Warren Wilson College News

Letter from Muir Valley Nature Preserve

Dear Ms. Kramer,

I want to let you know what a wonderful experience Muir Valley Nature Preserve had with a group of Warren Wilson students. Nichole Kendle and Riley West arranged for a group of 10 students (Nichole Kendle, Riley West, Brad Smout, Eden May, Ethan Smalley, Elias Hindenberger, Hannah Yoter, Becca Droz, Jeremy Taylor, Jasmine Woo), plus their staff adviser, Libba Miano, to volunteer at Muir during their fall break. They spent the week here providing valuable volunteer work.

My husband, Rick, and I own Muir Valley, a 350-acre nature preserve which we open free to the public for rock climbing, hiking, nature photography, bird watching, and generally enjoying and learning about nature. It has grown to the extent that we now have in excess of 35,000 visitors per year. We have no paid staff, so we depend on and greatly appreciate the work of volunteers to supplement our labor in developing and maintaining this preserve.

The Warren Wilson group took on a major challenge of helping us control and eradicate Japanese honeysuckle, an invasive vine that was invading and threatening several areas of Muir. They cut and pulled vines from trees that were being killed by the honeysuckle. This is a lot of hard work, and I was extremely pleased by the amount and quality of work the accomplished.

They then built a new trail to help us open up a new climbing area and to provide a more direct trail to an existing area. This was no easy effort because the trail is in a heavily wooded area and required a lot of removal of shrubs and trees, digging up roots and cutting and filling to level the trail.

Their trail, and the students, got a good workout the very next day. A fall resulted in a serious injury to a climber in an area not readily accessible. His injuries were such that he needed to be transported in a rescue litter over rough terrain to a point where he could be moved by ambulance to a waiting helicopter. The trail they had just completed provided a more direct route and saved valuable time in getting this patient to the trauma center.

When the accident happened, the students were enjoying a well-deserved rest and relaxation day after a week of hard work. They immediately stopped their own climbing and rushed to help transport the injured climber. Four of the members of the group had Wilderness First Responder certification. Their judgment and assistance were a valuable augmentation to the efforts of the paramedics who assisted with the rescue.

We have had good experiences with several college groups volunteering at Muir, but the performance of this Warren Wilson group was so outstanding that they “reset the bar” by which we will judge groups in the future. First, the trip was very well organized. Nichole made it look automatic that everything ran so smoothly, but clearly a lot of advance work went into the process. All of the students were hard workers and the worked effectively as a team. They were talented, enthusiastic, and cooperative. They were also fun to work alongside. They were very good to Rick and me. In addition having wonderful help for Muir Valley, we feel that, in spite of the age difference, we have made friends whose company we enjoy and with whom we can share ideas and experiences.

They also, when they arrived back at school, pooled resources and made a generous donation to Muir Valley Nature Preserve.

This group not only represented themselves very well. They reflected well on Warren Wilson College, and on your personal guidance. The school is to be commended for attracting and developing such a great group of students, and you personally should be proud of what they offer under your nurturing. Thank you for the part you planed in making them available to Muir Valley.

As I told the students, it is people such as they who make it possible for Rick and me to open our property free to the public.

As an aside you might find interesting, last night I was talking to my sister, expressing my enthusiasm and appreciation for this Warren Wilson team, and she said, “Warren Wilson was the college I wanted to attend.” She’s in her 70s, so that was well over 50 years ago.

Thank you again from Rick and me on behalf of Muir Valley Nature Preserve.


Liz Weber, Owner
Muir Valley Nature Preserve


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