Mountain Matters e-Newsletter
Late Summer Edition 2017 
Message from 
Linda Sterner, Board of Trustees Chair

Your dedicated Board of Trustees held its quarterly onsite meeting in late August.  We worked hard, played some and enjoyed each others company while we strategized on ways to best serve you, our members and supporters.  Much of the discussion centered around possible governance changes, how best to implement the first phase of our recently published Strategic Plan, and review of our current financials.  We also had a joint training session with the Mountain Endowment Board. The cooperation between the two groups is creating synergies and makes me happy.

    While attending The Mountain Board of Trustees meeting, I could feel a chill in the morning and late evenings that reminded me we are truly changing seasons soon.  That thought led me to think of all the upcoming programs we will be hosting during the next few months.  It is our busiest time of year for retreats as everyone loves the fall colors.  

This Mountain Matters and our website provide lots of information about some great programs coming in the weeks to come. Two events that are particularly special to me are the Southeast UU Fall Institute (SUUFI) in October and Thanksgiving weekend--a long standing tradition for my extended family and The Mountain.  

I hope to see many of you at one of these upcoming events~

                             Linda Sterner

  Programs Too Good to Miss!

Sept 20-24


Oct. 1-6

Oct. 11-15

Nov. 22-26

Jan. 12-15

March 16-18

March 30-April 1

     April 1-6   

May 20-25

The Transforming Power of MountainCamp 

Great things were happening this summer at MountainCamp! With our 37th camp season atop Little Scaly Mountain, we saw great growth in what we offer for our campers. From Beginner to High School, CIT and ASCENDER sessions, campers participated in meaningful and experiential learning activities as well as community.

At the heart of MountainCamp is the inclusive, intentional community we form each summer, as unique as the people involved. No summer is like any other as our campers and staff grow, learn and leave their legacy for summers to come. This camp season, the staff spent time learning about the legacy of those who came before us and intentionally examined the legacy we will all leave behind on this mountain.  

One of the ways we focused on legacy was to create programs that were meaningful and easy for campers relate to in their daily lives. Our staff spent a great deal of time planning activities to help campers learn skills, think critically, and establsh a foundation for continued interest. Each camper made their own schedule of workshops such as: fire building, wire sculpture, spa science, body positivity, and canoeing.

Our evening programs were filled with fun and lessons to be learned. Each theme was chosen carefully to reflect our camper's interest and the world we live in. One of the favorites this summer was a "Clue" themed Casino Night. When the night was over, we found the culprit to be the maid, Ms. White, with the ukulele, because of pay inequality. Our Social Justice staff team made great strides in bringing our 7 principles to the forefront of our program. We also introduced our campers to regional Appalachian studies through skill- building workshops like archery and lean-to building. It's great to see campers gaining skills as they learn about the legacy of the land we dwell upon.

Our programs were not the only focus of our legacy this summer. Each of our staff members started the summer reflecting on the meaning of legacy, and were challenged to leaving their legacy behind. Our cabin counselors took to this heart the charge to build cabin groups as unique as the campers and counselors themselves. Each summer we see bonds form that will last a lifetime, facilitated by our loving and capable cabin counselors. We saw new friendships form and old friends strengthen their friendship through their shared experience of camp. At the end of each session, it is always hard to say goodbye but through our closing circle we build one lasting connection through a circle of yarn that each camper receives a piece to wear around their wrist to symbolize our community.

The legacy of MountainCamp 2017 will be one to remember--a time of great growth in our community and our programs. The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center is very grateful the parents who send their children to camp each year. We know it is the campers who bring their friends and our camp staff who make all of this happen. Camp is a transformative time and we could not do it without each of our campers, staff, parents and supporters. 

Be on the lookout for information about camp on our website. Registration opens for another magical summer at MountainCamp on November 1, 2017. 


"I always look back on my time at Mountain Camp as some of the best times of my life. I met some of the greatest people and my experiences were beyond compare. 

Today, after picking both of my Elementary Camp children up from their first summer at Mountain camp, the realization that my children just went through the exact same magical experience that I had when I was younger was evident from the look on their faces and how comfortable they seemed in this environment. It's like they were let in on this secret that I had known for years and I couldn't be happier to share this with them! 

The inclusivity of this camp is incredible and the counselors are fantastic.Mountain Camp is about acceptance and learning but also about fun! This camp is like no other!"

Have you Booked Your Next Congregational Retreat?

It seems like yesterday that The Mountain could accommodate just about every congregational retreat, regardless of when requested.  Not so anymore.  

Thanks to the genius, hard work and determination of former board member Jay Kiskel who spent months of volunteer time leaving no task incomplete in redoing our website resulting in making us much more competitive in the retreat market. We know that because the inquiry request forms just keep coming in from all over and our inquirers are so much more informed as to what we have to offer.  Once we thought that one or two inquiries a month was good. Now we are spoiled and use to at least 3-5 a week. These days we spend as much time trying to find alternative dates for requests, having to turn many down due to lack of space.  The best news is that our Sunday-Thursday bookings have significantly increased in the last two years.  We have worked hard to get to that point and hopefully soon we will have a full calendar.  It has been a long time coming. Thanks to all of you that have contributed to our success.

Suggestions for the 2018 and Beyond:


If you are going to plan a congregational retreat, begin 9 months to a year in advance:

  • Put a person in charge that can get the job done.
  • Call The Mountain approximately a year in advance, particularly if you need a specific date or time of the year.  Remember that May and Fall retreats are the most popular times at The Mountain and usually fill up early.  Once we have you on the calendar we will send you a contract to be signed and returned guaranteeing you the space on the dates requested.
  • Winter months of January, February and March and week days Sunday-Thursday are times that we will consider negotiating great rates.
  • Once on The Mountain calendar send out a "save the date" to your congregation.  Ask for a reply if interested-that way you will have an idea of the level of interest.
  • If you indicated that you will need the entire Mountain and find out that your actual is going to be much less, let The Mountain sales staff know in order that they can schedule a second group.
Many of our annual groups have determined dates up and into 2020. This year we will start moving toward 2022.

Please remember:
  • Although we serve the universe, Unitarian Universalist groups are our #1 priority. This means that we will do everything possible to assist you with getting the dates you request; we charge no deposit for  holding the dates and we don't charge you tax.
  • Our sales staff will move mountains to accommodate your group.
  • You can help us move the mountain by working with us from the earliest date.
                                    C ontact Nancy Plate  
828 526 5838 ext. 250 and leave a voice mail message.

Thanks to You, Our Mountain Supporters!

Thanks to your generosity and volunteer support, lots of good things have been happening for our campers and guests to experience this summer. 

The first Art Showcase & Sale was held in July, planned and staffed by youth leaders Esme Kerr and Caroline Casteel. Artwork and handmade jewelry was donated by several talented campers, counselors, and other MountainCamp supporters. $250 was raised to benefit the Mountain Campership Fund.

Several donors provided the funding for a $10,000 matching challenge for our  Mountain Campership Fund. With your support, we raised over $19,000 for camperships to enable 45 kids to experience MountainCamp, including 6 from the local community. Appreciation goes to the   Mountain Findings Thrift Store for their $1,200 contribution to the fund for local campers.

Grants and Special Project Funding

The Rotary Club of Highlands awarded The Mountain a generous grant to help fund equipment for the Farm's Mushroom Lab, which is an innovative part of The Mountain's food production and educational program.

" A Food Forest for Environmental Justice" UU crowdfunding campaign through Faithify was a grand success, with Mountain and Farm supporters contributing $5,500 to develop the Food Forest at the base over the next year. Thank you!

We are grateful to the recipient of a $5,000 grant from the Feed a Bee funding program of Bayer Crop Science. The grant will be used to increase our pollinator forage habitat at the base through the expansion of our Mountain Meadow, Many Hands Peace Farm, and Future Food Forest sites. Many thanks to volunteer Shannon Cain for helping to write the grant proposal with input from Canty Worley, Meadow Consultant, Farm co-Managers Joey Kyle & Ben Galindo, and Ted Wisniewski.

Thanks to a gift from the Mountain Endowment Board last winter, supplemented by individual donors, we were able to buy all new mattresses for our Lodge sleeping rooms!

Mobility around the Mountain campus has been made easier for staff and guests with the donation of a scooter and funding for two utility carts.

Earlier this spring, new permeable stonework was installed on the upper and lower level surfaces of the Memorial Garden. This beautiful improvement was made possible because of individual and family donations to the Memorial Life Member Fund. If you would like to learn more about this fund, please contact our   Development Office.

New replacement screen doors have been purchased for the cabins. The work of cabin renewal will begin this winter, one at a time as donations are received. This project will include new flooring and vapor barriers, door and window repairs or replacement, and furnishing upgrades. 

If you have a special project you would like to see funded, please contact me to discuss~~

828-526-5838 ext. 254.

Your Generosity Made these Improvements Possible!
Many thanks to the generous donors who provided the funding for these important projects, and to our Facilities staff and volunteers for making it all happen.

We have an  ambitious list of priorities and projects to tackle this winter as well, as our facilities budget and donations allow. 

The Lodge Great Room and Kitchen interior has been renovated, with new windows, lighting, fresh paint, and cleaned carpets.

Sally's Deck has been completely renovated, with new decking, rails and ramps.

New casement windows have been installed around the Great Room, sealing the leaks and improving the view of Blue Valley.

Thanks to Russell, Kerry, and Sam and their team of volunteers for these accomplishments!


More Scenes of Summer  

Aligned Together under Sun, Moon, and Clouds

My skin prickles with goosebumps as I call to mind all of the tender and thrilling moments of The Mountain's Total Solar Eclipse program. Welcoming over 150 guests for the long weekend, program guests, staff, and volunteers alike were buzzing with excitement leading up to the Monday afternoon  viewing. The program was rich and relaxing, providing guests with lectures, stories, hikes, yoga, star gazing, evening campfires, music, eclipse 101 interactive stations, and Sunday Service. In addition, there was time to retreat individually, to commune with the natural surroundings, and imagine the splendor of the eclipse ahead.

During Sunday Service, Reverend Pat Jobe presented a sermon in which he asked us to "open our hearts to that which is beyond imagination." His sermon examined the phenomena that happens when we look forward to an event, when we imagine what it will be like, and then when the present moment catches up to the future and the event comes to be. 

On Monday afternoon, as clouds began to roll in over The Mountain, I noticed that my own imagining of what 2:34 PM that day (the time that the Moon would eclipse the Sun) would be like. I began to worry, and my imagining of the day shifted. But I did not imagine what actually happened... Though there was cloud cover, glimpses of the eclipse were seen over The Mountain throughout the event. Awe-struck by the wonder and beauty, The Mountain soundscape fluttered with OOoos and AAaahs, exclamations, laughter--and as total darkness fell and the mid-day sunset colored the distant mountains--a profound silence. 

With small groups gathered all over campus--on the Tower, Sally's Deck, on Meditation Rock, in the parking lot, at the field, on the farm, and at the lake--it was not possible to witness everyone's experience. However the eclipse effect rippled through each person on The Mountain that day. 

As we all came together again that evening, gathering for social time and dinner, I recalled something else Rev. Pat had said in his sermon. He said "let the sun draw us out of our separate identities." I couldn't have imagined it, but I do believe the Eclipse did just that to the group of us here at The Mountain and hopefully across the country as we all came together to bear witness, crane our necks upward, and greet the light and the dark.  


Click here to read a copy of Pat Jobe's Eclipse Weekend Sermon "Looking for Sunshine After A Total Eclipse of The Heart."

Check out The Mountain's Facebook page for Total Solar Eclipse photos and a video from the top recorded during the total eclipse phase.

Mountain Wish List

 Items needed
  • Hand tools--rechargeable drills
  • Farm hand tools
  • Small dorm refrigerators
  • Exterior rugs (3x5 & 2x4 rubber back)
  • Space heaters
  • New small rototiller 
  • Office chairs
  • Twin bed frames
  • Lamps & shades for cabins
  • Mugs for the Dining Hall
  • Sofas, Loveseats & Chairs for the Rec Hall and several cabins
  Other Priority Projects
  • Repave Ring Road 
  • Cabin floors - Vapor barriers, floor repairs, and dehumidifiers
  • Repave road to cabins 1-4
  • Tower Rejuvenation
  • Septic tank repairs (four)
  • Dam and spillway repairs 
  • Hot water tanks 80 gallons each
  • Dining Hall window replacement
  • New Internet Server--5 monitors & workstation upgrades 
Down the Road Projects
  • Staff & volunteer housing
  • Pave Lake Road
  • Gravel parking Lots
  • Stables- convert from storage to classroom or meeting space
  • Tree-house Attic renovations
  • New lodging building (by Lodge)
If you are interested in donating items in new or lightly used items (in kind) or funding toward any of these items, please contact our Development Office.
From its beginnings nea rly 4 decades ago, The Mountain has been a place and community founded and supported by its members. The nature and categories of membership have changed and our funding structure has evolved over the years, but one thing remains true: 

Membership in The Mountain means you care about this place enough to invest in its future: with your heart, your hands, and your funding.

The process of becoming an annual member should be a clear and intentional choice. Mountain supporters age 18 and older can become members at any point in the year. However, they must renew annually between annual meetings (by April 15th) to have a vote and a voice in that year's annual election and/or business meeting in late May. 

Membership in The Mountain matters, so please choose to  become a member or renew your annual membership today!

Many Hands Peace Farm

In the month of September, the Many Hands Peace Farmers are working on multiple projects and initiatives. With the funds raised by crowd-sourcing and grants, farm staff will be focusing on two projects: the Food Forest and Feed a Bee. The long term development of the Food Forest is in the beginning stages of planning, consultation, and research, funded in large part by our summer Faithify campaign. The Feed A Bee grant from Bayer Crop Science US. Working with the Highlands Biological Station and Meadow Manager, Canty Worley, we will expand our pollinator forage habitats at the base.

Some new additions to the farm include guided foraging tours, social media outreach, and two new members of the farm staff. Farm staff will begin to offer locals a hands on chance to learn about edible and medicinal plants present around the Farm and Little Scaly Mountain. 

You can track the Farm's activities on our new Instagram account. Also, watch our Many Hands Peace Farm Facebook page for updates about our Etsy site, to buy items in our new product line, such as our 2018 Fungi Calendar. Southwestern University alums, Anne Brown and Anna Beaver, are joining the staff from Texas to help with these exciting initiatives. 

All of us working the Many Hands Peace Farm expect a bountiful fall harvest of winter squash, tomatoes, beans, pumpkins, greens, and root crops to feed our retreat guests and sell at the weekly Farmers Market.

Click here to learn more about the Many Hands Peace Farm.

The Mountain Welcomes 
New Staff
Justin Perry comes to the Mountain with eight years of experience from the Boy Scout camp, Camp Rainey Mountain, located in Rabun County. Justin also earned his Bachelor's in Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism from the University of Georgia. This summer was his first time at the Mountain in any capacity, and he quickly proved himself a valuable asset to MountainCamp and the community as a whole. He hopes to be able to work with improving the challenge course and bouldering wall programs.

  Sam Dobmeyer (l) & Justin Perry (r)

Sam Dobmeyer has been an enthusiastic devotee of MountainCamp since 2005. He has worked as a counselor for three summers in 2010-11 and 2014, and as a CIT Mentor in 2016-17. Sam loves to hike, play music, and educate others on the natural bounty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is most interested in improving the Mountain's youth programs and developing the next generation of Mountain leaders. 

The Mountain Board of Trustees

Linda Sterner,  Chair
Chris Breivogel,
Recording Secretary

Rob Marcy
Financial Advisor

Nathalie Bigord
KC Boyce
Kit Hamblen
David Hudson
Peter Kandis
Kerry Keys
DeAnn Peterson
Gail Sphar

Clink here to learn more about the Board and Governance of The Mountain.

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