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NOV. 15, 2013

Why Eagle’s Nest is Home

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by Lauren Umberger, Eagle's Nest Camper

Imagine a place without electronics or air conditioning and filled instead with laughter, a dancing summer breeze, and the fleeting light of fireflies. The year is 2013, the date, July 13th, and I had just arrived where I came from. Nestled in the whispering Blue Ridge Mountains, hidden in the lush greenery of PisgahForest, I am home, 45 minutes away from my house. Eagle’s Nest Camp has been my sanctum sanctorum from the drama and stress of “the real world” since I was nine years old. I spend my year counting down the days until mid-July, when I would once again return to my paradise for three enchanted weeks.

Walking up the moss-encrusted entrance steps, I sense the footfall of the campers before me who have raced gleefully up them since the late twenties. The souls of campers and counselors past grow in the trees, their laughter is heard in the wind, and their smiles radiate through the sunshine on my face. The land that the camp stands on is rich in history. Host of the historic Cradle of Forestry, it also cradles my most important experiences and memories. One day, I too will become part of the land’s unspoken narrative. Looking at the eager campers, I recognize my earlier self in the face of an anxious nine-year-old girl, and perceive my potential in the college-aged counselors. Immediately I am brought back to the present, tackled by my friends. Our friendships are truer than most—bonds created from shared memories in a place where authenticity is key.

Lauren V

Lauren with her Junior Counselor group, summer of 2013

The people keep drawing me back to “the Nest”. I have never been in such a strong community that is built upon mutual respect, genuineness, and kindness. Out of the 200 people there, it is challenging to find someone close-minded and judgmental. The community is special because the people treasure and nurture it, and in doing so, nurture themselves. I grow to be more independent, grateful, and lively each time that I return, and keep returning to become the best version of myself. Surrounded by the tranquility of nature, the benevolence of strangers, and the warmth of friendly hugs, I flourish. The campers are diverse; yet share my appreciation for nature, faith in humanity, and love of learning. Together, we bring out each other’s true spirit. Apart, we anticipate the summer to come, waiting to become whole again. Still the philosophy of the Nest lingers in my heart like a song—it is always with me, but I am not always aware of its presence. Its philosophy teaches that freedom of expression leads to self-discovery and therefore, an enhanced understanding of the world. The experiential education that the camp was founded upon points me towards the path of acceptance, discovery, and self-reliance when stressed. To be who I truly am, I must return to my home away from home.