By Bill Hodge, Executive Director
On Wednesday, the Wilderness Skills Institute planning team gathered at the Cradle of Forestry. With a fresh feel of spring in the air, it was hard to not imagine the crew that will gather for this year’s event out in the field, laughing around a campfire, sharing passions for the land.
For two weeks each year in May, the Wilderness Skills Institute bubbles to life, building skills and energizing a movement toward stewardship. The gathering at the Cradle on the Pisgah Ranger District includes volunteers, along with Forest Service and staff of partner organizations, those new to stewardship, and some grizzled old veterans. The training ranges from basic to advanced and strives each year to match needs anticipated from those serving Wilderness.
What the Institute really is, what it really has become, is a therapy session. The community that cares so passionately for “being out there” is ready to explode, long winters and duties behind a computer serving as a rubber-band – stretching – and then letting go, launching us giddy Wilderness geeks into our community.
Each year the Institute hosts students that return with anticipation, and more importantly, the Institute also hosts students that are about to experience the energy for the first time. The classrooms will challenge and the social hours will connect. The process never ceases to amaze.
So here’s to beers around a damp picnic table, to new (and deep) connections to people and place, to talented craftsmen sharing their trade and eager students soaking it in, to inspiring the new and embracing the experienced. Here’s to the Wilderness Skills Institute – you can’t get here soon enough.