This weekend was one of the best and most memorable weekends I had spent in a while. What made it special was the surroundings, the purpose and the people I spent it with. It’s a different matter, I didn’t know anyone when I reached our venue around 5 pm friday! So, what made it so special? I had signed up for Sierra Club sponsored Outdoor Leadership Training taking place at Black Forest Lodge, Cornwall NY.
This place is worth visiting just for the locale and the lodge itself. It’s close to Bear Mountain and West Point, NY. Both amazing locations in themselves. The lodge were we were staying had a huge outdoor deck, good spacious rooms accommodating up to 8 per room (bunk style living :-)) and compostable toilets! How quaint and truly sustainable!
We were a group of 45+ Sierrans from all over the tri-state with two purposes in mind for that weekend- to learn all we can about how to lead a successful hike and hopefully to take a hike or two ourselves, being that we were surrounded by unspoilt nature.
I must say, I achieved both goals quite satisfactorily. We spent most of Saturday indoors in lecture mode, which wasn’t too bad. Had a great group and a great trainer (thanks Mel!). The picture I had in mind for the weekend was a lot of outdoor learning and plenty of hikes. The reality was a lot of food (we were constantly eating) and not much strain at all. To top it off, it was raining most of Saturday. But by evening, the rains had stopped, the weather was hiking perfect and we got to put our ‘how to lead a hike’ learning in practice by trekking up Mt. misery. I felt much less guilty having the heavy dinner later on. We ended Saturday by learning about David Brower– Sierra Club’s first executive director. The movie we saw on David Brower reinforced all the great work Sierra Club has hisoritcally been involved in, including the nationalization of close to 10 parks and seashore including Redwoods, Pt. Reyes and Cascades.
Besides meeting wonderful and inspiring people (such as Brother Yusuf from Child and nature network) , the highlight of the training included learning about Sierra’s great outdoor opportunities including this OLT (Outdoor Leadership Training).
Sierra Club outings has been leading what they refer to as ‘Wilderness adventures’ since 1901. They have different kinds of outdoor activities, mainly covering: 1. national 2. local- grass root level 3. inner city outings (ICO) 4. international 5. outdoor with the military
As per our trainer’s numbers, Sierra leads the most number of outdoor activities of all organizations out there. The best part about Sierra Club outdoors (IMHO) is actually two pronged. One being that all Sierra led outdoor activities have a purpose to them. It’s of course to get people out to enjoy their natural surroundings but it’s often also to make them aware of their natural neighborhood; the issues they are facing, challenges they can join and support and finally turn around for the better. For example, a lady at the training told us about how her chapter stopped the building of a Marriott in their area several years ago which (again IMHO) was not necessary there and more importantly would substantially reduce the already limited natural environment. The second great benefit of Sierra Club led outdoor activities is that basically any member with a love for nature and a few hours of OLT (including co-leading an activity with an experienced leader) under their belt can think of an outdoor trip, get approval and lead it. There’s no bureaucracy involved, no finances. It’s all ‘grassroots level driven’ as we say.
In conclusion, I encourage all to check out any local outdoor activities in your area. There are plenty of organizations and clubs, there’s always of course sierraclub.org. Go explore and inspire and see you at a future hike 🙂
Below are some snaps from the weekend spent there. You can tell we all had a great time.