So last week I got to tell you all about my zip lining adventures at Refreshing Mountain, but I didn’t want to overload the blog with awesomeness so I saved the second portion of my day for this week. If you follow my weekly escapades around the Ephrata area, you’ll know that Refreshing Mountain is a Christian adventure retreat camp only 10 minutes from the 1777 Americana Inn B&B, if you don’t follow our blogs, well now you know.
I was graciously allowed to come and experience one of their two zip-lining and adventure courses designed to promote team building and wholesome family fun. What I didn’t expect was to be guided by such a self-aware, genuine, and enthusiastic naturist who shared my interest for animals and education. In a previous life, before my blogging and event coordinating passions came about, I was a marine biologist. I wasn’t just any marine biologist, I was a marine biologist in rural Berks County surrounded by oceans of cornfields and overlooked by mountains of hemlock trees. So naturally, plenty of jobs, not so much. I was however blessed to receive an internship and job at the Lehigh Valley Zoo where I became a Conservation Educator whose job was to teach people about animal conservation. I loved my job; I worked with birds of prey, exotic mammals, domesticated rodents, and even penguins. But in talking with Mark we discovered we both have a passion for reptiles, and thus began the second part of my day at Refreshing Mountain.
As I gracefully landed out of the canopy into a mulch runway and dropped my zip-lining gear, Mark’s face grew more and more excited as he talked about his reptile conservation program at the camp. Originally from Lancaster, but a proclaimed travel fanatic, Mark has lived all over the U.S. with his wife who is also an avid zip liner. When they made their way back to Lancaster and Refreshing Mountain, Mark was given the go ahead to build his own conservation program which is offered to school, church, and corporate groups. I was so impressed, especially since Mark is only a few years older than I am and he had created such an amazing foundation at this camp and I hadn’t even experienced the best part yet.
Down by the pond, there stands a 10×20 foot shed, Mark was beaming as he opened the door and my eyes witnessed what looked like a National Zoo exhibit of exotic and native reptiles. The displays were custom designed and built by Mark and his friends, each display and reptile identified and enriched with the proper greens and temperature environment. I was truly impressed. As Mark talked to me about his lack of schooling and just pure thirst for reptilian knowledge and care, my eyes scanned over the 20+ animals in the room. He had Australian blue tongue skinks, savannah monitors, boa constrictors, exotic tree frogs, chameleons, toads, many native snake species and even a collection of venomous snakes.
The shed also houses touch and feel objects such as furs, reptile skins, turtle shells, bird feathers, and informational posters on the plant life in the area. The true experience of the day after my exhilarating ride through the canopy was when Mark allowed me to use my reptile handling knowledge form the zoo to reacquaint myself with several of his display species. I got to know his blue-tongue skink, a rescue from a local reptile group, I got to pet his savannah monitor, who reminded so much of my main squeeze, Otis (pictured below), and I was even given the rare opportunity to feed a chameleon (something I had never done before).
If you ever get the chance to visit Refreshing Mountain and attend Mark’s Reptile Conservation Program, please ask to watch the chameleons being fed, its the fastest and funniest sight I’ve seen in a long time!
We must have spent an additional 45 minutes just talking nature, animals, and how Mark plans to keep expanding the program to include more native and exotic species and hopefully Birds of Prey one day! Overall, this trip truly surprised me. I feel its the perfect solution to the “what should we do today ” question because all of this can be done within 3 hours, leaving you to explore the rest of Ephrata and Lancaster but also create unique and lasting memories.
So whether you’re stopping by Refreshing Mountain to put on your suit and zip line through the PA canopy, taking a splash in the community pool, or leading a group through one of Mark’s great nature programs, I highly encourage the trip “up the mountain”!