News

A Year in Nature, Ashland Daily Tidings

By John Darling, Ashland Daily Tidings, February 11, 2017

Five young women spent a year in a log hootch in the woods of the Cascade foothills, east of Ashland, an epic challenge designed to enrich self-confidence and connection with nature, as well as the heart of a just-released film called “Earth Seasoned: #Gap Year.”

The 75-minute movie, produced and directed by Molly Kreuzman of the local Coyote Trails School of Nature, shows the women cutting and stripping logs for their underground home, mixing clay and straw to mortar cracks, making fire by the friction of bow and sticks, tracking animals, meditating and — the hardest part — getting along with each other in close quarters for 365 days.

One woman is from Portland. The others are from out of state. This is the fourth year Coyote Trails has done it. It was coincidence they were all girls. It’s been co-ed.

The engaging and beautifully shot movie focuses on one girl, Tori Davis, who has been bullied in high school and diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia, but flowers during the gritty immersion in nature as one who has moved into confident womanhood, says Kreuzman.

“It’s been an incredibly life-changing experience to live on a mountain primitively for a full year,” Tori says. “I was in special ed in school ... Out here, there was fighting among us and I was afraid they were going to hurt each other.” But ironically, says Kreuzman, the one who emerged as the peace-maker was Tori.

Photo: Jamie Lusch Photo by Jamie Lusch

The movie shows soundbites from Tori’s parents in Ohio, who had to take a giant step to put their young daughter in the wilds of Oregon.

“You’re isolated,” says dad Mike Davis, in the movie. “People talked about the dangers of it, but it comes down to the fact you’re isolated. It was fear of the unknown. It was such an unusual thing.”

Her mother, Jeannette Aslanian, says, “It took me four or five months to get used to it. I said ‘explain it to me. Tell me why I should be OK with this.’ Finally, I was all in.”

Speaking of the whole adventure, “caretaker graduate” Amanda Smith, their supervisor, said, “I think people crave something beyond the self and nature provides that, when you’re out there on a mountain for a year.”

 

Joe Kreuzman, lead instructor, partner in Coyote Trails and husband of film director Molly Kreuzman, said “it’s not a full-blown survival program. That would take many months just to learn. It’s an introduction to a lifelong connection to nature. We go back and slow down, detox and purge all distractions that we build up around ourselves and connect to the natural flow.”

The girls are not totally isolated, but drive to a swimming hole and, once a month, take a jump down to Shop’N Kart to buy the groceries they will eat. It’s always a shock for them, the huge sensory inputs, noises, the many food choices, says Molly, and they find themselves keeping their distance from other shoppers and eager to get home.

Joe, in the film, observes, “You find your own medicine up here, not what society or parents or peers want you to be. You find your own place of personal power that will steer and guide you for the rest of your life. You find your place of passion. The first three or four months is hard, then comes the hump. There’s no electronics. Your every whim is not met. You slow down. You’re digging holes, sawing wood, carrying your own water, sleeping with the earth, listening to the birds.”

Tori’s teacher back home is in the film and comments on the excessive use of meds for learning disorders, such as Tori’s — leading Joe to comment, “a 20-minute walk in nature does more than one dose of that.”

The film has been accepted into the Ashland Independent Film Festival and the Kreuzmans are seeking to show it in more festivals, public schools, National Parks, and a range of organizations in the areas of outdoors, film and child programs, she says.

“The message of the film is reconnection with nature. It can help heal us,” says Molly. “People say five women can’t live a year alone in the woods. I say why not. The thing of bullying in school, I wanted to show that time and nature can help heal that. We teach ‘sit spot’ meditation (sitting in the same spot every day). Reconnection with the self is so important, especially for kids.”

Tori was “different” in school and, says Molly, here, “I wanted to show how bonding can happen among girls. The ‘mean girls’ stereotype perpetuates the wrong notion. Young women are not really like that.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Five young women spent a year in a log hootch in the woods of the Cascade foothills, east of Ashland, an epic challenge designed to enrich self-confidence and connection with nature, as well as the heart of a just-released film called “Earth Seasoned: #Gap Year.”

The 75-minute movie, produced and directed by Molly Kreuzman of the local Coyote Trails School of Nature, shows the women cutting and stripping logs for their underground home, mixing clay and straw to mortar cracks, making fire by the friction of bow and sticks, tracking animals, meditating and — the hardest part — getting along with each other in close quarters for 365 days.

 

One woman is from Portland. The others are from out of state. This is the fourth year Coyote Trails has done it. It was coincidence they were all girls. It’s been co-ed.

The engaging and beautifully shot movie focuses on one girl, Tori Davis, who has been bullied in high school and diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia, but flowers during the gritty immersion in nature as one who has moved into confident womanhood, says Kreuzman.

“It’s been an incredibly life-changing experience to live on a mountain primitively for a full year,” Tori says. “I was in special ed in school ... Out here, there was fighting among us and I was afraid they were going to hurt each other.” But ironically, says Kreuzman, the one who emerged as the peace-maker was Tori.

The movie shows soundbites from Tori’s parents in Ohio, who had to take a giant step to put their young daughter in the wilds of Oregon.

“You’re isolated,” says dad Mike Davis, in the movie. “People talked about the dangers of it, but it comes down to the fact you’re isolated. It was fear of the unknown. It was such an unusual thing.”

Her mother, Jeannette Aslanian, says, “It took me four or five months to get used to it. I said ‘explain it to me. Tell me why I should be OK with this.’ Finally, I was all in.”

Speaking of the whole adventure, “caretaker graduate” Amanda Smith, their supervisor, said, “I think people crave something beyond the self and nature provides that, when you’re out there on a mountain for a year.”

 

Joe Kreuzman, lead instructor, partner in Coyote Trails and husband of film director Molly Kreuzman, said “it’s not a full-blown survival program. That would take many months just to learn. It’s an introduction to a lifelong connection to nature. We go back and slow down, detox and purge all distractions that we build up around ourselves and connect to the natural flow.”

The girls are not totally isolated, but drive to a swimming hole and, once a month, take a jump down to Shop’N Kart to buy the groceries they will eat. It’s always a shock for them, the huge sensory inputs, noises, the many food choices, says Molly, and they find themselves keeping their distance from other shoppers and eager to get home.

Joe, in the film, observes, “You find your own medicine up here, not what society or parents or peers want you to be. You find your own place of personal power that will steer and guide you for the rest of your life. You find your place of passion. The first three or four months is hard, then comes the hump. There’s no electronics. Your every whim is not met. You slow down. You’re digging holes, sawing wood, carrying your own water, sleeping with the earth, listening to the birds.”

Tori’s teacher back home is in the film and comments on the excessive use of meds for learning disorders, such as Tori’s — leading Joe to comment, “a 20-minute walk in nature does more than one dose of that.”

The film has been accepted into the Ashland Independent Film Festival and the Kreuzmans are seeking to show it in more festivals, public schools, National Parks, and a range of organizations in the areas of outdoors, film and child programs, she says.

“The message of the film is reconnection with nature. It can help heal us,” says Molly. “People say five women can’t live a year alone in the woods. I say why not. The thing of bullying in school, I wanted to show that time and nature can help heal that. We teach ‘sit spot’ meditation (sitting in the same spot every day). Reconnection with the self is so important, especially for kids.”

Tori was “different” in school and, says Molly, here, “I wanted to show how bonding can happen among girls. The ‘mean girls’ stereotype perpetuates the wrong notion. Young women are not really like that.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

AIFF 2017- WHY SHE WENT TO THE WOODS: EARTH SEASONED…#GAPYEAR; The Rogue Valley Messenger

By Alex Sophia, The Rogue Valley Messenger, March 30, 2017

In Earth Seasoned…#GapYear, director Molly Kreuzman gives an up-close and detailed look at the year-long journey of five women into the Oregon Cascade Mountains. Their epic trip was part of the Coyote Trails Caretaker Program, a unique program that gives youth and young adults access to a private campsite and knowledgeable instructors while they live out multiple seasons in the woods.

Over the course of a year, more than 160 hours of raw footage from a professional videographer as well as personal footage from the women was gathered, and local filmmaker Gary Lundberg transformed that into a cohesive and focused narrative. The documentary features scenes of the women learning survival skills—hearing their personal observations throughout the process, along with in-home interviews, interviews with camp instructors, and gorgeous scenes of trees, animals, and wooded scenery. Peppered throughout are brief, educational animations on topics such as tracking.

Initially, the film tried to capture the wide breadth of the five women’s experiences, but a rough cut screening gave feedback that that vision was too ambitious. The final cut which will be screened at AIFF primarily focuses on Tori Davis, an 18-year old woman with learning disabilities and social challenges.

When Tori goes into nature, seemingly those disabilities and challenges fall away, a salient reminder that many of our own problems are circumstantial, fleeting, and rooted in social structures, rather than intrinsic problems with ourselves and who we are.

As the group learn the skills necessary to live primitively all year-round, Tori bonds with the other women—and, indeed, these why-I-went-to-the-woods lessons remain even when she leaves. When the program ends, Tori returns to her previous life, but she is calmer, happier, and more confident. The lessons she learned in the mountains translate to her life as a college freshman, in ways she never imagined possible.

“Everything kids hear is so negative, college is stupid, there are no jobs, etc., ,” explains director Kreuzman, “I wanted to show that nature is a place where you can get away from all that. Nature can be a refuge.”

Kreuzman’s original motivation for the film was that it was the first time the Coyote Trails Caretaker Program had only women participate. She thought that this could become an opportunity to show on film that women can learn, build, and execute primitive survivalist skills just as well as men. She also wanted to push back against the narrative that girls and women are inherently catty, mean, and dramatic. “I hate that it is the norm of what girls hear,” she says.

Thu 6:40 pm; Sun 9 pm, Ashland Street Cinema

Outdoor preschool aims to let children learn from nature, Mail Tribune

By Teresa Thomas, Mail Tribune, December 8, 2016

At Coyote Trails' new outdoor preschool, children ages 3 to 5 will spend three hours, three days a week exploring flora and fauna, experiencing the elements and roaming the landscape that surrounds the Medford nature center.

The preschool, Coyote Pups, opens in January and will aim at cultivating a child's sense of wonder, adventure and play, said Joe Kreuzman, founder and director of the Coyote Trails School of Nature.

"Research from the Harvard School of Public Health says that the average American spends less time outside than they do inside their car - less than 5 percent of their day," Kreuzman said.

"And 70 percent of U.S. mothers reported playing outside every day as a child while, today, only 31 percent of their children play outside every day," he said. "So we are going back to the basics of having our brains grow and develop in the natural world and imprint on what is real."

Science shows that youth exposed to nature are more adaptable to change, have more confidence and are able to handle stress better, Kreuzman said.

The nature center's outdoor dome will be the staging center for the preschool, but most of the children's day will be spent in nature - rain or shine.

The preschoolers will get to study the habitats of native creatures, including foxes, opossums, chipmunks, hawks, ducks, squirrels, mice, otters and beavers, and learn about plants, roots, bugs, and the currents in nearby Bear Creek, said one of the instructors, Shakina Drew.

They'll also get to play in the tracking box, forage for sticks to build their own shelters, weave baskets and make cattail ducks to float down the creek, she said.

Drew and instructor Hannah Schiestel will present a new theme at the start of each day and give their young students lots of time for observation and hands-on activities.

"We're going to follow the child's passion," she said. "The goal is to incorporate a child's body, mind and spirit and have the Earth teach. We'll be more like guides to keep the kids stay safe."

The program will be capped at 12 children, run from January 9 to May 31 and costs about $1,800.

Parents interested in learning more about the outdoor preschool are invited to attend an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the nature center, 2931 S. Pacific Highway, located behind the Harry and David ballfield in U.S. Cellular Community Park.

The preschool is recorded with the state of Oregon Office of Child Care. To learn more, see www.coyotetrails.org or call 541-772-1390.

- Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

A YEAR AWAY: FIVE LOCAL WOMEN TAKE TO THE WOODS IN DOCUMENTARY EARTH SEASONED: #GAP YEAR, The Rogue Valley Messenger

By Julie Gillis, The Rogue Valley Messenger, December 1, 2016

5wThere is an episode of the popular TV sitcom Parks and Recreation in which social media genius Tom Haverford texts while driving and has his smartphone taken away. He is unable to cope, so his boss takes him into the woods to briefly detox from the modern world. This is played for laughs, but Tom knows he uses technology as a distraction. He admits there’s something to disconnecting from the “real world” and being in nature, even if just for a day.

The producer and director of Earth Seasoned: #Gap Year, Molly Kreuzman, thinks that living in nature is exactly what we need to slow down. “Earth Seasoned” is a feature length documentary focused on five young women (Tori, Emma, Hannah, Maddee, and Thea), who choose to spend a full year living in the Oregon Cascades, more or less “off the grid.” They build shelter, find edible foods and medicines, deal with conflict, fears, and discomfort, and learn how to live in a new way.  

The documentary team spent one week each month over the course of a year, filming the young women as they navigated living in nature. Originally titling the film 5 Women 4 Seasons, Kreuzman shifted focus after the film was finished: “We changed the name this really became a story about one young woman, Tori. It wasn’t until after we finished the film that I learned of Tori’s disabilities and feeling of being an outsider. I called and talked with one of her teachers who explained to me that Tori had been diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia. Her teacher indicated that Tori had so many problems with retaining information, but if she was in nature, she remembers everything. That became really intriguing to me and I started delving deeper into research about ADD and nature as a medicine.”

Molly Kreuzman believes that living in nature is a healing force, especially in a world that is rapidly changing. She’s worked with Coyote Trails Outdoor School in the Rogue Valley for many years. She’s seen first-hand how learning in nature can be a profound intervention to anyone who feels like they just don’t fit or need a different angle on education.

As Kreuzman notes, “We use to lay on our backs and look at clouds, who does that anymore? And yet it was so pivotal to your creative mind and things beyond your own self.”
Kreuzman wants this film to be seen by youth and their parents as a resource, but also anyone who feels the call to go outside and connect with the earth. As she says, “I really want kids to see it because I want to show them something hopeful. I want to show them a place you can go to get away. Even kids in the cities should know that there is nature there. The film would be really great for parents of kids who have been labeled with dysfunctions. I think that it would be helpful for parents to meet Tori, who had been labeled with things that could have held her back, and see her succeed.”

Earth Seasoned: #Gap Year will be released in 2017 when Kreuzman hopes it will be seen at film festivals and in schools around the country. For more information on the film and the upcoming release, please go to their Facebook page at Facebook.com/EarthSeasoned/ or their website at EarthSeasoned.com.

When asked what lessons the film might bring, especially during such turbulent cultural times, Kreuzman mused “The thing that I love about being in nature is that it immediately makes us all equals. There is no way you can go out in nature and not have a sense of something greater than yourself. It’s humbling and inclusive because you feel part of it. All of us, for one time or another have been the outsider too. Don’t give up until you find your people.”

In other words: get outside in nature, even if just for a day.

COYOTE TRAILS OUTDOOR SCHOOL HOSTS OPEN HOUSE IN MEDFORD, Rogue Valley Messenger Event

Now preschool children in our area have an opportunity to enjoy a deeper connection to nature while developing the skills of exploration, expression, questioning and active learning — all beneficial to future learning.

Registration is open for Coyote Pups — a new outdoor preschool for children ages 3 to 5 — at the Coyote Trails School of Nature in Medford. Class will be held 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Wednesday. The term begins Jan. 9, 2017 and continues through May 31, 2017.

An open house will be held at the school from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, during which parents may tour the school and meet instructors. Learn more about Coyote Trails School of Nature and get more details on the Coyote Pups Preschool at www.coyotetrails.org or by calling 541-772- 1390. The Coyote Trails Nature Center is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Coyote Trails, 2931 S. Pacific Highway, Medford, is located just behind the Harry and David ball field in the U.S. Cellular Community Park. The school’s 12-plus acres provide a safe setting for children to become comfortable in the outdoors while learning awareness of self, others and the natural world. The preschool is recorded with the State of Oregon Office of Child Care.

Throughout the term children will develop skills such as using writing tools to share observations in nature and enjoying games and activities that build body awareness and develop large motor skills. They will learn about plants and animals through observation, creative play and stories and they will discover how plants and animals depend on water in our valley’s watershed. Opening and closing circles will give children opportunities for sharing 2 what they have learned and expressing ideas or experiences. “Sit spots” will provide quiet time for tapping into senses and deepening awareness of the natural world. Developing a philosophy of living in harmony with the Earth will be encouraged.

Learning outside employs children’s natural instincts to explore and addresses the growing evidence that being outside lowers the risk of obesity and depression, improves balance and agility, reduces stress, supports creativity and problem solving, and improves attention and self-regulation. The school’s outdoor dome provides the added bonus of a magical shelter when the need arises or an activity may be enhanced by an indoor setting.

dec-10-coyote-pup-fire-skills 

-A Coyote Pup learns fire skills

dec-10-coyote-pup-with-tree 

-A Coyote Pup connects with a tree.

dec-10-little-foxes 

-Little Foxes in the field.

-In cover photo, Foxes learn the hand drill.