JAN. 26, 2016
This is a guest post from three-time Hante Adventurer Diana Grandas. She ventured with us on Hante Colorado in 2013, Hante John Muir Trail in 2014, and Hante Pacific Northwest in 2015.
“The next leader of the day is… Diana!”
As these words were pronounced and I was passed the map and compass, I became flushed with emotions ranging from anxiety to motivation. From that moment on, I was in charge of my group: a congregation of teenagers in the middle of the Colorado backcountry. We were participants of Hante Adventures, an organization that sends wilderness trips to various locations across the globe. Along with backpacking over sixty miles in three weeks, we were expected to take responsibility for our actions and assume appropriate leadership roles that would benefit the group’s functionality and social dynamic. Although certified wilderness leaders officially led us, each member was challenged with the task of being the leader of the day. In this position, the leader would be in charge of the group as a whole, delegating tasks while at a campsite as well as keeping track of the groups needs during the strenuous day of hiking.
As I accepted the map and compass—the defining marker of the leader of the day—I realized this task would demand the greatest amount of leadership I had ever given. As a quiet and reserved fifteen year old, I had become accustomed to be a follower. While I would not detract from a group, I refrained from actively contributing, frightened my opinions and commands would be deemed as juvenile or ineffective. As Leader of the Day, I was put into a position where my judgment could make the day unbearable or extraordinary. A slow morning could mean a late night, with ravenous group members struggling to boil water for dinner in the dark. Inversely, an extremely intense focus on timing could result in the group feeling extremely rushed throughout the day and unable to appreciate the beautiful scenery of Colorado.
I started the day with an uneasy confidence, hesitant in my delegation and time reminders. To avoid being perceived as “bossy”, I attempted to do all the necessary tasks myself: I got water for the group, took down the bear bags, and helped take down the tents. This proved to not be very effective, and we were late getting out of camp.
Thankfully, we did not have a long day on trail, and it proved to be much easier to ask the group if they needed breaks than tell them to do things. Due to the short mileage, we finished our day with plenty of daylight remaining, and we could afford to take sufficient time setting up our camp and getting dinner started. While I did succeed in taking the group down the trail to the next campsite, I knew I had to refute my tentative nature in order to be an effective leader. I would have to be confident in my commands, motivating in my tone, and be constantly assessing the fine details as well as the big picture of the day.
Over the course of the past summers, I have had the privilege to participate on three Hante Adventures, the final two in California and Washington. Throughout these trips, I have been given ample opportunity to be leader of the day for diverse groups of people in extraordinary settings. From these experiences, I have grown from a passive leader to a person with skills in conducting a group in a strong and direct way. I have realized that being able to delegate tasks with confidence is a positive attribute, and those receiving direction will comply without complaint.
With the leadership skills I have gained from Hante, I am prepared to lead any group to their goal.
Diana Grandas, Hante Adventurer
NOV. 10, 2015
Over many summers at camp I’ve been able to witness the power Hante has on profoundly affecting teens. I’ve seen it first hand as leader of Hante AT Trek, helping campers shouldering heavy packs to “dig deep” when they feel that they can’t take another step. I’ve seen it in the the joy on participants’ faces as they return home to camp to be celebrated for completing their “Hero’s Journey”. I have heard it in listening to my son Finn’s stories of wonder at seeing a glacier for the first time, or of his appreciation for being able to share genuine compliments with a group of peers at the end of his three-week 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. Each year I try to share that excitement with campers who love camp so much, though they are reluctant to step out on a Hante Adventure. Recently, a couple of Hante Alums have shared some of their thoughts about Hante with me, and I wanted to share their words with you.
Thoughts on doing something new and unknown: 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.
Thoughts on the group experience and friendships formed on Hante: 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 a rain with them 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.
Thoughts on work ethic: One valuable skill that I learned on Hante was the importance of a good work ethic. We’d get to camp after a long, hard day of hiking, and I’d be ready to go to sleep, but I realized quickly that getting to camp didn’t signify the end of the day. I had to keep up my work mentality. I’d take off my boots, put on my sneakers and start on dinner. It was hard to get up and working at first, but once we got started it was easy and even fun – surrounded by so many of my friends all busy working, talking and laughing. What I also learned on Hante is that the harder I worked, the better dinner tasted. Hard work, with the right mindset, can be fun and is surely rewarding.
Thoughts on the challenges that you may face on Hante: 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.
Thoughts on what you learn on Hante: I can say from personal experience that I’ve grown a lot on Hantes. They teach 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.
Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone a little and have a life changing experience? Sign up for Hante today. This summer you could find yourself exploring Northern Italy, climbing and sea kayaking in Maine, hiking a 100-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, or canoeing down the French Broad river. For more information visit our website.
Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director
OCT. 12, 2015
As many of you know, Eagle’s Nest Camp runs these little things called ‘Added Adventures’ where 5-7th grade campers can, in the middle of a camp session, go out on week long adventure to really supplement and enhance their camp experience. It really is a great introduction to enjoying the wilderness at a relatively tender age. One of these adventures would be the ‘Huck Finn Adventure’ where campers float down the French Broad River on a homemade raft and camp out on the banks of the river.
Perhaps unlike the days of Huck himself, to successfully pull off a trip such as this requires the help of those individuals that find themselves located on the banks of the river, our awesome volunteer hosts. Some have been on board for many years and some have only recently opened their lawns to the somewhat smelly Huckers that showed up on their doorstep. Whatever the case, Hante Coordinator Marlin Sill thought it prudent to get out of the office and meet with these people personally and thank them for making our lives as coordinators and instructors easier. As the resident visual wizard here at the Nest, I got to go along and take pictures of the locations to give next year’s instructors a visual of every take out location on the trip.
So we set out at the tail end of the epic rains we experienced in the Southeast recently. We packed for two days of cold rain, though on the drive to the put in, we realized that our trip would turn out very differently. We had gorgeous sunshine and clear skies for two days, and not a drop of sunscreen. Can anyone say ‘Lobster’?
Sure enough, we met with our hosts and not only were they excited to meet us, but to allow our 2016 Huckers to stay with them again. We also got to stay over at the man-cave/river lounge of our newest host, Jeff Gregory. The 2015 Huck Finn gang landed on his doorstep after being rerouted and in need of a patch of dirt for the night. Jeff gladly invited them into his river lounge and a relationship was formed. He’s excited to see the next raft full of kids rock up to his boat ramp and from what we’ve seen, the adventurers will be in for a treat. Being the only people on the river for two days, we also got to experience lots of wildlife including a host of great blue herons, an adolescent bald eagle, turtles ‘jumping’ off of logs and an otter. The many big fish jumping around us also made Marlin and I wish we had brought some fishin’ line, but we left them unbothered for the next round of adventurers.
Shortly after the trip, we got a letter back from the Julian family stating their willingness and excitement to host our kids. In the letter there was something that stood out to me: a profound statement about why they’re always willing to help us out. The statement read: “We like to help young people grow into good people.” Simple and spot-on. This is what we do at the Nest. This is why we go on Hante Adventures and Added Adventures. We introduce young people to the natural world they occupy, which in this day and age, is something to get excited about. When our kids go out on adventures and meet people like our Huck hosts, it shows them what it is to be your best self. And that’s our business at Eagle’s Nest.
We are so grateful to the kind folks who help us out and share what they have with our campers and adventurers. The Eagle’s Nest ethos beats in the hearts of the fine people on the banks of the French Broad in East Tennessee.
Johan Taljaard, Social Media Coordinator
JUL. 28, 2015
I have a rare window into Hante Adventures. As a point person for these off-campus adventures, I’m frequently the person meeting them with resupply, shuttling around vans, or even making sure they have clean clothes waiting for them back at camp. This summer, I’ve had the delight of seeing Hante Rocks and Rivers twice, once after their canoeing section and once in Linville Gorge after their rock climbing section.
There’s enough literature about journeys, traveling to learn about yourself or working through challenges on the trail, that many of us are familiar with the Hero’s Journey. That is, we’ve heard narratives about leaving home and growing into a better version of yourself, then returning with your gained wisdom and experience. As a camper at Eagle’s Nest, Hante Adventures provided me with this very opportunity to step out and learn, and to bring my experiences back to my home community.
Indeed, after my first Hante, I became involved with Outdoor Programs in high school. From there, I took my received my Wilderness First Responder certification as part of another Eagle’s Nest Hante and started working for Outdoor Programs at my university. Little did I know that Outdoor Education would become part of my undergraduate degree, and that I would lead trips in Death Valley, Big Sur, and Joshua Tree National Park. And if you told me, the girl from Florida, that I would willingly choose to winter in Maine, camp on a glacier in Patagonia, or learn how to use an ice axe in the Tetons, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it.
The first journey makes room for the next; the first set of skills paves the way for the second. On Hante Rocks and Rivers, participants are exposed to different worlds: rock climbing, trekking, and white water canoeing, all while navigating group responsibility. I love meeting up with Hantes in the field, or working with leaders planning their trips. I love being a resource for all the wonderful adventures we have here at camp, and getting a chance to see our fabulous leaders create meaningful experiences for campers. For some people, the Hante itself is the journey, or the challenge. From my perspective, it’s what comes next, how we choose to integrate our new skills and confidence into front country living. Hante Rocks and Rivers will return tomorrow, tired, dirty, and full of tales.
Their presence at camp, albeit brief, will have an impact, as they’re returning having conquered the unknown. It doesn’t matter how hard their climbs were or if a canoe flipped, or even how wet their sleeping bags got the first time it rained. What matters is simple: they stepped out and learned. While they’ll have time to rest and tidy up, that learning will never fade away.
Mary Krome, Wilderness Logistics Coordinator
MAY. 28, 2015
What an awesome couple of days days since I have returned to Eagle’s Nest! During my first four days I participated in the Wilderness Clinic led by Marlin and Hannah Blue in which we hiked out to Pisgah Forest with staff members who will be leading trips this summer that require overnights in the backcountry.
We sharpened up on essential camping skills and even learned some new ones while connecting with the beautiful natural world that we have the pleasure to experience here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were also given invaluable tools on how to teach these same skills to campers. There was even an appearance from the little blue fairies one night; they can sense that the magic is coming!
Throughout our trip I was able to reconnect and have great conversations with other returning staff members but I was also able to forge new connections with some quality new staff members; an experience that any camper or staff member returning to Eagle’s Nest experiences. When we landed back at camp we were given time to plan out the trips we will each be leading this summer – choosing routes, organizing food and gear, etc. What an exciting time!
Then it was time for the Wilderness Clinic to split and scatter to the second round of clinics, which included Riding, Lifeguarding, Climbing and Paddling while new staff continued to roll in for these more specialized clinics. I took part in the paddling clinic led by Ryan who also happens to be the Eagle’s Nest Garden Keeper, which was such a great experience. It’s strange how Eagle’s Nest people are so incredibly multi-talented.
We took two days to canoe down section 9 of the French Broad and the Lower Green where we were instructed on river dynamics, group management and how to best demonstrate and teach skills to campers while on the river (and also just having a rockin’ time actually paddling). We then spent two days in Bryson City taking a Swift Water Rescue in which we learned all about river safety; how to prevent river emergencies and then how to intervene and conduct a rescue in whitewater.
Over the past eight days we have invested our time and energy into improving our own skills, understanding and teaching methods, but that only makes the entire staff so much more stoked for the adventures that we will be taking this summer with campers! With all this effort going into preparing staff, Eagle’s Nest Campers and Hante Participants are in for the time of their lives this summer.
Tyler Kameh, Huck Finn Adventure Leader 2015
APR. 15, 2015
There are many elements in our life that challenge us. Our fears, doubts, other’s opinions and actions, the red tape and the “No Trespassing” signs. But none of the most majestic and commanding of these hurdles is Mother Nature and all the beauty and fury she packs in varying forms of precipitation. Vistas and groves can be transformed form magical moments to thundering landscapes depending on her mood, and the way you chose to see that moment.
There are many types of outdoors folk in the world, but one of the great divides is that between the weather warriors and the fair-weather folk. Neither is better or worse than the other, but what sets them apart is how they view the additional challenge of “inclement” weather. For many, a rainy day can seem dreary and cold. Others relish in the moisture and take advantage of the empty trails, or swollen creeks. A snow storm may coop up some next to their fireplace with warm drinks, while others can be seen shoveling their driveways at 5AM to make first tracks down the mountain.
Every adventure you take in life will be full of surprises and challenges, much like the weeks you spend at camp, on Hante, or living at the Outdoor Academy. One morning may be bright and sunny, while the next is filled with hail and sleet. Minutes, no seconds, can see the sky change from angry grey to pale blue. The shoulder of a mountain may be all that stands between parched, dry switchbacks and a blanket of powdered mountainside. And amidst these changes and you are the constant.
As you hike, camp, live, and experience the weather, you can quickly learn to love and hate certain forms of precipitation. That beautiful mountain-top view you were waiting all week for, may be obscured by thick layers of fog, and now all you see is the back of your friend’s pack. The rainstorm that started last night is still dripping on you as you work to set your tarp back up. And the pretty blue sky has yielded no snow for the one week you wanted to spend skiing in Canada. But if you look closely, and deep within yourself, you will find that all these clouds, (or lack of clouds) have silver linings.
Coming back from your experience with Eagle’s Nest, you will have faced many challenges, and no doubt, one of them will have been the weather. For every moment you loved and relished, there will be a moment (or day) you despised, or wished away. But by the end you learned how to accept the struggles, and embrace them as part of the experience. Those warm days and blue skies, become so much brighter and warmer. Or that one midnight flurry enchants you as you walk down the main street. Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy the sound no rain on your tent, or the distant flashes of lightning against the night sky. But whatever the weather, it is up to you to weather it.
Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!
Marlin Sill, Outdoor Program Director