Mountain Tough by Brittany Merriman


Mountain Tough


This is my first time seeing the devastation up close. I’m struck by the view of Gatlinburg’s glitzy buildings through a rather convenient hole in the trees. Somehow, the tourist town is still going strong. I find myself staring at the large black swaths cutting across the Appalachian greenery across the valley. Fire scars.

My teammate Jenna, a petite blonde with a permanent smile, points to a towering stack of bricks before disappearing around the back of the van to grab Princess, our aptly named 441 Stihl chainsaw. “It’s so amazing that there was a structure here.  The house across the street is mostly fine.”

Upon further inspection, yes. There is a foundation spanning the break of the treeline that I had missed while admiring the view of the smoky grey mist rolling across the opposite mountain. The tree line is dotted with black stumps. The trees that remain have fire damage spreading up their trunks. Oh. Continue reading

Crash and Gamble by Brooke Lyman


In the early 1900s, when the European training routes iced over, a group of road cyclist challenged each other to stay fit by racing to the next town, but through the fields, over the fences, and across the iced-over streams. Over a century later, this sport is known world-wide as cyclocross. There are local races, national championships, and world championships, each course featuring different challenges, terrain, and conditions. They can consist of a combination of gravel, sand, grass, mud, and dirt, and every course has obstacles that 99% of individuals cannot ride and must dismount to run through instead. If you can ride it, you are allowed to do so, but for most individuals, certain obstacles pose such great a risk for costly crashes, that it is simply not worth it. The obstacles can consist of barriers (vertical wooden boards about two feet tall), stairs, a very steep, loose hill that is not ridable (called a run-up), or sand pits. Essentially, cyclocross is the obstacle racing of the bike world, where crashing is simply part of the sport. Continue reading