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I’ll admit it; I wasn’t in the mood to take a 3 hour early morning hike through the Allegheny Mountains on the first day of a long weekend vacation.

It sounded like a good idea when my wife signed us up a month ago but we didn’t arrive at our hotel until after midnight and I could have used an extra hour of sleep.

But the next thing I knew it was morning and we were rushing to the hotel lobby to board a bus that dropped us off at the Cascades Gorge a few miles away. It looked like we were stepping into the Amazon rain forest.   

Our tour guide Brian La Fountain warmly welcomed us and set the stage for our hike. I soon realized this was no ordinary tour guide.

A professional naturalist for over 25 years whose work in nature has been featured on the Travel Channel, it became clear to see he was passionate about his profession and had a contagious sense of humor. “After all,” he said, “Who wants a boring tour guide?”  

 It wasn’t long before all of this accumulated knowledge and passion began flowing out of Brian where he became the definition of his last name, La Fountain – or “The Fountain”, which means a spring or source of a stream. 

As we hiked a trail that included 12 waterfalls and was used by Native Americans for hundreds of years, Brian began pointing out plants and flowers that otherwise would have been easy to overlook. For example, the Resurrection Fern is named for its miraculous ability to survive the most extreme weather conditions yet remain alive. In fact the spores of the resurrection fern remain one of the greatest mysteries in our natural world. Spores found in tombs 1,000 years old sprang to life when exposed to proper conditions. Ironically, it was at this stage of our hike that I began to feel totally awake.

Speaking of miraculous plants; we learned 70% of all new prescription drugs come from plants.  The most powerful cancer fighting drug is Taxol which is derived from the Yew tree family, while  the most commonly used Alzheimer’s medication is derived from a plant more nutritious than spinach - yet we try to kill every spring with Round-Up: the Dandelion!    

As our hike was coming to an end Brian pointed to a tree that was 1100 years old called the Aborvitae, or Tree of Life which has survived through many seasons of life. He reminded us that our hike through this life will be only a fraction of that time and how important it is to make every day count; to slow down so we can more fully enjoy and respect the beauty that is all around us, pursue those things that make us come alive and take care of our health and relationships.

Like I said, this was no ordinary tour guide!  The words of wisdom that flowed out of “La Fountain” are a prescription for living and can help us thrive throughout our retirement years. If you need a financial tour guide to help manage the risks on your hike through life we’d love to take the journey with you!    

Will Adamczyk is a Certified Financial Planner professional with Ramsburg Insurance & Financial Services. He focuses on Retirement and Income Planning for the Baby Boomer generation. You can contact Will at: will@ramsburginsurance.com

Note: Brian La Fountain of Hot Springs, VA is a photographer and professional naturalist who has studied wetlands and rare flora and fauna extensively since childhood, with emphasis on carnivorous plants and wild orchids. Here is  a brief yet breathtaking look at the Cascades Gorge shot by Brian; The Cascades Gorge, Hot Springs, Virginia - YouTube. La Fountain also produced a documentary about rare pond life titled  "Secret Pond";  https://vimeo.com/46371816.

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