Ever wanted to take your whole family on a short hike to a waterfall, or stargazing or fly fishing? You can do all this and more when you sign up for Critters, Creeks, and Crows program for families and grandparents at Shadowcliff.
Gail Spinden will again lead this year’s edition, with even more activities planned and led by community experts and facilitators . . . and that means you won’t have to hear, “What are we doing next…I’m bored!”
Gail herself was a Park Ranger for more than 10 years at Rocky Mountain National Park and now teaches at Mountain Sage Community School in Fort Collins. She is very familiar with the West side geography, history flora, and fauna. One of the great advantages of Shadowcliff is its location and prime access to the Western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and its excellent biosphere. “We will see a lot of critters,” said Gail. “The whole camp is a wonderful family memory building trip for parents and their kids, and even grandparents. It’s great natural fun.”
We also feature home-cooked meals using locally sourced meat and produce whenever possible. So again, there’s less that you have to be responsible for – like a REAL vacation!
New this year is a chance to have a Rocky Mountain fly fishing experience. Jeff Rodriguez, the fishing lead at the Orvis Store at Cherry Creek in Denver will be leading the effort and yes, he’s bringing the equipment, too. Adults who are interested in learning to fly fish will need a Colorado fishing license for the day. (Contact Shadowcliff’s Program Coordinator Kelly Yarbrough to find out more.)
Jeff says that fly fishing is great fun for the whole family. This particular experience will be limited to about 4- 5 families and will be on a first come, first served basis because of the equipment needed and the teaching nature of the event.
“I think the sport (fly fishing) has gotten a bad rap for having a lot of barriers to it like, ‘you have to travel a long distance, it’s pretty expensive, and it’s difficult to learn.’ My goal is to keep it as simple as possible and to get people having a good time and hopefully, we can get them a fish,” Jeff says. “It’s a really rewarding experience. You get to experience the whole ecosystem of the river. It’s not like white water rafting. You’re a little bit more in tune with the river,” Jeff added.
The prime age group for Critters, Creek & Crows is for kids 6 to 14 years old. Other ages will be entertained too and there is some flexibility based on those attending. “We purposely keep the camp limited so we can cater as much as possible to a smaller group,” Gail said.
This is an awesome chance for families to reconnect and to disconnect from their technology. “The rule for us has been that when the campers come outside with me, like on a hike or when we are eating, electronic devices need to be put away,” Gail says.
The deadline for Critters, Creeks & Crows is fast approaching. If you want your kids (or grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc.) to have a wonderful, nature-intensive vacation and retreat in the Rocky Mountains, where the activities are planned and led by someone else and where the meals are natural and delicious, then get on board with this Shadowcliff Colorado memory making experience.
Your kids will love you for it!
by Virginia Lore
Shadowcliff is close to my heart. As a child, I traveled there with a group of people from my faith community (which included Bob & Judith and probably other Shadowcliff volunteers you may know). Different groups from our faith community (then called Ecumenikos) returned a couple of times as more and more people fell in love with Shadowcliff. My favorite vacations were those times: paddle boats, ice cream in Grand Lake, riding a horse (once — we didn’t much like each other) and mostly just smelling that heavenly high-altitude air that let me know I was in a rare environment.
When I planned my wedding as a child, I always planned it to happen on the point by the cross overlooking the lake. In high school, I returned with a different group, the youth group from Valley View United Methodist church in Kansas City. I was physically not that fit and had never done anything really difficult, physically. One day we all went out on a hike past Adams Falls. At about the 1.5-2 mile mark most of the group was ready to go back. I was certainly ready to go back. But the boy I had a crush on wanted to go with the hard-hiking group all the way up to Lone Pine Lake. So I followed him. I didn’t think I could do it;
“From that moment on, I knew that I’d accomplished something hard, something I wasn’t already gifted at. It gave me confidence not in my gifts (I had plenty of that) but in my efforts and ability to work for something.”
I was terrified of heights and there were a lot of what you might call “beautiful views” along the way that made my knees shake. I was sore and slow, but when I toddled those last few steps into Lone Pine Lake everybody cheered. And I felt something I’d never felt before in my life: awe at accomplishing something that I didn’t think I could achieve. That was an 11-mile round trip hike, but beyond that — a pivotal moment in my life. From that moment on, I knew that I’d accomplished something hard, something I wasn’t already gifted at. It gave me confidence not in my gifts (I had plenty of that) but in my efforts and ability to work for something.
About ten years later, I returned there with a faith community group for a week. At that time a young adult living in a partial hospitalization program for people with mental illness, I was working on some pretty hard stuff, mentally and spiritually. At Shadowcliff, I walked alone a lot, meditated a lot, colored, played guitar. I was glad to be there with people but connected particularly with two teenage boys in the community, each of whom was dealing with some hard stuff too. One day I stayed in the lodge and wrote a song, the chorus of which is:
That week I felt something shift in me, profoundly, and for the first time in my highly-depressive life, I knew that I was going to be okay.
A couple of years later, I was visiting with my family in one of the cabins. As I walked through Grand Lake and over to Adams Falls, I felt like this, this was home in a way that I’d never experienced home. I wanted to live there & and I felt called to be there, but I didn’t know why. What the heck, I got a Grand Lake library card anyway. We knew Warren and Patt pretty well, and they told us that night that one of their volunteers had become quite homesick and quit. So they were short a volunteer. I was working a part-time customer service position in Kansas City then, and living in a $200/month apartment, so there wasn’t much to packing up and leaving Kansas City and coming back to be a volunteer for a summer. It was a life-changing summer. I grew so much, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Warren was rough on me when he needed to be, and Patt lovingly gentle, and they balanced each other out really well. I remember being so afraid of maintenance work — I was fine with housework and kitchen, but maintenance really scared me. I tried to trade off those shifts, but Warren insisted that I hold a hammer and find a fallen branch the right size to use as a bridge log. I learned a lot under his tutelage.
My last visit to Shadowcliff was about six years ago. My father was conducting an energy healing workshop I really wanted to go to, and Bob & Judith were the general managers. I didn’t think I would be able to go, but once again, the universe moved so that I would be there, and it was another spellbinding, spirit-opening, magical week that spurred several months of growth. It was sad to me to see what had happened to the lodgepole pines — the place smelled different. But hearing Bob talk about the laws of nature and how the pine beetle was nature’s way of making room for a multiplicity of diverse plants and seeing young aspens come up gave me something different than my initial thought. And again, a leap in spiritual growth.
So Shadowcliff is spiritual for me, a place that has seen me through some very hard times and given me life lessons. I call it a place, but it is more than a place. It is a presence, a wise teacher, a spiritual leader. I’m so glad to know it’s still thriving.
Virginia Lore (nee Crabtree) shares her love of mountains and building community with her two teens, Penn and Elessar. She now lives in Seattle, WA.
by Jay Liebenguth
John and Beth Hoffman and their family have been going up to Shadowcliff since 1975. They met Warren and Patt Rempel in Manhattan Kansas advertising the Grand Lake destination with a small ad in the local newspaper. They visited with Warren and Pat, looked at their photo album and fell in love with the place. As longtime guests at Riverbend Cabin, they felt like their family grew up there during those summers.
John later served on the Board of Directors at the behest of Judith Christy and Bob Mann, at times as Secretary or Treasurer. They watched Shadowcliff grow up over the years from simple changes in decor to the slow metamorphosis into what it is today. “It was always a special time at Shadowcliff,” John says.
Long time Shadowcliff maintenance man and “go-to guy” JJ Eakin started staying with the Hoffmans at their home in Kansas during the off-season. It started as an innocent conversation that was essentially, ‘Would you like to come and stay with us? See how it goes.’ As a native Arkansan, maybe he was built for a Midwestern winter.
He soon became a regular member of the family and could tell you something about all 8 Hoffman kids and 10 grandkids. When John & Beth told him they were going to retire to Florida, he raised his eyes and smiled and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll see what that’s like.’ Spoken in JJ’s true understated style.
Turns out he loved it there and became friends with people around their cul-de-sac, lovingly referred to as ‘the Mayor’ in their Jacksonville area retirement development. He became a confidante and source of a second opinion and a frequent dinner guest. He had people calling him all the time checking in on him. He truly enjoyed his life there including some target shooting or pool hustling at the local community center. He was totally immersed in the lifestyle, even sporting his suspenders and tool belt in the affluent Ponte Vedra community. But, Shadowcliff was his home. “Even when he was very ill, he was still talking about all the things he needed to get done at Shadowcliff. That was his life” said, John.
“When he was in the hospital, he talked to Bob on the phone and apologized that he might be a ‘little late this year.’ He was always looking to the West” said, Beth.
Thankfully, JJ wasn’t sick for very long.
The Hoffman’s returned from a trip to Kansas in late March and the next morning JJ told him that he hadn’t been feeling well lately. (And, he looked it, they confided.) Beth and a neighbor took him to the VA and they discovered he had an aortic aneurysm; a small tear in his aorta, likely caused by a bacterial infection. They treated him with antibiotics and kept him in the hospital for 8 days before releasing him for some recovery time at home in anticipation of a scheduled operation to repair the aneurysm. He was home 5 days and Beth was tasked with administering the antibiotic. Returning to his room one morning, JJ announced that he felt good enough to get up and prepare his coffee that morning. Beth said she felt overjoyed, thinking that he had turned the corner. She returned with the ingredients for his little 4 cup coffee maker and following a brief coughing spell, he was gone, surrendering without any pain and surrounded by people who love him.
All the way to the end, he was determined to get back to Shadowcliff. “I’m going tomorrow,” he would argue. It was his life’s mission and he served us well.
“Even when he was drugged up in the hospital, he was still going through his laundry list of activities including make sure the smoke alarms were activated and other things that he needed to get after. It was the only thing he was saying, that we understood,” said John.
“Every year at this time we would say goodbye to JJ as he took off for Shadowcliff, so it’s normal for him to not be here now,” Beth said, sadly.
I suppose all of us will find our own particular time and place, to miss JJ – a member of our family that will be impossible to replace.
Jay Liebenguth is a content strategist and producer, when he’s not volunteering at Shadowcliff on the Marketing team. He can be found online at LivewithJay.com or follow him on Twitter @LivewithJay.
By Jay Liebenguth
It’s supposed to reach the 70’s here in Kansas City this week, which sets me to daydreaming about the upcoming spring & summer.
I’m especially looking forward to late June this year and a vacation with my adult daughters, their significant dudes, and my first grandchild. I’ve convinced them that Shadowcliff will be an awesome base for this adventure and I’m excited about sharing this beautiful place with them. (It will also be about the same time as this year’s edition of Critters, Creeks & Crows, a family adventure at Shadowcliff and all around wonderful time for families from 5 – 95.)
In order to entertain seven adults and a 1-year old, I started to think about what kinds of activities you can plan that include everybody. Obviously there’s hiking, a trip down the hill for an ice cream cone, sitting around a campfire – if conditions are favorable, and all the other things that we’ve come to associate with Shadowcliff.
I see us hiking up to Adams Falls, taking turns lugging the grandson up the trail as we flatlanders remember that oxygen is a premium in the mountains. We’ll cook family meals and leave plenty of time to nap, read, or work on a puzzle, if weather becomes an issue.
I think this is a great learning of Shadowcliff; there’s always something to do and plenty of “not to do,” if that’s what you want. (Unless you’re attending one of the many educational or recreational conferences that occur at Shadowcliff each season – those are a little busier but don’t worry, downtime is always a piece of the schedule.)
I want to leave time to enjoy those special moments like sitting on that flat rock out near the cross that overlooks Grand Lake, on a spectacularly blue day. Or a walk along the trail with just a couple of people and one of you spots the south-side of a moose. And it looks up!
I’d want them to take in the sounds of the wind and the fragrance of pine and dirt.
My oldest daughter is a landscape horticulturist at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens. I am looking forward to an abundant wildflower presentation like Shadowcliff can put on, and ask her the names of all the flowers. My youngest, is finishing up her degree and has great interest in the environment and natural resources, and I’m seeing us walking the Laws of Nature Trail. And for my grandson’s momma (and fourth grade teacher) I see her in the hammock on the deck of our cabin, catching up on a few winks, knowing she has plenty of people to entertain the babe.
I’m looking forward to sharing experiences and so much more.
Knowing that if these people experience Shadowcliff in the same way so many others of us have, I will be melding my immediate family into my Shadowcliff family.
Jay Liebenguth is a content strategist and producer, when he’s not volunteering at Shadowcliff on the Marketing team. He can be found online at LivewithJay.com or follow him on Twitter @LivewithJay.
These were all words used to describe Shadowcliff last spring by the eight participants of Experience Shadowcliff. Originally designed as a way to connect Shadowcliff with people who have a group they may want to bring up for a retreat, workshop, or event, this engaging weekend has turned into something more.
Beyond networking and larger than just programming about who we are, Experience Shadowcliff has become a gathering of those who are drawn to both the unique character of who we are and want to learn more, and to the prospect of finding partners in their work. We’ve found that people feel a kinship to those they meet at an Experience Shadowcliff weekend. Conversations happen, connections are made, experiences are shared. When people gather at Shadowcliff, whether they know each other or not, friendships and alliances are forged. These bonds are simultaneously relevant beyond the grounds of Shadowcliff and have the power to help us with our mission of collectively creating a climate for a restorative world.
All of this is bigger than what we had planned for as the outcome of this weekend, and at the same time a perfect example of why coming to an Experience Shadowcliff weekend is truly a way to experience Shadowcliff. Some call it magic, some relate it to the humbling nature of being on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park and on a cliff above Grand Lake, and some connect it to the heart forward way Shadowcliff was created (a legacy that I strive to uphold), but everyone agrees there’s something special about group events at our lodge.
Next season Experience Shadowcliff dates will be available soon. No longer invite-only, those interested in coming to this deeply discounted weekend should fill out the application here on our website. If you are interested in experiencing who we are and how we can be a partner in your work, meeting new people beyond those in your professional sector, or finding a new, meaningful place for your group retreat, workshop, or event, I encourage you to come. We eat, we talk, we relax, we hike. We connect. And I hope you’ll be there.
Shadowcliff Executive Director
It’s the calm before the happy storm of Shadowcliff Volunteer Weekend…
by Jay Liebenguth
Fourteen Atlanta 8th & 9th graders and their adult leaders will visit Shadowcliff this June as part of their exploration of the journey of the Colorado River from its headwaters in Grand County to Lake Powell in Arizona. Their purpose is to better understand the complex relationships between the natural world and human society.
It’s the middle of March, but depending on where you are, you may still feel stuck in Winter! Whether you’re packing away the long johns or still shoveling yourself out of the driveway, the Shadowcliff 2015 season is just a couple of months away!
In anticipation of this exciting year, we gathered some favorite photos and sentiments that describe the Shadowcliff experience. Which ones resonate with you? Enjoy the eye candy, and come visit us this Summer!
Shadowcliff’s own unique family vacation adventure, Critters, Creeks & Crows is now open for registration at a special early bird pricing!
We’re excited for the third year of this annual event, with new activities and new opportunities to learn. Register online before April 1 and save on this memorable family experience in the Rockies.
Learn more about this event and register online at: shadowcliff.org/critters2015
by Brian Murphy
Shadowcliff is, for us, where everything we love convergences; extended family and friends, mountains and outdoor activities, quiet solitude and spiritual formation.
by Jay Liebenguth
Kids going outside, to play, to pretend, to discover – is a good idea. That makes common sense.
By Carl Sniffen
Happy Holidays from Shadowcliff. Without volunteers, Shadowcliff would not exist. I’ve said that many times in the past, and I hope that I’ll be saying it for decades to come. To borrow loosely from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” let’s take a look at Shadowcliff volunteers past, present and future.
By Lance Woodbury
A Special Resilience
Just over a year ago, in the fall of 2013, Bob, Judith and I met in Denver with Warren and Patt Rempel, founders of Shadowcliff. The purpose of our meeting was to let Patt and Warren know that Karen Bigelow and David Grossman, longtime friends of Shadowcliff and the Rempels, had accepted an invitation to become the on-site managers for the 2014 season.
But before we could tell them our exciting news, Warren – who soon after passed away but who was always willing to share a spiritual reflection or insight – shared an article from Weavings about “resilience.” In that piece, Patrick Fleming describes resilience as a “psycho-spiritual capability…a capacity we humans, even as young children, possess to regenerate, bounce back, and even grow emotionally and spiritually from adversity.”
By Ariana Friedlander
I felt giddy as I lay in bed reflecting on the days activities at Shadowcliff. There’s just something about this place and community that makes me feel like the wealthiest person in the world. I get this feeling every time I visit Shadowcliff whether it’s for a team retreat, or a personal getaway. And I don’t think I’m the only one that feels a sense of great wealth at Shadowcliff, which some may find ironic.
I’m not talking about the kind of wealth that resides in opulent mansions with grandiose marble staircases and servants waiting on your every whim. For many, wealth is equated to money and material possessions. But true wealth is deeper than that and Shadowcliff serves as a great reminder of what really matters in life.
Judith and I found Shadowcliff on our own honeymoon in 1977. It was love at first site! Since that very first exciting visit we have known that Shadowcliff is a special place of the heart where friendship and romance are found and often blossom into lifelong love affairs. Certainly that is our story as we returned each year with our children and now with our grandchildren. Our years as on site Directors brought us ever closer to one another as friends, partners and lovers. Over the next few months we want to share with you a few of the ongoing Shadowcliff love stories from guests and staff. The first is from two very special people, Adam and Aubrey Beals, who were part of our staff in 2010 and later were married at Shadowcliff in 2012.
Shadowcliff has always been an important place to the Beals family. Nancy Jorn and Stu Beals helped with the original construction with Warren Rempel in the ‘70s. They came out for a few summers when they were first dating and fell in love in the Rocky Mountains, especially Lake Verna! Years later, they brought their sons Adam and Dave annually to stay in Riverbend so the young family could explore the banks of the Tonahutu, hike the loooooong hike (for little legs) up to Adams Falls, and roast marshmallows in the fire pit of Rempel Lodge. Knowing the Beals’ long devotion to Shadowcliff, I was nervous to spend the summer of 2010 there with Adam Beals as his girlfriend and fellow staffer. We had been dating for two years and it was time to put our love to the test on the third floor of Rempel. Would I love this place as much as Adam and his family? And, more importantly, can partners co-habitat in a 14 foot wide bedroom without wanting to break up or kill each other?!
Long story short, that summer was the best summer of our lives. Adam and I spent three giddy months in the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park and in the warmth of the Shadowcliff family. We grew closer as we took runs on North Inlet, tromped up Longs, and shared ice cream from Grand Lake’s boardwalk. This time allowed us to reflect on our devotion to each other and to create shared memories that lasted much longer than our acclimatization to living at 8,500 feet! Shadowcliff provided a space for us to plan a shared future. But more than the incredible location and the time away from “real life”, Bob and Judith, Skelly and Judy, JJ, Mari the cook, and all our fellow staffers and guests built a loving community that nourished our relationship and accepted Adam and me as life partners. Two years later, we decided to return to Shadowcliff to exchange vows in the presence of our closest family and friends. It was only appropriate that Bob Mann officiated because I think he knew long before we did that we would choose the path of marriage.
We loved sharing this special place with our friends and family. And, we are eager to share it with our future kiddos who we can bring to Shadowcliff to unwind and connect with such a thoughtful, nurturing community.
— Aubrey Beals
August 2 was a wonderfully special day for Shadowcliff. We celebrated and remembered the life of Shadowcliff co-founder Warren Rempel. The Shadowcliff Chapel was filled with family members, long-time friends, colleagues and others. Sharing stories and memories, people laughed, cried, embraced and sang. It was a joyous time.
Many words were used to describe Warren during the celebration: friend, inspiration, mentor, Father, Grandfather, Husband and curmudgeon. Daughter Sue shared Warren’s comment to her, “Don’t let your Mother tell them I was all sugar sweet, but that in the end, I always did what I believed in.”
So many memories and thoughts were shared by family and friends who spoke of Warren’s great love of people and how he made people better. Warren maintained a life-long intolerance of injustice and bigotry. He appreciated place, nature and a strong sense that as individuals, we are all connected to the natural world. To underscore Warren’s life-long commitment of advocacy and involvement, Warren’s last letter to his Congressmen was written with Sue’s help two weeks before he died.
Warren Rempel was remembered as a man who touched and taught so many lives. A man who served as a constant reminder through his words and deeds of how good humanity can be. Without question, Warren left the world in a better place.
Many know of Warren and Patt’s vision to create Shadowcliff as a mountain sanctuary where people could go to “recycle your spirit and come alive in the mountains.” It took 17 summers, more than 600 volunteers from 42 countries, and lots of blood, sweat and tears to bring the vision alive.
Some may not know that in the 1960’s, Warren stood tall against racism in Manhattan, Kansas, even going so far as cutting up choir robes to create arm bands as a symbol of protest. Attending protests was a family activity for the Rempels during those times.
In the 1980’s, Warren led the charge to keep casinos from entering the Town of Grand Lake, a challenge made more difficult in tough economic times with the gambling industry promising jobs and revenues. Sue Rempel recalls her Father telling her, “Can you imagine not seeing the stars at night and instead seeing the twinkling of casino lights?” I certainly can’t, and I am grateful.
Later in the 1980’s and beyond, Warren and Patt responded to their son Scott’s death from AIDs by creating and promoting a series of HIV workshops and retreats, programs intended to educate and support individuals impacted by this disease and recognize the dignity of all individuals. Shadowcliff’s HIV workshops continue to this day.
Before he died, Warren created his Shadowcliff celebration. His Family faithfully and lovingly carried it out. The musical selections say much about Warren, nearly as much as the words and memories. What did we hear? What words of song filled the Chapel rafters: Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Simply Bach,” and as guests left the Chapel, the theme from Man of La Mancha, “(To Dream )The Impossible Dream,” more commonly known as the story of Don Quixote.
Bob Mann, who with his wife Judith, so capably followed Warren and Patt as Shadowcliff co-directors offered another quote from the Man of La Mancha: “Too much sanity may be madness, but maddest of all—to see life as it is and not as it should be. “ As noted above and below, Warren understood the world as it is but never lost sight or avoided the opportunity to create a world as it should be.
The term “legacy” was used by a number of speakers throughout the program, many examples of which are described above. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Warren and Patt is the Rempel Family gift of Shadowcliff to a nonprofit organization. As Bob Mann noted, “This selfless, loving and sacred offering of Shadowcliff—giving something of such great value away—is the true legacy.”
For those of us who have found Shadowcliff as a place to renew, reflect, create and reconnect with nature, thank you Warren and Patt. For those of us who have come to Shadowcliff and learned something about ourselves or the natural world around us, thank you Warren and Patt. For those of us who believe that Shadowcliff is indeed a sacred place filled with the energy and spirit of all those who have visited Shadowcliff , thank you Warren and Patt. For those of us who marvel at the many images of Don Quixote found at Shadowcliff and dream of a world as it could be, thank you Warren and Patt.
Finally, one last quote from Warren’s celebration: “Warren is here, and he always will be here.” Enough said.
The following is another in a series of posts submitted by Shadowcliff staffers, this one by Ivy Lumpkin, who lets us know that a Summer of Service, isn’t all hard work.
Ivy is a second-year MBA candidate at San Francisco State University and owner of San Francisco-based Voulez Events. After graduating in 2012 with a degree in Communication and Hospitality Management from Kent State University in Ohio, Ivy drove cross-country to embark on a journey that began in Grand Lake. She is thrilled to return to town as a new staff member at Shadowcliff from late May through late July. Ivy enjoys rollerblading, biking, hiking, traveling and planning special events. She is especially eager to apply her acquired skills to the Shadowcliff marketing committee’s projects and share an extraordinary summer with a humble team.
My second season spent in Grand Lake, was my first season spent at Shadowcliff, and words don’t quite capture the essence of my various “lived-life-to-the-fullest” experiences. Fortunately, I’ve taken some photos in the heat of spectacular times with Shadowcliff staff and Grand Lake friends!
Hear two graduates from our Eco Family Vacation share their own experiences! You’ll never believe what Campbell’s favorite thing about Shadowcliff is…
Shadowcliff has a long tradition of hiring Summer staffers from all over the globe. And every one has a different story for how they ended up at Shadowcliff. From time to time, we will be featuring a different staff member on the blog so you can learn a little bit about them in their own words.
This is Erin’s first summer at Shadowcliff. She has a degree in Psychology and a minor in Visual Arts, and is currently on a journey across the country, predominately working for farms through an organization called WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). Her goal is to learn as much as she can about agriculture, our food system, and sustainable practices, as well as have some really amazing experiences and meet new friends. She is very excited to become part of the Shadowcliff staff and explore all the beautiful surroundings!
If I’m To Get Growing, It Might As Well Be Organically
By Erin Wooden
One year ago today, I was sitting in a windowless office, working on tasks that were mind-numbingly tedious. I was stuck in a position that totally underutilized my potential. I had graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, four years earlier. While this position helped me pay off my student loans, it did absolutely nothing for me in other aspects of my life. There was nothing challenging, inspiring, or anything that increased my self-worth. In other words, I was stagnant despite being in the prime of my life.
I needed a wakeup call. Luckily it came in the form of a video circling the internet at the time. A TED Talk by clinical psychologist Meg Jay titled, “Why 30 is Not the New 20.” (watch it here.) As silly as it sounds, it felt like she had made this presentation specifically for me. It planted a seed in my mind that grew over the next few weeks, and culminated in my decision to quit my job, leave an unhealthy relationship, pack up all my things and set out on a year-long trip across the country.
My search for a “way out” of my dismal circumstances, led me to something called WWOOFing. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The more I read, the more I realized there couldn’t be a more perfect thing for me. I loved working in my small vegetable garden and craved a job that let me be outdoors. More than anything I wanted to do something that would challenge me and yank me out of my comfort zone. WWOOFing provided me with all of these things, as well as an opportunity to see the country while traveling on a budget.
In the last six months, I have worked and stayed at five different farms, including a goat cheese farm outside of Pie Town, NM (it’s even more remote than it sounds); a bee/honey and chicken farm in Tucson, AZ; an aquaponics operation in Watsonville, CA, a vineyard in Murphys, CA, and a hops farm in Ashland, OR.
My life has expanded in so many ways. I’ve learned about our agricultural and food systems and not to take the hard work of farmers for granted. I have learned countless things about myself and what I want out of life, plus I’ve gained self-confidence through solo travel. I have been exposed to many opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to pursue.
Shadowcliff was introduced to me by Kelly, a friend I went to high school with many years ago. I knew I would be in Colorado at the time their season started, and needing to make a little extra cash to supplement my travels, it seemed like a good idea. I learned later about their commitment to sustainable practices, which reinforced my feelings that it was an appropriate destination for me. During my time here, I have had the chance to plant a small vegetable/herb garden and volunteer with the local recycling program. Shadowcliff has also been a wonderful place to get off the road for a bit and restore my mind/body connection, as well as a chance to reflect on where I’ve been this year. It really is as their motto states, a place to “learn, reflect, renew, share, and reconnect.”
One of the most important things I have learned both in my time WWOOFing and at Shadowcliff, is if you have a passion for, or curiosity about something, you should pursue it. I had a very loose set of interests that were important to me when I started traveling. They have blossomed into a passion for sustainable agriculture, and at the end of this year, I am planning to apply to several graduate programs in the area.
So what’s the moral of my story? Well, I guess it’s : Don’t be afraid to try something different. Put yourself out there and follow what makes you happy. Even if it seems a little scary or off the beaten path. You never know where it will lead you. Maybe this is what the remarkable Dr. Seuss meant when he said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
Photo from The Marmot Recovery Foundation. The...
Shadowcliff is a seasonal nonprofit lodge and educational...
“ . . . discover once again what it means...
There are mornings at Shadowcliff where the mist rises,...