KPMG analysis sees more problems ahead for India’s coal generation sector

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Economic Times:KPMG has predicted that capacity utilisation for many coal-fired power plants in India will drop to 35-40% by 2022 as renewable power generation sources rise. Average capacity utilisation of coal-fired power plants are around 51% at present and some plants may have to be seasonally shut or mothballed, KPMG has predicted.“As per KPMG in India analysis, even a scenario with 130 GW of renewables instead of the planned 175 GW by 2022 could result in plant load factor (PLF) dropping to 35-40 per cent for many coal plants,” it said in a recent report.“Increased penetration of renewable energy in the electricity system will lead to duck curve effects, requiring flexible operation of conventional power plants,” it said in its report.Flexible operation of conventional coal-fired plants was for a while resisted by existing operators on the premise that cycling and stop-start operations impair asset life and reliability. According to KPMG, if the option is between mothballing the plants versus operating It is possible to typically reduce the minimum technical limits to 40% in Indian conditions.“However, this would require retrofitting of plant equipment and instrumentation along with extensive changes to operating practices and human competencies to safely manage cycling operations that feature frequent start-stop and ramping up and down the plants with technical, operational and commercial modifications, the latter option is surely preferable,” the KPMG study mentioned.Flexibilised coal-fired generation’s new role will be akin to storage, having energy content available on tap for balancing grid variability when the need arises rather than its erstwhile role of being the bulwark of supply.More: Coal-fired plants may have to scale down utilisation to 35% by 2022: KPMG KPMG analysis sees more problems ahead for India’s coal generation sectorlast_img read more

Surge of renewable capacity quickly pushing coal off the Spanish grid

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:New figures released late last week show that Spain commissioned a total of 6,456MW of new renewable energy generation in 2019, bringing the country’s cumulative total up to 55,247MW, and lifting its total share of electricity generation to more than one-third in 2019.According to the country’s transmission system operator Red Electrica de Espana (REE), which published the 2019 generation data last week, renewable energy produced 97,826GWh, accounting for 37.5% of the country’s generated electricity last year, a rise of 5.6 percent over the previous year.Wind and solar accounted for the majority of Spain’s new capacity additions in 2019, with 5,689MW being awarded in auctions held in 2017, and the remaining 767MW outside the auction allocations. New solar capacity additions led the way with 93 projects amounting to 3,975MW, followed by 86 new wind projects amounting to 2,319MW. Only 162MW of other renewable energy technologies were installed in 2019.2019 was also host to several historic generation records, with wind energy covering 75.97% of demand in the Spanish Peninsula (as compared to its minor territories) on November 3, and a wind power maximum output of 18,879MW on December 12. A day later, wind energy also beat its daily maximum generation record, reaching 396,898MWh on December 13.Red Electrica de Espana also published figures for the decade just finished, which showed that wind energy was only narrowly beaten out in annual production in 2019 by nuclear (21.4 per cent) and combined cycle natural gas (21.2 per cent), while coal production accounted for barely 2% of Spain’s monthly generated power.In fact, according to REE: “The last few days of the decade saw the beginning of the end for coal-fired generation,” with the 14th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, and 25th of December 2019 showing no signs of coal generation whatsoever, a historical first for the country.[Joshua Hill]More: Spain installed 6.4GW of new wind and solar capacity in 2019 Surge of renewable capacity quickly pushing coal off the Spanish gridlast_img read more

Moody’s reaffirms its negative outlook on U.S. coal sector

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Declining earnings and intensifying pressure from investors screening their portfolios for environmental, social and governance factors are weighing on the coal sector’s negative outlook, Moody’s Investors Service wrote Jan. 22.U.S. coal producers will see a significant deterioration in earnings and cash flow generation as coal export volumes continue to fall in 2020, the report concluded. Further, more pressure from ESG-minded investors is likely to complicate the sector’s access to capital and drive a more conservative financial approach.“We expect that EBITDA will fall by about one-third across our rated portfolio of U.S.-based coal companies, including some met coal-driven producers that could fall more significantly,” said Benjamin Nelson, senior credit officer and lead U.S. coal industry analyst for Moody’s.Investors moving away from the coal sector will likely increase financing costs, particularly bond markets. BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager and top investor in U.S. coal companies such as Peabody Energy Corp. and Arch Coal Inc., recently announced it would be ridding its actively managed portfolios of companies deriving more than 25% of revenues from thermal coal.Lower-rated U.S. coal producers are the most susceptible to the effects of the decline and will have limited ability to repay their debt as their credit situation tightens, Moody’s said.Moody’s dropped its outlook on the coal industry from stable to negative in August 2019. Nelson said that in early 2020, there is no clear catalyst for improvement after a sharp fall in prices in 2019.[Taylor Kuykendall]More ($): Moody’s: U.S. coal sector remains negative on ESG, earnings concerns Moody’s reaffirms its negative outlook on U.S. coal sectorlast_img read more

Teck backs out of Frontier oil sands project in Canada

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Teck Resources Ltd. is pulling its application for a controversial new oil-sands mine in Alberta, freeing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from a political predicament. The company will write down the Frontier project’s $1.13 billion carrying value, it said in a statement late Sunday.Teck’s decision not to proceed with the mine frees Trudeau from possibly the toughest test yet of his vow to balance developing Canada’s resources with fighting climate change. Rejecting the mine would have sparked widespread anger in Alberta, where the mine would have provided jobs and investment; approving it would have alienated the Liberal prime minister’s environmentalist base.However, Teck pulling the application won’t be an unvarnished win for Trudeau. In a letter explaining why the miner pulled the plug, Chief Executive Officer Don Lindsay placed the blame on governments, saying Canada doesn’t yet have a clear framework to reconcile resource development and climate change.Beyond the climate-change debate, the economics of the project have changed radically since it was first proposed in 2011. Back then, crude prices often topped $100 a barrel and fears abounded that the world was running out of oil. Canada’s oil sands, which contain the world’s third-largest reserves, saw a boom of spending as companies and countries rushed to secure supplies.But since then, fracking techniques unlocked massive reserves in Texas’s Permian Basin, helping the U.S. surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top oil producer. Teck’s application for the project relied on long-term prices of about US$95 a barrel, a level global benchmarks haven’t reached since 2014. West Texas Intermediate traded below US$52 a barrel on Monday.The mine would have produced about 260,000 barrels of crude a day, more than the daily oil consumption of Norway. It also would have emitted the equivalent of about 4.1 million tons of carbon-dioxide a year, making it harder for Canada to meet its greenhouse-gas reduction targets.[Kevin Orland]More: Teck pulls application for Frontier oil sands mine in relief for Trudeau Teck backs out of Frontier oil sands project in Canadalast_img read more

Sweden’s Vattenfall takes $1 billion charge to account for falling value of Moorburg coal plant in Germany

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Vattenfall AB took a massive hit on the value of a new German coal plant in yet another sign of how the fossil fuel is struggling in Europe.The Swedish utility wrote down the value of the Moorburg facility in Hamburg by 9.1 billion kronor ($1 billion), according to its first-half earnings statement on Tuesday. The plant opened in 2015 and by then Vattenfall had already taken impairment losses of 4 billion kronor for the project.The writedown is another example of how renewable energy and the global pandemic is reshaping energy economics. Demand for power dropped more than 20% in some European countries during the lockdown, leading coal’s share in generation to plummet as green sources like solar and wind have priority on the grid.The plant has drawn controversy since it started. Environmentalists in both Germany and Sweden slammed the state-owned utility for opening a coal-fired plant at a time when utilities, cities and governments should do all they can to reduce carbon emissions. Vattenfall said earlier this year it was considering options for Moorburg and was willing to discuss its future with the city.“Moorburg is getting whacked by a corona-linked drop in power demand that’s also hurting exports on which coal power has relied for several years,” said Bruno Burger, a professor at the Fraunhofer ISE institute in Freiburg, Germany. “Add to that cheap gas, expensive pollution certificates and growing renewables and hard coal is getting booted out of the market.”Moorburg generated 7.6 terawatt-hours of power in 2017. So far this year, it has generated a mere 1.1 terawatt-hours, Burger said.[Lars Paulsson and Brian Parkin]More: Coal demise forces $1 billion writedown for Swedish utility Sweden’s Vattenfall takes $1 billion charge to account for falling value of Moorburg coal plant in Germanylast_img read more

Con Edison, 174 Power Global sign contract for big battery storage project in New York City

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:New York utility Con Edison has signed its biggest energy storage contract to date, a 100-megawatt/400-megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery project that will help balance a grid facing rising levels of offshore wind and other renewable power in the years to come. Under the contract announced Wednesday, developer 174 Power Global will build the battery system, and Con Edison will bid its power into New York wholesale energy markets for seven years after it starts operations in 2022. After that, 174 Power will take over the battery system’s operations and wholesale market value.The project being built at a former power plant site in Astoria, Queens is the first bulk energy storage system to be contracted under Con Edison’s request for proposals process launched last year. It’s the biggest utility-contracted battery in the state thus far, though independent power producer LS Power is planning to build at least 300 MW/1,200 MWh of batteries at its Ravenswood power plant in Queens.Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, although a Con Edison spokesperson said that the project was likely to come in at an industry-standard project cost of $1 million per megawatt plus an additional 25 percent premium for land and development costs in New York City. The state-owned utility New York Power Authority owns the land, which is the site of the former Poletti power plant.The size of the battery, and the economics to justify it, represent a big departure compared to the batteries built in the state so far. The biggest to date is the 20 MW/16.5 MWh system developed near Albany by Key Capture Energy. In New York City, the biggest battery is the 4.8 MW/16.4 MWh Gateway Center project built by developer Enel X to serve Con Edison’s need to reduce grid congestion and defer grid upgrades as part of its Brooklyn-Queens Neighborhood Program. Grid reliability is also the core use case for Con Edison’s 2 MW battery at Ozone Park in Queens, and a 1 MW demonstration project with Shell/GI Energy in Staten Island.[Jeff St. John]More: Con Edison contracts its biggest battery to date in New York City Con Edison, 174 Power Global sign contract for big battery storage project in New York Citylast_img read more

Power Hungry: Mid-Atlantic Mega- Transmission Lines Spark Controversy

first_imgA proposed series of 500-kilovolt transmission lines that would run through three Mid-Atlantic states is raising concerns about the entire country’s energy future. Allegheny Energy and Dominion Energy, the two companies behind the proposal, contend that the mega-transmission lines are needed to provide more power to the Mid-Atlantic in order to prevent possible blackouts. Environmental groups and many state representatives say the transmission lines will only make the country more dependent on coal-fired power and will undermine any attempts to establish a clean energy future.The proposed transmission lines would run 240 miles from western Pennsylvania through West Virginia and into Northern Virginia, enabling the power companies to tap into more energy produced by coal-fired-power plants in the Mid-Atlantic. Much of the power ultimately would be transported to big cities in the Northeast.The lines are needed “to prevent looming power reliability problems,” argued David Flitman, president of Allegheny Power, during a public hearing in Pennsylvania.But Robert Marmet, a legal analyst for the Piedmont Environmental Council, says this near-sighted justification is what makes the transmission lines so dangerous. “Nobody is looking at what these lines mean for the future power plans of our country. What kind of energy is going to supply our future? Nobody is stepping back and looking at the big picture.”The transmission lines would lock the region into dirty energy generation for decades while scarring public lands, including the Appalachian Trail, C&O Towpath, and dozens of cherished trails and vistas in the region’s forests and parks.But the proposed energy infrastructure will have environmental impacts far beyond unsightly power lines and towers. In October 2007, the Department of Energy created the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC), an area that encompasses eight eastern states, including large pieces of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Within the corridor, the Department of Energy can use eminent domain to take private and public lands within the corridor.“These lines will permit coal to be burned long after it should have been phased out. Marmet says. “Instead of looking to 21st century solutions like clean gas and wind generation, they’re looking back to the 20th century solution of attaching extension cords to coal-fired-power plants.”The transmission lines through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia must be approved by energy commissions in all three states before construction can begin. All three states have tentatively given their approval. Pennsylvania’s commission ignored its own judges, who advised rejecting the proposed lines.“The costs and adverse impacts of the [transmission line] clearly outweigh the benefits of it. We are convinced that the project is driven by economics and not by reliability [issues],” the Pennsylvania judges concluded in their report. “Non-transmission solutions such as conservation, demand-side management, the effect of potential carbon caps on demand, and distributed generation, were not studied.”Even if the Pennsylvania commission had rejected the proposal, the Department of Energy claims that it can overturn state decisions on energy matters, a right it granted itself by creating the NIETC. Many state representatives from the Mid-Atlantic have raised concerns about the legality of the Department of Energy’s ability to overturn state decisions and grant the powers of eminent domain to private utility companies. A coalition of environmental organizations is filing litigation against the Department of Energy.“There are a wide range of alternatives that have been proven more effective than transmission lines, but they were never studied by the government,” says Andrew Loza, executive director for the Pennsylvania Land Trust. “Instead, the Department of Energy decided to give a handout to the coal industry, essentially locking us into coal power for the next 50 years. If we can force the federal government to look at non-transmission options, many of these proposed lines will be denied.”last_img read more

Catching Up at Capo’s Music Store

first_imgGill Braswell with his custom Larrivee OO-05.I first learned about the fine folks at Capo’s Music Store in Abingdon, Virginia, when I was looking for a guitar for my son about four years ago.  I had a line on a pretty good guitar from another retailer, but an internet search brought up Capo’s and I gave them a buzz before making a purchase.  I am certainly glad I did.  Gill Braswell, co-owner of Capo’s with his wife Amy, steered me in the direction of a beautiful Larrivee guitar that has been a perfect fit for my son.Amy and Gill met during their time working together at the vaunted Barter Theater in Abingdon.  Gill was a stage performer and a North Carolina native, Amy a local who spent a decade working on the theater’s logistical side.  I recently had the chance to catch up with them and chat about running the store and Gill’s own very special Larrivee guitar.BRO – This isn’t exactly the best economy in which to open a small business.  What drove your desire to open your music store?Gill – Amy and I put our heads together and tried to figure out what would keep us in this area, something that we enjoy and love to do.  Amy’s passion for the artistic side of things – the Appalachian history, art, and literature – and my passion for stringed instruments became Capo’s, a place where you can experience acoustic music and other cultural aspects of this region that we should all be proud about.Amy – We were both at a point in our careers where we were looking for that next step.  We don’t have kids, just Capo, our dog, and it was just the ideal time to do it.One of the things I found, marrying a musician and not being a musician myself, is that wherever we went, we ended up in a music store.  I started looking at music stores from the eyes of a non-player and tried to create an environment that would cater to players but would also be comfortable to spouses or others like myself that don’t play but get drug along.BRO – You guys are hosting lots of events that have engrained you in the local arts community.Amy – Sure.  We do host a weekly musical jam and recently were recognized recently as an affiliated member of the Crooked Road.  We also try to do a lot of educational programs – we offer summer camps, guitar camps, a really strong lesson program, and we try to host events in the spring, summer, and fall with workshops that bring people into the store.  Most are free or very low cost.  We also get out to lots of music festivals in the region and that has won us a lot of friends.Gill – We also offer the Capo’s Scholar Scholarship.  Every spring, we give two $250 scholarships to graduating seniors in the seven county area here in Southwest Virginia.  You don’t have to be going into music to earn the scholarship.  We see that as a way to give back to our community.BRO – How does a smaller store like Capo’s compete and survive against the big online retailers and box stores?Gill – There are a number of ways to tackle that.  Our ace in the hole is our ability to have a one-on-one conversation with our customers.  And, if they purchase an instrument from Capo’s, they get us, somebody to give them and their instrument personal attention.Amy – One of the advantages of being small is that we can create who we want to be.  We don’t have to go through a board of directors.  We pick and choose what we want to carry in the store.  One of the ways that we have made our niche in the worlds of bluegrass and old time is carrying small shop brands.  The instruments are very detail oriented and are made by master luthiers.  You can’t necessarily find them at big box retailers.  We have expanded that area over the last three years.  We have also taken advantage of social media and the internet.  We pop up on Google just like the big stores.BRO – Gill, I have heard about a pretty amazing Christmas present from Amy.  Tell me about your new guitar.Gill – Oh, yes.  That guitar sprung out of my sneaky wife asking me some very pointed questions – “If you could have any guitar, what size would it be?” and “What would the sides, back, and top be?” and “Would it have a natural or sunburst finish?”  I would just answer the questions, not really paying attention.  Amy went the extra mile by ordering a custom guitar from Larrivee, which turned out to be this beautiful OO-05 Custom.  Amy also sent them a picture of Capo, our boxer that is an incredibly important part of our lives.  Wendy Larrivee, the wife of company owner Jean Larrivee, does all of the custom inlay work for the company, and she made a masterpiece of this picture by inlaying Capo’s image in the headstock with abalone, mahogany, and rosewood.  It became a shimmering piece of art.  My jaw just dropped wide open and I couldn’t really say anything.  I just sat there and picked this beautiful guitar.BRO – Amy, I hope he got you something just as nice.Amy – Not yet, but he’s working on it!Any visit to Abingdon, Virginia, demands a visit to Capo’s Music Store.  Take a minute and wander the rooms, which are stocked with beautiful stringed instruments for any budget.  Take a couple down and pick a bit.  Most likely, someone will join in.  You can read more about Capo’s Music Store at www.caposmusicstore.com.last_img read more

Daily Dirt: Outdoor News for May 16, 2013

first_imgYour outdoor news bulletin for May 16, the day Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei became the first woman in history to reach the summit of Everest, causing all male mountaineers to feel bad about themselves:Overcoming the OddsA couple of inspirational stories in today’s Dirt.First, comes the profile of Josh Williams from the Roanoke Times. Williams served 13 months in Iraq after joining the Army out of high school. Upon returning to the states relatively unscathed by the experience in 2006, he was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle to guard duty at Fort Hood in Texas. He lost his right arm in the accident and was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for rehab and recovery. Part of that recovery included getting involved in Project Healing Waters, a program we have covered in the magazine in the past. What’s unique about Williams’ story is how far PHW has taken him; well beyond just mental and physical recovery, Williams is now making a living from fly fishing. He has two fly patterns, Josh’s White Lightning and Josh’s Wiggle Hellgrammite, for sale at Orvis – he receives royalties – and through his new venture Dead Drift Flies, which also offers guiding and apparel.The second story is that of Terry Tinnell, who made it to the top of Georgia’s Mount LeConte and to the Mount LeConte Lodge in a wheelchair. Using a specialized chair, and with the help of family, friends, and Cocoa the guide dog, Tinnell, a native of Atlanta, Ga. celebrated his birthday at the top of the mountain Wednesday. He is the only known person to reach the lodge, which sits at 6,400 feet, via wheelchair.Both these outdoors enthusiasts should be an inspiration to us all and a reminder that anything is possible when you set your mind on it.Beer NewsAsheville loses informal, unscientific, reader driven poll as Beer City USA to Grand Rapids, Michigan following a four year run as the top dog. Comments on the story range from “Eh” to “Whatever” to “Who Cares.” It’s obvious Asheville, N.C. has become too cool for polls and will let the beer and the beer economy do the talking from now on.Are over-hopped beers ruining the craft beer industry? That is the hypothesis posited by Adrienne So of Slate.com, the lede of which is “The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews.” Well, I’m not sure about the reasoning here but I will give So props for using the term “watered-down horse piss” in the article.Bike NewsCharlottesville Bike Week in full swing.Richmond Area Bicycling Association (RABA) has launched a grants program to support bicycle related programs, events, and projects.If you are a doping amateur cyclist, do yourself a favor and don’t enter the Gran Fondo New York. Organizers are spending $15,000 on drug tests to deter dopers from competing int he 105-mile event.New A.T. Trail TownLuray, Va. and Page County are the latest county and town to be designated as an Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.last_img read more

Guardians of the White Blaze

first_imgBaltimore Jack’s Trail Food PicksPutting in some serious miles on the trail means working up a serious appetite. Check out these five thru-hiker friendly restaurants along the A.T. where you can whet your whistle, stuff your face, and repeat.– Doyle Hotel – Duncannon, Penn,– The Inn at Long Trail – Killington, Vt.– Dot’s – Damascus, Va.– The Homeplace Restaurant – Catawba, Va.– Ming Garden – Waynesborow, Va. HIT THE TRAIL– Not everyone can up and leave their work and family for a 6-month jaunt in the woods, but if you’re looking for a weekend hike that hits the highlights of the Appalachian Trail, our white blaze guardians have some suggestions for you.Georgia:– Blood Mountain: ~7 milesFollow the Reece Memorial Trail and head south when it crosses the A.T. This overnighter takes hikers up Blood Mountain, which, at 4461’, is Georgia’s highest point on the trail and affords some breathtaking views of the area. Take the Freeman Trail back to your car for a beginner-friendly loop.North Carolina:– Standing Indian Mountain: ~10.5 milesThis moderate out-and-back trip follows the A.T. northbound from Deep Gap up to Standing Indian Mountain, the highest point on the trail south of the Smokies. The high elevation and beautiful scenery here will make you feel like you’re days from civilization. Connect to the blue blazed Timber Ridge Trail to climb back down to USFS 67 to catch a shuttle.– Max Patch: ~ 5.8 milesStart at the Lemon Gap trailhead at 3550’ and follow the A.T. as it climbs up to Max Patch. You’ll get the full experience of the “green tunnel effect,” as the majority of this short overnight hike (or longer day hike) is entirely shrouded by trees with the exception of Max Patch. On a clear day, expect 360-degree views of Mt. Mitchell and the Smokey Mountains from the bald.– Allen Gap: ~20 milesIf you want to put in some big miles and tackle some serious elevation, take the A.T. as it rolls along from Allen Gap to Devils Fork Gap. With rugged terrain, outstanding vistas, and rhododendron masses, this is a great hike to try in the spring when the rhododendron is in bloom. Evenly spaced shelters afford hikers the chance to make this a two- or three-day excursion.Tennessee:– Carvers Gap: ~13.4 milesIn northeastern Tennessee, the impressive Roan Massif is home to a number of striking grass balds and some of the area’s most unique species of flora and fauna. Roan Mountain and the surrounding balds were not included in the original A.T. route until the mid-70s, but the thought of its exclusion is too much to bear. See why for yourself and make this a challenging day hike or a casual overnighter.Virginia:– Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers: ~30 milesFor a strenuous multi-day hike, begin in Damascus, Va., where the trail heads north out of town. Stay the night at Lost Mountain Shelter before continuing the steep ascent up to Whitetop Mountain and Buzzard Rock, both of which offer killer climbs and views. Stay at Thomas Knob Shelter the next night and take the spur trail up to the summit of Mt. Rogers in the morning, the tallest peak in Virginia.Pennsylvania:– Peter’s Mountain: ~ 10 milesPennsylvania is known for its rocks. Get just a taste of it on this rocky yet relatively flat day hike, which provides hikers the chance to see the Susquehanna River from Shikellimy Rocks and Table Rock. Hikers also often report sightings of black bears along this ridge walk, so keep your eyes open and your camera at the ready.New Hampshire:– Mt. Moosilauke: ~ 7.8 milesBy way of the Beaver Brook Trail (also the A.T.), follow the steep climb past the ruggedly beautiful Beaver Brook Cascades. You’ll gain roughly 3000’ in elevation during this out-and-back, but the alpine meadow at the summit of Mt. Moosilauke is well worth the effort. The above-treeline view is home to ancient evergreens and spruce trees. It’s a perfect day hike any time of year, although spring and fall are exceptionally pretty. Hundreds of hikers set foot on the Appalachian Trail each year with aspirations of reaching the other end some 2,180 miles away. It’s a feat that defines challenge: saying farewell to modern-day comforts, family, and friends to follow the same white blaze through 14 different states. To some, that might sound like a much-needed break from the “real world.” To others? Borderline insanity.Regardless of experience level, nearly every backpacker will hit a low point on the trail. It’s at this stage that the true magic and beauty of the Appalachian Trail shines through, manifested not in its sweeping vistas or blooming mountain laurel, but in the tight-knit community that surrounds it. Hostel owners, trail angels, former thru-hikers, even that local farmer who just happened to be driving to town with his pickup truck and an extra hour to kill: it is through these sometimes premeditated, often chance encounters within the Appalachian Trail community at large that a bad day for a thru-hiker can turn into the best one.We talked with 10 individuals who live and breathe the Trail to get the story behind the not-so-glamorous, but incredibly influential, lives our guardians of the white blaze lead.Georgeanna MortonOwner, Mountain CrossingsBlairsville, Ga.For any northbound hiker, the first 30 miles of the trail are comprised of some of Georgia’s most difficult terrain. It can come as quite a surprise for the unprepared hiker, but luckily help is not far off. Mountain Crossings, the first outfitter located along the Appalachian Trail (the trail literally runs through the shop), is owned and operated by Georgeanna Morton and her fiancé Logan. The couple, former thru-hikers (’09) themselves, took over the business in November of last year.Now, they’re as busy as ever, helping thru-hikers get off on the right foot as early as February. Aside from the generous hospitality, hot showers, and clean beds, Mountain Crossings is mostly known for its “shakedown,” a thorough item-by-item inspection of each thru-hiker’s pack. Given that Mountain Crossings’ staff members are former thru-hikers themselves, customers genuinely appreciate the advice and know that the staff there speaks from personal experience.“It’s hard not to, but we laugh at the cast-iron skillets people come with, the full poker sets, the perfume, and diamond earrings,” Morton says. “We’ve seen hikers come in with way too much toilet paper, and even a full-sized alarm clock.”Because of its shakedown, Mountain Crossings is also known for the large amount of packages they mail back home for hikers: 9,000 pounds of UPS shipments last season alone kept their crew more than busy.“That’s why we do it,” Morton says. “One of the most rewarding things about this job is being able to help hikers with a dream.”Bob PeoplesBob Peoples leads one of the largest and toughest trail maintenance events along the A.T.Bob Peoples leads one of the largest and toughest trail maintenance events along the A.T.Owner, Kincora Hiking HostelHampton, Tenn.As hikers pass through the mountains of eastern Tennessee and over the open expanse of balds, they should take a moment to stop and smell the wildflowers, admire the view, and give thanks for Bob Peoples. A small man with a solid build, big heart, and a thick Boston accent, Peoples is the lead trail maintainer for the Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club, owner of the Kincora Hiking Hostel, and founder of the Hard Core Trail Crew, the largest hiker-fueled trail maintenance event in the region. After Peoples retired from the military, he and his wife took a road trip from Springer Mountain to the Pennsylvania line with one mission in mind: find property within a half-mile of the Appalachian Trail.“I’ve enjoyed it because each day you meet somebody new from someplace in the world,” Peoples says. “It’s such a good community because basically age, sex, country of origin, language you speak, money in your bank account, means absolutely nothing. The white blazes don’t care. Everybody’s equal out here.”Since opening his hostel in 1995, Peoples has hosted over 20,000 hikers. He says of those 20,000 hikers, he has only kicked out one person and refused entry to four.“I grew up in Boston,” Peoples says. “I’ve met that many jerks in 15 seconds. If the so-called ‘civilized’ world was half as good as the hiker world, we wouldn’t have all these problems.”When Peoples isn’t maintaining his sections of trail during the winter months, you can typically find him abroad hiking a trail few have ever heard of. From spending four years of his life in Panama to trekking both the Camino Portugués and the traditional Camino de Santiago, Peoples has visited nearly every continent and has no plans of stopping any time soon.“The best people I’ve ever met aren’t the type to make the front page of the news, but they’re what make the trip.”“Survivor Dave” LevyShuttle driverRoswell, Ga.They don’t call him “Survivor Dave” for nothing. A haven on wheels, “Survivor Dave” Levy drives around a Ford Expedition to shuttle hikers and help them resupply basic necessities. Levy lives about a two-hour drive from the trailhead at Springer Mountain. He meets a large number of thru-hikers before they even set foot on the trail.“For me, it kinda keeps the dream alive of completing the entire A.T.,” Levy says. “I like meeting people from all over the world and all walks of life.”A Miami-bred executive chef for nearly 30 years, Levy left the catering business he owned and operated in 2005 for a life of hiking. Although he had always envisioned a thru-hike for himself, he says he’s stayed plenty busy by hiking the entire state of Georgia, now his home turf, a total of ten times. After countless encounters with thru-hikers on the trail and in town, Levy decided to purchase a small Chevy truck in 2008. He started offering rides and selling small thru-hike essentials, such as fuel, AWOL’s The A.T. Guide, and Aquamira at cost out of the back of his truck.“I am by no means an expert hiker or even remotely close,” Levy says, “but I do know my state and what it would take to thru-hike.”Although he runs a one-man-show and logs hundreds of hours on the road every season, Levy’s busy schedule doesn’t keep him off the trail. When he’s not hauling a truckload of grungy hikers and their too-ripe gear, he’s in the woods.“What do I like about hiking? I like everything about hiking,” Levy says. “You put one foot in front of the other and then you do it again and again and again. It’s the peacefulness, the solitude, but also the people.”Ron HavenOwner, local motelsFranklin, N.C.Born and raised in the small town of Franklin, Ron Haven has seen the hiking culture there grow every year. As a high school student, Haven spent the summers working on a trail maintenance crew near his hometown.“At that point in time you didn’t see that many people from other places,” Haven says, “but you always found some nice person out there on the trail. I met hikers not only from other states but other countries.”Those early interactions with the thru-hiking community left a memorable impression on the young Haven and inspired him to leave his hometown to see more of the world. During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, he traveled throughout Georgia, Texas, and Mexico working as a professional wrestler under the name of El Grande Apollo. Eventually, in 1987, Haven returned to Franklin to start his own business but took a greater interest in helping out the increasing volume of thru-hiker traffic that came through town. From free shuttle rides to discounted rates at his motel chain, Haven pours his heart into offering help to the hiking community for little to no charge at all.“Trail angels are special people,” Haven says. “You have to be able to have this be in your heart and not be looking for a profitable business. Anything less than helping the hikers be successful would be a failure.”Because Haven is so familiar with the area’s trails, emergency personnel often call him first when a hiker is stranded, lost, injured, or missing. He says he takes great pride in knowing that he can help someone in need and wants future hikers to know that they are not alone on the trail.“I try to do a lot for them to tell them from my heart, not my mouth, that there is another world of people out here and to go out and enjoy it.”Elmer HallElmer Hall runs The Sunnybank Inn, a retreat in the trail town of Hot Springs, N.C.Elmer Hall runs The Sunnybank Inn, a retreat in the trail town of Hot Springs, N.C.Owner, Sunnybank Inn & RetreatHot Springs, N.C.When former chef and restaurant manager Elmer Hall took a leave of absence in 1976 to hike the Appalachian Trail, he never expected the trail to shape the rest of his life. Although he did not finish the entire trail, Hall says the journey completed him in a way that his nearly 20 years of restaurant experience never had.“Talk about a square peg, round hole,” Hall says. “The trail changed me so much that it didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted to move somewhere closer to the mountains and the trail community.”Having spent a number of days in Hot Springs during his hike, Hall returned to the town in 1978 and helped out the then-owners of the Sunnybank Inn & Retreat. The Inn, which hosted the first thru-hiker, Earl Shaffer in 1948, was 100 years old and steeped in history and charm. When the owners offered the inn to Hall, he immediately accepted.“Running a small hostel meant I didn’t have to work for a large amorphous institution as you would when you work in the city,” Hall says. “That hectic career stuff was conflicting with the way I wanted to live.”Hall has largely kept the Sunnybank Inn as it was when he came through town over 30 years ago, although he’s brought his years of culinary experience to the Inn’s idyllic kitchen. His specialty is vegetarian food, and Hall provides breakfast and dinner each day. The food is handmade, prepared mostly from local and organic ingredients. He says seeing the hikers come through reminds him of the same freedom and humility he experienced during his hike.“That inner sense of feeling less of your own ego but transcending into the natural world that’s there and has been there for many eons, it’s a pretty impressive thing.”“Baltimore Jack” TarlinBaltimore Jack traded a suit job for seven A.T. thru-hikes.Baltimore Jack traded a suit job for seven A.T. thru-hikes.Seven-time thru-hikerBoston, Mass.Imagine giving up a steady “suit job,” as Tarlin says, in your mid-thirties for a life on the trail. After first attempting a thru-hike in 1995, that’s just what Tarlin did.“I got three broken ribs from a bad fall,” he says, “so I didn’t finish. It bothered me that I wasn’t able to finish.”Tarlin eventually returned to the trail a year later to complete the short section through Maine he had missed, yet still remained bothered by the fact that he didn’t complete the journey “all in one whack.” He decided to set out again, this time with the intention of completing the thru-hike in under a year.“I asked work for a leave of absence and they wouldn’t give it to me, so I quit,” Tarlin says.Although his decision may seem rash, it was a response to a deeper calling. After all, Tarlin’s father helped complete the A.T. back in the 1930s: the spirit of the trail is in his blood. Even after successfully completing his first thru-hike in 1997, he returned to the trail every year for the next six years. Tarlin has consecutively thru-hiked seven times from 1997 until 2003 and section-hiked twice.“Why I kept going back I just don’t know,” Tarlin says. “Everything is different. If it was the same trip, that would get very tiring.”When Tarlin wasn’t hiking during the season, he was finding work with local outfitters and acquaintances from the trail community to earn money for the upcoming hike. Although he hasn’t thru-hiked in over a decade, a love of hiking remains a constant thread in the web of his rambling ways. He still floats from trail town to trail town, helping out at hostels or outfitters during the thru-hiking season.“I spent most of my adult life living and working in cities,” he says. “It’s really important for people to get out and remember that there are other things and places in this world.”Jeff PatrickOwner, Mt. Rogers OutfittersDamascus, Va.When hikers step from the woods and follow the trail down the main drag of Damascus, Va., Trail Town, U.S.A., they likely follow the white blaze right to the front door of Mount Rogers Outfitters (MRO). Whether you’ve blown through the last semblances of tread on your shoes or your raw hip bones merely won’t stand another minute of that ill-fitting pack, MRO owner Jeff Patrick will set you straight again. He’s the go-to guy in these parts for shoe and pack fitting, tarp rigging, or just about any do-it-yourself gear project you can think of.“Helping other people is a way of living,” Patrick says.Born and raised in the mountains of southwest Virginia, Patrick has been hiking in the woods his entire life. His father started MRO nearly 25 years ago and impressed upon a young Jeff the importance of wilderness.“There’s a whole other aspect of living and most people don’t have a clue,” Patrick says. “The higher quality of living ain’t a big house and a shiny car. It’s fellowship with the outside and the meandering along the way.”Every year, Patrick helps hundreds of hikers continue on those Appalachian meanderings. He’s a modest man who doesn’t own a phone or have a Facebook profile and wants nothing to do with mobile technology. For Patrick, even a guidebook takes away from the fundamental experience of a walk in the woods.“If you only have the minimal knowledge necessary, then when you see somebody coming along the trail, you begin to write your own book. You have your own chapter,” he says.The annual Trail Days festival in May is the town’s signature event, and Patrick’s been there for nearly every single one. Although the times have inevitably changed, the core values of the festivities remain true to ensuring the well-being of thru-hikers past, present, and future. The postcards and photographs from Mount Katahdin that clutter his desk and walls are testament to the number of experiences he’s influenced over the years.“There have been so many stories,” Patrick recalls. “If I really gave a flip about making a million dollars, I’d write my own book. But I’m not really interested in making a million dollars.”“TrailAngelMary” ParryTrailAngel Mary organizes a trail celebration in Duncannon, Pa., for thru-hikers.TrailAngel Mary organizes a trail celebration in Duncannon, Pa., for thru-hikers.Trail angelDuncannon, Penn.In 2001, Mary Parry was suddenly and unexpectedly homeless. Struggling to cope with this turn of events, Parry stowed her belongings in a storage unit, reserved a campsite in the Riverfront Campground, and summoned every last reserve of positivity she could muster. It was mid-April, and with the oncoming warm weather she was easily able to find work at a nearby restaurant. Soon, Parry began to notice that the campground was steadily becoming more crowded and not with the large Coleman tents of vacationing families: these tents were smaller with weathered rain flies and a certain smoky-sour aroma. She quickly learned that these tents belonged to thru-hikers who were headed north for Mt. Katahdin via the Appalachian Trail.“At the time I didn’t even know the A.T. existed,” Parry says, “but I figured the hikers could use some extra potassium.”Every few days, Parry would trek to the grocery store and buy bananas, handing them out to hikers at the campground. Little did she know that this small act of selflessness was what thru-hikers referred to as “trail magic.” By the end of the season Parry was no longer introduced as Mary: she was now, and would be forever, TrailAngelMary.“It’s one big family,” she says. “When you meet someone in the trail community it’s as if you’ve known them all your life.”Parry eventually found housing in early September of that year, but the new lodging situation did not change her newfound passion for trail magic. For years, Parry would cook for incoming hikers, feeding a ravenous crew nearly every Wednesday and Sunday in the summer. Now, however, she’s seen as more of a motherly figure in the community, offering rides to hospitals and a free living room floor for injured or financially challenged hikers. Every July, Parry helps organize and run a three-day event for hikers coming into Duncannon.Although she suffers from arthritis in both knees, she makes a point of getting on the trail as much as possible. Hiking, she says, “is good for your soul, your heart, and your mind.”Chet WestOwner, One Step at a TimeLincoln, NHHaving grown up in the shadow of Mt. Moosilauke and the White Mountains, Chet West was exposed to the hiking culture at a very young age. In 2001, West was in the midst of preparing for his very own thru-hike of the A.T. when a simple camp stove test turned into a trip to the ER.“I was wearing fleece and nylon,” West says. “I remember that. I remember a pump-pump-pump-POP and being engulfed in flames. I spent the next eight-and-a-half months in a drug-induced coma.”Suddenly, West had gone from a strong, capable man to a mere whisper of his former self. Every major organ failed multiple times, and in the course of his slow and painful recovery his heartbeat flatlined a total of nine times. For West, the future did not look good.“They told me I would never walk again,” he says. “I have good days and bad days, but to date I’ve taken 37 steps.”Prior to West’s accident, he was an active young adult who cycled and walked nearly everywhere. Although he now spends about 80 percent of his time traveling by wheelchair, stopping activity entirely was out of the question for a restless West: he’s pedaled three different recumbent tricycles into the ground from so much riding.In early 2007, West used the settlement money from his accident to purchase a house near the A.T. with the intent of starting a hiker hostel. He opened his doors just in time for the first thru-hikers of the season to arrive and, with the help of a few from that first crew, he soon had six plywood bunks for his guests. West’s hostel, which he appropriately named One Step at a Time, quickly gained reputation as one of the friendliest hostels on the trail.“I don’t care if you don’t have a penny. I don’t do this for the money,” West says. “If you’re an artist, draw me a picture. If you’re a musician and you have your guitar or mandolin or saxophone, play me a song. If you’re a chef, cook dinner for everyone.”West’s hostel is emblematic of his steady fight against a sedentary life, no matter the obstacles that battle may present. He says his interactions with the thru-hiking community in particular provide the physical and spiritual motivation he needs to keep going.“Everyone that comes through here is an inspiration,” West says, “not just me.”Through the lens of a hiker…Joshua “Still Don’t” NivenAppalachian Trail Thru-Hiker, ‘13Huntersville, N.C.Joshua Niven lives for the moment. His passion is two-fold: photography and the Appalachian Trail. In fact, had it not been for the A.T., Niven might very well have chosen not to pursue his photography passion at all.“As I started hiking more I figured these things out,” Niven says. “I remember telling myself, ‘I know I have to do a project on the A.T.’”After studying for five years to obtain his degree in photography, Niven did just that. His brainchild, The Thru-Project, visually chronicles his journey along the trail through photographs of the people and places he and his three-man crew encountered.“Hiking the trail is quite a unique experience,” Niven says. “It’s like a mini lifetime. You’re doing 10 years worth of work in a six-month timeframe.”From epic cold spouts to dwindling financial resources and, of course, the difficulties faced when four males spend six months in the woods together, Niven says it was through some of those hardships that the most amazing things occurred. He remembers one instance that was particularly profound, in which a couple on vacation helped Niven and his group when their canoe started leaking during an aquablaze excursion.“All of a sudden we became part of their vacation and they became part of our hike,” Niven says. “It was a humbling experience every time you met someone you didn’t know and within five minutes they had changed your life entirely. You find out quickly on the A.T. that there are so many people out there who want to give with nothing in return. That’s magic. That represents something beyond us.”Niven is now in the process of releasing the images from his experience and plans to compile the photographs in a picture book documenting the journey. As he methodically sorts through the 15,000 images he captured, he says each photograph takes him back to a person, a view, a moment, a little snippet of magic.“Without the people that we met, we would have never made it.”last_img read more