Hante Adventures challenge teens to grow as leaders and reach a deeper understanding of themselves within a supportive group. Check back regularly for our latest posts about Hante news, skill building, reflections and adventures. Subscribe to our blog’s RSS feed and get our news sent directly to you as we post it.

DEC. 22, 2016

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints

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And do we have the pictures!  This past year Melissa Engimann, our Foundation Assistant, has been on a massive archiving project spanning decade’s worth of Hante and camp slides and prints.   She has painstakingly been going through each image and logging and filing it into long term storage.  For Hante alone there are over 35 years of material, representing dozens and dozens of Hantes. From each box, memories from around the globe have emerged dropping us all back in time.

Are you a past Hante Adventurer?   If so, dig out your photos and share them with us!  We have a new Hante Instagram account (hanteadventures)  which is a great place to gather those up and share amongst those of hundreds of other trekkers, paddlers and climbers.  I guarantee you will get a good trip down memory lane!  And, it will be fun project for the long nights we are having here at the Winter Solstice.

Canyon de Chelly in Arizona

Canyon de Chelly in Arizona

Never been on a Hante but are curious about it?  You can check out all the old school backpacks, see incredible places and lots of happy people – what could be better?

While you’re off in the digital world check our new Camp Instagram handle too!  You can now find us at eaglesnestcampnc.

Hope to see your pictures soon!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

DEC. 6, 2016

To My Beloved Eagle’s Nest Adventurers

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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

The Benefits of a Hike in the Woods

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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. 24, 2016

One Hundred and Forty Three Acres Protected #ForeverOurNest #ENF4evergreen

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After six years of planning, grant writing, surveying, baseline indexing and countless hours reviewing documents, Eagle’s Nest is very proud to announce that 143 of our 182 acres are now officially under a conservation easement.   For generations to come our students and campers will enjoy the same woods, streams and pastures that we do today.  Our forest friends will forever roam their Eagle’s Nest habitat. Our streams will always run fresh and clear into our very own Little River and on to the French Broad.  The plant species that grace our lands will be forever protected, rooted in their little corner of the Southern Appalachians.

Deep gratitude goes out to our friends at the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund for providing the funding and the expertise to bring this all to fruition.  Their vision and guidance in protecting spaces throughout North Carolina is exemplary.

I can’t think of a better way to honor our Nest as we enter into our 90th year.  Please look for our Fall Eagle coming in November for more detail about this exciting project!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

OCT. 18, 2016

The Wilderness Is All Around Us

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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

Finding Success

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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