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Apologies to Our Profession

By Cindy Neal Carpenter

The practice of personal interpretation takes practice. Although as of a few months ago I am no longer a wage earning interpreter, I am compelled to keep practicing implementing the principles and best practices of our profession. So I now happily volunteer as a trail guide at my former workplace and support the site’s interpretive efforts by researching archives and fact checking, activities I didn’t have much time to do when employed.

Currently I have committed to leading tours for organized groups with reservations, as I did while working. I have long felt that the greater challenge for a guide is to engage a group of drop-in, everyday visitors whose only common ground may be curiosity about the site. Since it has been common practice through most of my career for this to fall on volunteers rather than professional interpreters, I wonder, would I be contributing to this tendency, too often fallen to due to budget challenges? Would I threaten NAI’s mission of advancing interpretation as a profession?

I recently experienced a walk in a very special place that is helping me answer this question. It was led by someone who obviously had been given no orientation to basics of good guiding. I knew that the site’s naturalist whose inspiring walks I had attended in the past had a rare weekend off, but I decided to attend anyway. It became immediately obvious that this employee was somehow “stuck” with this assignment- no welcome, no introduction- I decided not to ask his name just to see if he would ever give it and he didn’t- no information on the distance and time. With a “let’s go!” he set a fast pace up the trail to the mountaintop destination and view.

Early in what felt like a forced march, a woman asked for the name of a plant which our leader admitted not knowing. I decided to answer to the group, and as he turned and continued up the trail, crushed the aromatic leaf for her to sniff and answered another question before we too, hurried to catch up.  Once at the destination our leader couldn’t give the answer to the name of the mountain range we were in and the view before us, and had to borrow someone’s trail map to give directions to someone passing by. It took all I had to refrain from jumping in. Upon departure he offered no thank you to the group for attending, he just hurried off. I left feeling like we had inconvenienced him, though no one else seemed bothered by this. The resource and the guests deserved better. And unlike Helena Uber-Wamble a couple blogs ago, I didn’t tell him about NAI. There was no opportunity, though I may write the naturalist and ask him to please never get married again on a weekend I am there.

This experience confirmed to me that in my “retirement” I need to interpret, to coach, to train when opportunities arise. I had supervisors who invested in my interpretation training. In 1998, three years before NAI launched the CIG program, and some 18 years into my interpretation work, I experienced Robert Fudge’s introduction to the Interpretive Equation through his part-mad professor-part Groucho Marx Dr. Dewey Domore character, and David Larsen’s amazing session in Harper’s Ferry on Tangibles, Intangibles and Universal Concepts. I certainly stand on the shoulders of these and other giants, including some in our Sunny Southeast Region.

So I volunteer, with apologies to our profession, and the sincerest of intentions.

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Hope in a Moon Tree

by Cindy Neal Carpenter

Shannon's Moon Tree

Interpreter Shannon Ballard Welch’s artistic rendering of the Cradle of Forestry’s Moon Sycamore.

We have past the year’s longest night, and though longer days are difficult for us to discern, it won’t be long before nature does. It is time to be thankful for the gifts of the old year, let go of what is not helpful, and welcome in the new. Symbols of a New Year’s fresh beginnings can be found by those who, like me and most interpreters, tend to find intangible meanings in tangible things. The recent sight of a lone American sycamore with branches decked all over with seed balls is one of those symbols. This is no ordinary sycamore. This is a rare Moon Tree, sprung from a space traveling seed that went where no tree seed had gone before.

I love this tree at the Cradle of Forestry in America, and its little known story. It is one of some 50 known surviving trees that went to the moon as seeds on the Apollo 14 mission in February, 1971. Astronaut Stuart Roosa loved the outdoors and had worked for the USDA Forest Service as a smokejumper before becoming a test pilot and astronaut. Stan Krugman, then Forest Service Staff Director for Forest Genetics Research, gave him redwood, loblolly pine, sycamore, Douglas fir, and sweetgum seeds as part of a NASA/USFS project to study the effects of radiation and weightlessness on seed germination and seedling growth. So Roosa gladly included the 400-500 tree seeds in his Personal Preference Kit, a small pouch Apollo astronauts were allowed to fill with their special possessions.

Apollo and Roosa

Astronaut Stuart Roosa  orbited the moon in 1971 with tree seeds as companions.

Roosa and the tree seeds orbited the moon above our pretty blue planet 34 times on board the command module Kitty Hawk as Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the lunar surface and Shepard famously hit golf balls. Once back on Earth, the seed canisters burst open during decontamination procedures, and the seeds were feared to be no longer viable.  Surprisingly, nearly all germinated successfully, and after a few years the Forest Service had grown 420-450 seedlings. Research showed no difference in growth between the space travelers and their earthbound genetic twins.


Honoring Earth's Green World of Trees

A ceremony program design included an inspiring slogan and mission logo featuring a smokejumper’s parachute and space capsule.

The Moon Trees’ next journeys were to forestry organizations and public sites around the world, planted between 1975 and 1976 as part of the United States’ Bicentennial celebration.  The Cradle of Forestry’s Moon Tree was planted in the fall of 1976 by Karl Oedekoven, then Minister of Forestry for the Federal Republic of Germany. This was appropriate since the Cradle is the home of America’s first forestry school, founded in 1898 by German forester and humanitarian Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck. President Gerald Ford sent telegrams to planting ceremonies, writing that each small tree was “a fitting tribute to our national space program which has brought out the best of American patriotism, dedication and determination to succeed.”

According to the NASA Moon Tree website, 16 Moon Trees survive in our Sunny Southeast Region. At least 10 second generation Moon Trees also grow in our region. Several years ago I noticed seeds from the Cradle’s tree, but it didn’t occur to me to collect them. I’ve felt I had missed my chance. And now, here they hang against the endless sky, lovely brown seed balls on a bare-leaved American sycamore. I have hope now this symbol of wonder, devotion and history can survive, especially as our Moon Tree declines.

Moon tree (2)

Hidden by leaves until recently, the Cradle’s Moon Tree’s “buttonballs” hold hope for a new generation.

At second-generation Moon Tree planting ceremonies, Stuart Roosa’s grown children expressed hope the trees encourage children to reach for the stars. When interpreting the Cradle of Forestry’s Moon Tree I like to encourage curiosity since we are learning so much about our solar system and our universe, yet there is still so much to learn about our forests and their care. As I anticipate a New Year, reflect on the world today, and ponder the potential and meaning in a Moon Tree seed, I also ponder the relevance of President Ford’s telegrams’ concluding sentence: “May this young tree renew our deep-rooted faith in the ideals of our Founding Fathers and may it inspire us to strive for the kind of growth that benefits our own citizens and all mankind.”

Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to All.

(Sources: NASA Moon Tree website; Cradle of Forestry in America site files; Forest History Society archives)

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Interpretation Broadens Horizons

Interpretation Broadens Horizons

By Cindy Carpenter

It’s 4 a.m. on a mid-June morning. Already sunshine and a fresh breeze stream through my hotel room’s open windows. A cuckoo calls repeatedly from the woods nearby, but I don’t mind being awakened this way. I am in Belarus, on assignment with the US Forest Service’s International Programs to teach NAI interpretation principles to college students, employees from national parks, reserves, and travel agencies, and independent guides from around this eastern European country.  Another Forest Service CIT and I engaged 18 English speakers in the 4-day CIG workshop, followed by a three day non-certification workshop for 16 Russian speakers, working through translators. Our host was the Belarusian Association of Agro- and Ecotourism “Country Escape,” a non-profit, nongovernmental organization working to help rural economies through tourism.

We were moved by the passion participants in both workshops conveyed for their country and culture in discussions and in their presentations. Topics for the 10-minute CIG presentations included traditional women’s costumes, stork conservation, illiteracy, the endangered Belarusian language, rural life, a historic castle and church, hiking safety, mushroom gathering, traditional festivals, and river and biodiversity protection. Can you imagine the challenge of presenting in a language not your native one, let alone tackling the literature review? Sam Ham’s Interpretation- Making a Difference on Purpose is the only CIG book translated into Russian, the language most common in Belarus.

Participants in the non-CIG course worked in small inter-generational groups to develop plans for four multi-day tours, including interpretive themes and experiences along the way. One revolved around the theme “landscapes create history,” others on wellness, birding, and clean air and water. A challenge that came out of these is the unpredictable nature of traffic and the timing of public transportation across Belarus.

The workshop participants’ patriotism became particular poignant for me when I compared the context of their lives with mine. Those closest to my age had parents who lived through World War II which devastated Belarus. They experienced life under communism when part of the Soviet Union, the fear created by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and Belarus independence in 1991. Their presentations celebrated their nation.

The workshops took place on the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve northeast of Minsk, the nation’s capital and most populated city. Forests, meadows and bogs provide habitat for diverse life that includes what is considered Europe’s “Big Four” – elk, moose, brown bear and bison, and a number of rare species. One night the sounds of wolves flowed into my room.  Reserve naturalists guided both classes along a fascinating ecology trail with signage along the way identifying flora and fauna and interpreting natural processes, most in Russian with attractive artwork, sometimes with cartoons. On two evenings I enjoyed music gatherings and fondly recall the shared enthusiasm with which the two generations of workshop participants sang traditional folksongs.

Belarus tourism emphasizes personal interpretation. The experienced guides had previous training in a European model and know their subjects well. Mythology is often used to convey ecological concepts and attract interest. However, the power of a strong theme and the concept that audiences make their own meanings were new to them to put into practice.

Heritage interpretation certainly crosses many boundaries- age, culture, national, ecological. Like travel, it broadens one’s horizons.  I learned more and was inspired more than I can convey by the people I met, their wonderful work in the workshops, and conversations outside class. I hope that through applying interpretive best practices and creativity, everyone I met can make the facts matter to their audiences, enhance the context of their fascinating stories, inspire protection of their special places, and be, as I am, continually enriched by Interpretation.


Workshop participant Sviatlana Pametska explains features of an interpretive sign along an ecology trail on the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve.

Russian speakers (5)

Katsiaryna Bernatskaya and Anastasiya Rashetnikava share aspects of the ecotour plan that they designed.


“Bog Man” teaches about life in these unique habitats protected on the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve.

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Be the Critter Cam

By Cindy Carpenter

What a wonderful feeling it is when we discover something new and exciting, especially in a familiar place. Recently that happened to me in my own backyard, thanks to a trail camera. My husband Wade and I live on a wooded lot in lovely Transylvania County, North Carolina.  A few birthdays ago I gave Wade a trail camera, which he moves around from time to time. The camera has captured many a crow, deer, squirrel, occasional opossum, coyote, raccoon, even a bear’s butt. But never has this discovery tool done its job better than this spring, photographing activity around our property’s most popular critter hole.

This particular burrow is along a narrow trail on a steep slope, one side dropping to a rhododendron thicket and spring, the upper side shaded by mountain laurel. A buried rock supports the entrance’s ceiling.  Often the hole is covered with leaves, but when we notice it open we wonder what is in there. The first year’s camera photos revealed an opossum as occupant. Every animal that passed- a deer, raccoon, coyote, a cat- all stopped to sniff. So did I, and the smell coming out was horrible then.

A rather horrible cry came out of Wade a couple weeks ago while he was working on his laptop. I wondered for an instant what bad news had been sent, when he excitedly exclaimed “Baby foxes!! We have baby foxes in the critter hole!!” He was downloading nearly a week of photos from the trail camera. Over 3,000 of the motion-activated, mostly out- of- focus images revealed the activities of four baby gray foxes and their mother.





Most of the photos were of the kits playing, rolling around each other in front of the hole (no wonder the trail was hardened there and leaf free), nipping each other’s ears, playing with twigs. Now and then the mother brought food- large eggs held gently in her mouth (turkey?), unidentified shapes, one that appeared to show a white squirrel’s tail hanging out of her mouth. A male fox stopped by occasionally, too.  Stamped dates and times showed the family outside the burrow when I’d be drinking my morning tea at 6:00 a.m., getting ready for bed around 10:00 p.m. and almost any hour, day or night.

Now that I know the fox family is there, I listen for unfamiliar sounds. Last week, about 6:00 p.m., I was outside at the right time to hear an odd “yip yip” and rustling in the woods. I grabbed binoculars and walked down the yard toward the woods in time to pick up motion. Two kits walked across a log and nestled under a rhododendron. I watched them chew twigs and play with each other for several minutes. Soon a sharp “chi-chi” sound got their attention, and off they trotted, presumably to their mother.

A few mornings later while getting ready for work while the light was still dusky I happened to peer out a window at the perfect time to see the adult walking down the driveway. I moved my arm and she saw me. We locked stares; she seemed confused about what to do, then disappeared into the woods.  What an exciting way to start a day!

Saturday evening while closing our vegetable garden gate, I heard a loud sound I had never heard before, sharper and louder than a deer snort, was it a bear? Startled, I answered loudly with my best imitation and turned to the direction of the sound. In the last bit of light I could make out the shape of an adult fox walking up the driveway, looking back toward me. As I headed inside the house gently vocalizing my assurances to her, she barked several more times, now out of sight. I was so glad to once again be at the right place at the right time to see her.

Focused on plants, birds and insects in my nature explorations, I haven’t paid much attention to mammals. Our trail camera, this little window to the world of a growing fox family and the devoted, hard working mother who risks her life to feed it, is transforming my perspective of my own backyard.  It reveals the unseen and provokes new ponderings. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our interpretive efforts were as effective as a critter cam?

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BioBlitz Bliss

BioBlitz Bliss by Cindy Carpenter

This past weekend we held the first ever and long awaited bioblitz at the Cradle of Forestry in America, Pisgah National Forest. The Pink Beds BioBlitz, named for a high elevation valley that, as folklore goes, settlers named long ago for flowers, was a great success. This success was not due to the number of participants or the number of species recorded, but that it happened at all.

I have been intrigued with the concept of bioblitzes since reading an article in an NAI Nature Center Administrators section newsletter a decade ago. It described engaging scientists and other experts in an all-taxa kind of survey over a 24-hour period. This year timing and capacity aligned grant funds from the US Forest Service recreation program and the energy of an imaginative co-worker, Courtney Long. Courtney dealt with many moving pieces while leading the effort to engage youth and adults alike in observing nature and learning about a southern Appalachian forest ecosystem while spending time on their public lands.

The Pink Beds picnic area served as the center of operations for the bioblitz. Here participants visited booths staffed with specialists on fungi and bryophytes. They learned about the hemlock woolly adelgid threatening biodiversity. They browsed a vast selection of field guides at an identification assistance booth. They learned about the iNaturalist app, a tool for recording findings and getting help with species identification, and won items in raffles to help them explore the world around them.

During the Pink Beds BioBlitz forest visitors joined guided walks and activities at selected locations along a trail from the picnic area. An all-species guided walk was led by volunteers from the Blue Ridge Naturalists. Other walks and searches focused on birds, reptiles and amphibians, trees and shrubs, aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish. The leaders of these experiences humbly conveyed their passion, knowledge and love of learning about the natural world, and their enthusiasm was contagious. They recorded results on a large white board visible to all attendees.

Surprises were the number of salamander species found on a single stump during a night time exploration. A highlight for me was witnessing in late afternoon light a bat catch insects active over a stream and dipping for a drink on the wing.

This first bioblitz in the Pisgah National Forest showed that natural resource partners and specialists welcome the opportunity to interact with the public and engage them in discovery and discussion. Although we were prepared for many more participants than the approximately 60 who attended, Courtney’s plans, equipment purchases and networking laid the groundwork for future endeavors to engage the public in nature education.
Time invested in nature study is time well spent, and technology tools common today add an entertaining and meaningful dimension that did not exist a decade ago. From our public lands to our backyards it is fun to learn and share the diversity of life around us every day. Bioblitz bliss!

Stream explorers observe the behavior and characteristics of aquatic invertebrates during the Pink Beds BioBlitz in the Pisgah National Forest.

Stream explorers observe the behavior and characteristics of aquatic invertebrates during the Pink Beds BioBlitz in the Pisgah National Forest.

Nature enthusiasts learn and share along the "all species" walk during the Pink Beds BioBlitz this past weekend.

Nature enthusiasts learn and share along the “all species” walk during the Pink Beds BioBlitz this past weekend.

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Outside Perspectives

Outside Perspectives by Cindy Carpenter

In April, after months of sporadic communication, a production crew from Mexico came to my site, the Cradle of Forestry in America, to interview me and film for a documentary. I had carefully prepared answers to questions sent to me a week ahead and had them approved by my agency. I had reminded their contact in the United States to apply for a permit to film on the Pisgah National Forest several times since the first communication the previous October.  I had altered my schedule, including vacation time, around filming dates that kept changing. But I had not prepared myself for how their project, The American Miracle, would enrich my perspective on the Cradle of Forestry’s significance.

The film crew consisted of five talented professionals who travel the world documenting stories for Televisa’s Por el Planeta. They are passionate about their work, bringing to the masses special places and cultures and issues affecting them. The American Miracle project traces our nation’s conservation story that led to the establishment of our National Park and National Forest systems and the preservation of species and ecosystems through the will of its citizens and government. They hope the documentary will be an object lesson for places and natural resources around the world they have seen degraded over the years through lack of management and provision for people who are often just trying to survive.

As interpreters we are always learning from our audiences. This experience energized in my mind the relevance of my site and its mission. I don’t know how many seconds of my interview will make the final cut. I was disappointed in my performance despite preparation, experiencing a sudden nervousness while being filmed and uncomfortable in bright, hot sunshine. The American Miracle is expected to be broadcast on Univision in late summer. I hope it accomplishes what the writers intend. For me, it gave me a patriotic feeling, as well as an enhanced perspective of the Cradle of Forestry’s conservation story. It also reminded me that in addition to reviewing the facts relevant to a place, valuing and pondering the perspectives of minds other than my own will make me a better interpreter.

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Speaking Specifically

by Cindy Carpenter

Sometimes in frontline interpretation, what we convey to our audiences is not what we intend. I’m always grateful for a visitor’s question during or after a program that gives me the opportunity to correct or clarify a take-away message. Being aware of how a sentence can be misconstrued has helped me communicate more concisely.  Speaking specifically takes practice. It also requires questioning on the interpreter’s part, and research that can separate folklore from fact.

I’ll give a specific example. Congress in 1968 established my interpretive site in the Pisgah National Forest as the Cradle of Forestry in America. A unique combination of forestry firsts occurred here. This is where forestry was first practiced in America, where America’s first forestry school was founded, and was the first tract purchased under the 1911 Week’s Law for a National Forest. Orientation materials and the first tour guides I spoke with made the point that poor logging and farming practices resulted in worn out land that needed a trained forester’s hand.

While there is truth in this broad brush approach to the site’s history, specifics reflect a true historical integrity.  I’ll address the statement about the condition of the land. To do so I need to give you a bit more history. Today’s 6,500 acres designated as the Cradle of Forestry in America became part of George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate when he purchased them with about 100,000 more acres in 1895. He named the vast tract Pisgah Forest. As he had done with his 7,000 acre Biltmore Forest near Asheville, North Carolina in 1892, he placed Pisgah Forest under the care of a forester and a regular system of forest management. And this is where a difference comes in.

Much of Biltmore Forest, close to the city of Asheville and Vanderbilt’s Biltmore House, had worn out soils and needed care while holding potential for beauty and profit. Eroded slopes needed healthy young trees. Overgrown farmland could be thinned to provide Asheville with firewood while making room for a thriving, natural forest stand. But miles to the southwest, Pisgah Forest was in pretty good shape. Subsistence farms dotted the valleys, creating edges even the first foresters understood as important on a landscape. Most mountain slopes held high quality timber and beautiful forest stands. Simply making this distinction in geographical areas paints an accurate picture of the historical landscape and the forester’s work.

I know there have been times my words did not convey compellingly enough the significance of my site’s stories. Continued study and critical thinking, from our sites’ earliest interpretive plans to new perspectives gained, helps us organize program content with specifics and deliver a richer visitor experience.

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Lessons from Residents and Migrants

I often find symbolism in nature. Bird watching offers an abundance of it, such as the devotion of cardinal pairs to each other and the way crows clean up the parking lot like clockwork near closing time. The latest symbolism I’ve found is in the fall warbler migration.

In recent years when August arrives I’ve learned to pay attention to the excited chips of flitting titmice, chickadees and wrens. The sounds make me pause from household chores to look out a window at the movement in the bushes right outside. The first time it happened I was one foot away, with a window in between, from a male redstart, black and orange tail fanned, foraging where a titmouse had been moments before in a sparsely branched Carolina rhododendron. What a view! No binoculars required. Another time the commotion of locals caused me to pause and look toward the garden at the perfect moment to see the gift of a black throated blue warbler pair. I concluded that the resident birds must be scolding and bothered by this intrusion and possible competition for food.

This year’s migration has changed my perspective. Savvy now at how high activity among resident birds can reveal migrants, again excited chips from open windows called me away from chores and outside with my binoculars. Chickadees were bugging among the shrubs at the woods’ edge, then among them and behind as they moved along, something different. To my delight I was treated to what, back with my books, I concluded were six black throated green warblers, foraging low in the bushes.

A few days later, August 17 according to my journal, I was making my bed at the right time to again hear and see a titmouse foraging in that same rhododendron out my bedroom window, one foot away, this time followed by a worm-eating warbler. August 22, same rhododendron, same titmouse? I don’t know, but there were two worm-eating warblers, foraging away, the titmouse with them briefly and then moving on, and a different warbler among them my non-expert skill couldn’t verify, but looked to be an immature pine warbler.

That day after witnessing this bird behavior I mused that, maybe rather than complaining that the migrants are consuming their food sources, maybe the residents are actually guiding the migrants to what will keep them alive and sustain them during their long, perilous journey. Is there a lesson here for us humans?

Cindy Carpenter

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A Place, a Name, a Reason

2015 mountain laurelby Cindy Carpenter

Every place has its story, its history. I enjoy knowing, though often can just imagine, what a place looked like in the past and what may have happened there. Place names often tell us. Sometimes they tell us what we’ve lost, such as a scene I long enjoyed while driving to town. A lovely, little stone house stood amid a tidy yard at the end of a long driveway flanked by wildflower fields. Now the house is gone, replaced by half a dozen new homes, the driveway now named “Stone House Road.” I expect everyone sees subdivisions or shopping centers named for what used to be there.

I’ve been thinking about the name of the valley where my interpretive center was built. It has quite a history as all places do, part known, part mystery. Archeologists found evidence of hearths, arrowheads and spearheads that span 5,000 years of human history. Records document settlers living in this relatively flat place in North Carolina’s mountains since the late 1700’s. They grazed cattle and raised families on subsistence farms dotting the 4-mile long valley, depending on its timber, soil and streams. They built a little schoolhouse on its southwest end.  A century later the valley was owned by George W. Vanderbilt and part of the over 100,000-acre Biltmore Estate. From 1898 to 1909 it was the outdoor practical classroom of America’s first forestry school.  So how did it get the name “Pink Beds?”

Visitors often ask this question. My answer is sometimes simple. According to a historian, “pink” is a general Anglo-Saxon word for flowers, and the valley was settled by folks of this ancestry. I don’t always stop there though, because the answer is really more complicated.

In their memoirs Vanderbilt’s two foresters wrote the name came from the abundant mountain laurel and rhododendron blooms. They likely learned this from locals in the 1890s, but maybe they both deduced that by observing the landscape. They must have not been aware of an earlier writing that credits a wildflower, downy phlox, said to have bloomed in such profusion people ventured from surrounding towns to enjoy their beauty during an era when travel was challenging. An expert on Southern Appalachian ecology and flora trusts the phlox story. He would even argue against the mountain laurel and rhododendron- “they don’t grow in beds….” Since I respect him greatly, I trust the phlox story, too, even though today I see only patches along roadsides since the forest has long reclaimed the farms.

These past few weeks though I believe the foresters’ accounts. The mountain laurel blooms have been so abundant, so full, so unbelievably beautiful that I can see how they could have inspired the name “Pink Beds.” I have been walking around in awe, snapping photo after photo, not being able to get enough of a flowery phenomenon I have never experienced, and neither have locals living here longer than my 25 plus years.

So flowers it is, despite a geologist who told me “Pink Beds” comes from the rosy quartz found here (I haven’t seen it here) and the hydrologist who claimed the name is actually from the numerous bogs the settlers called “sinks” where a rare lily, the swamp pink, blooms. Ahh…another flower.

No matter what the true origin, Pink Beds is an old romantic name for a beautiful place that captures the imagination today. Maybe where you live or work names do the same. Places with family names and land features long recognized all enrich our stories. Now if I can learn how a gap in a ridge above the Pink Beds changed from Chubb Gap shown on old maps to today’s Club Gap…

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A Match of Minds, Medium and Messages

Synchronicity is surprising. Last week in my electronic files I happened upon a pdf of El Yunque National Forest’s 2009 Interpretive and Conservation Education Master Plan. It is a very impressive document that enhanced my desire to update the interpretive plan for my site. Since my heart is with my Sunny Southeast tribe of interpreters in Puerto Rico, I checked out the El Yunque National Forest (EYNF) public website ( and stumbled upon another excellent document called Tradewinds Talk. This e-newsletter, targeting outfitters and guides permitted to operate on the EYNF, is an example of an effort to implement the plan.  What awesome interpretive thinkers the El Yunque has!

The Forest’s Visitor Services and Enjoyment Management Team wrote and published Tradewinds Talk. What a wonderful name for a recreation oriented work group! The team created the newsletter to strengthen two-way communication between the Forest Service and its commercial recreation partners. It is a platform to communicate Forest happenings and news and for sharing within the outfitter-guide community. The attractive design includes lovely photographs and inspiring quotes. The content conveys interpretive messages identified in the Interpretive and Conservation Education Master Plan.

Written and released in 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, it includes an article by a frontline interpreter and CIT about Wilderness in general and the unique and diverse El Toro Wilderness on the El Yunque. A law enforcement officer provides safety tips. The association that manages gift shops on the Forest and a food service concessionaire wrote about new items the outfitter-guide companies’ clients may be interested in. Leave-No-Trace is emphasized. The companies are encouraged to attend public meetings on the EYNF’s forest land management plan revision. There is even a section on recommended reading resources for interpretation, fitting for a Forest that values CIG certification and recognizes that commercial tour leaders are potential extensions of their small interpretive staff.

I look forward to learning how Tradewinds Talk was received and if there will be future issues. The newsletter is in perfect sync with needs and goals identified in the interpretive plan with the desired outcomes of enjoyment, appreciation and stewardship of the amazing El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. I trust that the Forest will not mind me providing the link: Maybe this team-oriented outreach effort will synchronize with yours.


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