Campout!

By Green River Preserve

The morning of July 4th dawned on campers, counselors, and Mentors as they hunkered down not in cabin bunks, but instead out on the land of the Preserve. Thin blue tarps strung up across ridgelines filtered the early-morning light onto sleeping eyelids, and daddy long legs crept quietly toward the shadows. We in Whippoorwill 1 and Fireside 1 managed to sleep late, recovering from a strenuous hike, lots of preparatory work, and an intense game of Mau the day before.

The campers had strung up their temporary homes the day prior, learning how to stake out tarps by pulling in equal proportion to the person standing opposite them. They angled stakes in toward ridgelines, mashing them into the ground with their feet, and when we ran out of stakes, they selected sturdy sticks to use instead. I offered to teach our girls how to sharpen the ends of the sticks so they could more easily push them into the soil, and Hannah jumped at the opportunity. “I want to do it!” she yelled, and bounded over to where I was standing. We discussed pocket knife safety, direction of travel, and the pressure needed to effectively shave the stick’s end into a point. She carefully and deliberately completed the task, and then taught two of her cabin mates how to do the same.

In so many ways, Campout provides campers with time. It gives them the time to gradually acquire skills and responsibility, to face fears and dissolve interpersonal boundaries, and to take ownership of an experience and a job well done. I asked a few campers what they will take with them from Campout this year, and the answers ranged broadly. Noah from Little Tree 2 said that he “really found a strong bond with [his] cabin,” and that “when you come back from Campout, you never take anything for granted.” Paper towels, toilets, and showers are among the things for which he has a deeper appreciation. Daphne from Whippoorwill 2 said that she now realizes that insects aren’t completely bent on her destruction, and Mac from Whippoorwill 2 said she learned that she should not let her perceived physical boundaries keep her from “kicking butt.”

After waking up on the Fourth of July, we trekked out to Peggy’s Rock, an igneous outcropping overlooking the surrounding woods, to pick blueberries for a pancake breakfast. We returned with a moderately large collection, and the group headed toward their stoves and set to work. Zosia, Riley, and Ben, the morning cook group, mixed Nalgenes full of batter and poured near-perfect pancakes, plunking blueberries into the wet mix as they went. We feasted, one at a time, on pancakes fresh from the field and from the fire, and from the efforts of friends. Mentors join campers and counselors for only the first day of Campout, but before I left the Whippoorwill 1/Fireside 1 group that morning, I gave everyone a Fourth of July high five, feeling such pride and joy in the work they were all doing. It is a beautiful and unique experience, to be given the opportunity to teach your children how to be more independent people on Independence Day. We may have seen no fireworks, but we practiced fully the enterprising spirit that has helped to build this nation.

- Holly, Whippoorwill Mentor