Finding What's Hidden

By Green River Preserve

When tired campers woke on this first morning of camp, they might have wondered whether they’d accidentally slept until winter. According to Peter from Little Tree 1, the thermometer showed a chilly 52 degrees as we trudged up to the Lodge in pajamas and sweaters to eat breakfast by a roaring fire. By the time we headed off to our first Mentor Hikes, that chill gave way to a sunny and breezy morning on the Preserve.

I joined Junebug for her Mentor Hike this morning to Reasonover, the base camp for our Blue Ridge Expeditions. As soon as we hopped off the bus, campers crowded around as she revealed the hidden properties of more plants than I can remember — yellow root, yarrow, wild yams. We were mesmerized by the secrets under our feet, and we were eager to learn how we could use them to heal, cleanse, or conceal our bodies.

Somewhere in between squinting at a Queen Anne’s Lace and laboring to spot campers who had hidden themselves off the trail, I was reminded of our evening program tonight, Predator Prey. It’s GRP’s signature activity, where campers learn about invisible ecological connections and some environmental history. And the best part, as GRP veterans know, is that this learning happens by running around the woods decked out in camo and face paint. On Junebug’s hike, it seemed to me that Predator Prey — and most everything we do here — revolves around finding what’s hidden, either in the natural world or within ourselves.

I thought of my campers relearning the art of creating camouflage with charcoal shards and rhododendron leaves, and many other pieces of knowledge about the world that our culture hasn’t remembered. But I also thought about the talents hidden in each camper, the ones that start to emerge in activities like Predator Prey. I thought of the camper whose voice finally gets heard, the one who finds herself as a master strategist, or the one who learns to move so slowly and deliberately that his own group forgets he is there.
Toward the end of Junebug’s hike, I heard someone shout from behind the blackberry bush I had been inspecting.
“Look, a bear track!” they said.

Even on the first day, Three-weekers already have their eyes peeled for any signs of the elusive Grand Slam animal. A moment later, Junebug appeared from the forest. She peered over the track, and gave a hearty chuckle.
“Not unless that bear was wearing Nikes,” she said.
Right, we thought, and at once saw that the track had five toes and no claws. We’d caught the track of a wild staff member in five-toed shoes. We sighed, and it seemed to me that the bear, at least, would remain hidden.

Avery, Hemlock Hut 1 Counselor