Snowboarding Stefan Virginia homegrown mega jam rockers the Dave Matthews Band rarely tour in the winter, so band bassist Stefan Lessard has plenty of time to play in the snow. But recently the avid snowboarder was able to turn his love of gliding through powder into an appearance in Warren Miller’s ski flick, Children of Winter. In the film Lessard joins a cast that includes Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Moseley and World Cup speedster Daron Rahlves and rides in Okemo, Vermont, with actor Jason Biggs and fellow musicians Eric Fawcett of N.E.R.D, Adam Gardner of Guster, and Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies, before the boys jam in an impromptu classic rock cover band. Frazier’s Cold Mountain The world became familiar with North Carolina’s Cold Mountain in 1997 when Asheville native Charles Frazier wrote a best-selling novel of the same name. Notoriety for the remote peak only became greater when a blockbuster movie adaptation of the book starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law came out in 2005 Though the movie was filmed mostly in Romania, the actual Cold Mountain on which the book and movie are based is located right in your Blue Ridge backyard. Cold Mountain is 40 miles southwest of Asheville in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of Pisgah National Forest. Since Cold Mountain is designated as wilderness, it remains primitive and largely undisturbed, much as it was during the Civil War. Its wilderness status also protects it from hordes of movie-crazed tourists likely to seek out the mountain. To reach the 6,030-foot mountain summit requires a strenuous 20-mile roundtrip hike along overgrown, poorly marked trails. Frazier continues to write about the region. In 2007 he published 13 Moons about the Cherokee Indians of Western North Carolina. An avid mountain biker, he also loves to explore the outdoors of his regional muse. He told a local newspaper that last year he rode over 1,500 miles in the Dupont State Forest and the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. • Run, Andie, Run Veteran actress and Asheville, N.C., resident Andie MacDowell (a.k.a. “Rose Anderson”) ran in the 2006 Shut-In Ridge Trail Run, one of the toughest trail races in the region. The 17.8-mile race climbs 3,000 feet to Mount Pisgah along rocky, technical singletrack. Although MacDowell stopped after 10 miles, she covered some steep terrain and gained the hard-earned respect of the mountain trail running community. The Shut-In Ridge Trail Run is held on the first week of each November along the Mountains to Sea Trail between Asheville and Mount Pisgah, and the capped field of 200 runners usually fills within 24 hours. Woody & Willie Fight MTR Getting the general public to pay attention to mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in Appalachia has been a daunting task for many community groups being marginalized by its devastating effects. In 2006 the nonprofit Appalachian Voices launched ilovemountains.org, a national Internet-based campaign to end mountaintop removal and clearly map out the 470 mountains and hundreds of thousands of acres that have perished for easy access to coal. Fortunately the effort was given a big initial push by two well-known celebrities—actor Woody Harrelson and country music legend Willie Nelson. Mountain Lake Dries Up Mountain Lake—the small idyllic resort camp just outside of Blacksburg, Va.,—will forever be famously known as the film site for Dirty Dancing. Vestron Pictures took over the resort for three weeks in the fall of 1986 and turned Mountain Lake into the fictitious Kellerman’s Resort. Every year tourists still make the pilgrimage to the Southwestern Virginia Mountains to see where Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey showcased their acrobatic dance moves to the sappy sounds of “The Time of My Life.” The resort actually hosts a series of annual Dirty Dancing Weekends, which includes film location tours and lessons in the art of seductive swinging. But this past year visitors were shocked when they found that Mountain Lake’s namesake had actually dried up. One of only two natural lakes in Virginia, Mountain Lake was formed 6,000 years ago out of a semi-permeable subterranean dam that resulted from a natural shift in rock formations. Groundwater from the high mountain basin is constantly flowing in and out of the lake. Due to the ongoing drought, the lake has dried up almost completely, leaving a barren bedrock expanse. Scientists believe Mountain Lake is one of a few in the world that naturally drains and refills. It could be many years before lake levels return to normal. Celebrity Sites and Sightings Across Appalachia Running SparksEven the tough guys well up during The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks’ tear-jerking, best-selling novel that later was adapted into a blockbuster film that grossed more than $115 million worldwide. After The Notebook, Sparks wrote a string of international best-sellers, four of which were turned into films, including last year’s Nights in Rodanthe. But although the acclaimed author has become known to millions as a master of sappy romance, he is actually a pretty tough guy himself. The avid runner and weightlifter holds a track record at the University of Notre Dame, where a running scholarship paid his tuition. Last year he spread his passion for running by dishing out nearly a million dollars to build a track for a high school in his hometown of New Bern, N.C. But Sparks didn’t stop with a typical gesture of celebrity donation. He actually volunteers as a coach at New Bern High and has helped the track program become one of the most competitive in the state. Bristol’s Famous Burger? In downtown Bristol—the small border city that straddles the Virginia-Tennessee line—locals will point you toward the Burger Bar for not only one of the best things on a bun but also for a taste of country music legend. There’s a well-circulated story that late country pioneer Hank Williams had his last meal at the Burger Bar before dying in a car on his way to play a New Year’s Day gig in Canton, Ohio, in 1952. A few years ago, though, a reporter from The Tennessean did some digging and found that the Burger Bar was actually a dry cleaners at the time of Williams’s fateful last road trip. Driver Charles Carr believes he and Williams did stop in Bristol for gas and a bite, but he doesn’t recall the burger joint. After realizing the ill Williams was unresponsive he stopped at a hospital in Oak Hill, West Virginia, where the country icon was pronounced dead. Current owners of the Burger Bar still play on the Williams’s legend with memorabilia of the musician on the walls and themed meat patty concoctions based on his songs. Harrelson became concerned with mountaintop removal after attending the Hartwood Forest Council in Kentucky, where he met with local residents who are having their land, water quality, and health diminished by the improper disposal of coal slurry. “Woody was moved when he heard these stories, so he contacted me to see what he could do to help,” says Mary Anne Hitt, the former Director of Appalachian Voices, who now runs a national coal campaign for the Sierra Club. Harrelson recorded an interview for a short video to launch ilovemountains. His participation helped the movement attract a widespread audience and, to date, over 100,000 people have viewed the video online. To enhance the film, Nelson, another staunch advocate for an end to MTR, recorded an exclusive cover of Bob Dylan’s protest classic “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which played in the background. Cash on the Mountain In the mid 70s Johnny Cash was riding an unprecedented wave of country music super stardom. In June of 1974 his performance at Grandfather Mountain’s Singing on the Mountain drew one of the largest crowds in the annual gospel festival’s history. This picture was taken by Hugh Morton, Grandfather’s longtime owner, who passed away in 2006. Morton was a well-known conservationist and photographer, who published multiple books of photos that highlighted North Carolina’s natural settings and famous faces. Before his death, Morton donated his photo archives to the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives at his alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill. The original copy of the photo, which appears in Morton’s 1998 book Making a Difference in North Carolina, was unearthed last fall from the multiple shoeboxes of pictures the archivists were given to rummage through. More gems like this will continue to surface over the next few years and be posted on the website A View to Hugh: Processing the Hugh Morton Photographs and Films (lib.unc.edu/blogs/morton/). .
Dr. Amanda Maxham researches public policy issues at the Ayn Rand Institute. KEEP WATER IN THE RIVERS Save people and snails Rivers are the lifeblood of our communities, our economies, and the natural areas all around us. It’s been said that if a river is like the body’s circulatory system, water flow is its heartbeat, driving major ecological processes like fish reproduction and migration, and forest health. Healthy flows are critical for a vibrant river and all of the benefits it provides—recreation, biodiversity, productive fisheries, and a clean water supply.Southeastern U.S. rivers and streams are a global hotspot for aquatic biodiversity—they’re home to an incredible array of native fish, mussels, snails, and other wildlife. Many of our rivers have already lost native species, often due to reductions in water flow from dams and other water diversions. When a river or stream swings unnaturally from flood-like conditions to drought-like conditions—or worse, is dried up completely—the consequences are usually dire for endangered species and the ecosystem as a whole.We must do a far better job of protecting and restoring healthy flows, especially as the region grows, but this doesn’t have to happen at the expense of thriving economies. With smart water management policies and practices, we can ensure sustainable water supplies for our communities and for our rivers.Often, natural ecosystems and endangered species function as warning flags for our species. If a river is so strained that it no longer supports native fish, mussels, and other critters, then it’s sending a signal that sooner or later at this rate, it may not be able to support us.The solutions lie in optimizing our existing infrastructure through water efficiency. Raleigh, N.C., is one of many cities that has seen overall water use drop even while its population has grown, meaning that it never needs to carry out its proposal to build a new dam on the Little River. Strategies like this preserve rivers and secure water supplies for communities while saving bundles of money.Asking whether we should tap our rivers for growth or leave the water for nature presents a false choice. If we’re smart about managing water, and efficient in using it, we can do both. In fact, we probably have to.Ben Emanuel is associate director in the Clean Water Supply Program at American Rivers.DRINKING WATERSave People, Not Mollusks!The quickest way to crush a development, water, engineering, or other similar project is to find an endangered species there.It doesn’t matter if you are rebuilding your home after a devastating hurricane, breaking ground for a new hospital, using desert land for outdoor recreation, or diverting river water to help alleviate the effects of a drought. If a sand crab, flower-loving fly, fringe-toed lizard, or sheepnose mussel is found nearby, the “keep out” signs go up and human activity is stopped in its tracks.In Atlanta in 2007, in the midst of a devastating drought, billions of gallons of much needed lake water were deemed off limits. That water was instead sent downstream, for the sake of a particular species of mussel. In another case, concern over the heelsplitter mussel led to a moratorium on river water extraction in Mint Hill, North Carolina, leaving residents without access to clean water for eleven years.These examples aren’t anomalies. They are an expression of the ideas animating the environmentalist movement: That it is wrong for human beings to impact nature, especially if our actions affect endangered species. They consistently prioritize other species above human beings, regardless of what that means for human welfare.The goal is not to protect nature for human enjoyment—it’s to protect nature from human beings. Forget about enjoying canoeing, swimming or contemplating a tranquil creek. Environmentalists regularly use the Endangered Species Act to limit or ban such activities. Nature, on their view, is intrinsically valuable and even in the process of enjoying it, human beings inevitably stamp their “footprint” on it.But limiting human beings’ impact on nature harms human beings. Extracting water, for example, is just one of the many feats of engineering that make our lives happier, longer and better. We no longer have to worry about living near to a supply of freshwater such as a river or a lake, because we have the technology to bring that water to where people need it. But if the environmentalist idea that it is wrong to impact nature had been in vogue a century ago, cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas would have never become anything more than desert outposts.Human life and happiness requires that we use and transform the world around us. Sometimes that means building flood walls, dams, or extracting water for use in urban areas, other times it means maintaining waterways to enjoy the wildlife naturally found there. But it certainly doesn’t mean sacrificing people to mollusks.