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JUN. 26, 2014

Hante Rocks and Rivers

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Paige Lester-Niles

Over the course of my time at Eagle’s Nest I’ve led 6 Hantes (3 bike treks and 3 Appalachian Trail treks). My husband Andy has probably led at least 15 Hantes (bike treks, AT Treks, Hante Skills, and international Hantes to Iceland, Mexico, and Australia). Both of us have gained so much from our experience as Hante leaders: a deeper connection to nature, a greater understanding of community, confidence, joy, resilience. From my personal experience on Hante, and from watching so many campers “go away and learn” on Hante, I know that Hante truly is the Hero’s journey and the pinnacle of the camp experience. I’m thrilled that my son, along with 11 other teenagers (4 others who are second generation Eagles Nesters), is participating in his first Hante this summer.
For the next 2 ½ weeks Finn will be white water canoeing, rock climbing and backpacking throughout our mountains as part of the Rocks and Rivers Hante (you old schoolers might remember this as Hante Skills). They’ve spent the last two days paddling on the Tuckasegee and today they are paddling down the Nantahala. Their climbing section starts on Sunday, and they will finish with a student planned, 5-day backpacking expedition.
Finn has been paddling at camp for years, so he feels comfortable on the river. I know that he’ll be able to gain valuable leadership experience during this section by helping to teach and lead the less experienced participants. I know that being in this position will boost his confidence, and I’m excited that he’ll have that opportunity. Even though he prefers to be on the river, he’s also had experience rock climbing and feels comfortable on the rock. Even so, I know that he’ll be able to push himself and gain new skills while climbing with friends who have taken Advanced Rock Climbing at camp year after year. It will be nice for him to be in the “follower” role too.
The backpacking section of the Hante will probably be the most challenging for him. Despite my advice (and nagging) his hiking boots are pretty new, and haven’t spent much time on his feet. I can imagine that he’ll probably get blisters. His backpack is also going to feel really heavy on his still small frame. From my experiences on the AT, I know what it’s like to hike up and down hills for miles in all kinds of weather. I know how defeated you can feel when you reach a false summit, only to turn the bend and see that the trail keeps going up, I remember the feeling of the weight of your pack on your shoulders and on your hips as you trudge along, and I know how sore all of your muscles are when you’re trying to cook pasta at the end of a long day of hiking. I also remember the joy that fills you when you reach a beautiful view, or hike alongside a singing stream. And I know the pride you feel when you complete an epic journey, and how that experience carries you through other challenging experiences in life.
I know that Finn will be able to push through any discomfort that he faces, and I’m already so proud of him. I’m looking forward to his stories and his growth.