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JAN. 23, 2017

On the Road Again

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When I first started working full-time for Eagle’s Nest the focus of my job as an intern was to market for camp by traveling across the Southeast to give slide shows at campers’ homes. Back in those days I traveled with a slide projector and two full carousels of slides. It’s hard to image that campers and their families sat with rapt attention as I rhythmically clicked through 200 or so slides telling story after story about what awaited them at Eagle’s Nest.

I loved everything about those early years “On the Road” for Eagle’s Nest. I learned so much from staying with camper families and witnessing their daily lives and routines. Those times with seasoned parents informed my own routines when I became a parent years later.  It was also fun to reconnect with campers from the previous summer and hear their accolades about their experiences at camp and on Hante. At each party tended to be a bit of a mini reunion, and throughout the slide show campers would share their stories about going down sliding rock for the first time, or how many hotdogs they ate at the cookout, or about the counselor that comforted and supported them. Some stories were outrageously funny, and others where touching and made me realize the value of the work that I was doing by being a teacher and caregiver to children. And of course, I loved being able to escape to the warmth and sunshine of Southern Florida in January. Who wouldn’t!

Throughout my years at Eagle’s Nest, I’ve continued to travel to campers homes and tell people about the wonderful place I spend my summers. These days, I’m not the main “roady”, but I still get out there, and my heart is still warmed by the hugs and the stories that great me.

Tomorrow, I’m heading back out on the road. This time I’m going somewhere I’ve never gone to recruit campers – New England! I guess I’ll be trading in the sunshine of Florida for the snow in Massachusetts. I’ll be giving parties in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and I’m so excited that two of the parties and at the homes of staff members that I worked with in the 90ties. They are parents now and their children are campers. I think that the parents may be more excited about the party than the kids.


Liz, Marlin and I still have room in our calendars this year, and we would love to travel to see you. At Eagle’s Nest, we rely on our camper families to share Eagle’s Nest with their friends. You are our best recruiters and we need your help to introduce more kids and families to Eagle’s Nest. Could you host a party? Don’t worry, we won’t bring 200 slides! But we will bring a camp presentation that we can watch while eating pizza and cho chos. If so, please contact me ( or Liz ( and we’ll help you set it up. It’s easy and fun, and it is a huge gift to Eagle’s Nest!

Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director

DEC. 19, 2016

Let Me Tell You About Camp

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I had the pleasure of traveling to Atlanta and have a table at a camp fair. It was a great camp fair, and I am so thankful that Eagle’s Nest was able to participate in it. There were all types of programs, and everyone showcased the different types of adventures available to children. People really pulled out all the stops. Some tables had flat screen TVs playing their camp video, large banners that almost touched the ceiling, and giveaways on their table. Do you know what I had on the Eagle’s Nest table? Trinkets. I had baskets woven by friends, beautiful pottery, and a couple of stained glass pieces. I even filled one pottery piece with glitter. I thought that was a nice touch! Comparatively speaking there wasn’t much on our table. I had parents walk up to the table and look above my head for a banner that stated who I was and where I was coming from. To their questioning looks I answered, “I would love to tell you about the wonderful place that is Eagle’s Nest!” That got their attention and I was able to convey the love I have for our foundation. I connected with the people who visited our table, and I invited people to our Atlanta camp party.

That was special to me. Just like camp, our table was simply magical. It showed what kids can do when given the opportunity to spend time at the Nest. To me, that is the most special part about Eagle’s Nest Camp. Kids grow by learning compassion and building confidence within themselves. I was also excited because towards the end of the day one of my past table children, Abby, stopped by. Abby went to camp, was a JC, participated in the Hante program, and was a student at The Outdoor Academy. We ran to greet each other from across the room. That type of friendship is what we build here at Eagle’s Nest. We were very excited to see one another. You could tell by the laughs and smiles we shared. The Eagle’s Nest Camp community extends past the summer and across the country. I believe camp is a wonderful experience that every child should have the chance to enjoy.

Ayana Brown, Camp Program Manager

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!



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. 29, 2016

#GivingTuesday is About More Than Money

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Yes, last year we raised over $3,000 in a single day from wonderful donors and friends. Yes, non-profits around the world are using #GivingTuesday as a way to kick start their fundraising efforts. And yes, we would love for you to make a donation today. But what is the bigger picture? Why is it so important to show this support and raise awareness for our causes?

I like to think this is a global effort to “give thanks” for all the people doing good in this world. Today is more than a day of fundraising, it is a day to educate ourselves on all the wonderful organizations, hardworking individuals, and unique missions that exist worldwide, and right here at home.

This is a MOVEMENT. A way to show that good really does prevail. A way to feel connected, peaceful and kind. Being part of #GivingTuesday is kind of like Giving Day at Eagle’s Nest- you do it for the other person, but find that you can gain just as much by making a gift with your own hands.

I know that I am thankful every day to be a part of the Eagle’s Nest and OA community. A place where I can be myself, laugh with good friends, and escape into the forest to sit among the trees to count my blessings.

Join Eagle’s Nest and thousands of others TODAY and make #GivingTuesday a part of your giving plans each year!  Express your gratitude, for the community that is cultivated here, for the time we spend in nature, for simple living, and to become your best self.

We invite you to get involved on social media and show your support:

  • Make a post to your personal social media account(s)…email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. about #GivingTuesday
  • Share our posts with your friends!
  • Use our #hashtags (#GivingTuesday, #foreverournest #gratitudeproject) and @accounts (@eaglesnest_hanteadv, @outdooracademy)
  • Make a donation!
  • TELL YOUR STORY OF SUPPORT, and encourage others to visit our giving page online

Cara Varney, Annual Fund & Alumni Manager

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.


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 

NOV. 8, 2016

“Be Nice” is Always the #1 Rule

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This past July, I began a new job at a high school in the middle of the city of New Orleans.  As a teacher, one of the best and worst things about changing schools is that you inherit a lot of unclaimed supplies and very blank wall space.  As I began to decorate my room with the jittery anticipation of all of the teenage learning that I would be responsible for in the months to come, I realized that one of the posters I hung would have to be the CLASS RULES.  And that I would have to come up with them.

Class rules might not seem like a huge deal (personally, I cannot recall any of the rules from any of my classrooms as a student), but I believe that they tell students a lot about what I expect of them and what they, in turn, can expect from each other and from me.  So there’s a lot of pressure to get the rules right, right off the bat.  How, though, can anyone both prioritize and convey–as plainly as possible– which behaviors are most important to learning?  Is it coming to class prepared?  Is it focusing on the work?  Is it showing perseverance?  Is it raising your hand to speak? Or staying in your seat at all times?

It is only because I have spent several summers as a counselor at Eagle’s Nest Camp that I knew exactly where to begin.


As you may know, the number one rule at Eagle’s Nest is “Be Nice.”  Although it is a bit amorphous and can be tricky to enforce (what seems “nice” to you may not always seem “nice” to me), it is also what makes Camp a place where everyone, counselors and campers alike, feels at home– free and comfortable to be their very best selves– for one or two or three (or maybe even twelve) short weeks out of the year.  “Be Nice” sends the message so clearly: this is a safe place where, no matter what, you can expect to be treated kindly.

And that is the message, in my limited experience, that is foundational to learning.  I believe this because “Be Nice” is also the number one rule in my classroom.  I believe this because my students, all of whom are 9th graders who struggle with reading, know that they are not allowed to make fun of each other, no matter how innocuously.  And so each one of them is willing to take the daily risk of mispronouncing words or incorrectly answering a question.  Each one of them keeps showing up and keeps trying. They wait, patiently, whenever a classmate is working up the courage to read.  They help each other pronounce difficult words.  And they know, ultimately, that school– just like camp– is a place where they will simultaneously be accepted as they are and where they can practice being even better.

Becca Spiegel, Eagle’s Nest Camp Counselor and New Orleans Public School Teacher