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OCT. 31, 2016

Measuring the Magic (Well, sort of…)

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Those of us who have experienced Eagle’s Nest firsthand know how incredible this community is. We understand what it feels like to hike through chilly mountain creeks, laugh with our table family at meals, and grow in confidence as we challenge ourselves to try new things. Each summer I witness campers and staff learning, connecting, and becoming the best versions of themselves, and they encourage me to do the same. Simply put, Eagle’s Nest is magical.

One of our initiatives last summer was to begin measuring that “magic” in a more concrete way. Using a survey created by the American Camp Association, we were able to receive feedback from campers about their experience at Eagle’s Nest. On the final day of each session, campers were asked to complete a 14 question, anonymous survey that measures common camp outcomes. It is made up of questions about a variety of things, including trying new activities, decision-making, cooperation, and connectedness to the natural world. Campers rated their growth in each outcome on a scale that ranges from “decreased” to “increased a lot”.

There are several reasons we initiated outcome measurement this summer. By examining campers’ self-reported growth, we can determine the aspects of our program that are very successful, as well as the areas that need improvement. This firsthand feedback from campers will help us continue to evolve as an organization and cultivate an environment that is conducive to growth. Additionally, the results of this survey provide concrete evidence that children are learning important life skills at camp and growing in confidence and character.


We hope you’ll spend some time looking at the results of this summer’s survey. We were very pleased to find that campers indicated the most growth in the fields of taking care of themselves, trying new things, and feeling comfortable in the outdoors, all of which are significant aspects of the Eagle’s Nest experience.

I don’t think we’ll ever be able to fully articulate or measure the magic of Eagle’s Nest Camp (some things are better felt than said), but we’re excited to have some data to back up something we all believe wholeheartedly: Camp is AWESOME.

Liz Snyder, Assistant Camp Director 

SEP. 22, 2016

Nest Love is the Best Love

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More often than you can probably guess, we have marriages between wonderful people who met at Eagle’s Nest.  Some went to camp for years and years together and some met each other working on staff over just one summer.  I always think to myself , what a terrific place to really get to know someone, to see how they live their lives day in and day out, how they treat those around them, how they participate in the community and so much more.  What insights you gain in that time together!

This September marked a very special Eagle’s Nest wedding between my son Walter and new wonderful daughter in law Caitlin Cutchin.  Walter grew up from almost Day 1 at camp.  Caitlin joined the ranks when she was a bit older at about age 10.  I love it that they have had the benefit of living in a community together, working hard side by side, sharing friendships and high adventures.  It is a great start to the years ahead.

Walter and Caitlin

Walter and Caitlin

We would love to hear from all of you out there who met your partner in life at Eagle’s Nest – I know there are lots of you.  Send us your stories and a picture or two and we will hopefully be able to compile them all one day.  What a fun read that would be!  I guess I should get busy writing my story too since my husband and I met at ENC, Paige Lester-Niles, you need to get writing too.

Congratulations to our newest Nest Couple Walter and Caitlin!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

SEP. 16, 2016

Alumni, Alumnae, Alumnus, Alum…Friend

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This year has been full of wonderful connections in our alumni community. Groups of old and new friends are coming together all over the country to share their stories of Camp, Hante and Outdoor Academy experiences. Here at Eagle’s Nest, we are making a consorted effort to improve our Alumni Relations, deepen the connections our alumni have with each other, and creating a network of people who have walked similar paths and share memories of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Outdoor Academy celebrated its 20th year in 2016 with an all-day festive reunion in Pisgah Forest. Since April we have been ramping up our alumni involvement, and bringing folks back into the circle of the Nest.  In the spring we asked for updated contact information from everyone in the ENF family and had a great response, but we still have many alumni connected to their parent’s home, email and phone numbers… We want your updated contact information: Update your Contact Info

Just last week an Alumni Survey was launched to deepen the connections within our community. Over 100 alums responded with feedback and comments. The purpose of this survey is to focus our efforts on the areas our alumni care about, get them involved in mentoring, recruitment and engagement with our board and staff.  74% of survey participants reported that Eagle’s Nest and The Outdoor Academy have significantly affected their life choices, proof that the experiences gained at 43 Hart Road are transformative and powerful…We want your input and ideas: Alumni Survey

Semester 42 Reunion

Semester 42 Reunion

Eagle’s Nest has also been traveling to cities far and wide to host official Regional Alumni Gatherings. These casual events are intended to connect alums with others in their geographical area. We usually meet and greet at a restaurant, have drinks and appetizers and much merriment ensues!

We know our alums are meeting up on their own too, and love to hear the happenings from these get-togethers! Recently, the students of Semester 42 (Spring 2016) gathered for a Labor Day Reunion in the Mountains. They laughed and played and made a commitment to future OA students. This group of fresh, young Alumni banded together and collected a donation for the Alumni Scholarship Fund in honor of Semester 42.

Our Alumni Community has the opportunity to both celebrate Eagle’s Nest history and guide our future. Whether you’re hosting a promotions party, recommending a friend, fundraising for scholarships, or serving as a resource to an interested family, your involvement will create opportunities for more young adventurers to experience Eagle’s Nest Camp, Hante and The Outdoor Academy.

Upcoming Alumni Events:

  • Nest of the West! Colorado Alumni Hike at Chautauqua Park, Boulder CO Saturday October 15th @ 8:30am Nest of the West Event Details
  • Atlanta Alumni Gathering at Smokebelly BBQ Friday November 18th @ 6:00pm (event details coming soon!)
  • Asheville Alumni Gathering date TBD, sometime in December!

Cara VarneyAnnual Fund & Alumni Manager

SEP. 9, 2016

On Fire

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Camp S'more

“I bet you’re really good at building fires after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.”

I’ve heard that a few times, usually when I’m crouched beside a pile of smoking sticks that just won’t seem to light. You’d think that after a 147 day stretch of backcountry travel I’d be a fire master, but my ability to get a good blaze going is limited at best. Truth be told, I only built one fire on the AT. Most nights I’d sit by fires ignited by fellow hikers or I’d fall asleep right after dinner, full-bellied and exhausted.

Campfires are often referred to as “wilderness television”. They’re the perfect centerpiece for sharing stories of adventure and singing songs passed down from generation to generation. I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost myself in daydreams while staring into hot coals, or watched glowing embers float upward toward a sky full of stars. Fires are magical.
And so, in May I decided that I’d spend the next three months getting better at making fires.

Our Opening Day schedule shifted a bit this summer, making room for a camp-wide game and a special ceremony for our oldest campers (CITs), among other things. I took the lead on preparing the CIT ceremony, which, we decided, should begin with a fire on Nature Hill. This was it – the chance to hone my skills. I was stoked (and really hoped my fire would be, too).
On the first evening of each session, I walked up to Nature Hill alone, collecting materials along the way: tiny pieces of dry Hemlock, small sticks, and a pocket-full of dryer lint from the Laundry Hut. As I prepared the fire, I quietly thought about words I wanted to share with the CITs as they began their session. I also thought about my own goals for the weeks ahead. In the busy day-to-day life at camp, quiet, introspective moments aren’t always easy to find, so I relished these times beside the fire ring.

On some occasions, a camper who felt a little homesick or a counselor seeking advice would come up and join me as I worked. We’d talk about different methods of building fires, snapping sticks and delicately adding them to our tee-pee of wood. Somewhere along the way, the homesick camper would laugh, and the counselor and I would talk through a tough issue, all before flame first touched those little sticks.

On one of the final nights of the summer, I made my way to Nature Hill a few minutes before our JPA/PA campfire. There were a couple counselors trying to get the fire going and not having much luck. We’d had a lot of rain the days before, and everything was wet. I kneeled beside them and tried to help, but nothing would catch. A few minutes later 60+ campers arrived, excited about campfire singing and s’mores. I could feel the anxiety swelling in the two counselors working on the fire. I assured them that we’d get it going (although I was beginning to worry a little myself). The three of us continued to work together as the campers sang, and eventually ignited a beautiful, albeit small, blaze.

When the campers went to their cabins a little while later, we stuck around for a few minutes to enjoy the dying fire and laughed about how we didn’t think we’d get it going. I realized a couple of things in that moment that will stick with me. I improved my fire-building skills this summer, but I’m certainly still not great at it. But through the process, I connected with campers, staff, and myself in a special way. Sure, I could’ve poured fuel on some wood and had a roaring fire each and every time, but slowly and intentionally building the fires created a space for me to listen, share, and connect. I’ve always been drawn to beautiful campfires, roaring flames, and glowing coals, but this summer I found magic in the process.

Liz Snyder, Assistant Camp Director

AUG. 10, 2016

It’s Been Another Wonderful Summer at the Nest

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Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director

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

Blackberry Cobbler, Cabin Camp Outs, Fireworks and More

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Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director

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.

cooking class wiht kids

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…