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MAY. 11, 2017

Mothers Everywhere

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This pretty planet spinning through space,
You’re a garden, you’re a harbor, 
You’re a holy place,

Golden sun going down,
Gentle blue giant spin us around.

All through the night, safe ’til the morning light.

(Tom Chapin)

As we head into Mother’s Day this weekend I have been thinking about all the mothers there are in this world.  In my backyard there is a Barred Owl mom helping to raise her three young ones.  In my flower box on the patio is a Carolina Wren mom darting in and out carrying insects to her brood.  In the hanging gourd on the front porch is a Black Capped Chickadee flitting about with morsels of food to deliver to her nestlings swinging gently in their home.  On cool clear nights I can hear the coyote mom down the road with a new litter of pups all yipping and howling as the hunt takes off.

All over this pretty planet are mothers of every species, going about their lives, raising young ones and tending to work that needs to be done.  It is amazing to think of the diversity that is spread from one end of this “gentle blue giant” to the other. This weekend, as we honor our own mothers, take some time to think about honoring our bigger mother, our planet, our Mother Earth.  Without her being in good health, we would not be who we are or get to enjoy co-existing with the moms of thousands and thousands of other species all living in this garden, this harbor.

If you’re wondering about the lyrics above, they were written by Tom Chapin and we used to sing this song at camp – might be time to bring it back this summer.  You can start practicing now and be ready!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director 

MAR. 31, 2017

REVEALED! The Origins of Big Lex

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Found at the Museum of Long Lost Facts, [1] the true story of Big Lex has been unearthed…

The year was 1927 and it was gray and drizzly day when Mildred was on a fishing expedition at Lake Junaluska, just over the mountain from Eagle’s Nest.  She was on the dock with her friend Dolly, hoping to catch a little something for dinner.  They were having no luck until she decided to use her secret cookie brownie recipe for bait.  As you can imagine, it was difficult to get the crumbly delectable on the hook so she dipped a small portion in milk and pressed it together into a ball.

The first cast went out, nothing.   A bigger ball of secret cookie brownie recipe was sunk onto the hook.  Second cast went and WHAM.  Mildred hit the deck, arms flung over the edge of the dock holding on for dear life to that fishing pole.  Her friend Dolly grabbed her feet and they heaved the line back to shore, dragging it through a swirling school of fish.  There to their disbelieving eyes but what should appear, the great, great grandmother of Big Lex, Big Bertha (see figure 1).

How do we know this is the great, great grandmother of Big Lex?  At the same moment as Big Bertha landed on the shore, an osprey swooped down and snagged one of the smaller fish right before their very eyes (see figure 2).

Big Lex Blog Post Picture 3

Figure 2 – Osprey and Big Bertha

An hour later, across the mountain, Cabin 1 girls were at the Fishing Pond when in glided an osprey carrying that very same fish.  And believe it or not, that fish was still alive.  The osprey dropped that fish, still carrying the secret cookie brownie recipe bait ball in its mouth*.

To this day, the ancestors of Big Bertha live strong at Eagle’s Nest.

*And yes, that is how ChoChos came to be as well.

Investigators Cecilia Kucera and Noni Waite-Kucera

[1] Museum of Long Lost Facts. Exhibition: Fish and other creatures. March 30. 2017.

FEB. 6, 2017

Winter Weather Advisory

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What has been up with the weather this winter?  If you’ve been lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your frame of mind) to live in the southeast, you’ll know that we have had an unseasonably warm fall and winter.  Sure we’ve had the rogue snow or ice storm, but really 65 and sunny on Christmas Day?  Not too shabby.  But if you’ve been waxing your skis since September, you’re probably still in the shed scratching your head and staring at the webcams out in Utah.

But none of this should really have you down.  Winter is actually one of my favorite seasons to get out and do my “summer” sports.  There is nothing like the feeling of biking down your favorite trail alone at sunset with just you, the bare trees, and the crisp air.  Or the joy of throwing on your harness and roping up for a midnight ascent up the Nose of Looking Glass to catch the “Super-dooper Moon” just weeks before the winter solstice.  What about paddling in January?  Its 70 degrees and overcast, but you’re out in a t-shirt and splashing down the Tuck after a good night’s rain.

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It really is amazing the way Western North Carolina has it all, and not just the greatest of the sports, but the flexibility to do each of your favorite hobbies (or at least my favorite hobbies) in every season.  For nearly 90 years kids have been flocking to WNC in the summer to join Eagle’s Nest for a rip-roaring summer of learning new skills in a fun environment.  And a huge component of our program teaches these kids how to live and love their experiences in nature, whether through backpacking, climbing, or just walkin’ through the creek.

But once they leave they think that those experiences have to stay back at camp, or in the summer, which is so far from true.  The reason we give them this knowledge is so eventually they will have the power to make this happen on their own, and by all means they should.  I moved to WNC knowing this is where I could do all the things I loved to do, and learned to do when I was a camper.  Little did I know that I’d be picking up some hobbies on the way, and learning that the “off-season” is more than just the slow time at work.  It’s the time when it feels “off” to be climbing in short sleeves or strange that you have the perfect weather to paddle  without a dry suit.

Think back to your days of summer, and the things you love about the warm air and the cool rivers.  Now think about how you can make those things happen for you right now, where you are.  Sure you might be walking through the sand, or fishing through the ice, but you can still being doing the things you love, even if the sun does go down 3 hours earlier.  This is the time to shake things up and remember that even at 4 months away, summer is just around the corner.  But please, don’t forget your headlamp.

Marlin Sill, Hante Director 

DEC. 5, 2016

What’s in those Waters?

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Was that a common mudpuppy or maybe even a hellbender hiding under that rock?  It could have been here in the Little River or in Eagle’s Nest Branch, especially 100 years ago when the waters ran much cleaner and fresher.  We know that the Eastern Hellbender can still be found in the Davidson and Mills Rivers cascading out of Pisgah National Forest just up the road.  Is the Little River clean enough yet to again host these increasingly rare salamander species?

That is exactly what our new land conservation easement is hoping to help.  By diligently working to protect our streambanks, removing invasive species and ensuring the riparian buffers are strong we can make a difference in our water quality.  Reducing run off and silt even a little bit makes a big difference to all the creatures who call our waterways their home.

Explorer’s Club Summer 2017 we should do a monitoring of our water and see what we think – could a hellbender or mudpuppy live in it?   Can we find any?  If you are game for this project think about signing up for Explorers Club next summer!

Mudpuppy

Mudpuppy

Cool Facts about the Common Mudpuppy: Necturus maculosus

  • It is a  carnivorous amphibian
  • They are also called waterdogs and are one of the very few salamanders that can make a noise – sounds a little bit like a dog bark
  • They can grow to be 16 inches long but average about 11 inches
  • They have external red gills and 4 toes

Cool Facts about the Eastern Hellbender: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis

  • They are the largest aquatic salamanders found in the U.S.
  • The can grow as big as 29 inches – big enough to eat a water snake
  • They absorb oxygen through their skin – the young ones have gills but they lose them at about 18 months old
  • Hellbenders are nocturnal, coming out of their rocky hide-aways at night to feast on crayfish and other creatures

Check out this video on these amazing creatures! 

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director 

NOV. 17, 2016

Supporting the Natural World

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Recently, a friend and camp parent posted this to her Facebook page:

“Friends, I’d like to hear from those of you who are involved in environmental organizations. We do a lot of volunteering in various organizations and give what we can to them, but have not been involved in any environmental causes and it’s a particular area of concern for me. Tell me where I should get plugged in.”

At Eagle’s Nest we care deeply about the natural world, and we are passionate about helping kids connect to and enjoy time in it. That’s one of the reasons that we were so excited to put over 140 acres into a conservation easement, protecting the land in perpetuity. We believe that through immersion in the natural world, we are able to instill a sense of place, lifelong curiosity, and a passion for stewardship of the earth to our campers.

So, reading this post, and seeing the comments and suggestions that followed, warmed my heart.

I have lots of ideas for my friend, and from the comments that kept popping up, it looks like other people do too. It’s nice to see that lots of people are interested in getting outside and in being active with organizations that support the environment.

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If you are interested in supporting the natural world, following is a list of ideas for you to pursue:

  • Get involved with a local outdoor club or organization. Most communities have outdoor clubs that go on regular hikes, birding adventures, or paddling trips. You can also find organizations that organize stream clean ups or Earth Day events. Local outdoor stores typical know of outdoor clubs and organizations in your area and often have links to those organizations on their webpages.
  • Get outside! Make time each day, week or month to spend time outside. Invite friends.
  • Explore a new hobby that helps you spend time appreciating the outdoors: bird watching, gardening, star gazing, photography, landscape painting, etc.
  • Appreciate nature through art. There are so many artists and writers who have been inspired by the natural world. Pick up a book by Mary Oliver, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard or Wendell Berry, or follow a great nature photographer on Instagram. There are also lots of inspiring blogs by people who love to work and play in the outdoors.
  • Join a national organization like the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society. Both have wonderful publications that help you understand more about the natural world and protecting it.
  • Make a donation to Eagle’s Nest Foundation! Eagle’s Nest is a non-profit foundation. Your financial support helps fund initiatives that include providing scholarships for children to spend time connecting with nature. By supporting our campers, you are supporting future environmentalist and inspiring them to have a lifelong love of protecting the natural world. Your donations also support our conservation and sustainability efforts. You can make an online, tax deductible donation here: GIVE NOW.

This morning, I watched the following video, Trail Angels, from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Eagle’s Nest has been taking campers on 3-week backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail for over 40 years. I was inspired to see the people in the video who headed out to The Appalachian Trail for the first time for 4-days of trail work that would help preserve the AT. I got the sense that many of the crew members had never camped out before, much less spent days camping while working hard on a project to stop erosion on one of America’s most famous foot paths. As one of the crew members said “stepping outside your comfort zone broadens your mind a little bit.” I’m sure that these trail crew members came away from this experience with more confidence in themselves, a deeper appreciate of nature, and a greater desire to protect it.

If, like my friend, would like to get more involved in the natural world, pick an area that interests you and make a plan today.

Paige Lester Niles, Camp Director 

OCT. 24, 2016

One Hundred and Forty Three Acres Protected #ForeverOurNest #ENF4evergreen

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After six years of planning, grant writing, surveying, baseline indexing and countless hours reviewing documents, Eagle’s Nest is very proud to announce that 143 of our 182 acres are now officially under a conservation easement.   For generations to come our students and campers will enjoy the same woods, streams and pastures that we do today.  Our forest friends will forever roam their Eagle’s Nest habitat. Our streams will always run fresh and clear into our very own Little River and on to the French Broad.  The plant species that grace our lands will be forever protected, rooted in their little corner of the Southern Appalachians.

Deep gratitude goes out to our friends at the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund for providing the funding and the expertise to bring this all to fruition.  Their vision and guidance in protecting spaces throughout North Carolina is exemplary.

I can’t think of a better way to honor our Nest as we enter into our 90th year.  Please look for our Fall Eagle coming in November for more detail about this exciting project!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director