A Castle Full of Memories
Pastor Reflects on 15 Years of Frost Valley Retreats
It was a cold winter day in 2000 when Pastor Roger Huffman woke up to a snow-blanketed landscape in Raleigh, NC during his annual pastoral retreat. Roger, a pastor in the Hudson-Delaware Circuit, met with pastors from two other circuits of their church body for an annual Conference every January. However, this unprecedented 20” snowfall naturally made travel difficult. After yet another North Carolina ice and snowstorm in 2003, the conference organizers decided to limit winter travel and meet as circuits instead. That is, until Roger remembered something he had saved that would eventually bring them together again.
While looking for a relaxing retreat location for the following year, Roger remembered a long-ago filed brochure he had saved on Frost Valley and suggested it to his brothers. They decided to give it a try and instantly fell in love with both Frost Valley and its famed Castle.
“The staff and the environment are outstanding. It’s such a beautiful place to drive up to and then you arrive and it’s just so beautiful and everyone is so friendly. The hospitality is matched by the environment,” Roger enthuses.
Since Frost Valley is in the territory of their New England Circuit, that circuit decided to join them in January 2005. Those men in turn shared the good news with the pastors of Seaway Circuit (western New York and Ontario) who then came in 2006, forming the first Tri-Circuit Retreat at Frost Valley.
While worship, study, and reports were on the agenda, the focus of the retreat was on relaxation, renewal, and relationships. Hiking was a favorite activity, though the pastors also enjoyed cross-country skiing, broomball, and indoor archery.
Beyond being a practical gathering point for the pastors of the three circuits, Frost Valley also assisted in making this annual retreat affordable. “The grants Frost Valley were able to offer us (because of their generous donors) made the retreats affordable for all congregations, especially those with limited funds.”
As the years went by, the pastors eagerly looked forward to their annual retreat at Frost Valley and their stay in the Castle. Being the former summer home of Julius Forstmann (founder of the Forstmann Woolen Company), the Castle offered a historical and charming atmosphere; a place that afforded the pastors of the Tri-Circuit not only comfortable accommodations, but also plenty of places where they could gather and bond with each other.
“There were lots of nooks where small subsets of our group could meet and talk or play cards,” says Roger. “We had a lot of great conversations there. From the sitting room we could look out on the snow on the mountains. It provided a relaxing environment for renewal; gathering together under a picture of Julius Forstmann. There were so many great common rooms and the bedrooms were nice as well.”
In 2019, a change in bookings meant that Frost Valley could no longer accept reservations for a Sunday arrival (the group’s preference). Before they could decide what to do about the schedule change, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing them to cancel their 2020 and 2021 retreats.
In planning for their 2022 retreat, Frost Valley had to change their winter bookings again because the Castle was only open to guests on weekends. However, Frost Valley staff were quick to suggest its East Valley Ranch as an option that would work well for the group’s Sunday evening through Tuesday schedule.
They collectively decided to switch locations, and while the Castle was sorely missed, there were plenty of things to love about East Valley Ranch. “It worked out well,” Roger explains. “Some things were great; it was more peaceful having the place to ourselves and we liked not having to walk to the Dining Hall.”
Reflecting on 15 years of retreats at Frost Valley, Roger credits the Lord’s handiwork in how it all unfolded; a record snowfall in North Carolina uniting the circuits in a place where they would pray for snow. Though Roger has since retired, he expects he’ll keep coming back to Frost Valley; drawn by the picturesque scenery, fellowship, and wonderful memories—a Castle full of memories.
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Frost Valley YMCA
Frost Valley YMCA is a 5,500-acre, year-round camp - There's something for everyone here in the Valley. From group and family retreats to overnight camps to horse camps to teambuilding, we've got you covered. School groups love taking a three-night field trip to explore the natural world and learn about the environment and their classmates. Family weekends are the perfect getaway for the young and the young at heart. Teambuilding retreats afford corporate, collegiate, religious, and other groups the opportunity to challenge themselves and effectively work toward common goals. In the summertime we're where kids and teens gain independence, explore the world, and make lifelong friends through various camps such as traditional sleepaway camp, farm camp, horse camp, adventure trips, survival camp, and day camp. Call (845)985-2291 or email email@example.com to learn more today!
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