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DEC. 11, 2014

Discovering the Magic of the Creeks

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Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director

Creek hiking is one of my favorite things to do at camp. As soon as I put my feet in a chilly stream I’m transported back to the times when my 7-year-old self thrilled at exploring the creek that ran through the woods behind my house. Each summer I’d spend hours flipping over rocks in search of mysterious creatures that inhabited the tiny stream. Sometimes I’d even just sit on the bank and let the water run over my feet and legs as I watched the light filter down through the leaves in bright beams that sparkled on the water. Then and now, the creek was a place of discovery, comfort and magic. I love revisiting those feelings each summer and sharing them with our campers.

After years of exploring the Eagle’s Nest creeks with our campers, I know that they share my feelings. Typically each outing is met with trepidation by some (the creek is pretty chilly, and lots of critters live in it), and splash-right-in eagerness from others. Regardless of how they felt when they stepped in, it doesn’t take long before the campers are yelling in delight at the things that they find – crayfish, water striders, a damsel fly, raccoon prints, interesting fungus growing on the rhododendrons, salamanders and more. The creek embraces and intrigues them.

I’m delighted that kids share my enthusiasm for exploring creeks and woods. When they discover something new and exciting in nature, their interest in the natural world grows. These connections set them on a path for future adventures and discovery. They also help campers start thinking about the importance of caring for and protecting the natural world and all of the beautiful things that live in it.

Paige Blog 2

One of those special creatures is the Giant Hellbender. For many years Eagle’s Nest campers have ventured out to the rivers that surround Eagle’s Nest in search of this ancient salamander. Though I’ve never seen one myself, many of our campers have been lucky enough to find them. Unfortunately    Hellbenders need clean, cold, highly oxygenated water to thrive, and as these habitats decline, so is their population. Fortunately, the highly forested, pristine streams of Pisgah National Forest provide safe habitats for the Hellbenders. It’s important that we continue to protect these lands so that Hellbender population doesn’t diminish more.

Recently a counselor shared a beautiful video about the life of the Hellbender and the threats that it faces. I hope that you’ll watch it and marvel at this creature. And I hope that it will inspire you to consider and protect the unseen creatures that share our woods and streams.

Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director

JUN. 30, 2014

Many Many Mushrooms

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Krista White, In-Camp Program Manager

Recently during a game of counselor hunt I had the opportunity to sit quietly deep in the woods under a rhododendron. While waiting for the cabins of campers to discover me I discovered tiny mushrooms growing on the branches around me.

Transylvania county receives on average about 80” of rainfall a year, about twice the national average, making it an excellent climate for mushrooms. We take advantage of that by growing our own shitake mushrooms on logs that we prepped by soaking and drilling in spore plugs.


That set me to thinking about all of the other amazing mushrooms that we have growing here on campus. I took a 30 minute stroll around camp keeping my eyes open for mushrooms and this is what I found. My original mushrooms were some species of mycenoid mushroom.

mycenoid mush

I also found all of these:

Caesar's Amanita

Caesar’s Amanita (Amanita caesarea)


Bloodfoot Mushroom (Mycena haematopus)

Indian pipe

Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Tumbling Puffball

Tumbling Puffball (Boista pila)

Recurved cup

Recurved Cup (Peziza repanda)


Yellow Cracked Bolete (xerocomus subtometosus)


Emetic Russula (Russula emetic)


Canaary Trich (tricholoma flavoirens)

Opening up my eyes to all of the amazing and plentiful mushrooms are just one of the ways I like to connect with nature here at Eagle’s Nest Camp.

JUN. 27, 2014

Blue Ridge Blueberries

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Liz Snyder, Assistant Camp Director

X-Craft [ex-krahft]
1. The art of outdoor camping.
2. A wilderness class offered at Eagle’s Nest Camp that takes the art of outdoor camping to the X-treme. Includes long hikes in the mountains, a 3-day backpacking trip, and plenty of Type 2 fun.
x craft eating
In preparation for our upcoming 3-day, X-Craft recently adventured off campus to hike Cedar Rock in Dupont State Forest. Before embarking on our journey up the mountain, we ate a lunch of bagels, veggies, hummus, and tuna at the trailhead. It was very important that tuna be included in our meal, as we’re planning to make ultra-light backpacking stoves from the empty cans later this week. While eating, we spent some time studying a map of Dupont and identifying the different features of topographic maps we’ve been learning about. With full bellies, we cleaned up and hit the trail.

x craft view

The trail up to Cedar Rock is pretty steep, but our crew of strong hikers moved with ease. We walked through tunnels of thick Rhododendron, enjoying cool shade provided by the forest canopy. About halfway to the summit, we stumbled upon a great surprise – blueberry bushes! The berries were fat, ripe, and absolutely delicious. We huddled around the bushes, picking and eating and grinning. There are few things finer than enjoying wild blueberries in the summertime!

blue berries

Atop Cedar Rock, we were met with a breathtaking view of mountains as blue as the berries we’d just picked. It was a beautiful, clear day, so we could see for many miles into Pisgah National Forest. We spent some time relaxing in the warm sunshine and enjoying the electric blue sky before making our way down the trail and back to the van.

x craft buddies

We are so fortunate that the awe-inspiring landscapes of Dupont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest make up our “backyard”. Having the opportunity to explore those wild spaces is one that I am particularly grateful for, and I know the X-Craft crew feels the same way. In less than a week, we will take our exploration to the next level as we embark on a backpacking trip in Pisgah. Adventures await, and we can’t wait to experience them!

MAY. 9, 2014

Spring is Blooming As We Prepare for Camp

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It’s hard to believe that the Camp season will start in less than a month. We know that many campers and staff members have been counting down the days since they left Hart Road last summer.


As we’ve been working away preparing for everyone to arrive, it looks like nature has been busy too. Campus is in bloom and everything looks beautiful. Until you arrive, enjoy these photos from Liz.

new canoes

New Canoes – ready for the river

garden 2

What’s coming up in the hoop house?


and in the garden?


The lake is ready for free swim

pink dogwood

The dogwoods are blooming…


And the Lady Slippers are getting ready to bloom

lady slipper

Everything is BEAUTIFUL



JAN. 31, 2014

Seeing Far

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Caroline Toy, Program Director

Out in the woods, we sometimes measure distances in “see-fars”—the distance you can see into the trees. In the summer, a see-far isn’t really very far. Between the bright green of poplar leaves, the spread of rhododendron branches, and the twining undergrowth, the woods are thick and full of hidden places. But in the winter, our forests are different. Lucas just wrote a great blog post about our sleeping trees and streams, and how different our campus looks right now.

 When the leaves have fallen and the rhododendrons are curled up with cold, a see-far is suddenly much further. From the Back Slab, where we have flag raising during the summer, you can see all the way to the tennis courts, and even to Hart Road. The Lake, with its thin frosting of ice, spreads out before your eyes from the back of Cabin Library.


 But there are different kinds of seeing far. The quiet of winter, with some of the busy-ness of the world at a lull, is a good time to see yourself from far away, or look ahead to what you might see coming up in your life. So step out into the long see-fars of your woods, and think about what’s around those trees for you, and how you want to get there.