Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Then Summer Camper...Now Intern

(Picture: Allison's on the left. She might kill me for putting this picture on the web. It's worth it. ~N)

I first came to The Mountain Institute at age 11, after hearing vague rumors of “a round library full of pillows” from a friend who had come to summer camp here the year before. To my painfully shy and awkward adolescent self, that was just about the closest thing to paradise I could imagine, and I promptly packed off to Youth Ecology camp with absolutely no concept of what I was getting myself into. My first foray into the wonderfully wacky TMI universe was just a week long, but it was more than enough -- I was hooked.

Eight years and four more summer camps after my first visit to TMI, I’m finally back, this time as an intern. The move from serial camper to staff member has been an interesting adjustment. For example, it was difficult at first to see Nathan as a real live boss, as opposed to the counselor that my friends and I once locked out of our dorm room in a spontaneous act of adolescent rebellion. It also took a few days for me to fully realize that I was no longer bound by all the rules that I had grown so accustomed to. I can go into the kitchen without permission! I can eat food out of the refrigerator! I can stay up past 10:00 at night! It’s turned my world upside down, in the best way possible.

I’ve been here almost a month now, and it has been an absolutely amazing experience. Whether I’m cooking or cleaning or roofing or shadowing a school course or digging holes, I always feel like I’m learning something. My time here is already almost half over, something I try not to think about too often because I really, really don’t want to leave. It’s great to be here, and I can’t wait to see what strange and ridiculous adventures will ensue in the coming month...

~Allison Hornbeck, intern

Friday, June 13, 2008

Matt...this is everybody, Everybody...this is Matt.

I have been at The Mountain Institute for almost a week now and can already tell that it is going to be a great summer. Having never come here when I was younger I feel as if I have missed out on so many adventures. Last night a group of us hiked up to Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia to watch the sun set. The view was incredible from atop one of the many boulders that lay in a small field. I am planning on going back in a few days to work some of the climbing routes that occupy those blocks in easily the most beautiful bouldering area in the state.

I am a student of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Multimedia and Technology, which basically means video and promotion work. My minor is in Graphic Design, which is exactly what it sounds like. Internship responsibilities include general care taking of The Mountain Institute as well as specific media related projects. In the works are a newsletter, web site, and possible video documenting the F.L.O.W. Summer Camps.

The amount of animals and their attitude towards people up here is truly surprising. Rabbits are everywhere, Thelma and Louise (the pigs) are always energetic, and the deer will barely acknowledge your existence.
Check out Matt's webpage here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

China Earthquake Relief Initiative

I am sure everyone has heard about the earthquake in China that happened awhile back. The Mountain Institute has several offices throughout China, and the China Program is asking for support to aid in the recovery. The statistics are extraordinary...80,000 people missing or dead, 5-7 million homeless, 14 million affected. The China Program is specifically asking for support to purchase FASTBLOCK machines and train locals to use them.

The FASTBLOCK machine, originally designed by the late Jim Underwood, uses dirt, a little concrete, water, a whole lot of pressure to create rammed earth blocks. These blocks are being used all around the world to build low-cost housing. One of the dorms at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center is made of these rammed-earth blocks.

Click here to learn more about the FASTBLOCK machine and donate to help those in need.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Ever since we applied for a FLOW summer camp grant from the WV Commission for National and Community Service I have been resisting the urges use sayings like "Go with the FLOW" and such. So I'll keep trying not to.

FLOW stands for Future Leaders of Watersheds (pretty snappy if you ask me), and we did receive the grant to offer eligible students to have an adventure with us this summer. We'll canoe, hike, and explore these beautiful mountain landscape while discussing, contemplating, and testing the state's water. Focus is on empowering future leaders to solidify their commitment to healthy water and a healthy world. We're also going to have tons of fun.

The FLOW students are coming to us from organizations all over the state including Friends of Decker's Creek in Monongalia and Preston counties, Piney Creek Watershed Association in Raleigh county, Wastewater Treatment Coalition of McDowell County, the Cacapon Institute in Hampshire County, and the Greenbrier River Watershed Association who works in four counties in the Greenbrier River watershed. We are really excited about these new partnerships, and looking forward to a great summer!