Lenny Stallings watched his 2-year-old son, Nathan, pluck a dandelion and blow its seeds across the open field on his family's mountain land. His best days, he says, have been spent lying in that field, watching the clouds take the form of anything from his imagination.
Stallings, an Eagle Scout, has always regarded nature.
"It slows your life down. It refocuses you," he said.
He's hoping his admiration will sweep through the community just like dandelion seeds. Together with business partner Bob Dionne, Stallings, 37, has started Capstone Climbing and Adventure, a company geared toward putting people back in touch with nature.
Capstone offers professional guides for canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, day hiking, mountain biking and backpacking.
The idea grew out of Stallings' full-time position as student director at Crossroads Methodist Church in Concord. He would take kids canoeing and rock climbing, and during those trips he noticed more was happening than just fun.
During a hike, a student who was normally shy would begin opening up. While scaling a jagged cliff, one teenager would start to guide another, helping decide where a foot or hand should go.
"We started noticing there were substantial positive results," Stallings said.
Leadership traits emerged. Confidence increased. Lines of communication opened. These new skills spilled over to their everyday lives.
Shannon Chambers remembers seeing a change in her eighth-grade son Ray once he began participating in the excursions.
"He has shown more confidence and willingness to try new things," she said.
Outdoor adventures are not just for kids, Dionne said.
"Canoeing and climbing, there's a teambuilding and communication process," he said, something that any group, from companies to families can utilize.
Dana Sutcliffe, who took a canoe trip down the Yadkin River, realized the importance of communication was when negotiating past boulders down a river.
"When you canoe, you need to learn commands. You learn how to work together," she said.
Stallings has averaged about 25 trips a year and has taken everyone from foster kids to women's groups on expeditions.
One reason for the popularity of the trips could be the experience of the guides. Stallings has a background in emergency medicine, serving as a firefighter, paramedic and currently a reserve deputy in Davie County. Dionne has 15 years experience as a rock climber. Both know their way around local mountains and rivers.
"I am not experienced with the outdoors," Sutcliffe said. "I like that I feel comfortable and safe."
Stallings and Dionne offer their services to companies, families or any group. They hope to begin working with local agencies to help the underserved in the community.
Whether climbing a mountain, hiking through a forest or floating down a river, the distractions of everyday life are left behind.
"There is something redeeming about that," said Stallings.