SEP. 23, 2016
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
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
FEB. 4, 2016
As hard as it is for me to believe, my youngest child will be starting high school next year. A few days ago we drove past the high school that she’ll attend. It was early afternoon during dismissal, and there were kids everywhere – so many more than at the tiny K – 8 school that she has attended since before she was 5-years-old. As we drove by I said “Wow! There are so many kids! Are you nervous about high school next year?” She responded that she was excited, but I’m sure that she has some trepidation about the transition from the school that has been home to her for so many years, to the much larger one. We’ll actually be going to her high school open house tonight. I can’t imagine what it will be like for her to walk through those halls for the first time, and to begin to see herself as a high schooler.
To help with transition to high school my daughter will be participating in Hante Appalachian Trail Trek this summer. She’s a little nervous about the Trek, and is worried that the hiking will be challenging at times. I know that she’ll encounter other challenges on the trip – group dynamics, setting up camp at the end of a long day of hiking, making the most of a burned meal, inclement weather, etc. – and I say “bring them on!” These challenges are not insurmountable. They will strengthen her character and build her confidence, which in turn will help her as she navigates the challenges of high school (challenges that make hiking a 100-miles with a backpack look like a walk in the park). Growing up is tough, and I want to give my children as many tools as they can to help them be as successful as possible. I know that participating in a Hante is a great tool.
I also know that it’ll be a lot of fun! On Hante, my 14-year-old daughter will be able to live simply for 3 weeks. She’ll be able to hike 100-miles through the beautiful mountains and balds of North Carolina with everything that she needs on her back. She’ll be able to wake to the songs of the birds, and to relax by a campfire under the stars at the end of the day. She’ll be able to feel the pleasure of cooling her feet in a mountain stream, and taste how good simple beans and rice are to a hungry hiker. She’ll enjoy being part of a small group of teens who can let go of being self-conscious and truly be themselves.
I know that she’ll come home filled with stories and trials and triumphs. I’m so excited for her journey and for how it will prepare her for her high school years.
Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director
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
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