Note from WO President Lisa Vaas: A fall weekend at the Stump Sprouts retreat center in the Berkshire Mountains has become a yearly tradition for Women Outdoors. When we were there earlier in October this year, we were all deeply moved as our dear friend and Women Outdoors member Kesana Krasaeyan shared with us how she's evolved from a shy first-timer to a joyful part of our community. She was kind enough to write up this article to describe what that weekend retreat felt like the first time she went in 2015. It's a delightful read, and Kesana, we want you to know that we are as delighted to have you with us as you are to have found us! Here's to more fun and more friends!
It was almost dark by the time I arrived at Stump Sprouts. I was a little nervous walking into the lodge, not knowing what it would be like to spend days and nights with a group of people whom I mostly don’t know. This was a big concern for me because I don’t know how to socialize with new people and often feel uncomfortable. Once I walked into the lodge, I got the first warm welcome hugs from Joanne and Lisa.
Joanne walked me out to find my room at the farmhouse, but the room was taken. Joanne came back to Lisa and kept working with her to make sure I got a bed. Joanne personally showed me around all the rooms in the lodge and took care of me throughout the night. I really appreciated her hospitality. It made me feel at home. To me, bed was not a concern at all. I have a sleeping bag and can sleep anywhere. I finally ended up sharing a two-level bunk bed in a room with three other members. This was the first time in the past twenty years I have shared a bunkroom with strangers. It brought back the memory of backpacking trips long ago. I excitedly climbed up the ninety-degree upright tiny steps to my top bed and realized it was not as easy as in the old days 20 or 30 years ago, but I had fun spending the nights like the old days.
Before I went to bed, a group of members invited me to the farmhouse, which had a pool table and ping-pong table. Judi taught me to play pool. My first hit of the ball made the ball jump in the air before it dropped back to the table. That was quite an experience. Then I learned to play doubles ping-pong. The first round, I hit the air instead of the ball. My eyes had not yet gotten used to the fast moving ball. I improved after playing for a while. Then we started to play ping-pong in our own style, without rules. We hit the ball anywhere it dropped or bounced, ceiling, wall, or floor. Late at night we went back to our bedroom to be sleeping beauties. With the amount of laughter we had had, I was sure we would sleep like babies.
The first morning at Stump Sprouts, I woke up with my two eyes wide open and a big “WOW” on my mouth. Lovely fall foliage made a beautiful display behind the see-through wall of the big glass windows in the living room. The view was breathtaking and looked as if it was a huge painting of beautiful hills full of colorful fall foliage under the morning rays of sunrise. This was a big surprise for me since I had found that this year the color was not as beautiful as last year and I had never expected Massachusetts to have this beautiful fall foliage. Since I moved to Massachusetts, I have gone to see fall foliage every year in New Hampshire, Maine, or Vermont, but never Massachusetts. When I walked out to the terrace area, a few people were already there, enjoying morning coffee under the sunrise, surrounded by colorful flowers and hills. It was a delightful and vibrant morning.
When I walked back to the kitchen, my nose absorbed yummy smells that made my taste buds start working even before I got the food into my mouth. I stopped by the kitchen, talking to our creative chefs, Lloyd and Suzanne, the owners. They used fresh, home-grown vegetables, fruits, and flowers from their gorgeous gardens. The menu was so well-balanced, with a variety of meat and vegetables dishes. Some dishes had a touch of Asian flavor and some had amazing unique flavors created by our chefs. Every dish and every meal at Stump Sprouts was incredibly delicious, especially the homemade fresh bread. I dreamed about its soft, moist, chewy texture at night. I ate like a giant pig.
I joined the hiking group led by Stef and Deb. It was a perfect day for hiking, with a beautiful bright sky and colorful trees. As the group explored the trail, I felt like I was inside a painting. Everywhere I looked, around me and up to the bright blue sky, there was a blending of splendid colors. It was not just the beauty of the nature I saw through my eyes, but being in the woods as part of the nature took my breath away. I really did feel as if I were inside the colorful painting. Later, I took a ride with Ann and Jamie, college buddies, to Williamstown, where they had studied. The college campus was classic and the town so neat. The roads to the town were spectacular, with fall foliage along curvy roads.
In the evening, Monica had a “non-art” art group making lanterns decorated with whatever we found around the area. I myself did not join the art group, but I was really amazed by the creativity of their work. Later at night, a group set up a campfire. I did not join the campfire outside because it was too cold for me. I was not used to the cold weather since my country only has three seasons: hot, super-hot, and extreme-hot. I just watched the campfire from the living room. A while later, Monica moved the set of lighted lanterns to the campfire. The moment I saw the colorful lighted lanterns with a background of a camp fire surrounded by a group of people, I rushed outside with my phone to take that picture. The setting was too beautiful to let go without capturing it in my phone, regardless of the freezing cold temperature outside. When I walked closer, I saw the impressive moment. The flame of the camp fire, the group of women standing around the fire, the breeze, and the smell of wood burning really made me feel the “friendships”. I could not resist joining the group. We then started singing songs. What a gorgeous night! I had a sweet sleep with the song "Auld Lang Syne" softly echoing in my heart.
I woke up because I heard the word “s-n-o-w.” Was it really snow? I was very surprised because it was October 18, not even close to November. I jumped out of my bed and ran outside in pajamas with my phone to catch the snow while it was still sprinkling. I was in such a hurry that I forgot about the cold and I did not even have my jacket on. The snow changed the look and the mood of the whole landscape. Although the colors were fading, it created another type of romantic beauty. Looking at the view through a thin layer of tiny snowflakes, everything was totally different from yesterday. I could not believe things could change this much overnight. After enjoying snowflakes in the morning, we had to get ready for bog exploring in the area before heading back home. I took a ride with Deb, Stef, Joanne, and Beth, who was an Alaska expert. We had fun talking in the car. Once we got there, we took Deb’s canoe and Bonna’s kayaks out and paddled to the bog. I felt so good to be on water in the kayak with wonderful people doing a great outdoor activity. Thanks so much to Deb and Bonna for their generosity. We explored about three bog islands. Stef found a little tiny very cute “mushroom” with a berry hanging above it. I desperately wanted to take the picture of this mushroom since it was so cute and in a unique position, but I did not have my phone with me. I kept berating myself for not taking my phone with me, for at least an hour. After exploring the bog, we took a short walk along the edge of the pond and drove back to the lodge for a yummy lunch before we went home.
As I was leaving Stump Sprouts, I thought back to the first night I walked into the lodge. My mind was nervous, my heart was empty, and my brain was small. When I left Stump Sprouts, my mind was filled with confidence, my heart was full of joy, and my brain had grown bigger. This whole weekend I spent with Women Outdoors had opened my eyes and mind. The experiences I got each day of being with the group were so valuable. Even though some of us had just met for the first time, we laughed together, we cared for one another, we thought of each other, and we never left anyone behind. Friendship is like a bonfire that lights up darkness; it lasts as long as we continue putting on wood. Thanks to Women Outdoors for setting up such a great event that lit up my life.
Kesana moved from Thailand to the United States in 2004 and has been living in Massachusetts since 2005. “I have always loved nature, but I am new to outdoor activities because my world has always been so tiny, in one small community. When I found Women Outdoors last year, my world grew bigger. It started to get me involved with outdoor activities, and I love it.”