Saturday, February 19, 2011

An all new year! 2011

First, let's go ahead and get this out of the way... in the January 2011 edition of Southern Living, we were recognized as the Best of the South for our summer adventure programs, particularly our waterfall hikes and cascading /canyoneering trips... a distinct honor from a great magazine! And of course along with that honor the reservation system has been pretty busy! Between that honor and the early arrival of springtime temperatures, we have been multitasking like crazy.. emailing, answering phones, getting in as much XC skiing as possible, tapping the maples, making syrup and of course, trying to launch our 2011 Activity Schedule.. Although it is still not fully completed and the website needs a bit of tweaking, I thought I'd get this post up as soon as I could...

WHAT'S NEW .. Well first of all we've launched a campaign that everyone needs to know about... 10% of the gross of all paid programming we do this spring thru April will go to defray the expenses of youth programming during Summer 2011. Historically, (though we don't advertise this) we work with hundreds of young people during the spring, summer and fall who come from very "challenging" backgrounds .. It may be a household where a parent(s) is incarcerated, or the family is homeless, or the children have been removed due to abusive conditions, or wanton substance abuse, or combinations of the above.. We have done this for more than 15 years with whatever funding may be available to us, and we make up the rest out of pocket.. normally 50% or more. We take these kids climbing, backpacking, canoeing, tubing... basically allowing them to have a week or two out of the year, in which it's OK just to be a kid, to play, and have wholesome, structured fun with no worries about food, shelter or anything else, (use your imagination). We provide a camper: staff ratio of 2:1....

This year, virtually ALL funding has been cut from these important child development programs, which means we face a challenge. It would be easy for us to just say no... But working with these children is too much of a mission, a calling for us. So we are committing to providing these programs, and absorbing all of the costs ourselves.
But to do this, we need to raise, at a minimum, $5,000
, for which we provide a dollar to dollar match. That's where you can help. Enroll in one of our programs NOW and you can be assured that 10% of the gross, (basically any profit +5%) will be going to our youth programming...

Have yourself a ball, and know some young person will, too ... Thanks to you!

"Healthy Hiking" /Backpacking
... There is no better way to lose weight, and to see awesome sights than mountain hiking. The low impact activity in fresh, clean air in a landscape of sparkling waters and crystal clear mountaintops is the perfect way to shed lots of unwanted weight. Coordinated by one of our staff (who is a collegiate fitness instructor during the winter), these can be configured as day-hikes or backpacking trips* (* the recommended option) of one to four days in length. (with before and after weigh-ins) We provide all needed gear ..
Call the office for more information 866.455.8672

Adventure Climbing... (previously listed as Old Rag Guided Climbing) This is a Spring and Fall adventure that is truly special... climbing the rocky flanks of Old Rag (and other significant peaks) as the average tourist will never see or dare... straight up! ropes, climbing shoes and helmets are required! (and provided!)

Boiling Sap

Maybe the most sure -fire harbinger of spring is the realization that the maples are breaking dormancy in preparation for budding.. the sap is running!

Now, being basically a southern boy, I always looked for spring in different ways: pruning apple trees, listening for peepers, paddling streams (normally too low to paddle most of the year) fresh with spring-rain and snow melt.. increased talk of planting 'taters and onions, being out without a gazillion layers of clothing ...

All those things are still big parts of my life, and I look forward to each and every one of those events... they happen like clockwork, every year.. at least in the way I've chosen to live my life.

But as we all grew and spread to different parts of the country, my brothers and sister adopted many of the practices of their new surroundings.

One of my brothers moved north... WAAY north.... and make no mistake, it's definitely not the south!

Many of the customs and traditions of being close to the land are very solid and natural.. good stewardship of the land is a strong northern ethic. But one of the things he naturally began was tapping his grove of Sugar Maples to make syrup... "huh? he's doing what?" which was my first reaction about 20 years ago....

But the magnificent Christmas gifts of homemade syrup made their presence known and we looked forward to them every year... and every year hence.

As I grew older and closer to the earth, the idea of making syrup, a thousands -of-years-old skill, started to look like the most natural and logical thing to do... and last year, I fumbled around and managed to produce enough sap for abut a cup of questionable-quality , but sweet, syrup... which I might add, was immediately devoured.

This year, I have been determined to step up my game just a bit.

Now my brother, he's gone all high tech... with his trees tapped and piped straight into his corn-crib-converted-into-a boiling-room...

I am not nearly as sophisticated...

Sap runs on its own time.

When I was a child, in my imagination, I used to view springtime sap boiling as something that must be an exciting time... I mean it's directly associated with all those sources of childhood excitement.. a wood fire, a barn, SNOW, and sweet stuff to eat... what's not to be excited about???

Even as an "adult" I have still been known to view gathering and boiling sap as a time of great anticipation and lots of doings...

Reality, however, is very different... it is much more mellow, more balanced, more in-tune with earthy doings. I have come to realize that , as with gathering sap, there is little I can do can make it boil down faster... natural laws are in charge. The best thing I can do is find a good book and settle in to feed the fire , and maybe, when no one is looking, catch a nap...

.. and it just may be that this is what it means to live in sync with the world... accepting the zen-like concept of everything in its time.. rest when it's time to rest, (re)store energy for the time of growing, and in turn, work when the time is right to work.

... and to be content to let sap run... and, in it's time, to let sap boil.

It sure is sweet...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The hardest time of year..

Our administrative office is located, appropriately, on the side of a mountain... which provides an amazing environment in which to work, unless, that is, you have to work, indoors... then, it's a bit problematic.
And the reason it's a problem is that some of the most challenging single track in the East is 1/2 mile out the back door... and some of the best backcountry and nordic skiing east of the Allegheny Front is located, well, it starts when the back door closes...
and for those in-between seasons when the snow is too crunchy or thin or the trails too muddy and soft.. then, there is the most amazing mountain trail running..

I guess none of that really sounds like too much of a problem... unless you have indoor work that MUST be done.. like the final planning for 2011, or executing a marketing plan, or revising course and class syllabus for the start of the 2011 teaching season, or acquiring 2011 permits, or finalizing trip planning, regardless of how amazing the trip.

So today, I was close to finishing some major admin-weenie jobs.. when I happened to look out thru one of the office windows... at the deep blue sky, a foot of hard-pack, crusty snow, 26 degrees. .. hmm, can't ride, can't ski... maybe I should pack up my work and head into a coffee shop or library in town... I definitely won't be distracted there.

Thirty minutes later, there I was: daypack on, poles in hand, running shoes with gaiters, slogging up 1,500 ft. for what will be the most exhilarating 3.5 mile descent I've ever made without skis..
Two hours later, my one hour respite has now evolved into 2.5 hours, as one run was not enough.. (is it ever??) Nordic Mountain Running... perhaps the worlds greatest sport.

Yes, my work remains. It'll be there tomorrow. It'll be there next week.. Heck, at this rate, it may be there in JULY!
But Nordic Mountain Running may only be there for another few weeks (months, if I'm lucky)

This is the hardest job in a tough season... but, please, shed no tears.. I'll survive somehow.