DEC. 6, 2016
To My Beloved Eagle’s Nest Adventurers,
The fact that you’re beginning to read these words already says a lot about you. By being a student at The Outdoor Academy or a camper at Eagle’s Nest, you’ve already proven that you have a desire to step out of your comfort zone and leave behind day-to-day luxuries such as Snapchat stories, Netflix marathons with your cat, and microwavable ramen for an opportunity to explore the wilderness with a handful of people you’ve never met before. This isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes a lot to sacrifice the comforts of our lives in exchange for an experience we know almost nothing about before we commit to it. However, that’s the very thing that keeps me coming back to Eagle’s Nest every year; the excitement of living in the moment and never knowing what to expect next.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have participated in three Hante’s, all of which were completely different. However, they’re kind of set up that way. Much like every year at camp, or every semester of OA, each Hante has a completely different culture that springs forth as a result of the personality and energy that each member brings to the group. Over the course of three weeks, this culture becomes more defined with each and every day as the members of the Hante become closer, more comfortable expressing themselves, and less afraid to take risks. This culture and closeness also forms from the challenges that a group faces together. Nothing makes you closer to someone than hiking up a mountain in the rain, while you both carry heavy packs, and nothing feels more gratifying than getting to the top of that mountain and seeing the gorgeous view that you worked so hard to get to see with the same people you struggled to the top of the mountain with.
Although in many cases, the obstacle is literally a mountain, there are plenty of other Hante’s with their own challenges that have nothing to do with the vertical ascension of a land mass. Sometimes the challenge is paddling through a super strong rapid, or 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 until you go home that summer, and your parents say to you, “Wow, you’re a lot less annoying than you were when we dropped you off at that forest.”
But seriously, I can say from personal experience that I’ve grown a lot on Hantes. They teach you to be held accountable for your actions and the actions of your group members in ways that aren’t able to be taught in a classroom. It’s really difficult to fully encapsulate the experience of a Hante in this one letter, unfortunately. In fact, it’s downright impossible. Which is all the more reason you should sign up for one, and experience it yourself.
Eagle’s Nest camper, Hante participant, Semester 38 Alum
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.
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
FEB. 29, 2016
There are many barriers in our minds that can prevent us from taking the leap to traveling to new and unfamiliar places. I know when I started thinking about journeying to Israel for the first time, I was terrified. Every other place I’d traveled up until that point I felt prepared to visit and explore. Israel would be the first place where I would be alone. Where I would not be able to read, speak, or understand the language. In fact, it was an alphabet totally foreign to me. Even the culture, though I am Jew-“ish”, didn’t seem like something familiar or relatable. But, nonetheless, I went for it anyway. And I did it with a specific mindset; call it a rule if you will, that I made for myself somewhere in my mid twenties.
I would like to share with you a tip for anyone traveling, anywhere, for any reason, at any time. You do not necessarily need to speak the native language, or be terribly familiar with where you are going…EVER. In fact, there are really only 3 things I feel you must be able to do in order to conquer any language/cultural/distance/traveling barriers. In fact, of the 3 things I am about to tell you, you really only need to be really good at 2. Proficiency with all 3 is best, but being darn good at 2 will get you where you need to go. Are you ready? These are my 3 international, speaks to all souls “Languages” that transcend all cultures and will help you connect wherever you go: The ability to create music, the footwork and flair for dance, and the taste and palate to cook.
Let me explain a bit more. For those who can sing or play an instrument, you will quickly realize that we live in a time where technology has spread music all around the globe. That famous opening riff to “Hotel California” will likely raise eyebrows and likely incite others to sing along. And even if you can’t find a common song to play or sing, harmonies and melodies tend to have innate emotions that allow you to communicate sadness, anger, joy and excitement. Even the act of just playing music is enough to connect humans beyond the verbal realm. So learn to sing, or pick an instrument.
For those who may not be so inclined to creating music, the ability to follow it can help break the language barriers. Like music, dancing and its motions carry emotion and often raise endorphin levels, bringing smiles and laughter (a true universal language). If you have the ability to follow engage and move with others to music, you will quickly find that just the act of releasing energy with others is enough to speak to them. Any cultures still use forms of dance in their cultural rituals, and even in daily life. Be ready to shake it off, and even ready to bring your own moves to the floor, just be sure to keep the moves culturally conservative.
Unlike, music and dance, cooking is a different art. And when I say cooking, I also include the idea that you should have an open enough palate to be able to try and incorporate new flavors into your life. Many cultures see eating as a community and family experience, where they can share in the joy of nourishment. And when you are far from home, you will often find that the best way to tell others about yourself, is to show who you are through cooking and bringing what you can of your culture to theirs. Keep in mind that some cultures find it rude for guests to alter dishes that have been prepared, so be ready to eat things as they are served, and don’t forget to bring some treat to connect your heritage to them.
So next time you discount the idea of traveling to Sweden, or Asia, remember that language is just one barrier. That culture truly defines other places, and that you ability to be open to things that define culture, like music, dance and food, will more often than not, speak far more than the words you learned on duolingo. And don’t forget, these are all things that are great things to do in your “normal” life. They are the things that make life rich and vibrant, and will bring color and joy to wherever you go.
Marlin Sill, Wilderness Program Director
FEB. 15, 2016
On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act establishing the National Park Service (NPS), a guarantee that the country’s national parks would be protected and preserved by the federal government. This year the National Park Service celebrates 100 years of parks in America. Thanks to their vision of nature and wildlife preservation, we now enjoy a vast network of 409 parks, forests, monuments, battlefields and coastline, places for people to go and enjoy the great outdoors.
Eagle’s Nest and Hante Adventures has had the unique opportunity to travel to many of our nations’ jewels. Last summer a handful of lucky young people travelled to the Pacific Northwest and Olympic National Park. “It was awesome! There were trees and they were really big, like seriously huge” says one of our 15 year-old adventurers. “I was inspired by the glaciers we saw there and did some research on them when I got home.” The lasting effects of wilderness experiences like these are important today in our increasingly diverse and urban nation, and all Americans should feel as if they own a piece of heritage in the treasures of National Parks.
“The terrain and wildlife were so varied, and we travelled from ridgeline to redwood forest to glaciers all over a few days.” explained another adventurer. “The experience makes me want to be a park ranger, even with the hat!”
For many, the national parks still evoke images of the great American road trip, a family jumping into their station wagon or SUV and heading out to Yosemite, Acadia, Yellowstone or Grand Teton. For Hante participants it is the chance to get into nature and discover that wildness is a necessity; the mountains are going home.
If you missed out on the chance to experience the PNW, good news, Hante Maine is looking for more young adventurers and will be traveling to Acadia National Park this summer! “I have been to Acadia NP before, it was so beautiful and I thought I would never have the chance to go back,” says a future Hante Maine voyager, “The parks are so well maintained, and I feel fortunate to experience the same things as people who lived 100 years ago did.”
The above mentioned young adventurers all believe that “the National Park Service is the best thing about America!” Last year, 292.8 million people visited park service sites, and in 2016 you can expect 16 days of free entrance into all of the parks! Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates in 2016:
- January 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 16 through 24: National Park Week
- August 25 through 28: National Park Service Birthday
- September 24: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir- The Yosemite (1912)
Cara Varney, Development Assistant
FEB. 9, 2016
There are many aspects of travel, adventure, and the wilderness that I love. Being in new places, foreign lands, serene wildernesses, places I feel utterly alone, and completely surrounded. The love of going with no true destination besides the journey. Marching up mountains, slashing down powdery slopes, or splashing through tides and waves. For me, travel and what I love about it, can be summed up by so many different factors, but there is a certain consistency through every trip, every expedition, and every day, that I’ve come to love just as much as the adventure itself, and that is food.
In my many years traveling both as a guide and on my own, I have encountered food on every single trip. It seems that no matter where we go, or what we do, food follows and is a constant theme of continuing the adventure. Unfortunately for some, food can become the bane and nightmare of the unprepared or unadventurous traveler. But for those with a taste for things on the wild side, or even a good nose and creative mind, food can become part of the art of traveling.For me, I take every opportunity to explore new and tasty cuisines whether I’m in villages in the Galician countryside, or in a 2-man tent at 10,000 feet. It all comes down to how you set yourself up. I like to think I am not a picky eater, at all! Even things I don’t like- for example: olives- I give them a try everywhere I go, especially in new places. Every corner of our world is littered with flavors and combinations your palette has yet to discover. So I give myself leave to take it all in every time I travel.
Fresh vegetables go a long way at the end of a long day in the woods.
Now, when you think of backpacking and packing light, you may not be thinking, “I can’t wait for my gourmet 1-pot meal”, but hear me out. Sure things are easier when you’re visiting places like Madrid, or Banff, where restaurant and even Hostels can provide you “basic” meals or even a kitchen. But being able to travel puts the kitchen in your pack and even in your pocket. Not only do I pride myself in my very tolerant palette, but I took it upon myself at a young age to learn to cook for myself. And I quickly took it upon myself to accept the bitter taste of failure. Over time though, I grew my experience with cooking enough to translate recipes and combinations into camping and backcountry creations fit for the most lavish “glam-camping” kings and queens.
Potatoes au-gratin-Backcountry fine dining.
Once you know how to make potatoes au-gratin, and you take a few backpacking trips with dehydrated hash browns, powdered milk and block cheddar, you quickly figure out that a Fry-Bake is more than just a pan. Twigs can be whittled into chop-sticks, plastic bags become mixing bowls, and before you know it, by week two, you feel like Gordon Ramsey gone wild! And sure, there are those days when supplies are low. The spice kit is long exhausted and you’re left with garlic powder and sugar, and the wrong turn 2 miles in put you at camp after 8PM. But even on those most exhausting, trying days, you settle in for a nice warm bowl of mush; this glamorous bowl of amorphous goo, over spiced with garlic and slightly sweet at a long-shot attempt to resemble “sweet-thai-chili-garlic” flavoring. And what would have been utterly unappetizing to you in your cozy warm kitchen at home, becomes this amazingly fond memory of laughter and trial, challenge and good spirits. And in the end “it doesn’t taste that bad”. In fact it becomes the highlight meal of your trip. A meal you will never forget, despite wanting to wipe it from your memory even before the first bite. It’s a meal that fills you and warms you, and bonds you with everything and everyone around you, and lets you know, that despite how hard the journey, even this off-putting nourishment will be enough to hold you through and keep you moving.
Backcountry birthday cake on Hante Rocks & Rivers 2015
So yes, for me travel is about the food, in all its glamor and failure. In all the ways we rely on it, we do amazing things to make it more than just the slop we shovel into our mouths.
I take pride in every meal I eat and all the ones I cook, especially in the backcountry, and especially the ones that are over-salted and burnt, because these are the ingredients memories are made of.
Marlin Sill, Wilderness Program Manager