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Alderleaf Wilderness College Visit

This past week we were host to a great group of faculty and first-year students from Alderleaf Wilderness College! The students slept outside in tents and later in their own hand-built snow shelters, while spending their days learning winter survival techniques and animal tracking. We were kindly invited to sit-in on the animal tracking lecture, and had the pleasure of joining an early morning snow-shoe hike to Lookout Mountain, 2.5 miles up the ridgeline from the Bermhouse.


The excitement and energy from the students added to the natural magic of the land itself. Sharp eyes identified tracks from many different wild animals – bobcat, coyote, weasel, mouse, and cougar just a few. Much laughter, conversation, tears of joy, and words of inspiration were shared among the group.  It is our pleasure to be able to offer Skalitude as the place for such profoundly nourishing education!


In this day and age, when we are losing much of the planet’s precious wild lands and wild beings, we are incredibly grateful to the teachers at Alderleaf College, and other similar institutions, who re-build the link between humans and the wilderness, bringing focus to our innate connection with nature, and re-awakening the skills that are deeply interwoven in our heritage, no matter where are roots may lie.  We very much appreciate the time and energy shared by this fantastic group of young adults!

Snow-bundance and the Gifts of Winter

Winter morningWe are blessed this winter with an abundance of snow!

Mother nature has graciously been giving us lots of precipitation in the form of white fluffy shimmering snowflakes – and plenty of opportunity for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, scouting animal tracks, and enjoying the quietude of the blanketed forest and hills.

Night walks are especially magical this time of year, when the light of the moon is reflected in the snow-crystals; on clear nights, the ground becomes a galaxy of shining stars, mirroring the twinkling celestial lights above.

Winter is foremost a time of inward turning, and the signs of wintertide’s purpose are ever present.  The landscape sleeps with all potential that spring promises fomenting in the deep winter dream-time.  From the smallest plants to the most ancient trees, the forest enters a state of deep quiescence, as the green energy gathers in the roots.  Tiny animals snuggled in their nests relax their incessant warm-weather activity, and gently release into the embrace of colder days and nights.  Somewhere in the hills, the black bear enters its own kind of dream-time within a patient and nourishing sleep.

Snowy Lodge

Sometimes it is hard to slow down.  For us humans, our wit and intellect has given us technology that allows daily life to continue in a steady routine, regardless of the weather or time of year.  Sometimes this can be a blessing.  However, many times we forget (or I sure do), that slowing down, turning inward, and taking time is part of the same cycle that gives us the seed bursting into new life, abundant growth, and the ripened fruit.  For some seeds, it is the darkness and profound cold that enables them to awaken victorious come the spring, bearing all the gifts that nature intends.

Thus, it is with gratitude and purpose that we welcome the silence of deep winter into our hearts, allowing the gifts of this cold and quiet time to permeate our daily life.  The friendly crackle of the wood-stove as we warm ourselves, the cloooking call of the raven flying through brilliant blue sky, the winter moon shining bright and unimpeded – all timely messengers bringing us back to the simplicity and beauty of being.

We call you by the winter winds that chill our bones

And awaken our minds.

We call you by the warmth of the hearth fire

That gathers and comforts.

We call you by still waters, whose mirror leads us to inner journeys.

We call you by the quiet earth that waits and dreams.

We call you by the visions we make and love we share.

Great Goddess, who contains all things, bless our rite

As we celebrate the rebirth of spirit.  Blessed be!¹

juniper root crystal moon


¹ Barrett, Ruth: Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries: “Invocation for the Winter Solstice”

Improvements and Evolution

Life and Nature are constantly evolving, and so we at Skalitude also follow this forward-moving trend.  This year we’ve had several very exciting improvements, the most dramatic of which is the addition of another 1.2 kilowatts of panels for the Lodge solar system, doubling our input!

The batteries over there are approaching their life limit.  We have noticed that in winter they really can’t hold a charge for more than a couple of days with guests here, although in summer they seem to do just fine.

Except, however, for during the heat wave this past summer.

It turns out that solar panels are much less efficient in higher temperatures, so while in winter we may get 40 amps out of our existing panels, in June of this year we found the most we got was 25.  With everyone running fans 24 hours a day to try to mitigate the heat, we just didn’t have enough power.  We know that someday (or year!) soon we will have to buy new batteries for both the Lodge and the cabin, we hope that by adding more input we can keep the batteries at a higher state of charge allowing us to squeeze another year or two out of them.  By waiting another year or two we hope the technology will have improved and the price dropped so that buying new batteries won’t be as huge of an investment as it is now!


The next biggest improvement is the new hot water heater in the Lodge.  Our last one broke last winter, it took a while to find a new one and re-engineer the system.  We are very happy with the Navien heater we ended up with, it is SO quiet it makes me think it must also be very efficient!!

We also re-engineered the system so that it also seems to be more efficient.  In the old system, the propane heater provided back-up heat to the hot water tank by circulating hot water thru a copper coil in the middle of the tank (the solar loop circulates thru a copper coil in the bottom of the tank).  Now, the Navien provides back up heat by taking water from the top of the tank, heating it up and putting it back into the bottom of the tank by means of a copper pipe descending down thru the tank, so it also transfers some heat on its way in.  We noticed today it took about 5 minutes to heat the water from 112 degrees to 118 degrees.  Pretty good for a 100 gallon tank!!


The most exciting aspect is that our propane bill for 2015 was less than $1000!!  That is fuel for the generator, hot water for two buildings with a total of four showers, and cooking.  Our main source of heat is two wood stoves, if we add in three cords of wood at $150 each (we buy in spring when it’s often cheaper), our total energy bill is less than $1500.  We’re impressed!!! (it does help that propane is only $1.50/gallon these days….)

Finally, the smallest but still noteworthy improvement is that we replaced all of our flush toilets with duel-flush toilets.  Our last toilets weren’t that old, they were standard 1.6 gallon flushers, but with the drought we decided to go ahead and be pro-active in regards to water conservation. Our new toilets use just 1 gallon for a small flush, and still 1.6 gallons for the large flush.  If we have 20 people here all peeing three times a day, that’s 60 flushes, so if we save 0.5 gallons per flush that’s a savings of 30 gallons per day.  Since it takes power to pump the water, it also saves on our power usage.

Life is good, and continues to get better!!

Fall Renewals

We hosted two wonderful events this fall – the first was our second annual Creative Renewal Retreat, led by Elizabeth Dennis, Janey McGillivray and Lindsey Swope.  This weekend combines yoga, creative writing, art, dance and shamanic journey, as we explore what inside of us wants to be expressed outwardly.  It was refreshing and inspiring for all!

This quote arose from the creative writing sessions: “As we sing and dance, we toast each other’s perfection in the moment of seeing clearly”

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The following weekend was the Wilderness Guides Council.  This retreat has been held in California for the past 24 years, this year was the first year to bring it to a new area.  They plan to continue to move around the country to inspire and attract more guides to participate.  There were guides from California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Norway and Japan.  Ann Linnea, of PeerSpirit, who has guided here at Skalitude for the past six years, reports from the gathering:
“For 24 years, the Wilderness Guides Council has been a loose affiliation of people who are passionate about promoting meaningful, earth-based rites of passage at the edge of modern culture. It is a pretty eclectic bunch, with a strong streak of independence, but also allegiance to the pattern and ceremony of questing: that’s our core. Once a year we gather – usually somewhere in California at a park or private retreat center – to share program ideas, workshops, ceremony, and conversations about our work. Because we were meeting further north this year, many guides from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho attended. At our opening ceremony half of the people present stepped into the center as first time attendees. And I noticed about 50% of the group was comprised of young guides – under 35. I am excited how this will broaden and strengthen the work of questing.”

You can see her full report in their Circle Tales newsletter, here



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A great hike!

I am kind of cheating this week, posting a link to Teri Pieper’s blog with photos of our hike up Lookout Mountain two days ago.  I have been ‘camera-challenged’ for over a year now, wanting to buy a new one.  So i finally did buy a new one at Costco last month, and it turns out it won’t download the photos to my computer because my operating system is too new!  So that’s my excuse!  I hope to have a REAL post later this week, telling of our amazing Ayurvedic Cleanse weekend – stay tuned!!

These photos were taken by the same Teri Pieper who is mentioned on our wedding page as a wedding photographer.  She is excellent at her job, and you can see from this blog her passion for her art.

A Great BIG Thank You

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

This winter season has been incredibly amazing and now charming spring is upon us ! In just less than a week it seems impossible that we as the caretakers will be continuing onward in the beautiful journey of life. We owe so much to all of the people, wildlife, weather, and vegetation that make this place so darn special. Thank you all, Skalitude dwellers, for igniting a flame within us each time you passed through.  We are so grateful to have had this wonderful experience and welcome Lindsey and Will back to their peaceful home. Thank you again, we are so grateful to have met you all. Come back soon:)

Ashley and Chasz.IMG_1663

Get Springy!


Hi Everyone!

Surprising fresh snow on the peaks and saturated smells of spring have come early this year. We are taking in every beautiful warm day to dig in the garden, walk on the uncovered earth, and soak up all the fresh pure energy this time of the year brings.  It’s so incredibly beautiful, we can hardly believe it.  We hope you can all take a moment to be bewildered by the essence of spring.  It brings so much freshness and color into our lives, and slips by so quickly. Take the time to notice the different sounds and smells. Ahhhh….Isn’t it great to be a human? Rejoice!


Dissolving into Nature

milkyway2Skalitude has always been about having a lesser impact on our planet but, this past several weeks  have been all about what we as humans can learn from nature. Where does our connection with this life force we call Earth begin and where does it end? It’s not something that just everyone recognizes right away, with all the hussle and bussle in today’s society . If you really get out, stop, and really listen, I think you will find there is no beginning or an end. It is more like a pulsing of all life together to keep such a delicate but fierce balance. From the microbes to our immense galaxies everything must work together so we can live in a stable world.

Recently we had a vibrant group of young people from the Alderleaf Wilderness College who really embodied and captured the meaning of “dissolving into nature”. They happily lived, for five days, in an ever changing climate among the beauty of nature foraging and building snow shelters as their temporary homes.  We Interviewed these ever so eager students to see what it was that attracted them so much to the wilderness.

David-  “People need to know how to take care of the Earth. Keeping these survival skills alive in our culture today and stretching our comfort zone to live outside in the winter is just what we need!”

Anonymous –  “this kind of living provides a whole new perspective of how we interact with nature. You learn to see yourself as part of a symbiotic relationship with mother earth as a whole.”

Maya- “If you sit at home grinding your teeth staring at a TV that’s your imagination leaving you. But, at night the stars smile down at me and I wonder how it all began.”

“Most are oblivious to the effect we have on the outdoors. Just seeing whats out there, to appreciate the sacredness of the land. I see it getting worse and worse. This is about shaping my skills to live the way we are suppose to live! We are one living planet.”

These are just a few of the Testimonies and they all stressed the importance of our connection to our planet! Get outside, be inspired, feel the Earth beneath your feet. Now is more important than ever for us humans to embrace her and not destroy her.

skalitude retreat center winter recreation

Thriving in Winter



Winter greens, frosty grays

Frigid sunsets and shorter days.

Wandering about the snowy land,

Contemplating life’s secrets- oh so grand!

Critters tell stories in the pristine snow,

Oh where do they come from, where do they go?

Shivering sparkles mimic the night sky,

Hoping this moment will never pass us by.

Holding hands up the impossible mountain,

Reaching the top and it is impeccable Zen.

Insatiable thirst for boundless change,

We find our heaven in this colossal range.20150108_154609-PANO