ERCOT faces class-action lawsuit, resignations in wake of Texas power outages

first_imgpeterschreiber.media/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News(HOUSTON) — Texas’ embattled power grid operator is facing lawsuits and resignations after more than 4 million customers lost electricity last week during a deadly winter storm.Morgan & Morgan, a Florida-based national law firm with over 700 attorneys, filed a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), alleging that the nonprofit corporation “utterly failed” to plan for the cold weather despite multiple warnings, leading to the collapse of its electrical network and resulting in widespread blackouts.“Despite receiving multiple unambiguous warnings, ERCOT’s alleged failure to ensure reliable generating capacity during anticipated conditions forced many of its customers to endure dangerous freezing temperatures for long periods of time,” attorneys Mike Morgan and Rene Rocha said in a statement Tuesday. “This was not the first time ERCOT has failed to plan and prepare for cold weather. But instead of learning the lessons of its past failures, ERCOT yet again disregarded its duties to its customers. Over 70 people have died and millions of others have suffered emotional and physical trauma due to ERCOT’s alleged gross negligence.”ABC News has reached out to ERCOT for comment.The lawsuit was filed in a district court of Texas’ Harris County on behalf of a putative class that includes all current retail customers of ERCOT — millions of Texans — “who lost electric services or potable water services during the week of February 14, 2021 as a result of ERCOT’s failure to ensure adequate generating capacity,” according to the complaint.ERCOT, which manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million customers in Texas, representing 90% of the state’s electric load, allegedly received warning as early as Feb. 9 that an impending winter storm may jeopardize the integrity of its electrical network if reasonable measures were not taken, according to the complaint. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, who has been critical of ERCOT in the storm’s aftermath, issued a disaster declaration in all 254 counties on Feb. 12 ahead of the severe weather, which the lawsuit argued “should have further emphasized the need for ERCOT to take appropriate measures to ensure system performance under the anticipated conditions.”The storm moved into Texas on Feb. 14, blanketing the Lone Star State in snow and ice. During a press briefing last Thursday, ERCOT president and CEO Bill Magness admitted that the Texas power grid had been just “seconds or minutes” away from a complete and catastrophic failure, as power demand increased and generators fell offline on the night the storm hit. By the morning of Feb. 14, more than 4.4 million customers were without power in Texas, according to data collected by PowerOutage.US.The extended power outages combined with record-low temperatures caused freezing pipes to burst across the state, depleting water reserves. Millions of people were also under a boil-water advisory due to concerns about potential contamination as water treatment plants suffered power outages.Mariaelena Sanchez, the named plaintiff in the lawsuit, was among those who lost electrical services and potable water for “several days” due to ERCOT’s alleged failures to plan and prepare for the deep freeze, according to the complaint. Sanchez was forced to “huddle under blankets in her dark and freezing home and ration scarce supplies of bottled water. During that time, Sanchez had to use snow to preserve “the little food she had that was not spoiled by the outages,” according to the complaint.The lawsuit alleged that the “total state energy demand during the cold weather event peaked at around 69,000 megawatts — significantly less than the total capacity of the ERCOT system or typical peak demands in summer.” ERCOT allegedly failed “to reserve enough capacity to meet such foreseeable demands” as well as “to assess the integrity of its infrastructure, the environmental limitations of its power sources, and how abnormally cold weather may impact the availability of its power sources,” according to the complaint.Although winter storms are not as common in Texas as elsewhere in the United States, the complaint noted that the state has experienced a number of cold weather events over the past few decades. The lawsuit alleged that “ERCOT has repeatedly disregarded its responsibilities” throughout the years to plan and prepare for the effects of cold weather on its electrical grid. The complaint cited winter storms in 1989 and 2011 that caused ERCOT’s systems to fail, resulting in widespread blackouts and human suffering.The lawsuit is demanding a jury trial and is seeking class certification, injunctive relief, damages and litigation costs for the named plaintiff as well as all other class members proposed in the complaint.This is not the only lawsuit to hit ERCOT in the wake of the historic cold snap. The family of an 11-year-old boy who died during last week’s power outages in Conroe, about 40 miles north of Houston, filed a $100 million lawsuit against ERCOT and Entergy Texas, an electric power generation and distribution company.Meanwhile, ERCOT’s top board leaders announced Tuesday that they will step down amid outrage over the corporation’s handling of the storm. Four board directors, including the chairwoman and vice chairman, submitted their resignations, which are effective Wednesday. A candidate for a board director position also said he was withdrawing his name from consideration. All five live outside of Texas, which only intensified scrutiny of ERCOT.In a letter to ERCOT board members on Tuesday, the four departing leaders noted the “recent concerns about out-of-state board leadership.”“We want to acknowledge the pain and suffering of Texans during this past week,” they wrote. “Our hearts go out to all Texans who have had to go without electricity, heat, and water during frigid temperatures and continue to face the tragic consequences of this emergency.”In a separate letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which oversees ERCOT, the board director candidate said he was requesting the withdrawal of his name “to avoid becoming a distraction,” citing “concerns regarding the propriety of out-of-state directors.”Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

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To the power of seven

first_img Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Head of Corporate Training and Development at Pfizer PaulMallinson explains why he introduced the famous ‘habits of effective people’ tothe UK subsidiaryWe have been using FranklinCovey development programmes at Pfizer in the UKfor more than five years and they are still having consistent and beneficialeffects throughout the organisation. However, we stumbled across the solutionsby chance. In the1990s, on the way to the US, l was looking for something to read atthe airport and picked up Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly EffectivePeople. After reading it, I contacted a FranklinCovey facilitator to discussthe possibility of doing some work on culture change at Pfizer. It was important that I fully understood the whole learning process, so tostart with I attended the two workshops, The 7 Habits of Highly EffectivePeople and The Four Roles of Leadership, which enabled me to observe theexperience at first hand. Personal development The strength of the programme is that it goes deep into personal motivationand effectiveness, facilitating organisational change by starting at a personallevel. The philosophy of the course is to teach people to change from theinside, within a framework of universal, timeless principles. The material focuses on a work/life balance and aims to improve both theprofessional and personal sides of the attendees’ lives. Thus, part of the 7Habits course is to develop a personal mission statement, which encouragesindividuals to think about ‘who they are and where they are going’ in life, andto look at both short-term and long-term goals. The course teaches a‘whole-person’ approach where personal and professional goals and events arenot mutually exclusive and making improvements in one area will have positiveeffects in the other. Another key message of this course is the paradigm shift – encouragingpeople to see what can be done rather than focusing on restrictions. A powerfulway of illustrating this was to learn to juggle three balls. At first, many participants might not see the point in this, or mayimmediately feel they are not capable of doing it. But it taught us a simplebut important lesson. We were taken though the practical skills and steps neededto learn to keep three balls in the air, and by focusing on the goal and byadhering to these steps, we were soon able to keep three balls in the air atthe same time. The lesson was that if you allow yourself to see thingsdifferently and are proactive and prepared to apply yourself to a task, withwork and perseverance and by focusing on the objective, the task is achievable.Time of change One of the key benefits of the FranklinCovey solutions is that they can beadapted to suit different needs and requirements, because they are based oncore human principles. We recognised the potential of the material in keybusiness areas such as corporate culture and leadership. When I introduced thepersonal development philosophy at Pfizer, the company was re-evaluating itsculture and in the process of developing its own values. Many of these valueswere echoed by what we found in the Covey systems. Perhaps the most importantthing is that the 7 Habits is not just a theory – it is a pragmatic way ofmaking principles and values live and of sustaining long-term behaviouralchange. Once we had experienced the programme, I worked on adapting the coursematerial to suit Pfizer’s structure and specific requirements. To begin with,the courses were offered at management level, with the aim of exposing thebusiness’s top teams to these new methods and models. Often in large companies,change is not normally an easy thing to implement ,but the simplicity andapplicability of the FranklinCovey material meant that managers were soonsinging the praises of the solutions and senior management bought into theprogramme from the outset. Realising the potential of the material to improveproductivity, the senior sales management team cascaded it down to every levelin the sales force and as a result, most Pfizer sales teams are now living theprinciples of the 7 Habits. We also used the 7 Habits course for team development. With guidance fromFranklinCovey, we set up courses to provide ‘experience learning’, withdelegates including their own material and models. I’m please with the way weput our programme across – it is very challenging and this personalisationgives the sessions added power and relevance. More than 500 people have now attended Pfizer’s internal 7 Habits programmeswhich, as a licensed and trained facilitator, I now run. People in any part ofthe business can nominate themselves onto the programme as part of their ownpersonal development plan; line managers have access to a full catalogue oftraining courses, to build skills, knowledge and abilities and to improvebehaviour; and of all our learning solutions the 7 Habits is by far the mostpopular. This is largely due to word of mouth recommendation as those who go onthe course find it not only enjoyable but also invaluable to their improvedwork performance. Positive change The underlying principles behind the programme focus on the inner desire ofindividuals themselves to become more effective. In addition to imparting theknowledge, FranklinCovey provides the tools for building effective leadership,empowerment, planning and communication. Although these sound like businessbuzz-words, the course provides a simple yet powerful framework which can bringlasting personal and professional benefits. The atmosphere on the courses is normally excellent, with people sharingideas and experiences. A general desire for self-improvement and to help fellowgroup members to do the same is demonstrated. While our courses provide theknowledge and the tools, they also encourage each individual to use and managethese solutions to the best of their capability. Responsibility is in one’s ownhands but the 7 Habits steer individuals in the right direction. Paul Mallinson is Head of Corporate Training and Management Developmentat Pfizer Limited. VerdictBecause Pfizer operates in a fast-moving and ever-changing industry, returnon investment in such training can be hard to calculate precisely. However, itis obvious to me and senior management that the impact the principle-centred,behavioural training solutions have had can be judged by the effects on keycompetencies. For example, the sales teams that have been through the 7 Habitsprogramme are among the best performers in the business. The popularity of the workshops is another qualitative measure of thebenefit of the programme. The majority of colleagues who have attended thecourse and put the 7 Habits into practice at work and at home, say they haveseen definite improvements in their personal and professional life.As a large and complex business, one of the cultural difficulties at Pfizeris how to develop sustainability of ideas, when people and structures areconstantly changing. For this reason, the 7 Habits training is a never-endingprocess. Several people have gone on the course more than once and benefitedmore the second time. The continued use of the principle-centred learning anddevelopment system contributed to our top ranking in the Sunday Times survey.The task now is to maintain awareness of the 7 Habits course and its principlesin the face of continual change, and to add a new level of personal developmentby increasing uptake of the Four Roles of Leadership course. This applies notjust to those in senior positions, but all who need to have leadership.Like many organisations, we are finding that employees must have the abilityto be self-directed and self-led. Because in today’s world, command and controlhierarchical systems are increasingly irrelevant. This is ultimately what the 7Habits are about – teaching people to be proactive, to lead themselves, to behighly productive and effective, and to positively influence others. To the power of sevenOn 1 Mar 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

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Snow Women’s Basketball Prevails At Fleck Classic

first_imgDecember 31, 2019 /Sports News – Local Snow Women’s Basketball Prevails At Fleck Classic FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailTUCSON, Ariz.- The Snow College women’s basketball team took a 21-point lead with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter and cruised to a 53-41 victory over Chandler-Gilbert on Monday at the Bruce Fleck Classic in Tucson, Ariz.After trailing by four points late in the first quarter, the Lady Badgers came back to take the lead 13-12 at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.Sophomore guard Lexi Peterson led the Lady Badgers with 13 points on five-of-nine shooting from the field.Sophomore forward Rachel Roberts added 12 points on five-of-13 shots from the field. Roberts led the team with seven rebounds, while Peterson was credited with six boards.With the win Snow College improved to 9-7 on the season and will next take on Pima Community College on New Year’s Eve. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. Written by Tags: Bruce Fleck Classic/Lexi Peterson/Rachel Roberts/Snow Women’s Basketball Brad Jameslast_img read more

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2nd extension of long stop date underfarm-out agreement for Vietnam Block 115/09

first_img KrisEnergy to transfer entire interest in the Block 115/09 production sharing contract. (Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay) KrisEnergy, and together with its subsidiaries, the “Group”), an upstream oil and gas company, refers to its announcements dated 14 February 2020 and 19 June 2020 in relation to the entry by its wholly-owned subsidiary, KrisEnergy (Vietnam 115) Ltd. (“Transferor”), into a farm-out agreement with a major international oil and gas company (“Transferee”) for the transfer of its entire 100% working interest in the Block 115/09 production sharing contract, offshore Vietnam for a nominal cash consideration (“Announcements”).Further to the Announcements, the Company wishes to announce that while parties are actively working towards the fulfilment of conditions precedents under the farm-out agreement, the Transferor and the Transferee have mutually agreed in writing to extend the long stop date to 31 December 2020, or such later date as may be agreed in writing between parties.Shareholders, noteholders and potential investors of the Company should exercise caution when dealing in the Company’s securities. Stakeholders and potential investors who are in doubt as to the action they should take should consult their stockbrokers, bank managers, solicitors, accountants or other professional advisors. Source: Company Press Release The company announces that while parties are actively working towards the fulfilment of conditions precedents under the farm-out agreement, the Transferor and the Transferee have mutually agreed in writing to extend the long stop date to 31 December 2020last_img read more

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US fossil fuel industry received billions in pandemic bailouts, claims report

first_img26,000 US fossil fuel companies received government stimulus effortsThe report notes that more than 26,000 coal, oil, and gas companies benefited directly from government stimulus efforts, of which the majority received “forgivable loans” from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which dispersed up to $669bn to all types of companies in the hope that they would “keep workers on payroll”.It added: “During a year of massive economic losses caused by climate change-driven wildfires and hurricanes, the US government has sent billions in pandemic-related economic aid to the fossil fuel companies most responsible for catastrophic climate damage.“These direct benefits were magnified by indirect lifelines, most notably the implied seal of approval conferred on some companies’ debt when the Federal Reserve bought $432m in oil and gas bonds from private investors on the secondary market.“By demonstrating its willingness to take on fossil fuel debt as well as junk-rated bonds from other sectors, the Fed drew private investors back into a shaky market.“This fuelled a lending boom of more than $93bn in new bond issuances by oil and gas companies since the Fed intervened in March – the fastest rate of energy bond issuance since at least 2010.” Pandemic bailouts for US fossil fuel companies came “numerous government entities”The report highlights that pandemic-related assistance for the fossil fuel industry has come from “numerous government entities”, including the Fed, Treasury Department, Interior Department and Congress.It added that oil and gas companies have benefited from diverse means of support, including direct loans, tax cuts, and waived fees for drilling on public property, while these companies “benefited disproportionately” from tax refunds and forgivable loans, despite, or even because of their “weak financial footing going into the pandemic”.Five major fossil fuel companies enjoyed the biggest cumulative government benefits, banking more than 10% of the $110bn in direct benefits like tax refunds and indirect support in the form of bond issuances, even as their “finances continued a years-long decline”, according to the report.It added that more than 60 others double or triple-dipped into government programmes, collecting tax refunds and subsidised or forgivable loans while paying less money to drill on public lands due to pandemic-related giveaways.“Viewed together, these benefits amount to a multi-pronged government bailout for the fossil fuel industry,” the report noted.“By directing aid to companies whose problems long predated the pandemic, the government has artificially prolonged the industry’s decline and postponed the coming transition to clean energy sources.” The analysis claims that President Donald Trump’s administration has backed the nation’s fossil fuel industry with between $10.4bn and $15.2bn in direct economic reliefcenter_img Last year proved to be a struggle for a number of oil and gas producers, who have been significantly challenged by the low oil prices (Credit: Flickr/Greg Goebel) The US fossil fuel industry received billions in government bailouts to support companies during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.The analysis by BailoutWatch, Public Citizen, and Friends of the Earth, titled Bailed Out & Propped Up, claims that President Donald Trump’s administration has backed the nation’s fossil fuel industry with between $10.4bn and $15.2bn in direct economic relief.This comes as companies have been significantly challenged by the low oil prices, as the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) fell into negative price territory for the first time ever earlier this year, combined with a drastic drop in energy demand due to the pandemic.last_img read more

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Press release: Man found with Class A drugs in ear has sentence increased

first_imgA man found by police to be in possession of cocaine – including some within his ear – has had his sentence increased after intervention by the Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC MP.Klevis Drazhi, 20, was pulled over by police on Saturday 19th January after encroaching into a cycle lane. When officers asked for his driving licence and insurance, Drazhi handed over a false Albanian licence and a mobile phone, displaying a text message about a post code.Officers noticed a small, white parcel concealed within the offender’s ear. After a search of the car, officers uncovered 11 wraps of white powder later confirmed to have a presence of cocaine – and £1305 cash.In interview, Drazhi claimed he was coerced into supplying drugs by a member of the Albanian mafia. He also admitted to illegally entering the UK on the back of a lorry.Drazhi was originally sentenced to 11 months imprisonment at Inner London Crown Court. The Court of Appeal today raised that to 30 months.Speaking after the hearing, the Solicitor General said:“Clearly, the original sentence should have been within a higher band. I am pleased the Court of Appeal has decided to increase the offender’s sentence, which reflects the severity of his crime.”last_img read more

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Pork pie sales grow as survey reveals how Brits eat theirs

first_imgBranston pickle, mustard, brown sauce and, er, baked beans are among Brits’ favourite accompaniments to pork pies, according to a recent survey by Pork Farms.The survey saw 2,082 adults questioned about their pork pie consumption habits, specifically what they eat them with.It found that 60% of pork pie consumers enjoyed theirs with at least one side. Branston pickle topped the poll with 21% of the vote, followed by mustard at 18%, salad at 10% and brown sauce with 7%. Enjoying pork pies as part of a ploughman’s lunch also secured 7% of the vote.A further 10% said they enjoyed their pork pies with hot sides, such as chips, gravy and baked beans. This serving was favoured among younger generations with nearly a third (31%) of 18- to 24-year-olds enjoying pork pies with a hot side, compared to 5% of those aged 55 and over. Meanwhile, older consumers were more likely to serve with pickles. Nearly 40% of those aged 45-54 who ate pork pies with sides preferred pickles compared to just 13% of 18- to 24-year-olds.“There’s no doubt that pork pies are classic British fridge-staples, with over half of UK shoppers having purchased at least one of the lunchbox, picnic and buffet staples within the last year. We’ve also seen these figures grow by an additional 6% within the last 12 weeks, so it is really interesting to see the vast differences in people’s preferences dependent on their age, demographic and location,” said Mike Holton, brand manager at Pork Farms.The brand, which is owned by Addo Food Group, has recently undergone a refresh to focus on the company’s heritage and use of 100% British pork. The new design has been rolled out across its social media, website and marketing, as well as new packaging which can be seen on shelves now.last_img read more

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Free form-filing help

first_imgFeb. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m.Rupured and UGA Extension county agents will be among the volunteers working the program Feb. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. It will be offered at the same time in at 12 places statewide from Dalton to Waycross. A list of sites is at www.collegegoalsundayga.com.This is the first year Georgia has taken part in the national program.Volunteers will help families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA form is required for any student seeking federal and state financial aid, including grants and loans at all U.S. colleges. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaApplying for financial aid for college can be confusing, especially with the paperwork that’s required. Georgia parents and students can get free help with this task through the College Goal Sunday program.College Goal Sunday is a statewide volunteer program, said Michael Rupured, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension financial expert. It provides free information and help to students and families applying for financial aid for higher education. Focus on minority, low-income students”The purpose of College Goal Sunday is to help minority, low-income and first-generation students get into college,” Rupured said. “Through a grant process funded by Lumina Foundation for Education, College Goal Sunday has assisted thousands of families with access to higher education.”Parents and students should bring their latest tax information or their last paycheck stub from 2006. Students under 24 should also bring a parent or guardian.To learn more about College Goal Sunday, see the program’s Web site at www.collegegoalsundayga.com.The College Goal Sunday program was created by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association with funding from Lilly Endowment, Inc., and with supplemental support from Lumina Foundation for Education.last_img read more

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Mountains to Sea Trail Guide

first_img Mountains To Sea Trail Highlights Spanning 962 miles across North Carolina, the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) includes the highest mountains east of the Rockies down to the lowest points along the Outer Banks. It traverses three national parks, three national forests, two wilderness areas, and the highest sand dune on the East Coast. And unlike other long-distance treks, biking, beach-combing, and ferry-hopping between islands are part of the trail experience.Conceived in the late 1970s, the trail has taken shape over the last few decades to include a surprising mix of remote footpaths, suburban greenways, and back-road bicycle routes. Eventually, the MST will evolve into a footpath-only model, like most other long trails.“Right now, there are 515 miles on the ground,” says Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail executive director Kate Dixon. “There’s trail-building progress all over the state. And like the Appalachian Trail, it will never be finished. We’ll always be changing it.”What will not change is the more accessible nature of the MST. More than 40 percent of North Carolinians live in counties through which the MST passes. Hikers spend almost as much time walking through and around towns as they do walking solo through the woods. And that’s the way trail planners want it.“Even when the trail is complete, once you’re out of the mountains, the route will still take you through towns,” Dixon says. “That’s always been the plan.”Of the handful of people to “thru-hike” the MST, some have taken a purist hiking approach, walking every step from Clingmans Dome in the Smokies to Jockey’s Ridge State Park along the coast. Others have chosen to tackle the trail with a mix of hiking, biking, and even hitchhiking. Where else in the country can you hike a nearly 1,000-mile trail that allows you to scale 6,000-foot peaks on foot, swim in the ocean, and pedal your bike across lonely back roads?There and Back AgainOnly 18 MST thru-hikes have been completed. Three of those belong to the same man: Scott “Taba” Ward, a 36-year old career hiker, who has also completed the only yo-yo hike, an out-and-back journey in 2009. Ward, who lives in a pickup truck he’s converted into a mobile apartment, has hiked a number of long trails—the A.T., Colorado Trail, and Vermont’s Long Trail—but the MST is closest to his heart. He recently published a detailed guide to thru-hiking the trail, The Thru-Hiker’s Manual for the Mountains to Sea Trail of North Carolina.You live in a truck?I have a mobile apartment in the back of a box truck. Two leather couches, carpet from the Embassy Suites, a hammock, a disco ball, six skate boards, two bikes, bike tools, backpacks.What does your family think about your mobile life style?Early on, they had some concerns, but now they see why I do it. I come from a circus family, the Flying Wards. They’re the trapeze artists with the Ringling Brothers. They’re known as the greatest aerialists of all time. I never learned trapeze, so I started jumping out of planes so I could officially be a Flying Ward. There are four things I never let keep me from traveling: Fear, because I don’t have any; money, because I don’t have any; a job; and a girlfriend. I can’t let somebody else tell me what to do with my life.You don’t let money keep you from thru-hiking, but some people will spend thousands while tackling a long trail. How do you do it without cash?I usually work my way through the trail. On the Colorado Trail, I only had $1 in my pocket when I started. Each time we’d come to a town, I’d get a day-job washing dishes. At the end of the day, they would give me $50, and I’d spend it all at the grocery store and head back on the trail with that same $1. Then I’d walk to the next town and do it again. You get to hang out with locals, drink mojitos at the bar. You’re a local for a night. I did this to some extent on the MST too.You could have hiked any trail you wanted. What made you decide to hike the Mountains to Sea Trail?I’d heard about the MST while living in Hawaii. I realized it wasn’t doable with the existing books because they didn’t list the water sources or legal camping options. My goal was to fix that. Thru-hikers need resources listed. I almost died five times on my first hike from dehydration and heat exhaustion. I even developed a kidney stone and had to leave the trail for a month. I walked around to all the churches along the trail finding water spigots, which I list in the guidebook. Then I asked if thru-hikers could camp on the church properties. Twenty churches said yes, and eight private residences said yes. All of those resources are now listed in the book.The MST is still a work in progress and going through some growing pains with the camping issue. Are there any particular sections where the lack of legal camping is a real concern?The Falls Lake Area [near Durham] is a real problem. There’s 22 miles of trail, and no legal camping. You can’t ask a thru-hiker to tackle 22 miles in a day in the middle of their thru-hike. I’m advocating for a thru-hiker’s permit to use pre-existing campsites. They’re already there; they’ve just been decommissioned. Why not let the handful of people who are walking across the state use them?I understand you had a run-in with the law for trying to camp along the Parkway?I wasn’t arrested or anything, I was just questioned. I was actually stopped 15 times by cops on my hike for standard I.D. checks—mostly in small towns where the residents didn’t even know the trail travels through their town. It got to the point where I’d just keep my head down and hope I didn’t get bothered by a cop. I don’t shave from the beginning to the end of the hike. It’s a tradition. So I have to fight the stereotype of vagrancy all the time.Trouble with cops and a lack of camping, and yet you still love this trail?Absolutely. It’s a phenomenal walk. You can have a blast. You see everything North Carolina has to offer—not just the woods like on the A.T. And the towns were amazing. 98 percent of the people I met were cool.Which direction would you suggest that hikers travel the trail?Walking from the beach to mountains is tough. Going from the mountains to the sea gives you a great finale. At the beach, you summit Jockey’s Ridge, then cross the street and jump in the ocean. It’s more rewarding.What’s next for you?I’m hoping to do something overseas. I’m bored. I’ve ridden my bike over 40,000 miles, I’ve walked over 6,000 miles. I’m looking for what’s next—maybe in another country. • 1. Clingman’s DomeAt 6,643 feet, it’s the highest mountain in the Great Smokies Mountain National Park, with views stretching for 100 miles on a clear day. “It’s a good feeling when you’re up there,” says Scott Ward.Follow in the Footsteps of the President and First LadyPresident Obama became the first Commander-in-Chief in modern history to go hiking. He and the First Lady vacationed in Asheville in April, and their first stop was the Mountains to Sea Trail. The Obamas hiked between Bull Gap and Craven Gap for about an hour. The 2.3-mile stretch is one of the flattest sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail in Western North Carolina. Park at either the Craven Gap or Ox Creek parking areas (mileposts 377.4 and 375.6 respectively) along the Blue Ridge Parkway to access the presidential stretch of the MST.2. Craggy Gardens and Mount MitchellThis 44-mile stretch from the Folk Art Center outside of Asheville to the north side of Mount Mitchell is one of the most spectacular. Craggy Gardens offers an entire mountaintop of blooming rhododendron in June—and panoramic views year-round. From there, it’s high-elevation ridge-walking to 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell. A short spur trail takes you to the Mitchell summit, the highest point east of the Rockies.3. Linville GorgeThe MST drops down the west side of the gorge, taking hikers on a mandatory 50-yard ford of the Linville River. It then climbs up the eastern rim to Shortoff Mountain, The Chimneys and  Table Rock Mountain for even more 360-degree vistas.4. Beacon Heights The 24-mile section of the MST between NC 181 and Beacon Heights on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the wettest, with 15 creek crossings. Check out Harper Creek Falls and North Harper Creek Falls, the biggest waterfalls along the trail.5. Boone, N.C.This trail town is Scott Ward’s favorite along the MST: “The attitude, the cool people. App State. I get stuck in that town for weeks at a time.”6. Blowing RockTwo trail crews are working on completing a 30-mile section of the MST between Blowing Rock and NC 16 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is the biggest unfinished gap in the mountains, and Friends of the MST expects to have 15 miles completed by October.7. Stone MountainTake the 4.5-mile diversion on the Stone Mountain Loop, which summits the 600-foot granite dome and gives you a chance to play in a 200-foot waterfall.8. Pilot MountainThe MST follows the North Line Trace bike route from Stone Mountain State Park to Pilot Mountain State Park. For 43 miles, you’ll pedal low-traffic country roads, some of which have views of knobby Pilot Mountain in the foreground.9. Hanging RockThis 40-mile stretch rises 1,400 feet from the surrounding piedmont to Hanging Rock State Park, known for its sheer cliffs and massive rocky peaks. Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain are connected via the Sauratown Trail, a 22-mile equestrian trail that cuts through privately owned forest and farmland. There’s no camping on this 22-mile stretch, but the Friends of the NCMST can arrange for a shuttle to campgrounds nearby.10. Watershed LakesThis 21-mile section of the MST connects six different footpaths around three lakes near Greensboro. Lake Higgins, Lake Brandt, and Lake Townsend were built to collect water from a 105-square-mile watershed. The MST hugs the lake district, cruising through a 750-foot-wide wooded buffer. The terrain is flat, the tread is smooth, and frequent road crossings and connector trails allow you to break this section into smaller pieces if you’re not up for the full 21.11. World’s Largest Tea PotThere is some dispute whether it’s a tea pot or a coffee pot. Decide for yourself in Stokesdale, N.C.12. Haw RiverCrews are working on a 70-mile multi-use trail along the Haw River. The Mountains to Sea will share half of that distance. Ten miles of trail are in place.13. Falls Lake State Recreation AreaMore than 50 miles of contiguous trail are now open along the shores of Falls Lake near Wake Forest thanks to the recent efforts of trail builders from the Triangle. The terrain is surprisingly diverse, moving from farmland to a hilly, hardwood forest. There are only two campsites along this stretch. Call the Friends of the Mountains To Sea for shuttle requests or camping options.14. Neuse River GreenwayRaleigh’s mayor has repeatedly pledged to finish the 28-mile Neuse River Greenway, which is part of the MST, by 2012, which would get hikers off of county backroads and onto this paved, multi-use trail.15. Buffalo Creek GreenwayThis newly-minted greenway takes hikers along a three-mile multi-use path bordering the Neuse River and Buffalo Creek in downtown Smithfield.16. EurekaThe 21 miles of the MST from Eureka to La Grange is entirely on back roads through scenic farm country. Bike this portion and knock it out in a fast, flat two hours.17. The Neusiok TrailThe Mountains to Sea follows the Neusiok Trail for 20 miles through the underrated Croatan National Forest, which is a prime example of a coastal floodplain forest. Take a ferry across the Neuse River to kick this section off, then walk on dirt and wooden boardwalk through the swamp and loblolly pine forest.18. Cape Hatteras National Seashore The final stretch of the Mountains to Sea is predominantly a beach walk along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The 113-mile route meanders from one island to the next. There’s some road walking involved, as well as some coastal forest stretches, good camping, friendly towns, surfing, and ferry crossings. Hikers can climb the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse between April and October, tackling 248 stars on an iron, spiral staircase.19. Jockey‘s Ridge State ParkThe eastern terminus of the Mountains to Sea Trail is atop the tallest sand dune in the Eastern United States. After summitting the 140-foot dune, take a plunge in the Atlantic Ocean.last_img read more

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An Appalachian Oasis: The Appy Lodge

first_imgIf you’ve ever been to the Great Smoky Mountains, roamed the surrounding hills of the Blue Ridge or stepped onto the Appalachian Trail then you know firsthand the magic that lies in the hills of the Appalachians. The beauty and magic that can be found along the ridges and peaks and even in the valleys are timeless. For centuries people have come to the mountains from all corners of the earth and from all walks of life and time after time, they have fallen in love with everything from the streams to the views and the million slivers of beauty in between.William Ogle was one of those people that found himself standing in a corner of the Smoky Mountains that we all know now as Gatlinburg, TN. William ventured into the area from South Carolina and, like many of us, knew that the tucked away corner of the Blue Ridge needed to be home. He returned to the Carolinas to tell his wife of his dreams, only to part this earth before he could move his family to Gatlinburg. However, I am certain that as he took his last breath – he knew in his heart that the Smokies were always meant to be his home. His wife, Martha must have known the same as well because after his death – she packed up their seven children and moved to the hills of Tennessee.Today, 200 years later, the Ogle family still lives in the ridges and curves of the Smokies.And, their journey, is just one part of why this story is being told…A Trail Is BornYou see, a man named Benton MacKaye was also a dreamer and a lover of the Appalachians. In 1921, 100 years after William Ogle discovered the magic of the mountains, Benton turned his love of the area into what some would have considered an impossible dream… He dreamed of a trail that would run from Maine to Georgia and that would connect city folk to rural areas and the wilderness. Like Martha, Benton also was moved and motivated by the death of a spouse.Two years after Benton’s wife passed away, the first section of what we now know as The Appalachian Trail was opened in New York. A couple of years later, in 1925, MacKaye also put together a conference for the Appalachian Trail that sparked the beginning of what today is called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). A little over a decade later, in 1937, the Appalachian Trail was completed. Benton MacKaye’s dream came true.An Appalachian OasisFlash forward to today, 2018, and their stories with others have come together in a place. A place built on the memories of the dreamers. A place for dreamers and lovers of the mountains to come together. A place called The Appy. The Appalachian Lodge – a Gatlinburg gem that is filled with passion and history. A place that came to be because of the dream of one of William and Martha’s Ogles descendants. Nestled in the same corner of the mountains that Ogle dreamed of calling home, it is a place that would make MacKaye smile. Yes, it’s a hotel… But more so, it’s a museum and a place that gives honor to so very many that have put their dreams first and spent time on the Appalachian Trail. A place that will only make you love their stories and our mountains even more than you already do.I can only imagine the two men walking together down the hallways of The Appy, both with their wives by their sides. They would certainly stand in awe of all that has happened in the hills that they love and most likely be in disbelief of the number of wanderers that came after them and that will continue for years to come. But, most importantly, they would shake hands with the owner of The Appy, David Ogle, as well as The Appalachian Conservancy and all others that have kept that Appalachian Trail alive and that have worked together to bring the trail and it’s stories to Gatlinburg.Because you see, it’s a place like no other – just like our mountains and just like our beautiful Appalachian Trail. It’s a home, away from home.Bringing The Outdoors InWorking with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, David Ogle and The Appy have pieced together the story of the Appalachian Trail along the hallways and in the rooms of The Appy. The lodge is filled with photographs and facts. The faces of so many that have walked on that trodden path that so any love. The path has brought adventure and evening healing to the lives of many. The work of local artists line the hallways, rooms and even the indoor pool area. Each room of The Appy is named after a shelter or a campsite that you would sleep at along your own journey of the AT. Once you check in, you’ll find out your location, elevation and where you’ll be dreaming of being for the night. There are handmade trail sign replicas around every corner made by Phillip Ouellette, a thru-hiker and owner of @TrailSigns.Outside, you’ll find fire pits to keep you warm as you laugh about the day’s adventure and breakfast ready to refuel you for your hike each morning. In the lobby, grab a book about the AT and take a break by the fireplace. Pick up a few souvenirs, which will only benefit the trail from the proceeds that are passed on the to Appalachian Conservancy, and give you something to dream about at home. Go for a swim or rejuvenate your sore muscles with a soak in the hot tub. With The Appy being only minutes from trailheads with such Smokies destinations as Mount LeConte and Ramsey Cascades as well as only 30 minutes from Newfound Gap and the Appalachian Trail – it’s the perfect spot for hikers wanting to take a break from their tents and shelters, yet still looking to soak up the beauty and history of the trails.Where does The Appy go from here?The Appy will continue adding details of The Appalachian Trail to the hallways, working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to put funds into the AT and will also be working on an addition to the lodge that will support thru-hikers passing through Gatlinburg in search of celebrating the victory of their dreams and goals as well… And, well of course – they’ll be waiting for you to experience their property and the Appalachian Trail firsthand. They’ll have your breakfast ready, your room will cozy, and they’ll do their very best to keep those pesky, but loved, Smoky Mountain black bears away.Kristi Parsons is a woman of the Smokies, lover of the Blue Ridge Mountains, writer, photographer, and seeker of beauty.last_img read more

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