Month: December 2020

Utilities’ Embrace of Renewables a Big Worry for GE

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Vistra Energy Corp and Dominion Energy Inc–which serve about 5.5 million electricity customers in more than a dozen U.S. states–both say they are done building combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plants. Instead, they are building large solar plants, which offer plentiful and inexpensive electricity.This bearish view of fossil-fuel energy, reflective of a growing acceptance by utilities of renewable power sources, poses a hurdle to John Flannery’s plan to turn around General Electric Co’s $35 billion-a-year power unit.GE’s chief executive spelled out the difficulty on Wednesday. Power profits will be flat this year after falling 53 percent in 2017, he said, and GE is planning that demand for heavy-duty natural gas power plants will be less than half what it forecast just over a year ago, and will stay at that level through 2020.GE’s performance reflects the broader trend of utilities shifting to renewables from fossil fuels. Global sales of large natural gas power plants have fallen by half since 2013, according to McCoy Power Reports. Coal and gas-fired plants accounted for just 38 percent of new electricity capacity financed globally last year, down from 71 percent a decade ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. Solar and wind now draw 53 percent of such investment, up from 22 percent, a Reuters analysis shows.Many utilities share the view that the shift is permanent because it is driven by economics rather than government policy and climate-change concerns. While conventional power plants will continue to be built, sales may never reach the levels seen just two years ago, industry experts said.Wind and solar can cost as little as $18 a megawatt hour, compared with $40 for a large gas plant, said Mikael Backman, North America regional director at Wartsila Energy Solutions, part of the Finnish company that makes quick-start natural gas-fired generators.  Across much of the United States, some utilities now buy all the cheap renewable power they can on electricity markets and use quick-start gas engines to fill in when wind and sun falter.More: General Electric’s Power Unit Fights for Growth as Wind, Solar Gain Utilities’ Embrace of Renewables a Big Worry for GElast_img read more

Powder River Basin coal output down sharply in second quarter

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Total coal production declined sharply in the second quarter at some of the largest coal mines in the nation, according to early data from the U.S. Mine Health and Safety Administration.Coal production from the Powder River Basin, the most productive coal region in the U.S., was down 9.9% in the second quarter compared to the prior quarter. Production was down by 4.0% from the year-ago quarter, according to the most recent MSHA production data.The Powder River Basin produces thermal coal primarily extracted from large-scale surface coal mines and shipped to domestic U.S. coal-fired power plants. Producers in the region have reported that utilities continue to have high levels of inventory due to relatively low demand for power from coal-fired facilities, at the same time many of the power plants that consume U.S. thermal coal are being retired.Peabody Energy Corp. reported that output at the North Antelope Rochelle mine, the largest coal mine in the U.S by production, was down by about 5.0 million tons, or 18.8%, in the second quarter compared to the prior quarter. The quarterly total was about 1.4 million fewer tons than the company reported producing in the same quarter in 2017.The second-largest coal mine in the U.S., Arch Coal Inc.’s Black Thunder, reported production fell by about 1.3 million tons or 7.3% from the first quarter of 2018 to the second quarter. Second-quarter coal production was 802,656 tons greater than in the same period a year ago at Black Thunder.Cloud Peak Energy Inc.’s total coal production from its three Powder River Basin mines was down 3.7% from 12.1 million tons in the prior quarter and down 17.8% compared to the second quarter of 2017.More ($): Powder River Basin coal production declined 9.9% in Q2’18 Powder River Basin coal output down sharply in second quarterlast_img read more

Experts question DOE’s plans for smaller, modular coal plants

first_imgExperts question DOE’s plans for smaller, modular coal plants FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Coal-fired power plants in the U.S. may soon get a reprieve from Obama-era restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions limits, but the Trump administration’s plan to push for more efficient, flexible and competitive new coal plants faces technical and market challenges.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 21 will unveil its replacement for the Clean Power Plan, but the new regulation — dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy rule — is unlikely to be enough to reverse the decline of U.S. coal industry, which has continued to see its domestic customer base shrink. The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking technologies to improve the existing fleet with an eye toward improving the efficiency, flexibility and emissions profiles of new coal-fired power plants.“What are you going to do to keep coal going?” was one of the first questions the Trump administration posed to him, said Angelos Kokkinos, director of the DOE’s Office of Advanced Fossil Technology Systems. “You basically have a Mack truck that was designed to be a Mack truck, asking it do the duty of a Ferrari,” Kokkinos said at a recent coal industry conference, explaining the need to easily ramp power generation up and down to meet demand needs.In May, DOE issued a request for information from power generation equipment manufacturers, utilities and other stakeholders about a potential coal-based, pilot-scale power plant designed to be highly efficient, modular and economical for international and domestic power generation. In its request, the DOE said it envisioned a “coal-fired fleet of the future” that would be near-zero emissions and capable of high ramp rates, lower water consumption and reduced design complexity.Small-capacity plants tend to cost more and operate less efficiently than larger plants, wrote the Carbon Utilization Research Council in publicly shared comments on the request. Getting over those challenges will require “significant performance improvements and cost reductions” to compete with other power sources. Meanwhile, low electricity demand and uncertainty around coal regulation and technology have dampened enthusiasm for pursuing and developing coal-based technologies, the group added.More ($): As US EPA presents lifeline for coal plants, DOE seeks ways to improve new oneslast_img read more

A shift in Puerto Rico to natural gas would hinder renewable-energy potential

first_imgA shift in Puerto Rico to natural gas would hinder renewable-energy potential FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:The Puerto Rico utility’s favored generation plan, in a report prepared by Siemens, involves an LNG terminal at San Juan and would achieve only 55% renewables by 2038. A scenario without LNG would reach 79% renewables by 2038 at comparable cost, based on undisclosed cost assumptions.A scenario in which renewables would contribute 53-57% of Puerto Rico’s electricity by 2038 “has a high likelihood of materializing,” states a draft analysis prepared by Siemens for Puerto Rico’s electric utility PREPA.  In that scenario, a land-based liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal would be constructed at San Juan; Siemens builds LNG infrastructure.  In another PREPA scenario without LNG, renewables would provide 79% of Puerto Rico’s electricity by 2038: 77% from solar and 2% from wind power, with 1900 MW of battery storage.  This higher-renewables scenario is projected to cost 2.6% more than PREPA’s favored scenario in 2025, and to cost less in 2038.The cost assumptions are not disclosed in PREPA’s draft analysis, which was published by the government energy agency.  The analysis is a “black box,” without the cost assumptions used for solar, storage, LNG infrastructure, or fossil fuels.  Nor does it discuss why wind power maxes out at 2%, or why solar power is not added until 2022.  The addition of solar in 2022 across the scenarios permits the economic retirement of six fossil units.For comparison, Hawaii’s least-cost energy path, as found in an independent study, would attain 46% renewables by 2021, and 58-84% renewables by 2030—saving customers $3-7 billion in the process.  Hawaii, like Puerto Rico, relies for much of its electricity on fossil fuel imported across an ocean.Just last month, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Mayors, and other groups advanced a goal of 50 percent renewable electricity for Puerto Rico by 2035, and 100% by 2050.  While the 50% target would be exceeded by 2038 in PREPA’s favored plan, both PREPA’s higher-renewables scenario at comparable cost, and the independent study of Hawaii’s grid, suggest that more renewables, faster, could save customers money as solar and storage costs continue to decline.Energy analyst Cathy Kunkel, noting that PREPA’s analysis points to relatively high renewables, contends that the Puerto Rico Senate should “change its energy bill to support, not hinder, this goal,” in a post published by utility think tank IEEFA.  Puerto Rico utility favors LNG over solar in Siemens planlast_img read more

Moody’s: Climate concerns raising refinancing costs for merchant coal plants in U.S.

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Moody’s warns that as investors zero-in on environmental, social and governance risks during the U.S. energy industry’s carbon transition, merchant coal generators face waning prospects for debt refinancing. “Among the power generation projects that we rate, merchant coal projects are among the most exposed to carbon transition risk because merchant coal plants are the most likely to experience the financial effects of carbon transition,” Moody’s analysts wrote in an Oct. 9 report.Electric utilities and power generators throughout the U.S. are adopting emissions reduction goals to align with the interests of customers and shareholders concerned about carbon exposure. About 9.7 GW of coal capacity is still expected to retire in 2019 despite the Trump administration’s scaled-back carbon emissions rule finalized in June, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.“ESG concerns have reduced the number of potential investors in merchant coal projects, leading to higher capital costs and greater credit protections for potential lenders,” the analysts wrote. “Future financings are likely to be materially more expensive and difficult, especially compared to recent natural gas-fired project financings.”In addition to an increased investor focus on ESG, “persistently low power prices” and “high leverage relative to sustained cash flow” also present economic challenges for merchant coal plants.Moody’s pointed out that the sponsor of Chief Power Finance LLC pulled a refinancing transaction in August because of market conditions, while Longview Intermediate Holdings C LLC and Sandy Creek Energy Associates LP will likely face challenges as they seek to refinance maturities within the next two years. The three coal-fired projects, Chief, Longview and Sandy Creek, have a combined $1.7 billion in debt maturing in the next two years, according to Moody’s.“Despite refinancing challenges, projects that we rate own some of the most efficient, environmentally compliant and well-maintained merchant coal plants in the U.S,” analysts wrote. “But these factors have not produced enough cash flow generation to fully offset the carbon transition risk.”More ($): Moody’s: Merchant coal plants face ‘heightened refinancing risk’ amid ESG wave Moody’s: Climate concerns raising refinancing costs for merchant coal plants in U.S.last_img read more

Wood Mackenzie sees total global energy storage climbing to 741GWh by 2030

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Saur Energy:A new report by research agency Wood Mackenzie’s has estimated that the global energy storage capacity additions could grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31 percent, recording 741 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of cumulative capacity by 2030.The report adds that front-of-the-meter (FTM) will continue to dominate annual deployments and will account for up to 70 percent of annual total capacity additions to the end of the decade.Rory McCarthy, principal analyst at WoodMac, said that “we note a 17 percent decrease in deployments in 2020, 2 GWh less than our pre-coronavirus outlook. We expect wavering growth in the early 2020s, but growth will likely accelerate in the late 2020s, to enable increased variable renewable penetration and the power market transition.”“Investment decisions are likely to be pushed back in some cases, but the general trajectory of the power market transition and the need for energy storage to enable this has not changed,” McCarthy said. “If anything, the transition may be accelerated as governments around the world grapple with how to recover their economies more sustainably than in the past with upside for the energy storage industry.”The report goes on to add that the US maintained its pole position and will make up over 49 percent or 365 GWh of global cumulative capacity by 2030. Utility resource planning in the US is set to take a front seat for deployments over the coming decade. In the past two years, utility approaches to renewables and particularly storage have shifted seismically, with the majority of utilities dramatically shifting planned resources towards renewables and storage due to cost and state-driven clean-energy goals.China, coming in second after the US, is also expected to see its cumulative storage capacity grow exponentially. It will account for 21 percent or 153 GWh of global cumulative capacity by the end of the decade. The ancillary service market is the primary revenue stream for the FTM market and continues to attract hybrid storage installations in China from 2020 to 2025. Firming renewables capacity to reduce curtailments is the second most important driver in Australia, China, South Korea and Japan. China launched a policy that requires solar and wind developers to make up the costs for building stable and grid-friendly renewable generation assets.[Ayush Verma]More: Global energy storage capacity to reach 741 GWh by 2030: WoodMac Wood Mackenzie sees total global energy storage climbing to 741GWh by 2030last_img read more

Analysts see rising likelihood of ‘Chapter 22’ bankruptcies in U.S. oil and gas sector

first_imgAnalysts see rising likelihood of ‘Chapter 22’ bankruptcies in U.S. oil and gas sector FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):More oil and natural gas companies will likely file for bankruptcy protections a second time as fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on balance sheets, industry experts said.Drillers such as Ultra Petroleum Corp. and Chaparral Energy Inc. and oilfield services providers such as Pacific Drilling SA initiated “Chapter 22” proceedings, a euphemism for second Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings, in 2020 after restructuring just a few years earlier in the wake of a previous commodity price downturn. According to David Jones, chief judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, these companies did not implement the right capital structure the first time around, even though creditors were on board and all legal requirements were satisfied.“I will be very candid and acknowledge that I have approved plans that everyone said, you know, “This is going to fix the problem — this is the right way out,’ and I looked at it and go: ‘There’s no way,’” he said during a panel at Rice University’s virtual energy finance summit Nov. 13, “I’m not going to substitute my own judgment.”Companies that are looking to get out from under insolvency again could turn to out-of-court measures, but a full-on restructuring is more efficient and comprehensive. “To the extent that they participate in an out-of-court exchange and they basically take a 2021 bond and turn it into a 2025 bond, they haven’t fixed capital structure,” said Bassam Latif, managing director at restructuring advisory firm Moelis & Co. “They haven’t fixed the operations of the company. The cash burn and liquidity burn will continue.”Latif and Jones expected to see additional Chapter 22 proceedings.When it comes to whether midstream providers’ contracts are protected during upstream bankruptcy proceedings, courts’ decisions so far have been mixed. Midstream gathering and processing agreements are often written as real property interests. A real property interest is tied to the property, and it cannot be rejected in bankruptcy. Gas transportation agreements, however, take the form of executory contracts. Most recently, Jones ruled that Chesapeake Energy Corp. can throw out a natural gas purchase agreement with Energy Transfer LP’s ETC Texas Pipeline Ltd. because it did not satisfy the requirements for a real property interest “running with the land,” as opposed to obligating the debtor or another party to fulfill its terms at a later date.[Allison Good]More ($): Industry experts expect additional ‘Chapter 22’ bankruptcies in oil, gas patchlast_img read more


first_imgIn last month’s issue, I wrote an article on the Red River Gorge and the history of climbing access there. Researching and writing that piece allowed me to relive the weeks I spent at the Red as a college undergrad – young(er), more clueless (if you can believe it), but totally enchanted by everything that was and is the Red River Gorge. It was our outdoor program’s go-to fall break spot, but I hadn’t been back to that little slice of Kentucky heaven in nearly three years.Last weekend, I decided, was a good time to change that.IMG_1494 IMG_1500 IMG_1503Day 1From Asheville, N.C., I drove five hours northwest until I came to the small town of Slade, Ky. Aside from single lane roads, a couple diners, and a handful of gas stations, there’s not much in Slade (except, of course, some of the best Corbin sandstone in the world). It was here at Miguels Pizza that I met up with the crew – Adam, Dave, and Roberto. These three guys first met in Davis, W.Va., years ago where both Adam and Dave still reside. Climbing, ski patrolling, trail maintenance, road trips to Veracruz…these guys have shared quite a few good times together. After a few slices of pizza and some beers to wash it down, it was time to head back to our camp in the National Forest.IMG_1513 IMG_1526Day 2The weather for the weekend could not have been more perfect for climbing. Sunny and sixty degrees was all the forecast called for from Friday thru Sunday. Knowing this, and knowing the crowds that would likely swarm to the Red on Saturday, we decided to hit up one of the most popular climbing areas in the gorge – Muir Valley – first.Over 400 acres in size and with more than 350 routes of varying difficulty, it’s no wonder Muir Valley is such a hot spot. Moderate climbers (ah hem, me) flock to the Bruise Brothers and Sunny Side walls while the Sharmas head deeper into the property to try their hand at any number of 5.12+ projects at the Solarium or Midnight Surf crags.When you arrive on Muir Valley’s property, chances are you’ll either be greeted by Rick and Liz Weber, the owners of Muir Valley, or Roger VanDamme, the Chairman of the volunteer organization Friends of Muir Valley. Warm, welcoming, and smiling, these three friendly faces are the brains behind Muir Valley. Trail maintenance, fundraisers, emergency training, heck, even stocking the soda machine with Ale-8-1, whatever it is that needs doing, the crew at Muir Valley is on it.It’s that dedication to a quality climbing experience that makes Muir Valley unique. Rick and Liz, now well into their seventies, have committed the past two decades of their lives to expanding and improving Muir Valley. Their love affair with the area shows, too, and after a quick walk around the property with Liz at the lead, it was obvious to me that their passions have paid off ten-fold. Beginner and professional climbers alike know of the Webers, and everyone we passed acknowledged Liz by name and thanked her profusely for “what you guys do.”Liz is a sharp cookie and could easily out-climb me, despite our nearly half-a-century in age difference. She knows Muir Valley the way you know your childhood home, and as we walked along the trails, she versed me in the ways of Big Leaf Magnolias and the troubles of erosion. I had interviewed Liz for the article I wrote last month without ever having met her, and after spending just a couple hours with her on my final day in the Red, I realized that everything I ever hoped to be in life resided in that fiery-sweet pistol of a woman. She’s strong, she’s smart, and she settles for nothing but the best (especially when it comes to her beloved Muir Valley) – that’s why she was quick to express her disappointment that I had not mentioned the Webers’ intentions to gift Muir Valley (that’s right, gift, as in a Christmas gift) to Friends of Muir Valley, an act that would require the volunteer organization to raise $200,000 in 2014 to prove that the group could cover upcoming operation and maintenance costs through 2015.If you’ve ever climbed at Muir Valley, you’ve likely noticed how well-maintained the place is, how nice the facilities are, or the fact that they have loaner stick clips available for visiting climbers. Though there are hundreds of other crags to climb at in the Red, you likely won’t receive such a thoughtful experience anywhere else. With Roger and his volunteer crew at the helm, this place operates like a well-oiled machine on even the busiest of weekends. If you want to help these passionate people keep Muir Valley as such, then donate now. Every dollar counts.IMG_1547 IMG_1553 IMG_1564 IMG_1566Day 3We thought about getting up early. That idea did cross our minds at some point the previous night. But the fact of the matter is, we were more bent on breakfast burritos and perc coffee than beating the crowds. Consequently, we were on the crack-of-noon club that Saturday and opted to check out Military Wall and Left Flank by Nada Tunnel instead of exploring deeper into Muir Valley and risking spending the day doing more waiting than climbing.One of the best things about climbing at the Red is the diversity of folks you meet – from Cincinnati gym rats to European rock stars (no pun intended, maybe), people will travel halfway across the world if they need to, just to climb at the Red.Sometimes I forget how lucky we are to be so close to such quality rock climbing. As I hung in my harness at the top of Sunshine, snapping photos of Adam leading and listening to tidbits of a conversation our neighboring climbers were having in Italian, I was reminded of how unique of an experience this was, to be in the heart of Kentucky amid a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds and ideals. Even some of the hippest cities lack that thread of diversity, and the coolest part about it all was the shared love of climbing that united people from all walks of life.We climbed until dark that day, ending the night with a stop at another climbing hub – Sky Bridge Station. We drank IPAs on empty stomachs and fueled our aching bodies with quesadillas. We helplessly defended ourselves in a game of darts and chatted with the locals who gave us hand-drawn maps and climbing beta. The energy was visceral, the vibe tangible, and (apparently) we closed the place down before returning to our quiet corner of the woods, the guys to prepare for another day of climbing and I to return back to Asheville.Until next year, RRG.IMG_1584 IMG_1598 IMG_1618 IMG_1638 IMG_1664 IMG_1675 IMG_1684 IMG_1696 IMG_1697 IMG_1703 IMG_1795last_img read more

Dave Rawlings Machine Pop-Up Shows in the South

first_imgLongtime partners Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch have been surprising towns in the Southeast with last-minute pop-up shows at intimate venues. Last week the couple made stops in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and this week they’re moving north to Virginia. Playing as the Dave Rawlings Machine, Rawlings and Welch front a string band that includes a cast of acoustic all-stars, in the past featuring members of Old Crow Medicine Show, the Punch Brothers, and even Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, who embraces his unplugged side on mandolin. Crowds can expect material from Rawlings’ 2009 album A Friend of a Friend, tunes from Welch’s extensive catalog, and some choice covers. This week’s dates are below.1323886168gillian_img01_hires-300x2514/27 – Harvester Performance Center – Rocky Mount, Va. – Tickets: 4/28 – Jefferson Theater – Charlottesville, Va. – Tickets: 4/29 – Neighborhood Theater – Charlotte, N.C. – Tickets: read more

Off the Beaten Path: Exploring 59 National Parks in 59 Weeks

first_imgWelcome to newest Blue Ridge Outdoors online series, ‘Off the Beaten Path’, where we showcase the many inspirational folks from across the Blue Ridge who have stepped away from the mainstream path of everyday existence to live a more intentional and adventurous life. From thru-hikers and van-lifers to off-the-grid warriors and tiny house disciples, we’ll be bringing you the true stories behind some of the region’s most interesting and inspiring characters. First up is former Virginia resident Darius Nabors. Back in June Darius set out with his friend Trevor Kemp on an epic quest to visit all of America’s 59 national parks in 59 weeks. It took a while, but we finally tracked Darius down while he and Trevor were refueling from recent adventures at a coffee shop in Alaska. Here’s what he had to say about #59in59, the interesting places he’s slept while on the road, his wildlife encounters along the way, and everything in between.♦♦♦BRO: How did the idea of #59in59 come to fruition?Darius: I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is about an hour away from Rocky Mountain National Park. My childhood was spent hiking and visiting other nearby parks in Utah, Texas, Wyoming, and Montana. My dad was also a summer park ranger at Olympic National Park in Washington State.As with most little boys, I liked to collect things, and when I was younger it was basketball cards. In the back of my mind I have always wanted to ‘collect’ every National Park by visiting each. Fast forward to 24-year-old me: I had graduated from college and worked as an elementary school teacher in South Dakota and was just starting to work for the University of Virginia. National Geographic came to visit UVA and advertised a grant called the Young Explorer Grant._MG_1179They grant funded people to go on expeditions. In my mind it was obvious, go visit all 58 National Parks [this was prior to Pinnacles being added in 2013]. At the time, I didn’t really have everything organized and didn’t have enough money to make it happen. There is an email to my dad from August, 2010, in which I talk about the trip and the idea.Fast forward 5 more years. I’m 29, and I’m still living and working in Charlottesville and no closer to visiting all the National Parks. With the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in August of 2016 I decided that it was time to just make it happen. We can spend our lives planning out our dreams, or we can spend our time living them. I decided to start living them. I recruited my friend Trevor to join me, we did some crowdfunding, and here we are in Alaska with 9 parks under our belt!_MG_9442BRO: How has the idea evolved since you initially conceived it?Darius: It’s actually funny, the idea hasn’t really evolved that much since that August 2010 email to my dad. Here is one of the things I emailed my dad:“I’m also trying to give myself a list of things that I would have to do in every park:1. One day awake for a sunrise.2. One day watch the sunset.3. One hike.4. One full day of volunteering at the park.5. One time in a body of water.”So far we’ve done 1,2,3 and, 5 in each park. 4 has been a bit more difficult to coordinate, although we did help a park ranger change a flat tire once. The main thing that has changed, though, is the technology to make it successful. Instagram didn’t exist. Periscope and Meerkat also hadn’t yet been created. Crowdfunding was in its infancy. Many of the platforms that will make our trip accessible to more people were developed in the last 5 years and they give us the opportunity to reach, interact, and communicate with a much broader audience. I guess it’s good I sat on the idea for 5 years!_MG_8936BRO: Last time we talked to you were in a coffee shop in the great state of Montana. Where are you now and where are you headed next?Darius: A coffee shop in Alaska! Coffee shops are the most reliable when it comes to internet and caffeine. Our routine is kind of like this: Go on an adventure and take lots of pictures, return from adventure, reload on food, attempt to lock down a shower, and do some laundry, go to a coffee shop and upload photos/blog, repack our stuff, go on an adventure.Our next adventure will take us North. We are driving from Fairbanks, Alaska up the Dalton Highway to Gates of the Arctic National Park. Gates is not only one of the most remote parks, it is one of the most remote places in the world. After Gates we will continue 200 more miles up the Dalton highway to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay to see where Alaskan oil comes from. The road is not known for being friendly to vehicles, it pops tires and shatters windshields. We are hoping to escape both of those potential problems and return to Fairbanks unscathed. The predicted weather in Deadhorse at this time of year is hovering between 40-33 degrees, I guess that’s summer in the Arctic!_MG_9063BRO: What parks have you visited so far?Darius: We’ve been to Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, Isle Royale in Michigan, Voyageurs in Minnesota, Teddy Roosevelt in North Dakota, Montana’s Glacier National Park, Wrangell St. Elias in Alaska, Lake Clark – Alaska, Katmai – Alaska,  the Kenai Fjords, also in Alaska.BRO: Are you mostly camping in the national parks?Darius: When we are in the parks we are always camping. Whether it is a backcountry spot, or an actual campground, our nights are spent on inflatable sleeping pads in sleeping bags._MG_0925BRO: What about on the road between destinations?Darius: Between destinations we are camping as well. We look for state parks, Canadian National Parks (on the drive to Alaska) or other units of the National Park Service. In the first 2 months we have slept in beds 4 times. One of those times was next to a dirt runway for planes in Lake Clark National Park where we found some old mattresses that had an orange spray painted sign advertising ‘FREE’. We interpreted to mean FREE BEDS and looked favorably on the runway aspect, as the first plane to take off would serve as a free alarm clock for our 9am flight back to Anchorage._MG_8107BRO: How are you liking the mobile lifestyle?Darius: It’s what you would expect. It’s like living in a studio apartment, but your pickup truck is the studio. We rarely stay in the same campground two nights in a row, so we are packing up our beds basically every night. If you want dinner you have to pull out the kitchen bin and either set up the stove, or start a fire. We are constantly moving things in the back of the truck. Move the cooler out to grab the food bin, put the cooler back.Move the backpack to get the tent, put the backpack back. It’s like Tetris with your personal possessions. We also have become wi-fi fiends. By this I mean that we will pull in and get gas and immediately ascertain if there is free wi-fi. If there is then we are using every moment to sap out moments to post photos, text friends and stay in touch with family. On one hand we probably look like we are incapable of living without our handheld devices, on the other hand we have internet so infrequently that there is this constant need to do and post more for others to enjoy._MG_9485BRO: Has it been liberating living on the road?Darius: There are parts that are liberating. Everything you have and need is in the truck behind you. We are constantly looking for ways to simply our life. Can we take out fewer things from the truck? Can we prepare food in a way that reduces the amount of dishes that we have to clean? (Yes: put a tortilla in your bowl before you eat out of it!) Often times our agenda for the day is to get to the top of a mountain for a good view.Our struggles are the sun being in the wrong position for us to take a video of jumping into a glacial lake without glare. It’s certainly liberating and freeing. That being said, those beds on the side of the runway were one of the most comfortable places I have slept in my entire life. The little conveniences are so enjoyable when you aren’t used to them every day. Hot water, showers, laundry, these are things that are very difficult for us._MG_9515BRO: Do you have a favorite park so far?Darius: Each park is so different, but they all have valuable things to provide. I could give favorites for more specific items, like favorite waterfalls, favorite hike, favorite place to swim, etc.BRO: Tell us about some of you wildlife encounters?Darius: There are three that come to mind. The first I will tell about is in Katmai National Park in Alaska. We were in the visitor center watching a video about the history of the park, and as we were sitting there, a momma and grizzly cub came right next to the window of the visitor center. They were between 5-10 feet away from us.It’s incredible to be so close to such a big predator. You expect something that is going to be vicious, and instead they are just curious. The momma bear went up to the flag pole and started playing around with the rope holding up the flag. The cub was also entertaining to watch because he would observe his mom before jumping into any activity. She would start swimming across the river and he would wait on shore watching until she was far enough away that he realized he had to follow.Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 10.23.48 PMOur second encounter was perhaps one of my favorite wildlife encounters in my life. We were hiking in the backcountry of Glacier up over a pass to get to our campground for the night. As a group of 5, we approached a cut in the rock where we had to climb up with both hands and feet when a marmot came screaming down the hill.When I say screaming, I mean both the speed at which he was running and the noise that he was making. There was an ear piercing REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE that lasted 2-3 seconds. Alan, who was at the front of our group came face to face with the marmot as the marmot climbed higher up on a rock. Alan backed up, held up his hiking poles to keep it at a distance, the marmot REEEEEEEEEEd again, and then ran away. We were all a little nervous at this point. Had the marmot made a sacrificial attack to save the other marmots? Or was this the attack call to bring out other marmots? We continued our hike and encounctered other marmots but were not similarly charged.Finally, in Lake Clark Trevor and I stepped near some bees and both got stung. Quite unpleasant. Considering that neither of us had been stung in 10-15 years, it was an interesting and painful thing to feel again.BRO: Most impressive natural feature?Darius: The Valley of 10,000 Smokes, no contest.  In 1912, Novarupta experienced the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century. Mount Saint Helens unloaded 0.1 cubic miles of pumice and ash. Krakatoa unloaded 2 cubic miles of material and Novarupta exploded 3 cubic miles of material. This means that Novarupta was 30 times larger than Mount Saint Helens and 150% of the size of Krakatoa. Next to the volcano sit 700 feet of ash._MG_8050The Statute of Liberty is 305-feet tall, so it would have covered it twice over. The Eiffel Tower is 986-feet tall, so you would have just barely seen the top after being covered in ash. You have this valley that was verdant and green and full of wildlife. The volcano erupts and it is covered in ash, everything dies. Everything. The salmon run didn’t happen for 5 years as the cloud of ash created 3 days of darkness and inundated the water and land. More than 100 years later you go from classic Alaska scenery of spruce trees, alders and fireweed to a dead valley.The appropriately named River Lethe has cut a path through the ash the looks as if it will be the future Grand Canyon and the river water can be far deeper than you’d expect as ash is far lighter than sand and the river has cut through the land like a knife through butter. It’s such a strange sight to go from a forest to the moon in a matter of 4 miles. There are foot prints present throughout the land and you have no way of knowing how long they have been there, 1 day, 1 week, a month? The land looks dead and the yellow, orange, red and purple rocks create a magnificent view.If you look closely, you can see the valley start to return there is moss and lichen starting to take hold where the mountains are slowly sloughing off dirt and soil. In other places, smaller plants and trees have started to take hold and spread out into the Valley. I hope that they return soon, because when the wind comes over the pass, it rips through the valley and is a force to be reckoned with when you have a full backpack on your back._MG_1034BRO: What’s next after this journey?Darius: Only time will tell! Directly after the journey I will be looking for at least a couple of nights in a warm bed, tea heated up in a microwave and some lasagna cooked in an oven. After taking a hot shower I’ll decide if it is time to cut the mustache, or if I’d prefer to keep traveling and encouraging others to do the same! I hear that tigers are difficult to see in the wild, or was it a snow leopard? Maybe 59in59 will go international!_MG_0932BRO: Will you head back to Charlottesville?Darius: Hopefully, there is so much good in Charlottesville. I know I’ll come back for a The Ghost American Pale Ale at Three Notch’d. After some stops at restaurants, a jog on the Rivanna and a reunion with friends, I’ll have to decide what kind of life I would like to lead!To follow Trevor and Darius as they continue their travels through America’s treasured national parks check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or on the web at!last_img read more