Interviewed by Brandi Graves and Krystyna Jurzykowsi May 8th, 2021
It’s only appropriate that our first member spotlight features our first High Hope Member, Ryan Stacy. Ryan is a valued member of the High Hope community not only for his monthly contributions and also for his dedication and hard work on various projects around the ranch.
For those of you unfamiliar with our membership program, it is an exchange of access and exclusive benefits for monthly support to High Hope’s mission and programs, with freedom to explore and express creativity in nature through a chosen work exchange. To learn more about member benefits and programs click here.
We recently sat down with Ryan to learn more about him and his experience with High Hope. Ryan found High Hope through a High Hope team member and came to visit on a whim one weekend, touring Fossil Rim and hiking the trails. What was supposed to be a day trip turned into an overnight camping trip, with rented camping equipment from High Hope, from that moment on he was smitten. “I just remember seeing the moon and the stars that night and I just fell in love with this place.”
“I just remember seeing the moon and the stars that night and I just fell in love with this place.”
When asked to describe the gift of High Hope, Ryan replied, “Freedom. I feel trapped in the corporate world, I’m saving to get out of it sometime in my 40’s. This place makes me feel like I have some freedom and a place to escape to.”
Ryan was one of the many who lost their job around the time of the beginning of the pandemic. His words explain how High Hope is a warm hug upon arrival, acting as a place of respite during a difficult and stressful time. In his eyes, it’s not just for the city dwellers though, in his eyes, Ryan sees the ranch as a place for everyone to recover and heal from the harsh realities of life. He adds, “My wife and I are also looking at becoming foster parents. Bringing a child who has been abused and traumatized to the ranch seems like it would be a good experience for them.”
His message is clear, “If you find yourself in a place where you feel stuck, like me in the corporate world, this place is a way to get away from all of that. I feel recharged when I come here. I try to come camp every 2-3 weeks and I’ve noticed that I start to feel anxious when I haven’t been here in a while.” Many of those I High Hope’s membership program have similar stories, people stuck in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, or Austin metro areas with limited access to nature, quiet, and dark skies. Camping here can be something of a circadian reset. “It feels like this is a place where you can get relief. I don’t think we were meant to live in big cities, it’s soul crushing. I suggest to anyone who hasn’t been here to give it a try, walk the trails, look out up at the stars at night. It’s a totally different feeling than being in the city stuck in traffic.”
Many people find their peace of mind through travel, however it can be expensive, stressful in its own right, and difficult to coordinate long distances. High Hope is conveniently less than a 2 hour drive from Dallas, 3 hours from Austin, and 4 hours from Houston- which by Texas standards is considered a short trip. The ability to pack up and go, a few hours in the car followed by a long weekend in nature, it’s liberating.
Ryan has gone on to contribute to many projects here on the ranch, namely the Serene Ravine cleanup project in the winter of 2019. He worked with a team of volunteers to clean up all of the trash and tires that had been found dumped in one of the most beautiful ravines on the property. All this from previous owners, a residue from a culture of using landing in such a way. “We cleared a lot out of there. We created a pulley system with slack lines so we could lift something like 40 tires out of the ravine. They were probably bleeding into the soil.” Now, with the rains, the ravine is a waterfall in the spring and a safe clean haven for wildlife and visitors. The experience of working on that project was important to Ryan, “Clearing trash out of there, camping down in the ravine, and selectively clearing some of the invasive trees that were eroding the rocks,” is among one of his most memorable experiences here.
Looking forward, Ryan is looking to help assist with future volunteer projects like creating more campsites, gardening workshops, and working with earthen structures. He’s advocating for more volunteer weekends where we can get down to the basics, stress relief by doing, “Get more volunteer groups out here… they’ll work in exchange for the experience of just being out in nature.”