Just For Fun

We have fun here at AIAO. We have fun out there during our programming, of course – but we also have fun here in the office. We’ve decided to capture some of our special moments and catalog them here in our Just For Fun blog.
Pun or Punishment

James is a man who loves puns. He loves reading, he loves rhyming, he loves the english language. He told me that for as long as he remembers he’s been coming up with clever wordplay.  “Puns – the poor man’s poetry” he says.

There’s a playful element to puns that James brings all of the things he does. He finds a way to finagle puns into his facilitation style, his every day conversation, and even his debriefs. Like with all puns, sometimes they make us giggle with glee, and sometimes… well… sometimes, it’s just plain punishment. What did we do to deserve this James? Why are you so whimsically witty? How do you come up with them so quickly?

For most of us, it’s not so bad at all. I tend to enjoy them more often than not (mostly because I can’t come up with a pun to save my life and I’m always so impressed.) But when we ask the question “Pun or punishment?” There is one among us who will almost alway say punishment – not always out loud… but we can tell.

So, as the puns roll along we’ll share them with you, and we’ll continue to ask this question: Pun or Punishment – What do you say Kyle?

April 19th, 2018 – 3:41 pm.

We had just gone on our afternoon nature walk. It had been drizzling, and the overcast made it seem like it was dusk. James was looking at apple on the ground, and what appeared to be the feeding sign of a rodent. He started to have an epiphany: “Rodent… I never thought about this, but perhaps the ‘dent’ in rodent refers to their prominent incisors. I wonder what the ‘ro’ stands for.” 

None of us had an answer for him.

Back at the ranch, Kyle and I were sitting at our computer desks – minding our own business. James had been fiddling away at his computer, entrenched in research about something. The moment James started to speak I knew what was coming, but I don’t think Kyle was prepared.  James looked up at me and said with a smile:

“So Christopher I was on this tracking program once, out tracking by a wetland, and a student called me over to ask me a question. He had seen some markings at the base of a tree, and he asked me ‘is this from a beaver?’ and I said ‘gnaww.'”


Hayloft to Thoughtloft

Last year, James tasked me and Erik Debbink to come up with a design and bring to fruition the conversion of the upstairs loft area of his barn into a meeting space/classroom. I’m going to lovingly call this project: Hayloft to Thoughtloft.

This was a fall project that began when outdoor education work was beginning to taper off. Our mission was to enclose, insulate, beautify and heat the space to make it suitable for a rainy day classroom, concert hall, or conference space. 
One of the great things about working at AIAO is that we are always empowered and inspired to put our creativity and practical skills to the task in ways that help us to grow personally. We are better educators when we do this regularly as ultimately this is what we ask of our students every day. 

Once we had a design, we made what we call a “cut list” in the biz. Then it was off to home depot to make the first materials purchase. Over the course of a couple of months we completely transformed the space. The building began with laying down closed cell foam board insulation directly on the existing rough plywood floor, then covering that with a high grade light colored birch plywood. For the walls we chose to install plantation pine bead-board plywood panelling over the same 1.5 inch closed cell foam board backing, directly onto the existing studs. In order to maintain access to the storage space in the eves of the gambrel roof we cut plug doors and left them snug fitting and hingeless with turn buckle closures so they would stay in place but could be easily removed. For the ceiling we used a lighter plywood sheet with the same foam backing. We also left an hinged access hatch into the attic space above the rafters. 

In order to let lots of light into the space to allow for the full effect of the light colored wood features of the renovation, we installed a five by five removable picture window in place of the sliding wooden doors that face the entryway end of the barn facing the house. With the removal of 4 wing nuts, two people can replace the picture window with a screen for summer airflow.

Another feature that really allowed for the blending of good old fashioned yankee ingenuity and creative use of space was the drawbridge style hatch door entryway featuring a weighted pulley system. 

The finishing touches involved treating the floor with five coats of Vermont Natural Coatings Whey Based clear coat. We stained the ceiling with a translucent whitewash stain. We also installed a very space efficient little wood stove and connected it to the existing chimney. The end result, after all was said and furnished, is a transformation from a roughed out hay loft storage space into a warm and versatile place to meet, enjoy company and share thoughts. 

Another outcome was the deepening of a friendship as the two of us got to bring our creativity and collaborative spirit together to bear a vision into reality. I found the journey of the Hayloft to Thoughtloft project to be emblematic of the Adventure In Adventure Out experience, where one is called to show up with quality and stretch into a place of growth through shared endeavor and a spirit of collaborative spirit. 

-Farlin J. Black 

A Love of Stone

There is something archetypal, maybe even mythic about rocks and stone. They seem to beckon, call, and draw me closer in. Whether it is a rocky crag, a glacial erratic, or a polished white stone underfoot, I become mesmerized, as if a spell has been cast upon me. Maybe it is my Celtic lineage, or maybe it is the seeming immutability of stone that is alluring to this mortal being. Whatever the case, I am a sucker for stone.

When I purchased my first home, I found myself called to erect stone walls, standing stones, build cairns, and even installed a stone spiral in my front lawn. After getting married, my wife Gayle and I purchased a new home with 18 acres, and the fever ensued. From the moment you enter the drive, to the trails out back you will find that the calling of the rocks has meta-morphed into a passion that some might deem bordering on madness.

Over the past few years, I have been wandering the woods behind my home and found myself serendipitously encountering a number curious stone structures. They are dry laid stones stacked in a “U” shaped pattern. They are several courses high and usually about four to six feet wide at the opening of the “U”. The second one that I came across was on the day before the Spring Equinox of 2017. I happened to be out there about an hour before sunset and realized that the sun was going to set in perfect alignment with the opening of the “U”.

I returned the following day, on the equinox, with my dog Tannin and had the fortune of a perfectly sunny day. As the sun got lower in the sky, I felt myself excited and wondrous, as I was witness to this magical event happening in the woods behind my house. This did not seem to be a coincidence that the sun was casting its beam directly into the mouth of this structure. Who, when, and why, were questions that were swirling in my mind, while at the same time feeling awe, and gratitude for having the fortune to have been called to this spot. I love the woods for so many reasons and this was, for me, a unique and unparalleled addition to the catalogue.

Upon returning home, I began attempting to find answers online. I came across a book called “A Guide to New England Stone Structures”. I readily ordered it and had it shipped express. As I pawed through this amazing book, I did not come across anything that looked like the structures that I was finding. I decided to write to the author and see what he might have to share. He wrote back quite quickly and let me know that the archaeological consensus seemed to be that these were ceremonial prayer seats built by the indigenous peoples of the land.

I continue to seek answers to this mystery and hope to call attention to these structures with the right people and at the right time. They feel precious and sacred and I feel strongly that they should be preserved and protected. As I learn more, I will share more. Until then, enjoy the photos, ponder the mystery yourself, and get out in the woods!


Trail Cam: Grey Fox – Winter 2018

This winter, on our way to and from the office, we kept spying some small canine tracks in the snow under the apple trees that adorn James’ yard. The avid trackers that we are, we puzzled out which species of animal we thought had left them behind. Where they made by a red fox? Too small. Coyote? Much too small. Domestic dog? Too ‘clean.’ Gray fox? Most likely.

We decided to employ one of our trail cameras in the hunt for an answer. Here’s are some of the photos that were captured.


One of two trail cams that we have set up on the property.


The dark strip of fur running down the tail in this picture bolstered our thinking that we had a gray fox roaming around the yard.


Much like the first photo, this one not only shows the dark strip of fur running down the tail, but also reveals the motivation for this fox to spend so much time in the yard: a meal of old apples!


The dark bars or steaks on the muzzle of this fox are another great indicator of this being a gray fox.

Happy tracking, everyone!

New Hingham Elementary School Chesterfield MA Team Building Program

Last week, Farlin & Eric facilitated a team building experience with the 5th grade class at New Hingham Elementary School! The students worked towards growing into their greatest potential as they move toward being the oldest students in the school as 6th graders.
During the activity shown in the picture, Farlin and the students co-created an agreement with the help of some creative nautical imagery! In the center of their circle was a drawing of a sailboat. The Front of sailboat represented what the students wanted to carry forward with them. The middle of the sailboat represented what they wanted to acknowledge as the essential make-up of their functioning group. The aft sail represented the things that they wanted to leave behind and move on from.
They also placed their fears and concerns into the water around the sailboat, representing the obstacles through which they would need to navigate as a team. Classmates offered suggestions about how to approach fellow classmates’ fears and concerns.
In this process they established a group agreement to bring forward with them into their transition to sixth grade.

Amherst College Women’s Lacrosse Team Building


Sarah and Danielle had a great time facilitating a team building program with the women’s lacrosse team at Amherst College last week.
The group worked through a number of engaging activities and had many successes. Here they are building up the team for the new season, working together to complete the helium stick challenge.



Neature Walk

Thanks, Lenny Pepperbottom. We think it’s pretty neat too.

A Letter to Staff and Clients of Adventure In Adventure Out From Ben Delozier

January 2018

Dear Adventure In Adventure Out Staff and Clients,

I heard recently that the shortest distance between two people is a story. If this is true, then what must make community is the intersection of layers upon layers of stories that draw people closely together. Over the last eight years, AIAO has been that point of intersection for me. Be it the very first expedition I led for AIAO seven years ago (Hey, Camp Ramah Niv ’11!), getting my feet wet (figuratively and literally) roaming the woods of Western Massachusetts with the AIAO outing club, or collaborating with an amazing group of people to send 140 college students off into the woods for three days, each memory has built upon the other to teach me something about who I am, what I value and how I want to be in the world.

As I step out into new adventures, I realize there is a gift I am carrying with me. One that you all have given me. It is the gift of understanding how our stories can create meaning that matters. That when we share our stories… courageously, vulnerably… we offer up strength to ourselves and to others. It is being witnessed in our stories that allow us to see our own capacity, individually and collectively. To see that we are significant in the world around us. And, as each of you have offered me the gift of your stories, of who you are and what you have been through to get here, it has buoyed me in my courage to rise to the occasion of my own story. This is the magic we have created together, and the gift you have given me as my community.

So thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your story, and for choosing to be a part of mine. Thank you for eight unforgettable years of meaning making. And, thank you to our director, James, for believing in me all those years ago when I first knocked on his door. I will carry the love, laughter, memories and learnings for the rest of my life. And, I will be cheering you all on as you continue to change lives with your own brand of magic!

With great love and gratitude!


Transitions in the Adventure In Adventure Out Office

A big space has been created in our office by the departure of Ben Delozier; a big man, with a big heart, bold spirit, and a boat load of talent. Ben’s bold spirit led him to knock on my door back in 2011. At that time, he suggested to me that he would like to help grow the business. I suggested that he reach back out after the summer season, as we were immersed in our busiest time of the year. Sure enough, a follow up call came, we got together, felt a mutual resonance and overlap in values, as well as a desire to work together.

Since that time, Ben and I have partnered in the creation of many new program designs, hired on an incredible array of talented staff, and grown the business to what it is today. Ben’s innate talent for building relationships has increased the depth and breadth of our client base, as well as our bottom line. This has allowed us to hire on more staff, both in and around the office, as well as in the field. Everybody wins!

I have the fortune of having Ben woven into the fabric of my life, as a dear friend and fellow member of our men’s group, so we will continue our connection even with his absence from the office. Ben aims to continue working with AIAO as a field staff and facilitator, alongside his explorations of new endeavors. So, you may also continue to be blessed by his presence on upcoming program.

Ben, thank you for your commitment, dedication, creativity, professionalism, and generosity that you have offered all those that you have crossed paths with here at AIAO. You will be missed, are thought of in the highest regard, and are an integral part of the legacy of Adventure In Adventure Out.

Happy trails my friend!


Kyle Rodd has been working as a field instructor for us since 2013. I and other staff who worked with him in those early days quickly agreed that “this guy is a keeper.” He brings a breadth of life experience working with people and exploring the woods, mountains, rivers, and wetlands in and around our valley. This is married with his formal education through which Kyle has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Ecopsychology from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master’s degree from Antioch New England’s Environmental Studies department, with a concentration in Conservation Biology.

Kyle brings a fresh perspective to the AIAO office, offering wonderful ideas that are supporting us in fine-tuning our systems for greater efficacy and organization. I find him to be kind, levelheaded, warm-hearted, and self- reflective, as well as to have a curiosity about people that matches his curiosity about the natural world. A good match for AIAO for sure!

Over the past year, Kyle stepped into a Program Manager role. He has been a quick learn and has continued to add many things to his plate, learning the ins and outs of what makes AIAO work from behind the scenes and behind the desk/computer.

I am happy to announce that Kyle has been invited to step into the role of Assistant Director of Adventure Out. I look forward to continuing to work alongside him and to supporting each other and all of you in bringing the best that AIAO has to offer to the world.


Anna Boysen joined us in the office in the winter of 2015. She was a fast fit on the team, overlapping with the office values, while adding her unique perspectives that helped us all to learn and grow. As a quick learn she embraced our systems readily, as well as added a bunch of great ideas that helped us to become even more efficient and effective. Anna took on a role as a Program Manager, as well as that of hiring staff onto programs. She did a wonderful job, keeping our staff employed and informed, as well as advocating for them in ways that were unique to her vantage as a fellow field instructor.

Anna also managed the research and execution of our transition from a ‘Sole Proprietor’ type of business to that of an LLC. That has offered Gayle and me much relief, as it lessens our personal exposure to the liability that comes with running a business. Modeling self-care is also something that Anna brought to the team. She would remind us about our sit-spot time and head out into the woods, or engage the archery range to break away from the “do” mode that can take over in the office at times.

I also feel a great deal of appreciation for Anna’s willingness and ability to pick up the slack on important details that would sometimes fall by the wayside and would otherwise get de-prioritized due to the constant need to keep up with the programs at hand on the front burner.

Hats off to you Anna, and best wishes on the next leg of your vocational journey!


Photo Journal: Central Atlantic Seacoast – James McNaughton

“This Fall, I had the good fortune to carve out a large chunk of time to leave home and journey south on a much needed sojourn. I recently purchased a baby Airstream camper called by the manufacturer, the Bambi Sport. It is 16 feet long, which is shorter than my solo canoe! I have taken to calling it ‘The Escape Pod.’ 

I spent nearly a month visiting state and national parks along the coast of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. I arrive back home with a new level of clarity as to what I commit to bringing to myself, my wife, my community, family, vocation and life. 
Happy 2018″

Photo Journal: The River of Grass in Florida’s Everglades – Farlin Black

My recent trip (late December ’17 to early January ’18) to instruct a canoe expedition in the Everglades with a group of college students represents an annual pilgrimage of catharsis. By continuing to return to such an exhilarating environment – the River of Grass, the mangrove forests, and the coastal estuaries- I find that they continue to teach me, not only of my place in the intricacy of the shared human endeavor and the seemingly endless interconnectedness of the natural world, but also of the reciprocal relationship that humans have with it. This adventure enabled me to connect with a group of people much more deeply than life in society allows me to in a similar amount of time. Part of it is the magic of the place, but a bigger part of it is the shared sense of purpose coupled with a sense that everyone in the microcosm is needed. 
I find that a lot of questions that I didn’t even know I had seem to surface in that place where salt and fresh water swirl and mix…
Where I am able to find joy in the face of adversity I am able to reflect on the big picture and take some sense of personal growth away with me. My ability to stay connected to the sharp end of the learning experience enables me to connect with more awareness to the participants and students I instruct throughout the rest of the year on Adventure In Adventure Out programs. 

A New Fleet of Wilderness Systems Kayaks

The 2017 summer season found us in the fortunate place of turning over our aging Old Town kayak fleet and replacing it with Wilderness Systems Pungo 12′ recreation kayaks, as well as two 14′ versions for instructors. These new kayaks are a big step up, both in terms of design and performance. The Pungos are faster and more stable, and also more maneuverable. The hatch cover seals and enclosures are much more user friendly. The Pungos offer three different areas of seat adjustability which also makes for a notable upgrade in comfort. On top of it all, these are significantly lighter vessels for loading, unloading, and transporting which all add up for our instructors over the summer season. Overall, AIAO staff and participants have been very happy with this upgrade to Pungo kayaks.