The Only Roof Over The A.T.: Mountain Crossings, Winton Porter, and the next chapter

The Only Roof Over The A.T.: Mountain Crossings, Winton Porter, and the next chapter In 2009, like many somewhat recent college graduates, Georganna Morton and Logan Seamon found themselves putting in time at jobs they couldn’t stand. “We had to do something different,” Morton says, “but we didn’t know what exactly.” Eric Wallace explains how a 70-year-old backwoods shelter was transformed into a beloved (and profitable!) Appalachian Trail hostel. “Location, location, location.” That’s the oft-quoted key to business success, and Mountain Crossings proves the rule. The backpackers’ store and hostel sits along the Appalachian Trail. In fact, the trail itself…

Modern ghost town (when housing developments go awry).

Just past our little mountain village, across the Blackwater River, lies a monument to failed property development. The (pretentiously-named) “Tuscan Ridge” promised to raise the bar for vacation home communities in Canaan Valley. Imagine meandering hilltop boulevards, faux-rustic McMansions, picturesque pine groves and stunning mountain vistas. Unfortunately for the developers, the Tuscan Ridge project fell apart in 2009, along with the rest of the housing market. As one blogger put it, They didn’t expect to find wetlands next to the Davis Town sewage treatment pond [ruling out the expansion needed to accommodate Tuscan Ridge]. They didn’t expect to hear about…

This is probably the most unhappy average citizen in the history of the world. He has not the power to provide himself with anything but money, and his money is inflating like a balloon and drifting away, subject to historical circumstances and the power of other people. From morning to night he does not touch anything that he has produced himself, in which he can take pride. For all his leisure and recreation, he feels bad, he looks bad, he is overweight, his health is poor. His air, water, and food are all known to contain poisons. There is a…

Should gas companies dump fracking waste into West Virginia’s municipal landfills?

Yesterday, The Outage asked how wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations affects rural communities. It’s not just the liquid waste that poses a concern. Drill operators must also dispose of solid fracking waste. One recent article described these “cuttings” as “a sludgy mix of dirt, water, sand and chemicals dredged up in the drilling process.” In the past, some companies simply buried this material at the drill site itself—a practice that West Virginia outlawed back in 2011. More recently, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued an edict allowing municipal landfills to accept fracking waste material, in excess of those…

Briney business: treating local roads with fracking wastewater.

Hydraulic fracturing creates waste. And it can be nasty stuff. First, there’s the regurgitated fracking fluid—a complex mix of toxic chemicals used in natural gas extraction. Regulators have demanded that gas producers disclose the exact make-up of this chemical brew, and it’s notoriously difficult to treat properly. But it’s not just the fracking fluid itself that poses a concern. Gas wells also siphons subterranean, salty water to the earth’s surface. What to do with this industrial byproduct? Treating “production brine” also represents a significant potential expense for energy companies. One solution: sell it (or give it away) to municipalities. Some…

Rural cell coverage: convenience or curse?

On a summer evening last year, after a spirited local game of Ultimate Frisbee, I limped gingerly back to my car. Out of habit, I glanced at my phone—then did a double-take. There it was, plain as day, at the top of of screen: “4G”. I blinked in disbelief. You have to understand; this seemed impossible. We had given up on decent cell coverage when we moved to rural West Virginia. Here, you were lucky to eke out a 2G “Edge” connection—effectively useless for modern smartphone use. And in many spots around town, you got no signal at all. Seeing…

Anxious Youth, Then and Now

Anxious Youth, Then and Now Today’s young adults are constantly rebuked for not following the life cycle popular in 1960. But a quick look at earlier eras shows just how unusual mid-20th-century young people were. A society in which people married out of high school and held the same job for 50 years is the historical outlier. Some of that era’s achievements were enviable, but they were not the norm. Whatever the era, when the economy collapses, it collapses onto the heads of young adults.

Highway to heaven (through hell).

If our little West Virginia town is “almost heaven”, the road to get here passes through hell. Route 93 has always felt treacherous. Its steep grade and hairpin curves demand attentive driving. In winter, fierce winds and blinding snow squalls only multiply the danger. Getting “up the mountain” takes real courage. The hill’s fitting name? Mount Storm. Once you’ve crested the summit, your surroundings grow even more menacing. The road shoulders up against the fearsome Mount Storm power plant. This hulking complex of smoke stacks and industrial machinery crowds the shore of a sprawling artificial lake. Night and day, the…

Get on board: the importance of vision-casting for rural development.

Go for it. If you want your town to be groovy and economically viable, you have to figure out what that means for your particular town, be accountable to that vision, and stick with it. … Do something that matters until it starts working. — Ben Nelson of Mud Ceramics in Thomas, WV. Via Root Cause Wellness. Nelson’s on to something. To change a community for the better, its residents must share a vision. What do you want your little town to be? If everything goes right, what would your region look like—five, ten or fifty years from now? In…