Archives for July 2015

Stout Paddling At FCC

Hey mates, Jez here and I wanted to let you guys know about some of the adventures we get up to here at Falling Creek. As the ‘Director of Vibe’, I head up the paddling program here at camp and, let me tell you, it is just a huge ball of energy right now as camp has swung right into top gear.


We start things off with boys in canoes and they start off with the basics of learning how to paddle and maneuver their craft. Then if they pass the buoy course we take them onto our local class 1 river called the Lower Green, where they learn the basics. Next off, they are invited to a Tuckaseegee/Nantahala 2-day river trip which are class 2-3 rivers near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here they continue their learning of boat control, catching eddies and peel outs on the river.

If the tandem canoe team successfully catches truck stop eddy, which is just above the Nantahala Falls, and then runs the Falls clean, then the two are given their green level ‘Yacklet’, a wristband that encapsulates their hard work and allows them to move into kayaks and one person crafts. These young men are then encouraged to move into the paddling progression in a kayak, C1 or OC1 and they again start from the lower green onwards, while being taught how to roll and control their craft.

As the boys to return to FCC year after year, their paddling ability increases, and I am astounded at how far some of these guys have gotten. When I first started at camp, our highest river trip was the Ocoee River. Now this is just another river we do on week 2 of our program. These young men are paddling outside of camp more and more in attempts to paddle more difficult rivers while attending camp.

Some of our more advanced boaters have had the opportunity in the past to head up to West Virginia to tackle bigger water such as the New River Gorge and the Gauley, two spectacular rivers that have a huge variety of features. Our more advanced and intermediate boaters who successfully complete the Pigeon River, and who show great examples of the Falling Creek Code are often given an invite to our Expedition Programs. Maturity and great leadership skills are assets that we look for rather than just paddling ability.

Here is where things get really exciting. Our Expedition Programs are the upper echelon of what we do. After 4- week main camp is over we invite a select group of paddlers to our HUCK Expedition Programs, which have in the past traveled to the Ottawa River in Canada, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the Southeast, Costa Rica, and last year was by far one of the most amazing river trips to the Canadian Wilderness where we flew in on float planes to the Magpie River and paddled down this remote wilderness for 8 days. Truly one of those life changing moments. I only wish I was able to have been a part of this kind of experience when I was their age.

So there really is so much to our program, so many stories that I wish I could share with you all, just not enough time to mention all of them. Let me say this, the paddling program here at FCC is second to none. Boys here have a chance to be part of something truly special, and watching all of these young men learn how to paddle, and gain outdoor leadership skills at camp, and to see them progress to paddling these bigger expedition trips is just so rewarding.

Cheers for reading and I hope to see you at opening or closing day at Falling Creek Camp.

Comments (0)

In the Heart of the Flame

It is quite an amazing sight; three hundred and twelve boys, ages ranging from 8-17 sitting in utter silence. The sounds of a large crackling fire, and the sounds of a larger mountain range of woods are clearly audible. Maybe this is a common occurrence, after all there are dozens of summer camps scattered along these mountains, but to me, first as a camper, and now a counselor, this place is special.


Every Sunday the entirety of camp gathers in this particular spot. Skits are performed and songs are sung, though applause never follows a performance. Perhaps the crowd may sing along, or make a noise that ties into a skit, but clapping is discouraged. I remember thinking this was strange when I was younger, after all when a group of people deliver a stage worthy show, it feels only natural to clap.
But when friends and peers deliver a worthy show, and then walk off to the sounds of crickets, it’s more then just entertaining, it’s powerful.

There are lessons, or themes if you will, tied into every campfire. Last week’s overriding theme was stewardship, it focused on the importance of maintaining the environment in which we live, from the environment here at camp, to the environment that surrounds us in our day to day life. The skits will back up whatever particular theme each campfire involves. The skits are usually, if not always, absolutely hilarious, but behind the jokes the message is clearly communicated. The songs will similarly relate to the theme, for example say the theme is friendship, we might sing the white stripes song “Lets be Friends”.


The music at camp is sung and played by a small group of camp counselors, who so always happen to be extremely talented. The band usually consists of an ever changing eight- to ten people, who stand in front of the massive semi-circle of benches, and consistently sing with a visible passion; it is clear that ever member of the band shares a love for campfire, and for camp in a general sense. And while some members come and go, some are regulars, and are certainly worth a mentioning; Mike Nuckles is one of these regulars. He’s been here for seven years, and is more or less famous in camp as a tennis counselor, cleaning guru, and simply overall good guy. He’s been here since my first year as a camper seven years ago. Now, it’s a little weird finding myself asking him for advice on being a counselor myself. Before camp began, I asked him what his biggest piece of advice would be. He told me that as a counselor, it can’t be about you, it’s about the kids, it’s about making their experience special, by really having your heart in it. Every time I’m sitting there in that semi-circle watching knuckles sing with the band, I can see, and hear, exactly what he means.

While I’m only going to take the time to mention one other campfire musician, all that perform are equally important. But regardless, I’d also like to mention a man named Nathan Newquest: A single father of two charming young boys, a fourteen year veteran to Falling Creek, and a host to numerous camp positions in the past. As a counselor, it’s become apparent to me that Nathan is simply part of the glue that holds this place together. He’s held an array of vital, hectic positions in his time here, yet despite this he can usually, if not always be found in front of the musicians with a guitar in his hand, and smile on his face. That smile is probably the brightest most contagious smile I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, I don’t think camp would be quite the same without it.


So far, the specific people I’ve mentioned are veterans at camp, but one of the great things about the ever-changing staff is that new, wonderful personalities are constantly surfacing in our community. One of these recently surfaced, wonderful personalities is that of Sam Downy. He’s an Acting Major attending NYU and has taken on the monumental task of composing campfire skits this year. For the most part, my favorite skits are the classics, the skits saved and repeated every year; This year my inclinations haven’t been as one sided, Sam has written a few truly amazing skits, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some next year. Additionally, he has taken on the role of narrator in many cases, and when the booming low voice of this large young man introduces a story, everyone knows it’s truly worth listening too.

All of these different aspects of campfire, all of the different views of people described above, are from my own perspective. I would not dare to speak for everybody who comes to this place every summer. Every single person sees this magical thing that we call campfire from a different light, and from a different spot in the semi circle. But I’d be willing to speak for everybody in saying that this amazing thing is in some way special, different from their normal busy routine. At its simplest level, campfire is chance for all involved to sit with friends, watch some people do some silly things, and listen to the music of the woods, and the people who live there.

- Kevin Slafsky

Comments (2)