Programming at Eagle’s Nest promotes learning and growth. Campers can begin their journey at Eagle’s Nest as young as first grade and remain here through their senior year of high school. Our goal as a program is to provide meaningful opportunities to embrace a sense of independence, discover the joy of meaningful community, and strengthen leadership skills. In our latest video of our Parent Orientation series, Assistant Camp Director, Marlin Sill speaks about growth through Eagle’s Nest’s wilderness programming.
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Talk to anyone who went to camp as a child and they will tell you about the lifelong friends and memories they made. In addition to the friendships, camp is a powerful place for young children to grow and develop. Our Camp Director, Paige Lester-Niles is here to talk with you about just some of the many benefits of camp.
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.
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
Found at the Museum of Long Lost Facts,  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).
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
 Museum of Long Lost Facts. Exhibition: Fish and other creatures. March 30. 2017.
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.
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
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!
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
Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director