Oct 072011

2012 Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference
New Dates & Location

Search & Criteria

It seemed we would never find the “right” place, and yet we just couldn’t give up!  Weeks we spent on our site search in 2010, to no avail.  And weeks again since we got home from the 2011 conference, filled with long days that stretched late into our river canyon nights.  Like plant minded and rewilded Goldilockses, we kept coming upon places that were too small or too large, too hippie-dippy New Age or else fancy-pants conservative, too urban or too remote, too short on facilities or way too damn many buildings.  Sedona was too prissy, the Chiracahua Mountains too hot and sparse.  Some too high of elevation, others too dry.  Some possible venues would clearly be too noisy and distracting, others like Oak Creek wouldn’t let us have live music over a certain decibel.  The way cool town of Telluride kept bringing their prices down until we actually could have afforded it there, but the your flights to Montrose would have made it cost prohibitive for many of you. The attractive Shambhala Center, too, proved to be almost affordable for us, but they wanted a guarantee that 80% of our attendees would rent pricey lodging from them… when, in fact, close to 50% of those attracted to this decidedly folk herbalism conference need free or inexpensive camping, often being either impoverished students, poorly paid community practitioners or free clinic volunteers who struggle to get enough money together to come.

And folk herbalists are nature lovers, even if you happen to live and work in a city, so any celebration of plants and practice would surely have to be in a natural location, not in a hotel with potted ferns being the only green.  Indeed, it would have to be within walking distance of nature trails or national forest swelling with plant life, and also have 5 or more classrooms clustered close to one another.  Sufficient tables and chairs would be needed, and this time there would have to be food tons better than the pitiful Ghost Ranch fare.  As kind as the responses were that we were getting from various entities, nothing seemed to meet all our needs.  And as much as anything, we were distressed to think about hosting TWHC anywhere besides the wild and magical Southwest.  Unfortunately, there just wasn’t anything.  Our teachers have long needed to know where and when, so they can schedule their year of classes and appearances.  Others are pleading to know, because their jobs require they put in for vacation time a year in advance.  The stress of indecision and numerous dead ends begins to effect our sleep and health, and for Kiva’s sake, if not my own, I reluctantly ask that she stop the incessant googling and help me pick from among the best of the known alternatives.

But that Kiva, she just wouldn’t give up.  And at last, an ideal place came into sight!  A 2 day trip with the rest of the family to see it, and it’s settled.  only a couple hundred miles over the hill from our Anima School and Sanctuary, the incredibly beautiful…

Our New Site: Coconino, Arizona

Our new site nests amidst the vast Coconino conifer forest, with absolutely incredible local plant diversity and forested mountains reflected in the surface of what’s called Mormon Lake, an alternately spreading and retracting marsh we found fairly ablaze with wildflower color.

A short walk away, the leaves of white barked Aspen clap like tiny castanets in what tastes like the freshest of breezes, and not too many miles distant are protected wilderness areas, Oak Creek’s natural rock-slide, dramatic volcanic formations, lush meadows inhabited by countless grazing elk, and hiking trails leading both higher or lower to the adjacent desert and alpine ecosystems.

And yet for all that, our site in the Coconino is still only a 3 hour drive from the Phoenix airport, the very cheapest of our regional airports to fly into, and serviced by shuttles!  Only 12 hours from Denver, for those choosing to drive from there.  And just 30 minutes south of the old fashioned town of Flagstaff.

It includes  every building we need for classes, without feeling either too Hyatt Regency or too bingo hall.  Clean and comfortable log cabins, with lower prices that nearly everyone can afford!  Both inexpensive camping with electrical outlets, and totally free camping sites!  A giant outdoor festival tent that we’ll use as a group dining area in the day, and as a dance hall when its time for our 2 exciting evening concerts.  And voluminous Town Hall built in the 1920’s, that will hold our Registration area and Healer’s Market tables, with a section of benches or couches for folks to use as a meeting and greeting area.

Believe it or not, unlike our last conference location, this new base for TWHC has a fully stocked country store right there, selling supplies and even fair-trade coffee.  It’s handicapped accessible.  Pets are allowed in its campgrounds and RV sites.  In addition, there are canoe rentals there, active land restoration projects, roaming buffalo, pony rides and even a petting zoo for the kids!

Kiva and Loba took Rhiannon with them on this search trip and she got to have her very first ever horse ride.

As if that’s not enough, on your way there you’ll go right past the world class Arboretum that we’re considering arranging a field trip to, abundant with examples of native and medicinal plant species.

All this, mind you, at prices that help keep TWHC – the signature folk herbalism event – potentially affordable to the majority of our diverse folk community.

The gentle lapping of the lake whispers, but in an enchanting voice we can’t help but hear.

A Natural Wonder

The Coconino is a 1.856-million acre (7,511 km2) national forest located in northern Arizona in the vicinity of Flagstaff. Originally established in 1898 as the “San Francisco Mountains National Forest Reserve”, the Coconino features diverse landscapes including deserts, pine forests, flatlands, mesas, alpine tundra and ancient volcanic fields and peaks. The forest contains all or parts of 10 designated Wilderness Areas. Its elevation ranges from 2,600’ (800 m) in the southern part of the forest near the Verde River, to 12,633’ (3,851 m) at the summit of Humphreys Peak, the highest point in the state of Arizona. Much of the forest is a high altitude plateau located in the midst of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in North America. The southern border of this plateau is the volcanically created Mogollon Rim, a nearly 400 mile (640 km) long escarpment running across central Arizona to the Anima Sanctuary in New Mexico, and also marks the southern boundary of what’s known as the Colorado Plateau.

The Coconino encompasses the largest portion of a great volcanic field, and in places is dotted with tree-covered cinder cones, lava flows, and underground lava tubes such as Lava River Cave. The Flagstaff District surrounds two national monuments, Walnut Canyon National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument the latter of which preserves the youngest cinder cone in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, Sunset Crater. Located in the southern portion of the Flagstaff District is Mormon Lake at 7,000’ elevation, the new site for the Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference.

Mormon Lake itself is a shallow, intermittent lake with an average depth of only 10 ft (3.0 m), the surface area of the lake is extremely volatile and fluctuates seasonally. When full, the lake has a surface area of about 12 square miles (31 million square meters), making it the largest natural lake in Arizona.  The name of the lake commemorates Mormon settlers who arrived here in the 1870s and founded several dairy farms in the area, before eventually picking up stakes and moving on. (With thanks to Wikipedia)

Old West Heritage

You can almost hear the soundtrack as you step closer to the Mormon Lake Lodge and its scattering of old log and clapboard buildings tucked against the trees, perhaps a minor chord instrumental with sparse but powerful guitar lines, a whistling of wind punctuated by a horse’s whinny or the distant crack of a wagon master’s whip a’la Rawhide, in what could be a psychedelic spaghetti western composition by the tweaked Spindrift or Ry Cooder.

Here you find authentic Wild West flavor, oddly tinged with evident ecological emphasis and an earthy tone befitting the working class more than the world traveler.  Antique fishing rods and frontiersman’s accouterments decorate walls branded by the very cowboys who built it, and once fiercely alive creatures stand mounted and stuffed with reflections of a transformed land in their glass eyes.  These animals, like so much of the main Lodge decor, are a legacy of man who loved these mountains, the writer who most helped establish the Western novel as what was then a new literary genre: Zane Grey, 1875-1935.

In his 60+ books, he presented the West as a moral battle ground featuring game changing choices, with characters facing great personal and regional changes.  A bundle of contradictions like the West itself, Grey was not only the killer of the inglorious mounts but also a proponent of animal and habitat conservation.  His outlawish heroes not only bucked convention, but the notion of civilization itself.  From his 1918 novel  The Roaring U.P. Trail, 1918:

“Slingerland hated the railroad, and he could not see as any of the engineers or builders did.  This old trapper had the vision of the Indian – that far-seeing eye cleared by distance and silence, and the force of the great, lonely hills. Progress was great, but nature unspoiled was greater.  If a race could not breed all stronger men, through its great movements, it might better not breed any, for the bad over-multiplied the good, and so their needs magnified into greed.  Slingerland saw many shining bands of steel across the plains and mountains, many stations and hamlets and cities, a growing and marvelous prosperity from timber, mines, farms, and in the distant end – a gutted West.”

To champion and perpetuate that West and its wild nature, was Grey’s personal as well as literary aim.  And the owners of the Lodge at Mormon Lake – Grey’s all time favorite hangout – make an effort to honor that legacy with ongoing conservation efforts.

An Ecological Ethos

Ecological work at the Lodge property include environmental education programs and hikes, and a regular community effort to clean up around the lake and improve Osprey habitat.  The parent company of Mormon Lake Lodge, Forever Resorts, runs Forever Earth which sends donations to environmental groups, engages in community partnership, land restoration projects, environmental education, and proactive initiatives to make their various operations more compatible with the local ecologies.  They’ve won literally hundreds of environmental stewardship awards across the country, as well as being a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Environmental Performance Track Program, the Green Hotel and Green Restaurant Associations and on and on.

It’s interesting to note that the Coconino, back when it was called the San Francisco Forest Preserve, was the first posting for the forester who would later become known as the father of the modern land ethic, Aldo Leopold.

Coconino Plant Diversity

Examples you might encounter include Wild Rose, Redroot, Ponderosa Pine, Aspen, Dandelion, Mallow, Goldenrod, Evening Primrose, Geranium, Plantain, Usnea, Yarrow, Wild Buckwheat, Iris, Blackberry, Douglas Fir, Arnica, Yellow Dock, False Solomon’s Seal, Wild Oats, Butterflyweed/Pleurisy Root, Gumweed, Wild Tarragon, Sagebrush, Seepwillow, and Yerba del Lobo/Owl’s Claws to name a few!

TWHC guests are encouraged to hike one of the many picturesque trails such as the Lyle/Mormon Lakes Trail, a 3.3 mile rise from 10,700’ to a full 12,000’winding through multiple kinds of habitat, esteemed by botanists and plant lovers far and wide.

300 of even the most sensitive herbalists could have a major impact on local populations of sensitive plants, so we ask that you do little or no harvesting in the region of the event.

Before coming, check out the annotated list of Northern Arizona Vascular Plants.

2012 TWHC Dates!: September 13th-16th

…are the dates for the next Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference, late enough to beat the heat and avoid overlapping other events, early enough to still boast a plethora or blossoming plants, after when the monsoons have usually stopped and prior to the usual first frost.

Spread The Word

Early-Sprout Discount Registration will open December 1st.  Posters will shortly be available free for distribution and hanging in your schools and stores, and it is hugely helpful when you forward the announcements, blog about the conference and tell encourage your friends.

The Tribe’s Alive!

(Please do re-post, forward and share this announcement)

  3 Responses to “Amazing New Site for the 2012 TWHC!”

  1. Beautiful scenery!

  2. I was practically raised in this area and come from a long line of people who were! So excited for next year’s conference!

  3. What an incredible story, and the happiest of endings! While I haven’t been able to attend the last couple of years, I really hope to attend THIS event! The location sounds perfect! Thanks Jessie and Kiva for all of your hard work – it is paying off big time!

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