Thursday, May 30, 2013

TMI's own Alton Byers featured in Discovery

Besides the Mountain Institute's Appalachian program based out of Circleville, WV, TMI also does service in the Andes and the Himalayas. For those curious about the projects going on in other parts of the world, here's a link to an article on TMI's own Alton Byers, whose work in the Himalayas on the effects of climate change and tourism has been making a lot of press lately: Everest: Tourism and Climate Change Provide New Challenges.

Also check out the article "How to Prevent Glacial Lakes from Flooding Mountain Communities" in the June 2013 edition of Discover magazine and Alton Byer's contribution to the book, "The Call of Everest", published by National Geographic.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hog Wild

Patrick watches over the new piglets.
It's the end of our spring season at the Spruce Knob education center. Most of TMI staff were away this week in Maryland to do a program with Riverdale, a school from New York. While they spent the week hiking the Appalachian Trail, climbing rock faces, and paddling the Potomac, Braja Smith and Patrick Dupre journeyed off to the South Fork Valley to pick up an exciting addition to our staff.

They're bigger than a loaf of bread, but smaller than a microwave. They're named Salt and Pepper, for obvious reason. Yes, they are pigs, to dispell any doubt. In our remote location up on Spruce Knob, trash service is limited and composting food scraps in conventional ways tends to attract bears, possums, or other critters. Salt and Pepper come in to help us deal with waste food. TMI staff pool the money to buy piglets and feed and will soon work together to improve their hutch to provide a dry, warm place for them to sleep. -Patrick Dupre

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Experiential Education Triathalon

What's the most you've ever done in a thirty hour period?

Students from Belle Elementary in a May snow flurry!
On Monday, May 12th, we had a visiting group of forty fifth grade students from Belle Elementary,  near Charleston, West Virginia. What did we do you ask? Everything. In less than two full days we managed to fit in a hike to the top of beautiful Spruce Knob to talk about mountain building, an awesome hands-on study of the life that live in local streams, and we even squeezed in the chance to show students the Sinks of Gandy, a cave in the Gandy Creek backcountry. This was one of our most jam-packed courses yet.  But wait there's more! We wouldn't send these students home without a campfire of singing and s'mores, given the opportunity.

For many of these students, it was their first chance to see a vista from the top of a mountain or the interior of our earth and for some still it was their first time away from home on their own. Many students said it was their best field trip ever. We are always thankful to share this place with students, even for such a short period, and give these kids the opportunity to experience nature in a new way.

-Patrick Dupre

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Randolph County Outdoor Education Program

Sophie Roblin teaches hydrology.
Telling campfire stories.

Studying benthic macroinvertebraes.
Seeing the kids off, crawfish style.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


April 2nd, 2013
Staff geared up for caving
This week up on Spruce stared with a cold snap of such bone-chilling levels it was only appropriate to have a staff Cave Training Day. The original plan of heading out to the Sinks of Gandy was nixed on account of the road being blocked by snow and ice, so instead these slightly masochistic adventurers turned to an old favorite, Back Ridge. Back Ridge is a small cave within TMI property that gets relatively little use these days, but remains the stuff of legend nonetheless. Many of my favorite Spruce stories come from the rather rambunctious Oak Werner, who used the Back Ridge and its neighboring sink hole to hide everything from moonshine stills to the body of an indebted gambling partner. After an entertaining and enlightening conversation about cave strategies and safety with Matt Tate (an experienced caver and former co-director of SKMC), staff trekked the short hike to Back Ridge through deep snow not knowing what to expect from this icy crack in the mountain. The cave is well known by previous TMI'ers for its sump, (or, where the water rises high enough to meet the ceiling) which necessitates total submersion in order to pass through. Unfortunately for us, the other end of the sump was too iced over to continue. Many thanks to Matt for being the one to dunk under multiple times and make the call for us to high-tail it back the woodstove, and for just being oh-so fun and informative.  -Shannon Gaffey