By Sandy Schenck

Hmmm, the theme for this blog was going to be Beauty, but today just turned out to be another Fortitudinous day at the GRP!  But there’s an awful lot of Beauty here, too.  (Check for photos online!)  We were grateful again for great weather, and after a hearty breakfast, campers and staff set out on another morning of mentor hikes.  We had more Polar Bears up at Uncle’s Falls, and more campers who ventured into the Indian Cave.  Campers who visit the Hemlock Field can also display bravery by becoming Cherokee head-dunkers—dunking their heads in the Green River—and we had quite a few join that club today!

Another group took on the hike up to the Lower Bald—one of our favorite hikes.  These campers were troopers, winding up and up and up the trail.  We took a few rest and water stops; along the way, we identified sassafras root—it smells like root beer, and if you chew the leaves, they get kind of gummy—they can be used to thicken up soups.  We also tasted the leaves of the sourwood tree; it turns out there’s a reason for that name.  Wintergreen grows in the forests around here, too—clusters of smaller, oval shaped, waxy green leaves—and if you crush them, you can smell the wintergreen, and if you put a couple in your water bottle, eventually the water tastes minty, too.  Eventually, we rounded a bend in the trail, and stretching out far above us was the rock face known as Lower Bald.  We scrambled up and were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Green River Valley.  Beauty.

One of the groups who was down at the Hemlock Field got to see another type of beauty—they spotted a deer!  So now, we’re 2 for 4, for a Grand Slam—we have seen a deer and a venomous snake, and we just need to spot a wild turkey and a black bear, and it’ll be ice cream for all.  We head out on campout tomorrow, so anything is possible!

After lunch, campers moved into their third day of activities.  Campers played improv games in theater; in nature art, campers explore how leaves, rocks, sticks, and other objects found in nature can be used to be creative.  One camper made a fairy house and a fairy boat of leaves.  Other campers tackled our climbing tower.  Staff belay, and campers climb as high as they want to go.  There are several different routes they can try.  Several campers made it all the way to the top, where there’s a bell they can ring.  There are very few things more rewarding than seeing the smile on the face of a camper who has persevered through the challenging spots and the moments of fear, and has climbed as high as the goal they had set for themselves.

After dinner—pork tenderloin, baked spiced apples, broccoli (from the GRP farm!), salad, rolls, and ice cream sandwiches for dessert—we headed to the West Field for the Lower Council Fire.  Both staff and campers participate in the Lower Council Fire; we sing songs and have songs sung to us.  Staff members read selections from The Little Prince and from the writings of Carl Sagan.  One of our campers was brave enough to fiddle for us—“Boil ’em Cabbage Down”—and another played “Here Comes the Sun” on his guitar.  Another highlight was the recitation by another camper of the names of all of the presidents of the United States.  Amazing!

We are so impressed by the bravery of our campers as they try new experiences and share their talents with us, and we are so glad to be a part of those experiences!