Mountain Matters 2015
Early Fall Edition

In This Issue
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SUUFI 2015
The Mountain
October 4-9 2015

Why attend SUUFI (Southern UU Fall Institute) at The Mountain?

Many good reasons...

  • Compelling program
  • Escape the heat 
  • Fantastic vistas of mountains 
  • Exciting hiking
  • Evening entertainment
  • Really good food 
  • Renewed sense of community
  • Feeling you've "come home"

SpaceShip SUUFI Destination: A renewed sense of self and your potential, a state of inspired thinking, new approaches and understanding aligned purpose and meaningful action.


The keynoters will balance the cerebral with the sensual - typical of SUUFI. We offer plenty of hands-on and heart-engaging activities, unstructured time, and even a workshop to grow your skills leading worship.


Keynote presenters, 

Storyteller David Novak and UU Minister Rev. Roy Reynolds will draw upon concepts of UU, R. Buckminster Fuller, and British naturalist Giles Hutchins to help us toward a treasured destination. Our voyage will seek to discover the "Deep Within" and the "Deep Without" from the exceptional perspective of Meditation Rock. 


Our cruise includes at least seven elements:

  1. outstanding food
  2. compelling activities: hiking social hours, dancing, stretch/movement, star gazing 
  3. entertainment
  4. workshop options: photo essay, wine tasting, drumming, companioning circles, etc.
  5. shared community with shipmates
  6. an exceptional crew,
  7. and that alluring destination of a renewed sense of self

 4, 5, 6 day packages priced at $370, $465 & $560 respectively. Program Details, Flyer, Schedule and "Remembrances" - a photo essay of SUUFI 2014 available 

The View from The Mountain
At the end of August, UUFR Board of Directors President-elect Chris Breivogel and I, along with over 60 other UU lay leaders and clergy, participated in the annual Southern Region UU Leadership Experience (SUULE) at The Mountain - a UU camp in Highlands, North Carolina. I'd heard before going that SUULE would be a transformative experience. I didn't know what that really meant, but I was willing to take the chance that it would be worthwhile. It turned out to be a tremendous week!

After about five hours of driving on Sunday, I reached the winding mountain road that led to The Mountain. I pulled over to let a big, fast moving pick-up truck pass, and ended up with a punctured front tire. I was still 2 miles from my destination, on a lonely, wooded stretch of road that had no cell phone service. I hiked the rest of the way, ever mindful of the potential for a bear sighting. 

When I reached The Mountain, I was full of anxiety and didn't know how I was going to get the tire fixed. I told staff about my car trouble, and they took my cares away! They told me not to worry, to go to the opening session of SUULE, and they would take care of everything. They changed the tire, brought my car up to my cabin, and then arranged with a local garage for a replacement. I felt not only relieved but also wrapped in UU love.

The whole week was that way - free of worry and feeling loved, appreciated, and valued. There were worship services every morning with great music and messages. There were lectures on UU history, faith development, family systems, and the five smooth stones of liberal religion. We worked together in groups to practice what we learned, and discussed results. 
T here were scheduled opportunities every day for spiritual practice - everything from walking meditation to hymn singing to coloring mandalas. We shared our stories during chalice circles every night, made lots of new friends, and gained tools for leadership in challenging times like these. We learned to take a balcony view of issues that come up in congregational life, looking as if from above so that we can see all sides and how different systems interact. We talked about triangulation and how to avoid it. We learned the value of infusing leadership experiences with our UU faith.

I returned from SUULE full of happiness and enthusiasm, feeling centered in my UU faith, and energized for the years ahead. Am I transformed? I think I am. I've found a sustaining source of courage, strength, and joy - within myself and the SUULE community. The instructors wanted us to develop a balcony view of leadership. Instead, I came away from SUULE 2015 with the long view, the view from The Mountain.

In Fellowship,

Denise MacMillan
2015/2016 President, UUFR Board of Directors

Interpersonal Growth and Team Building at 
The Mountain

It's been a good year for team building!  At the beginning of the year the High Ropes Course was closed requiring expensive maintenance and repairs. Fortunately, we received a $12,000 donation from an anonymous donor which allowed us to complete repairs, reopen the course, and begin planning to build a new course sometime in the next five years.
We were also able to build a new element for the low course. The Wall, 12 feet tall and more physically demanding than other low course elements, provides challenges for groups that have been working together for years.
Our anonymous donor recognized a need and helped to save our High Ropes Course. In preserving the challenging activities offered on our Course, groups will continue to learn how to work together; individuals will learn how to surpass their self-imposed limitations. 
The Mountain is now able to begin marketing our Ropes Course and booking a diversity of groups from schools, to businesses and organizations.
So far this year we've had ten groups participate on the Ropes Course's low and high elements including MountainCamp, Family Camp, two school groups, and the Highlands Chamber of Commerce 2015 Leadership Highlands. We will be offering ropes opportunities this fall to The Mountain's Thanksgiving program, and the UU Congregation of Asheville.
Bill Hagemann, Farm Manager and Ropes Course Director, is a 2013 graduate of Warren Wilson College. Bill has a double major in
Outdoor Leadership and Environmental Studies, with concentrations in Environmental Education and Sustainable Agriculture.  
Direct questions to:
[email protected]
To schedule a group:

Your Support Is Welcome
You can DONATE online
at, or  call us at  828-526-5838,  send a check to PO Box 1299 Highlands, NC 28741.  We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and your donations are tax-deductible.                        THANK YOU!
 Early Fall at The Mountain

With only 10" of rain since May, it's been a dry summer - a welcome contrast to Highlands Plateau's annual rainfall approaching 100". September has brought a distinct feeling of fall as days shorten, night temperatures drop, and we slip-on fleece first thing in the morning. The Mountain Store does a brisk business as guests arrive from lower elevations unprepared for mountaintop temperatures.

While fall flowers may not hold the allure of spring ephemerals, they are in abundance.  Unmowed areas of "Cabbage Patch" are filled with Queen Annes lace, yarrow, ironweed, hoary mountain mint, trailing white monkshood, and many daisy-types of the Composite Family. Shades of late purple aster, synonymous with autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains, contrasts
Sumac with sumac bob
beautifully with the 100-120 species goldenrod. 
Jaunty orange and yellow j
ewelweed's clear liquid has been used for centuries as a preventative and treatment for poison ivy and poison oak. Sumac leaves and sumac bobs are turning roadsides into fiery
patches of red and gold, while humble chicory thrives in poor soil closer to the asphalt. 

What about the bees, bears and birds?
Most species of stinging insects are busy preparing their queen for the winter ahead. As shadows lengthen, colonies contain up to 4,000 members that are more aggressive than in summer. Bee stings among guests and staff have prompted a first aid discussion in Staff Meeting. Are our EpiPens up-to-date? Is there an EpiPen in each First Aid Kit...? 
In the fall our black bears are preparing for winter's denning (gestating and birthing cubs) by gaining weight and building dens.  A bear's den can be found in caves, rock outcroppings, hollow trees or in a thicket. Black bears may enter a den as early as late November, or as late as early January to emerge in March or early April depending on the weather and food availability.

We didn't see any bears while hiking Scaly Mountain recently with Trustees, Mani Subramanian and Dave Hudson. However, we were duly impressed by Dave's knowledge of birds. Dave would "cock his head to one side" and say, "Listen."  At a Franklin Bird Club outing on 9/9, birders reporting seeing 38 different species of birds...and seemed surprised to see a Raven which  is apparently a rare sight this time of year. On The Mountain, our ravens are still prevalent. Listen to this call on your next visit.

Wonderful gifts: Marie Mellinger's two booklets on sale in the Mountain Store: "Wildflowers, Ferns & Grasses of The Mountain" and "The Trees upon The Mountain."






Message from Mountain Board Chair
Linda Sterner
As I write this note over Labor Day weekend at The Mountain, I hear Israeli music floating through the windows of the Treehouse!! For the last five years, 40+ dancers have come here over the long holiday weekend to practice traditional Jewish folk dances. Their energy and enthusiasm is inspirational and I am pleased that they have found a home at The Mountain.  Also here this weekend are 20 SUUSI Nature staffers. They are here to identify local hiking, caving and water trips for next summer.  SUUSI 2016 will be held less than one hour away from The Mountain in Cullowee, NC.

In early August your Board of Trustees met and approved new Vision and Mission statements for The Mountain. These can be viewed on our new website which I encourage you all to visit soon.  A dedicated team of volunteers assisted our staff and Board in the development of the site which is easy to view from a variety of devices. Additionally, the Board voted to purchase a new lawn mower so that our maintenance staff can keep the fields at the bottom in good shape without having to "borrow" equipment from neighbors.  Even more exciting was the decision we made to re-roof the Lodge. That work is slated to begin in mid- September.  

We are thankful to all our financial supporters who have made these important decisions possible. Ted and the Board are committed to keeping our facility in great shape, AND maintaining a balanced budget which we could not do without your continued generosity.


The Tower

Every donation is not simply money.
It's an act of generosity expressing a special relationship with The Mountain:
heartfelt memories, like values, a safe haven, the fun of MountainCamp,
working together for a common Mission...
If this speaks of your relationship with The Mountain, now is the time to help us maintain and safeguard this special UU destination until...
  • YOU return again, or your congregation comes for a retreat or one of your children or grandchildren attend MountainCamp
  •  UU ministers (SEUUMA) or DREs return for their annual retreat 
  • your family comes to Thanksgiving or Intergenerational Family Camp
  • or, until you remember the peace, community, and acceptance you've experienced at The Mountain.
Yes, we're counting on you to help meet the 2015 Annual Campaign goal of $240,000. This is not an arbitrary goal; $240,000 is what we need to balance our 2015 budget. At the end of August, we were at 51% or $124,000 of our Annual Campaign goal of $240,000.
"Are we going to meet our goal?" you may be asking! Of course we'll meet our goal! However, we cannot do it without YOU!
We're asking you to gift The Mountain today: donate online, send a check, call Alex at The Mountain to make your gift by phone, become an Annual Member, or increase your annual giving, consider becoming a Sustaining Member by having a set amount debited from your bank with Huldah or Ted about making a gift of stocks or securities...or writing a bequest into your will.
Please help reach the TOP of the TOWER this year where the view seems to go on forever and anything is possible.
Thank you!  Huldah


Two Highlands' Grants  Support 
The Mountain

Huldah Warren accepts a check from Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Bob Kieltyka

For the second year MountainCamp received a $1,000 grant from Mountain Findings, a philanthropic resale shop in downtown Highlands. With scholarship support from Mountain Findings, nine youth from our area attended 2015 MountainCamp sessions: two campers from Highlands, two from Franklin, NC, two from Lakemont, GA, and three campers from Clayton, GA. Previous MountainCamp recipients, Miguel Perez and Jorge Garcia from Franklin, came back to The Mountain this summer as staff in The Mountain's Kitchen while helping with the Ascender Program (16-17 year olds). Miguel and Jorge are examples of how youth grow up at MountainCamp, return to develop valuable work experience, and volunteer to hone their skills.
We are most grateful to the Highlands Chamber of Commerce in awarding The Mountain a $1,600 grant for marketing outside of the Highlands Plateau. The Mountain will use the Chamber's Advertising Partnership grant to place ads in the fall 2015 and spring 2016 quarterly issues of "Northeast Georgia Living." Nancy Plate, Marketing Director adds, "We expect marketing will increase our program attendance while supporting tourism in Highlands." We appreciate this opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Highlands Chamber and local businesses.
  Planning and Finance Team
Board of Trustees


Cathlean Wells Utzig 
Chair, Planning & Finance
Cathlean grew up as a UU in Atlanta, GA and for the last 20+ years, she has lived in Charlotte, NC. Cathlean's family includes husband, Carter, two daughters, and several cats and dogs. Her daughter, Meghann, works in Human Resources in Charlotte, NC, and her other daughter, Anna, is finishing up a degree at University of Mississippi. 
Cathlean's undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt was in Math and Psychology, and she received a Masters of Tax from Georgia State University.  She has worked in public accounting for over 10 years and recently started her own practice in Charlotte, NC. She has volunteered her accounting skills to numerous organizations from Girl Scouts, childrens' theater, kids' schools, and her church community (Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte). 
Her daughters have both had very positive experiences at Youth CONS at the Mountain. In addition, her parents were among the group of first contributors to the Mountain so she enjoys helping an organization that they felt strongly about supporting. She grew up camping, hiking and canoeing throughout the southeastern Appalachian Mountains, and has an innate understanding of the significance of this retreat to our UU communities.
Cathlean is honored to be able to apply her accounting skills to the Planning and Finance Team to help the organization achieve greater fiscal sustainability. 

Lem Arnold
Planning & Finance

I have been a Pediatrician/Adolescent Medicine Physician in Atlanta for 35 years, with Kaiser Permanente for 27 years, and currently in private practice, Kennesaw, Georgia. 

have had a varied administrative life: at Scottish Rite Children's Hospital as chair of many committees including the Bioethics Committee, President of the Medical Staff and member of the Board of Trustees; at Kaiser Permanente as Associate Medical Director for Business Affairs (including our leadership program at Stanford Business School), member of the National Diversity Council leading the effort to produce a "Provider Handbook for Culturally Competent Care: LGBT Population"  and most recently on the interregional work group to implement transgender health benefits.
My love of The Mountain began when my partner, Pat Boyle, introduced me to GSV at the 1995 Fall Conference. I have attended over 40 GSV events at The Mountain. In the last 12 years, I have taken over 30,000 photographs at The Mountain.
I came onto The Mountain's Board of Trustees in May 2010 - surviving the stress of the financial crisis of the fall of 2010. The Board made some tough decisions, raised money to save the day, and set a foundation for our current status - a much more financially secure organization.
I hope in my last year on the Board of Trustees, I can continue to support The Mountain as we move into a new era of growth and security fulfilling our goal to keep true to our Unitarian Universalist heritage.

Rob Marcy
Planning & Finance

Rob grew up in the Boston area and moved to Charlotte in 2004. He graduated from Boston's Northeastern University with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration majoring in Accounting, and began working at Bank of Boston in 1992 in the Finance/Accounting group. Various consolidations in the industry eventually led to his working for Bank of America that provided the Charlotte relocation opportunity.

Over the years he's held several finance and accounting positions with responsibilities including budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, project management and regulatory compliance.

Rob considers himself to have been essentially unchurched until he and his husband Michael joined the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte (UUCC) in 2007. He had begun attending services shortly after moving to Charlotte, and was immediately engaged by the sermons that provided a wonderful combination of intellectual and spiritual messages and teachings. He is currently co-chair of the UUCC Board of Trustees. Rob has gone from unchurched to finding his Unitarian Universalist home being a very important part of his life.

Rob and Michael, together since 1988, live in one of Charlotte's older and eclectic neighborhoods with their many canine and feline companions. Rob enjoys walking their dogs in the neighborhood and Charlotte's many beautiful parks. He also enjoys gardening, spending time with family and friends, watching old movies and participating in UUCC. Although Rob and Michael enjoy visiting family and friends in New England, they're now happy to call North Carolina home.     

Rob joined The Mountain's Board in November 2014 and enjoys experiencing the beauty and transformative energy of The Mountain. He's thoroughly enjoying not only being of service to The Mountain, but also deepening his connection with this magical place.     

The Mountain 
Board of Trustees

Linda Sterner
Jim Becker  
Recording Secretary
Lem Arnold
Corporate Secretary
Rob Marcy
Financial Advisor

Kathlean Anderson
Eunice Benton
Chris Breivogel
Rev. Chris Buice
Kit Hamblen
David Hudson
Peter Kandis
Jay Kiskel
Rev. Sherman Logan Jr.
Mani Subramanian
Erin Thompson
Cathlean Utzig

from Executive Director
Ted Wisniewski
We are moving quickly away from the joys of summer into Mother Nature's celebration of color. At 4200' we have plenty of things keeping us busy as we prepare for the lower temperatures and our winter slumber. 

The past few years we have concentrated our efforts to improve our physical plant, this focus continues. There are plenty of irons in the fire, large and small, planned and unplanned, funded and unfunded.

To start with, our Lodge is getting a new roof! The contractors began work on Sept. 14 and we estimate they will be completed by early October. This is our first step of many to fix the major issues with our housing centerpiece. Like many things at The Mountain, this project is only a reality due to the generosity of our supporters, thank you to Sharon, Prit, Linda and Phil.  Following the completion of the roof we hope to raise the funds to replace the lodge windows and repair Sally's deck.

I am sure you have experienced the challenge of poor internet service during your visit. Some patrons use this as an opportunity to connect by disconnecting; others are just frustrated with the poor connection. Whichever side you fall on, we will soon be offering you a choice through a recent and exciting development - a contract with the Town of Highlands to become their first internet customer. By making this switch, we anticipate our bandwidth growing from 1 Mbps to 8 Gbps. Our goal is to have reliable high speed internet by the first week of October.  

Next on our list is our lake and dam. Over the past several decades from Camp Highlander to MountainCamp, thousands of kids have learned to swim, fish and paddle here. If you have passed by in the last few weeks, you may have noticed the lake has been drained. This was not a planned or budgeted project. Our lake predates The Mountain and now must comply with current state dam requirements. Upon investigating the situation, we discovered that it's a bigger job than we anticipated leaving us with two possible options:
  • The first option is to keep the lake, and this is the desired outcome.
  • Our second option is to lose the lake and plan stream restoration.  

Board Member Kit Hamblin and Director of Facilities MatthewVelker are completing the preliminary assessments; they are working with local contractors, a civil engineer and the state to identify possible solutions and provide a cost analysis of each option.

Our goal is to keep the lake; unfortunately it may not be a reality. We are taking great care to research all the possible options. Before we proceed, the plans will need approvals from the State of NC and our Board of Trustees. I value your thoughts and suggestions immensely. 

During conversations I hear many guests who say they would like to attend Mountain programs with their congregation but find the cost and/or small size of their congregation to be obstacles. 

We have attempted to address these problems with family friendly pricing for UU congregations, and suggested two or more small congregations plan a retreat together. An additional suggestion is to bring your UU group to The Mountain for a service project in return for a reduced price.  We have plenty of projects; and many hands make light work while allowing ample time for fellowship, exploring and relaxing. 

I encourage you to contact me at my new email address: [email protected] Visit our new website: 
Ask questions and gather information about this and other happenings at our 4200' home, The Mountain.

Ted D. Wisniewski
Executive Director
New Mountain Website
Debuted September 18, 2015
Alex Willocks

If you haven't yet noticed, we have a new website!! Recognition and BIG kudos go to Mountain Trustee, Jay Kiskel. Jay's expertise, leadership and dedication of hundreds of volunteer hours led to our new website that reflects The Mountain in a new light of professionalism and engagement.  Thank you, Jay!

Our previous website will automatically redirect you to our new URL,

We have made it easier for you to find information by adding individual retreat postings, a calendar that is in a typical calendar format, home pages for both MountainCamp and Youth CONs, and a search option for when you don't know where to look. 

Go check out our new website today! 
Features of the new website include:
  • Responsive display: The website will re-size its display to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Improved website navigation: Website menu options have been optimized for easy access to desired information.
  • Website search option: Information can also be accessed by entering keywords in the website's search engine.
  • MountainCamp home page: Parents can directly access information on our summer camp programs.
  • Calendar: The Mountain calendar will actually be in a calendar format! Seeing the events in a calendar format facilitates your planning. Clicking on a calendar event takes you directly to an Event Posting.
  • Event Posting: Each event held on The Mountain has a individual webpage with relevant information such as a detailed description of the event, key dates for general and early bird registration, listing of an event's guest packages with associated fees and a direct web link to access our partner registration website.
Alex Willocks
828 526 5838 x 230

Meet Fall Farm Intern
Christina Echevarria
Hello, my name is Christina Echevarria and I am this season's Farm Intern at The Mountain. I am originally from Tampa, Florida, and am so happy to be spending the Fall up in the beautiful mountains and forests of Highlands.

I hold a Bachelor of Sociology from the University of Florida and a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London. I'm excited to be gaining hands-on experience in all aspects of farm management, farm-to-table food production and outdoor leadership training through facilitating the high and low ropes courses.

My professional interests include ecotherapy and horticultural therapy, or the use of nature and gardening as a means of healing, as well as healthy eating, organic food production, and environmental sustainability. I believe that the food we eat greatly impacts how we feel, and nothing can be better for you than eating fresh from the garden. In my free time I enjoy yoga, hiking the many area trails, meditation and exploring all that Highlands has to offer. I have already learned so much during my time at The Mountain and cannot wait to see what the rest of my internship has in store!
Flock, Brood, Clutch
At The Many Hands Peace Farm (MHPF), we pride ourselves on keeping our flock of twenty-seven chickens happy and healthy with plenty of grassy pasture to play freely. MHPF Manager, Bill Hagemann and fall farm intern, Christina Echevarria, take care of the farm's feathered flock seven days a week: feeding, collecting eggs, making sure the coop and nest boxes stay fresh-smelling and clean, and closing up the coop at dusk. 
Happy  Farmer Bill
Our chickens make this job fun and easy with their unique and sometimes silly personalities - one of the hens even enjoys hopping on Bill's shoulder during morning chores! Happy and healthy chickens produce the tastiest and most nutritious eggs - and our flock's eggs are certainly delicious!
Our happy hens have been busy laying an abundance of eggs, that have been
 enjoyed by guests in The Mountain's Dining Hall and by the people of
Mountain eggs ready for market
Highlands through sales at the High
lands Farmers Market and local health food store, Whole Life Market
and Mountain Fresh. Eggs are sold for $3 a half dozen and can be purchased every Saturday through the end of October from Don Deal's stand at the Highlands Farmers Market. 

Making our eggs available in Highlands is a great opportunity to provide outreach for the MHPF. Our tasty eggs also promote The Mountain as an educational destination in the areas of organic gardening, sustainability, and local food production.
Future improvements to the Mountain's chicken brood include increasing the area of pasture available as well as adding additional laying hens to increase egg production. Soon, we hope to see a broody hen sitting on a clutch of eggs with baby chicks added to the gang this fall! We love our chickens and we know you will too.
Direct questions to:
To schedule a group:

Christina Echevarria
The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center | 828 526 5838 | [email protected] |
3872 Dillard Road
P.O. Box 1299
Highlands, NC 28741