Oregon CTSN News

5 Women: 4 Seasons Documentary

Imagine, if you will, voluntarily spending a year in the woods, living only in the shelter you and a few others build, warming yourself with fire only you build with no matches and using only basic tools, such as an ax or knife.    Imagine you are all under-25 women with no iPhones, outside friends, no parties, alcohol or any “distractions.” Now imagine doing this as a character-building project that you pay for.    That's exactly what’s happening with five young women from all over the country who are three-fourths of the way through this challenging adventure, called Caretaker, in the Cascade range, east of Ashland — a class put on by Coyote Trails School of Nature.   


The participants pop into town weekly for supplies and vittles and, they admit, they sometimes look at the beer, but ask themselves, “Why would I want to do that?”    Their job at Caretaker, where they receive occasional help from an experienced wilderness guide, is to confront that great unknown creature called “me,” look at her motives, tame her cravings for society’s diversions and experience, as Maddee Roseberry, 19, put it, “being yourself under all conditions.”    Medford-based Coyote Trails has been running the yearlong program since 2010, usually for about five people, both genders, who have previously taken their much shorter trainings. Eighteen have graduated. The name of the training, Caretaker, means they are taught to take care of nature, the land and themselves in deeper ways, says Joe Kreuzman, director of Coyote Trails.    Watching the five women literally disappear below the earth on a wooded embankment at Earth Teach Forest Park, Kreuzman tells how they harvested the poles with hand saws and debarked them with draw-knives, moving big rocks around with leverage to build the primitive shelter at the 4,500-foot elevation.     The shelter is called a TRUG — Through the Roof Underground, a structure common in indigenous societies.     “It’s warm in winter and cold in summer,” he says. “It’s insulated with clay, mud, grass and also bark, which drains off the rain. There’s no plastic. They build the fire to heat it and they do it without matches. It’s a very different mentality to not impose the egoic will on nature.”  


Opening the hand-fashioned door and crawling inside the narrow, upslope tunnel is like stepping into a Paleolithic past of 10,000 years ago. The women cozy together in the upper portions of the underground hutch and, whipping a bow and tinder around, quickly get a fire going. Smoke trickles out of what appears to be a pile of sticks and dirt on the slope.    In the midst of this year’s program, local filmmakers are shooting a documentary movie, paid for by Coyote Trails, on this most unusual venture into adulthood. It’s called “Five Women; Four Seasons” and producers hope it will be shown at the Ashland Independent Film Festival and other similar venues.    “It’s fun and exciting learning what they learn,” says filmmaker Kelly Cassinerio of Ashland. “It’s amazing to see the progress they’ve made since they started in September.”    The film seeks funding of $30,000 starting July 1 on Kickstarter.   

Seeing such an extreme form of boot camp-style training, the question springs to mind why these five women would pay to do this — and what they seek from it.    “I’m drawn because, here, all the distractions of society are taken away,” says Roseberry of Ohio. “You get the opportunity to know yourself. Watching TV or partying, no — here, you can’t do that. It’s a chance to really work on yourself and evolve, to be yourself under all the layers you find.”    Tori Davis, 19, of Ohio, says she was drawn by her passion for the woods. “I completely fell in love with it in the Coyote Trails trainings. It’s such a magical experience. You get amazing lifelong skills that build you up. It’s an awesome place to be.”    Davis says she plans to pursue environmental science in college and a life in that field, as well as outdoor photography.    For Thea Smith, 23, of Colorado, it’s about getting to know herself better, mastering outdoor skills and learning to motivate herself.    “I’ve always been shy, never hugely social and here I get to know my true thoughts and feelings and be happier with them,” she says.    Hannah Schiestel, 21 of Truckee, Calif., notes the “very accepting environment” of Coyote Trails classes and wants to “create great memories here” and eventually become an instructor.    The yearlong training, she adds, has a big spiritual dimension.     “It speaks louder here and instead of half-full, you feel it overflowing sometimes,” she says.    Emma Trucco, 19, of Portland, says she loved the primitive skills she picked up in earlier Coyote Trails classes, “helping me to find the connection back to nature and everything on the planet."    "That’s what really makes me overflowing with happiness.”    If you think it would be hard to live in the mud, rain and sunshine with a small group for a year, you’d be right, they say.    “It’s still a little rough around the edges,” says Roseberry. “If it bothers you, it’s most likely about you. If someone says something aggravating to me, I step back and look at what’s going on with me. The instructors set a good example of this and once you feel the power and try to go back to the old way, it’s hard. It’s about holding yourself accountable. It can be really tough.”   


Dirk Minton, 27, a 2012 graduate of Caretaker, says, “It helped me ground more in my physical body and the natural landscape and myself. It inspired me to pursue my own connection to myself.”    Another 2012 graduate, Amanda Smith, 26, of Colorado, now mentoring the young students, says, “It’s made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life and challenged me like nothing else. … I’m most afraid of social dynamics and was a pleaser but I’ve figured out now how to please others and myself, too. Happy? You choose to be happy.”   

For information, see www.5women4seasons.com and www.coyotetrails.org or call 541-772-1390.    John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Feb. 7, 2015: Solar pavilion going up at Coyote Trails

By John Darling
for the Mail Tribune

Volunteers will build the project at U.S. Cellular Community Park Overflowing with a gaggle of grants, Coyote Trails Nature Center in Medford will break ground today on an $84,000 “solar pavilion” — an open-air educational center that can be used for its nature programs, as well as for presentations and classes for schools. It will also be used for performances.   

It’s in a natural bowl in the heart of U.S. Cellular Community Park on Bear Creek. The structure will sit on a concrete pad, with the solar array close to the ground so it can be used as a teaching tool for young students, said Molly Kreuzman, manager of Coyote Trails Nature Center.    “It’s one of the first solar arrays where kids can see and understand how it works,” she said, “and we hope to have a meter that shows how much electricity it produces. It’s a multiuse, free-standing amphitheater. It will be volunteer-built, mostly free of labor costs.”    The project won many grants because it serves so many positive functions in the community, including education, green energy, community gatherings and restoration of nature in the area, she said.   

Grants came from Pacific Power Blue Sky Program ($32,451), Oregon Department of Energy ($12,419), Energy Trust of Oregon ($12,949), Carrico Family Foundation ($10,000), West Family Foundation ($7,500) and Plum Creek Foundation ($5,000).    Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District gave them $10,000 for a monarch butterfly way station. This helps butterflies and other pollinators.   

“It’s really exciting. All these take Coyote Trails to the next level,” she said.    Coyote Trails took the site over from Jefferson Nature Center three years ago. It sits on leased city land. Part of the lease agreement is that Coyote Trails will restore the land near to its natural state, a project that city parks has helped on considerably, she says.    Some of their work includes clearing blackberries and other non-native plants, creating a pollinator garden, adding more than a mile of trails, hauling much asphalt and old tires out and putting in bird boxes. It hosts many school classes and visitors from the general public, many of whom are on site to see ball games. It’s free and open to the public.   

True South of Ashland will provide the solar array. Other volunteers on the pavilion are Gene Abell, Abell Architectural Group Inc.; Richard Anderson, Disabilities Recreation Project; Dave Bish, Plant Oregon; Steve Cossin, Coyote Trails; Marty Daniels, Valley Electric; Eric Hansen, True South Solar; Ralph Henderson, Rogue Community College. Construction Department; Kerry KenCairn, KenCairn Landscape Architecture; Sharon Keppler, Evergreen Roofing; Karin Onkka, Onkka Design; Dave Ouellette, music teacher; Roger Owen, Owen Woodworking; Lynne Reardon, Coyote Trails; Shawn Schreiner, True South Solar.   

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Monarchs: Workshop focuses on butterfly's return: November 15, 2013


Workshop promotes reintroduction of milkweed, which is needed to repopulate the region with monarch butterflies
By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune

When the visitor wearing a robe fit for a king flitted into Coyote Trails Nature Center in Medford last summer, Molly Kreuzman was more than ready for royalty.

The grounds and facility manager for the nonprofit center had just read an article about a local retired scientist working to attract more monarch butterflies to the region by encouraging residents to plant milkweed, the fluttery creature's food source.

Hungry Goats at CTSN: June 5, 2013

By Damian Mann
Mail Tribune

Hungry goats will once again chomp their way through invasive blackberries in Medford this summer if the City Council on Thursday allows an exception to its code prohibiting the use of livestock to control vegetation.

Ern Russell's goat herd, which was a hit last summer at Coyote Trails Nature Center in U.S. Cellular Park, may be snacking on a 6-acre open area near Veranda Park off East McAndrews Road this summer.