BEACON, N.Y. – Shane Hobel of Beacon has been “moving the fire” from place to place – both literally and figuratively – for a long time.
And now the wilderness expert thinks it should have a permanent home.
The owner of the Mountain Scout Survival School has been teaching primitive life skills to children and adults in and around the Hudson Valley for decades.
Those skills have included everything from building fires and shelters to growing medicinal plants and permaculture, a natural way of sustaining the ecosystem.
Hobel and fellow teachers had to trek through thousands of acres of land before they found the perfect spot for their proposed Mountain Scout Earth School.
The site is located off the Taconic Parkway near the East Fishkill hamlet of Hopewell Junction.
“It’s only an hour from the city, but it feels like a world away," Hobel said.
They have a “good faith” agreement with the land's owner and are now in the process of raising $150,000 plus for a down payment through the crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. As of March 22, they have raised $3,090.
The first installment will help with legal and closing costs; the second installment of $150,000 will fund equipment, structural repairs of existing buildings, and professional fees for architects, engineers, and contractors. They are hoping to start teaching on the site this summer.
Hobel said because of various restrictions, the survival school’s “hands have been tied” with regards to the kinds of programs it could offer.
But with a permanent home, it could offer a teaching garden, archery range, children’s camp, family retreat, and possibly a wellness center.
They also hope to offer internships, corporate training and team building, first aid courses, military and law enforcement training, veteran support services, sustainable land development courses, and basket weaving.
Hobel, nicknamed. "White Feather," grew up in Putnam County. He said his parents were very attuned to nature and self-reliance. His mom taught him to garden at an early age and his dad encouraged him to explore the martial arts.
Those early lessons, melded with his Native American ancestry, sparked Hobel's desire to teach others.
“The best thing I’ve seen as a teacher is the student’s discovery of self,” Hobel said. “People think they’re coming to learn how to build a fire or shelter, and they do, but it goes far, far beyond that.” “Once you get comfortable with the basics, you can build on them to become more confident and capable in other areas of life."
A fire pit, as the center of a primitive community, was where people shared knowledge and socialized, so it is fitting, Hobel said, that it is the school project’s totem.
It will take a lot of passion and drive to see the project to fruition, he said, adding: “That’s what we have; fire in the belly.”