Archives for July 2014

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 and John, 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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Jim Talks (Part 2)

Jim Kurtts Talks Falling Creek And Personal History

John Granatino

A few weeks ago, we did an interview with Jim Kurtts, camp’s longest returning staff-man. He had a lot to say about early camp and his contributions to the Indian Lore program. But we wanted to hear more about his personal history and memories about camp. So I went in for another interview to learn about his experience with the tribes of the mid-1900’s.

“I grew up in South Alabama, where the local Indian tribes, the Creeks, were taking the Federal Government to court,” he says as he sits in his Indian lodge on the edge of camp, helping campers bead chokers and stitch costume parts. He’s preparing for the upcoming Grand Council, a Native-American Drama that he modeled after the Indians of the Southeast.


Jim joined the Order of the Arrow(OA) as a Boy Scout, a camping group based on Native American traditions organized like a tribe. He found an appreciation for the culture before the political correctness in America would have normally allowed him to do so. The World War II generation of people rebelled against any tie with Indian culture. These sentiments didn’t change until the 1970’s.

“They had not identified themselves as Indians because of racial laws and segregation. If they had said that they were Indian, then they would have had to go to segregated schools… They didn’t have reservations and had supposedly been absorbed into white society and didn’t exist.”


About the time the tribes were able to admit their own existence, Jim followed the remaining people out to Oklahoma, where they still conducted traditional dances and performed pow-wows. There he discovered the modern Indian that would inspire him for years to come. A living culture, the Indians showed off their comfort in using modern conveniences like vibrant color dyes in feathers and sunglasses to block their eyes from the sun.

“I came back to compete in an Order of the Arrow event with an outfit that was turquoise and hot pink and wearing sun glasses… Some of the old-time Order of the Arrow guys [said], ’Where did Indians get all those colored feathers?!”

The OA participants at the time followed the Ben Hunt tradition of costume building. They believed everything had to either be real, or look real. So if they couldn’t find real deer antlers they would make some out of wood or use brown-colored fabric instead of leather. Jim remembers answering them, “Well, feathers can be dyed.”

When they asked, "Well, where did Indians get sun glasses?’ he said, “Just like me, they went to the Otasco.”


Jim claims to always keep a modern frame of mind when coming up with the Falling Creek program. “Indians are still out there dancing. Indians are still out there doing bead work. They are still out there involved in their culture. It’s not a dead culture.”

He had such a close tie with the native people, he reflects on visits he used to make when he organized trips to Unto These Hills.

“In the early years of camp, the whole camp would go to Cherokee… which meant they would bring three big busses up. We would load up the whole camp. All 100 or 150 of us (however many in camp). We would all go to Cherokee and watch the drama— the Unto These Hills drama— and then come back to camp really late… I remember that some of the Cabin 1 boys and Cabin 2 boys would have to carried back to their cabins because you couldn’t wake them up.


He also recalls visiting Cherokee land on the Fourth of July for pow-wows and Oconaluftee to see traditional crafting and activities that has remained true to the times.

While they no longer attend these events off-campus, he has still done his part to maintain the quality of the program. Just last week, he made the 2 and a half hour drive out to Cherokee to make bean bread. A couple days later, he made the same bean bread at camp with his campers.

The part of the program he has used to stay true to the activities origins has been Grand Council at the end of Main Camp. It highlights the camps dancing, singing and costuming all in one night. “When you prepare for Grand Council, you learn the songs, you learn the dances, you learn the outfitting, you learn the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of the Native Indian culture… It’s like if you were doing a play on Elizabethan England, like Shakespeare. You would have to learn the lifestyle of the people. And you would do the costuming so you would look Elizabethan, and everything to get to a Shakespeare play."

With the event coming up this Wednesday, Jim goes back to work on the costumes and beading, hoping to continue the tradition of his own tribe.

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He Came, He Swam, He Conquered.

It’s 7:45 in the morning and there’s fog rolling over the quiet lake. You would never know that just 26 hours ago, history was being made at Falling Creek Camp.

In 2007, a camper accomplished the unprecedented. Roberto N. swam 128 lake laps, over 16 miles, in the Upper Lake. He began at the crack of dawn, swimming all day with his counselor, Peter Bishop, paddling by his side in a canoe for safety and support. He stopped only briefly to eat lunch and dinner before jumping back into the water to swim more laps.


On July 9, 2014, a camper once again accomplished the unprecedented. Eric W. decided that he wanted to break Roberto’s record. Eric had had this goal in mind when he knew that he would be coming back to camp this summer.

Over the 4th of July weekend, Roberto came for a visit to camp. He was introduced as the record holder for most lake laps swam in a day. It was then that Eric decided that he was going to surpass Roberto’s record. Eric made his interest known, and even had a conversation with Roberto. Roberto encouraged Eric to do it, wanting his record broken. He would always be the first person to absolutely shatter the previous record, but he really wanted his record to be challenged and for that challenge to become a tradition. This is what Eric aimed to do.

In preparation for swimming more than 16 miles in one day, Eric did very little training. During the year, he is a competitive swimmer, but the longest distance he had ever traversed through the water was 5k, or 3.1 miles. This was indeed a herculean task, but he was determined to try.

Over the next couple days, a support team of lifeguards, Sara Wise and Evan Wescott, was put together to paddle at Eric’s side and to be on alert at the dock in case of emergency. Evan and Sara took turns at the different jobs so that they would be ready to act if anything were to happen. They had a steady supply of water, electrolytes, and food, such as bananas and granola bars, to keep Eric hydrated and well-nutritioned throughout the day in between the rest breaks he would take for breakfast and lunch.


The morning of the undertaking, a small contingent of people awakened before the sun to help Eric achieve one of his dreams. Eric, his support team, a few of his cabin mates, one of his cabin counselors, and a small group of other staff arrived at the swim docks before 6am. By 6:15, Eric was in the water and starting his first lap. Ryan Smith, his cabin counselor, swam with him.

Throughout the day, Eric had a few people jump in and swim a couple laps with him and there was a constant atmosphere of encouragement from all of the campers as they went about their regularly scheduled activities throughout the day. The campers would even form in big groups to chant his name and “I believe that he will swim!” countless times before the day was done.


Eric got out of the water for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and replenished every couple of laps while staying in the water. Sara and Evan did a fantastic job of making sure that Eric stopped for water, electrolytes, and food to ensure he could break the record safely without endangering himself.

By the time dinner rolled around, Eric had completed 123 laps. After dinner he would have about an hour to swim 5 laps to tie the record and 6 laps to break it. Having swam an average of about 10 laps an hour all day, Eric’s dream was definitely within his grasp.


After dinner, Eric hopped back into the water one last time for the day. Everyone was trembling inside with excitement about what was about to happen. Four laps down (127 laps total), everyone on the docks are restless with anticipation. When Eric completes his 128th lap, the crowd that had formed around the lake went wild! As he was starting his 129th lap, “We Are the Champions” was blasting through the speakers as everyone changes the lyrics to, “He is the champion, my friends. And he’ll keep on swimming till the end. He is the champion. He is the champion…of the lake.”


Eric finished up his day with lap 130 around the Upper Lake. He broke the record of lake laps and increased it by two. When I asked him how he felt after accomplishing his goal he said, “I feel awesome, but now I want some more food, and I want to go to bed!”

Well done Eric!

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