OCT. 18, 2016
There’s no doubt about it – I love being outside and surround by nature. When I need comfort, I seek out a creek and let the cold water rush over my bare feet. When someone asks me to imagine my “happy place” I immediately imagine my sleep resting in tall grass on a high bald with the sun warm on my face. And nothing makes me more inspired than a clear night sky in the country, where millions of stars shine without being eclipsed by city lights. Luckily, I spend three months of the summer at Eagle’s Nest where I can explore the mountains and woods, and delight in the sights and sounds of nature. I let them all envelope me and am warmed in their embrace.
For the other 9 months of the year I live in the city. During the fall, the sounds of night include fireworks from the fair, sirens from the local fire department, and the trains rumbling through. I enjoy those sounds too, but they don’t bring the same comfort as the songs of the spring peepers and bull frogs. I also stay pretty busy, and don’t often have time to escape to the country or mountains. But I’ve found that even in the city, nature is all around me. When I walk to work, I try to tune in to the sounds of the birds as they change throughout the year with migration patterns (funny that the birds and I both summer and winter in different places). I delight each time I find a feather in my path, or at the brightly colored leaves as they begin to change and fall. And even though the street lights are bright in the city, the moon, as it waxes, is bright enough to wake me up at night and remind me that the stars are still up above me, waiting for me to return to my summer home.
As you go through the seasons, wherever you are, take a little time to appreciate and notice nature around you. Watch for the light as it changes with the coming of winter, look for evidence of the natural animals that share your yard (there are more than you would imagine), and bring in an arrangement of autumn leaves to remember the beauty of the natural world around you.
Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director
SEP. 23, 2016
A Follow Up to “Facing Challenges”
This summer my daughter Posey participated in her first Hante. As we prepared for her adventure in the spring, I took some time share my thoughts on why I thought Hante was an important opportunity for her to take in the summer between transitioning from middle to high school. Posey was really nervous about going on Hante, but her dad and I encouraged her to give it a try. I knew that on Hante she would encounter challenges –carrying a heavy backpack for many miles, managing group dynamics, setting up camp at the end of a long day of hiking, making the most of a burned meal, inclement weather, etc. We knew that it would be really tough at times, but so is high school, and life for that matter. It believe it’s important to teach children about taking on healthy risks and challenges, and to help them be resourceful and resilient. I knew that the challenges that she would face on Trek were not insurmountable. I knew that they would strengthen her character and build her confidence, which would help her as she starts to navigate the challenges of high school.
As expected, AT Trek was a challenge. On the opening day after check in Posey asked me “what do I do now.” After many years of attending camp, she was suddenly out of her comfort zone (much like she would be on her first day of high school after years of attending the same small school since kindergarten). I pointed her in the direction of the Sun Lodge and she nervously made her way up the hill. I didn’t see her again until she and the rest of the AT group hiked through the Dining Hall, packs on their back, ready to hit the trail. She was smiling and laughing along with the rest of the crew. I smiled as I thought about the experience ahead of her.
A few days later the Trek leaders called to check in and let us know how they were doing. After I’d received the group up-date I asked “How’s Posey?” Her instructor responded that she was doing well, but that she had had a difficult day. The group had had a 13-mile day, which is very difficult, and Posey had shed some tears. I was a little surprised to hear it (Posey is pretty tough), but I wasn’t worried. I knew that she’d get stronger, that she’d learn to power on, and that she would start to find her groove. And sure enough, she did. Two weeks later, I watched a happy, healthy, dirty daughter march back through Eagle’s Nest with her new best friends. She was laughing and holding their hands; she barely glanced at me.
When I got a chance to ask Posey about Trek she said “It was good. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be,” which is high praise from Posey. She went on to talk about how great her group was (she still stays in close contact with many of them). The stories started tumbling out, and she told each with a smile and a laugh, even the ones that were clearly connected to days that were challenging in some way.
A month ago Posey started high school. She rides her bike to school everyday, and has joined the Cross Country team even though she’s never been a runner and has to rush from Cross Country practice to her club soccer practice. She laughs about still not really knowing her way around school. I see that she’s trying new things, and that she has the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and take on new healthy risks. Just I thought it would, I see that her experiences on Hante have helped her in her first month of high school. This summer, Posey faced the mountain (actual and metaphorical) and summited it. She grew, and she had had a blissful experience doing it. Posey is already looking forward to participated in Hante Pacific Northwest next summer. I can’t wait to see what challenges and successes it will bring!
Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director
AUG. 22, 2016
Most people can agree that there is something magical about the mountains and the time we spend among them. But I often find it hard to explain why. Even now as I write this, I am not quite sure I will be able to express the thoughts or emotions that come from my experience, but here goes.
Upon arriving in Italy we hit the ground running. Okay, maybe it was more of a slow stroll, but nonetheless, despite the jetlag and 24 hours of traveling, our group set out among the busy and crowded streets of Rome to do the only thing we could. We spent hours wandering the streets and historic sites, taking in the Coliseum and Circus Maximus all while throngs of people chattered around us in an amazing array of languages. Traffic zoomed around and busses and Trolleys zipped along their lines and our group quickly got swept into the motions of this life. But among the motions, there were many moments of mimicry and confusion. Every one of us struggled at some point, whether it was with ordering a cup of water or figuring out how to flush the toilet. Even as an instructor, curve balls fly at you that you could have never predicted. Nothing dramatic or devastating, just interesting bumps along the path that are the nature of travel.
After an especially hot wait for a long lost Bus 81, and the ensuing cramped and sweaty ride through Rome, the group was more than pleased to find the trip North to Cinque Terre was along a quiet, un-crowded train. Strolling along the streets of Manarola just around 5PM proved to be a welcome departure from the bustle of Rome. But, not all was familiar once again. That evening was another flurry of activity to find dinner among the crowded streets as the entirety of the Cinque Terre Region flocked to the narrow alleys of Vernazza for the Festival of Santa Margarita. Again, just another challenge expertly navigated by the group, but one no one expected to find. After being rewarded with an amazing display of fireworks, the region continued to amaze with breathtaking scenery. The towns clutching to the steep hillsides, poised to fall into the ocean, while floods of people popped into the towns for “day-trips”. The trails connecting the town offered a welcome break while also packing in some breathtaking ascents of the terraced vineyards and farms (And when I say breathtaking, I mean physical demands of the hike as much as the beauty).
Despite its quaint seaside feel, even Cinque Terre proved to have its own quarks that never made it really feel like home. It wasn’t until arriving in Trento that I truly felt the change. Stepping out of the train station was a welcome surprise. There were mountains in every direction. For the first time I finally felt something familiar. And starting our Trek in the Dolomites only strengthened that feeling. From the first day in Pragser Wildsee, I could tell I felt “in my element”. The maps and terrain, though new in many ways, was also welcomingly familiar. The humility I felt among the stone giants, and the awe of seeing the sweeping landscapes were a language I was fluent in. Even arriving to the first Rifugio I felt this kindred connection with everyone we met. Here people were overjoyed with life, invigorated by the challenges of trekking everyday. I think it was when the group really started to connect on an unconscious level and when I believe we found our “flow”. Even when it rained for all of our 8 hour hike, and the wind blew, and everything felt wet and cold, it was still a welcomed experience – one I knew too well to truly distaste. It was just another side of the mountains that I had come to love. And through this familiarity and connection, every new experience felt like I was discovering new sides to an old friend. We watched clouds of rain engulf us. We ate lunch with all-too-friendly calf who would chew on any lose article of clothing or gear. We had joyfully fragmented conversations in half spoken-half signed languages. We ate our fill of dry cheese sandwiches and polenta many times over. We took wrong turns, and shortcuts that took longer, and spent hours laughing about the muddy slips and falls we all took.
These were not the mountains I called home, but they were filled with a spirit and energy I knew well. The experiences were both new and old, like de’ja vu. It was a place I was coming home too as much as I was visiting. And leaving was just as hard. Leaving the Dolomites was just as much a departure from “home” as it was the start of our trip’s departure. Even the group felt it. On our train ride home someone asked “Why can’t we just leave for home from Trek? Taking a train and going back to Rome feels like slowly pulling off the Band-Aid. It’s so hard to watch it all disappear in the distance after everything we’ve done up there”
Our last days in Rome we treasured our time together before finally splitting into our separate ways. But I could feel that just leaving the mountains, had already started our goodbye. Waking up each morning was just a bit harder and each step we took was another step away from the journey we shared; A language we spoke so fluently to ourselves and each other. A place I will call home even if I never return.
JUL. 14, 2016
The past few weeks have been filled with some amazing journeys and stories in the Hante world. Eighteen very brave travelers have been testing their skills in many ways with Eagle’s Nest, and we are proud to bring you the following “Hante Update”
First up, Hante Waterways!
Our band of paddlers started their trip camping up on Watauga Lake where they practiced their canoe strokes before paddling down the Watauga River. This was just a taste of what came next. The group then packed up all their gear and set out on the French Broad River Trail for over 63 miles, paddling from Brevard to Woodfin, North Carolina. Though it was a dry spell, our adventurers still found enough water in the river and deftly maneuvered their way through. After taking off the French Broad, they headed over to Landmark Learning where Justin Padgett greeted the group and trained up our folks with some Swift Water Rescue skills. A day of coursework under their belt and they were off to “shred the gnar” (Paddle whitewater). They spend their nights camping at Tsali campground and their days paddling classic southeast rivers like the Tuckasegee and Nantahala. And after almost 2 weeks, the rain finally came and filled the rivers. Their last day of paddling they headed back to the French Broad where they paddled Section 9, an ultra-classic “big water” section of river. Their last night out was spent basking in the glory of their paddle travels camping along the French Broad River in Hot Springs, North Carolina.
Our Northern travelers jumped into the Maine experience right away with 3 days sea kayaking in the Muscongus Bay. They navigated tides, currents and weather all while camping on uninhabited islands. Once their paddling days came to an end they trekked up to Monsoon Maine, where the Appalachian Trail passes through before its final stretch through the 100-mile wilderness to the base of Mt. Katahdin. For 12 Days the group trekked through the woods of northern Maine with the summit of Katahdin looming over them each day. The crew did run into a few speed bumps here and there, but with the ruggedness of the region, in many ways it was to be expected. Our brave travelers prevailed and after their Trek they headed back to the coast for a night of learning the fine craft of lobstering and relaxing after their hiking. They greeted the next day by heading south to Acadia where they set up camp before spending 2 days climbing the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Hante Adventures have done some amazing things this summer, and are still up for some more adventure. Stay tuned for updates on our next round of trips to the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, and the Dolomite Mountains of Italy.
MAY. 5, 2016
Over the last several summers Hante Adventures has traveled to Europe to pursue pilgrimages through both Spain and Portugal. This July will find us in Italy, again under the leadership of veteran Hante instructor and Outdoor Academy faculty member, Rodrigo Vargas. Rodrigo has worked at Eagle’s Nest for many years and has led Hante Adventures around the globe. The opportunity to travel with him to explore a new corner of our world is a both a gift and an amazing learning opportunity.
We’ll begin the three weeks in Chinque Terre and end up with a trek on the Alta Via 1 through the Dolomites. Picture hiking from hut (rifugio) to hut, exploring the rich and pristine mountainsides, learning some Italian, expanding your palate with new flavors and working together as small band adventurers to help each other along the winding path. It is a terrific way to expand and stretch your horizons this summer. There are just a couple places left on this Hante. More information can be found here.
Want to see more pictures of the Dolomites? Check them out here.
by Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director
Photo credit: “Dolomites” by Navin75 on Flickr
APR. 27, 2016
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