EH Notebook #108     September 16, 2002

Welcome to EH Notebook, the e-zine where e-friends who have 
attended Elderhostel programs can compare notes. 

There is an independent but cooperatively maintained index to old 
issues at    http://members.aol.com/ehindex 

To subscribe to the e-mail publication and/or to submit reviews of 
programs taken send an e-mail to the editor, Bob McAllester, at 

Please keep all correspondence in simple e-mail text format.

     From the Editor's Notebook

I stretched the size of this issue a little.  There were so many 
excellent reviews that I wanted to include.

I still have to write the review for our most recent Elderhostel 
at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona.

Keep those reviews coming for the next issue.

Bob McAllester

    Comments and Queries

Anyone been to an EH in Prince Edward Island, Canada?

Martha Schumacher

    Program Reviews

To use an e-mail address, substitute
the "at symbol" for the 3 characters $A$.


    The Firs Conference Center, Wash
    Lifelong Learning Canada/Toronto, Ontario
    Atlantic Leadership Institute, Maine
    Malheur Field Station, Oregon
    Center for Adventure Education, Georgia
    Maine Conservation School, Bryant Pond, Maine
    Breckenridge Music Institute, Colorado 


The Firs Conference Center, Wash
Bellingham, Washington
August 4-9, 2002

It felt ridiculous to be packing warm jackets and sweatshirts in 
90+ degree temperatures.  We were planning our escape from the 
August heat of the midwest, heading for a cabin in a forest of 
tall Douglas Fir trees in upper Washington State.  

The cabins at The Firs varied as to size and condition.  Most had 
one bedroom; some had refrigerators while others did not.  Ours 
was roomy and comfortable with a separate living area and plenty 
of storage space, but in need of re-painting and carpeting, 
showing signs of wear and tear.  Four ladies who came together 
were housed in a large, freshly painted four-bedroom suite with 
enormous living room, kitchen and two bathrooms.  Someone remarked 
that it looked as though the maintenance workers were starting to 
repaint the cabins, but did not have a chance to get around to all 
of them before our program started.

Clean, cool fresh air from open windows provided a welcome change 
after months of air conditioning back home.  Daytime temperatures 
were very comfortable.  The cabins were heated, but we only found 
it necessary to turn the heat on at night a couple of times. 

Breakfasts were very good, the best meal of the day:  choices of 
cold and hot cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, juice, a different hot 
dish prepared each morning (e.g., pancakes, waffles, scrambled 
eggs and bacon).   Lunches and dinners were OK.  Average but 
plentiful, typical Elderhostel type food was served family style; 
one entree at each meal, no choices.  (Special provisions are made 
for people with dietary problems upon request.) 

All the people who worked there were friendly and helpful, 
responsive to everyone's needs.  They came around promptly to 
repair anything that wasn't working, readily providing such items 
as extra hangers or light bulbs upon request.

It was a short walk from the cabins to the dining room and the 
spacious lounge where classes were held.  Fruit and cookies were 
always available in the lounge, along with coffee, assorted herbal 
teas, hot chocolate and cider, even cold drinking water with lemon 
slices floating in it.  The lounge was a pleasant, welcoming place 
where Elderhostelers gathered to chat, read or play games when 
classes were not in session.  It overlooked the basketball and 
tennis courts.

Our program included presentations on marine ecology, estuaries, 
glaciers, and beaches.  The facilities lacked modern audio-visual 
equipment.  Most of the presenters managed by using an old-
fashioned slide projector for their visuals.  One brought along 
his own digital camera with powerful telescopic lens.  By hooking 
it up to a TV, he was able to show us enlargements of small animal 
life moving around in pond water.  Everyone had an opportunity to 
go for a pleasant pontoon boat ride on the nearby lake. 

A delightful lady named Marcile Mack treated us to a wonderful 
music program. Although she had been a music professor and piano 
soloist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, we suspect that she 
is secretly a stand-up comedian at heart.  She kept us laughing 
continually by interspersing her wry humor with her piano playing 
and commentary.  Unfortunately, she has health problems and may 
not be presenting Elderhostel programs for very much longer.  We 
consider ourselves fortunate to have had the chance to attend her 

The highlight of the week was a magical day spent whale watching 
from a boat in the Strait of Georgia.  The Firs chartered the boat 
exclusively for our Elderhostel group, a special treat that was 
greatly appreciated by all.  It turned out to be the best whale 
watching experience we have ever had.  Right below the Canadian 
border, we were surrounded by a pod of 60 orcas, many of them 
coming in close to our boat and breaching all around us. 

Even the boat's captain, who takes whale watchers out every day, 
said they were the most active he had ever seen them (unless he 
tells that to every group).  Whenever the whales started moving 
out, the captain, who knew which way they were heading, would take 
us around them, get out in front of them, then kill the engine and 
wait for them to come to us again.  We spent several hours this 
way, watching them put on quite a show.     The Firs packed a very 
nice picnic lunch for us to eat on the boat.  They provided cold 
soft drinks and bottled drinking water, plenty of it, leaving the 
bottles out in a cooler where we could help ourselves whenever we 
wanted throughout the day.  People commented on what a pleasant 
change this was from the sticky, sugary juice boxes that many 
other Elderhostels give you as beverages on field trips.

We were lucky to have sunny weather for the entire week.  On 
another wonderful day, we took a scenic bus ride through the 
Cascade Mountains up to Mt. Baker.  The road to the top of the 
mountain had been cleared of snow and opened to traffic only a few 
days earlier.  We rode up a series of switchbacks to a scenic 
lookout where the road ended.  There we got out and walked around 
on the mountaintop, crunching the snow under our shoes while 
admiring the view, something especially enjoyable to do in the 
middle of summer.

Lunch that day was served at The Firs' very own ski chalet on Mt. 
Baker.  We ate in front of a blazing fireplace, gazing out at 
beautiful snow-covered Mt. Shuksan.  Most of us took a half-mile 
"hike" (actually, more of a stroll) around a picturesque lake that 
reflected the surrounding mountains in the water.  We felt as 
though we were right in the middle of a scene from "The Sound of 
Music."  A few of the more hardy souls in our group went for 
longer hikes down the mountainside at the visitor center.

Some pictures taken on the two field trips are available from the 
index web site of EH Reviews:  http://members.aol.com/ehindex
Link to Readers' Own Elderhostel Web Pages under CONTACTS AND 

This was a five-night Elderhostel program, but a number of 
people complained that it was actually only a four day program
because it ended with an early breakfast on the last day.
We were required to vacate our cabins shortly thereafter.
Some did not mind, remarking that they planned to leave early 

We recommend this program, especially if you are lucky enough to 
have good whale watching.  That one spectacular day alone would 

have made the trip worthwhile for us.  



Lifelong Learning Canada/Toronto, Ontario
Toronto Takes Centre Stage

We did an elderhostel about the theatre scene in Toronto, and it 
was very enjoyable.  We saw three plays - a Checkov play (Uncle 
Vanya), a Shakespeare play (A Winter's Tale), and a musical (Mama 
Mia) - which made for a real variety of shows.  We had poor seats 
for Uncle Vanya  - up in the balcony, which made it difficult to 
hear.  However, our seats for the Shakespeare play and Mama Mia 
were very good.  

Speakers come to the University of Toronto where we stayed and had 
our meetings.  The speakers were most interesting and included a 
theatre critic from the Toronto Sun, a publicist for Mirvish 
Productions, and a fellow who described what it was like to be a 
struggling young actor in Toronto.  We also had a tour of two 
lovingly restored old theatres on Yonge Street.  One of these 
theatres, the Winter Garden, resembled a wonderland of sorts.  It 
was beautiful and a bit indescribable - something that has to be 
seen.  Another afternoon was spent touring Toronto and seeing the 
various ethnic neighborhoods - Greek, Arabic, Chinese.  It was 
interesting that the street signs were in both English and the 
language of the neighborhood.

A special treat one morning was a group of 50+ folks who came from 
the continuing education part of the University of Toronto.  They 
performed three one-act vignettes for us, and they were wonderful.  
Not only did they do a good job with the acting, but they seemed 
to enjoy each other and have a lot of fun together.  The first 
vignette was done in Irish dialect, and the man and woman did a 
splendid job with it.  The second vignette was called "Running 
Away from Home" and was about a 60+ fellow who decided that he had 
had enough of living with an over-protective daughter.  The third 
one-act playlette was about an older couple who had met as the 
result of a personals advertisement. The group tries to do works 
that refute stereotyping of older folks, and they have appeared at 
various locations around Toronto.

I had been to Toronto before and stayed on Yonge Street, which is 
the main north/south street. I've been told that Yonge is the 
longest street in the world as it starts at the shore of Lake 
Ontario and goes clear up to Hudson Bay.  This time we stayed at 
the University of Toronto on Spadina Street, just above Toronto's 
largest Chinatown.  The coordinator of the elderhostel told us 
that she loved riding the street cars on Spadina, because she 
always got a seat - that the Asian young people are brought up to 
respect their elders and give up their seats.

We got around on the street cars and subway in Toronto, and I 
particularly liked the street cars as they clanged their bells 
which had a nostalgic sound.  Toronto has an excellent public 
transit system and seemed even more vibrant and more cosmopolitan 
than I remembered.  

The elderhostel coordinator said that in the future all hostels 
will be staying at a downtown hotel, so there is no need to 
comment on accommodations and dorm food.

My husband remarked that he had a good time and that he hoped to 
go back to Toronto again.  It turns out that we will have to 
return to Canada as the border was too busy to turn in our 
Canadian money, and our bank at home wanted a small fortune to 
exchange our colorful Canadian money into the bland green stuff we 
have in the US.  Also, they were not at all interested in taking 
our loonies and two dollar pieces.  So, he kept the Canadian money 
and said that we will use it next year, which sounds fine with me.

Jean Sterling


Atlantic Leadership Institute, Maine
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Campobello Island
August 25-30, 2002

My husband and I have just returned from a truly wonderful 
Elderhostel on FDR, the New Deal, and his Presidency.  We also 
learned about the local area and enjoyed a morning ride on the 
schooner Sylvina W. Beal. The program was outstanding. All of the 
presenters were excellent. We were able to tour the Campobello 
Summer Home of the Roosevelt family as part of the program and in 
our limited free time. We had a field trip to Cutler, ME where we 
enjoyed a lobster luncheon served in the Methodist Church. This 
was followed by a visit from Eleanor Roosevelt (played by Betty 
Duzen) who told about her life with FDR and on Campobello. On our 
final morning we visited the Sardine Canning Museum and the 
Cottage Garden in Lubec, ME. Both places were very interesting and 
enjoyable. We had programs and entertainment every evening after 

We were housed in homes belonging to the Campobello Conference 
Center. These cottages were elegant turn of the 20th century homes 
that had large, elegant bedrooms with private baths.  Each cottage 
also had living rooms and small kitchens for the participants' 
use. We were served gourmet meals in Prince House.  We had buffet 
breakfasts and two choices for each of the other meals. These were 
the best meals we have ever had at an Elderhostel.        Our two 
program coordinators, Joy Rising and Cathy Bell, were outstanding. 
We all enjoyed our time with them.  

Of the 32 Elderhostels we have attended, I would rate this at or 
near the best.

Helen Sternheim

Pictures from this Elderhostel will be posted on:  
www.umassk12.net/mort Then click on Photo Gallery.


Malheur Field Station, Oregon

I read with interest the review of Malheur Field Station in EH 
Notebook #107.  You see, I was there about ten years ago, and 
while I enjoyed the field trips and the instruction (there were 
two instructors then, and a coordinator), I was appalled at the 
condition of the buildings and the living situation.  We were 
given no sheets or blankets, and yes we had the hospital beds.  
Fortunately, I had brought sleeping bags because as an option at 
the end of the week we could sleep out at the top of the mountain-
-part of the field trips--if we brought our own tent and sleeping 
bags.  Some participants did this, some didn't. 

We were told then that the buildings at the field station were put 
up in President Johnson's days when he created the Job Corps (not 
sure if that's what it was called) or something like that.  The 
field station was temporary, a work training camp which was to be 
torn down, but a group of scientists pleaded for it to remain so 
field research in geology and paleontology could continue.  I 
would think the maintenance of the facility lies with the 
university under whose watchful eye it operates.

There is a nice air conditioned dining hall and a gift shop where 
you can buy copies of novels by Jean Auel.  She stayed there when 
she did research for her novels.    I think that the field station 
has raked in enough EH dollars to justify the hiring of someone to 
at least clean the facilities and replace some of the broken 
furnishings.  It's a shame that these conditions continue to exist 
under the guise of "rustic".    



Center for Adventure Education, Georgia
St Marys   Cumberland Island
Georgia Southwestern State University
August 25-30, 2002

This Elderhostel studied historic southeastern "Coastal Georgia." 
Almost all area attractions were studied and toured in this EH 
program: St Marys (2nd oldest town in USA, after St Augustine); 
Cumberland Island (GA's largest and southernmost barrier island, 
populaton now maybe 40); Amelia Island, FL (a well-populated 
industrialized barrier island just south of Cumberland); Naval 
Submarine Base (Atlantic Fleet homeport for submarines such as 
Trident); and nearby Okefenokee Swamp.

This EH program now in its tenth year still offers the quality EH 
program that reviewers described in two earlier posts to this 

Recent changes: Since 9/11, the visit to a submarine is off-
limits. But a Navy CPO submariner does still lecture us about the 
base, submarines in general, and the base's economic impact to 
smalltown St Marys (where hundreds of Navy dependents live, 
school, shop). Today's EH program has replaced the submarine tour 
with a Sugar Mill ruins tour...led by a colonial-garbed "planter 

Other noteworthy features in the current EH program:

That "planter impersonator" (Roland Loveless) also gives a vivid 
1st-person impersonation lecture of gilted-age financier Henry 
Flagler who, among his many other accomplishments, financed and 
caused to be built the first railroad from Jacksonville to Key 

A St Marys walk tour, including several homes, shops and museums.

A tour of Fort Clinch, a strategic coastal defense overlooking key 
waterways in Civil War years.

A bus tour and 8-block walk around ritzy Amelia Island.

A ferry to and tour-led visit of nearly unpopulated Cumberland 
Island, including the Carnegie family estate ruins there. Our one 
EH program deviation occurred here, when a tropical thunderstorm 
swept in as we were touring the island. Seeing it coming, our 
Ranger tour guide (Geah-Jah Graves) scurried us back to a shelter 
(with bathrooms!) to sit out the 90-min storm. We still had time 
to walk the Island's pristine unpopulated beach.

A morning boat-tour of Okefenokee Swamp with P.M. visits to a 
preserved old homestead and National Wildlife Refuge park there.

Two folk-music evenings: guitarist/folksinger Bill Temme, who also 
plays bongos in a St Augustine band; and vivacious 63-yr-old Lynn 
Wadley, a folksinger/songwriter who accompanies her own songs 
using any of 7 stringed folk instruments--from dulcimer to guitar 
to bowing a carpenter's saw.

This busy EH's activities ran without a hitch, thanks to capable 
coordinator/lecturer Tom Murray. My one regret is that he didn't 
provide us an email address for my: "Outstanding EH, Tom; thanks 

Jim Fleming
Falls Church, VA.



Maine Conservation School, Bryant Pond, Maine
Active Outdoor Program
August 25-30, 2002

It remained my puzzle for a time. Why a woman in our group 
would drive eight times from Louisiana to Maine for an active 
outdoor Elderhostel? Weren't there similar lovely lakes, haunted 
by loons that would have moved Monet? And doesn't the moon remain 
mainly the same on Main Street as it shines in Maine?

In a flash of a senior moment (this time one of clarity) I slapped 
my ascending forehead and remembered what I have been applauding 
and booing since I began Elderhosteling in l992. And that insight 
is this: no Elderhostel can rise above the level of the 
coordinators and the staff, despite the subject and the domain. A 
dedicated leader who is not too vain is worth more than the 

In the case of the Maine Conservation School, it is mainly 
marvelous because of Susan Isham, the caring coordinator, her 
mainstay, likeable Lou, and people such as Jeff, Eric, Lisa, and 
our kitchen friends. They didn't talk a lot and act little, as was 
the case with my last coordinator. Skilled as Mark Twain, and 
certified in the outdoor arts, they treated everyone as if every 
day were grandparents' day. Although I was shy in a kayak, and new 
to a canoe, I received considerate individual instruction. From 
the moment Susan contacted me with a list of recommended outdoor 
clothing, I felt I had new friends.

Location: The school is about an hour and a half northwest of 
Portland, off Route 26. This road is as coiled as a snake hissing 
"Don't speed on me!" The speed limit shifts abruptly from 55mph to 
35mph, and the local constabulary is vigilant. Speed limit signs 
are clearly posted though. This is not the case with signs around 
Bryant Pond, so try to get very specific directions from the 

Accommodations: There is a choice, which is arranged through 
Boston. I stayed in one of the two bunkhouses, which were located 
on the campus near the lake. This was accessible by climbing a 
short steep hill, made easier by steps and rails. There is a 
common roof and the rooms are sectioned off. The rooms contain two 
double deck beds, as this is an old children's camp, and the 
showers are "down the hall." I found this to be comfortable, but 
not everyone would enjoy it.

The other option is the "Maine House" a mile and a half away, 
which has television, a fireplace, and individual bathroom 
facilities. There is a shuttle van to bring hostelers back and 
forth to meals and events. As in all other cases, Susan was very 
well organized, and everything ran on time and as promised.

Food: We received the menu of the week with our packet of 
information. I absorbed a great number of calories just reading 
about the good, basic food. It was displayed buffet style, all you 
care to eat. Some goodies, lovingly prepared by the talented chef 
were homemade blueberry pancakes, strawberry shortcake, and a 
sirloin steak as thick as a moose. There were many choices. This 
was true for our two outdoor picnics as well as our campfire 
farewell on amateur night. If you come here, think of girth 
control when you go home.

To the delight and surprise of many of us, the refrigerator, 
usually set aside for medicine, was stocked with an alternative 
medicinal liquid. I tasted it just to sample the local culture: 
Sunday River Beer. I sipped it slowly just to forget. To forget 
prohibition! Maine also brewed Neil Dow, pioneer prohibitionist, 
who ran for President on the Prohibitionist Party platform in 
1880. (Abstain in Maine, and everywhere else!). If Dow were alive 
today, he would be turning over in his grave!

Program: The program's the thing, and it is maintained precisely 
as in the EH Catalogue. It included hiking, kayaking, canoeing, 
exploring a rare floating bog with insect-eating plants, (bring 
boots!) a smooth ride on a ski lift, outdoor lunches near 
waterfalls and during a river trip. There are also very 
interesting evening and daytime lectures on medicinal plants and 
herbs, loons, forest management, and outdoor life. I liked the 
fact that Coordinator Susan was with us for many of these events, 
as was her staff. Several of the lecturers ate and socialized with 
us in the dining hall. 

It was raining on campfire night, but true to the spirit of these 
genial hosts that did not deter our having fun. Lou built a great 
fire in Rogers Hall, where we ate and heard our lectures. Almost 
all of the 27 hostelers participated in one way or another because 
of our esprit de corps, which was built up during the week. I had 
the feeling many folks who would not have entertained in other 
circumstances entertained here. We delighted in group singing, 
original poetry, guitar and harmonica playing, and great rounds of 
applause for all of our hosts, who were organized and coordinated 
by the excellent efficient Susan. 

The Good Lord willing, I will remember this Maine next year! See 
you there?

Sid Kessler


Breckenridge Music Institute, Colorado
Inside a Music Festival: The Highlight of a Breckenridge Summer
July 22 to 27, 2002

This was an outstanding Elderhostel and one that I would like to 
repeat again next year. Roberta Nelson, our coordinator, was 
dedicated to making this a wonderful experience and her volunteer 
hosts and hostesses, who were board members of the BMI, were very 
attentive to our needs.

I paid the single supplement, traveled alone and took a shuttle 
(90 minutes) from the Denver Airport. I did not have a car in 
Breckenridge but since carpooling was encouraged it was not a 
problem. The weather was lovely, but if it had been a rainy week I 
might have regretted not renting a car at the airport. Most of the 
activities are within walking distance, however, this program does 
require a good amount of walking between the condos, classroom, 
and restaurant. This just added to my enjoyment of the week. 

Note: Breckenridge is located in the mountains at an elevation of 
9,600 ft. The catalog warns "Daily walking required: site 
conditions may be physically demanding due to the high altitude". 
The altitude presented minor problems for some of the 
Elderhostelers but they adjusted to the thinner air after a few 

Accommodations: We were housed in two bedroom, two bathroom condos 
located in four buildings near the Riverwalk Performing Arts 
Center where many of our activities were centered. These condos 
are individually owned so I can only describe the one I was 
assigned to. It was large, nicely furnished, and fully equipped 
with all the comforts of home, including a washer, dryer, and 

Food: The food was very good. The first evening we had a catered 
BBQ dinner at the lovely mountain home of a BMI board member. 
There were excellent box lunches each day. Most dinners were at a 
local restaurant, which offered a choice of two or three very good 
entrees, with the choices changing each day. Breakfast was unusual 
for an Elderhostel program. Our refrigerators were stocked with 
breakfast items for our first breakfast and we were given a gift 
certificate to the local grocery store so we could buy our own 
groceries and eat breakfast each day in our condo. This proved to 
be a wonderful plan. We could have exactly what we wanted for 
breakfast, it saved us time and we were able to have leisurely 
breakfasts while enjoying a view of the mountains.

Program: We attended concerts each evening featuring a variety of 
music: classical music played by the Breckenridge Music Institute 
Orchestra or the National Repertory Orchestra, a chamber music 
concert and a pops concert. The pops concert was disappointing but 
the other concerts were excellent. Most of the BMI musicians are 
members of symphonies in major U.S. cities and many of them also 
are music professors at various universities.

Daytime classes featured discussions with the conductors and 
sessions with the musicians and the music festival staff. This 
gave us an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the 
musicians and their instruments. We also gained an understanding 
of what goes on behind the scenes of a music festival. These 
sessions were well planned and very interesting. Attending 
rehearsals was an added treat.

Other daytime activities included a historic walking tour of 
Breckenridge, a mine tour and a visit to a lovely high altitude 

This Elderhostel is only scheduled for one or two weeks in the 
summer so if you are interested in attending next summer I would 
recommend signing up as soon as the catalog is published. 

Jean Mabie