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I don't advertise here, but i really do like Campmor's hiking stuff. They offer the name brands like Kelty, Eureka, North Face, Jansport etc. along with all kinza gizmos and outdoorsy stuff. I've bought from them consistently, waiting for the products i want to become last years models and buying them on sale. Tell 'em zen sent ya!

A great place to order stuff for me for Christmas is The Compleat Naturalist, a shop here in Asheville and tasteful e-commerce site. Co-founder and webmistress Laura does a great job of keeping their site clean and simple, and the things you can buy! Perfect for the budding naturalist or the seasoned wind-walker. From notepads for writing in the rain to plant presses and bug display cases to magnifying glasses, it's all here. Books and clothing too. Don't forget to tell Hal & Laura that Zen sent ya!

Rent-A-Naturalist. Actually, they don't call it that, but that's what they do and it's sort of an interesting concept. It's for people who don't just want to get out in the heart of Vermont, but to be able to learn to observe and soak in what's around them. Soft versions of hiking, picknicing, canoeing and winter snow-shoeing with naturalist Elizabeth Cooper. If you're in Vermont and want to soak up Vermont nature, try them.


Tom Brown Jr. is one of my personal heroes. He has an approach to nature that is connected, forgiving of man, and wise. He has a truly deep understanding that has helped me in many ways. He offers classes in Tracking, nature appreciation, survival and related things at his farm in upstate NJ. Worth checking out if you're serious. His website keeps a schedule of what classes are available and gives detailed course descriptions. If you aren't up for a week-long immersion in nature, then at the very least check out his Field Guides. If you're a suburbanite, start with his Tom Brown's Field Guide - The Forgotten Wilderness. If that doesn't get you appreciating the nature of your own backyard, then you just don't have it in ya.

  More inspiration comes in the form of local naturalist and personality, Scott Dean. Born and raised in these mountains, this man of many backgrounds and talents has put it all together and has - closer than anyone i've evern known - become a working naturalist. His site, WNCnaturally is a great place to learn about plants, ecozones, birds, and yes... life. Scott recognizes as much as i do that the outdoors IS our church, and we're regular attendees, even in winter. He gives great lectures so if you see him listed in any of the local places and libraries go and be awed by what this man knows. He's also hirable for group walks!