Coyote Trails Cooking: Cultivating Strong Connection to Nature

by Mary Marquiss
from Gusto Magazine Summer Issue 2007 COMMUNITY Feature

"Now I see the secret of making the best persons. It is to grow up in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

Where can you find a wilderness camp with a focus on family, a rich list of adventure classes and organic meals infused with heart and soul? At the Coyote Trails School of Nature. Co-Directors Joe and Molly Kreuzman created the school in 2003 to teach youth, teens and families the benefits and wisdom gained through nature study and acquiring wilderness skills.

"Our vision has been to help bring people back to their own instinct and heart", the Kreuzman's say. "The logical mind is very well trained, but intuition and instinct are not. When the budget cuts occur - the arts are the first thing to go. But art and nature are instrumental in developing intuition and a balanced right side of the brain."

The key component that sets Coyote Trails apart from other nature camps around the country is their emphasis on creating healthy, organic meals that match the pace of the various activities the camp schedules each day. Head Chef Rebecca Moergen was recruited from the East coast to join the Coyote Trails endeavor. She creates beautifully prepared meals that are a feast for the eye. "Just as a chef in a five start restaurant will select a wine to match with a plate, I will select nutritional foods to match with the particular activities of the day," Moergen says.


"Cooking has become a chore in many family homes that a playful art", Moergen explains." Frozen, packaged food lacks the beauty and freshness that live food holds." Flowers and herbs harvested for camp use are grown right in her kitchen. Many of the guests who attend the classes have gardens of their own. The focus of utilizing live food teaches students to slow down and appreciate the process that went into bringing the food from the garden to the table.

"The taste of organic food that is picked in its prime rather than processed, high sugar content food changes the way our students taste food", M. Kreuzman says. In addition to their homegrown ingredients, Coyote Trails supports local farmers markets by utilizing their produce and the Full Circle Bison ranch supplies them with their meat.

 

Mobility is a unique strength of the school. They teach on a 1,600-acre semi-remote wilderness camp outside Ashland. The central Oregon classes are taught on 20 acres in Alfalfa, as well as at the Metolius Reserve compliments of the Deschutes Basin Land Trust. Shevlin Park provides the location for the classes they teach to local schools. The school also teaches in Charter Schools, at the High Desert Museum, Children's Working Wonders Museum and Sisters Middle School Outdoor Program.

There are separate activities offered for parents and their children throughout they day, but at meal times, everyone comes back together to savor Moergen's creations. The six programs that make up the Coyote Trails range in length from weekend workshops to six-week adventures. The programs teach a multitude of primitive living skills utilized by everyone's ancestors like building a shelter, finding safe water, and starting a fire without matches or a lighter.

"We help build self-awareness, confidence and instill an empowering sense of accomplishment. We support the process of people connecting with their playful inner child; always able to explore their creative self," M. Kreuzman says.

The classes offered to students from the age of 7 to 70 plus. "We have even taught three generation families at Coyote Trails", J. Kreuzman says. Students can take multiple weeks to build skills at the cost of $650 per week, which includes meals, lodging, and instruction. Weekend adventure camps cost $175 to $250 depending upon the classes and meals provided. Highly skilled, certified instructors teach all classes. Coyote Trails is a public non-profit organization that welcomes donations.

To contact Coyote Trails call 541-482-0513 or visit their website at www.coyotetrails.org.

"Our best spice is loving kindness, which is our most nourishing ingredient."-Rebecca Moergen, Coyote Trails School Head Chef