By Ben Sunding, Camp Program Manager

Recently I got to visit my good pal Jess at Folly Beach where we got up to all sorts of playful fun. Jess is a good friend who I first met when we began working at camp together. She lives at a marine biology lab located right along the coast in which she works passionately on various research projects as well as getting to teach young people on the wonders of the ecosystem. She had invited me to come down numerous times, and I recently found the time to make the trip. 

Driving from Pisgah Forest, the land slowly transitioned from rolling mountains to grassy marshes. As I pulled into the property Jess lives at, I rolled down my windows to breathe in the salty aroma. Jess greeted me with open arms and we laughed about how we were both wearing tie dyes, chacos, and were sporting nearly identical hip packs. We headed straight for the beach where we rode some waves on boogie boards and watched the sunset. 

The next morning we got ready for an epic beach day. We had a very campy breakfast of freshly baked bread and tofu scramble. After packing lunches, we drove to the beach to splash around in the water, have some good laughs, eat yummy food, and make an epic sand castle. Our sand castle attracted many visitors, kids and adults alike, who helped us dig our moat, construct our walls, and watch it all get toppled down from the impending high tide. That night we made spanakopita, had strawberry ice cream, and spent hours chatting about Eagle’s Nest’s past and present. 

My last day with Jess we had a slower morning in which we sipped on coffee on Jess’s front porch, watching boats and birds come and go across the tide. We then set out for some exploring along the beach and marshes. We found all sorts of cool stuff like horseshoe crabs, wreckage from old ships, fossils, and even a whelk that was eating a clam! 

Soon after wrapping up our exploration, Jess and I said our goodbyes and she sent me home with some oranges and a beautiful oyster shell. To me, it’s amazing to think about how Jess and I are still able to get up to so much fun after all of this time. When I first arrived at camp as a brand new counselor who knew little to nothing about Eagle’s Nest, Jess taught me a lot about ENF and helped me to feel love and belonging in the community. Although we only worked one full summer together, we were able to form a long lasting bond.

Across all of our programs, Eagle’s Nest has a way of doing this for people. A diverse cast of characters from different places and different backgrounds come together and find friendships that last in ways they maybe didn’t quite anticipate. I had initially expected to spend my summer working with great people, but thought that we would all go our separate ways at the end of the season. Little did I know I would continue to see many of these folks long after we stopped working together, regardless of where we were in life. This was my experience as a staff member, and I can only imagine what this experience is like for the campers who return year after year, or for students of The Outdoor Academy who spend a whole semester together. Now that I am back home and have a chance to reflect on my weekend with Jess, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that we couldn’t have spent more time together. That said, I know another Ben and Jess adventure is just around the corner!