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Written by Baudet on 09 Nov, 2004
Straddling the state lines of Tennessee and North Carolina in the Cherokee National Forest is one of the only youth retreat mission camps east of the Mississippi. Eagle Ranch is dedicated to Christian youth team-building. The camp includes whitewater rafting on the Ocoee river, where…Read More
Straddling the state lines of Tennessee and North Carolina in the Cherokee National Forest is one of the only youth retreat mission camps east of the Mississippi. Eagle Ranch is dedicated to Christian youth team-building. The camp includes whitewater rafting on the Ocoee river, where the 1996 Olympic kayak events were held, a 46-foot rapelling tower, and a 25-foot climbing wall on the adjacent side, a low elements challenge course, horseback riding, and several trails on the premises. There is also a paintball course in the works for summer 2005.
Established in the early ‘80s by David Scott and Ferris Maloof, Eagle Ranch has grown from a small rafting company to a full youth missions camp. Thousands of youths from all over the country visit Eagle every summer. Its peak season is from Memorial Day through Labor Day. A basic package includes five days of missions and team-building activities. If you are not familiar with missions work, it’s when a group of people come to a poor community and build, fix, or better someone’s living conditions. Examples of missions Eagle provides: building handicap ramps, painting houses, cleaning up graveyards, reading to the elderly, etc. Not only do kids get to be involved in numerous outdoor activities, they are building team leadership skills used in everyday life.
The rapelling tower stretches 46 feet up, with a ladder in the center to climb to the top. Atop the tower, you get a great view of Big Frog Mountain in the Kahutta wilderness in Georgia. The edge has an A-frame steel structure that the ropes go over, so you can gradually get comfortable with the height, instead of stepping right off the edge. On the adjacent side of the wall is a climbing wall with three separate courses: easy, intermediate, and hard. The hard side includes an overhang, and once you reach the top, you walk a 2x2 over to a bell to ring in completion.
The horses are kept in a large field and fed twice a day, not including all the grass they can eat. Campers go out in groups of 10 with two guides, one in front and one in back. Rides can last between one and four hours, depending on the trail of your choice. All horses are tame and friendly, so even the most unexperienced person can ride with no problem. Children under the age of 14 require a helmet.
The low-elements challenge course is like any typical ropes course. It includes a trust fall, a 12-foot wall, a muse, an electric fence, a tire, etc. If you’re unfamiliar with these challenges, most are objectives that are to be completed as a team with a given set of guidelines. Examples: A trust fall is when one person is on a platform and falls backwards into the arms of a group of people; the key is trust. The 12-foot wall is flat, with no grips, and one person at a time has to get over with help from only two people up top and the others on the ground. Once that person reaches the top, they replace one of the two people at the top, and this continues until no one is left at the bottom. The key is to think ahead about how to get the last few people up when no one is left on the ground.
The whitewater rafting portion of the trip lasts about an hour, half of it through Class II-IV rapids. All rafters are required to wear a helmet and life jacket. Your trip leaves after breakfast or lunch, depending on what time of day you leave. You are driven to the put-in in a typical school bus, and the driver stays on the bus through the duration of your trip, so you can leave any belongings you want on the bus without worrying about them being stolen. After the trip, enjoy a hot shower back at the ranch, followed by lunch or dinner.
Upon arrival, you are greeted by several staff members, who give you a brief orientation of rules, your itinerary, and locations of events. Every group stays in rustic rooms separated by gender. Rooms have anywhere between 6 and 20 beds, depending on the group size. Each group is also given a meeting area where they can have devotion or prayer time and not be bothered by other groups of campers. Every night there is a campfire to roast marshmellows or just hang out around. All packages run between $160 and $350 per person, depending on how long you want to stay; all packages include three meals a day.
All meals have at least three courses. Lunch and dinner come with dessert and salad. The kitchen staff prepare wonderful Southern-style food and great breakfasts. They are also more then willing to accommodate vegetarians. Breakfast is served at 7:30, lunch at 12:30, and dinner at 5:30. If your group is out on a mission for the day, you will be provided with a pack-out lunch that usually includes a cold sandwich with fruit and a dessert.
Eagle Ranch is one of the few youth mission camps in the country. Most every group that comes returns year after year and tells other churches about it who, in turn, come year after year. If you are looking for a Christian youth retreat camp or just want a fun family vacation, Eagle Ranch is the place for you.