JAN. 17, 2017
We’ve all been hit with the monotony of life. The constant repetitive motions that we go through, and how, at times, we feel lost in the game and want to break the rhythm. We wake up every morning, just to lie back down to bed each night. We pick up our fork just to bring it back down to the plate for more. We fill up our car with gas, just to watch the needle fall back down again. From the surface this 1 dimensional up-and-down seems to hold no meaning.
At some point in High School Math or Physics we learn the translation of 1 dimensional linear movement to 2 dimensions. As you turn the frame on the point moving up and down you see the greater depth to the movement. Most often it is a circle or ellipse, and that point now moves clock, or counter-clockwise, around and around. What, moments before, seemed so monotonous, has rounded a corner creating rotation and gravity and depth.
Much of our life too has this depth beyond the linear ups and downs. Our feet moving round and round on the pedals, taking us up and over and across the streets, hills and mountains. Our legs pressing down on the earth and up on our bodies to move us up the rocks. Our arms reaching forward and back to catch the stroke and pull through propelling us down the rapids. Every moment of every day we make so many repetitive motions. Some small and some larger, and all seemingly monotonous on the surface, yet filled with meaning and drive, fueled by our needs wishes and desires.
And in those moments when you are down, it can be hard to see where you were when you were up. It can be hard to see the other dimensions to why we keep up the motions day after day. But I like to focus on what drives me and look beyond the linear tracks I have to take up and down, or side to side. I change the frame and decide what I want my day or week or life to rotate around.
Marlin Sill, Hante Director
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
NOV. 9, 2016
I grew up in the country, surrounded by pastures and woods. Instead of spending days playing video games, I spent my afternoons and summer days exploring the natural world around me. I built forts in the woods, splashed around in the creek, and occasionally captured my neighbor’s somewhat wild horses and rode them bareback through the field (sorry Mom). As I got older, whenever I felt stressed or confused I headed outside for comfort and answers. These days, when I want to clear my mind and connect to what’s important in life, I find myself lacing up my running shoes or hopping on my mountain bike for a run or ride through the woods. I don’t think that I’m the only one that does that, and with good reason. As it turns out, spending time exercising in nature is good for your body and your brain.
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 discounted 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, “discounted” 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 exercise is good for our physical well-being; exercise in nature, removed from distractions and technology is also good for our emotional health and can reduce anxiety and boost wellbeing. We see it in our campers 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, make time each day, each week or each month to disconnect from technology and go for a walk, run or ride in the woods. Find a pretty park or rose garden in your town, and make time in your routine to explore it. Your body and mind will be better for it.
Paige Lester Niles, Camp Director
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
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