Friends Wilderness Center Annual Reports

The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.

2011 Report 2012 Report 2013 Report 2014 Report 2015 Report
2016 Report  

2016 Annual Report

It has been seventeen years since the Friends Wilderness Center has been operating as a year round basis rather than just a warm weather facility – a place to keep warm by the stove, catch up on reading, relaxing in the serenity of nature.

Some of our programs have been well attended and others not well attended. What programs fill up one year may not the next and visa versa. Those well attended are Qi Gong in the morning and Meditation practices in the afternoon, Writing and Painting, Poetry usually brings a good number of poets, Star watching when weather cooperates.

Our big project this spring was to build a shed from a kit in which to house the John Deer ride-on mower. The structure is finished and the mower has a new home. One coat of paint has been applied and it will have a second coat soon.

Several women have come out to “just get away” for one or more nights. They are the ones who realize that nature is a great healer. Students from the Maryland Institute College of the Arts returned for a long weekend. Senior boys from St. Joseph’s school in Baltimore continue their annual Coming of Age ten day program. We held our first bachelor party this spring that was wonderful!

We look forward to having you come out for a program, to just get away, or to celebrate a birthday so some other special event. Nature is a wonderful place in which to be.

So that you can be sure to find something that will catch your fancy, here is the list of upcoming events to whet your appetite:

August 20      Commedia del Arte presents Snow White – a must see program for all

September 10 Qi Gong – Rich, Meditation – Diane Yonkins

October 8      Work Day - Everyone!

October 22    Andy Day – Hayden Mathews

November 12 Storytelling with Lisa Libowitz

November 26 Cold Turkey Hike – Kimberly

December 28 Reflection Hike – Jonathon – Bonfire after return from hike

2015 Annual Report

The big news of this past year is that we the have added a Geodesic Dome is now finished (except for some trim around the windows)! It is beautiful! It is not humongous,( 16 feet in diameter, ) to our available retreat lodgings! but With its absence of hard interior angles, it is a comfortable, embracing space and is furnished with a full futon, a drop-leaf table with two chairs, and a small sink with a large water jug. Sitting on theIt also has a small porch, your from which you can view of the valley below, while the wind blowing through the trees, and the sounds of nature surrounding you helps relax you as the fresh air and the absence of city life renews your soul help you to renew, relax, and recharge.

This past year, the Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) had a very successful capital campaign to help restore and renew our aging building. Many thanks to those of you who helped us reach our goal. The two biggest uMuch needed upgrades are theincluded new carpeting throughout the Niles Cabin, new fascia boards,  and a refurbished bathroom.

The nine members of the FWC board meet every three months – the first Saturday in March, June, September, and December –monitoring the status of the Center’s finances and the success of its programs, seeking ways in which to have a reliable source on income throughout the year, and  suggesting appropriate and innovative programs that either they or someone they know know will docan offer at the Center.

The Board and Resident Manager have ensured that the FWC facilities and especially the land continue to be used as the Niles Family intended: “For perpetual, spiritual use” and to support our mission ‘to care for the natural setting entrusted to us and to enable all to find spiritual nurturance there.’ Since our last report we have had many individuals and groups pass through our doors:

  • Individuals seeking a quiet retreat
  • The granddaughter of Henry and Mary Cushing Niles, who purchased the land on which we use(the original landowners and FWC benefactors), for a weekend, talking about their vision for the land and showing slides of the early days of what has now become the Friends Wilderness Center
  • A group of 24 students from the Maryland Institute College of the Arts for a weekend in late August and ( they will be returning this year)
  • Goose Creek Meeting held Meeting for Worship in the tree house
  • Three committees/groups from Langley Hill Meeting have used our facilities
  • A group of ten – 6 students and 4 adults from St. Joseph’s School in Baltimore held a “coming of age” program for eight days for the(their third timevisit)
  • Small groups of two or three friends/families come to just enjoy the walking through the woods and conversing
  • And last but certainly not least are the folks who come out to get away, just go for a hike, or attend one or more of our Saturday programs: poetry, Andy Day – making outdoor sculptures in nature per Andy Goldsworthy, nature programs, Singing, S’mores, and Stargazing.

We hope that you will give us a call to say you would like to come out for a program, spend a night in the Niles Cabin (also the home of the resident manager) or the dome, camp in the tree house or yurt or your own tent, or just for a day to hike the many miles of trails that wind through the 1400 acres here.

Upcoming programs include: August 15 – Traveling Players presenting Cinderella; August 22 – Qi Gong in the morning and Qi gong meditation in the afternoon; September 12 – Writing and Drawing; October 10 – Fall work day; October –24 Witches & Quakerism; November14 – Poetry to warm the Soul; November 28 – Cold 8 -  Cold Turkey Hike; December 29 – End of Year Reflection Hike. Visit our website for more information and directions –

2014 Annual Report

As with all previous years since our founding in 1976, Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) has had a good share of challenges and opportunities.

Programs offered during 2010 and 2011) included the following. The Board thanks the organizers (whose names follow in parentheses). Buddhist Meditation (Sheila Bach and M.D. Pannawansa, Bird Walk (Marcia Weidner), Poetry in the Trees( Chuck Kleymeyer), Council of All Beings (Michael Moore), Reflection Hike (Mike Conklin), Stargazing (Kevin Boles), Poetry by the Fire (Chuck Kleymeyer), Meditation (Michael Moore), and Poetry as Pathway (Hayden Mathews). FWC also hosted a hike organized by DC Sierra Club.

The most noticeable change to FWC’s physical plant was the effort to restore the Tree House, replacing the stairway and decking, and shoring up supporting joists and rails. This was a labor-of-love accomplished over many weeks under the guidance of engineer Andrea Putscher, by Michael Moore and others. This project was accomplished with the help of a grant from the West Virginia Community Foundation, Two Rivers Grants. The restored Tree House is now available for visitors and programs of up to 30 people. have had some relationship with FWC were fruitful.

Fundraising came in three parts in addition to customary donations and fees. General Manager Sheila Bach introduced FWC to a wide variety of bandanas embossed with outdoor-related facts and games, called “fundanas.” These were sold at FWC events and by FWC Board members at their own meetings. FWC was also fortunate to receive a one-time distribution of remaining funds from EcoStewards, which ceased operation this past year. FWC was also fortunate to have Hayden Mathews, formerly a principal in EcoStewards join its Board of Directors. Finally, special appeals to F/friends who have had some relationship with FWC were fruitful.

Finally, FWC is especially grateful for the leadership and guidance it has received from two sources. First, for the diligent, spirit-led day-to-day, week-to-week management of the Center’s programs and facilities, we are indebted to Sheila Bach, our General Manager. Second, FWC is grateful for the generosity and talent of its Board of Directors, whose names and home meetings are as follows:

Michael Conklin (Friend Meeting of Washington)

Keith Curtis (Herndon)

Peter Fraser (Alexandria)

Julie Guroff, Recording Clerk (Goose Creek)

Michael Moore (Hopewell Center)

Paul Slattery, Clerk

2013 Annual Report

The Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) is fortunate to be able to use this land on which we are stewards to keep it healthy and available for all to enjoy. There are two very audible and visual signs to the health: several species of frogs and toads to listen to each evening and through the night, and large patches of Skunk Cabbage by Rocky Branch. Skunk Cabbage will grow only where there is a clean supply of water.

We new have a new building a short walk from the Niles Cabin. It is a 16 foot diameter geodesic dome. Unfortunately, it is not quite finished, but will be soon. It sits amid many large trees on the side of the hill overlooking a valley. You can sit on the porch and watch the leaves on the trees dance in the breeze. We anticipate that it will be finished sometime this fall.

Many new people have passed through our door this year. Some arrive wanting to get away from the noise of the city. Some stay for a few hours to hike. Some come for a night or two. Some come for one of our several events. We are scheduling at least one program a month on the second Saturday and some at other times also.

Programs this year have been a forest walk with a certified forester in September and May, stargazing in August and January, hikes in September, Qi Gong in September and April, a Meeting for Worship at the tree house in September to hold the nation in the Light, work days in October and April, a story telling fund raiser at Langley Hill Meeting in November, poetry in February in the Cabin and in June in the tree house, a meditation program in April and July, journaling in nature in May. There were a few other programs that were cancelled because it was too cold, too wet, too hot, or no one signed up.

As all non-profit organizations do, we are constantly looking for enough money to pay our bills. We also are seeking some new board members. If you think you would like to consider joining our board, please see Sheila Bach or Keith Curtis at Annual Session. Or you can email Sheila at and she will send you a brochure that gives more information.

2012 Annual Report

No report received.

2011 Annual Report

The Friends Wilderness Center is a 40-year-old spiritual sanctuary and wilderness preserve that offers its members and the general public a selection of events, opportunities for individual or small group retreats, overnight hospitality in our cabin, camping facilities, work days for trail and structure maintenance, and exploring nature on our many trails within a 1400-acre preserve nestled in the corner of West Virginia bounded by the Appalachian Trail, the Shenandoah River and the Virginia state line.

The land was made available for our use by Henry and Mary Cushing Niles from Stony Run Friends Meeting in Baltimore. Our mission is to care for and preserve the natural setting entrusted to us and to enable others to find spiritual nurturance here, in terms of a deepening understanding of our relationship with the earth. We do this by offering the experience of spiritual growth in harmony with nature, and opportunities to be reverent stewards of the land.

Within 2 hours of the greater Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, the Center provides one of the few unspoiled and undeveloped areas open to the public that does not charge entrance fees. We welcome visitors with a variety of backgrounds and, in keeping with Friends’ beliefs, do not limit services to any specific faith.

The Center has a long-term lease from the Rolling Ridge Foundation, owners of the land, for the exclusive use of 50 acres of this land, which is currently the site of a large “treehouse” for programs and camping, an enclosed yurt for year-round accommodation, an outhouse, picnic table, and a fire ring.

An amendment to that lease, gives us full use of and responsibility for the Niles Cabin, a three-bedroom, one-bath structure, with meeting and office space. This gives us year-round space for meetings, programs, and other events, enabling us to expand what was once a four-month program season to twelve-months. It provides overnight retreat facilities for those who prefer not to camp. It also houses our Resident Manager.

In August 2012 we had all the pieces of a Geodesic Dome delivered and since then the progress of building the footers and then making the pieces fit together correctly, even with each piece marked and directions included, has been a learning experience. It still is not finished as the donors/builders have full time jobs and not all weekends free! However, it is nearly done and it will be finished in 2014.

Over the year, we have carried out a series of programs and events:

  • January 12: Stargazing: An Evening under the Stars: Learn about winter constellations and planets with astronomer Kevin Boles, of Morgan Count Observatory in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
  • February 9: Poetry as a Pathway to Place, led by Friends Wilderness Center board member Hayden Mathews, enabled all attending to explore their own sense of place
  • March 2: Quarterly Board Meeting
  • April 6: Meditation program with board member Michael Moore
  • April 13: Qi Gong led by board member Rich Weidner
  • April 20: Semiannual Work Day -- Celebrate Earth Day two days early by helping to care for the land entrusted to us. Projects include repairing winter damage, clearing trails, turning dead and downed trees into firewood, preparing the Tree House (sleeping platform) for the season.
  • May 4: Forest Walk with Carlen Emanual, a Certified Forest Manager
  • May 18: Writing in the Midst of Nature with board member Caroline Pelton
  • June 1: Quarterly Board Meeting
  • June 29: Poetry in the Tree House with poet Janet Harrison – Your poems and hers with interesting exercises
  • July 13: Partial Perimeter Hike led by board member Michael Moore
  • July 27: Meditation at the Tree House led by board member Michael Moore
  • August 10: Poetry led by board members Hayden Mathews and Keith Curtis, reading poetry of your own and others followed by dinner and Stargazing led by Kevin Boles
  • August 24: Quarterly Board Meeting (one week early because of Labor Day weekend)
  • September 7: Forest Walk Carlen Emanual, a Certified Forest Manager
  • September 14: Hike to look at birds, insects, and all other interesting items in the woods, led by Liam McGranaghan, a Loudoun County School Biology teacher and his wife, Laura, an avid birder
  • October 26: Qi Gong led by board member Rich Weidner
  • November 2: Autumn Work Day with many projects, including repairing any summer damage, splitting firewood for Niles Cabin, and preparing the Tree House and Yurt for winter.
  • November 16: Making Mandalas, led by board member Michael Moore
  • December 7: Quarterly Board Meeting
  • December 27: Annual Reflection Hike led by a board member; part of the walk will be done in silence to reflect on the year ending and looking forward to the year to come

We continue to search for new ways to serve Quakers and people of all faiths, as individuals, families, and Meetings – through personal retreats, programs to inspire, and as a place to Relax, Renew, Recharge!

We continue to feel blessed by our covenant with God and the Earth, to be good stewards of this land, and by the many who support us through attendance, donations, and volunteer labor. Our work and our mission are filled with the Light.

The Friends Wilderness Center is supported through the generosity of a diverse community of Friends and friends from many spiritual paths, for which we are deeply gratefult. But to live its mission, the FWC really needs to be experienced by visitors throughout the year. To that end, please join us at least once in 2014 to receive the special blessings of wind in the trees, fire light, bird song, forest smells, babbling brooks, and spiritual renewal amid the peace of wild things. We await your visit.