Biggest Texas solar facility to be linked with electricity storage unit

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:Most of the renewable energy news we hear coming from Texas is that it has built the nation’s largest fleet of wind power – which is in large part by socializing the cost of power lines to bring that power to the state’s population centers. And as a result of this, the economic viability of the state’s coal fleet is being stressed and shut down. Sometime soon–perhaps in 2018–Texas may see more electricity generated from wind than coal.But that is not all. The state is finally getting some Texas-sized energy storage – and it is being added to Texas’ largest solar power plant. In a PowerPoint delivered by Vista Energy on investor day, they referenced the upcoming energy storage project.The facility will be a 10 MW / 42 MWh lithium ion battery. In its documentation, Vista Energy notes that the solar power plant has a peak output of ‘nearly 200 MW,’ even though its interconnection application is only 180 MW.Thus, the energy storage plant will be used to capture the power that is being clipped. The PowerPoint also states that the batteries can be charged during lower priced periods overnight, and discharged in the morning, to arbitrage the difference in prices.The presentation suggests the energy storage facility will be used to firm up the capacity being delivered by the solar power plant. In the above image, they present a case for ‘wider shoulders’ during peak solar power production, along with more consistent, predictable and slightly extended ramp-up and ramp-down periods.More: Texas to get its largest battery, coupled with its largest solar power plant Biggest Texas solar facility to be linked with electricity storage unitlast_img read more

ReNew Power tops 5GW of operating renewable energy capacity in India

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Clean Technica:ReNew Power Limited recently reported that it achieved 5 gigawatts of operational renewable energy capacity in India. The company has 3.1 gigawatts of wind energy and 1.9 gigawatts of solar power capacity operational across multiple states in the country. According to media reports, only 10 companies globally have been able to achieve this feat so far.The company achieved this milestone when it commissioned a 250-megawatt solar power project in the western state of Rajasthan. The project was secured through a competitive auction at a tariff bid of Rs 2.72/kWh (3.79US¢/kWh). Power generated from the project will be supplied to the state of Maharashtra under the interstate transmission scheme.Company chairman Sumant Sinha announced that his company will add an additional 3 gigawatts of capacity in the next eight months. The company has secured the rights to develop multiple solar and wind energy projects through participation in several wind and solar power auctions. The entire new capacity is expected to be commissioned under the federal schemes and tenders issued by the Solar Energy Corporation of India or NTPC Limited.Wind as well as solar power tariff bids have bottomed out in India and developers have become more pragmatic over the last few months about their bidding strategies. Aggressive bidders have either stayed away from the market in the last few auctions or have submitted higher bids than seen earlier. ReNew, which had never been an aggressive bidder, may find comfort in the increased maturity shown by other developers in the market.Solar and wind energy tariff bids had slipped to as low as Rs 2.45/kWh (3.42US¢/kWh) before they increased to Rs 2.70/kWh (3.77US¢/kWh) and above in the recent tenders.More: India’s ReNew Power hits 5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity ReNew Power tops 5GW of operating renewable energy capacity in Indialast_img read more

Japan’s Tokyo Gas invests in floating offshore wind pioneer Principle Power

first_imgJapan’s Tokyo Gas invests in floating offshore wind pioneer Principle Power FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Japanese natural gas company Tokyo Gas Co. Ltd has made a bet that the future of renewable power will be floating at sea.The more than $22 million investment in developer of floating platforms for wind turbines Principle Power Inc. is a sign that fossil fuel companies are continuing to invest to prepare their businesses for a low-carbon future. Tokyo Gas joins existing shareholders including EDP – Energias de Portugal SA, Repsol SA and Aker Solutions ASA.Technology that allows wind farms to float could vastly increase the reach of offshore wind farms, one of the most efficient forms of renewable energy. Potential major markets like Japan, South Korea and the west coast of the U.S. have seabed that is too deep for conventional offshore wind turbines that sit atop large underwater structures fixed to the seabed.Principle Power’s floating platform is being used in a number of pilot projects, including a three-turbine wind farm off the coast of Portugal and one off Ireland that’s set to be the largest floating wind farm in the world when completed later this year.The investment from Tokyo Gas will help Principle Power advance into markets in Asia as well as scale-up to industrialize its production process to prepare for utility-scale floating wind farms, [Joao] Metelo, [Principle Power’s chief executive officer] said.[Will Mathis]More: Floating wind gets a $22 million boost from Tokyo Gaslast_img read more

FirstEnergy filing says Ohio bribery probe could pose risks to utility’s financial status

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享 officials said Monday they will not comment further on what prompted the company to fire its CEO and two other top executives late last week, other than the decision was set in motion following a Sept. 2 subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.But a new company regulatory filing says “potential criminal or civil liabilities” related to myriad ongoing federal investigations and lawsuits into Ohio House Bill 6 are among the possible risks to the company’s reputation or financial condition. The company also said in a Friday filing it’s launched an internal process to strengthen its internal governance and compliance measures.Acting CEO Steve Strah, who took over after the company fired former CEO Chuck Jones last Thursday, said Monday the company won’t comment while the federal investigations are ongoing. He also said it would be “premature” to say whether FirstEnergy’s ongoing internal review, which began after the SEC subpoena, might find violations by other company officials.Strah’s comments, and FirstEnergy’s identification of possible criminal charges, are a change in tone from the company’s previous conference call in July, led by Jones. In that July 24 call, held three days after the FBI arrested and charged former House Speaker Larry Householder, revealing the investigation to the public, Jones told investors the company had done nothing wrong.Last Thursday, FirstEnergy announced the firings of Jones and two others — Senior Vice President of Product Development, Marketing, and Branding Dennis Chack, and Senior Vice President of External Affairs Mike Dowling — citing unspecified violations of company policy.Also on Thursday, two political operatives arrested with Householder — Jeff Longstreth, Householder’s top political aide, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist for the company formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions — pleaded guilty to federal charges. They admitted to participating in what federal prosecutors have described as a complex $61 million bribery scheme through which Householder helped deliver HB6, a $1 billion bailout to two nuclear plants formerly owned by FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy and its affiliates gave the $61 million to a network of political groups that helped Householder gain his legislative leadership position, pressure state lawmakers to pass HB6, and then to defend the bill against a repeal effort, according to prosecutors.FirstEnergy officials have not been charged or officially named in the probe, but charging documents make clear the company is central to the alleged bribery scheme. Southern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said Thursday the investigation is ongoing.[Andrew J. Tobias]More: In federal filing, FirstEnergy officials say criminal charges possible from federal House Bill 6 bribery probe FirstEnergy filing says Ohio bribery probe could pose risks to utility’s financial statuslast_img read more

Next Olympic Sport: Trail Running or Climbing?

first_imgTRAIL RUNNINGOver the past decade, trail and mountain running have become one of the world’s fastest growing sports. More than 35 countries are typically represented at the World Mountain Running Championships.To be considered by the International Olympic Committee, a sport must be practiced by at least 50 countries. We’re on the way there. We need to reach out to the many countries that practice the discipline but don’t compete on the world stage due to lack of funding and lack of support from their federation. If we can rally them to join us in aiming for the Olympics, there’s a better chance for them to get the help they need, which will help our sport grow even more.Trail running also has sweet visual appeal: runners charge up oxygen-depriving ascents with spectacular vistas (not unlike those seen in alpine ski events), and speed down gnarly rock-strewn single-track trails. And the course length can be any distance and cover many types of terrain, making it ideal for the ever-changing venues of the Games. More road runners are starting to race on the trails and in the mountains. Media attention and industry support for trail running has flourished. And it’s a sport that anyone can identify with and participate in—weekend hikers and non-elite athletes alike.Sports have come and gone over the history of the Olympics. Tug-of-war was an Olympic sport until 1920. This should leave room for fresh disciplines to be considered. Trail running has its roots with our ancestors who ran over hill and dale to capture their dinner. Phidippides, the first marathon runner, wasn’t running paved roads; he was a trail runner. We’ve come a long way since then, and we’ve waited a long time for our discipline to be recognized by the folks who preside over the Olympic Games.With American competitors among the 2011 World Mountain Running Champions, our country is poised to be on the podium. That means gold to add to the Track & Field medal haul. Isn’t that reason enough for us to lobby support for inclusion on the Olympic docket?Nancy Hobbs is the executive director of the American Trail Running Association. CLIMBINGClimbing in the Olympics: why the heck not? After all, we’ve endured decades of rhythmic gymnastics, figure skating, race walking, and that non-sport of all sports, baseball, so I say climbers belong. Climbing’s badass, whether you’re pulling plastic, sketching above RP’s, running ridges in the Alps, or trudging up Everest with white-collar adventurers. Climbing appeals to our fundamental primate instincts: go up, go higher, get above the other girl, clip the chains, and mug for the camera. It belongs in the Olympics!Now that the International Federation of Sport Climbing has been recognized by the International Olympic Committee, lead climbing, speed climbing, and bouldering can be reviewed for inclusion for the 2020 Olympic Games. I say, tie these kids in and let them dyno their tough little tendons into shredded jerky. Give ’em a shot at hearing their national anthem and appearing on a cereal box.In my opinion, lead climbing would be the most exciting to watch, with the drama of sudden falls above protection bolts, whereas speed climbing is to climbing what indoor soccer is to soccer, the USFL to the NFL, Doug Flutie to Brett Favre. And nobody will understand bouldering: there’s no appearance of risk and the winners will make it look like they’re climbing a ladder. The average couch-hero will say, “That don’t look that hard.” And the way kids climb these days, he’ll be right!With that said, I do worry that competitive climbing is going the way of Olympic gymnastics, with pre-pubescent heroics performed by kids plucked from their families and entrusted to mustachioed men from Eastern Europe. The latest IOC rules require participants to be 16, so maybe that will keep the sport from becoming all about the kids. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if we keep seeing tiny competitors who have intense talent but not the grizzle that comes with years of experience.Be that as it may, I want to see mountain climbing in the Olympics. I’ll keep my chin up…until I have to sit through synchronized swimming to see the lead finals, that is. So, see you in 2020, wherever the Games will be. If I stop eating now and start doing a few pull-ups, I might just make the cut. These young ‘uns won’t know what hit ’em.Rob Coppolillo is training to be a mountain guide at the American Mountain Guides Association and is a contributing editor at Elevation Outdoors Magazine in Colorado.  Read about news of the odd and weird from around Blue Ridge in August’s High Fivelast_img read more

Snickers and Scotch

first_imgI blame the scotch. Dewar’s to be exact. It’s not my drink of choice, but when you’re backpacking in the winter, you drink scotch. “To keep warm.” Sure, liquor has the opposite effect on your body temperature, but you can’t argue with tradition. What you can argue with, though, is my proximity to the fire during the bout of scotch worship. But I’m getting ahead of myself.Really, the trip went askew long before I lit up like Michael Jackson. The fact that we started four months late should have tipped us off that we weren’t on top of our game. It was supposed to be a summer backpacking trip. A chance for three high school buddies to wander deep into the Smokies and rediscover our friendship. There is no male bonding like Wilderness-based male bonding. Credit the campfire, the absence of Twitter, or the potential of a bear visit…whatever the reason, the recipe for forging friendships is at its most potent in the woods.But the summer trip got pushed into a fall trip, which then got pushed into a winter trip. Blame our kids, our jobs, whatever, but play “Cat’s Cradle” because eventually we all felt so guilty about postponing the adventure that we finally just said “screw it” and met at a corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ready to pick up our friendships where we left off.It’s balls cold by the time we meet, but we are all experienced woodsmen: a Marine, an Eagle Scout, and an adventure journalist. We’ve seen the world. We can handle the Southern Apps with temps in the teens and a chance of snow.This is what we tell ourselves over coffee, eggs, and hash browns at the Waffle House near the trailhead. We talk about the winter treks we’ve bagged over the years and how we’re not worried about the current weather. It’s easy to put up a strong front when you have unlimited refills of hot coffee.Reality hits on the hike into the backcountry. My shoes don’t fit right and I imagine large blisters growing on each big toe. The Eagle Scout keeps stopping to adjust his back brace (or is that a girdle?) and the Marine keeps stripping, peeling off sweaty layers at the top of each small hill. He’s dressed for the Antarctic and it’s probably 40 degrees in the noon-day sun. Most of our conversations throughout the hike have to do with how we each combat carpal tunnel in the workplace.The route I choose is just as lame. I handle logistics, choosing a half-ass route in the Deep Creek corner of the park for three reasons. 1) There’s good fishing. 2) It has almost no elevation gain. We’re all out of shape and the last thing I want to do is give mouth to mouth to one of these guys. And 3) There’s a Waffle House near the trailhead. All male bonding trips need a plate of hash browns.The path is more gravel road than trail, moving through a winterized hardwood forest, offering nothing but dormant trees as scenery.I’ve never had a winter backpacking trip go well. In college, two buddies and I were supposed to spend the entire week of spring break hiking the Georgia portion of the A.T. One night of trying to melt snow and shivering in our K-mart sleeping bags sent us packing for warmer environs. Then there was the frost-bite incident. The “hot stone” in the bottom of the sleeping bag incident. The “too much snow to build a fire” incident. Anyone can fake it through a summer backpacking trip, but sub-freezing temperatures expose all of your backcountry shortcomings.The campsite I randomly choose has promise, though. Flat, with a nice-sized fire ring just steps from a broad, rushing trout stream. The trail may have been forgettable, and we may all be larger, sweatier versions of ourselves, but at least there will be fishing. Except the Eagle Scout forgot the rods. He brought the case—the one that keeps his graphite fly fishing rods in pristine condition—but no rods.“I thought the case felt light when I was packing the car,” he says, smiling. “But look, I’ve got chocolate. And scotch.”He reaches into his bag and pulls out a giant sack of fun-sized candy bars—leftover Halloween loot from his five kids—and a fifth of Dewar’s. Combined, it’s easily 12 pounds of gluttony stuffed into the bottom of his pack. The trip is saved.There’s an argument over the proper way to build a fire, but soon, we have a hot-burning “log cabin” going and we start passing around the scotch. The conversation is easy, moving through the typical work-wife-kids topics until we land on the topic of dream jobs. With each pull from the Dewar’s, I get a little closer to the fire, relaxing deeper into my Therm-a-rest chair.Before long, we decide we’re all quitting our jobs to start a backpacking guide service. We’ll lead city folks into the woods. Show them the true Southern Appalachians. This is when we are at our happiest, after all. Together, next to a campfire, passing around a bottle of scotch and a bag of Halloween candy.Never mind the fact that we forgot half of our gear for this trip. Our lack of cardiovascular fitness and rusty backpacking skills are of no concern either. We want, no need, to share this experience with the rest of the world.I doze off by the fire trying to think of a good name for our guide service (Three Amigos? Snickers and Scotch Backcountry Adventures?) and wake up when the Marine yells, “dude, you’re on fire!”A large portion of my boot sole has melted and errant embers have burned holes in my Therm-a-rest, pants, and puffy jacket.It’s decided that when we do this professionally, we won’t let our clients pass out so close to the fire. Or drink so much scotch. And we’ll have an ironclad insurance waiver. Because we have no idea what we’re doing. •last_img read more

A Whitewater Park for Asheville?

first_imgA man-made whitewater park could be coming soon to Asheville’s French Broad River. On Tuesday, Asheville City Council heard from whitewater park advocates—many wearing PFDs to the meeting. City council asked their staff to research the feasibility of the $1.8 million park, which will be funded primarily through private donations.The park will likely be built beneath the bridge near the New Belgium Brewery site. It will add man-made waves, obstacles, and rapids to the relatively mellow stretch of water through Asheville’s River Arts District. Supporters believe the park will attract even more visitors to the riverfront, which is already undergoing a renaissance.Read the full story here.last_img

7 Tips on Breaking into the Wild World of Whitewater Kayaking

first_imgKayaking is a great way to connect with nature and get some exercise in the process, but it can be intimidating and downright confusing to get started in. Which boat do you need? What gear is essential and what are good brands? Where do you go and how do you learn the necessary skills?1. Join a Club. Almost every major (and smaller) metropolitan area has one if not several kayaking clubs. These give you a chance to meet other paddlers, learn how to roll a kayak in a pool, and try out boats. Once you feel confident to try your new skills on a river, you can join the club for your first outing.Edited-4496_FIX-800x6002. Test Drive Kayaking In An Inflatable Kayak. Several rivers and outfitters rent duckies or inflatable kayaks to use to try out whitewater and see how you like it with a skilled guide to explain hazards, techniques, and keep an eye on you. 3. Sign Up For Private Instruction. Learn everything from how to roll to what boat is best for you at your own pace with private instruction. Most larger rivers have an outfitter that provides private instruction. 4. Take a Clinic. Not a fan of one on one or trying to save a few pennies to buy a boat? Several outfitters also offer clinics ranging from one day to a full week. Enjoy meeting other people new to the sport and trying out a variety of boats.Screen-Shot-2015-10-02-at-6.48.04-PM-e14438262022215. Attend a festival. Several outfitters and organizations host festivals every year. These are great ways to meet people in the sport and find deals on used gear. Some of the bigger ones, like Nantahala Outdoor Center’s GAF and American Whitewater’s Gauley Fest, are large weekend events centered on rivers. 6. Volunteer. Volunteering with a paddle or outdoor focused organization, even if you just stuff envelopes or drive a van of stinky, wet gear, gets you in contact with people in the sport who have a passion for the way it changes lives. 7. And Finally, Facebook. Facebook is full of groups for everything: certain areas, specific sections of river, types of boats, etc. Find a group on Facebook that fits what you’re looking for (i.e.: whitewater canoes, called open boats) and chances are there will be tons of people with advice to help get you started! A bonus tip for starting out: kayaking uses your core muscles more than anything else. If you’re really thinking about picking up the sport this summer, start out with a little yoga that focuses on shoulders and core strength. Having loose, flexible shoulders will also help protect them. Good luck, have fun, and be safe out there!last_img read more

The Garbage Marathoner

first_imgThe idea began after Otazo spent time exploring a nature preserve near his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. The high tide flow of the water there tends to leave garbage tangled in the roots of the mangrove trees. Otazo and his partner began cleaning up parts of the preserve, removing an estimated 6,500 pounds of garbage. The marathon was part of a fundraiser for Miami Waterkeeper. Otazo raised over $4,600, which will help clean beaches and mangrove forests and aid in advocating for the reduction of single-use plastic items. Andrew Otazo participating in the Miami Marathon with 70lbs of trash on his back. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Otazo.) BRO: Was it a smelly experience? Initially, my partner, Loly Sosa, and I were inspired to clean up a mangrove preserve in Miami called Bear Cut. While she was dealing with the rigors of Harvard Law School, Loly and I would frequent the swamps of Bear Cut, often to enjoy nature or meditate. We quickly found that this absolutely gorgeous area was completely covered in trash, and began clean-up efforts. Eventually, I committed to systematically clearing every square foot of Bear Cut. Man completes marathon carrying 30 pounds of garbage on his back OTAZO: The final six miles were terrible. I was in a lot of pain. I trained for months by marching with 30 lbs of dumbbells in a hiking bag, and averaged a 17 minute/mile pace on my 18-milers. However, the weight in the trash bag was distributed much differently, putting a lot of pressure on my hips and shoulders, and seriously slowing down my pace. By mile 23, I was pausing every quarter mile. By mile 25, I was completely numb, and just wanted to finish, so I sped up until I crossed the line (which had been torn down at that point). I was very nervous before the race, but once I got started, never doubted I would finish. It was just a matter of how much it would hurt. OTAZO:The first 10 or so miles were great. I must’ve had 50 or so people ask me to take selfies with them. Everyone was very encouraging. At mile 11, the crowd thinned out and the aid stations closed. At 13, I was completely alone, and remained so until mile 19, when I met up with my amazing partner and a bunch of friends. Thank God for them, because there’s no way I would’ve finished otherwise. They gave me an insane amount of food and Gatorade (I drank at least three gallons throughout the race). OTAZO: Professionally, I serve as the Executive Director of the Cuba Study Group, an organization composed of 40 prominent Cuban American civic and business leaders. Previously, I worked as a Researcher at the Harvard Business School, assistant to former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and intern at the U.S. State Department. I’m a Miami native, but have also lived in upstate New York, North Carolina, Boston, Washington D.C. (twice), Argentina, and Brazil. I speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Over the span of a year, I removed over 6,500 pounds of trash. This brought some attention to the issue of marine pollution, but I wanted to quite literally bring it out of the mangrove swamps and show it to all of South Florida. So, I asked an architect/designer named Daniel Alonso (from OA Architecture) to help me build a 30 lb bag of trash that I could carry throughout the length of the Miami Marathon. I then partnered with Miami Waterkeeper, a fantastic local non-profit that protects our coastal ecosystems, to turn my endeavor into a fundraiser for their efforts. I’ve completed five full and two half marathons to date, having run my first full when I was 20. I really love the physically challenging aspect of the race. Unless you’re a very elite runner, you’re going to hit the wall, and the last few miles are all willpower. BRO: Tell us about yourself and your journey with marathons. The problem is that we do not have good data on how much trash currently exists in our waterways or its origin. That makes it impossible to implement effective mitigating solutions. I therefore want to partner with local scientists to conduct a comprehensive survey of South Florida’s largest sources of trash, whether they be the canals, storm drain outflows, boaters, etc. “I wanted to produce a very blunt metaphor where I wanted to take the trash out of the swamp, build it into a bag, put it on my back, and then walk it the length of the marathon so people could see it,”Otazo told Runners World. Andrew Otazo stumbled across the finish line of the Miami Marathon roughly 10 hours after he began. There was a reason for his last place finish: Otazowas carrying 30 pounds of garbage on his back. (Photo courtesty of Andrew Otazo.) OTAZO: First, I want to finish cleaning up Bear Cut. I still have about 40% of the area to clear, so there’s a lot of work left to do. However, I know that unless we do something to shut off the upstream sources, the trash I remove will only be replaced with every incoming tide. BRO: What inspired the idea? BRO: What were your thoughts and feelings while trucking that much trash? (Photo courtesty of Andrew Otazo.) OTAZO: Ha! I really have no idea. I was far more concentrated on the pain than the smells. BRO: What are your current goals and plans for the future? OTAZO:I just wanted to complete the race, so yes. I honestly did not care how long it took me as long as I crossed the finish line. I also surpassed my fundraising goal (we raised over $5,000), so I couldn’t be happier. BRO: Did you achieve the goals your set that day? OTAZO: The idea for the march was born out of a love for nature. Once we know where most of the pollution originates and how much is circulating offshore, we can place a price tag on cost of doing nothing (i.e. South Florida dumps X amount of trash into the ocean every year, causing $Y million in damage to our local economy). Quantifying the damage will allow local politicians to invest in targeted mitigation options, such as trash traps on storm drain outflows. Otherwise, I’ll be stuck cleaning the same patch of mangroves the rest of my life without making a meaningful impact.last_img read more

What I Learned Weeding the Appalachian Trail

first_imgOn the last day, a PATC crew-week veteran taught me how to weed strategically, how to direct traffic away from sloping ground or switchback shortcuts. In this way, we could heal the damage caused by the impulse of tired hikers. That day I also learned that weeding, whether whacking or lopping, is about maintaining a navigable trail—and protecting travelers from Lyme-carrying ticks. A properly maintained trail doesn’t preserve only a dirt path, it ensures the safety of those who use it, as well as the beauty it bisects. Like most things, it’s a balance. “The delicate task of a trail-builder … [is] to bring order to an experience that is by definition disordered,” Moor explains. “It is akin to catching a butterfly in your hands.” Too much intervention and the trail loses its wild allure, too little and there are consequences—for humans and nature alike.    Then it was on to swales, another way to move water off the trail by creating a trench and berm from dirt that’s already there. We worked so that after a few days of wind and water and footfalls, this drainage system would look like it belonged there, allowing whomever might pass a walk seemingly uninterrupted by human activity. According to Moor, the best trail work is “meticulous construction, artfully concealed.” Here’s hoping.  Next it was an eight-mile hike along a frothy stream to clear blowdowns, or trees that had fallen across the trail during a recent storm. Working with a crew from the National Park Service, we stopped at each roadblock and took turns with the crosscut saw. They instructed us to pull, never push, to let gravity and the blade do all the work. With the trees out of the way, hikers wouldn’t have to circumnavigate them, creating sloppy detours through sensitive flora.  The author (left) with a fellow trail crew member in Shenandoah National Park. Photo courtesy of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club If the tree in question has landed on a hiking trail, the answer is probably a trail maintenance crew. That night, as I stretched out on an old couch in the common room (my roommates were snorers) beneath an old bath towel (I forgot my sleeping bag), I wondered if my time would have been better spent elsewhere, where my labor could make a larger, more lasting impact. There were nine of us on the crew, hailing from every hill and dale and city block of the DC/Baltimore metro. There was a former Navy physicist, an electrical engineer, a retired lawyer, a nurse, and a Southern politician whose endless catalog of jokes filled awkward silences. Some of us were thru-hikers, most of us were not. Some of us were trail slugs (a term of endearment, I was assured), most of us were not. All of us were sharing the three rooms and one shower of an old CCC lodge, as well as the desire to do our part.  But by lunch on the first day, I felt unsure about the ROI of this volunteering gig. That morning I had spent three hours trailing two weedwackers, dodging kicked-up debris, and clipping overhanging branches along a mere 1.1 miles of the A.T. At the end of our slow march through the forest, the trail looked tidier to be sure, but what had we really accomplished in the grand scheme of things? In two weeks, the chickweed would reclaim its territory; the saplings would lean over the trail, ready to snag every weary backpacker who passed. “The brilliance of trails stems from the fact that they can preserve the most fruitful of our own wanderings,” says Robert Moor, in his 2016 book “On Trails.” Our own wanderings had brought us together in Shenandoah—not just the winding roads to Skyline Drive, but every walk in the woods we had ever taken. For many of us, hiking is often a solo excursion, but maintaining a trail is a team sport, one that requires a long roster and countless hours of coordination, planning, and sweating, all to ensure the trail’s very existence.center_img Among the oldest trail organizations in the country, the PATC was founded in 1927 by a group that included Myron Avery, one of the masterminds of the A.T. During its early days, the group scouted and constructed hundreds of miles of the trail through the Mid-Atlantic. Ninety-two years later, its volunteers are still walking those same paths, weedwackers and chainsaws in hand. The following day we were up early to build water bars (in layman terms: steps), carrying fresh-hewn logs up the mountain to bury in the earth and prevent erosion caused by unbridled rainwater. I’ve waddled on enough trough-shaped trails that this bit of work tingled with meaning.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, who has to pick it up? To learn more about this work—and to amend the karmic imbalance I’ve created by hiking on many but working on zero trails—I signed up for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s annual summer crew week in Shenandoah National Park. Moor concludes his tome on trails by saying, “We are born to wander through a chaos field. And yet we do not become hopelessly lost because each walker who has come before us leaves a trace for us to follow.” Indeed, as the week wore on, I began to see the work differently. Tiny gestures, yes, but far from insignificant. With each drenched bandanna and stinging muscle and long car ride to another trailhead, it occurred to me what a labor of community a trail is. And I came to realize that working on the trail was more about sustaining an experience than maintaining a path. While I have never thru-hiked the A.T., I have walked on so many trails that delivered me somewhere nearer to the throbbing heartbeat of existence, where I could witness my small but startling place in this dazzlingly complex world. The impetus behind the grueling and tedious work of trail maintenance, I finally understood, is to make certain that others have those same transformative opportunities. The paradox of the trail is the paradox of being alive: we walk alone, on paths others have made for us.  There are 31 trail clubs that do similar work along the AT, and countless others on trails around the region. So, the next time you hear about a tree falling in the forest—literally or philosophically—consider joining your fellow trail slugs to help clear the way.last_img read more