Late fall and early winter are the perfect times for hiking the storied—and in some seasons a little too popular—Appalachian Trail. Crowds are sparse. Temps are still relatively mild. And the thinning trees mean views are expanding. If you need a trail buddy, there are a number of hiking clubs around the region that would be glad to have you tag along as they explore the best of the A.T.MarylandSouth Mountain State Park • November 5 Get acquainted with the rolling and rocky terrain of the A.T. in Maryland on this 6.4-mile out-and-back hike that will peak with the gorgeous fall views from Black Rock. After the hike with the Sierra Club Potomac Region Outings Program, the group will make an optional visit to nearby orchards in downtown Frederick. sierrapotomac.org Tennessee Trail Maintenance and Weekly Hikes • Every Tuesday and FridayThe Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club is one of the most active crews in the region, maintaining 134 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Damascus and Spivey Gap, N.C., including epic stretches like the Roan Highlands. The club has A.T. trail maintenance outings every Tuesday morning, as well as organized hikes every Friday. Both start at 8am.tehcc.orgVirginiaLinden to Route 22 • November 19Not a bad way to spend a fall Saturday afternoon. After a moderate 8.2-mile ramble on the A.T. through the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley near Front Royal, the Capital Hiking Club will then head to the nearby Pearmund Cellars winery to sample some local grape.capitalhikingclub.orgNorth CarolinaWallace Gap to Deep Gap • November 25-27Spend the long holiday weekend backpacking with the venerable Carolina Mountain Club. Over three days you’ll cover 21 miles as you hike south on the A.T. through the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area. It’s a moderate jaunt with a total of 4,640 feet of ascent, including a climb of Standing Indian Mountain. Along the way, you’ll catch sweet views from the ridge above the headwaters basin of the Nantahala River.carolinamountainclub.orgGeorgiaBlood Mountain Summit • December 31There’s no better way to say goodbye to the past year than standing on a mountain summit. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club will lead a six-mile loop hike on the Appalachian and Freeman Trails that will crest the majestic top of 4,458-foot Blood Mountain, Georgia’s highest peak on the A.T.georgia-atclub.org
Next, Switzerland’s population will decide on the reform package in a binding referendum on 24 September.A public vote is necessary because part of the reform requires an amendment to the country’s constitution. Through an increase in VAT, every person retiring from the day the reform comes into effect is to be granted a CHF70 (€57) top-up payment to compensate for cuts under the new pension framework.The Green party, GLP, changed its mind at the last minute to accept the reform package in parliament.They remained critical of the top-up payment to first pillar pensions, but said it should be up to the people to decide this question.In a vote on a similar general pension top-up in autumn last year, the people had rejected the left-wing initiative “AHVplus”.However, on 24 September Swiss people will not only be able to vote for or against the increase in VAT for pension payments, but also on the whole package.This means the reform package as a whole could still be toppled as unions, employer representatives, and parties have already started to campaign ahead of the referendum.Major points of the reform – apart from the top-up – are a lower conversion rate for second pillar Pensionskassen, and an increase to the retirement age for women. By a very narrow margin the Swiss parliament voted “yes” to the pension reform package ‘Altersvorsorge 2020’ (AV2020).The law was passed by the lower chamber, the Nationalrat, in the final vote today. There were 100 votes in favour, 93 against, and one abstention.At the same time the upper chamber, the Ständerat, also accepted the law with votes of 27 in favour to 18 against.Yesterday in a preliminary vote 101 MPs voted in favour of the changes, meaning the necessary majority was only just reached. In the final vote, just a simple majority was needed.
It was a rough Saturday in Westwood for the USC women’s water polo team, as the No. 3 Women of Troy couldn’t find their scoring touch and fell to No. 2 UCLA by a score of 9-5 in both teams’ regular-season finale.Like most matches between these two crosstown rivals, the energy and atmosphere was unlike any normal regular-season game.Not only were there bragging rights on the line, but it was also UCLA’s Senior Day, and Bruin fans came out in full force to pack Spieker Aquatics Center. The Women of Troy (21-3, 4-2 MPSF) were ready to play spoiler in Westwood, but the excitement of the game was soon gone after the Bruins (21-2, 5-1 MPSF) scored the first goal of the game and held onto that lead for the rest of the afternoon.Scoring woes and missed opportunities for USC, plus timely goals by the Bruins, would ultimately cost the Women of Troy the game, as they fell into an early deficit by halftime and were never able to fully recover.The five goals scored against the Bruins were USC’s second lowest scoring output this season, the lowest being the 5-3 loss to UCLA at the UC Irvine Invitational back in February. Scoring typically hasn’t been a problem for the Women of Troy this season though, as USC leads the MPSF in offense with 17.57 goals per game while also managing to outscore opponents by a whopping 409-111 margin.Head coach Jovan Vavic notes that his team could be deadly when they are clicking on offense, but against UCLA, that scoring prowess was fleeting.“We have been very, very good scoring-wise against a very good defensive team like [No. 1-ranked] Stanford where we scored nine goals in regulation, and against any other opponent, we have been in double digits,” Vavic said. “Cal kept us at less than 10 goals and UCLA too, but against every other opponent, we’ve scored 10 goals or more. We know we can be the most dangerous team in the country.”USC, however, just couldn’t find the back of the net on Saturday, scoring just one goal in the first frame, none in the second, three in the third and just one in the fourth.From the start, the Bruins came out of the gates hot, as UCLA’s Kodi Hill scored 33 seconds into the game. Four minutes later, a 6-on-5 goal by Alys Williams pushed the Bruin lead to 2-0 before senior driver Monica Vavic notched goal of her own to end the first frame with a 2-1 score in favor of the Bruins.UCLA would then add two more goals in the second frame while blanking USC, taking a 4-1 lead into halftime.The Women of Troy would make it interesting in the third frame, as freshman utility Hayley McKelvey scored once, and Vavic added another 6-on-5 goal to cut the deficit to one. Just as the Women of Troy came close, however, another goal was on the board for UCLA, and the Bruins held the score to 5-4 going into the final frame.Despite the comeback efforts by the Women of Troy, the fourth period was ultimately all about UCLA, as they would outscore USC by a 4-1 margin.A goal by Mackenzie Barr and another by Hill in the opening minutes pushed the Bruin lead back up to three before Vavic converted a five-meter penalty shot that was earned thanks to junior two-meter player Jayde Appel with two minutes left on the clock. But that was the closest USC would get, as UCLA would manage to score two more goals before the whistle blew to end the game with a 9-5 win.UCLA was led by attacker Rachel Fattal, who scored four of her team’s nine goals, and goalie Sami Hall, who recorded eight saves on the day. The Women of Troy were led offensively by Vavic’s three goals, while McKelvey and sophomore driver Stephania Haralabidis added one goal apiece. Freshman goalie Victória Chamorro was once again steady in the cage for USC, tallying 11 saves on the day. Chamorro deflected a number of 6-on-5 scoring opportunities and five-meter shots for the Bruins throughout the game, but ultimately, the high-powered UCLA offense was too much for the Women of Troy to handle.The lone bright spots for USC on Saturday were the performances by Chamorro and Vavic.The Brazilian goalie’s 11 big saves in the cage was good enough for game-high honors, while the All-American first-team driver Vavic moved up the ranks in MPSF history for career goals scored.Her 88 goals on the year is already second-most ever in a single season at USC, while her hat trick against the Bruins upped her total to 279 career goals, giving her sole possession of No. 2 all-time in MPSF scoring history.With anywhere between two and six games left in the season depending on conference and NCAA tournament results, Vavic needs just eight more goals to surpass current record-holder Molly Smith of Pacific, who recorded 286 career goals between 1997-2000.Despite the loss, Vavic still thinks his team can make a strong push when they head into the MPSF Tournament next weekend.“Our team still has better chemistry this year compared to last year, I think. Winning a close game against Cal, and also being down to Stanford at home by three goals and then coming back to tie that game, those are the signs of a team that doesn’t quit,” Vavic said.USC must now prepare for the upcoming MPSF Championships this weekend in Tempe, Arizona, where the Women of Troy have earned the No. 3 seed. USC will face off against No. 6 San Jose State Friday at 12:30 p.m. MST.
Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan has suffered another injury after pulling up during Shanghai SIPG’s league game.The Ghana captain was substituted after 10 minutes in his side’s 2-1 defeat against Beijing Guoan.Gyan is expected to undergo further test to check the extent of injury.This fresh injury could rule Gyan out of Ghana’s AFCON qualifier against Mauritius on June 6.The captain last played for Ghana in their 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Comoros in November 2015. – Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @JoySportsGH. Our hashtag is #JoySports