Discovering the Magic of the Creeks
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.
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