free Press WV

As West Virginians take part in Thanksgiving activities this week, some will also be hitting the slopes to enjoy the start of the skiing season.

Snowshoe Mountain is preparing to kick off skiing season this Friday, as Canaan Valley Resort will hold its opening day on Dec. 15. Both resorts have been using its snow guns to prepare for skiers.

Canaan Valley’s tube park will not open until Dec. 15 because of warm conditions.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance for snow showers at Snowshoe early Wednesday morning, with a high temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit expected on Friday.

While the slopes will not be ready at Canaan Valley, visitors will be able to take part in ice skating beginning Thursday.

Skiing season in West Virginia goes through April.

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►  Hatfield-McCoy Trail System: Officials on track to sell more than 45,000 permits this year

Officials with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System are on track to sell more than 45,000 permits this year, a number that marks 17 years of growth within the industry.

Hatfield-McCoy Trail System Executive Director Jeff Lusk said trail permit sales are up 12.4 percent for the fiscal year.
“For the calendar year we’re up a little over 11 percent in trail permit sales,” Lusk said. “This will make us 17 years of growth. We’re seeing a lot of investments. We appreciate them. We need more cabins and camp sites. We need to get our entrepreneurs to step up.”

Lusk said, as of July, 70 percent of the growth within the trail system was coming out of Mercer and McDowell counties.

“The last time we looked at it in July, 70 percent of the growth was coming out of Mercer and McDowell Counties,” Lusk said. “The Pocahontas and Indian Ridge are our fastest growing systems and have been for the past couple of seasons. We’re on track to top 45,000 permits. We had 39,352 last year. Eight five percent were sold to non West Virginia residents. It’s an amazing growth cycle we’re going through.”
Lusk said permits for the 2018 riding season go on sale November 13.

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is open 365 days a year to dirt bikes, utility vehicles and ATV’s.

The trail system covers hundreds of miles of off-road trails in six of it’s nine project counties.


►  New Delhi’s ‘gas chamber’ smog is so bad that United Airlines has stopped flying there

Citing toxic smog that one official said has turned India’s capital city into a “gas chamber,“ United Airlines has canceled flights to New Delhi until the air gets better.

At least in United’s eyes, the Indian capital’s smog concerns are on par with environmental disasters like hurricanes and volcanoes – a risk to be avoided. The company said it was letting passengers switch flights without charge or helping them find seats on other carriers.

It was unclear if other airlines would follow suit. Virgin Atlantic, KLM and Etihad Airlines all compete for business to New Delhi, according to CNN Money.

An advisory on United’s website said travel to New Delhi was suspended through at least Tuesday.

“United has temporarily suspended our Newark-Delhi flights due to poor air quality concerns in Delhi and currently has waiver policies in place for customers who are traveling to, from or through Delhi,“ the company said in an email.

“We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency, and are coordinating with respective government agencies.“

New Delhi’s air quality is consistently ranked among the world’s worst. But a perfect storm of problems is exacerbating the problem to potentially deadly levels. Farmers who’ve recently harvested crops in neighboring states are illegally burning their fields, sending smoke into the air. Construction projects and pollution from vehicles in a city that lacks adequate public transportation are making things worse.

This week, the smog was 10 times worse than reigning pollution champion Beijing, whose air-quality problems reached Olympic proportions. Some parts of New Delhi have pollution 40 times the World Health Organization-recommended safe level.

More than 6,000 schools have been ordered closed, and only trucks carrying essential supplies are allowed into the city. Construction projects have been halted. And the nation was mulling a plan to spray water over its capital to combat the toxic smog.

Still, photos show the city enveloped in a gray haze. Residents braving the streets looked like surgeons or carpenters, depending on which type of mask they were able to acquire.

People huddled indoors with expensive air purifiers, indoor plants and closed windows.

But doctors say it won’t be enough to prevent some deaths in the city of 20 million people. Children are the most vulnerable.

In a less-affluent quarter of the city, Baburam Durbedy’s grandson hasn’t been eating. “His temperature is up and he keeps getting out of breath,“ Durbedy said. He wiped his own irritated eyes as he spoke.

Durbedy earns just enough to survive, working as a security guard in the city. Buying high-end air purifiers is not an option, nor is expensive medical care. The family of five has two thin gas masks to share. “We just rub Vicks on his chest,“ he said, referring to the medicated vapor rub.

A recent study linked 2.5 million deaths in India in 2015 to pollution. This week, worried parents carried coughing children into hospitals around the city.

“We’ve seen around a 30-35 percent increase of patients in the past couple of days,“ said Anupam Sibal, group medical director and senior pediatrician at Apollo Hospitals. “It wasn’t like this five years ago. Children with respiratory problems are finding their issues are exacerbated. It affects everyone.“

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►  Pennsylvania tree to adorn Rockefeller Center for Christmas

It will soon look a lot like Christmas in New York City thanks to a tree from Pennsylvania.

Workers on Thursday cut down a 75-foot (23-meter) Norway Spruce at the State College home of Jason Perrin that was chosen as the 2017 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The tree weighs between 12 and 13 tons. It was hoisted onto a trailer and expected to arrive in New York on Saturday. There it will be decorated with more than 50,000 lights and topped with a Swarovski star.

It is the 85th tree to adorn the plaza and the third from Pennsylvania.

The tree will be illuminated November 29 and remain on display until January 07. It will then be donated to Habitat for Humanity to be transformed into lumber for building homes.

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►  Administration report finds ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ for climate change

The Trump administration released a dire scientific report Friday calling human activity the dominant driver of global warming, a conclusion at odds with White House decisions to withdraw from a key international climate accord, champion fossil fuels and reverse Obama-era climate policies.

To the surprise of some scientists, the White House did not seek to prevent the release of the government’s National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by law. The report affirms that climate change is driven almost entirely by human action, warns of potential sea-level rise as high as eight feet by the year 2100, and details climate-related damage across the United States that is already unfolding as a result of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming since 1900.

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,“ the document reports. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.“

The report’s release underscores the extent to which the machinery of the federal scientific establishment, operating in multiple agencies across the government, continues to grind on even as top administration officials have minimized or disparaged its findings. Federal scientists have continued to author papers and issue reports on climate change, for example, even as political appointees have altered the wording of news releases or blocked civil servants from speaking about their conclusions in public forums. The climate assessment process is dictated by a 1990 law that Democratic and Republican administrations have followed.

The White House on Friday sought to downplay the significance of the study and its findings.

“The climate has changed and is always changing. As the Climate Science Special Report states, the magnitude of future climate change depends significantly on ‘remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to [greenhouse gas] emissions,‘“ White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement. “In the United States, energy related carbon dioxide emissions have been declining, are expected to remain flat through 2040, and will also continue to decline as a share of world emissions.“

Shah added that the Trump administration “supports rigorous scientific analysis and debate.“ He said it will continue to “promote access to the affordable and reliable energy needed to grow economically” and to back advancements that improve infrastructure and ultimately reduce emissions.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Donald Trump have all questioned the extent of humans’ contribution to climate change. One of the EPA’s web pages posted scientific conclusions similar to those in the new report until earlier this year, when Pruitt’s deputies ordered it removed.

The report comes as Trump and members of his Cabinet are working to promote U.S. fossil-fuel production and repeal several federal rules aimed at curbing the nation’s carbon output, including ones limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, oil and gas operations on federal land and carbon emissions from cars and trucks. Trump has also announced he will exit the Paris climate agreement, under which the United States has pledged to cut its overall greenhouse-gas emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025.

The report could have considerable legal and policy significance, providing new and stronger support for the EPA’s greenhouse-gas “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act, which lays the foundation for regulations on emissions.

“This is a federal government report whose contents completely undercut their policies, completely undercut the statements made by senior members of the administration,“ said Phil Duffy, director of the Woods Hole Research Center.

The government is required to produce the national assessment every four years. This time, the report is split into two documents, one that lays out the fundamental science of climate change and the other that shows how the United States is being affected on a regional basis. Combined, the two documents total more than 2,000 pages.

The first document, called the Climate Science Special Report, is now a finalized report, having been peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences and vetted by experts across government agencies. It was formally unveiled Friday.

“I think this report is basically the most comprehensive climate science report in the world right now,“ said Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers who is an expert on sea-level rise and served as one of the report’s lead authors.

It affirms that the United States is already experiencing more extreme heat and rainfall events and more large wildfires in the West, that more than 25 coastal U.S. cities are already experiencing more flooding, and that seas could rise by between 1 and 4 feet by the year 2100, and perhaps even more than that if Antarctica proves to be unstable, as is feared. The report says that a rise of over eight feet is “physically possible” with high levels of greenhouse-gas emissions but that there’s no way right now to predict how likely it is to happen.

When it comes to rapidly escalating levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the report states, “there is no climate analog for this century at any time in at least the last 50 million years.“

Most striking, perhaps, the report warns of the unpredictable - changes that scientists cannot foresee that could involve tipping points or fast changes in the climate system. These could switch the climate into “new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past.“

Some members of the scientific community had speculated that the administration might refuse to publish the report or might alter its conclusions. During the George W. Bush administration, a senior official at the White House Council on Environmental Quality edited aspects of some government science reports.

Yet multiple experts, as well as some administration officials and federal scientists, said that Trump political appointees did not change the special report’s scientific conclusions. While some edits have been made to its final version - for instance, omitting or softening some references to the Paris climate agreement - those were focused on policy.

“I’m quite confident to say there has been no political interference in the scientific messages from this report,“ David Fahey, an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a lead author of the study, told reporters on Friday. “Whatever fears we had weren’t realized. . . . This report says what the scientists want it to say.“

A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity because the process is still underway, said in an interview that top Trump officials decided to put out the assessment without changing the findings of its contributors even if some appointees may have different views.

Glynis Lough, who is deputy director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and had served as chief of staff for the National Climate Assessment at the U.S. Global Change Research Program until mid-2016, said in an interview that the changes made by government officials to the latest report “are consistent with the types of changes that were made in the previous administration for the 2014 National Climate Assessment, to avoid policy prescriptiveness.“

Perhaps no agency under Trump has tried to downplay and undermine climate science more than the EPA. Most recently, political appointees at the EPA instructed two agency scientists and one contractor not to speak as planned at a scientific conference in Rhode Island. The conference marked the culmination of a three-year report on the status of Narragansett Bay, New England’s largest estuary, in which climate change featured prominently.

The EPA also has altered parts of its website containing detailed climate data and scientific information. As part of that overhaul, in April the agency took down pages that had existed for years and contained a wealth of information on the scientific causes of global warming, its consequences and ways for communities to mitigate or adapt. The agency said that it was simply making changes to better reflect the new administration’s priorities and that any pages taken down would be archived.

Pruitt has repeatedly advocated for the creation of a government-wide “red team/blue team” exercise, in which a group of outside critics would challenge the validity of mainstream scientific conclusions around climate change.

Other departments have also removed climate-change documents online: The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, for example, no longer provides access to documents assessing the danger that future warming poses to deserts in the Southwest.

And when U.S. Geological Survey scientists working with international researchers published an article in the journal Nature evaluating how climate change and human population growth would affect where rain-fed agriculture could thrive, the USGS published a news release that omitted the words “climate change” altogether.

The Agriculture Department’s climate hubs, however, remain freely available online. And researchers at the U.S. Forest Service have continued to publish papers this year on how climate change is affecting wildfires, wetlands and aquatic habitat across the country.

The new climate science report is already coming under fire from some of the administration’s allies.

The day before it was published, Steven Koonin, a New York University physicist who has met with Pruitt and advocated for the “red team/blue team” exercise, preemptively criticized the document in the Wall Street Journal, calling it “deceptive.“

Koonin argued that the report “ominously notes that while global sea level rose an average 0.05 inch a year during most of the 20th century, it has risen at about twice that rate since 1993. But it fails to mention that the rate fluctuated by comparable amounts several times during the 20th century.“

But one of the report’s authors suggested Koonin is creating a straw man. “The report does not state that the rate since 1993 is the fastest than during any comparable period since 1900 (though in my informal assessment it likely is), which is the non-statement Steve seems to be objecting to,“ Kopp countered by email.

Still, the line of criticism could be amplified by conservatives in the coming days.

The administration also released, in draft form, Volume 2 of the National Climate Assessment, which looks at regional impacts across the United States. This document is now available for public comment and will begin a peer review process, with final publication expected in late 2018.

Already, however, it is possible to discern some of what it will conclude. For instance, a peer-reviewed EPA technical document released to inform the assessment finds that the monetary costs of climate change in the United States could be dramatic.

That document, dubbed the Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis, finds that high temperatures could lead to the loss per year of “almost 1.9 billion labor hours across the national workforce” by 2090. That would mean $160 billion annually in lost income to workers.

With high levels of warming, coastal property damage in 2090 could total $120 billion annually, and deaths from temperature extremes could reach 9,300 per year, or in monetized terms, $140 billion annually in damage. Additional tens of billions annually could occur in the form of damage to roads, rail lines and electrical infrastructure, the report finds.

This could all be lessened considerably, the report notes, if warming is held to lower levels.


►  Climate change: 5 things to know about Bonn climate summit

Climate change is back on the agenda with a global climate conference kicking off Monday in the German city of Bonn.

Who’s coming, what are the key debates about and how green will this meeting be? Five things to know about the U.N. conference known as COP23, which runs from November 6-17.

____

WHO IS COMING TO BONN?

Up to 25,000 people are expected to attend the talks, which will be presided over by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji — the first time that a small island nation will be at the helm of a major international climate conference. Participants will include diplomats from 195 nations, as well as scientists, lobbyists and environmentalists.

The United States, which has announced its intention to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord, will be represented by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon.

Key countries to watch during the talks are the emerging economic powers China and India. Other nations — Estonia, Peru, Ecuador, Iran, Mali, Ethiopia and the Maldives — will also be in the spotlight for leading major international groupings.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders are expected to fly to Bonn toward the end of the summit to give the talks a final push and signal their commitment to fighting climate change.

___

WHAT ARE THE BIG CLIMATE CHANGE TOPICS NOW?

The 2015 Paris accord set a target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — or 2 degrees at the most — by the end of the century.

But diplomats didn’t agree on the details of how their nations will reach that ambitious goal. The Bonn talks will flesh out the rule book that countries have to abide by.

This includes coming up with international standards for how to measure carbon emissions, to make sure that one nation’s efforts can be compare to another’s. A second debate centers around how countries take stock of what’s been achieved and set new, more ambitious goals for curbing carbon emissions after 2020.

The third big issue concerns money. Experts agree that shifting economies away from fossil fuels and preparing countries for some of the inevitable consequences of climate change will require vast financial resources — including some from the U.S. administration of Donald Trump, which is doubtful about man-made climate change.

___

WHY BONN?

Organizing a massive global conference in Fiji would have strained the Pacific nation’s resources and posed a travel nightmare for thousands of delegates. Germany offered to host the talks in Bonn, the country’s former capital, because it has ample conference space and is already home to the U.N. climate change agency.

Still, they are going to miss the sunshine of Fiji. The weather in Bonn is generally dreary at best in November.

___

HOW GREEN WILL THE CONFERENCE BE?

Germany says the two-week talks will as environmentally friendly as possible. The country is setting aside part of the 117 million euro ($136.3 million) budget for a fleet of bicycles and electric buses to ferry people between venues.

Each participant will receive a bottle to fill with tap water — a move organizers say will save half a million plastic cups.

Germany’s environment ministry is also investing in renewable energy projects to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by people from all over the world flying into Bonn for the talks.

___

AND WHAT ABOUT GERMANY’S COAL USAGE?

Germany likes to portray itself as a leader in the fight against global warming and Merkel’s reputation as the “climate chancellor” is partly built on the pivotal role she played during past negotiations.

But environmentalists note that Germany still gets about 40 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants — one of the most carbon intensive sources of energy. And German highways are also virtually unique in having no general speed limit, despite the fact that auto emissions rise dramatically at higher speeds.

If prosperous Germany fails to meet its own emissions targets, as current predictions suggest, critics say that would send a bad signal to the rest of the world.


►  An 82-year-old man celebrates after hiking the entire Appalachian Trail

There was a moment back in August when Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders considered giving up.

In the middle of the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine, far from help, he was bleeding internally and having heart palpitations – not surprising considering that he was 50 or 60 years older than most of the people he had met on the Appalachian Trail.

Sanders called his wife in Bartlett, Tennessee, and she urged him to keep going. With a go-ahead from his doctors, he did, and on October 26, Sanders, 82, officially became the oldest person to hike the entire 2,190-mile trail in a year.

He walked much of it alone, but for the last mile, ending at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Sanders was joined by friends, family and hikers – including a pair of dogs – he had met along the trail.

At the end of it, he danced a jig.

“I feel euphoric!“ he said. “I keep thinking, is someone going to come out of the woodwork and say, ‘Uh-uh, I hiked it last year . . . and I was 83’ – but no one has stepped up and said that.“

“Someone said to me, ‘You can’t do it, the only way an old person’s going to be able to hike the Appalachian Trail is if they’ve hiked it before.‘ That challenged me.“

Sanders had completed other impressive feats. A couple of years ago, he paddled the length of the Mississippi River. He broke the record for underwater breath-holding in 1959 and was IUSA spearfishing athlete of the year in 1965. But he had never done a hike lasting more than two weeks. For this one, which he started in Georgia in January, he was on the trail for a total of seven months.

He is, incidentally, two years older than the Appalachian Trail, which was officially “connected” in 1937, meaning people could hike it in its entirety from Georgia to Maine. Sanders hiked it in a “flip-flop” sequence, meaning he did a Georgia-to-Harpers Ferry leg, followed by a Maine-to-Harpers Ferry leg.

A naturally gregarious person, Sanders had periods of depression while alone on the trail. He was helped by what he calls “trail angels,“ people who recognized him from seeing him on the Internet, who called out his trail name – “Grey Beard” – and hiked alongside him for a stretch. (Sanders’ long beard is white, but he named himself after a Cherokee Indian chief he admires.)

“The best comment from one of them was, ‘I want to be like you when I’m your age,‘ “ he said. “That kept me going.“

The majority of his fellow hikers were in their 20s. They didn’t have to keep track of blood pressure medication or the two different kinds of eye drops that Sanders needs for glaucoma.

“As older people, we have a great deal more challenges,“ he said. Injuries take longer to heal, including the hip he injured in a fall on Kinsman Mountain in New Hampshire that took two months to stop hurting.

During the hike, he wore a tracker so people at home could locate his position. He fell “about 100 times” along the rocky, mountainous trail, but only the Kinsman Mountain fall was serious.

“A few times I played the age card, I admit, and it worked every time. I didn’t hitchhike, I flagged cars down, and I told them my story and they said, ‘Get in.‘ “

Sanders’ personal story includes a 50-year career as a Parks and Recreation program administrator. He spent his boyhood on a Kentucky tobacco farm, worked as a lifeguard and was a circus acrobat and cotton-candy seller.

“He always did acrobatics,“ said his sister, Elaine Bush of Nashville, one of several family members celebrating with him in Harpers Ferry; his wife, a daughter and son-in-law, and two grandchildren also came. “He was always in the limelight, because he was unusual and he did unusual things.“

Sanders takes 30-inch steps, so he figures he took 4,625,256 steps for the hike. Along the way, he passed tens of thousands of white blazes that mark the trail. When he passed the last one on Thursday, he stopped, took off his cap, and kissed it.

A few yards later, at the conservancy headquarters, he hugged his wife and accepted a glass of sparkling cider. And with all the honesty that 82 years affords a man, he announced his next move.

“I’m done, and I’m tired,“ he said. “And I can go home.“

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