Featuring Backpacking : Adventure Program Blog Series

Take a Hike!

To start things off in our new Adventure Program blog series, we’ll be featuring backpacking! “My favorite part about backpacking is that it’s the original outdoor adventure program,” says Ben Williams, our Outdoor Adventure Director. “When one reads about John Muir or Aldo Leopold for example, they learn how these adventurers traveled to these amazing places on foot and spent countless hours exploring. I love that we can connect campers back to legends like them in the same manner, and teach them that they can be explorers in their own way too.”

Backpacking and hiking trips are special signup activities at Falling Creek, like all of our Adventure Programs. Boys will hear announcements each day at Morning Assembly - they can choose to leave their daily activity schedules behind and sign up for a variety of trips ranging from short half-day trips to epic five-day adventures. Hiking gives boys the opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of Western North Carolina firsthand, admiring waterfalls, open vistas, rhododendron tunnels, and hardwood stands dating back hundreds of years.

On these trips, campers gain self-reliance and outdoor survival skills as they learn to safely build a fire, cook outdoors, how to find and purify water in the wilderness, and read a map. At Falling Creek, we hike in places like Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, the Art Loeb Trail, and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Each member of our Backpacking and Hiking staff are Wilderness First Responder certified, and possess valuable knowledge of the local area, along with years of trip leading know-how.

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Matthew Kornegay, who will be returning for his 9th summer on staff in 2021 as head of the Backpacking program, seen here on a "Peaks of Pisgah" 2-Day Trip.

One of our most experienced backpacking counselors, Matthew Kornegay, will be returning for his 9th summer on staff in 2021 as head of the backpacking program. Matthew grew up in central Florida, and now lives in Appalachia as he continues to explore this area, teach outdoor skills, and tutor math when he isn’t at camp.

His favorite part about backpacking at Falling Creek is the way the trips build independent problem-solving skills. “Whether it is discovering a better way to set up your tarp, inventing a game to keep up your spirits on a rainy day, or just deciding what order to eat your snacks in, backpacking is about constantly innovating solutions to the mental, physical, and emotional challenges of the trip,” Matthew explains.

Not only is the backpacking program an old favorite, it’s also a great introduction for campers new to trips. “To a camper who is unsure if they want to try a backpacking trip, I would say that it’s a good idea to try it once,” Matthew says. “Not everybody likes hiking and camping, but I have seen a lot of people (who didn’t think they would like it) discover that they really enjoy it. We always do a couple of beginner trips each session that are designed for someone who has never gone camping in the woods before, and those are great ways to get your feet wet in the adventure program.”

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Matt Ambrose is another of our experienced backpacking counselors, who is from Dublin, Ireland, and has been on staff for 4 years. He's seen here with the orange backpack, leading a Clawhammer Mountain backpacking trip.

Even if campers don’t choose to sign up for a backpacking trip, they’ll still get to experience a taste of hiking and camping while at Falling Creek. Each session, campers and staff go on a cabin overnight, hiking to one of our shelters on-property to cook dinner and spend the night outdoors with their cabin mates. Many boys say that this is one of their favorite nights at camp, spending the evening around the campfire with their friends. On trips out of camp, this is what boys get to look forward to each night!

If you’re reading this and thinking about working at Falling Creek, Matthew also has some great advice for you: “To a counselor considering joining backpacking staff, I would say that you don’t have to be some crazy mountain man or super athlete to succeed on backpacking staff. What really counts is the ability to teach, entertain, and build community in the woods, and to keep a positive attitude and good decision-making skills even when you are tired or cold or wet or hungry or whatever else the trip throws at you.”

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Matthew Kornegay teaching boys how to read a map while on a 3-Day Lake trip.

Though he’s an accomplished outdoorsman and instructor who could have the option of working with many other outdoor companies or camps, Matthew chooses to come back year after year to Falling Creek. “I think what makes the Falling Creek Adventure Program unique is our willingness to push the envelope of what we believe boys are capable of. Many times when I encounter leaders from other outdoor programs, their reaction is ‘you did THAT big of a trip with THAT young boys?’ But at Falling Creek, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are; what matters is whether you can demonstrate the hard and soft skills needed to carry out the adventure safely and competently.”

We’re looking forward to getting back on the trail in 2021, and continuing to explore the natural beauty of this area. Check back here for our next blog post in the Adventure Program series, featuring climbing!