Saturday, January 24, 2009

and all of a sudden... GIANTS

Yesterday, I was honored to be part of a planning session for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area... (the region encompassing south central PA, central MD, eastern WV and northwestern VA..)
It was a fine gathering...many friends and associates that I've come to know and respect over the years.. resource managers and planners, historians and educators.
..All are stewards of this precious cultural and natural resource.. this mountain-valley-river filled region.
The other common thread was the "fire" within...because even though the actual physical age of the participants ran the scale from 20s thru 70s.. each person's commitment to the task at hand was absolutely ageless. The call to stewardship burns bright within each.

My seating partner was my good friend Mike Dudash,(River and Trail Outfitters) a longtime river guide, paddler, teacher, environmental educator and steward of not just the Shenandoah River, but all of Earth's waters.
Mike has been living his calling, and the life he loves, for as long as I've known him, which is close to 25 years now... it was great to see him (not working) and to catch up on life and what's going on.
* * *
And, again today, I had the chance to visit with another long-time friend, Arthur Kearns, (owner of Mountain Trails in Winchester and the Gendarme and Seneca Rocks Climbing School, in Seneca Rocks WV).. we had the chance to shoot the breeze on all sorts of things from our feelings about Corridor H to news of mutual acquaintances... from his new parking lot to Boy Scouts buying good outdoor gear.

So tonight, as I sat beside the fire, watching the flames, I kept reflecting on the past 36 hours and all those people I had seen and spent time with..

My thinking came round to focus on a group of friends and peers in this business (outdoor ed/adventure/guiding) who are absolutely ageless, amazing.. Mike and ACK, Clyde Hicks (of the Trail House),Chipper Chase (White Grass) Lester Zook (Wild Guyde), Steve Bair (NPS-Shenandoah) Dave Griffin (attorney.. but a great guy) and I just tried to connect the dots..

They are each CERTIFIED fire breathers... they don't just believe in their calling.. rather, they BELIEVE IN THEIR CALLING.. and if you know them, you know this is true.. they draw so much energy from what they do that it spins off in the untold amounts of pure exuberance for life. Joy in action. Their work is "play" in the eyes of others.

They are owners of few things but stewards of all things.. of life... lived passionately and fully.

They are all locals.. if not by birth, by choice.
.. and amongst the outdoor community of the region, they are known or known of, by virtually all..

I tried to recollect the mental images of each in turn.. maybe it was the glass of wild grape wine.. maybe it was the fire, but they all started to blur and blend. All I could think of were the common denominators ("short, tall, skinny, stout, thinning hair, weathered skin, wrinkles around the eyes from incessant grinning and squinting in the sun..")

It's hard to get past the sparkle in the eye, (a hint of the soul within).. and no one really gets past the energy.. (I think that people who are following their calling soon lose their physical appearance... all you really see and feel... all that really matters is the energy in their soul.)

so... the point of this ramble?
The thing is this.. to see these people is nothing remarkable.. just folks... but to know them, and the work they do and have done in these mountains is nothing short of feeling like you're in the company of giants..

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Changing for the good... Inauguration Day 2009

Yes.. it's finally colder.. and snow has found its way back into our world. And while some of us are out poking around on the magnificent ice of WV (see the Blue Ridger blog link on the left) others are up exploring the Blue Ridge crest, and still others, like me, are content to let their bodies heal while enjoying the deep freeze January pleasures of wild ice and frozen streams and yes, a wee bit of back country skiing in what over the past several years has come to be very fleeting occurrence... snow in the mid Atlantic mountains.

For the first time in 5 years we had sub zero temperatures at the SMG office.. Our frozen spring-fed stream assured us that indeed, the mercury had tanked ... and thru mid February (at least) it promises to be more of the same... (to explain that last comment to those of you who may not understand... springwater is usually much warmer than you might think. It generally comes to the surface very near the ambient temperature of the subsurface groundwater.. about 54 degrees.)

With lots of cold weather activities, we also relish the warm times of sitting around the woodstove and fireplace.. It leads us to focus all the more on the adventures we'll have when everyone else comes out of hibernation.

Our website has been really revised, and my gosh, we're even accepting online payments...
While we will never relinquish our proud Luddite heritage.. (it took us 10 years to get e-mail) even this is changing a bit.. and yes, hopefully for the good.

Jake models his new "ice axe."

This orange-red flash beneath the ice is actually koi, a large gold fish someone released in a fire pond high up in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.

Change.. it does a body good!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Recipe for (guaranteed) Wonder and Awe

(This recipe has been passed down in my family through the ages... it's just as good now as it was 1,000 years ago.)

Wonder and Awe

- 1 scheduled meteor shower or comet (see the calendar at the bottom of this page)

- 1 clear night, no haze or cloud cover
- 1 early setting or late rising moon
- 1 meadow, field, clearing or yard away from night lights or ambient light pollution
- 1 (or more, as needed) large tarp or blanket
- 1 or more people with appropriately rated sleeping bags or quilts(must be willing to endure lumpy ground)

1. After checking the calendar, gather all ingredients and proceed to the meadow, field, clearing or yard.
2. Turn off all technological forms of interference.. block them from your mind.
3. Spread tarp or blanket(s) on ground.
4. If the ground is level, arrange the people like spokes on a wheel, heads toward the hub. Alternately if the meadow is sloping, arrange like sardines, side-by-side, with heads uphill. (If the night air is cool-to-cold, tightly packed sardines is a more appropriate method.)
5. Maintain a broad viewing horizon with a broad focus.
6. Relax, be filled with wonder and awe.
7. Drink it in deeply and enjoy.

Friday, January 2, 2009


2009! Hopefully to be a year of great change!
While some worry about world peace and the economic doldrums we chose to make the most of the first day of the New Year. First there were family gatherings, feasting and celebrations of epic proportions... then there were the traditional hikes up into the mountains..

Of course, when some of the older cousins are also SMG guides there are bound to be some extreme celebrations..
Air temperature : 22... water temperature : 32.1... fun factor: 10 of 10!

To be followed this week by a pilgrimage to Northern New England in search of climbable ice and skiable snow...

..and along those lines, this cheerful thought (not!) from Accuweather's Henry Margusity:
"as far as winter weather, thanks to global warming, Atlanta is the new Miami, Charlotte is the new Atlanta, Richmond is the new Charlotte, DC is the new Richmond, Philadelphia the new DC.. and so it goes." (sic)