Archives for November 2018

Giving Back: Public Lands and the Season of Gratitude

Author: Ben Williams

At Falling Creek, we have an incredible adventure program with campers at every level in every program that we offer, and 85% of our trips taking place on public lands. These public lands are the backbone of the Falling Creek program. They provide the venue, the scenery, the challenge, and they are an important part of each camper’s story at Falling Creek. Your son will come home and tell you about riding at Dupont, or sliding at Sliding Rock in Pisgah, or climbing in Linville Gorge. Each of those places are public lands that we all own and have the ability to visit. Because of this, giving back to public lands has become an important facet of the Falling Creek program. This might include picking up trash at the trailhead, doing trail work, practicing Leave No Trace principles, or any of the other various ways we can give back. As Falling Creek’s Outdoor Adventure Director, I was recently invited on an expedition to the Green River in Utah. During this expedition, I volunteered with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), specifically with the Desolation Canyon River Rangers. Desolation Canyon is currently listed as a Wilderness Study Area, which is a designation that helps keep the canyon in an unaltered state, leaving it as a wild place. This means that the BLM does not mark campsites or items of historical significance. It also means that the BLM does a great deal of user education, and that all users are held to a very high standard regarding the impact that each run down the river makes on the canyon.

Ben was invited on a beautiful service expedition along the Green River in Utah Ben was invited on a beautiful service expedition along the Green River in Utah
Rafting along the Green River with the Desolation Canyon River Rangers, as part of a Bureau of Land Management expedition Rafting along the Green River with the Desolation Canyon River Rangers, as part of a Bureau of Land Management expedition

The Green River through Desolation Canyon is even deeper than the Grand Canyon at its lowest point. It is 89 miles long, sees about 6000 users a year, and is in one of the most remote places in the lower 48 states. The river drops about 600 vertical feet over the course of it’s 89 miles from put-in to take-out, and is made up of over 50 rapids in the Class II and Class III range. It was evident why the canyon and it’s resources are part of a large National Historic Landmark.

During my time at Falling Creek, I have developed an ethic revolving around public land education, and helping others get out in those lands has become my life mission. The ability to give back to public lands was just one small way for me to live out the Falling Creek Code, and practice the Servant’s Heart values that we discuss throughout the summer. During the expedition, I conducted 22 campsite checks, removed countless Russian Olive trees which are invasive to the local area, marked other invasive weeds with GPS for future removal, and inspected 15 different historical sites.

My favorite volunteer activity of the trip was examining the historical sites. Desolation Canyon has petroglyphs, rock houses, and granieries dating back several thousands of years to the Fremont Indians. The Fremont culture is extinct, and thus no one truly knows what the various petroglyphs mean. Were they created by bored teenagers, or are they a way of passing information on to the next member of the tribe? No one knows for sure, but seeing the stone carvings and thinking about living in the harsh climate year round was certainly eye opening for me in several ways.

Petroglyphs at the historical sites in Desolation CanyonPetroglyphs at the historical sites in Desolation Canyon
No one knows why the Fremont Indians created these petroglyphs, but they have been preserved in the rocks for generationsNo one knows why the Fremont Indians created these petroglyphs, but they have been preserved in the rocks for generations
A grainery from the historical sites at Desolation Canyon. The Fremont Indians used them to store various items, such as food, along the river corridor. They are made with sticks and mud, and would have a capstone covering the hole in the top to keep dust and animals out.A grainery from the historical sites at Desolation Canyon. The Fremont Indians used them to store various items, such as food, along the river corridor. They are made with sticks and mud, and would have a capstone covering the hole in the top to keep dust and animals out.

However, the biggest takeaway was that our current culture and communities are just one small piece of the earth’s story, and that if we are not careful, we could destroy all of the other stories with our actions. How is it that in this day of seemingly limitless technology and information, society is at times unable to see the long term effects of our actions on our surroundings? This shortsightedness is what I struggle with daily, wondering often if my single action will have an effect on others. It is easy to think that taking an artifact from a wilderness area you visit won’t be missed, or that it would be more convenient just to pave roads right through the pristine landscape so we can drive through. Seemingly “harmless” actions like these can have a big impact on a wilderness area in the long term. It sometimes seems as if we have forgotten that future generations might want to experience these wild places in an unaltered state, and we have to remember that preservation requires some effort. However, just as seemingly small actions can have a large negative impact in the long term, our small actions can also have a large positive impact as well. That is where the responsibility of giving back to our public lands comes in.

Sunset at one of the campsites along the Green River in UtahSunset at one of the campsites along the Green River in Utah
Notice the arch formation along the ridge line, known as Notice the arch formation along the ridge line, known as "Broken Finger"

As Americans, public land is for all of us. While some public land areas need to have developed campgrounds, showers, tours, and signage, others need to be left wild and relatively untouched. These more primitive areas require some work to maintain, as I learned through my expedition in Utah. Yet this work is worth it because the beautiful areas are left preserved and wild, ready to take one’s breath away. It is all about compromise and understanding that others’ needs are equal to my own, and that my definition of wild might be different than someone else’s. At the end of the day, regardless of what we personally define as “wilderness,” we can all agree that public lands of every kind need respect and maintenance. Maybe that is why I love working at Falling Creek so much, because some of the values in our Code support this and help us remember that we are part of a bigger community. For example: living with enthusiasm, treating everyone with respect, and taking responsibility for your actions. In this season of gratitude and giving back, I want to challenge all of you to think about ways that you can support and give back to the public lands that surround you. Whether they are primitive wilderness areas or well trafficked and developed parks, everyone deserves the chance to experience the beauty of the outdoors, and it is up to us to ensure that these spaces are preserved and maintained for generations to come.

Enjoying the view along the Green RiverEnjoying the view along the Green River
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Week 5 - Falling Creek Camp Reunion and Movie Show Travel Blog

What a great final week of travel! Yates got to visit camp families in Houston, TX, Dallas, TX, and Bronxville, NY to round out the travel season. It was exciting seeing so many old and new faces, and it makes us that much more eager for the summer to start again. If we didn’t make it to your city this year, don’t worry – we still have one more Falling Creek Camp Reunion and Movie Show next week in Asheville, NC! The best part is, we’ll be streaming it live so our camp friends all over the world can tune in. Connect with us on November 14th at 7:00pm EST through our Facebook page, and you can still have the opportunity to get this year’s limited edition trunk sticker!

FCC staff, the dads who are FCC alumni, and those that have attended the Father/Son Weekends, joined the boys in the Houston group photoFCC staff, the dads who are FCC alumni, and those that have attended the Father/Son Weekends, joined the boys in the Houston group photo

This past Monday, we headed down to the big state of Texas to visit our friends in Houston. Carleton and Winifred Riser were the gracious hosts of the evening, and we had a great crowd for the first Reunion and Movie Show of the week. Winifred surprised the crew with cold bottles of Cheerwine, which is a camp favorite that we get treated to once a week at Cookout Dinner. The Fannings also brought a giant cookie cake of the Falling Creek logo, which was just as beautiful as it was delicious.
Thanks to the Fannings for the beautiful cookie cake!Thanks to the Fannings for the beautiful cookie cake!
Born in the South...raised in a glass!Born in the South...raised in a glass!
Carleton went to Falling Creek as a camper in the 70s and 80s when Yates and his brothers attended. The Riser sons, Robert, Mac, and young Carleton are all returning this summer, and we can’t wait to see them at Main Camp.
Yates with Carleton Riser and his 3 boys, Mac (left), Robert, and young Carleton.Yates with Carleton Riser and his 3 boys, Mac (left), Robert, and young Carleton.
Nicci and Chris Greely served as the camp doctor family during the final week of Main Camp again this past summer, and they took the time to come out to the Reunion and Movie Show as well. Their three boys, Grant, John, and Spencer, were also there, and we’ll be looking forward to having them return to Main Camp in 2019 too! The three Greely boys and Robert Riser are all members of the Honor Council, a group elected by their peers for modeling the FCC Code, who get to attend the first part of staff meetings and represent the camper body.
Yates with the Greeley family. Nicci and Chris have served as camp doctors the past two summers during the final week of Main Camp. The Greeley boys will be back at Main Camp in 2019!Yates with the Greeley family. Nicci and Chris have served as camp doctors the past two summers during the final week of Main Camp. The Greeley boys will be back at Main Camp in 2019!
A big thank you also to Patrick Fanning, Paul Smith, Harrison Wallace, Pete Curtis, and Wells White who shared stories and helped Yates explain details about Falling Creek to new families. We remain thrilled that all of these boys, and their brothers, will be back this summer. It was another great evening to reconnect with FCC families and share our wonderful community with the families who came to learn more about camp.
It was a great turn out in Houston!It was a great turn out in Houston!
Fun to see so many familiar faces Fun to see so many familiar faces
Reconnecting with camp friends in HoustonReconnecting with camp friends in Houston

The following evening was spent in Dallas, Texas at the Minnehan family home. Marianne and Brian are fantastic hosts, and both Minnehan boys will be returning to Falling Creek this summer. We’re looking forward to having both Patrick and Davis back at camp in 2019! One of the best parts about having familiar faces at these reunions and movie shows is that veteran campers can help share their stories about camp with interested families. Patrick, Lance Broad, Will & Ben Brittian, Logan Hope, Harrison Keyes, and Erik Soelberg were a great help with the presentation and telling the new families about their Falling Creek experience.

Great to see everyone in Dallas!Great to see everyone in Dallas!
Yates also enjoyed connecting with Emily and Rick Broad, who were counselors with Marisa and him. Emily and Marisa both worked on the swim docks together, and it is fun to still have those connections years later. Their three sons, Charles, Bennett, and Lance, have been coming to Falling Creek for the past 13 summers and it is incredible to see that community continue through generations.
Bennett Broad, Yates, Whit Flickinger, Lance and Rick BroadBennett Broad, Yates, Whit Flickinger, Lance and Rick Broad
Lance, Will, Ben, and Beckett in DallasLance, Will, Ben, and Beckett in Dallas
Camp friends in Dallas!Camp friends in Dallas!

To wrap up the fifth week of travel, Yates headed north to New York. Emily and Mark Liggitt hosted at their beautiful home in Bronxville, NY, and we got to catch up with their sons Walker and Marshall. Emily also shared some awesome Falling Creek cookies, iced with a beautiful picture of the FCC flame.

Emily shared some beautiful cookies at the New York Reunion and Movie Show!Emily shared some beautiful cookies at the New York Reunion and Movie Show!
Several of the veteran Falling Creek campers helped tell their stories of camp, including Gregory Hefner, Stratton Werner, Walker Moore, and Walker and Marshall Liggitt. Gregory and his dad will be returning for their 4th Father/Son Weekend this summer, and we’re excited to have them back. John Reynolds was a camper who was originally from Augusta, Georgia, and came to Falling Creek in the 70s and 80s. His son, Oliver, also came to the Reunion and Movie Show, and it was great to connect with them both. Tyler Vaughey attended camp in the late 70s when he was living in Jackson, Mississippi, and he also brought his family. His son Tanner is coming to Falling Creek this summer, which was exciting to hear.
What a great way to end the week of travel! Thanks to the Liggitt family for hosting us in New York What a great way to end the week of travel! Thanks to the Liggitt family for hosting us in New York
Tanner, Walker, and Marshall at the Reunion and Movie Show in BronxvilleTanner, Walker, and Marshall at the Reunion and Movie Show in Bronxville
Liggitt and Vaughey family members with Yates in BronxvilleLiggitt and Vaughey family members with Yates in Bronxville
Catching up around the campfire in Bronxville, NYCatching up around the campfire in Bronxville, NY

It was a great week to end on, and we enjoyed seeing our friends in Texas and New York. Thank you to the 15 wonderful families that have already hosted us around the country this year. We appreciate everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to connect with us at the Reunions and Movie Shows across 10 different states, showing once again how strong the Falling Creek Community is. We’re looking forward to our last show of the season next week at the West Family home in Asheville (and online through Facebook)!

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Week 3 and 4 - Camp Movie Show and Reunion Travel Blog

It’s hard to believe the third and fourth week of travel is finished already! It was extra busy during the third week, as Yates traveled to four cities in a row instead of just three. On Monday, October 22nd, we kicked off the week in Charlotte, NC. Then we headed to Jacksonville, Florida on Tuesday and Winter Park, Florida on Wednesday. The final stop for the week was Charleston, South Carolina. To start off the next week, we got to travel to Nashville, Tennessee on Monday. Meeting new families and catching up with old alumni and campers is one of the best parts of camp’s “off season,” and we really enjoyed getting to share this week of travel with you all.

Camp friends catching up in CharlotteCamp friends catching up in Charlotte

Monday’s show in Charlotte, NC was special for Yates because it is his hometown. Kelly and Patrick Ridinger graciously hosted the Falling Creek Camp Movies & Reunion at their home. Charlotte remains a huge "camp town,” and many current Charlotte campers also have fathers who are Falling Creek alumni. It’s exciting to see camp get passed from generation to generation, where fathers and sons can have that extra bond that comes from sharing the camp experience. Paul Leonard lives in Charlotte, and was a Falling Creek camper in the late 70’s through the early 80’s. He came with his son Matthew, and we enjoyed having them to help tell everyone stories about their experiences and what makes them continue to come back to Falling Creek.

FCC alumnus Paul Leonard (left) and his son Matthew reconnect with Yates and other FCC families.FCC alumnus Paul Leonard (left) and his son Matthew reconnect with Yates and other FCC families.
Mike Nuckles and Andrew Josupait are two all-star recent alums. Nuckles worked at FCC from 2009-2016, and Andrew was here in 2015 and 2017. They have also both worked recent Father/Son Weekends, and took the time to come and support Falling Creek at the Charlotte movie show and reunion. It was great to catch up with them, and they are doing big things. Nuckles is the assistant athletic director at Charlotte Country Day School, which also happens to be Yates’ alma mater. Andrew will be graduating in December from UNCC with an engineering degree.
10-year camper Bo Phillips (left) reconnects with previous staff members Andrew Josupait and Mike Nuckles10-year camper Bo Phillips (left) reconnects with previous staff members Andrew Josupait and Mike Nuckles
Thanks also to Cannon Ridinger for sharing his home and helping Yates with the presentation. We are excited that Cannon will be coming to Main Camp in 2019, where he can expand his passion for whitewater paddling!
Great turn-out at the Ridinger's home in Charlotte!Great turn-out at the Ridinger's home in Charlotte!
The Dads who attended Father/Son Weekend joined FCC alumni, staff, and the boys for a photo of the big turnout at the Ridinger's home.The Dads who attended Father/Son Weekend joined FCC alumni, staff, and the boys for a photo of the big turnout at the Ridinger's home.
5-year camper, Roy R (left) and 6-year camper Mason S enjoyed reconnecting, and they are exciting to be returning to June camp in 2019.5-year camper, Roy R (left) and 6-year camper Mason S enjoyed reconnecting, and they are exciting to be returning to June camp in 2019.

On Tuesday, we headed down south to visit our camp families in Florida. Though we’re breaking out the sweaters and watching the leaves change color already at camp, it was nice and warm in Florida still. Jacksonville was the first stop in Florida for the Falling Creek Camp movie and reunion tour. Thanks to Raymur and Phil Rachels for hosting the big event again at their home. It was great to reconnect with a number of veteran campers, including Richard Nichols, Hill Jenkins, Gunnar Davidson, and Jack Valentino. All of them have been to camp for more than 5 summers each, so they were the perfect crew to tell the new families about their Falling Creek experiences.

The crew in Jacksonville at the Rachels family home The crew in Jacksonville at the Rachels family home
Hill Jenkins and Gunnar Davidson enjoying the opportunity to reconnectHill Jenkins and Gunnar Davidson enjoying the opportunity to reconnect

From Jacksonville, we headed farther South down Florida to Winter Park, where Laura and Brett Lawton hosted the Falling Creek Camp movies and reunion for the Orlando area. Laura presented a beautiful Falling Creek cookie cake, which was a huge hit.

Laura's famous FCC cookie cake!Laura's famous FCC cookie cake!
Their son Jack was a big help by answering many of the questions for parents and boys who have not been to camp yet. We are excited that he will be coming to his first Main Camp session this summer! There were several other veteran campers who helped Yates as well. We love having current campers and alumni at these reunions because not only is it fun to catch up, but it is always nice to have returning campers share their Falling Creek experiences so new parents can hear from them directly. It was wonderful to reconnect with William Boor, a long time Falling Creek alum from Atlanta. Will was a camper from 2002 – 2011, a CIT in 2013, and a counselor in 2015 and 2016. He works in the insurance business in Orlando now and took the time to come by and support FCC. Everyone enjoyed hearing about his camp experiences, including his accomplishments of Warrior in Blacksmithing and Ranger in Ultimate Frisbee. Alumni Pat Malloy was a Falling Creek camper in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and is now the upper school principal at the nearby Trinity Preparatory School. We can’t wait to see his boys, Wip and Duncan, at the 2-Week session this summer.
Alumni Pat Mulloy, William Boor, and Yates Pharr reconnecting at the Orlando area FCC movies and reunion Alumni Pat Mulloy, William Boor, and Yates Pharr reconnecting at the Orlando area FCC movies and reunion
Having a ball at the movie show and reunion in Winter Park, FL!Having a ball at the movie show and reunion in Winter Park, FL!
Alumni and dads who have come to Father/Son Weekend joined the group photo with the boys in the Orlando areaAlumni and dads who have come to Father/Son Weekend joined the group photo with the boys in the Orlando area
Catching up with camp friends in Winter Park!Catching up with camp friends in Winter Park!
We love having the opportunity to reconnect after the summerWe love having the opportunity to reconnect after the summer

From Florida, we headed back North on Thursday and stopped in Charleston, SC with the FCC families in the area. Many thanks to Beezer & Emily Molten for having us in their huge Half-Moon Outfitters store, which was a fun setting to host the event. Also a big thank you to Catherine and Clay McCullough for coordinating the yummy pizza and refreshments. The boys loved having the opportunity to climb on the two large rock walls in the store while seeing their camp friends.

Having two indoor rock walls at the Charleston show was awesome!Having two indoor rock walls at the Charleston show was awesome!
It was great reconnecting with Steven & Cindi Feingold and one of their sons, Sam. The Feingold family has been an important part of the camp community as a long-time camp doctor family. We are happy they’ll be returning to Falling Creek in 2019 for their 10th summer serving as one of our weekly camp doctor families.
Yates with Cindi & Steven Feingold, with one of their sons, Sam. They will be returning to FCC in 2019 for their 10th summer as the camp physician family for a weekYates with Cindi & Steven Feingold, with one of their sons, Sam. They will be returning to FCC in 2019 for their 10th summer as the camp physician family for a week
Hunter Louis, an FCC camper in the 90’s, also brought his two boys to the movie show and reunion. Hunter and his oldest son will be attending the August Father/Son Weekend this summer. We are also excited that the entire family will be serving as a camp doctor family during a week of the 2-week session.
FCC alumni Hunter Louis with his family. Hunter will bring his family in 2019 to serve as the physician for a week during the 2-week session.FCC alumni Hunter Louis with his family. Hunter will bring his family in 2019 to serve as the physician for a week during the 2-week session.
Chip Shealy, also an FCC alumni, brought his two boys, Jackson and Whit. Jackson will be returning for his 4th summer in 2019, but it will be his first time at the June Camp session. His brother Whit is headed to Junior camp. 10-year camper Harper Kissell and 7-year camper Rodgers McCullough were also able to make it to the reunion and movie show. They teamed up with a number of other veteran campers to help tell their Falling Creek stories to all of the new families who came to learn more about camp.
10-year FCC camper Harper Kissell (left) and 7-year FCC camper Rodgers McCullough.10-year FCC camper Harper Kissell (left) and 7-year FCC camper Rodgers McCullough.
The great crew in Charleston, SC!The great crew in Charleston, SC!

On Monday after the weekend, we traveled to Nashville, Tennessee on October 29th. It was a great way to start off the week, and a big thanks to Elizabeth and Les Coble for hosting the event at their home. Their son Daviss will be returning to camp in 2019 for his third summer, this time at the Main camp session. Thanks also to Shae and Jim Uden, who served as co-hosts. Jim Uden was a camper and counselor at FCC when Yates was also a counselor, and now his son Whit will be returning for his second summer at the June camp session.

Jim Uden was a camper and counselor at FCC when Yates was also a counselor, and now his son Whit will be returning for his second summerJim Uden was a camper and counselor at FCC when Yates was also a counselor, and now his son Whit will be returning for his second summer
Camp nurse Brittany Nelson and her son Jack also came to support, and they will both be back at June camp this summer.
Camp nurse Brittany Nelson and her son Jack-  they will both be back at June camp this summer!Camp nurse Brittany Nelson and her son Jack- they will both be back at June camp this summer!
There was a great group of returning campers who helped Yates explain the Falling Creek experience to those new families who came. Charlie Gatto, Jack Nelson, and Drew Bennett were among those returning campers who helped answer questions and share stories.
Yates with Charlie Gatto. Charlie will be returning for his 8th summer and his brother Henry will be returning for his 4th in 2019Yates with Charlie Gatto. Charlie will be returning for his 8th summer and his brother Henry will be returning for his 4th in 2019
Great seeing everyone in Nashville!Great seeing everyone in Nashville!
Daviss and Cole - can't wait to see you both again this summer!Daviss and Cole - can't wait to see you both again this summer!
Great evening at the Coble family homeGreat evening at the Coble family home

Thanks again to all of the families who took time out of their busy schedules to catch up with us. Next week we’re headed to Texas and New York! Come join us in Houston on Monday, November 5th, Dallas on Tuesday, November 6th, and Bronxville on Wednesday, November 6th. Just one more week of travel left, plus our live-streamed show in Asheville on November 14th! Can’t wait to see you soon.

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