Monday, December 10, 2007

Quiet On the Mountain

Wow! It's already December. Almost everyone has gone off to some other place.

Josh, Bret, and Beth B. are living in Driggs, ID. Josh has skied waist deep powder multiple times already this year. John is up in Boston town working landscaping for a little while. Chris and Kara are coming back to Spruce to enjoy the quiet of the winter. Kimmy is living nearby in Thomas, WV. Zach is a fly fishing guide catching monster trout on the tributaries of Lake Erie. Emily is back in graduate school in Corvalis, OR probably praying for an end to her schooling. Katrina is living in Switzerland. Brittany is back to work with Augusta Heritage in Elkins, WV. Jen is at home getting ready for another semester at Bethany College. And Abram...well, I'm not sure where Abram is. I am sure though that his fiddle is not far from his side. And I believe Heather had her sites pointed back to California. KB is the proud mother of a beautiful little girl, Avah. They are both doing well. Sophie is back in Art School in Baltimore, and Matt Tate is in Mill Point, WV tinkering with his biodiesel.

Dave, Ruth Ann, and Annie are due back today from a 3 week excursion to New England. Beth A. and I are poking around skiing when there is snow and moping around when there isn't. Well, I'm the mopey one. I can admit it. Anyway, I fixed our smelly toilet and built a ski rack. We also rebuilt a hoop house that belonged to the Underwoods. Beth will use it as a tool in her quest to produce fresh greens all year round.

One of the most special things about this place is that we always pull in such great people. Somehow they find their way to this mountain in West "By God" Virginia. We had an amazing staff this year and a bunch of fun. We all deserve a break after a bustling season like the last one. Thanks for everybody's help in making this place work.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

5th Annual Pig Roast!!!

Swing on by and help us celebrate another stellar year by attending the 5th annual Pig Roast!

When: Saturday, October 20, 2007 3pm-9pm

Where: The Mountain Institute's Spruce Knob Mountain Center

We will have a smorgasbord of food items and beverages, most importantly… freshly roasted pig! Feel free to bring your favorite dish, instruments, games or just your smile.

Please RSVP to Kimmy at 304.567.2644 or
email her at by October 15th.

You're Building a What?

I wonder how many times they heard that question in June of 1975? Thanks to Joanna Allen for these wonderful shots. If anyone has anymore pictures from back in the day, I'd love to share them.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Joe the Star Guy

Just after 10 p.m., a tired group of students and their parents walked slowly up Back Ridge, heading for the highest point on The Mountain Institute’s high plains. As the group approaches the crest of the ridge, they can make out the shadow of their objective, Back Ridge Observatory. Once there, they are greeted by a tall, excited man that seems very happy to see everyone. He welcomes the group, introduces himself and begins to point out stars, planets, and constellations throughout the night sky. The group soon moves inside where they gaze through a telescope so large that they must climb a ladder to reach the eye piece. The night sky is crystal clear, brilliant, with no light expect for that of the millions of stars shimmering light years away.

The man is Dr. Joe Morris and Back Ridge Observatory is his creation, his vision become reality. The group, organized by Johns Hopkins University, had members from all over the eastern United States, none whom had ever seen a night sky as magnificent as it was that summer night. It was the pilot run of the observatory and ran seamlessly.

The Mountain Institute’s Spruce Knob Mountain Center is located in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest and provides visitors with ‘the darkest skies east of the Mississippi River. Many visitors immediately realize what a unique experience this provides for astronomy; Joe Morris realized this nearly a decade ago. “Urban dwellers are gradually being robbed of the pleasure of seeing the beautiful night sky,” wrote Joe in a letter to TMI headquarters. One night while sharing observations with a group of TMI students, he watched and listened to them, in awe of the sparkling stars and deep sky objects that they had never been able to see before because of light pollution. Light pollution exists in areas where there is a significant amount of outdoor lighting at night, usually in and near urban areas. The glow reaches up into the night sky and drowns out the light of the stars and planets. When he saw the students’ reactions, Joe realized that astronomy fits in very well with TMI’s mission in Appalachia.

To learn more check out the fall edition of the Spruce Knob News. If you don't get the SK News, then email Josh Nease and demand that you be put on the list immediately. His email is Article by Josh Nease.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What Happened to Summer?

It's coming. Fall is creeping in under our noses. The mountains are progressively reddening announcing another natural transition. It's the time of year when I find myself quietly humming the 1965 Byrds hit Turn! Turn! Turn! The color change helps remind us of our own transitions here as we look ahead to many school groups in the coming months.

What did happen to summer? The staff were out working their tails off clearing trails in the Monongahela National Forest. I don't know for sure how many miles of trails they cleared, but I think I can safely say hundreds. A large group of amateur astronomers visited the Spruce Knob Mountain Center with the Almost Heaven Star Party to check out our wonderfully dark skies. Unfortunately, we had some inclement weather, but they did get some good viewing in. The Hero's Journey ran two weeks of programming utilizing our beautiful campus. The West Virginia Scholars Alumni visited for a reunion weekend to reconnect with old friends and the place again. We've had all kinds of good folks wander through our gates this summer. There are really too many to mention in this posting.

We are looking forward to 17 different classes from West Virginia Schools this fall. Some will be participating in our BWET program. (See earlier post for more details.) Others will be exploring and investigating our living laboratory for 2 or 3 days, and the rest we'll meet for a 3 day residency for all 5th graders in Randolph County. We are also looking forward to 4 solid weeks of our core 5 day wilderness courses, and a History Along the Potomac trip where a Virginia public school will travel by canoe studying key events in our nation's history. There will be a couple of college courses, and we'll finish off most of the fall with our 4th Annual Pig Roast that will be up at Spruce on October 20th, 2007. You should go, it's fun. Call us for more details.

The Appalachia Program staff are getting busier every year. The truth is that we still have room for more programs. If you know of any schools, teachers, or groups that would be interested in taking part in our programs you should give us a call at 1-800-874-3050 or drop an email to me at

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Potomac Stream Samplers

The 2007 Teacher Training for Potomac Stream Samplers is currently underway. Teachers from the 8 West Virginia counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are invited to participate in the tiered water monitoring program. It's mission is to promote awareness of the connections between West Virginia's uplands and downstream environments and our responsibilities as stewards of our watersheds. We currently hoping to expand this model to all the counties in West Virginia.

Potomac Stream Samplers begins with the teachers spending 3 days at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center where they learn the current stream monitoring standards set up by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection(Save Our Streams). Once school begins we visit their students in the classroom introducing the project and the themes that they'll be learning about. The class then travels to Spruce Knob to learn the water monitoring process with Spruce Knob Mountain Center staff. The final chapter is to use thier water monitoring skills to investigate a stream in thier local community.

For more information: or call Beth Altemus, Appalachia Program's Outreach and Education Coordinator, at 1-800-874-3050.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Praise for Summer Programs

"The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Family Academic Programs joined forces with The Mountain Institute in July to provide CTY families an absolutely wonderful 4-day environmental experience at Spruce Knob Mountain Center. These families were enthralled by the beauty of the area; impressed by the dedication and knowledge of the staff; and thrilled by the many activities---hiking, birding, exploring a cave, as well as learning about astronomy, navigation techniques, mountain geography, hydrology, and much more. The only complaint by the participants was the program wasn't long enough! CTY looks forward to doing another exciting and challenging program with The Mountain Institute next summer."

Thanks to Mary Crowley of CTY for her kind words and to the staff of the Appalachia Program for their dedication and hard work. We hope to have Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth up on the mountain for many years to come. For more information regarding customized programs at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center please call Nathan at 1-800-874-3050 or email

Friday, July 20, 2007

Our First Post

I want to congratulate our own John Broderick for making us proud and winning the Durbin Days "Greased Pig Contest." He persevered and beat out almost 20 other folks, and brought home the almost 150 lbs hog named Oliver. Oliver and our other hog, The Colonel, are getting to know each other. Way to go John!