All posts by cindyrosstraveler

ELK VIEWING in PA’s Elk Country with a Licensed Guide- Veteran’s Benefit Auction Item

HERE’s A GREAT AUCTION ITEM- a guided trip into PA’s elk range with an expert licensed guide, Bill May (Hoppy) whose life career was managing the food and cover for our PA wildlife with the PA Game Commission, particularly the ELK- pick you season- all are good- working to get a B&B to complete the package- Remember folks, you’ve got to get a ticket to come before you can be a winner!

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ELK IN PENNSYLVANIA- Bay Journal News

The West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the steep mountains dropping down to its banks, are my first signs that I am entering another world, a wild world. A wooden sign announces, “Welcome to PA’s Elk Range” and I know that I have entered hallowed ground, sacred soil. I decrease my speed and scan the open areas and forest edges for the magnificent creatures. I don’t need to travel all the way to Montana to see elk for they are thriving right here in Pennsylvania.

One of the most widespread members of the deer family in North America, elk once had a range that extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and Canada to northern Mexico. When the first European settlers arrived, there were ten million elk in North America. These brown-gray ungulates, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, are identifiable by their four-inch long tails, light-colored rump, and the males’ massive branch-like antlers.

By 1852, unrestricted hunting reduced Pennsylvania’s herd to a few scattered individuals left in Elk County, and the late 1870s left none in the state. In 1913, the state began its first re-introductory effort, to restore the elk to their natural habitat and today their numbers are estimated to be over 700.

I’m traveling west to the village of Benezette in Elk County and the farthest reaches of the Chesapeake watershed to see these magnificent creatures and listen to their melodic bulging in the fall rutting season. My long time friend, Bill May, is accompanying me, a retiree of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, who managed a Wildlife Food & Cover Crew for the elk, and now is an elk guide. Besides elk, he will also share the conservation success story of reclaiming the abandoned mine lands that have become the elks’ home.

In the fall rut, the forest resounds with the bull’s bugling- a series of vocalizations that mature bulls use in order to compete for cows’ attention and to challenge opponent bulls. The call begins with a medium clear note, rises to a high pitch and ends in a shrill scream, followed by a series of grunts. It is one of the distinct calls of the wild, akin to a wolf howling or the call of a loon and it is enough to send shivers down your spine.

Females are attracted to the bulls that are the most dominant, illustrated by the bull’s ability to gather and keep his cow group. This includes fending off other bulls that constantly challenge his place as herd bull and keeping his harem together…an exhausting undertaking. In the open meadows and food plots, which were once minelands, quite a show could be going on.

Unregulated coal mining practices prior to 1977 left 2,500 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage, many of them in the Bay watershed, as well as 250,000 acres of un-reclaimed surface mine land. With the help of grants, spoil piles and dangerous cliffs were back-filled and graded, dressed with biosolids, seeded and planted. Engineers restored water quality, enhanced recreational opportunities and revitalized the area for elk and an abundance of other wildlife. The Elk Management Area, (Gamelands #311), is managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, whose mission is to conserve and enhance habitat for wildlife.

The reclaimed minelands have been planted in annual plants, grasses and legumes and it is in these herbaceous openings and “food plots,” that elk spend the majority of their time foraging. The neighboring forest provides critical cover, thereby mimicking the type of habitat that elk in the western states thrive in.

Recycled paper waste products (wood fibers and lime) are being successfully incorporated into the barren soil, resulting in improved soil productivity, plant growth and eventually, improved water quality.

In the clearing is one of the largest bulls Bill has ever seen- easily weighing over 1,100 pounds, with an impressive 8X8 rack that is well over 5 feet wide, 6 feet long and weighing 60 pounds. His “cow catchers” alone up front are two feet long, well into the world record size.

His harem consists of 15 cows, which he defends gallantly. He noses the ladies, herding them into a tight group. Then the entire forest, from all directions, begins reverberating with the sound of bulging bulls. Two satellite bulls emerge from the forest, bulls that are nearly as large as the king, and next in line if he becomes too exhausted or proves incapable of breeding all his cows. They strut their stuff, attempting to bugle as loud and frequently as the herd master. Then raghorns- two-year olds, with still impressive 5X5 racks, skirt the edge, knowing this is out of their league but still wanting to be part of the drama.

There isn’t five minutes that passes without the heart-quickening sound of an elk bulging and this goes on for hours. It is such a moving experience to be a privileged spectator in this grand wild show, and never had to leave the watershed. 316887_2147239720250_1055283766_n-1

BECOMING AIRBORNE AGAIN

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I like to think that things happen for a reason. I like to think I’m usually on the right path in life, that I’m being guided by Divine Providence. And things are all good. I had serious doubts however, this past October when I attended the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Gathering at Williams College, MA. I was so unbelievably scattered. I was giving multiple presentations and I could not keep track of my shit. I left my car keys, my jacket etc at multiple places around campus and spent much of my time walking all over town and campus to look for them. I was growing ever more disgusted with myself when I lost my purse. It had my wallet and credit cards in it and I was departing for a trip to Turkey very soon. I have always been forgetful but moving into menopausal years has taken this lifelong flaw and blown it up.

After hours of searching, I gave up and began the long drive home, completely disgusted with myself. But it occurred to me that although my comrades that I was staying with searched our hotel room itself, perhaps the front desk might have had someone turn it in. They did. I turned around and began to drive the half hour back to the hotel. Out of the many hundreds of friends at the event that were concerned for me and my lost purse, I only chose to call one- Travis Johnston, to share the good news.

Travis was an Airborne Ranger who just got off hiking the entire Appalachian Trail to “walk off his war” and for the memory of his fallen Airborne Ranger brother, Zach Adamson. Zach hiked the whole AT in 2013 and then four months later was found dead from a gunshot wound to his head. His death rocked the whole AT trail community as well as all those close to Zach. Besides hiking the trail in Zach’s memory, Travis orchestrated a memorial climb up McAfee’s Knob in Virginia for Zach, which I made a YouTube video on.

The 6 month long hike proved to be very good for Travis. His Ranger friends watched his transformation through the many happy photos that he posted on Facebook. Spending all that time in nature, walking, was visibly healing Travis’s heart wounds. And as soon as he climbed Mount Katahdin, his friends began calling, looking for help, hoping for counseling, “Do you think hiking would work for me too?” Travis and I sat over lunch and he told me of a dream he had to be counselor/therapist as an occupation. But instead of sitting on some couch in an office, they would have their session in a canoe on a river, or on a trail in the woods. And perhaps my non-profit organization, River House PA would benefit from his gift someday, leading my veterans and being a part of our mission.

Travis does possess a gift. Extrovert by nature, (unusual for long distance hikers) he is a people person but has a command of the language and articulates very well what he is trying to get across. And he talks veteran’s language. I don’t have to go into detail what Ranger language sounds like. He doesn’t take any bullshit. He was in a leadership role in the military and he knows how to delegate. But his heart is as wide as the ocean. And he is not afraid to shed tears, or hug or tell you flat-out, “I love you, man.” This is exactly what these struggling veterans need, and some direction on how to pick themselves up and find some happiness and peace in their civilian life.

One of his Ranger friends, who is presently struggling happens to live in Pennsylvania. Travis planned to go visit him on his way south from Massachusetts to Savannah, Georgia. I told him to let me know WHERE in PA his friend lived. PA is a very large state, but just maybe he was down the road and Travis could stop in and visit us en route.

So when I called Travis to tell him the good news of the lost purse, he said “Hey, I just found out where my friend lives, in Reading, PA.”

“Wow, I said, “pretty weird. That is ‘right down the road.” I grew up there.

So besides the gift of the purse, I had Travis’s company and could give him a ride all the way down to PA.

(When I told my daughter Sierra this and told her there was a REASON that I lost it, she said, ‘Nice story mom, but you still have to become responsible for your shit.”)

Travis came back with me and I gave him my car to go see his friend but I got an idea. His Ranger friend was becoming a recluse. Staying in his home, where he lived alone, for months without going out. He was very depressed and felt as though he was living a nightmare. He suffered from back and knee pain because on his last jump, his chute collapsed and he hit the earth from 120 feet up with no shoot.

Then he proceeded to come home from deployment and had a motorcycle accident where he “stopped his bike with his head.” For the next three years, he was in eight different hospitals, psychiatric wards, rehab centers, trying to get better.

I told Travis to go fetch him- bring him up to our log home, get him out of the city, his home and his head. It was a stretch for him but he trusted his Ranger Leader Travis and he packed his overnight bag and came.

We took Airborne Ranger Danny Stein up to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for a hike to see if his body could handle the hike and it was okay. The hike in the beautiful autumn woods did him good. There were people there counting hawks and although we sat over to the side, he had a short anxiety attack where he had to hold onto our hands and squeeze them until he felt calm and safe again.

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We made a campfire and cooked dinner. We acted as though Danny was part of the family and no different from anyone else. The men slept in my writing cabin- the first time our Danny was away from the security of his own home and bed for a long time. He did okay. He stayed for two nights and two days.

When Danny left, he paused at the door and abruptly turned around and said, “October 15. I will never forget this day for as long as I live. Because on this day, a family reached out to me, who never met me before and welcomed me into their home and that has never happened before, and because of that, I will never forget this day.”

I was holding back the tears when I threw my arms around him for yet another hug. My goodness. This is easy, having people over and welcoming them into our home, feeding them, getting to know them. We do it all the time. And lately with veterans.

I told Danny that I was going away for a few weeks to Turkey but I would call him when I returned and take him for a walk in Reading. (He cannot drive right now as he had a seizure and must wait many months before getting behind the wheel again.) He told Travis and I that everyone forgets about him and I did not want to be added to that list of those who just give lip service.

Since I returned from Turkey, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the business end of my non-profit organization, River House, which was not my forte and I needed a secretary to take notes, compile a list of e-mails etc, etc. Danny said he would love to help. I would love to have his help. We made a great team.

He stayed at the house for two days and two nights. I got him on a longer more strenuous hike to see how his back and knees held up. I would like to get him to the point where he could go out for a backpack trip. He was OK with it, took some Ibrofrofin.

Danny fetched hay with my husband, which was big to trust being in his company. We took him to Sam’s Club and he food shopped and made healthy food choices and talked and laughed with the check out girls. We played Rummy at the kitchen table. He said that interacting with three other people in close quarters was a huge step for him.

He needed help to play and I looked over his shoulder to help him with his hand. He said, “I forget what I’m doing, what cards are in my hand, on the table,” and I felt like I have found a kindred spirit when it comes to forgetting. When I couldn’t find something on my desk, I was complaining to Danny, “I’m losing my mind,” and he brought me back to reality and responded, “I HAVE lost part of my mind” as Danny sports an impressive 12 inch long curved scar on his skull, clearly seen through his hair. Danny aligns my perspective

We teased him. We told him to get used to this, he was going to do more of it. More experiences, more people to meet, more time in nature…but small steps. We didn’t baby him nor feel sorry for him. I would like to pick him up every week and take him with me in my life.

Danny was sitting at my desk, working on River House material when he said, “You know, this organization could really take off. There is a real need for this.”

I know that. When people ask if they can come see the actual physical River House I give them the “build it and they will come” speech. If I had a River House now in Port Clinton, my Ranger here could help run it, he could live there and be with like-minded comrades. He could be helpful and useful and be productive and feel needed because he is, even now. That is the secret of helping them get better, finding a purpose, besides showing them how nature heals.

When my husband Todd and I were in the Florida Keys for our anniversary last year we met a psychologist on the ferry, and we got to talking about River House. She has been working with veterans with PTSD her whole life. And she said to me, “It is extremely rewarding work, because they get better.”

Yes, they certainly can get better. I hope to catch one or two so they don’t have their lives cut short like Ranger Zach Adamson. I have seen my Ranger friend get better in only two short visits. It is completely remarkable how much better he seems, something that can’t be faked nor imagined.

I do get frustrated because I had to cancel some of River House’s programs this past summer because I couldn’t motivate the veterans to sign up. But I have my faith restored. I can help, even if it is only one veteran at a time. The change occurred in me on our walk yesterday. My son grabbed a wild grape-vine and went for a swing. And after watching a few times, Danny grabbed the vine with his hands, tested it to see if it would hold his weight, trusted it and swung out over the mountainside, catching air. He was laughing. He was being playful. He was Airborne again.

(see related story/video)

A Journey of Remembrance – YouTube13►:13
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOwRs3YNms0

Feeling Whole Again

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(Raymond Kusch on left and Jack Knouse on right)

Wounded Warrior (WW) Raymond Kusch picks out a leg prosthesis and an accompanying foot like a woman might make a shoe selection, depending on her activity level and function. He has nearly a dozen to choose from but today he’s selected one that is suitable for a bear hunt.

We’re up in the mountains of Potter County, Pennsylvania, “God’s Country” as it is affectionately called with a non-profit organization called LEEK. LEEK orchestrates about 5 hunts a year for America’s Wounded Warriors. It is one of many organizations who offer the gift of an outdoor experience to those who gave so much for us.

Missing limbs are not an issue for LEEK’s Wounded Warrior guests. Trackchairs transport the WW over fallen tree limbs, across rocks and wet areas, up and down steep slopes and right into wide, carpeted blinds where they can be pretty near certain to harvest an animal. There are also Kawasaki Mules and Yamaha Rhinos ready to cram WW, volunteers, bird dogs and guns into.

The WW feel comfortable with a gun in their hands, for it is an extension of their arm. The Range House has wide open windows that swing open and face a variety of targets, from 25 yards to 800 yards. The WW practice here, getting used to their gun, as the WW fresh out of Walter Reed, does not come with his own hunting rifle. They come with little more than their personal clothing.

There is a wide array of boots, coats, long underwear, socks, orange hats to select from. Guns are provided, ammo, and licenses courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Delicious meals cooked up by a wide array of local volunteers for the days they are residing at LEEK.

“We don’t want the Warriors to worry about anything,” shares Ed Fisher, retired Army Colonel. Ed, and his wife Kate along with many volunteers, created LEEK seven years ago to provide injured serviceman and women a way to enjoy therapeutic outdoor recreational activities regardless of their physical condition. The all-volunteer run facility grew from 256+ acres to now having 31,000 acres at their disposal for hunting purposes. LEEK knows the life of an out-patient WW is hectic and full of meetings, appointments, therapies, operations, etc. They come on a LEEK hunt for a much-needed break.

Raymond had never hunted in his 20 something life until his wife decided to help her husband out of his slump and applied for as many outdoor mini adventure programs that are being offered our WW.

Ray has been deep-sea fishing in Cancun, whitewater rafting in Idaho, turkey hunting in Kansas and now bear hunting in Pennsylvania. “Anything to take me away from the hospital,” Ray says, “but especially being out here in nature.”

“It’s a little uncomfortable at first, arriving at LEEK from Walter Reed and not knowing anyone. I was an extroverted person before I blew up, which helped.”

“I was a sniper in Afghanistan, stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device), flew ten feet in the air and landed 15 feet away on my back. I watched my leg evaporate into pink mist.”

It’s difficult to tell that Ray is missing a leg. He limps a bit, trips some. This morning Ray demonstrated how the socket of his prosthesis has a seal-in liner and pushes out the air to make a tight seal. The foot inside his hunting boot is a rubber shell around a carbon fiber foot. While we hunt, we sit together at our stand and wait for the LEEK volunteers to put on a drive through the thick clear cuts nearby, hoping to flush out a bear. I have his back, standing behind his tree, watching in a direction that is difficult for him to see. We talk some but mostly share the morning, feel the same cold breeze rushing up from the valley, hear the same raven calling, the same tree branches creaking. We both are on high alert, scanning the land before us.

The WW can rise before dawn and get in position for a hunt or decide to sleep in and fish instead or just relax. “It’s the WW’s hunt. It’s whatever they want to do,” says volunteer Jack Knouse.

Jack is now a volunteer but three years ago, he was in Raymond’s position- a guest, recuperating from a war-related injury. Jack is currently in the National Guard and you can usually find him at most LEEK hunts, giving back.

Once the WW scores a deer or turkey or other game, LEEK volunteers busy themselves in the processing center- gutting, skinning, quartering, packed up etc. so the WW can go home with his treasure that same day. They even send the meat out for processing and have it made into bologna or kielbasi, and shipped home. If a WW is on a tight schedule to get back to the hospital, they can turn it around in twenty minutes!

There is also a black powder deer hunt, spring gobblers and always pheasants. LEEK is licensed to raise the birds and volunteers bring their hunting dogs to help with the harvest. LEEK orders 300 day old chicks and typically releases 25-30 birds out a hunt. The harvested birds get divided up and all WW go home with meat. Last year, LEEK obtained a Regulated Hunting Ground Permit and puts on hunts from September 1- April 30. Seventy stands and blinds pepper the acreage as well as a well-stocked pond to fish.

After six hours of hunting and multiple drives, and still no bear, Ray relaxes and moves around talking freely to me. He shares his disappointment with what is currently happening in Iraq, worries for the village people who became his friends, wishes he could go back and help them. He then apologizes for his tirade but I tell him, that’s what we’re here for, to help, whether that means listening for a black bear to scurry through the autumn leaves or to a WW share his heart.

I ask Ray if sitting with a gun in hand and hunting brings on flashbacks from Afghanistan, for his job was a sniper before “he blew up.” No, “I like being in the woods.” He is happy out here.

Ray limps a bit more on our way back to the vehicle. “I try not to let my prosthesis get in the way of living.”

Yesterday’s hunt was on steep terrain, crossing creeks and Ray performed like a star. “Some days I am stuck in my chair. That occurs when I acquire sores on my stump, or I need a new prosthesis, for my limb will atrophy over time and shrink and need a new socket.”

“Using a prosthesis is very hard on your body. It stresses out my back, my whole body. I favor my good leg and will ultimately damage it. In the future, I will be confined in the chair, but for now, I can get around. I want to stay out of it for as long as I can.”

“These trips are good for taking me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to be independent. No one should live in a hospital. It’s depressing. Being in the woods, with a gun in my hands, I feel like I’m not broken anymore.”

Cindy Ross http://www.riverhousepa.org

River House PA- Helping Veterans Heal through Nature

http://www.leekpreserve.org

410-322-4610

a version of this will appear in “Turkey Country” Magazine- the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Magazine

Education Workshop Adviser

photoEducation Workshop Adviser for

River House PA

 

Dr. Lee Reinert didn’t expect to be on this backpacking trip. She was #10 on the waiting list for this special “Becoming an Outdoor Woman” program sponsored  by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. She never dreamed the nine above her would cancel out, leaving room for her. She had been late in learning  about  the program but she thought it was worth taking the chance. I was the trip leader, hired to take this handful of women into the Pennsylvania Wilds. I had no idea how not only MY life would be impacted by Lee Reinert’s stroke of good luck, but how it would greatly impact my children’s entire lives.

It happened on that very first conversation upon leaving the parking lot of the West Rim Trail in Tioga County. Lee walked behind me and as soon I  learned that she was an educator and a home school evaluator, I shared  that I was on the fence on whether I should pull my 8th & 6th graders out of public school.  As we hiked, I shared every fear and concern with her and she dispelled  every single one. Every myth, she told me the reality. From the concern of not being able to properly socialize my children to getting them into college. She instilled the confidence in me that I could as a parent,  successfully educate my children AS WELL AS THEM, be responsible for their education.

Now, nearly ten years later, my children have been so successful, even beyond my wildest dreams. Sierra  became such a leader as a home schooler  that she won many private scholarships and Temple University had to PAY  her to go to school there- so much money came into her account.  She graduated Honors- Sigma cum laud and has received a full ride to University of Arizona Masters Program.  She did however, just win the National Science Foundation Fellowship for 3 years of paid grad school/research at the university of her choice so U of Colorado, Boulder & Yale are in the running now too- where she was accepted.  Her brother, Bryce won many scholarships too and is poised to earn his Bachelors in Art- Graphic Design-Illustration from Tyler School of Art/Temple University. The most important thing is that they turned into marvelous adults who have a passion to make the world a better place. I equate a large part of their success to Dr. Lee Reinert and her guiding hand.  Lee has now chosen to direct her energy and guidance to River House, lucky for us, acting as Advisor for the educational arm of the non-profit.

Lee earned her Bachelors in Elementary Education and went on to earn her Masters in Remedial Reading and Counseling and Human Resources. She earned her Ph.D. in Psycho-Educational Processes.. For  ten years, she did counseling work in drug and alcohol, ADHD in kids and adults, and for  five years taught Holistic Health for Nurses at Immaculata College, PA. For these classes, Lee had practitioners of alternative therapies come to demonstrate their work/techniques.  Lee still maintains relationships with many of these healers and plans to draw on this vast resource for River House.

Cutting edge therapy such as “pressure point therapy” or Thought Field Therapy (TFT) will also be offered. Lee will be instrumental in advising and helping us coordinated workshops in art, music, dance and writing therapy, bodywork and  mediation workshops, etc. at River House PA. River House could not be happier to welcome Dr. Lee Reinert on board as a member of our team.

SHEhike

River House PA  is happy and proud to announce their latest AFFILIATION

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SHEhike – Survive-Heal-Empower-Hike

The sad ugly truth is this sweet little teacher was sexually abused as a youngster in high school. Sadie Martin suffered from depression, suicide temptations and post- traumatic stress disorder until she went for a night hike at Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert and discovered the stars and the Milky Way.

“When I looked up at the night sky for the first time and saw that river of stars, distant galaxies, traveling light from years ago, the beauty floored me. This wonderful perspective reminded me that we are all stardust, made of the same elements and matter as the stars and we are all connected. I began to focus less on my pain and suffering and began to feel at peace and at home out in the natural world. I think about this connection and I am able to maintain it once I come back indoors.  It is about self- reverence. Being in nature gave me a sense of love.”

Sadie now nurtures her need and makes sure that she backpacks and hikes on a regular basis. Not a minute of depression has clouded her life since. Hiking has become a way of life for her.

“It is exactly what I needed,” she admits.

Sadie found the strength to create SHEhike, (Survive, Heal, Empower, Hike) a program designed to encourage women with PTSD from sexual violence/assault to try hiking as a way to heal and empower themselves while learning the skills necessary for backpacking. A relay on the Pacific Crest Trail is scheduled for 2014 with plans to expand the program to the AT and CDT.  Sadie plans to grow her program and connect to women’s shelters along the trails to help with support and events. Shorter excursions, day hikes, workshops etc. will evolve as well as expanding into other outdoor activities.

 

Committing Oneself

RiverHouse PA is happy and proud to announce their latest Affiliation-

Ted Danforth, Kayak Instructor

It happened again.

I was sitting at my desk when the E-mail came in.

“Hi Cindy – Wondered if you had the time or the inclination to get together for a quick lunch or maybe longer dinner to let me pick your brain a bit about writing, blogging, and such?  I’ve been playing with this a bit, but wanted to get some insight from someone out there doing it.  You pick the place and time if you’re open!  I’ll come to you.   Thanks!

Ted Danforth

TSD Environomics, Inc.

“Who is Ted Danforth?” I yelled over to my daughter Sierra who was working from home in her position as Outreach Coordinator for the non-profit, Schuylkill Headwaters Association.

“He’s one of my sponsors for Schuylkill Acts & Impacts,” a week-long educational program for high school students in the watershed that my daughter designed and is executing this June.

“He used to be in charge of the Schuylkill River Sojourn, and was a paddling outfitter.”

Pennsylvania stages guided paddling trips on our state’s rivers called Sojourns- ranging from 2 to 9 days designed to build river awareness. Trained safety personnel accompany the Sojourns and many have boats for rent through local liveries, which Ted’s company, Hidden River Outfitters was one.

I’ve written multiple magazine stories about multiple Sojourns in the past and knew his name sounded familiar. We arranged a lunch date.

I was hoping either he would look recognizable or I would be recognizable to him. At the hostess kiosk at Cracker Barrel, it all came back to me.

In our first few minutes, we realized that he was married for 22 years to a childhood friend of mine whom I went through 12 years of Catholic school with and that he also knows River House’s President, John Herman, the attorney/realtor who is orchestrating River House’s creation …too small of a world.

Ted has been doing long distance motorcycle trips and paddling trips for years and writing about it- mostly as blogs but for some publications. And because he loves it, he wanted to know if making a living from writing was feasible. When I learned that he has a very successful business as an environmental consultant specializing in wastewater treatment plants for food-processing firms, I explained to him that the meager living he could make from being a travel writer would cause him to lose his home and probably go hungry. Don’t do it. Ease back from engineering and do more writing but don’t quit cold turkey. Besides, I told him, writing should never be about making money. I told him, “The only reason to be a professional writer is because you can’t help it.” Leo Rosten.

It did not take long to move past writing and onto other things. My favorite topic…River House PA. In just a few sentences, Ted volunteered. “How can I help? Financially? My services ?”

“OK!” I replied, and let me tell you what Ted Danforth’s services are.

Ted told me that he was certified to teach and guide disabled folks in a canoe/kayak through a course called Adaptive Paddling Workshop (APW).  That there are only a few individuals qualified to do so. He took an intensive course in Minnesota sponsored by the American Canoe Association, which has been taught across the country since 1990. This course brings together certified instructors, recreational paddlers, and people with physical disabilities to promote recreational paddling opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Each guide learns to gut kayaks and then lines them with foam. I can hook you up with the folks that do this.” Ted pulls out his laptop to show me images and also a video of how a woman whose hands did not work but her arms did, had a kayak paddle Velco strapped to her arms so she could paddle.

“You and Elizabeth should take this course,” Ted told me.

“Nope. We don’t have time. We’ve got other stuff to do. But how about heading up our Paddling component at River House PA? Would you be interested in being a partner?”

“Yes.” He quickly replied.  Even though his certification has lapsed, he can remedy that.

Ted is closing in on 60 years old and he too, like Elizabeth and I, feels he needs to do something different and meaningful in life, something that will make a positive impact on the world. River House PA and helping veterans with PTSD speaks to him as it does to Elizabeth and I and so many others who have come on board in such a short amount of time.

Our President, John Herman, a hugely successful businessman with a staff who would do anything for him because on top of being bright, he is kind and fair,  taught Elizabeth and I this fact- don’t try to do everything yourself, look for people  who are already experts in their area to help out and join forces.  ”

“I would love to be a part of River House,” Ted professes. “Just getting out on a lake is joyful for these folks,” and it is such rewarding work.  “I am happy to be part of the team.”

As we said good-bye, Ted left me with this thought, “The other certified Adaptive Paddling Instructor in the east is in Philadelphia. We could get the Philadelphia Canoe Club to come on board and together with the Philadelphia VA, stage an event on the Schuylkill River to build awareness for River House PA and do a fundraiser.”

And I got into the car and once again felt amazed at how things have been working out for us, how the right people just “appear,” materialize.  When I called Elizabeth in the parking lot and told her what just had happened,  how the purpose of this meeting was about writing but through it all, we earned a new and very important partner she said, “I just got goose bumps. “

Naysayers said to us, “How are you going to pull this River House off?  Are you going to learn how to file for non-profit, fund raise, buy a house, fix it up, etc,.”

And to that we reply, “We are going to get people to help us, people who want it to happen as much as we do, people who want to help hurt veterans as much as us, and like Ted, they are coming out of the woodwork to join our team!!

And it all reminded me of this quote….”The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves in. All sorts of things occur that would otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” …Goethe.