FEB. 15, 2019
Over 45 years ago, in 1973, Helen Waite led the first Eagle’s Nest Hante Adventure when she took a group of scrappy teenagers on a 10-day trek on the Appalachian Trail. Participants on that trip hiked 100 miles across ridgelines and valleys from Rock Gap to Clingman’s Dome, North Carolina. They lived simply, carrying everything they needed on their backs and creating a tight-knight community within their group as they hiked the spine of the Appalachians. Since that summer, Hante Adventures has taken participants on nearly every mile of that 2,181-mile footpath. We consider it to be a “Hero’s Journey” that challenges teens, connects them to each other and the group, and supports them as they achieve successes that will carry them forward as they meet future challenges.
When I first started working at Eagle’s Nest a framed photo of the first AT Trek hung just inside the door of our office. In it the participants are wearing big clunky hiking boots and thick socks and are gathered around a campfire, cooking dinner with their external frame backpacks nearby. They look a little disheveled and dirty, but so happy and confident. I wanted to be one of the teens in that photo as I imagined the adventure that they were on.
In the summers since I first saw that photo I’ve been able to witness the profound affect that Hante Adventures have on teens. I have seen it first hand as leader of Hante AT Trek, helping campers shoulder heavy packs and to “dig deep” when they feel that they can’t take another step. I’ve seen it in the joy on participants’ faces as they return home to camp to be celebrated for completing their “Hero’s Journey”. Countless teens, including my own, have told me that Hante was “life changing” for them. Many have even written college essays about the experience. Hante gives teens the opportunity to take on personal challenges and push themselves harder than they have before – be it learning how to keep hiking when they are tired or practicing how to resolve a conflict with a peer, or learning wilderness skills that help them build a deeper connection with the natural world.
Over the years I’ve saved many of the messages that Hante alums have sent to me. The following speaks to the value of this experience for teens as they navigate their way through middle and high school towards adulthood:
Sometimes the challenge is setting up a campsite in the dark, or even striking up a conversation with that one kid in the group who’s not quite as out-going as everyone else and needs a little extra help opening up to everybody. There are two things that all of these obstacles have in common: One – all of these obstacles are conquerable with the help of Eagle’s Nests spectacular instructors and your peers, and Two – there’s not a feeling in the world as satisfying as completing these challenges. They will make you grow as a person in ways you might not even realize.
I can say from personal experience that I’ve grown a lot on Hante. Hante teaches you to be held accountable for your own actions and the actions of your group members in ways that aren’t able to be taught in a classroom.
We’re looking forward to continue to helping many more teens on their own “Hero’s Journey” this summer. Registration for Summer 2019 Hante Adventures is still open. Register today!
By Paige Lester-Niles
FEB. 1, 2019
As veteran trip leader Rodrigo Vargas prepares for his 22nd summer leading Hante Adventures for Eagle’s Nest, we spent some time with him learning why he comes back summer after summer.
How many years have you been leading Hante Adventures?
I have led Hante Adventures since 1998. My first Hante Adventure was with Helen in Mexico!
Why do you lead Hante Adventures?
I love to see the kids experiencing new cultures and facing physical and mental challenges together. For many participants, this is the first time they have traveled outside of the United States. Going on a Hante Adventures opens their perspectives to be more accepting and understanding of other people and appreciate differences in cultures and perspectives.
What do you hope participants will gain from going on Hante?
I hope participants will become more confident in their abilities and their strength and that they will understand the power they have in shaping their future. Hante Adventures encourage participants to challenge themselves physically and mentally, learning new technical skills like climbing, canoeing, and backpacking and building endurance to participate in these activities. International Hante Adventures teach participants to be flexible. Traveling in a new country means things may not always go as planned but we can gain many valuable lessons from changing plans. I hope Hante Adventures will give participants a small taste of international travel and will spark a desire and curiosity to study other languages and cultures and to continue to travel as they get older.
Tell us about a memorable Hante Adventure.
Hante Spain and Hante Portual were unbelievable. We hiked El Camino which provided a physically, mentally, and spiritually rich experience for the participants and staff. The beautiful landscape touched my heart that summer and has remained with me ever since. The kids made connections with other hikers on the trails and when we made camp and we all gained an appreciation for the place—the landscapes, the history of the valley and the trail, and the modern culture. We shared stories with those we met and so many fellow hikers were so excited to see a group of American teenagers choosing to spend their summer immersing themselves in a cultural and wilderness experience like this one.
What sets Hante Adventures apart from other summer opportunities for teens?
Hante Adventures, along with all Eagle’s Nest programs, emphasizes the importance of physical and emotional health of the participants. We give students the opportunity to grow, learn, and step out of their comfort zones in a safe and supported environment. On Hante we give the participants the responsibility of shaping their experience. Participants take turns being a leader of the day in which they are responsible for making decision that affect the whole group.
You are leading Hante France next summer. What are you looking forward to?
I am so excited for Hante France. This Hante will put emphasis on developing a sense of place. We will spend time hiking the Stevenson Trail exploring the natural beauty of the region. During our hike we will read Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, for whom the trail is named. The story follows his journey through the region. We will then spend time in the village of St. Jean-du-Gard being immersed the local culture. We will learn the customs and traditions of daily life in this village to contextualize the culture of the region surrounding the trail.
We are still accepting applications for Summer 2019. Visit our website to apply. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about Hante Adventures.
By Sara Gerall
JAN. 18, 2019
One of the greatest struggles of Outdoor and Experiential Education is working to explain to others the benefits and outcomes for students learning in these types of environments. Often this industry must turn to studies, surveys and personal accounts as a means of delivering “results” to parents or prospective students. But beyond these studies and quantifiable facts are more interpersonal results that are hard to set to data points or graphs.
At Eagle’s Nest Foundation, our focus is on educating the Whole Child and our wilderness programs allow us to incorporate many of the educational pillars of our teaching philosophy into real life, natural consequence learning moments. A large aspect of our program focuses on community and intentional living. With trips like backpacking or paddling, participants are challenged to work together in ways the positively support and uplift one another. Typical everyday tasks, like basic communication skills, are put to the test when navigating rapids, or even the best way to cook backcountry curry. Where participants would normally have the ability to dry off in the dorm or cabin after a rain event, the backcountry participants are challenged to think through every aspect of how they will take down a tent without swamping their sleep systems. Beyond this level of heightened consequence and challenge for thought and follow-through, participants learn what it truly means to perform a task to a level of expertise that shows mastery and craft.
Instructors with Eagle’s Nest focus on the development of participants both in their technical skills and their interpersonal growth. We have come to learn that by supporting youth in their basic needs, as outlined by Maslow, we can set a basis of support that allows participants to step beyond their comfort zone and fail, with the knowledge that our staff and instructors are there to help guide the experience in a positive way. In many ways, we feel that the backcountry is the ultimate test to the participants’ ability to show that they have learned and mastered skills. This is the environment where consequences are magnified, and dynamic aspects like weather, environment and the rigors of constant contact with the group allow the individual to develop tolerance for adversity and a greater intrinsic desire for success.
As an integral part of Eagle’s Nest’s mission, taking you into the backcountry identifies many important principles of wilderness programming that help us meet our educational goals.
When looking at a trip like Hante Rocks and Rivers, it is near impossible to imagine all the educational opportunities available to participants. Over the course of the 3-week adventure, participants learn the basics of camping skills like cooking and campsite setup, while also being challenged by more technical skills involved with whitewater canoeing or rock climbing. Then, as they begin to master basic camping skills, those skills are put to the test as they move their group into backcountry travel, or whitewater canoe trekking.
It is through this connection to one another and the outdoors that will help participants grow to appreciate the natural world around them, and work to preserve these spaces for future generations.
By Marlin Sill
DEC. 20, 2018
Camp Program Manager, Anna Lauria, and Camp Program Marketing Manager,
Sara Gerall visited a cold and snowy Everest Base Camp this Fall!
As soon as the weather turns chilly, I find myself indoors with a book and a hot cup of tea rather than going for my usual after dinner walk. I forgo a Saturday hike in the woods for a day of cooking and warmth indoors. Even those of us who love winter sports and cooler weather may have a harder time getting out the door. Whether nature acts as a de-stressor, motivator, or a place for self reflection, it is integral to our health year round.
Here are some tips for outdoor fun this winter:
Learn the art of layering. Your first layer should be a lightweight moisture wicking layer (think silk, merino wool, polyester – not cotton). This serves to keep sweat off your core. Your next layer (or layers) should be for warmth and insulation (a puffy vest or fleece layer). Your outermost layer is your wind and rain resistant shell or jacket. If you are dressing for high intensity outdoor activity, it is best to find a breathable material, like nylon.
Make time for your favorite winter activity. For me, this is skiing. I plan ahead to make the most out of my day on the slopes.
Schedule play dates at the park with your children’s friends. This gives you vitamin D, exercise, and social time, too.
Plan a specific winter nature trip. I find that I am much more willing to brave the cold if I’m doing something that I don’t normally get to do; take a trip to a local outdoor skating rink or holiday market.
Check your local state forests for winter hours and pick out shorter hikes that are close by. You still get your outside time without committing to long hours in the cold.
Put the full moon or other celestial events on your calendar in advance. For example, this Friday night and Saturday morning is the Ursids Meteor shower!
Wear an Eagle’s Nest shirt while you adventure and tag us in your photos on social media, @hanteadventures!
Happy Winter Frolicking!
By Anna Lauria
DEC. 6, 2018
In the middle of the holidays I sometimes get caught up in trying to find the “perfect” gifts for my children, while at the same time realizing that I don’t really want to give them “stuff.” What I really want to give are experiences and opportunities for growth. I want to give them a chance to step away from the pressure of school and the world so that they can reconnect with what’s important to them, find joy and be inspired. For the last several years that perfect gift has been the opportunity to participate in a Hante Adventure.
I recently read an article that sighted a study from psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David Strayer who found that “creative problem solving can be drastically improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature.” Participants in this study disconnected from technology and headed out on a 4 day backpacking trip. When asked to perform creative thinking and complex problem solving tasks, the participants ability to do so improved by 50%. These findings are not at all shocking, nor or those of many other researchers who study the effects of time in nature on the brain, including Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University. Bratman also found that study volunteers who went on brief, “disconnected” walks through the lush grounds of Stanford were more attentive and happier after their walks than their counterparts who walked through busy streets.
There’s no doubt that time in nature, removed from distractions and technology is good for our emotional health and can reduce anxiety and boost well-being. We see it in our campers and Hante Adventure participants each summer as they head to the mountains for 1 – 3 weeks to connect with nature, friends and to themselves. I see it in the joy on the faces in and the hearts of campers and staff as they return from a day hike at Black Balsam Knob or from 3 days with their X-craft class. I feel it when I talk with teens about their 3-week “Hero’s Journey” on Hante; they are all at once inspired and filled with peace.
So, this year as you think about what would make the perfect holiday and birthday gift for a special teen in your life, consider signing them up for a for a Hante Adventure.
By Paige Lester-Niles
NOV. 17, 2017
Here at Eagle’s Nest, we are dedicated to creating a space that feels like home. Year after year our campers return and our students reunite to find their place in the Nest community once again. Giving Tuesday is a chance to experience even a piece of that feeling once again.
We love the sense of community that #GivingTuesday has created, not only within Eagle’s Nest but around the world as well. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the general frantic feeling of holiday shopping, it’s easy to lose sight of what is truly important during the Holiday Season. Giving Tuesday is the opportunity to join together with your neighbors near and far and give back to the communities and organizations that mean something to you.
But what if you could prolong that feeling? What if every month you could be reminded of your home on Hart Road?
On November 28th you have the opportunity to join another community and become a Fire Keeper. By turning your once-a-year donation into a monthly, recurring gift, you will reunite with your fellow Nesters who are deeply invested in and committed to the mission of Eagle’s Nest to provide experiential education in the natural world.
A fire takes a lot of work to build, from the smallest tinder and kindling to logs, oxygen, and heat, each part is important to keep the fire alive. It also takes regular tending to keep the fire going. By making a monthly gift to the Annual Fund you can ensure the fire never dies and provide opportunities for future generations to grow in this community we create each day.
“The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Be the spark that ignites the flame. Make your recurring gift today and start the movement.
#GivingTuesday #ForeverOurNest #IgniteTheFlame
For more information on the benefits of joining the Fire Keepers contact Michelle Miller in the ENF Development Office (email@example.com) or follow us on social media (@EaglesNestFoundation) during #GivingTuesday on November 28th for updates and stories from donors like YOU!