AUG. 10, 2016
There are so many things that I love about Eagle’s Nest, and so many reasons why I’m thankful to be able to spend my summers in the mountains at camp. I love the sounds of camp – laughter echoing out of cabins, songs and music floating from the Dining Hall, a nightly symphony of spring peepers, bullfrogs and cicadas lulling us to sleep at the end of each busy day. I love being able to be so close to nature that I recognize subtle changes around me – like the phases of the moon, or when Indian Pipe springs up, or when the red efts leave the lake to explore our woods. I love all of the magic at camp – seeing campers light up when the crowd cheers for them at Coffee House, finding a feather in the path, seeing a Final Banquet come together with paper and paint and creativity and hard work. But most of all, I love all of the wonderful people, campers and counselors alike, who really make camp special.
Each summer at camp is magical and special, and the summer of 2016 is no different. I just came back to the office after walking around camp visiting classes. Everywhere I went I heard laughter, saw smiles and kids (and counselors) enjoying playing outside.
We’re now halfway through the last session of the summer. In just a few days we’ll be saying goodbye to our last campers of the summer. Before they go, we want to make the most of out of the last few days of camp! This morning we played Capture the Flag and currently the Junior Counselors are busy preparing a cookout for us. We’ll have a square dance tonight, and many more fun activities planned for the rest of the week.
As the summer begins to wind down, my heart is filled with joy for all of the wonderful experiences we’ve had this summer and for all of the wonderful people who have shared them with us.
JUL. 7, 2016
It’s hard to believe that we are now half way through Session 2. The days are full and wonderful at camp, and time seems to take on a magical quality; it is all at once expanding to allow us to do as much as we possibly can, and also rapid and fleeting. At some point we try to forget about time, move from place to place when we hear the bell telling us it’s time for a change, and embrace each opportunity in front of us.
In the week and a half that we’ve been together we have certainly made the most of the time we’ve had together. On the first full day of camp our new campers were placed into tribes – Migisi, Natseeho, Wohelo and Winnesquam. These tribes will always be a supportive community belonging for our campers (and a group of people to play Capture the Flag with). The following night each cabin performed at “Air Guitar”. I love watching the campers who were initially timid on the first day starting to “bust out”, laugh and be goofy at Air Guitar. This is a perfect cabin bonding activity. By the middle of the week we were well into classes and into the routine of camp.
The weekend brought time for a change of pace and some celebrations. On Saturday after the morning activities the counselors created a water park for the campers. The kids enjoyed cooling off while racing with greased watermelons, building and floating boats, and have water fights. That night we the Junior Counselors prepared a cook out for us – complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled corn, coleslaw and Cho Chos (the tasty camp dessert). After our bellies were full we headed off to a square dance. The kids loved following the caller as they danced the Virginia Reel and others square and line dances to live music. By the end of the evening I think that just about all of the campers had danced at least one dance. They were certainly happy to be able to sleep in on Sunday morning! Sunday started off with pancakes and a game of Quiditch (the Wohelo and Natseeho won) and ended with Tribal Village.
Monday, July 4th, was a special day. We had a picnic lunch in the Quad, barbeque and blackberry cobbler for dinner, and then a cardboard box derby and fireworks in the evening. I’ll let your campers fill in the blanks with some of the details. It was a very fun day.
This week classes have started to get off campus for activities. The paddlers have been on several river trips, the climbers went on a three-day trip to Cedar Rock, the horseback riders have been to a horse show, and the X-craft class is currently on a three-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in the Roan Highlands. I can’t wait to see the pictures and hear the stories when they return.
Over the last two nights all of our campers have headed out to the woods for cabin campouts – the girls all camped out on Tuesday night and the boys were out last night. Some of the cabins camped in the woods at Eagle’s Nest, and others ventured out to the surrounding forests off campus. Cabin 10 ventured all the way to Black Balsam where they watched the sunrise this morning. At Eagle’s Nest Camp, we believe that every child should have the chance to have a special camp out in nature. We want them to experience the joy (and courage) of sleeping outside, under a tarp with the sounds of nature all around them. During the cabin campouts, campers all had the chance to tell stories and eat s’mores around a campfire, before climbing into their sleeping bags to fall asleep to the sounds of the night. We’re excited that they get this opportunity because we know the providing a safe, fun experience in the natural world will give them the chance to step out of their comfort zones, stretch their minds, and connect them to the beauty of the world around them. Is there a better way for us to meet our mission of “promoting the natural world and the betterment of human character”?
We’ve still got another week and a half left of camp, and we’re planning to make the most of it. The weekend is approaching, with lots of surprises and the promise of more laughter…
JUN. 23, 2016
Being a part of a tribe at Eagle’s Nest is a tradition that began in the mid 1940’s. Our tribes are just one way that we belong to smaller communities within our community at large. Our tribes, 2 for the females and 2 for the males, provide us with a touchpoint at Eagle’s Nest that never changes from the very first moment we arrive at camp. Once you are a Winnesquam, Wohelo, Natseeho or Migisi, you will always be a member of that tribe. In these small groups we learn to be a part of multi-generational communities that play, work and come together intentionally to reflect, share stories and be held quietly by the natural world around us.
Cultures shift over the course of history and a healthy organization does the same. This spring we created a council of staff, trustees and others to study our tribal system and make recommendations for ways in which we might be even more inclusive and intentional in our approach to conducting ceremony and honoring other cultures. Our discussion included many topics ranging from what we call our gathering place, how we recognize advancements in our activities, what costumes we wear and what our goals and intentions are for each aspect of our tribal system.
This first session at camp we rolled out the shifts to our tribal system that we wanted to make. We are now led to our Tribal Village by our Tribal Elders who wear costumes carefully chosen to represent their personal roots, tribes and affiliations. Our tribal names remain the same as they are our history, our creations. We teach the specific origins of each of our tribal names. As we achieve a new rank in the Village we now receive a bracelet with a bead reflecting the color of our new rank; Nestling, Fledgling, Eaglet, Flier, Eagle. Our stories as told by Storyteller are collected from other earth-honoring cultures around the globe, with our playmakers from the Nature Lore class adorned in costumes from that same culture. Our games led by the Gamekeeper are researched and also derived from the same culture we have chosen to honor that night.
I am proud of our campers and staff as they have embraced this change with gusto. The ease with which the changes have come means to me that it was all meant to be. We know too that we will continue to change and grow as we should.
If you have questions about the changing tides at Eagle’s Nest Camp let me know. I am happy to share more details.
Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director
MAY. 5, 2016
The sun shone brightly at 8:30am, making a bold reappearance after nearly 24 hours of soaking rain. Clouds sat just beneath the summits of mountains on the horizon, stretched out like wispy cotton balls lazily drifting from peak to peak. Trees stood tall against a deep blue sky, showing off their first greens after months of bare existence. I lowered my sunglasses to take it all in, smiled, and kept running.
The third and final leg of the Smoky Mountain Relay took me through a sleepy valley surrounded by Nantahala National Forest. My team of 11 other runners and I had been on the move since 10:15am the previous day, making our way across 208 miles of western North Carolina’s trails and roads. When it was time for my final run I was sleep-deprived, sore, and expecting a seven-mile-sufferfest.
But something wholly unexpected happened when I started running. Yes, my hamstrings and calves wailed in protest, and yes, it hurt, but I quickly entered a state of mental euphoria. The “runner’s high” is a well-known phenomenon brought on by the circulation of “happy” chemicals throughout an active person’s body and brain. I’m lucky to feel that high often, but this time was different. I was transported into a meditative state not by the movement of my body, but by the space I ran through.
I was overwhelmed with joy. The sunshine, the mountains, the sky, the river rushing by next to me, the cows’ confused stares as I moved past them, the country road called “Happy Lane”. All of it swirled around me and ignited my sense of place. I didn’t think about the finish line or check my watch to see how fast I was running. I felt each step. I lived each moment. I was present.
I don’t remember seeing North Carolina’s mountains until I was 10 years old. My family loves the ocean, so we traveled east from Raleigh to the coast for our vacations. I found my place in the mountains independently when I went to camp the summer after 4th grade. I recall looking out across the Blue Ridge for the first time and feeling my heart swell. My feet were rooted in the soft ground, and it seemed as if the earth’s electrical pulse ran up my legs and through my body. I felt small and humble, curious and calm. Those mountains lit a fire in my soul that has yet to be extinguished.
In fact, my infatuation with the Blue Ridge Mountains has intensified over the past two decades. I’ve come to know them intimately, and I’ve come to know myself intimately through the time spent in their grasp. I’ve experienced joy, heartache, failure, and growth while they stood witness on the horizon. In a life full of transition, they are constant. I know that I can run to the mountains when my perspective gets fuzzy.
Western North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge especially, is my heart place. This is the place where I feel physically, emotionally, and mentally connected to the landscape. Sometimes the logistics of life act as blinders and I forget how fortunate I am to have made a home here. My painfully beautiful run through the Nantahala valley reminded me of the magic that lives in these hills and in my soul. It brought me back to the feeling I had as a kid, to that spark of electricity running through me. Calm and curious, humble and small. It helped me remember that I can leave, but this place will always be home.
In just over a month, children from all over the world will come to Eagle’s Nest. They’ll walk through frigid mountain streams, sleep on the soft ground, and watch as embers from an evening fire disappear into a sky full of stars. They’ll laugh and learn and grow, and the mountains will stand watch on the horizon. Campers will discover their heart place here, and it will live with them forever. I can’t wait to see their faces light up when they witness a sweeping vista or hike through the forest. I can’t wait to see them connect to this landscape. And, more than anything, I can’t wait to share this place with them.
By Liz Snyder, Assistant Director
APR. 27, 2016
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MAR. 16, 2016
Giving your child the gift of summer camp is, in my mind, one the greatest gifts you can ever give them. It is a gift of community, social connections, connections to the natural world, and finding one’s place and voice in the world. Stepping away from home and into another safe and nurturing environment where one is expected to be responsible for oneself and contribute to the community is a time of great growth for a child.
Every day more and more research is done on the value of educational experiences outside of the classroom. A good summer camp environment is designed to challenge young people physically, mentally, socially and spiritually with steady encouragement from staff who love being with children and teens and who are committed to encouraging growth on all fronts.
Sending your child away to camp can be a difficult decision, especially the first time. As a parent of now young adults, I have been there and understand that feeling. I can say from personal experience and from watching hundreds of families arrive for their first ever camp session, giving your child this space to grow is one of the best things you will ever do for them.
If you are still sitting on the fence about whether or not your child, or you, are ready for camp I encourage you to go to the American Camp Association website and check out their articles and resources. In particular I think you will enjoy this article.
Hope to see you at camp soon!
Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director