Michael has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has worked in the health care field for over 30 years including 10 years at the Duke University Diet and fitness Center and 19 years as co-owner of the wellness coaching company Novo Wellness.

In 1990 Michael became certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise (www.acefitness.org). He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (www.nsca.com) and a USATF Level 1 track and field coach (www.usatf.org).

Since 2001 Michael has co-owned Novo Wellness, LLC with Greg Hottinger. He is a Certified Professional Health and Wellness Coach through Wellcoaches (www.wellcoachesschool.com), a PCC certified coach through the International Coaching Federation (www.coachfederation.org), and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach through the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (www.nbhwc.org).

“My love affair with nature began as a child, when my grandparents would take me into the woods and wild places near our home in Asheville, NC. From that time forward I have had a deep appreciation for the importance of being outdoors. The connection I have made between my experiences of being immersed in nature and having feelings of stress reduction, rejuvenation, and inspiration has only strengthened over the years. These feelings became an irresistible force during a weeklong hike in 2013 through the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. The feeling of awe was unmistakable, and it helped me to embrace my work with more confidence, to aspire to greater heights in my athletic pursuits and to take on new and exciting journeys in my personal growth. The power of that trip was parlayed into achieving the Professional Health and Wellness Certification with Wellcoaches, achieving my highest level of proficiency to date as a masters track and field athlete, and attaining the bucket list goal of learning to play guitar.

When I returned to Yosemite several years later with my family, I was once again overcome by the natural power of what feels to me like an outdoor cathedral. A day-long hike we took together and the afterglow we felt as we drove out of the valley that day remains with all of us. And, it is the wellspring of other adventures that have followed in our children’s lives. Both were given greater responsibilities in their chosen professions, one a teacher and the other an artist. Both have trained for and run 5Ks. One moved to New York City to live out dreams. The other completed a master’s degree while working fulltime.

Is that day in the wildnerness the direct cause of these things? No, I don’t believe that to be true. But, if you were to sit down with them and ask about the most moving days they can recall, those days that shaped their being, shifted their perspective, and invited them to dream as grand as they can dream, I know that day would be among them.

And, that is the invitation I give to all of you! A day in the wild. A weekend of camaraderie. It can shift a lifetime.”

Tricia is a Registered Dietitian with a Master's in Public Health. She has stayed in her chosen field for all 31 years of her working life so far. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Licensed to practice in the State of North Carolina. Her work experience includes the public health as well as clinical fields. Through all this, she has gladly taken on students whenever possible. She truly loves working with inquisitive minds and values her role as a mentor. With the field of Dietetics comes daily working with food and how it affects the body in all different ways. Tricia also harbors a true love of cooking and trying new foods and cuisines. She is a true foodie.

“When I discovered my love for nature, my family was shocked. My parents didn't quite understand why I liked hiking or camping realizing that they had never shown me these things as a child. So I came about my love for nature on my own, with a little help from my spouse and children. It is a true craving in my life. I also realized, as a parent, how children need to get out and experience nature, It is amazing to watch a teenager relax when you can ease them away from a screen and into the woods. I feel the need for a little nature (at least!) everyday. And working long days inside currently has me just wanting to smell fresh air and see the sky not filtered through a window. I feel that we all need a reset of where we are in this big beautiful natural world daily. In its expanse we can feel both calm as it surrounds and nurtures us and possibility as it moves out away from our little selves. Interestingly, I am not a yard or garden person. I can't grow things well, but so enjoy the possibility of fresh foods presented to me. My family has enjoyed being a part of a CSA for 10+ years and those farmboxes just fill me with excitement.”

Maria Patella has 30+ years of broad-reaching experience in yoga, health, fitness, wellness and coaching in both the corporate and private sectors, including the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center, the General Electric Corporate R&D Center and as an online fitness/coaching expert.

Her certifications include, strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and health and fitness specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She is a yoga instructor Anusara Yoga and Authorized Neelakantha Meditation Teacher, as taught by Blue Throat Yoga, initiating students in the householder tradition. And, she has completed the Health and Wellness Coach training through Wellcoaches, Inc.

Maria shares her passion for uncovering the full spectrum of human capability with her students through movement, meditation and the study of ancient Indian texts to assist one in living an optimum life.

“Nature makes my heart sing. In her I recognize my higher self. She is a glorious feedback loop steadying, nourishing and emboldening me to be my best self. I am both her child and care giver as she is mine. In her I glimpse the greatness held in every being. Recognition. What more does the heart want than to be known?  In knowing my heart, my true nature, I know Nature writ large.  In her, I am always connected to my heart. We are the same. Recognition.

As the philosopher Alan Watts wrote, "You didn't come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here."  For me, these words speak to the power of knowing our source, our true nature.  This nature is not foreign or other but rather my very self, shaping my moment by moment experience.  Nature calls me.  We are intimately woven together in strands of bliss and light.  In communing with nature, I listen to my heart.

The individual mirrors the cosmos, and as such, it is no surprise that being in nature refreshes and fuels that connection.  I know I am that small individual wave, and I also experience that I am made of nothing but her mighty oceanic source.  In nature there is recognition of the greatness I hold in my very being; life is transformed, uplifted, elevated, made stronger and in alignment with my highest self; my true nature.

In the authentic experience of my true nature in the depths of self, individual awareness emerges fresh and heightened and all of nature sings.  Alignment is inherent and she is more than beautiful, she is a potent portal to the source of creative potential in the depths of my very being. Recognition.  Nature brings me home even as she heals and elevates my expression in the world.  As Carl Sagan famously said “we are the stuff of stars” we have the same atoms, hydrogen and carbon — we are of the same substance.

I envision a world where people have a practice, a potent tool, that permits this knowing in a deep authentic manner.  Then, naturally we will do a better job of taking care of self, one and other and mother earth.   It is not that we need to “make the connection” but rather understand that we are and always have been deeply, intrinsically connected to nature, we are of the same source, but fail to recognize, to register what is right before us and in our very being.

Recognition. Aligning with my true nature I switch out the lens of individual awareness, making it more powerful.  Senses refined and heightened, in nature I dance with my Self.  Nature calls to the heart of each one.

To read more about Maria, go to Prakashayoga.net.

Tim has spent his entire professional career in the IT field. And, over the years he has used hiking and photography as an outlet to refresh his mind, body, and spirit. He has planned small-group adventures, from weekend trips to month long cross-country endeavors. His focus has been on providing a unique and personal adventure while gaining some understanding of the environment, ecology, and culture of the region. He strives to avoid "tourist traps" and instead seek out destinations and experiences that allow participants to truly connect with the natural location. For Tim photography is a means of deepening the connection to nature by slowing down and being intentional with each shot. He seeks to capture his personal feelings and interpretation of the landscape, while also catching the joys, strains, and accomplishments in photos and videos of trip members having their best, or most challenging experiences. His goal with this team is to provide a fulfilling experience to our clients as well as give them the best possible photo/video memories of the activities to share with others.

“For me, nature is not an escape but a return. A return to who I am, unplugged and unencumbered by material conveniences and distractions. When I’m out in the wild, whether it be for one day or several, I feel more connected to my surroundings, and find that with that connection I gain a closer understanding of myself, who I am and what I can do. The landscape is my sanctuary and the inner peace it gives me compares to no other. I see the natural landscape as not something to challenge or tame, but rather to discover, experience, and share with others.

I feel my experiences in the wilderness, whether it be hiking through foot-deep snow in the NC mountains, swimming in a cold mountain stream in the High Sierras, listening to loons in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, or slopping through waste deep mud in a Utah slot canyon, have made positive lasting impressions on me that define who I am and the life I lead. It’s in telling about these experiences that excites me and leads me to seek out the next adventure.”

To see Tim's work, go to www.tmanskephoto.com.

Nate has an M.D. from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. He did his residency at ChristianaCare in Delaware and has been a practicing emergency physician since 2005. In 2012 he moved to Asheville with his wife Veena and three kids. He is a partner with Carolina Mountain Emergency Medical, PA and cares for patients in the emergency department at Mission Hospital, a tertiary care facility covering all of western North Carolina.

Since 2018 Nate has been the medical director for the Hellbender 100, the highest, hardest 100 mile trail race east of the Mississippi. (logistics, weather, event planning, etc)

"My first memory of the awe of nature was on a cross country van trip with a church youth group as a teenager from rural Appalachia, driving across the plains to do a week long backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. I remember first seeing the snow capped Rockies as we crossed the plains of Eastern Colorado. For days we played above tree line in the mornings, dodging afternoon thunderstorms and bedding down at night in lush forests of spruce and fir. I knew for college that I wanted to be somewhere with easy access to the mountains, and I ended up at Bowdoin College in Maine. There I became a leader with the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC), taking college kids on trips across New England - skiing, mountain biking, canoeing, backpacking rock climbing. After college I moved to Salt Lake City where I lived to backcountry ski and trad climb in the local Wasatch mountains. Currently I live in Asheville, NC and compete in trail running races in the region.”