Rapids and Camping: A Journey Down The Magpie

Bikers and backpackers at Falling Creek Camp have been known during the normal camping sessions to go to Colorado, and mountain climbers to New Hampshire to brave the windy cliffs. These excursions are just a few of the trips that campers who have taken the right amount training at camp have been allowed to go on. But these expeditions pale in comparison to the almost 2-week epic adventure to Magpie River the FCC Paddlers returned from down by Quebec’s Northern coast.

epic shot

Check out a video that Jez edited from the HUCK Magpie Expedition

Check out a different video that Rafa Ortiz edited from the HUCK Magpie Expedition

The contingent of campers, ranging in age between 14 to 17, found themselves in waters closer to Newfoundland’s national borders than the US’s. They championed the winding and remote river through Canada’s boreal forests, so remote in fact it took hours of driving, a ferry, and three floatplane shuttles to get them on location at Lake Magpie. They had trouble finding any trace of humanity down the 60 mile river that emptied into the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence.

float plane unload

“I think we were only 1 of like 4 or 5 other trips that kayaked down that river this year,” says Andrew Smith. Smith has paddled as a counselor at Falling Creek for the past 6 years where he learned paddling from none other than the trip’s co-leader Jez, a 3 time Australian World Cup champion kayaker and sponsored athlete. The two lead the campers down the river with Red-Bull and GoPro sponsored paddler Rafael Ortiz, the third FCC instructor.

Jez and Andrew

Deep in the Canadian wilderness, the group lost track of the days, touring down pristine white-water they could scoop out with their hands and drink, eating meals some of them described as the best food they have ever had. Aside from the camping in nearly untouched environments and dodging local wildlife, seeing both wolf tracks and a bear, their chief priority never faltered from learning everything they could about paddling.


“Every morning of paddling began with a skill and technique session from Rafa; who is the premier waterfall kayaker in the world,” says camper Jon Krupnick in personal blog post he wrote during the trip. “On the river we had the guidance of Jez and Andrew to keep us safe, in control, and healthy.”

rafa teach

The river progressed from class 2 rapids during the first day, to class 4 by the final launch. Some parts included class 5 holes that required putting up a line— a system of using a guide rope— to navigate.

raft line
rafa falls

“The bigger rapids in the Magpie are just gigantic,” says Jez “No person would survive running them. Magpie Falls for example has a recirculating river hole big enough to munch two buses, without either of them touching each other.”

big rapid

Every segment required the boys to do a bulk of the planning, finding the right approach to fit the needs of the rapids. Letting the boys take ownership of trip, in the eyes of the Jez and Andrew, prepared them for conducting any similar trip of their own they may have after camp.


“It was my first expedition,” says Baird Cotsakis, another regular camper of Falling Creek. “And it was really great to experience what it is like being away from civilization and technology. The trip really made me realize that there are not many places like the Magpie River left in the world. And we need to do what we can to conserve it.”

Northern Lights
group at end
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Mickey Herman joins Falling Creek Camp as Assistant Program Director

We are excited to announce that Mickey Herman has joined Falling Creek Camp as Assistant Program Director for a year. Mickey began as a camper at Falling Creek in 2001. He was a camper for eight years and a CIT for one year. In 2011, Mickey joined Falling Creek’s summer staff as a sailing instructor on Lake Summit. Over the next several years, he served as a tribal and activity leader. A graduate of Wake Forest University majoring in Politics and International Affairs, Mickey has deferred his admission into Wake Forest’s School of Law until 2015. He is excited to join Falling Creek’s full-time staff as a Program Director until he returns to his studies next fall.

Mickey Herman
Mickey served as the head of the sailing program for two summersMickey served as the head of the sailing program for two summers
Mickey jumping into the mud pit with the campers and staff at the annual 4th of July picnic by the Green RiverMickey jumping into the mud pit with the campers and staff at the annual 4th of July picnic by the Green River
Mickey as the Geronimo cabin counselor his 1st year on staff with Jed Ball (2014 Backpacking staff member) serving as the CITMickey as the Geronimo cabin counselor his 1st year on staff with Jed Ball (2014 Backpacking staff member) serving as the CIT
Mickey and Walker Cole as CIT'sMickey and Walker Cole as CIT's
Mickey's Rolling Thunder cabin his last year as a camperMickey's Rolling Thunder cabin his last year as a camper
Mickey sailing the Precision as a camper at Lake Summit with Max King Mickey sailing the Precision as a camper at Lake Summit with Max King
Mickey at 5-Year Dinner as a camperMickey at 5-Year Dinner as a camper
Mickey performing the famous Eagle Dance as a camper at the Main Camp Indian Lore Grand CouncilMickey performing the famous Eagle Dance as a camper at the Main Camp Indian Lore Grand Council
Mickey mountain biking as a camperMickey mountain biking as a camper
Multi-ball remains one of FCC's favorite evening programs and Mickey is enjoying it here as a camperMulti-ball remains one of FCC's favorite evening programs and Mickey is enjoying it here as a camper
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Falling Creek Code

Each day at camp the boys learn to live out the code. It is an important part of camp life. They grow in each area and learn to keep themselves and each other accountable. It is a powerful tool, one that hopefully continues on past camp session and applies to their day-to-day lives. These photos are just a few examples of the code being lived out. How have you seen these boys continue to live out the code outside of camp?

Warrior Spirit


Servants Heart


Positive Attitude


Moral Compass


- Maddie Roberts

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5 Challenging Mountain Bike Trails (Campers Do For Fun)

Mountain biking already sounds difficult. Having to pedal uphill through gravel and dirt, on trails that would be challenging to hike, and perhaps were never meant to be trails in the first place, sounds like a wild-man’s idea of fun. And campers who sign up for these trips usually know what they’re getting into.

But after Sunday breakfast, when the mountain bike staff entered the dining hall playing low rock music moving in silence and placed trucker hats on the heads of a dozen campers, and then walking back out without saying a word, you can’t help but wonder about the mystery. What do they have planned for a group of kids that are already accustomed to challenges?

These boys signed up for “Death March,” a collection of some of the most difficult trails in Western North Carolina.

During a quick interview with co-mountain biking directors Ray-Bot and Jake Lee, counselor Colin Barrett, and campers Chris Fuge and John Peters, I learned the full extent of this foreboding trip— at least as much as someone who is not going on the trip himself can understand. These are the trails that break people; trails that will make people cry; trails like…

5. Laurel Mountain (Or Slippery, Hornet Town)

The basic purpose of mountain biking is to make it to the top of a mountain and make your way back down. When you go on a trail that is relatively straight, that can make your climb that much easier, not having to worry about technical switchbacks, or having to turn your bike on a dime.


At Laurel Mountain, a straight-path means nothing going up. The route, with few turns, takes on a steep incline that only gets worse as you go, fraught with exposed rock. And when it rains, it’s difficult. If it’s not raining, the river crossings will do the job in making your bike wet. To add to the seemingly straightforward obstacle course, tree roots and run-off trenches pepper the path in abundance.

4. Pilot Rock (Or The Place That Has Boulder Fields— Legit Boulder Fields)

When you go for a trail ride, you would think that the way down would be the easiest. You finally get to relax into that downhill ride that you have worked so hard to make it to after navigating areas where you no longer ride your bike but walk along beside it.


But at Pilot Rock, the downhill trek is the part to fear. The trail (and I use the term ‘trail’ loosely) starts out along a 200 ft rock cliff. The gravel and loose soil make this descent on par with a dirty ice-rink.

Beyond the cliff, the route goes through tight switchbacks in the same loose gravel that turns from pebbles to boulders, until you are riding in a boulder garden. When the trail straitens back out you think you’re safe before it twists again and you find yourself carrying your bike through a river crossing.

3. Daniel’s Ridge (Or Daniel’s Drop-Off)

Daniel’s Ridge starts out mellow. At first glance, you would expect simple maneuvering, given the beautiful forest view and a scattering of roots that should only give you a moderate amount trouble. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

But you have a false sense of security as you get to the other side where you make your downhill descent. The trail follows along a creek, which makes a series of vicious switchbacks ending in not one but two-6 foot drops (that you must ride over).


From there you find yourself on a roller coaster through nothing but rocks. You ride these hills through a series of switchbacks and strong drops, while the trail plays mind games with your sense of “the worst is over.”

2. Black Mountain (Or Clawhammer [Not A Made Up Name])

Knowing that people have just refurbished the black mountain trail can give you a breath of confidence that this trail will be different from the others and offer a ride tailored to bikers. But nothing about this course is easier. Even the man-made section is littered with log-jumps and narrow bridges. The orange mud found in the area is like a water slide when put under the rainfall in Pisgah.

The way down is fast, gritty, and offers zero traction as you guide through the rooty run-off areas. Breaks count for very little by the time you make it to the man-made part of the course. Perhaps this explains the trail’s alternate name: Clawhammer, though a more demanding name might be appropriate.

It’s nothing but a outrageous runaway train ride down the 2000 ft. drop to the bottom, offering sights that you won’t be able to enjoy, like caves, mountain peaks, and the terrified look on your friend’s face as he tumbles along behind you.

1. Turkey Pen (Or That Doesn’t Sound So Ba— AAAAAAHHHH!)

Finally, a mountain bike trail with a name that sounds more like a ride through a petting zoo than a mad route up a mountain.

But to quote Rocky IV, this trail “will break you.” On your way up, you will walk more than you will ride and even the hike is nearly impossible because of the grade. Campers as old as 16 have admitted to crying on their way up this trail.


The rhododendron tunnels do nothing to shield you from the fact that you are riding (hiking) along a steep ridge-line looking out over Pisgah and Dupont for miles (the mountain sits on the border). You will also find no trace of humanity. The view would be gorgeous if you weren’t struggling up every inch to find the areas that are actually passable.

But when you make it to the top, you have the feeling of accomplishment which only Navy Seals or Superman must feel at the end of the day, a feeling that you have defeated something that has defeated many brave men. It is the feeling of discovery that your limits exceed your expectations. It is the feeling of conquering a mountain (both literally and figuratively).

- John Granatino

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Happiness is…

Arriving on opening day

Coming up with the perfect green and gold cheer

Scoring the winning basket

Cheering on Falling Creek versus Rockmont

Reaching the last leg of the ironman and knowing you’re almost done

Being marked with war paint

Playing flag football in the rain

Going to sliding rock


Letting the horses play in the lower lake


Playing in the mud on the 4th of July

Hugging a counselor

Having to do model walk after losing a game

Being with your friends

Racing your brother in ultimate frisbee

Relaxing on the lake for fishing

Calling checkmate

Repelling down the rock wall for the first time


Performing in Falling Creek’s first play

Singing “A Cat Came Back” during morning assembly

Dressing up for Garner Gentry Day

Watching a camper break a camp record

Winning at a soccer drill

Trying the slack line for the first time

Staff members acting goofy


A blooper during a campfire skit

Being able to light another’s candle on the last day of camp

Happiness is what Falling Creek is all about!

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