By Ben Sunding, Camp Program Manager
Recently I’ve been reading through a lot of our old blog posts. Whether they be about Camp, Hante, or the Outdoor Academy, they always seem to put a smile on my face. It’s so fun for me to read about the wacky adventures of Eagle’s Nesters past and present. While reading through one of these blog posts, I finally came across the translation of Hante. This was a question I was always curious about but had neglected to ask. For those who may not know, Hante means “I went away and I learned.” It’s hard for me to think of other terms that encapsulate the meaning behind these adventures so well, for that is truly what a Hante is all about. A group of people come together to be pushed out of their comfort zone and into a place that is new and unknown to them. Throughout their treks, paddles, and climbs, Hante Adventurers get to know each other, themselves, and the outdoors in new ways.
As I continue to reflect on Hante, its meaning, and the history behind it, I can’t help but think of my own experiences with the program. In the Summer of 2021, I was lucky enough to be chosen to help lead a trip into the Pacific Northwest along with two of my friends, Ailey and Jenna. We would be backpacking through Olympic National Park, then North Cascades National Park, and capping off the trip with sea kayaking in the San Juan Islands. At the time, I had only heard stories about Hante through its former participants, who always spoke about their adventures with a glimmer in their eyes. I was over the moon to be going on a trip to fascinating new places, accompanied by two amazing humans, leading a group of goofy, equally amazing teenagers on a new adventure.
Before I knew it, Ailey, Jenna, and I rendezvoused in Seattle, WA. We had been briefed on our trip, supplied with all of the proper materials, and were making the final preparations before our group arrived the next day. That night, I was too excited to sleep. I naively thought of all of the magical fun we were about to have. Hantes possess endless amounts of fun, but our specific trip had several logistical hoops to jump through.
The first thing that happened was that it took us a lot longer than we had expected to get a fifteen-passenger rental van. It nearly took us the whole day. When we finally got the van, we packed everyone and everything in, and then made it to our first campsite. The next day we would set out for Olympic National Park. However, Olympic would be its own hurdle. We ended up hitting seemingly endless amounts of traffic due to the fact that the park was over capacity. This led to us having a much later start than anticipated. Nonetheless, we began the trail, giddy to be hiking at last. I encountered a type of beauty different from what I had known before. We spent about 6 days on the trail, and each day was more amazing than the one before. It felt really rewarding to be in such a scenic place after all of the difficulty it took getting there.
At the end of the week, we came out of the thickets of the woods and reached our take out parking lot. Everyone took their boots off and we had a nice, peaceful lunch in the shady grass. When people started trying interesting food combinations, like peanut butter and cheese, we knew it was time to hit the road again. We loaded our van once more, but much to our dismay the sliding door wouldn’t latch. We sat in the parking lot playing games and riddles with the kids while each leader took turns trying to call camp, the rental company, and find a mechanic, all with a poor cellphone signal. Jenna ended up figuring out how to get the door to stay latched, but we still needed a mechanic to look at the van.
We headed to the closest town, Forks, WA. That’s right, the Twilight town. There were pictures of Robert Pattinson everywhere. Thanks to some very helpful locals we were able to adjust our plans fairly easily. We were redirected to a drive-in campsite and used the next day for showers, laundry, and figuring out what to do with the van. Between us leaders and folks back at camp, we were struggling to get in contact with the rental car company, and every answer they gave us only sent us down more rabbit holes. Eventually, after a day’s worth of phone calls, a brand new fifteen passenger van arrived.
The next section of our trip was beginning and we headed over to a campsite that would be our halfway point to North Cascades National Park. We spent the night there and made plans to have a very early start the next morning, as the next day would be a big travel day. Before we knew it, the sun was slowly rising and we all rushed to gather our things. That morning we took a ferry to our next destination. The summer breeze on the ferry was immaculate and we even got to see orcas! That afternoon we got our resupply, drove into North Cascades National Park, and arrived at our spacious campsite that was abounded with very cute bunnies. We organized ourselves and our things, played a lot of frisbee, and got ready to head back into the woods the next day.
Everything was going well and our struggles seemed to be behind us, but just as we were getting ready to begin our North Cascades excursion I realized I had neglected to pack two crucial items for any hiking trip. Hours and hours away, my hiking boots were sitting on a picnic table at our previous campsite, waiting to be packed into the van. I was so upset with myself. All of the other obstacles we had encountered were simply out of our control and we had adapted to them with grace, but this was my fault. Fortunately we had two vehicles, one for pick up and one for drop off, so it was decided that I would go to an REI about an hour and a half away and get new boots while the rest of the team did a short hike that day.
I spent the drive there being very hard on myself. I felt like I had let the group down. I rushed through REI on a mission to find their shoe section. I was lucky enough to get the last boots they had in my size. I then drove back to North Cascades and was relieved when I started hearing the giggles of our group. I quickened my pace, ready to be reunited. When I finally arrived at the campsite, I was greeted by a casual, “Hey, what took you so long?”
I busted out in laughter. Our trip had included many stressful moments, but it was moments like these that really made our Hante what it was. Our group never failed to find humor in every situation. The message I essentially received was “So, you lost your boots? Okay, get a new pair so we can keep having fun.” I often find myself stressing about certain situations that really aren’t all that serious in the grand scheme of things. I feel that it’s in these moments where humor is most important. Finding humor in these scenarios gives me a chance to breathe and reset. Then I can be an effective problem solver.
That afternoon was filled with games, jokes, and giggles. We dipped our feet and dunked our heads in the river next to us. Ahead of us would be even more obstacles: covid scares, locking the keys in the car, a fox stealing our medications (oh my!), but every problem we managed to navigate due greatly to our ability to take a second to realign ourselves. When on Hante or any other type of grand adventure, there will always be things that go against your plan. But when you have supportive friends, a resilient mindset, and a good sense of humor, you can get through anything.
This is what I learned when I went away on Hante.