Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Season 2013

Spring staff!
 The spring season at The Mountain Institute began with staff training, Appalachian Watershed Monitoring Programs, spring cleaning at the facility, shoveling snow off our big white van, Maverick, and wrapping snow chains around his rear wheels to navigate through persistent snow coverage up at High Camp. For the first time in recent memory, none of the staff stayed up at High Camp to ski and play during the winter months, and so we returned to yurts, dormitories, and a shower shack quiet since late November.

Since the Mountain Institute doesn’t run any programs in the winter, staff that wants to return in the spring finds ways to keep themselves busy. Sophie Roblin WWOOFed at sheep farms, Patrick Dupre helped build homes in Charlottesville, VA, and Kacey Kai went to Kansas to work for UPS. The remainder of staff made use of West Virginia’s excellent winter recreation economy in Tucker, Greenbrier, and Pendleton counties. Michael Escol, Andy Notopoulos, Shannon Gaffey, Megan Gyonogski, Rebecca Saunders, Braja Smith and Zach Trunkely all took advantage of West Virginia’s winter sports season to work, variously, as cross-country and alpine ski instructors and ski technicians.  With the exception of Zach Trunkeley, an Ohio native and master’s certified rock hound, and James Crawford, a local resident from Canaan who will be managing our gear shed, kitchen, and facility, this year’s staff is all seasoned from previous time up at The Mountain Institute.

Spring staff!
It will be a couple of weeks before a school bus growls around the hairpins on Sawmill Run Road for a field course and in the meantime we are traveling to public schools as part of Appalachian Watershed Monitoring Program (AWSM), funded this year by a grant through National Geographic that focuses on GIS technologies. With the data that public school classes collect, we’ll create an interactive map of West Virginia’s streams and their conditions that will be used as an educational resource. The kids we met with the past couple of weeks have been in excellent spirits, despite frozen kicknets and our benthic macro-invertebrate zoo becoming a giant popsicle of mayflies and aquatic worms. During our many visits to schools and streams, we were shown wonderful hospitality, attention and interest by the school teachers, staff, and kids we met, an experience that warmed our hearts if not our fingertips.

Besides sampling streams, we also went on a staff canoe trip, which gave us sunny skies and a glimpse of maple buds outside of Petersburg, WV. David Young, former Mountain Institute course director, now a graduate student of Hydrology at WVU in Morgantown and the proud father of a baby girl named after a family of stoneflies (Petra Perlidae, also daughter of Elizabeth Gutierrez, former instructor at the Mountain Institute), led eight boats of staff down the South Fork of the Potomac, a trip that gave us an opportunity to practice our water safety and canoe maneuvering skills. Although we had a day of sunshine, the moment we got out of the water the snow came down, a storm that lasted four days and left two and a half feet of snow on our mountain. In a winter storm that came so late in the season, it was nice to see that winter was at least trying to impress us.

Organizing the library!

 We'll be fiddling around with this blog in the coming weeks, having our rotating staff of residential on-call staff write a blog post on a weekly basis. This week it was me (Braja Smith), next week it'll be Andrea Notopoulos.

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