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Exploring Highland

By Freddy Carruth, Phase I Fellow

I am very attuned to our Phase I weekly schedule, as I like to believe, are my fellow Fellows. It is probably because our schedule is so well organized, with certain activities occurring each week on particular days of the week. For instance, on Mondays, we always start our day in the outdoor classroom, answering a question that lets us creatively describe how we feel, or maybe, share our highlights from the weekend. On Wednesdays, we have a guest speaker come to the mountain to teach us about a new skill or philosophy that we might continue practicing in the future or implement in our day to day experience. These Wednesdays are always a good start for a blog post, but we had this past Wednesday off for the 4th of July. This got me to thinking about all the fun and adventures I’ve been able to have in and near the AMI community.

Of course, a big part of the AMI community is the closest town - Monterey, Virginia - where we go to sell at the weekly farmers market, teach at the school garden, and record our radio segment. In addition to the trips we make for these activities, I am probably in Monterey at least one extra day during the week for a fun activity with other Fellows and community members. One of these was contra dancing. Although the Monterey contra-dancing group has taken a summer hiatus, I really enjoyed going into town after a long day of work to practice my contra skills this spring with the small group. I went contra dancing when I was in Clemson and in South Carolina, so I was very excited to have this opportunity. The primary purpose of the Monterey group was to practice and learn some of the basic steps so we can use them at a bigger dance. I was only able to make it to a few of the practice sessions and after they ended, I was a little sad. I patiently wait for a chance to go to a real contra dance, but in the meantime, I am interested in working on my square dancing. I hear there are more opportunities for square dancing in the area and think it would be fun to learn this side of dancing.

Lately, it has been softball season in Monterey, where teams battle to the last inning. The team I support, and sometimes sub in for, is Big Bunts on Deck. I personally believe we have the most fun team. That is not to say that we knock it out of the ballpark every time, but we sit on the bench together and cheer each other on. Who knows (I might be a little biased) but for that hour, I cheer on my team and watch them play as if they were old friends that grew up playing softball together. I feel the same way when the other Phase I Fellows and I complete a big harvest on Fridays before the market, and it is exciting to become just as involved in these community activities.

One of my favorite pastimes is rock climbing. It was a little hard for me to give up on it for the months of coming to AMI, and with our schedules I didn’t really think there would be much of a chance to explore the possibility of picking it back up. To my excitement, I found a few fellow climbing enthusiasts at AMI and we have been able to make it out to climb. A few weekends ago, I met up with a couple climbers in Monterey and from there we headed off to one of our neighbor towns, Franklin, in West Virginia. The area was called Franklin Gorge, known to the locals as River Gap. With no guidance except for Google, we headed into the rocks and tried to find a good climb. The first expedition was more of a surveying trip, so we only climbed one route. We identified it as a 5.10a climb, a respectable grade of climbing for anyone. I was more than pleased with myself for that climb, especially after having not climbed for months. There happens to be an excellent swimming hole nearby as well, so we went swimming after and had a wonderful rest of the day.

We had so much fun at the swimming hole that we went back with other Fellows. There would have been even more climbing and swimming last Wednesday on July 4th, but I got a flat tire heading out and decided to stay in and assess my tire options. Although it was hard to miss prime adventure time, I think it was just as nice spending the time back at AMI, lounging about on the mountain. It felt even nicer inside when it started pouring and thunder storming outside. I could almost feel the thunder claps as I saw streaks of lightning out of the corners of my eyes.

I made up for my sad tire experience on Wednesday by seeing friends and neighbors at my parent’s 4th of July party in neighboring Pocahontas County, WV. I admit it didn’t take place in the Highland area, but that’s okay – it’s was in the county right next door.

There is still a long list of things I want to explore and experience here in the Highland area, though. Some of these things include the “aqua cave,” the Highland Maple Festival, and the Run to the Farm 5K. I can’t wait to get back out for another adventure!

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