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Volume 8 • Issue 4 February/March 2013

Beat the

Winter Blues SEE PAGE 44

IN THIS ISSUE

Junior Ski Racing Fighting Cancer Wellness Center Turtle Island Februar y / March 2013

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DI A N N E DAVA N T & A S S O C I AT E S Excellence By Design Since 1979

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Februar y / March 2013

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SHARING IN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES SINCE 1971

tain Life, Sunshine Moun or S the no y jo w ! En

www.footsloggers.com

Footsloggers in Downtown Boone Corner of Depot & Howard, (828) 262-5111

Footsloggers in Downtown Blowing Rock 921 Main Street, (828) 295-4453

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HCPress.com

Help Us Celebrate Our First Birthday We’re counting down to the First Birthday of our Website on March 1st. And we’re very thankful to everyone for visiting our site. If you like what we’re doing, you can help us celebrate . . . Just LIKE US on Facebook.

We’ll enter you into our birthday give-aways. PLUS, it will help keep you informed about breaking news across the High Country. And, of course, it’s nice to have friends stop by on your birthday! Go to www.HCPress.com for details

Wish Us a Happy Birthday . . .

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10

C O N T E N T S

10 Junior Ski Racing

Kids all over the country grow up with basketball, football, soccer and many other commonplace sports. But how many kids — especially in the South — get to grow up with their primary sport being ski racing? Well that’s exactly the opportunity the HCJRS has been giving kids from around the High Country, state and region for roughly 30 years now.

24 The Death Sentence

When Amy Michael found out that she had breast cancer, her cousin told her to pray that it was anything except triple negative. Unfortunately, that is exactly what it turned out to be. With the support of her family, friends, medical staff and even a local energy company, she decided to embark on a battle to defeat her cancer and reclaim her life.

32 Striving to Thrive

The Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. March marks 15 years of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System helping the citizens of the High Country improve their health — while having fun!

44 Pamper Yourself

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32

While dealing with the High Country’s “winter blues,” take some time to look out for number one — you. Whether a luxurious massage, a yoga session, a pedicure, a hair treatment or a full day of bliss is what you need, the High Country boasts many places that aspire to help you to find your personal nirvana and to reach your balance once again.

50 The Mountain Man

Turtle Island Preserve closed to the public a few months ago, and Eustace Conway is fighting to re-open the 1,000-acre primitive refuge just in time for the everpopular summer camps.

on the cover ED MIDGETT

Our cover picture was taken by Ed Midgett at his wife’s yoga studio in Downtown Boone. Valerie Midgett assembled a number of her students at her Neighborhood Yoga Studio where she led a class in yoga instruction. To see more of Valerie’s studio go to w w w.n e i g h b o r h o o d yo g a.n et. Ed Midgett is a professor at ASU.

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READER SERVICES ABOUT US

a subsidiary of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation

The first High Country Press newspaper was published on May 5, 2005, and the first issue of High Country Magazine went to press in fall 2005. In March of 2012 the newspaper made the transformation to an online newspaper at our new website: www.HCPress.com. Our new “webpaper” is still packed with information that we present and package in easy-to-read formats with visually appealing layouts. Our magazine represents our shared love of our history, our landscape and our people. It celebrates our pioneers, our lifestyles, our differences and the remarkable advantages we enjoy living in the mountains. Our guiding principles are twofold: quality journalism makes a difference and customer care at every level is of the greatest importance. Our offices are located in downtown Boone, and our doors are always open to welcome visitors.

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Our magazine is a wonderful way for businesses to advertise to our readers. Our magazines tend to stay around for a long time, on coffee tables and bed stands, and shared with family and friends. To find out about advertising, call our offices at 828264-2262.

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Back issues of our magazines are available from our office for $5 per issue. Some issues are already sold out and are no longer available.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography and page reprints are available for purchase. For sizing, prices and usage terms, please call our office. Some photos may not be available and some restrictions may apply.

PROTECT THE THINGS THAT MATTER MOST Power outages can occur when severe weather strikes. When a winter ice or snow storm occurs, be prepared with a Generac standby emergency generator. With multiple sizes available to meet your needs, you can have peace of mind knowing your appliances won’t be damaged and you’ll never be in the dark or cold again. A propane-powered standby generator can protect your family and property against outages by quickly restoring power for lights, well water pumps, furnaces — even if you’re not at home. Call today to find out more!

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Writers and photographers may send queries and samples to the editor at hcmag@highcountrypress.com.

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High Country Press/Magazine P.O. Box 152 130 North Depot Street Boone, NC 28607 www.hcpress.com info@highcountrypress.com 828-264-2262

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Find us at BlueRidgeEnergies.com or on Februar y / March 2013

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FRO M T HE PUB L ISH ER

A Publication Of High Country Press Publications Editor & Publisher Ken Ketchie Art Director Debbie Carter Contributing Writers Paul T. Choate Jesse Wood Megan Northcote

The Winter Issue

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Ken Ketchie

elcome to our winter issue – maybe a little bit small in size, but in this issue we’re really big in content. Let me tell you about the four fabulous stories we have featured in our first issue of 2013. First up is our story on the High Country Junior Race Series. We are all familiar with pee wee baseball, youth soccer leagues and even tennis and swimming teams that families participate in with their children, but did you know there’s also a ski series right here in the High Country that caters to kids? Talk about a unique opportunity! After all, we do live in the mountains with some of the finest ski slopes in the South. The race league saw its beginnings in the early 1980s and has grown significantly in popularity. This season the series has in excess of 140 kids participating. Next up we have Amy Michael, who was gracious to share her story about her fight to beat a cancer diagnosis that was compared to a death sentence. She has been winning her battle with the care and compassion of doctors, nurses and everyday people and is now in remission. Now she tells her story to inspire, encourage and give hope to those who will have to deal with that dreaded C-word. Also, Amy informs us that people’s financial contributions are helping to better understand and treat a disease that killed over 577,000 Americans last year. Amy is a remarkable lady. Our next story celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center. What started out as a one-room office in the campus of the Watauga Medical Center has now expanded into a 65,000-square-foot facility. The idea came from Richard Sparks, CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, after visiting the British National Health Service in England. Impressed by the emphasis the BNHS placed on wellness and prevention, he felt Boone would be the perfect location to create a similar entity uniting the community through fitness, wellness and prevention. We round this issue out with a story about “The Last American Man,” Eustace Conway, who graciously offered to tell us his fascinating story and address the current challenges facing Turtle Island Preserve, his 1,000-acre primitive refuge and mountain homestead where folks step back in time upon arrival. From living in a teepee for 17 years and talking reverently about compost piles to his current battle with the local authorities over unpermitted structures and illegal outhouses, Conway’s interesting saga continues. And finally . . . are you suffering from the “winter blues” yet? By this time of year wintertime is starting to wear on us but spring is still a ways away. And with those New Year’s Resolutions still fresh in our minds, we thought this would be a great time to feature local businesses whose job it is to make you feel better. Check out our “Pamper Yourself” section where we introduce you to area spas, massage specialists, salons and health oriented shops and studios located right here in the High Country. As always, thanks for reading us! 6

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Chelsea Pardue Madison V. Fisler Finance Manager Amanda Giles

High Country Magazine is produced by the staff and contributors of High Country Press Publications, which serves Watauga and Avery counties of North Carolina

SHARE WITH FRIENDS You can share our magazine with friends that are out of town by sending them to our website. Just click on “Magazine” in the Menu Bar and that will take you to our online magazine where you can flip an issue online - just like you would with a printed copy.

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Februar y / March 2013

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Calendarof Events Calendar # 1

FEBRUARY 2013 13-17

ASU Theater: The Glass Menagerie, Valborg

Theater, ASU, 828-262-3028

16

Fourth Annual Snowman Building Competition, Beech Mountain Town Sledding Hill, 828-898-8395

20

Walnut Street Theatre presents Around the World in 80 Days, Valborg Theater, ASU,

800-841-2787 22-24

Totally 80s Ski Weekend, Beech Mountain,

800-468-5506

22

Watauga High School Benefit Bluegrass Concert, WHS Ross Auditorium, 828-789-9575

23

Boone, 828-264-2206

23

23

24

High Country Junior Race Series -- Championship,

Appalachian Ski Mountain, Blowing Rock, hcjrs.com

24

27-3/2

Healthy Cooking Class, Chetola Resort, Blowing Rock,

28-3/3

25

Red Cross Blood Drive, Mountaineer Village, Boone,

LMC Performing Arts: Rumors, Hayes Auditorium, Lees-McRae, 828-898-8709

MARCH 2013

1

Ensemble Stage: Anti-Bullying Plays, Blowing Rock School Auditorium, 828-414-1844

828-295-5531

Spring Appalachian Dance Ensemble, Valborg Theater,

ASU, 828-262-3028

Crescent Ski Council Competition, Sugar Mountain Resort, 828-898-4521

Avery County Tourism Summit, Best Western Plus Mountain Lodge, Banner Elk, 828-898-5605

Vista Viewing and Geology Program, Mount Jefferson

State Natural Area, 336-246-9653 23-24

26

SFTC Slopestyle Finals, App Ski Mountain, Blowing Rock, 828-295-7828

Easter Egg Hunt, Sugar Mountain Resort, March 17

Red Cross Blood Drive, Grace Lutheran Church,

2

Recess Wreck Less Rail Jam, App Ski Mountain, Blowing Rock, 828-295-7828

828-262-9962

3

Sugar Bear’s Birthday Celebration, Sugar Mountain

Resort, 828-898-4521 Lees-McRae Performing Arts: Rumors, Hayes Auditorium February 28 - March 3

3

Richard T. Trundy Memorial Sugar Cup Competition, Sugar Mountain Resort, 828-898-4521

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20

Easter Egg Hunt, Sugar Mountain Resort, 828-898-4521 Harlem Globetrotters at ASU, Holmes Center, ASU,

828-262-6603 22-24

Murder Mystery Weekend, Green Park Inn, Blowing Rock, 828-414-9230

24

Healthy Cooking Class, Chetola Resort, Blowing Rock, 828-295-5531

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High Country Magazine

Februar y / March 2013


DON’T FORGET

EVENTS

Awesome Store ... Since 1969

Harlem Globetrotters at ASU As part of the “You Write the Rules” World Tour, the Harlem Globetrotters will be playing in Boone at the Holmes Center on Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. Known as innovators of the game of basketball for decades, the world famous Globetrotters are this time allowing fans to vote online at harlemglobetrotters.com for which new rules they want to see in the game. Tickets are available at 828-262-6603.

MARCH 20

An Evening with Garrison Keillor Beloved radio host and humorist, Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion will perform at the Holmes Convocation Center at ASU on Tuesday, April 16, at 8 p.m. Touted as a one-of-akind performance, Keillor’s show will feature musicians performing works that reflects our region’s character and cultural heritage. For more info, call 828-262-4046.

APRIL 16

Get Your Jeans On At Watsonatta Western World

We Have 1000’s Of Jeans On Our Shelves Ready For You To Try On For A Perfect Fit

711 West King St. • (828) 264-4540 • Monday - Saturday 9-5:30 Februar y / March 2013

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No. 22

Mercer Long 7-8 Age Group

HIGH COUNTRY

Junior Race Series T

here is the story of a young girl in the High Country Junior Race Series named Evie Blacka, who always competed with three other girls that were always on the podium in her age group. Those three girls would trade places between first and third, and Evie was always fourth or fifth. Then, on the final race of the season that year, she hit her stride. “I’m looking up the hill and I see this girl coming down through the course and I say, ‘Oh my gosh, who is that? That’s 10

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Evie Blacka!’ I remember watching her come down the hill and I was like, ‘This is like a World Cup run! She’s smoking!’ And I remember her coming through the finish line and I’m looking at her time going, ‘Oh my god.’ “Just all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a kid just has an awakening. It’s really cool. And then we go into the awards and Evie got to take the top spot on the podium. And when you saw that – the whole crowd knew about this rivalry within her age group


Building confidence. making Friends. Learning A Lifelong Skill. All while still having a blast!

No. 65

No. 66

• Sophie Lehmann • 9-10 Age Group

• Hallie Rose Donadio • 9-10 Age Group

Story by Paul T. Choate Photography by Ken Ketchie

No. 90

• Will Spradling • 9-10 Age Group

Februar y / March 2013

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No. 29

Emily Grey 7-8 Age Group

ON your mark. get Set. Race!

No. 154

Julian Nosarzewski 11-12 Age Group 12 High Country

Magazine

Februar y / March 2013

– and when she took that podium, the smile on her face… it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.” This was a story Dan Blackwelder, Appalachian Ski Mountain coach, relayed about the impact the series has on children. One common theme you will hear regarding the HCJRS among anyone you talk to is how much the series builds confidence in the young participants. Kids all over the country grow up with basketball, football, soccer and many other commonplace sports. But how many kids – especially in the South – get to grow up with their primary sport being ski racing? Well that’s exactly the opportunity the HCJRS has been giving kids from around the High Country, state and region for roughly 30 years now. Started as an effort to give local children a new outlet for something to do in a fun environment while learning a lifelong skill, the series has grown and evolved into something far more than anyone could have imagined. These days, it is not just local kids who come out for the six HCJRS races each season; the popularity of the series has reached out regionally and some have even estimated that the majority of series participants are children from off the mountain. The level of dedication it takes to participate in a race series is remarkable, and not just for the kids who race but for the parents as well – especially those parents who bring their children up from off the mountain. Winston Ammann, of Sugar Mountain, relayed one story of a family who lived in Florida, but brought their daughter up each weekend during the HCJRS for Saturday practice and the Sunday race years ago. Yes, Florida. A solid seven-plus hours drive to the High Country even if you were coming from the northern part of the state. “That’s dedication right there,” Ammann said. “So driving from Charlotte, that’s not anything. That’s how we started because we didn’t live up here when the kids first started skiing. We lived in Charlotte and every weekend we would load everyone in the car and the kids would do their homework on the two-and-a-half hours up here.”


HCJRS participants don’t just show up on Sunday mornings, take two runs down the slopes and call it a day. These kids work hard and practice on Saturdays and even during the week after school to improve their skills. Each mountain has a dedicated coaching staff -- many of whom participated in HCJRS when they were kids -- who help the kids learn all there is to know about skiing. Appalachian Ski Mountain coach Dan Blackwelder is pictured here instructing little ones on the fundamentals while a former student, Jennie Fish (black helmet), listens in.

History of the HCJRS

series. During the 1980s she also had three children who grew up participating in the HCJRS. “It was such a great concept on [Cot-

trell’s] part,” Howell said. “He always wanted to keep it fun and not real fierce A little background is needed to fully competition. So it was a great, healthy, understand just how far the series has competitive environment for the juniors come since the early days. while they were learning Started in the early wonderful skiing skills and 1980s by Jim Cottrell, building self-confidence. It of the French-Swiss Ski turned out to be a great proCollege, with the help of gram and the parents cerBillie Howell, of Appalatainly enjoyed it as well.” chian Ski Mountain, the According to Blackweldseries has evolved into er, in 1980, Cottrell formed one of the most popular a junior ski team for Appawinter sports for children lachian Ski Mountain. Cotto participate in. In the trell purchased racing equipearly to mid-1980s the sement for the team and began ries was mainly a compesetting practice race courses tition for local kids from for the kids. Initially, the the Boone, Blowing Rock equipment was primitive, and Banner Elk commuas most ski areas were still nities with only around using bamboo race gates, 60 or so athletes. which were very stiff and Howell, who in 1985 didn’t bend much upon imAppalachian Ski Mountain coach Thea Young instructing two of was working for Appapact. Bamboo gates had nethe younger competitors, Ayden Crissler (left) and Cavon Bannon lachian Ski Mountain, cessitated the advent of the helped Cottrell with the (right) on race day at Beech Mountain on Jan. 27, 2013. padded racing sweater and organization side of the Februar y / March 2013

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padded race pants. Cottrell purchased a sophisticated and very expensive TAG HEUER Swiss ski race timing system to clock the race runs. “Rapid gates” were still very new to ski racing and were very expensive, but they were far superior to bamboo in both function and safety. They were hard plastic and hinged at the bottom (as they are today), so that they would move away from a racer on impact. Rapid gates allowed racers to ski much straighter lines through the race course and actually ski “through the gates” instead of “around the gates,” allowing for faster times. It would be a few more years before the North Carolina ski areas would make the investment and change to rapid gates. Then Cottrell decided Ski race series competitors (left to right) Tatum Mellor, Mercer Long, Sophie Speckmann to start a league where each and Emily Grey stand with Appalachian Ski Mountain coach Thea Young at the top of the mountain could field a team to ski slope prior to making their runs. compete against each other, so they contacted the ski school had been ditched for battery-powered went through dramatic changes such as directors at Sugar, Beech and Hawksnest ones, which made the process of setting being shortened with more pronounced ski areas to see if there was any interest in up a race course much easier and less time sidecuts. Gear such as protective shin forming a competitive race league focused consuming. guards, ski pole gate deflectors and racprimarily on fun for the kids. The ski gear was changing radically too. ing helmets were also becoming more Former ski school directors Scott “New composite materials allowed for commonplace. Boutilier, of Beech Mountain, and Allen These days, the equipment being used different ski construction techniques and Griffin, of Sugar Mountain, showed a keen for experimental sidecuts, especially with by the kids in the HCJRS ranges from beinterest and began forming race teams. racing skis, which were usually stiffer and ginner level to FIS World Cup level. HelBy 1984, all four mountains were fieldhad more sidecut than conventional or mets and goggles are required for all race ing teams for the HCJRS and rapid gates freestyle skis,” Blackwelder said. “Volkl’s participants to promote safety. were being used, Blackwelder said. The Participation in the HCJRS did tempoground-breaking series of P-9 race skis rapid gates were less intimidating to young was a quantum leap in race ski design in rarily drop off in the 1990s and into the ski racers than the less forgiving bamboo early 2000s due to the advent and soaring the late 1980s.” predecessors and the number of younger By the mid-1990s, the shape ski revo- popularity of terrain parks. To this day, children participating began to grow. lution had begun in earnest and race skis several racers who compete in the HCJRS As the series evolved, so too did the sport of skiing. Many changes occurred Beech Mountain Ski throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Blackwelder said at one time in the 1980s Team coach Jeremiah setting race courses was extremely diffiWest, like many of the cult. Course setters had to use gasolinecoaches at the three powered drills, which were temperamenmountains, was once tal at best in cold weather, in order to a skier in the HCJRS drill down into the snow and ice to set himself. He recalls the gates. fond memories of his “One could always tell a race coach, time in the series. He because his ski pants were covered with is pictured here with gas, oil and grease spots and burn marks Beech skier Olivia from the old gas powered drills’ exhaust pipes,” Blackwelder said. Handley. By the early 1990s, the old gas drills 14

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SkiSugar .com Sugar Mountain Resort 1009 Sugar Mountain Drive Sugar Mountain, NC 28604 828-898-4521

Februar y / March 2013

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Ski teams often take advantage of coaching opportunities from U.S. Ski Team members and coaches. In early January 2013, former U.S. Ski Team member Shaun Goodwin came to Appalachian Ski Mountain for a three-day optional coaching clinic for the kids. When U.S. Ski Team coaches come for clinics they coach not only the kids but the mountain’s coaching staff as well to help them better instruct their young pupils. also compete in terrain park competitions “I think the family aspect of it is unique annually with a different mountain hostand it’s a team sport but also an individ- ing it each year. All three resorts sponsor as well. Another hit to the series was Hawk- ual sport at the same time. So you’re able their own junior race team. At each of the races, medals are awardsnest Ski Resort pulling out of the series, to appeal to both of those different types ed to the top three finishers among boys although Hawksnest typically fielded of athletes.” and girls in each of seven age groups (6 fewer racers than any of the other three So how does it work? and under, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 ski areas. The series alternates around to the and 17-18). Cumulative points are awardThe series has continued to grow, three local ski resorts – Appalachian Ski ed to each athlete and carry over from however, in both popularity and scope in Mountain, Beech Mountain and Sugar each race to the championship, where recent years. Mountain – with each mountain hosting trophies are also awarded to athletes with Today, the HCJRS has evolved into two races. The championship race rotates the most points earned. Also, there is a a regional phenomenon, with kids comteam trophy – or “mouning from as far away as the tain trophy” – awarded to North Carolina coast or the team from the ski reeven from out of state to sort with the most points participate. In 2013, Apfor the season. palachian Ski Mountain, The league is deBeech Mountain and Sugar scribed by many as a “volMountain have fielded the unteer driven” league. Evlargest number of ski racers eryone you talk to who is for the series on record. At involved with the HCJRS the first race at Appalachian speaks of how instrumenSki Mountain on January 6, tal parent and non-parent there were more than 140 volunteers are in donating racers competing. their time and effort to “What a unique opporcoach, help set up courses tunity we have in the South to have a racing series with Lia Clarity (front) and (back, left to right) Lauren Matherly, Ella and provide other assisthree different mountains,” Dunn, Olivia Handley, Emma Carder and Cami Hastings take a tance to make it all possible. said Thea Young, Appalamoment off the skis to have a little fun in the snow on race day. “We’re fortunate to chian Ski Mountain coach. 16

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Official timing sheets are generally available for the kids to look at about an hour after each race. Andrew and Emily Geouque and Ben Avason (left) and Ashley Simione and Olivia Jochl (right) are shown here trying to figure out exactly where they and their friends stand in the final scores on race day. have a lot of involved parent and non-parent volunteers,” Young said. “From a parents’ perspective, it’s an opportunity to do the sport that your child is interested in with them. You know, you go to soccer practice and you’re sitting on the sidelines — not to pick on soccer, but just an example — but you go to ski team practice and you’re out skiing and your children are out skiing.”

Two parents who have a big hand in the operations of the HCJRS are Dave and Winston Ammann. A little more than a decade ago, the Ammanns moved to the Village of Sugar Mountain with their two sons, Ryan and Lee, who were at the time very active on the Sugar Mountain Ski Team. Winston jokes that one day Sugar Mountain called her in a panic and said they did not have anyone to do registration

for one of the junior race competitions. “So I said, ‘sure,’ because I didn’t know any better,” she said with a laugh. “I like being organized and I’m dealing with everyone else’s money, so I want to account for it.” Winston has handled registration for all race events held at Sugar Mountain ever since. Her husband does all the timings now for all the HCJRS races. He is

Paul Young, RN, OCN, is the Oncology Nurse Navigator at the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center. With 14 years experience working with cancer patients, Paul understands the challenges associated with a cancer journey and empowers patients and families through education and support. • • • • • • •

Educates patients and families about the diagnosis and treatment plan Links patients to health care resources Obtains referrals for community support resources Finds assistance resources Translates medical terminology Communicates with physicians and the healthcare team Coordinates services among medical providers

(828) 262-9121 • pyoung@apprhs.org Februar y / March 2013

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certified by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) to do race series timing. “He’s not what I would call a ‘techno-geek,’ but math is like a language to him so the whole thing makes sense to him,” Winston said. A registration fee of $7 for each race is charged and each racer must have a valid slope ticket or appropriate season pass to participate. An optional NASTAR race fee of $3 is charged at Sugar Mountain. A liability waiver must be signed by a parent or legal guardian prior to a child participating. Additionally, a ski bib will be issued to racers for the season. If the bib is not brought on race day, a $30 deposit on the bib will be requested and a temporary bib can be issued for that day.

Practice makes perfect These kids don’t just show up on Sunday morning to race. They also participate in practice sessions with coaches at their team’s mountain on Saturdays and even on some weekdays for those who are able to make it. Each mountain does their coaching a little differently, with Sugar Mountain relying more heavily on a paid coaching staff, while both Appalachian and Beech rely more on a mix of paid coaches and volunteers. “I’m here every day,” said Team Sugar Mountain head coach Sean “Stumpy” McKee. “We have six coaches on staff right now. We’re on the snow from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. We’re out there teaching fundamentals. Usually, when we can get the weather, we’ll run gates from 8 to 9:30 a.m., come in for a quick break, then go back out and drill for another couple of hours. The kids get a lot of gate time.” McKee said, at Sugar Mountain, they are drilling for four

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Very precise timing is important for all the children’s runs during the races. David Ammann, Rick Bowman and a parent are shown here during a race managing the times. weekends prior to the start of the HCJRS. Asked what the hardest thing for beginning skiers to learn is, he answered, “Lean forward.” He said many beginning skiers are inclined to lean back into what he called a “comfort position,” but that this is an incorrect technique. Many of the coaches involved in the series either have children racing in it now, raced in it when they were children themselves, or both. Beech Mountain coach Jeremiah West said he remembered participating in the series in the 1980s and said he could recall fond memories of competing against Andrew Jochl, son of Sugar


Kids take the podium at the Jan. 13 competition at Sugar Mountain.

An Olympic-Style Ceremony

No. 7

Sarah Grosser Under 6 Age Group

F

ollowing the conclusion of racing at each of the competitions, High Country Junior Race Series competitors get a chance to participate in a medal ceremony where the children with the top three times in their respective gender and age groups are awarded medals -- gold, silver and bronze. It’s hard to describe the look on a little kid’s face when they are standing atop that podium and having a gold medal put around their neck. The smiles on the children’s faces -- especially the younger ones who are medaling for the very first time -- is a heartwarming sight that makes all the time and effort put into this series all worth the while. Following a photo of the three top finishers, all the other children in the gender/age group are called up for a group picture. One thing almost every ski team coach will tell you about the HCJRS is there are no losers. Medal or not, all the kids get to gain confidence and learn a lifelong skill.

(back, from left) Andrew Geouque, Thomas Mennen and Timothy Eustice. (front, from left) Colin Burts, Will Covington and Samuel Campbell

No. 40

Andrew Geouque 7-8 Age Group

(back, from left) Ava Schmidinger and Keely Hendricks (front, from left) Emily Gray, Tatum Mellor, Mercer Long and Sophie Speckmann Februar y / March 2013

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Mountain Resort Owner Gunther Jochl. As for Appalachian Ski Mountain coach John Speckmann, his children compete in the series and his 10-year-old son Wiley Speckmann is becoming a bit of a rising star, recording the fastest time on the mountain during the January 27 race at Beech Mountain. “I find it very rewarding,” Speckmann said when asked what it was like to be a coach. “My kids have grown up in this system so I really enjoy being out there with the kids. … It’s exciting to watch them grow up through it. One year they might be struggling and then the next year they ‘get it’ and you see them flying down the hill.” Another coach who could be called a “product of the system” is McKee. McKee started racing in the HCJRS in 1985 at the age of 10. He raced all the way through the series until he was 17, when he moved on to USSA and also to college ski racing at Lees-McRae College. The HCJRS is primarily meant to be a fun competition, with the more serious and more competitive races like the USSA races seen as the “next level” for children who want to go in that path. “Ski racing is what kids like to do. The Junior Race Series is not quite as structured as the next level when you go into USSA racing, which is quite structured,” Gunther Jochl said. “So this way they can get their feet wet and start racing and have some fun. Then when they get a little older they can go on to the next part of racing.” However, the skill level of many HCJRS racers is well respected.

(from left) No. 82 Abby Vogel, No. 75 Suzannah Gurkin, No. 74 Kate Ambler, No. 70 Alice Knight, No. 66 Hallie Rose Donadio and No. 68 Magali Turner; all of the 9-10 age group. Cottrell said one afternoon recently while speaking with High Country Magazine, “They’re out here practicing as we speak. I’m watching them on the hill and it is just impressive to see these four, five, six, seven-year-olds. They can go anywhere in the country and be good representatives of North Carolina skiing because the kids won’t out-ski them anywhere.” And of course, as with any sport, there are always a few stars. Put on the spot to name off the top of his head some of the best currently in the series, one coach named Brianna, Hannah and Justin Bar-

Safety is strongly emphasized at all the races every year. There are times when the kids take spills on the slopes, but when they do the Ski Patrol is right there to come check them out and make sure the child is not injured. Blackwelder said that in all the years the HCJRS has been going on he could not remember a single serious injury. He called the Ski Patrol the “unsung heroes” of the HCJRS and said they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for all they do to ensure the safety of all the young participants in the series.

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bour; Olivia Jochl; Ian Oliver; Ashley Simione; Wiley Speckmann; and Trey Woody. As is always the danger with naming names, some deserving racers were surely left out. But again, we put this coach on the spot. The beauty of the HCJRS is that although there are those who frequently have the fastest times, there really are no losers, as many coaches will tell you. “Safety. Fun. Learning. In that order,” Young said. “Regardless whether or not you’re on the podium [at the end of the season], each of these athletes have the opportunity to earn points for their mountain.”


This photograph of the was taken during the formative years of the High Country Junior Race Series and now hangs at Appalachian Ski Mountain. It shows the Appalachian Ski Mountain Race Team in the early 1980s. Some of those who are recognizable in the photo include Sugar Mountain coach Sean McKee, Beech Mountain coach Jeremiah West, ski patrolman Jacob Burleson, Ski Lake Tahoe regular Will Howell, Kate Wiggins and ski patrolmen Marshall and Michael Fletcher.

How are we ever going to pay for all this?

on to out west or to bigger, better mountains,” Howell said. “I had three kids grow up in the race Each ski area has their own ski series and as we speak the two foundation, which helps offset the sons are skiing Squaw Valley [Ski costs associated with outfitting and Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif.] training the HCJRS competitors. and my daughter is at Telluride “The costs of the race programs [Ski Resort in Telluride, Colo.].” necessitated the birth of ski educaHowell said her daughter tion foundations, which became lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and skis vehicles to raise tax-exempt contriat the Ski Santa Fe ski resort as butions from equipment sponsors, well. While there one day recentbusinesses and individuals,” Blackly, Howell said her daughter was welder said. “Today, Appalachian Ski amazed to see a kid there skiing Mountain, Ski Beech and Ski Sugar who had on an Appalachian Ski all have ski education foundations to Mountain Racing Team jacket. help offset the cost of equipment and No. 53 Samuel Campbell, No. 13 Ayden Johnson Speckmann said as you see kids coaching for their race programs.” and No. 14 Aiden Crisler reaching the podium and medaling Both Appalachian Ski Mountain in events you can see how their conand Beech Mountain’s ski education foundations are 501(c)(3) fidence shoots up after a good run. The series is also beneficial to non-profit organizations that rely on donations and fundraising. those who don’t win though on the grounds of sportsmanship. Sugar Mountain’s foundation is paid for with coaching fees. “It teaches them a competitive side, and also, if they don’t According to McKee, the Team Sugar coaching staff also does win, it teaches them how to be a good sport,” said Monte Long, car parking during the annual Woolly Worm Festival and do Appalachian Ski Mountain coach. things to raise funds during Oktoberfest and SugarBrew. As for the kids’ feelings themselves, the HCJRS receives “Whatever the kids need, we get them,” McKee said. high marks across the board. In a survey of 29 Appalachian Ski Mountain racers with an average age of nine in 2012, only one How the kids benefit said they didn’t want to participate the next year. According to nearly anyone familiar with the race series, Asked what they liked best, some of the survey responses the two ways in which kids benefit the most from the series are included “the friendship between teammates,” “going to all the learning a lifelong skill and gaining confidence. mountains,” and “I liked that I learned a lot.” “There are just so many kids from this area that have gone Februar y / March 2013

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Ashley, Olivia & Jenny Fish - 2008

Katie Goode, Olivia & Ashley - 2009

Ashley, Olivia & Hannah Barbour - 2010

Olivia and Ashley and 8 Years of Rivalry F

or the past eight years, a friendly but competitive rivalry has been brewing in the HCJRS. Olivia Jochl and Ashley Simione, 12-year-olds on the Sugar Mountain Ski Racing Team, are a familiar pair on the podium. The two are pictured here in these photos, with Olivia in the first place spot on the podium in each of them. In the picture to the right, Ashley is to Olivia’s left. The girls have finished “one - two” at so many competitions over the last eight years and that is no different this year. Through the first four races of the 2013 season, Olivia has won every one of the races in the girls 11-12 age group. Ashley has finished in second place in all four races this season but in previous years has taken first place several times. Less than a second has separated the girls in three of the four races, and Olivia won by less than one-tenth of a second in the fourth race, 29.66 to 29.73.

Asked how the series could be improved, the vast majority wrote in “nothing,” with the exception of one child who didn’t like practice being so early and another who thought Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White should be their coach. When asking some of the young competitors about the HCJRS directly, they too praised the series. “I started participating in the High Country Junior Race Series because I really like to ski and I wanted to try something a little more challenging,” said 12-year-old Olivia Jochl. “My favorite thing about the competition is being able to go in the race course and ski as fast as I can.” Ashley Simione, the 12-year-old friend/ arch rival of Olivia, said she joined to see if racing was something she wanted to do going forward in life and noted that her favorite part was the competition, saying, “My favorite thing about the competition is that I can go on the course and do what I love, while still being determined to get on that podium.” “For me, having a fast enough time to be on the podium makes me feel extremely satisfied and proud, for not only myself, but the two other girls standing on there as well,” Ashley said. 22

High Country Magazine

Ashley, Olivia & Katie Goode - 2013

For Jackie and Alec Granger, ages 10 and 13 respectively, both expressed their love of skiing and the importance of the camaraderie with their teammates as why they enjoy the HCJRS. While Alec says he values having fun with friends just a hair more than the competition of the series, his younger sister has a different idea. “For me I would say that the series is more about the competition because, I just want to go fast all the time and improve my scores,” Jackie said. Speckmann’s son Wiley speaks of making the podium saying, “I feel good about how well I did, and I feel glad for the others on the podium too.” Even the little ones have something to say about the HCJRS. Seven-year-old Keely Hendricks said when asked why she started racing, “Because my sister was doing it. I wanted to get medals like she does.” When asked how it feels to get on the podium, Keely simply replied, “Happy!”

Bright future So what direction is the HCJRS headed in? Well considering the last two years in a row have set participation records, certainly in a positive one. Interesting to note, according to McK-

Februar y / March 2013

ee, although this series once started back in the 1980s as a group of local kids, the out-of-towners are now the majority. McKee said he would estimate that the series is made up of about 60 percent kids from off the mountain and 40 percent local kids from the High Country. He did however note that Appalachian Ski Mountain’s team still has a majority of local kids. “The stewardship of the participating ski areas, parent volunteers and more sophisticated equipment have all contributed to the ongoing success of the series,” Blackwelder said. “For many, it’s a labor of love. Seeing the smiles on the parents’ and kids’ faces on race day, even when the weather isn’t cooperating, is very rewarding. But, most of all, it’s the smiles on the faces of the kids who find themselves on the podium to collect a race day medal for the first time. Their pride and joy in their achievement is impossible to hide, especially in the youngest racers; and whether they receive a medal or not, their participation in the Series improves their skiing. “Proudly, they will let their coaches know that they ‘shaved off a tenth of a second’ on that second run, or climbed another notch higher in the rankings within their age groups.” 


The Racers Girls 6 and under: Eva Young, Karolina Nosarzewski,

Bella Payne

Boys 6 and under: Aiden Crissler, Andrew Hill, Conner Hearn, Griffin Dillman, Cavan Banneon, Cooper Bradshaw, Charlie Martyn, Ayden Johnson

Girls 7-8: Mercer Long, Sophie Speckmann, Emily Gray, McKenna Rowell, Smith Bradshaw, Sunny Green, Tatum Mellor, Catlin Horn Caroline Roach, Sarah Goode, Keely Hendricks, Ava Jane Schmidinger, Faye Smalle

Boys 7-8: Luke Milhaupt, Andrew Geouque, Jensen

Moretz, Samuel Campbell, Cameron Torman, Andrew Jones, Emmit Coffey, Winn Stewart, Cole Pace, Ian Provencher, Grant Helms, Timothy Eustice, Grayson Matney, Will Covington, Thomas Mennen, Henri Paris

Girls 9-10: Kate Ambler, Peyton Walton, Abby Vogel,

Emiley Geouque, Madelyn Easterling, Hallie Rose Danadio, Alice Knight, Magali Turner, Suzanna Gurkin, Eva Giguire, Jackie Granger, Julia Handley, Hanna Kozar Rogers, Tessa Kozar Rogers, Anna Van Buren, Sophie Lehmann, Zoe Sparks

Boys 9-10: Maddox Spires, Grant McAllister, Luke

Ramsdell, G.R. Crumpler, Aiden Turner, William Abernethy, Ethan Campbell, Anthony Limon, Wiley Speckmann, George Young, Wyatt Roach, Dennis Schneider, Ben Avason, Jackson Hudspeth, Hall Bradshaw, Robert Jones, Angus Currie, Dawson Willis, Alex Helms, Sam Bauer, Blake Broussard, Joshua Grosser, Andrew Matheson, Will T. Spradling, Nate Sprenger

Girls 11-12: Hannah Wood, Jo Hill, Isabelle Trew, Emma Hudspeth, Katie-Mac Knight, Zoe Brown, Ella Campbell, Lachlann Currie, Jeannie Sapp, Katie Goode, Annamarie Eustice, Lila M. Bauer, Jennifer Fish, Olivia Jochl, Ashley Simione, Skylar Strange Boys 11-12: Tate Anagnos, Karson Pilkenton, Zachary Schindler, Alexander Brown, Levi Marland, Aiden Banneon, Will Schneider, Will Ambler, Noah Sharpe, Mitchell Abernethy, Lee Byington, Julian Nosarzewski, August Carter, M. Kirk Holton, Matthew Kosmala, George Mennen, Preston Palm, Thomas Paris, Hunter Rice, Justin N. Simmons, J. Will Vestal, Nash Green

Girls 13-14: Lindsay Cole, Erika Reiger, Be Limon, Madison Crisler, Savannah Torman, Sydney Ferren, Lauren Matherly, Emma Carder, Jordan Gast, Ella Dunn, Olivia Handley, Pammy Fish, Caitlin Burnham, Erin Oliver, Morgan Paris, Caroline Sprenger Boys 13-14: Ryan McSwain, Carter Sharp, Matt

Graham, Eric Hunter, Matthew Deleary, Austin Horn, Alec Granger, Baylor Matney, Paul Stancil, C. Spencer Adams, Alex Broussard, Raleigh Buchanan, Douglas Coley, Daniel Kosmala, Mikel Smalle, Luke Steen

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Burnham, Madison Deering, Rachel Ryan

Boys 17-18: Tyler Plowucha, Trevor Gragg, Evan

Skeen, Derek Hilgert, Ian Oliver, Austin Oliver Februar y / March 2013

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Photo By Karen Lehmann 24

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Story By Chelsea Pardue


Triple-negative breast cancer patient Amy Michael and Blue Ridge Energies team up to support local charities in the fight against breast cancer

I

t was a death sentence. That’s what her cousin had told her. When Amy Michael found out that she had breast cancer, her cousin told her to pray that it was anything except triple negative. But as she sat at the school waiting to pick up her son, Kauner, the call from the doctor’s office confirmed exactly what she didn’t want to hear. The nurse on the other end of the call asked if Amy had any questions. She said no and hung up. Her daughter, Olivia, was in the car, and she didn’t want to scare her. She sat in silence as she contemplated whether she should prolong her family’s suffering by receiving treatment. At 44 years old, she thought about ending her life.

The Death Sentence

Breast cancer runs in Amy’s family. She had been vigilant about exams. Since she was 18, she had given herself breast exams, and she had been getting yearly mammograms since she was 30. On March 24, she did a self-exam-

ine and didn’t find anything unusual. Days after her appointment, Amy and her family went to visit her parents during their spring break. One night, as she took off her shirt, her thumbnail grazed something she had never felt before. Her heart immediately sank. “I had nothing there, and in 15 days, I found the tumor, and it had grown to 2.7 centimeters when I found it,” she said. She made an appointment with her doctor’s office, and they confirmed that she had breast cancer. She learned about the different types of breast cancer and learned that triple negative is aggressive and the most likely type to relapse within three to five years. She prayed that she would have one of the other types, but she soon found out that she was fighting a serious battle against stage 2a triple negative breast cancer with a grade three tumor. As Amy thought about how much her family would suffer if they had to go through this long journey with her, she continued going to her job at Watauga County Schools. The prin-

Februar y / March 2013

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Amy Michael is shown at her home with Jim McConnell, one of the Watauga County Sales/Delivery representatives for Blue Ridge Energies.

“We have customers who will call and request the pink truck make their delivery because they’re just so passionate about it.” ~ Glenda Christian cipal at her school could see that she was suffering and called a mutual friend who was a seven-year breast cancer survivor. She immediately wanted to talk to Amy. “She said, ‘OK, you have two choices,’” Amy said. “‘One is to give in and let this kill you. The other is to fight for your life and to advocate for yourself.’ It clicked, and I thought, ‘You’re right. I can’t give into this. I’ve got to fight. I’ve got to give it a try.’” A month later, Amy began the first of 16 rounds of chemotherapy. The doctor told her that she would lose her hair during the process, so after her first treatment, she chose to get rid of her long hair on her own terms. On her husband’s birthday, each family member took a turn shaving her head. “I’m such a control freak anyway, and everything is so out of your control,” she said. “I thought, ‘You’re not going to take my hair too.’” As Amy’s treatment continued, she 26

High Country Magazine

was determined to win her fight. She had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and 30 rounds of radiation in front of her, but she continued to take hikes with her family and work in the school system. Although she had come to terms with her sickness emotionally, she was going through intense physical changes. “I lost my eyebrows and my eyelashes,” she said. “The eyelashes were the hardest thing for me because I think that was at the point that it was real to me that I was a cancer patient. I felt good; I felt the same. But when the eyelashes fell out, I’d look in the mirror and feel like a cancer patient. When I looked in the mirror, I looked like I was supposed to feel bad, and I didn’t feel bad and I didn’t want to look like I felt bad.” Olivia was there to support her mother. Each morning, she helped her put on fake eyelashes. Although it was a small change, it made Amy feel more normal as she continued the fight for her life.

Februar y / March 2013

A Partnership with Blue Ridge Energies

At the same time Amy was undergoing treatment, the chief operating officer at Blue Ridge Energies, Glenda Christian, was trying to think of a way to give back to the community. She heard about several propane companies across the country that were using their trucks to raise money. After much deliberation, Christian decided to use the Blue Ridge Energies truck to raise awareness about and money for a cure for breast cancer. In a bold move, she had three of the company’s trucks painted pink with the name of their campaign: Fueling the Fight. She was concerned that her mostlymale truck drivers wouldn’t be interested in driving a pink truck. But to her surprise, she found that several of them knew someone affected by breast cancer


When Amy began the first of 16 rounds of chemotherapy, the doctor told her that she would lose her hair during the process. So after her first treatment, she chose to get rid of her long hair on her own terms. On her husband’s birthday, each family member took a turn shaving her head. “I’m such a control freak anyway, and everything is so out of your control,” she said. “I thought, ‘You’re not going to take my hair too.’”

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and they loved the idea. “They have been so excited about it, and they will even wear a pink shirt when they go,” Christian said. With each gallon of propane that is pumped from the Fueling the Fight truck, Blue Ridge Energies is committing to donating one penny to local breast cancer awareness charities. Their campaign started in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and will run for a year. To help raise awareness, the company decided that it should put a face with its campaign. That’s when they met Amy. Although it was difficult for her to raise awareness while fighting her battle, she was able to do something simple that allowed people in several surrounding counties to participate in helping people like her. Amy is friends with an employee at Blue Ridge Energies and he asked her about taking photos with the Fueling the Fight truck. She readily agreed. During her time with Blue Ridge Energies, she came to know Christian. For Christian, meeting Amy was an important part of the campaign.

“As we got to know Amy, it just reinforced why we’re doing this,” she said. Amy gave Christian the initial assurance she needed about the project. Soon after the trucks started running, Christian realized that almost everyone could relate to what the company was doing. “We’ve been very excited about the response we’ve received,” she said. “Our delivery employees have told us on numerous occasions where they’ll pull up and make a delivery and someone will come out and be so excited about the truck being there and will share a story where either a spouse or a loved one is currently fighting cancer and they really appreciated what we’re doing.” As word spread, so did demand for the Fueling the Fight truck. Christian was surprised that so many people had been affected by breast cancer, but it assured her that the company is donating money to a cause that truly needs it. “We have customers who will call and request the pink truck make their delivery because they’re just so passionate about it,” Christian said.

“I had nothing there, and in 15 days, I found the tumor, and it had grown to 2.7 centimeters when I found it. Through 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation, Amy formed a close relationship with Dr. Flint Gray and Dr. Yvonne Mack, her oncologists

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Winning the Battle

“I can’t give into this. I’ve got to fight. I’ve got to give it a try.”

As Amy finished her radiation in the middle of January, she said she was ready to be more active in raising awareness about triple negative breast cancer. Most importantly, she said she wants to support women who are just starting their difficult journey. “I really wish that in the beginning I would have had a triple to be there with me,” she said. “Because you can talk to other breast cancer patients. There’s only so much of that that you can talk to your spouse about because they want you to stay positive. I really wish at the time I would have had someone like a mentor that had been there and that I could have talked to.” She has already talked with the hospital about starting a support group and has met a woman in the community who she has talked with about what to expect as she begins her treatment. There were many things that Amy didn’t expect that she wants to tell others about. “For me, the things that I didn’t expect were, I knew my life would change, and I knew our life would change, but I didn’t real-

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Themed days made treatment at the hospital a little easier on Amy. She and her friends dressed up with Dr. Flint Gray for beach day

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“I really wish that in the beginning I would have had a triple to be there with me. Because you can talk to other breast cancer patients.” ~ Amy Michael ize to the extent,” she said. “It’s hard for me and it continues to be hard for me. I had 16 rounds of chemo and the effects of that afterward are hard on your body.” Amy is now in remission. She will go back to the doctor for regular appointments for the next five years. Although triple negative breast cancer patients are more likely to get cancer again, their chances of having a relapse greatly decrease if they don’t get it again for five years. Since starting her battle almost a year ago, Amy’s life has changed drastically. As she gets used to not visiting doctors every day and begins regaining her strength, she said she will have to readjust to her life. But she knows things will never be the same. “Our normal is not normal anymore,” she said. “We’re still defining what our normal is because it’s different and it will never be the same.” 

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“I knew my life would change, and I knew our life would change, but I didn’t realize to the extent.” Kurt, Kauner and Olivia Michael offered support for Amy throughout her journey. They became even closer as they continued living an active lifestyle despite Amy’s physical limitations.


.3.13 Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day is a national awareness day that will take place on March 3, 2013. The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation hopes to raise awareness and money through supporters who are hosting fundraisers. The foundation is providing tools for people to promote events in areas throughout the U.S.

To get involved, visit tnbc.org.

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The Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center in Boone opened its doors 15 years ago in March 1998. From across the High Country , the center’s more than 2,000 active members improve their fitness each year.

th

15 ANNI

VERSARY

Wellness Center

Keeping the High Country Healthy for Fifteen Years

Story by Megan Northcote


“What makes this Center different from a gym or a YMCA is that it’s not just about exercise, it’s an effort to try to recover from a health issue that is keeping you from having a highquality, healthy life.” - Richard Sparks, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System

W

ith feet planted shoulder-width apart, Derek Nelson bends at the hips, locks both hands around the kettlebell handle and, keeping his back straight, hoists the 53-pound cast iron weight directly over his head and then back down, letting it swing below his waist before raising it again. Up, down. Up, down. Once, twice. The clock continues to tick, driving him on. Each time, he strives to beat his kettlebell record – eight minutes, 15 seconds, 150 consecutive lifts. As sweat streams down his face, drenching his bright red nylon shirt, Nelson hustles across the court to begin a series of burpee box jumps. As the clock counts down, in one swift motion, Nelson dives from a standing position into a floor push-up. Then, pushing off with his feet, he jumps directly from his horizontal position on the floor onto a 26-inch-tall box directly in front of him, standing perfectly erect, before jumping back down and starting again. A piece of cake for someone who holds the CrossFit Boone burpee box

jump record for the highest jump onto a 50.25 inch tall box. Up, down. Up, down. One burpee box jump, two, three. Twenty-five in all before he dashes off to his favorite strengthening exercise – the muscle-ups (like pull-ups) on the gymnastic rings. Since February 2012, these high intensity, constantly varied exercise routines, part of a core strength and conditioning program known as CrossFit, have become the center of Nelson’s day-to-day life. Nelson was one of the first enthusiasts to participate in CrossFit Boone, the High Country’s premiere strength and conditioning program, which was launched last February in the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center located at 261 Boone Heights Drive. This year marks the Wellness Center’s 15th anniversary since its grand opening in March 1998. CrossFit Boone, the Center’s newest exercise program, will also be celebrating its one year anniversary this February.


Yet, neither of these High Country fitness hallmarks would have been possible without the drive, passion and dedication of one fearless leader, Jodi Cash, the Wellness Center’s director and a CrossFit coach. “Jodi is the main heartbeat here,” Stephanie McDaniel, transitional program instructor and Cash’s long time friend emphatically declared. “She keeps her finger on the pulse because she is so involved with teaching and the members, but she is also so involved with her staff. She is the leader of the pack.” A lifelong competitive swimmer, runner and overall fitness fanatic, Cash said she tries to “lead by example” to inspire her staff and clients to exercise to their highest fitness potential. “I have to walk the talk,” the small, trim and toned director said. “No one wants to take the advice of an obese, three hundred pound doctor seriously.” True to her word, Cash is willing to help anyone improve their fitness, even a 50-year-old woman, who came to Cash one day hoping to learn how to run. After coaching the woman on the Boone Greenway multiple times, Cash not only

taught the woman how to run, but a few years later, taught her how to swim as well. “Sometimes it is hard to make time to take care of yourself, but once you do, you are better able to take care of others,” Cash asserts. This is exactly what Cash has managed to do, serving and inspiring a growing staff and clientele base in a growing facility. In her 15 years as director, Cash has seen the Center expand from a 32,000-squarefoot fitness and rehabilitation center, nearly doubling in size by December 2006 with the addition of the aquatics facilities. Couple the additional facilities with the tireless efforts of a growing staff of nearly 40 fitness trainers, lifeguards, aquatics instructors and others who have poured their passions and talents into developing innovative, research-proven fitness and rehabilitation programs for all age demographics, and the result for everyone involved is unequivocally life changing. “It’s a dream job; I happen to work in a place where the team environment propels you,” McDaniel said. “We all have a lot of passion for what we do and encourage each other.”

CrossFit participant Michelle Wright prepares to lift the barbell above her head as her friend and CrossFit rival Adam Williams (right) cheers her on. 34

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McDaniel truly believes the bonds formed between the staff and their clients working communally are responsible for the continued growth and success of the center. But without one man’s vision fifteen years ago, there would be no center.

Building a Vision

In 1994, Richard Sparks, current President and CEO of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS), went with a group of physicians, sponsored by the Duke Endowment, to observe the British National Health Service (NHS) in England. Founded in 1948, NHS has grown to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service, offering a wide range of services to people of all financial means, including emergency and urgent care, hospitals, general practitioners, pharmacists, dental care, eye care and mental health and sexual health services. After visiting, Sparks was struck by the emphasis the British NHS placed on wellness and prevention, in addition to addressing daily fitness and healthcare needs.


The Wellness Center has basketball, volleyball and racquetball courts, as well as an indoor track, swimming pool, cardiovascular equipment, strength training machines and free weights

The weight room is extensive and offers state-of-the art equipment (top left); Members run on the indoor track on the second floor of the Center (top right); NuStep T4 Recumbent Cross Trainers offer all the calorie burning benefits of an elliptical while exercising sitting down (center left); Treadmill exercisers can enjoy the view out the window facing Boone Heights Drive (center right); CPR and lifeguard certification are among the activities in the 25-yard lap pool, manned by lifeguards at all hours (bottom left); Treadmills and ellipticals await members in the cardio room (bottom right). Februar y / March 2013

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A participant in Stephanie McDaniel’s arthritis aquatics class builds strength and resistance while walking into the bubbles generated by the warm water therapy pool (top); the cardio room is always buzzing with members around lunchtime (middle); A CrossFit enthusiast tests his strength, lifting a 30-pound barbell directly above his head (bottom). 36

High Country Magazine

Februar y / March 2013

“That [visit] was in the era of the Clinton administration when there was a lot of talk about [America] needing to emphasize wellness and prevention more than what we typically had in the past in this country,” Sparks remarks. In England, common wellness prevention practices included vaccinations, more emphasis on exercise, and monitoring patients before an illness or accident developed. Inspired by his trip, Sparks realized the High Country, which already had a growing population of healthconscious, active, college-aged students and a strong Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University, would be the perfect location to create a wellness center that united the community through fitness, wellness and prevention. The Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation (ARHF) Board of Trustees were at first reluctant to embrace his ideas since ARHS had just opened the Seby B. Jones Cancer Center in 1993 on the Watauga Medical Center campus and did not want to stretch their resources too thin by opening a wellness center one year later. After much deliberation, ARHF eventually endorsed the Wellness Center project and allocated internal funds and grant money to purchase the former ice skating rink building on Boone Heights Drive. Almost instantly after opening its doors in March 1998, the Wellness Center proved a huge success, drawing nearly 3,000 members after the first couple years, far surpassing ARHS’s goal of 800 members by the end of the first year, Sparks said. “The assumption that people would be interested in taking care of their health or working on trying to enhance their health outside of being injured or sick was true,” Sparks concludes. Sparks attributes the Wellness Center’s overwhelming success to being the only place in the High Country where people could exercise and have their fitness needs addressed in an indoor facility, a welcomed necessity in a high-elevation mountain community where weather patterns are often too unpredictable for daily outdoor fitness routines. Further, the Center was also developed at a time when society as a whole was becoming more health conscious. “In the past decade, I think people are just more aware of health and wellness and how exercise affects their overall health and longevity,” reflects Paul Moore, assistant director of the Wellness Center. “I think there is more of an emphasis on how heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes are all caused or affected by activity, lifestyle and nutrition.” In addition to housing the Wellness Center, the Rehabilitation Center, which offers physical therapy services, and the Appalachian Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center, formerly housed on ASU’s campus, were relocated to this new building. Having all these services under one roof, not to mention the proximity of the Watauga County Medical Center to the Wellness Center, made it convenient for physicians to refer former patients to the Wellness Center for continual rehabilitation, strengthening exercises and other forms of recovery or maintenance therapy.


ARHS’s intent all along was to “serve people who had an illness or an injury and were trying to recover from it and wanted to maintain their health status,” Sparks said. “What makes this Center different from a gym or a YMCA is that it’s not just about exercise, it’s an effort to try to recover from a health issue that is keeping you from having a high-quality, healthy life.” Although the Wellness Center is open to anyone, Sparks and Cash agree the Center was initially aimed at serving middle age and elderly populations with less focus on the youth or young adults. At any given time of day, the center’s spacious parking lot is packed with members ranging from regulars squeezing in their dailyworkout routine in the weight room before or after work to elderly patrons attending a twicea-week aquatics class for their arthritis to an individual with multiple sclerosis receiving oneon-one therapy with their personal trainer. Yet, as membership continued to grow, the need for more space and additional facilities for the members quickly became apparent. In 2006, ARHS purchased a movie theatre and strip shopping center adjacent to the property, expanding the property to the site’s maximum capacity of 62,000 square feet. With the addition of a childcare center and two pools, the Wellness Center nearly doubled in size. The 25-yard lap pool, manned with lifeguards, is available for lap swimming, lessons, lifeguard and CPR training and triathlon practices. The smaller, warm water therapy pool offers classes open to both the community and those referred by the on-site physical therapy department who are suffering from chronic pain or other health conditions. Throughout its fifteen year history, membership at the Wellness Center has always fluctuated between a solid 2,000 to 2,300 active members. Today, Cash proudly announces, the Wellness Center has 2,300 active members and hopes to continue growing.

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Green Park Inn is pleased to announce the opening of our new restaurant

The Chestnut Grille

Finding the Right Fit: Land based Fitness

In the last five years, Kris Hartley, who began working at the Wellness Center as a lifeguard in December 2006, has seen the Center grow not just in terms of membership, but also in the number and variety of fitness programs being offered. Three programs in particular, Healthy Hearts, BLAST and Thrive, all partly created and implemented by Hartley, are unique in that they each serve a different special population group.

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CrossFit Boone – Taking Fitness to a Whole New Level F

rom running to swimming to triathlon training, Jodi Cash has never abandoned her lifelong addiction to trying new competitive sports or exercise routines. Not surprisingly, after visiting her sister in Charlotte in December 2010, she was introduced to CrossFit, a highly competitive strength and conditioning program, and was instantly hooked. CrossFit, an exercise phenomenon in over 5,500 affiliated gyms worldwide, was first created by Greg Glassman in 2000. According to the CrossFit website, CrossFit is “constantly varied, functional movement at high intensity in a communal environment resulting in health fitness.” In laymen’s terms, that means a full body, fast paced workout, a whole lot of sweat and, for some, a life changing experience! “The variety of exercises, the high intensity, the competitive nature where you are timed or counting your repetitions, people really like that drive of the competition,” Cash explained, grinning as she thinks of her own passion for CrossFit. “That kind of competitive nature makes it a little different than you would see in a regular aerobics class.” Within a few months, Cash along with two other fitness instructors became certified CrossFit coaches. By February 2012, CrossFit Boone had found its new home in the Wellness Center, not to mention a following of CrossFit enthusiasts. Just ask Derek Nelson, who has participated and placed in three CrossFit competitions, including the first competition held in Boone in January 2013. But for Nelson, it has never been entirely about winning competitions as much as it has taught him about building confidence to try new things in life. “I recommend CrossFit to anyone in any age or athletic shape who wants to make a better life for themselves,” Nelson said. “Because of CrossFit, I feel less fearful to tackle things I want to in life, such as scaling 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado. One of my favorite sayings is ‘on the other side of fear lies freedom’ and I truly believe that.” The unofficial CrossFit motto, Nelson said, is “Jack of All Trades, Master of None.” While all CrossFit classes focus on body mechanics, skill techniques and building strength and endurance, the types of activities performed vary from class to class. Each one-hour class features a different

Workout of the Day. Participants race the clock and each other, trying to break their personal record for the number of a particular CrossFit move they can perform in a certain amount of time before diving into the next exercise. “During these workouts, you’re using all the components of fitness, like your strength, your endurance, your cardiovascular endurance, your flexibility and gymnastic skills and trying to keep them all progressing at the same rate,” explained Greg Cox, CrossFit coach. “At CrossFit, we shoot to work across the board to keep everything in sync.” No kidding. On one side of the gym, five CrossFitters race one another in burpee box jumps, lunging from a floor push-up to jumping straight onto a box and back down. Behind them, a group of three CrossFitters cheer on a fourth who is trying to break her personal record for the number of times she can lift a 30-pound barbell over her head. That’s called the ground to overhead, Cox’s favorite move. “There’s just something about picking something heavy up off the ground and putting it over your head that just can’t be beat,” Cox said, laughing. Exhausted, the weightlifter drops the weights with a resounding thud in front of her feet and, wiping the sweat from her brow, dashes over to join her friends jumping rope. But this isn’t your elementary school playground bunny hop kind of jump rope routine. These guys are doing double unders, which is CrossFit speak for turning the rope so fast it passes under your feet two times before your feet ever touch the ground. Currently, Cox estimates CrossFit Boone has attracted a core group of 20 to 25 regular participants and is rapidly growing. While many of the participants are young adults, CrossFit is open to anyone of all ages. All CrossFit movements are scaled to the appropriate intensity and skill level of the individual, making it possible for a person of any age or fitness background to work their way into more rigorous CrossFit routines at their own pace. Including 64-year-old Don Mattox, former longtime owner of the Mountaineer Health Club in Boone. “I wish other people in my age group would be a part of CrossFit,” Mattox said. “There aren’t many of us involved. But I still love it.”


“In the past decade, I think people are just more aware of health and wellness and how exercise affects their overall health and longevity. I think there is more of an emphasis on how heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes are all caused or affected by activity, lifestyle and nutrition.”

- Paul Moore, Assistant Director of the Wellness Center

The Healthy Hearts program features cardiovascular and moderate strength training for those with heart or coronary artery disease transitioning from the cardiac rehabilitation program who are still in need of monitored supervision and assistance from personal fitness trainers. Thrive, a three month program developed by a team of Wellness Center and hospital staff in June 2011, is for those who are a little more independent than Healthy Hearts participants, but still require supervision while transitioning away from acute chronic disease pain management. Typically, Hartley, a clinical exercise physiologist with the program, said Thrive serves those individuals whose diagnosis does not exactly meet cardiac rehabilitation standards. The program also works to reduce the number of hospital readmissions, such as those struggling with congestive heart failure and other respiratory illnesses. Paul Moore, the Thrive program director, feels the program is very unique in the multidisciplinary approach the program takes to managing or preventing the progression of a disease affecting an individual through exercise, nutrition and medication management. Chris Behrend formerly participated in cardiac rehabilitation several years ago, and was referred by her doctor to participate in Thrive to continue a regular, monitored exercise routine. She participates in Thrive two hours a day, three days per week. Behrend likes having her exercise monitored by having someone bring to her attention smaller problems, such as poor oxygen flow when exercising, that could conceivably lead to bigger problems down

the road. Common Thrive exercises include the treadmill, the bicycle, stretching and lifting weights. “I am able to meet other people who are also in the same situation, which is what I wanted to do so it’s not just me alone going to the gym,” Behrend said. By exercising in a social environment, Behrend met Pam Meyer, who joined Thrive last September to prevent the risk of heart attacks and to reduce high blood pressure, both of which are common in her

three month Thrive session, Meyer hopes to go hiking in Israel. Meyer could not bestow enough accolades upon her fitness instructors, like Hartley, who always push her to set her goals high and try her hardest, even once the program ends. The third special populations program, BLAST, is for children between seven and 12 years old and focuses on addressing adolescent obesity to prevent heart disease and diabetes. This program typically runs in the fall, spring and summer.

Treadmills are packed with Wellness Center members before and after work family history. “I have been so pleased,” Meyer exclaimed. “I have lost 20 pounds, and it hasn’t been all that long, three or four months [since she first started Thrive]. I have realized that I could do a lot more exercise than I ever thought I could.” By the end of April, after her second

Richard Sparks best sums up the benefits of BLAST through the experience of one young male participant (whom he calls Johnny) a couple of summers ago. Every day, even on the hottest summer days, Johnny would come to BLAST wearing a heavy denim jacket, Sparks begins. The children would constantly tease

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I

Zumba – Finding Fun in Fitness

n Gwen Dhing’s Zumba class at the Wellness Center, everyday is a party. “Party yourself into shape” has become the official motto of Zumba, a Latin inspired, fast paced dance exercise to upbeat music from around the world. And no one knows how to party better and have more fun doing it than Gwen Dhing. You might know her best as the owner of Makoto’s Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar in Boone. But when not working at Makoto’s, this trim, blonde, high energy woman selflessly spends all her free time doing what she loves best – teaching Zumba. Since 2009, Dhing has been the Wellness Center’s primary Zumba instructor. Dancing and aerobics have always come naturally to her. Beginning in 1990, she taught aerobics classes at Absolutely Aerobics, a workout center formerly located on the exact property where the Wellness Center was built eight years later. As soon as the Wellness Center opened in March 1998, Gwen was immediately hired as the Center’s first spin instructor, for an exercise bike workout class and as a general aerobics instructor. She never dreamed about combining her two loves, aerobics and dancing, until she watched her first zumba video at home and instantly fell in love. “I thought oh my gosh, this is exactly like how I teach my aerobics classes, but even more fast-paced and upbeat,” Dhing exclaimed with as much energy in her voice as she showcases on the zumba floor. Wasting no time, the next week Dhing hosted her first Zumba class at the Wellness Center, drawing 50 participants. “It was a hit from the day it started,” Dhing remembered. Such a hit, she had to move her classes into a bigger room to accommodate the 70 participants who turned out the second week. Dhing’s hour-long Zumba classes are now offered four days per week at the Wellness Center. As soon as you walk through the door, Dhing puts on some lively music and leads the class in a ten-minute warm-up. As the music picks up, so does the dancing. Most popular are Latin dances, such as the merengue, a Dominican Republican dance that involves a lot of jogging in place and upper body arm movements. Zumba music spans the globe, ranging from Bollywood, Egyptian dance, African rhythm dancing and even hip-hop. Every class incorporates a variety of fast and slow paced songs, offering a little something for everyone. While the health benefits of Zumba are endless, such as high calorie burn and muscle toning, Zumba is not just exercise, but a stress reliever and community event. “Zumba just makes your soul feel good,” Dhing said. “Zumba improves your mood. There’s no way you’re not in a good mood by the time you leave.” Each class typically attracts 40 participants, primarily women of all different ages and fitness levels, including those with knee problems, those looking to drop a few pounds and those just hoping to stay fit and have fun. “Anyone can do Zumba, it’s not a hard experience,” Dhing said. “Even people who think they can’t do it always have fun. I’ve never had anyone tell me they hated it and won’t ever come back.” New to the Boone area, Christy Kennedy heard about Dhing’s classes in September 2010 and thought she’d give it a try. “Before zumba, I hated exercising. I was pretty shy and self-conscious about my weight and I hated looking at myself in the mirror,” Kennedy said. Now 25-pounds lighter, Kennedy said she tries to attend four or five Zumba classes a week. A mother of a seventeen month old, she even went to Zumba class 35 weeks into her pregnancy, being careful to scale back the intensity of her exercises. Without a doubt, receiving the support of the other women in her class has kept her coming back. “They told me to not worry about looking stupid when I exercise,” Kennedy said. “With Zumba, I don’t feel like I’m working out and it’s so much fun.”


Transitional program instructor Stephanie McDaniel directs her arthritis aquatics class in a series of Ai Chi body strengthening movements, a kind of Tai Chi in the water. him and ask why he was wearing the jacket. Eventually, he confessed that he was embarrassed about his weight and hoped the jacket would cover his protruding belly. One day, toward the end of the program, Johnny came to BLAST without wearing his jacket. One of the kids, who had been picking on him all year, asked why he wasn’t wearing his jacket. Johnny stood up straight and, looking his peer straight in the eye, said ‘I don’t need it anymore.’ “When something like that happens, that means we’re accomplishing what we’re trying to do,” Sparks said. “There are lots of Johnnies out there, and if we can help them, that’s what it’s all about.” Even without being in one of these three programs, all members can take advantage of the weight room, racquetball, basketball and volleyball courts on the first floor of the Center and the cardiovascular room, spin room for cyclists and indoor track on the second floor. Typically, during the early months of the year, Cash has noticed many patrons

are trying to stick to their New Year’s resolution to lose weight, which usually shifts to slightly less ambitious goals of lifting weights to tone muscles, build strength and maintain weight as the year progresses. In the future, Cash hopes to double the pieces of equipment in the weight room and cardiovascular room to cater to growing membership numbers. Membership dues do not include these special population programs, nor other amenities such as message therapy sessions, swimming lessons or CrossFit classes. Aerobic classes, however, are included in the membership, such as yoga, zumba, pre and postnatal aerobics and spin classes, as well as general aquatic fitness classes. Some classes are designed to address specific fitness goals, such as Cardio Fit, a high intensity cardio class combining kickboxing and hip-hop moves. Others are overall body workouts, such as Fit Camp, a one hour class combining calisthenics, resistance training, sports drills, bodyweight exercise and core toning.

In recent years, more aerobics classes have become specifically tailored to address different age populations, as well as special populations with specific fitness needs. For instance, the Stretch and Flex class, which incorporates basic resistance and stretching exercises, caters to seniors and beginning exercisers. Even pregnant women are given the option of attending prenatal classes to maintain cardiovascular and muscular fitness throughout pregnancy. With so many exercise classes to choose from, if you are still uncertain about which class or activity is best for you, Cash suggests Reach Your Peak might be the best program to get you exercising as much as you can. Now in its ninth year, Reach Your Peak is an incentive based program that encourages participants to try different kinds of exercises weekly - ranging from aerobic classes, racquetball, weights and swimming. Participants work in teams of four and earn points for each minute of exercise.

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Each team competes to earn enough exercise minutes or to be the first to reach all three peaks or exercise hallmarks along their journey up the “fitness mountain.”

Diving into Aquatic Fitness

Stephanie McDaniel, transitional program instructor, stands on the tile around the edge of the therapy pool and extends one leg behind her, balancing with both arms straight out by her side. She glances down at the sea of fourteen bobbing heads in the water, all participants in her arthritis aquatics class, each perfectly mirroring her body movements. This water dance is called Ai Chi, a total body strengthening and meditation aquatic exercise composed of 16 postures, also known as Tai Chi in the water. McDaniel drops her arms by her side and moves her outstretched leg from behind to the front of her body, as fourteen

bobbing heads follow her lead exactly in the water. In the front row of the class, an older woman wearing a bright red bathing suit spreads her arms wide, letting the gentle lapping of the water lull her into a meditative peace. That’s Ann Bragg, who has been attending McDaniel’s class as a kind of therapy for her knee since fall 2010. And in the far left corner of the pool, holding onto his water weights, that’s Ned Santos. Santos is something of a walking, or in this case swimming, miracle. Over seven years ago he had terminal brain cancer, suffering from immobilizing pain, which left him fighting for his life. Now fully recovered, he says the aquatics classes have given him the strength to keep going. For this particular class, McDaniel admits, the participants don’t even need her professional assistance, they know the routines so well.

But on a deeper level, they need her as much as she needs them. Over the years, they’ve given each other a special gift, which McDaniel likes to call “high self-efficacy” – complete happiness that results when working together to achieve a common goal, like improving wellness through aquatic therapy. McDaniel, who has been teaching aquatic aerobic classes at the Wellness Center since 2008, offers two types of classes, those open to the general public, and, within the last three years, those serving patients participating in or recently discharged from the Rehabilitation Center on site. These patients might include people suffering from chronic pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis or orthopedic issues. “In the chronic pain aquatics classes, we help build people’s tolerance to exercise,” McDaniel said. “For this population of people, land exercise is not well tolerated. These programs have been really successful.”

Wellness Center members run the indoor track at their own pace while an aerobics class kicks off behind them 42

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After years of coaching paraplegics, quadriplegics and individuals with chronic disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, McDaniel strongly believes the most rewarding part of her job is watching these individuals move their bodies in ways they never thought they could. For instance, she once witnessed one 5-year-old girl in her class with juvenile arthritis swim farther than she could walk. Teaching Ai Chi to some of these individuals is equally rewarding for McDaniel. “To see these people move in synchronicity like this in the water is breathtaking,” McDaniel exclaimed. “These are people that, when they get out of the pool, they can’t walk, they can’t move. But in the water, they look like ballerinas. It’s gorgeous.” Amy Hipp, head lifeguard at the Center, feels the warm water therapy pool, where these classes are held, is unique to the High Country and also creates an ideal environment for teaching swimming lessons. Much like the land based fitness programs and activities, the aquatics center offers a little something for everyone beyond the therapy pool. Other class offerings include first aid, CPR and lifeguarding certification classes as well as private swim lessons all year round. Hipp also believes working in an aquatics center that draws instructors from a variety of health fitness backgrounds beyond water fitness, such as arthritic therapy, makes the Wellness Center particularly unique and beneficial for clients seeking crossover between land based and aquatic fitness opportunities. In the future, Hipp, a certified CPR, first aid and safety instructor for the Wellness Center, as well as a certified paramedic on the rescue squad, hopes to expand on her own background by offering more emergency training and lifeguarding classes. Although Hipp has only been working at the Wellness Center since November 2011, she quickly felt the instant connection, which many other fitness instructors at the Center have experienced between themselves and their clients.

For instance, during her first week of work, while lifeguarding at the therapy pool, a couple swimmers came over and thanked her for watching the pool, stating how much they enjoyed the facility. “I’d never been thanked before for sitting by the pool and letting people use it,” Hipp remarked. “People here are really grateful and really friendly. I know most of the swimmers by name and they speak to me. That’s unique. I’ve worked at a YMCA, at big pools where you don’t get

to know swimmers that way, so being able to have an intimate environment with the members is really great.”

Fit for Life

From therapeutic water aerobics to intense land based fitness routines like CrossFit, the Wellness Center stands apart for helping the High Country get on track with embracing general fitness and preventive healthcare as a lifestyle over the last fifteen years. “I think this area embraces the idea that it is important for individuals to make health a priority in their life,” Spark said. “If we’re going to control healthcare costs, anywhere in this country, you’re going to

have to embrace preventive care. I think both Avery and Watauga County are well ahead to a large degree.” One of the ways the Wellness Center hopes to raise the level of fitness throughout the High Country in the near future is by outsourcing some of their staff and equipment to help businesses create their own wellness program in the work environment. For instance, the staff could instruct a local bank’s administration in how to conduct a thirty minute, low intensity exercise routine an hour before the bank opens to the public. “I’m seeing industry being much more interested in helping their employees have access to wellness programs because it does lower their insurance costs and it creates healthier, happier employees, and therefore more productive employees,” Sparks observed. “I think businesses are really starting to grasp that more in the last three or four years.” ARHS has an optional employee health program open to all 1,500 ARHS employees, called Love Your Life, which offers incentives such as breaks on health insurance. Now in the fifth year, the program, research has shown, has reduced healthcare insurance premiums, and has also helped identify health issues affecting employee participants who may not have been previously aware of their condition, such as high blood pressure. Sparks is convinced you don’t need to conduct formal research to prove the positive impact the Wellness Center has made on countless individuals’ lives in the High Country. “I think if you went to downtown Boone and stopped ten people on the street and asked them what the best thing is that the ARHS has done, you’ll probably get a couple to say the cancer center, or a couple to name a particular doctor or physician,” Sparks speculates, “but I think the majority will tell you the Wellness Center has impacted their life more than anything else. I’ve had multiple people tell me the Wellness Center is their life.” 

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SOOTH

PAMPER

TREAT

SPOIL

yourself yourself yourself yourself

Read About Eleven Businesses That Want To

Make You Feel Better

By Madison V. Fisler

T

he soothing scent of aromatherapy, the glowing warmth of a smiling face, the comforting sensation that there is nothing else in the world but this moment of complete and total relaxation and all-consuming rejuvenation. Without a care in the world you’ve finally reached your Zen, and after the week you’ve had, it’s about time! For those who have been to one, you know the feeling all too well of walking through the doors of a place whose job it is to pamper you. The sensation of all of your worries sliding off of your shoulders as soon as you step through the door is an experience that many residents of the High Country look forward to with anticipation. With the stress of a fast-paced world combining with the harshness of the High Country’s famous winter weather, it’s important to take time out of the week to take care of number one - you. Whether it’s a luxurious massage, a yoga session, a pedicure, a hair treatment or a full day of bliss, the High Country boasts many places that

aspire to help you to find your personal nirvana and to reach your balance once again. For those who have never had an experience like this, now is a great time to try it for the first time. For many residents and visitors alike, the mountain winter

need of a little extra care as well. If you’re the type who works hard and plays hard, it might be time to relax a little. The wintertime is the perfect time to get a new look for that job interview, date or fun family function. Hair salons in the area are well equipped to give you a quick trim, as well as a relaxing scalp massage. As an add-on or an alternative to hitting the gym, more and more working men are turning to yoga to help them wind down after a long day, build muscle and get or stay in shape. Perhaps all you need after a long stressful workweek is a little bit of pampering to set you up for success looking forward to the winter ahead. All of these options are a great going out idea, whether for a friend’s night out or for a romantic date. Pamper someone you love, or accompany him or her for a fun and unexpected alternative to the typical date. The task may sound daunting, but don’t worry. Your neighbors in the High Country have exactly what you need. 

Beat the Winter Blues A bit of relaxation and rejuvenation is the perfect way to recharge and restore your mind and body after a long day.

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weather does a number not just on hair, skin and nails, but on the soul as well. A bit of relaxation and rejuvenation is the perfect way to recharge and restore your mind and body after a long day. Visit the spa and pamper your whole body. Take a yoga class to cleanse the soul. Get a new hairstyle and take the world by storm. And the pampering isn’t just for women! Many men are finding themselves in

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7th HEAVEN

BOONE. 7th Heaven is your home for stress relief and healthcare you can afford! Our goal is to provide the services that you want and need without making you pay for things you don’t need. Here you will find services to rival the most expensive spas, but without the cost. All of our services are for the Full Time Booked. We won’t take time out of your treatment to consult with you. If you book an Hour you get a Full Hour! The 7th Heaven Day Spa is the perfect destination for holistic health. We want to help you get the most out of your life. The 7th Heaven Day Spa is a 1000 sq. ft. facility, decorated in a peaceful celestial theme and is conveniently located just outside the Boone town limits at 4457 Hwy. 105 South. It is easily accessible to all of the High Country. Here you will find treatments to rival the most expensive spas, but without the cost. All spa services are done by appointment only. Advanced reservations help us to meet our customers’ needs. The owner, Michael D. Picard, has been a professional massage therapist for over 25 years and has worked in all aspects of the spa industry. He has a background as a weightlifter and bodybuilder, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and teacher/workshop leader. Michael is trained and certified in many massage techniques including Cayce/ Reilly style, Deep Tissue techniques, Prenatal massage, Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Sports massage, pressure point therapy and energy work. Michael has assembled a team of gifted and experienced, licensed therapists who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to each service they perform and each class they teach. We enjoy helping our clients regain and maintain their health while putting smiles on their faces. Our customers’ needs are of the utmost importance and our entire team is committed to meeting those needs. As a result, a high percentage of our business is from repeat customers and referrals. We welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and deliver the best service in the industry at prices that won’t stress you or your budget.  828-963-2355. www.7thheaven.vpweb. com. See ad on page 49

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APPALACHIAN REGIONAL HEATHCARE SYSTEM (ARHS)

WATAUGA & AVERY COUNTIES. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS), the healthcare leader in the High Country, is comprised of Blowing Rock Hospital, Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital and Watauga Medical Center, a physician practice management group - Appalachian

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Ashi Therapy Holistic Healing Center

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Regional Medical Associates, and Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation. Together, these facilities are committed to promoting health in the High Country, enhancing quality of life and simply “making life better.” Watauga Medical Center, a certified Primary Stroke Center, offers emergency, acute and specialty care. The campus includes a cardiology center, a cardiac catheterization lab, sleep center, wound care center, rehabilitation and wellness center, birthing center, cancer center, imaging and lab services and outpatient behavioral health. Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital offers acute care, and inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services. The campus also includes imaging, laboratory and emergency services, a birthing center, rehabilitation center, and a sleep center. Blowing Rock Hospital offers rehabilitation and extended care services. Construction on a new Post Acute Care Center to replace the current facility will begin Spring 2013. Appalachian Regional Medical Associates consists of Elk River Medical Associates, Baker Center for Primary Care, Tate Clinic, Appalachian Regional Adult and Family Medicine, Appalachian Regional Pulmonology, Watauga Internal Medicine and Harmony Center for Women’s Health.  www.apprhs.org. See ad on page 45

ASHI THERAPY

BANNER ELK. Ashi Therapy is a Holistic Alternative Healing Center celebrating over 16 years in Banner Elk. We offer over 20 years professional experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Auricular Therapy, Qigong and Reiki, Clinical Holistic Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Therapy, Reflexology, Chinese Facial Rejuvenation, Natural Botanical Facial Treatments, Advanced Massage Therapies and more. We specialize in pain and stress relief, allergies, headaches, chronic pain syndromes, quit smoking and weight management, sports injuries, sleep disorders, men and women health issue, immune system support and more. Holistic Health Care packages can be customized for your individual and family needs. We offer a variety of classes and workshops and continuing education courses. Ashi Therapy also has available an Aromatherapy Apothecary and Herbal Pharmacy, Essential Oils, Diffusers, Books, Music and Gift Certificates. We offer our 46

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own line of cruelty-free vegan products: Ashi Aromatics Inc. for people and pets. Visit our online store and website for more information on products, services, discount packages and gift certificates. We are available by appointment Monday through Saturday. Acupuncture outcall service available.  828-898-5555. www. ashitherapy.com. See ad on page 46

BARE ESSENTIALS NATURAL MARKET

BOONE. Bare Essentials Natural Market offers quality, wholesome products free from harmful ingredients. We have just about everything you could want. And what we don’t have, we can get! Since owners Ben and Mary Underwood brought Bare Essentials Natural Market in 1988, their mission has been to do offer the best natural products to the High Country community. Two decades ago Bare Essentials was the only store in town that carried organic foods, cruelty-free body care products and high quality supplements, and for many this stuff was ‘weird.’ We were charting a course many people didn’t understand. What a difference time makes! It seems that natural food stores like ours started a health revolution. And what we lack in size compared to the supermarkets that now carry natural and organic products, we more than make up for in the size of our heart. Along the way, we’ve become better on the business end of things, but we’ve never wavered from our mission to: Take pride in our friendly and accessible environment. Make a healthy and heartful difference in the lives of customers and employees alike. Empower one another to professionally, thoroughly and compassionately meet the needs of our customers. Have a passion for environmental sustainability. We think globally and act locally through the products we offer. Please stop by for a visit, we can help you begin a more healthy lifestyle.  828-262-5592. www.benaturalmarket.com. See ad on page 47

BOONE HEALING ARTS CENTER

BOONE. The Boone Healing Arts Center offers a comprehensive range of holistic treatment modalities blended with western methodologies to promote total wellness for the mind, body and spirit. Our Center is conveniently located in the heart of Boone on State Farm Road. The Center has 15 holistic practitioners offering massage,


counseling, acupuncture, skin care, Rolfing, Alexander Technique, chiropractic care, applied kinesiology, Chinese medicine and holistic nutrition. We also offer weekly classes including gentle and Iyengar style yoga, Tai chi, meditation, Pilates, community acupuncture as well as African drumming and dance. We are pleased to invite new clients to try any or all of our classes at an introductory rate of $25 for a two-week period. Some upcoming workshops include: Qigong for Health and Healing with Eric Reiss; Deliciously Dairy Free Cooking Class with Caroline Stahlschmidt; YogaED: Kids Yoga Ages 5-8 and an Ayurvedic cooking class with Elena Sartori. Our tranquil and inviting Center also has an exclusive boutique where we offer a variety of health and beauty products. Visit our website for details or call to schedule an appointment. We are located at 838 State Farm Road in Boone.  828-386-1172. www.bhac--boone.com. See ad on page 47

THE SPA AT CHETOLA RESORT

BLOWING ROCK. Relaxation and rejuvenation with a personal touch defines the luxurious yet cozy Spa at Chetola Resort. Both guests of Chetola Resort and the general public can choose from the highest quality selection of professional massage, nail and skin care treatments. Our therapists and aestheticians use only the finest all-natural products from Osmosis and Jane Iredale, all of which are free of parabins and synthetic odors. Our Spa Day-cation, developed with our local residents in mind, features your choice of a signature massage or facial, a delicious “spa” lunch, unlimited use of the pool, Jacuzzi and dry sauna, access to the fitness center, choice of fitness and yoga classes and complimentary hot beverages, Kangan water and our homemade trail mix. The Spa Daycation is priced at $99 through April 2013 and is available Sundays through Thursdays. The mind, body and soul experience would not be complete without our increasingly popular whole foods, plant-based cooking classes. Every other month features a wellness-minded hands-on experience, with topics including Glorious Greens, Inspired Indian and Asian Infusion. Additional health and wellness focuses include personal training packages, private yoga classes, weekly fitness classes, guided hikes, easy access to 26-miles of hiking trails, and a multitude of year-round kids programs.  828-295-5531. www.chetola.com. See ad on page 45 Februar y / March 2013

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HEAVENLY TOUCH MASSAGE

BOONE. Heavenly Touch Massage Day Spa provides high quality spa services at affordable prices. Signature Facials utilize the finest skin care products such as Dermalogica and Pevonia. Custom massages include Swedish, sports, hot stone, couples, prenatal and body treatments. We also offer a full line of waxing services for both men and women. Our new clients enjoy a 60 minute massage for only $49.95 and a 60 minute facial for only $59.95. Join our membership program for only $49.95 per month. As a VIP member you will enjoy the benefits of routine monthly relaxation as well as discounts on other services and products. We also offer packages with FREE massages. Stop by and visit us at 246D Wilson Drive (Next to Verizon Wireless – Behind Boone Mall) to see why thousands of locals and visitors alike are already part of our family. Schedule appointments and purchase gift cards online. Call our friendly client services team today with questions or to schedule an appointment. Thank you and God Bless …  828-264-4335. www.HeavenlyTouchMassage.com. See ad on page 49

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High Country Magazine

fect way to pamper yourself and to keep yourself looking young, healthy and happy. Whether you need a trim, a new color, hair treatments or a complete style overhaul, the expert stylists at Hair Creations have got you covered. The staff at Hair Creations has over 32 years of experience. They have recently moved to a new location at 643K2 Greenway Road. Their staff attends several classes per year in order to keep up with the latest styles and techniques in color, including REDKEN’s no ammonia chromatics color system, foils, cutting, perms and styling hair for all ages. The salon carries REDKEN, Kenra, and Pureology products. Need to get your nails done too? Don’t worry. Hair Creations has got exactly what you need. With a talented manicurist on site, it is the perfect salon to pamper your hair and your nails. “Our talented team will be happy to help you choose the right style and products for you. Come celebrate 16 years of business with the Hair Creations team!”  828-2680402. www.haircreationssalon.net. See ad on page 48

NEIGHBORHOOD YOGA

BOONE. The name “Neighborhood Yoga” reflects both the setting and the attitude.

Februar y / March 2013

Neighborhood Yoga, now in its 7th year, is a studio for the moving arts, and a space that brings together a community of people with common interests. The spacious studio, which overlooks downtown Boone, has hardwood maple floors and plenty of windows for natural light and passive solar heat. They offer classes in all levels of hatha yoga, including gentle yoga, vinyasa (flow ) yoga, Iyengar’s alignment based yoga, and even a weekly “hot yoga” class. In addition there are monthly group meditations, philosophical discussions, live music events, and community outreach projects. “We truly believe that yoga can benefit everyone,” says Valerie Midgett, owner of Neighborhood Yoga. “There’s a preconception that yoga is just for young people or flexible people. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yoga is for EVERY BODY. If you’ve taken a yoga class and thought it’s not for you, then you just haven’t found the right teacher of the right class yet. That’s why we are offering a new student incentive this February and March. New Student Incentive: If you have never been to Neighborhood Yoga, and want to give it a try, you can sign up for a 2-Week Unlimited Class incentive for only $25. That’s right, as many classes as you want to take (and they offer over 20 classes a week) for only $25. This gives new students a chance to try lots of teachers and classes to see what resonates with them. So what are you waiting for? There is no better time. Another great thing about yoga is that you don’t have to wait until you’ve cleaned out your garage to get started! Now is the time. The studio is located on Shanthi Way, just off Water Street and a block and a half north of King Street. There is limited parking at the studio, but ample parking on Queen Street. For more information and a complete schedule of classes, please visit our website or call.  828-265-0377. www.neighborhoodyoga.net. See ad on page 46

SERENITY DAY SPA

BANNER ELK. A heavenly experience awaits you at Serenity Day Spa. Owner and operator Cari Ashbaugh has worked as a licensed massage therapist for 25 years and a skin care specialist for 15 years. Serenity Day Spa recently moved into a beautiful new building, and we invite you to relax, revive and renew your mind, body and spirit with us. We are located across from the entrance to Sugar Mountain and directly behind Ex-


treme in Banner Elk. Our new location offers a charming cottage atmosphere with four treatment rooms, a couples room and fireplace. You can relax in the sunroom between appointments and enjoy tea in the summer and hot apple cider in the winter. Relieve the built-up tension from everyday life with a relaxing full body massage. Serenity Day Spa is proud to offer a variety of techniques and modalities to treat your individual needs. These methods include Swedish, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point Massage, Cranio Sacral, Thai Yoga Massage, Pre and Post Pregnancy Massage. We also offer Microdermabrasion, a time honored European beauty treatment reinvented for the next century. Formerly used in the finest European Spas, the Beauty Peel wakes up your skin by gently removing the dry, full, flaky appearance and replaces it with a healthy, rosy glow. We also offer skin care and body treatments, Glycolic peels, laser spray tanning, waxing and more. Give us a call or visit our website, we look forward to serving you!  828-898-3550. www. relaxatserenity.com. See ad on page 46

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Eustace Conway Turtle Island Preserve

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSE WOOD

Think Outside The Box? Heck, Just Think Outside

A

t base camp on a cloudy day in early December, Eustace Conway squats to the earth and runs his hands through a pile of compost – a rotting mixture of urine and sawdust. As he delicately fingers the organic blend, he speaks reverently of the decaying process as being a revelatory, spiritual and educational experience. “We put it here and let it lay and rot, and it comes out to be gorgeous, extremely fertile soil,” Conway says. “We are personally involved. That’s important. We are not just flushing it away to oblivion without any idea of where it goes, what it does or what happens to it.” Scattered throughout Turtle Island Preserve are outhouses with gender-affiliated, five-gallon buckets filled two-thirds full with sawdust for visitors and staff to answer nature’s call. Urine, long established as a compost activator and enhancer, has been called liquid gold because of its high-nitrogen content. Once full, the buckets are dumped into a mound, and after the breakdown process, the nutrient-rich mixture is transported with a wheelbarrow to the preserve’s garden to nourish the next crop of garlic, kale, parsley and whatever else is grown on the plot. “This is the best energy drink plants could ever have. This is what plants need. They die without good food, and it is all right here – local, sustainable, organic and natural. Anything other than this is unnatural,” Conway says. He touts the fact that transportation costs are virtually nonexistent; the food in the garden – and for that matter, the organic matter nourishing those plants – exist on the preserve and

Eustace Conway (left) speaks reverently of compost as he picks up a handful on the preserve. Below is the entrance to the base camp, where the vehicles stop and the campers enter another realm – a step back in time.

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I just want 99 percent of visitors to spend 99 percent “of their time outdoors. We want to be where we can see the stars and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, ”

– Eustace Conway

are not imported from some faraway locale such as Costa Rica or California. “And all of this happens to be involved with our own bodies,” Conway reiterates. “For me and a lot of other people who have had the revelatory experience about their human place in the world this can become a spiritual experience. I know a local doctor, retired in Watauga County, who told me he wanted to be buried in his compost pile. I’m not sure he was kidding. He had a spiritual connection with the earth that was a real, natural process. This is a medical doctor. You might say if it’s good enough for him, maybe it’s good enough for us.” Though Conway wants to continue to share these types of experiences at his 1,000-acre primitive refuge in the Triplett community of Eastern Watauga with campers, interns and other visitors who probably have spent way too much of their

lives indoors, he is no longer able to after a posse of Watauga County officials descended upon the preserve in September. After more than 25 years of, for the most part, living off the land like it was 1899, the preserve and Conway, its founder, suddenly became out of favor with the planning and inspections department after an anonymous neighbor tipped-off authorities to buildings on the property without the required permits. Soon the health department jumped into the fray, citing the preserve for, among other violations, a few illegal outhouses. One of those was a personal privy that is, according to Conway, “literally miles and miles” from the nearest neighbor. To say the least, Conway was astounded and outraged, but since Turtle Island closed to the public a few months ago, he hasn’t done anything to comply with the demands, which to Conway are the antithesis of the camp’s premise. For Conway,

to conform to building codes defeats the whole mission of Turtle Island Preserve – to live in such a way that is harmonious with nature. While his efforts are sustainable and practical, most of his and the preserve’s ways - not counting the usage of “appropriate technologies” such as motorcycles, chainsaws and plastic buckets – are unconventional, at least to 21st century standards. “I would rather, instead of thinking outside the box, I would rather just think outside, and throw the box away,” Conway says. “Better yet, recycle it.” Conway has always gone about things differently, and his outdoor escapades and appreciation for nature began at an early age. Both his parents were extremely adept in the woods. Born in 1961, he grew up in Gastonia, where just outside the backdoor of his family’s suburban house was an old-growth forest. Extraordinary feats of a young Conway were described in the open-

A younger Eustace Conway (left) in buckskin holds an axe. This picture was taken among the days when he lived 17 consecutive years in a teepee. Campers at the preserve taste honey straight from the hive. In an age of video games, computers and smart phones, Turtle Island Preserve offers trees, bugs, sunrises and more. Photos courtesy of Turtle Island Preserve

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ing lines of Elizabeth Gilbert’s skinned a dead rabbit – some fascinating 2002 biography, The roadkill that he’d found on Last American Man: the way to campus. As the out“By the time Eustace Conlandish new kid on the block, way was 7 years old, he could he unsurprisingly became throw a knife accurately enough somewhat of a local celebrity to nail a chipmunk to a tree. By – the media adored him, as the time he was 10, he could hit did many of the teachers and a running squirrel at fifty feet students. And so did the older with a bow and arrow. When locals, many of whom rememhe turned 12, he went out into bered the days before electricthe woods, alone and emptyity and indoor plumbing arhanded, built himself a shelter, rived in the mountains. and survived off the land for a When Conway was 18, week. When he turned 17, he he paddled more than 1,000 moved out of his family’s home miles on the turbulent MisChickens, like the rooster above, and horses, like the one on altogether and headed to the sissippi River in a handmade the following page, are practical animals that are prevalent on mountains, where he lived in a wooden canoe. The following the farm. Below is just one of the many buildings that Conway teepee of his own design, made year, he hiked the entire Appafire by rubbing two sticks tolachian Trail. During that hike, and staff built by hand using traditional methods such as a gether, bathed in icy streams and he nearly starved to death. Afrock foundation and hand-split wooden shingles. dressed in the skins of the aniter two weeks of hunger, he mals he had hunted and eaten.” killed a porcupine, and out For the next 17 years, Conof respect for the creature, he way lived in a teepee, and one made a porcupine-bristle hairof the reasons he preferred a brush from its tail. In his midteepee was that it was circu20s, he lived with the Mayans lar and more connected to the in a remote village of the Guanatural world; it wasn’t a box temalan jungle to learn ancient locking himself out and closing ways of the primitive peoples, himself off both physically and and in the mid-90s, he set a mentally from the surroundworld record for coast-to-coast ing world. “The teepee doesn’t horseback travel by trotting have locks. None of these from the Atlantic to the Pacific doors [to the buildings on the Ocean in 103 days. preserve] have locks. I’ve never Several years before that lived in a home with locks. I cross-country horseback excurhave a truck. There’s a key sion, though, Conway, found sitting in the ignition. When I the land in Triplett that would go to Boone, I leave the key in become Turtle Island Preserve. the ignition and the doors unIn 1987, he purchased his first locked,” Conway says. “I live land parcel; weeks later, his in a different world. The world ya’ll live in, the world the build- first campers arrived, an ASU class of Professor Harvard Ayer’s; ing code supports is a sad world. It’s not a refuge for creativity and a vision, years in the making, was on its path to fruition. nor is it meaningfully connected with the natural world.” “When I was a child, I saw America was straying from a lot of During college, Conway stood out like a sore thumb, wearing important values and I decided I would dedicate my life towards buckskin and living in his teepee atop Howard’s Creek in Boone. making the world a healthier place. My grandfather directed me On the first day of classes during his initial semester at Appalachian to lead a life of service to my community, so as a teenager, I startState University, he stood before his archeology classmates and ed coming up with a formula on how I could influence the world Februar y / March 2013

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When I was a child, I saw America was straying from a lot of important values and I decided I would dedicate my life towards making the world a healthier place,

– Eustace Conway and make people have a more meaningful life and healthier life,” Conway says. “This is what I came up with. I crystallized a vision in my late teens and started working passionately towards it.” Conway estimates thousands of campers come through each year. Usually – when not embroiled in a battle with the local authorities – there are weekend- and weeklong camps for fathers and sons, different age groups of boys and girls, clubs, schools, families and adults throughout the summer and other times of year. Specialty camps for trades such as blacksmithing exist as well. For the past 20 autumns, the Durham Academy has sent its 9th-grade class to experience Turtle Island, and its Director of Programs Dave Gould wrote that kids felt

empowered by the preserve in a note to educators considering visiting Turtle Island: “Over the years, the Turtle Island program has become legendary amongst our students. Before they go, they think they cannot deal with an outdoor bathroom, eat primarily organic food cooked over woodstoves, sleep in a tipi, swim in a cold mountain stream, or successfully complete a night hike without a flashlight. They wonder if they can learn to make a fire without matches, cook bread in a makeshift outdoor oven, carve their own eating utensils, track a deer, and make stone age jewelry from rocks they find in a stream. They resist not wearing a watch, taking a shower every morning, rising in near darkness to meditate as the sun comes over the

hills surrounding Turtle Island. Of course they then do all of these things.” In an age where kids – and adults – spend more time staring at video games, computers and smart phones than they do trees, bugs and sunrises, Conway has a simple goal for those visiting the preserve: “I just want 99 percent of visitors to spend 99 percent of their time outdoors. We want to be where we can see the stars and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. Basically, we’re just trying to get people back to their natural roots.” For those who are mature and relish a hard day’s work, Conway’s preserve offers a similar, albeit, alternative experience. A two-week immersive work-study “in everything to do with chainsaw use and logging” and 14-month internships for those

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The world ya’ll live in, the world the building code supports is a sad world. It’s not a refuge for creativity.

– Eustace Conway

Ever since he was a young boy, Eustace has been quite the adventurer. In his college days, he paddled the turbulent Mississippi River in a homemade wooden canoe, among other adventures around the world.

aged 25 to 100 years old are just two advertised programs on the preserve’s website. Fifteen years ago, the success rate for interns used to be terribly low –upwards of 85 percent – until Conway began screening applicants. Plus, Conway said he has learned how to interact more positively with people since then. Some of that initial attrition rate had to do with incompetent workers or romantics who didn’t understand the value of hard work or look past the inconvenient reality of a primitive lifestyle. Today that attrition rate, much improved, stands at 15 percent.

Photo courtesy of Turtle Island Preserve

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Other unsuccessful apprentices, though, elevated him to a god-like status and were disappointed when Conway didn’t offer enough quality time or affection. In Gilbert’s book, one side of Conway was portrayed as being tyrannical, unforgiving and disappointed by those around him. Hell, even his own brother Walton ripped him in the book, saying, “God, wouldn’t it be great to have a brother with all the skills and interests of Eustace, but who was humble, too?” And in an interview to promote the book, Gilbert said, “Most people who deal with Conway come away with

Conway is a charismatic and articulate character, one who is capable of aptivating crowds – whether young or old – when he speaks. Very driven and full of gumption, he works like a horse, too.


one of two impressions – either he’s a largerthan-life hero, or he’s a narcissistic fraud.” Though, listening to him talk and watching him work, one sees, hears and feels his genuine enthusiasm for and his eager pursuit of a lifestyle that is nothing but down to earth. As for his troubles with the local governmental authorities, it may have been his unyielding personality initially leading authorities to scope out Turtle Island. It was an anonymous neighbor who alerted the agency about the unpermitted buildings, and it was someone who had to have been extremely familiar with the terrain of Turtle Island to later send a detailed map locating trail networks and structures on the 1,000-acre property. So far he’s reached out to the N.C. Building Code Council to seek an exemption for traditional and/or primitive buildings. The council’s members expressed support but suggested he seek the assistance of state legislators, who would be able to pass a bill or law in Conway’s favor, if it chose to do so, in a much quicker manner. He’s already met with N.C. Sen. Dan Soucek, a conservative, who was very intrigued with his sustainable lifestyle and the issue of personal property rights. It’s possible that Soucek will go to bat for Conway, yet time will only tell. On that cloudy day in December, rain drops began falling on the compost pile and on Conway and on the handful of reporters who made the trek through time to the backwoods property, over the narrow, bumpy, winding driveway and past the sign leading up to the entrance that reads: “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem.” On that day, Conway was pleading his case to journalists from across the state, hoping word of his plight would spread far and wide. After an hour or two of answering questions and talking about outhouses, compost piles, building permits and the “illusion of American freedom,” Conway was asked if he would be willing to go to jail for all of the pending infractions to save the authenticity of Turtle Island Preserve. He replied, unequivocally, “I would be willing to die for this.” For more info about Turtle Island Preserve, click to www.turtleislandpreserve.com. 

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HC Magazine February 2013  

February/March Issue ofH igh Country Magazine

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