Session 4 Day 3: Bear scat, mushrooms, and Predator Prey ...oh my!

By Sandy Schenck

Today started much the same as other days here at base camp. Before a tasty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns, campers and staff gathered together in one of our favorite camp traditions- the singing of “Wind-day-ya-ho”. During this Cherokee morning song, we face the rising sun in the east and remind ourselves of the many things we have to be thankful for. After breakfast, we were introduced to our resident ornithologist, Dr. DoDo, and her sidekick Mr. Coolsbill. The bird of the day today was the Red Tanager and we learned about their musical territorial disputes through a sing-off battle performed by two of our staff members.

Mentor hikes included several bushwhacking adventures and one group was lucky enough to hike all the way down Long Rock Branch, watching the water accumulate from just a spring to a larger creek down the mountain. This is a special hike that Bentor (Ben the Mentor) leads just once a summer because the rhododendron thickets make it so “squirrely”, as he puts it. Another bushwhacking expedition comprised of the “Epically Wet Emerald Bushwhackers” hiked to Emerald Falls. They did quite a bit of sliding and several campers became “Diamonds” by dunking their heads in the freezing cold mountain stream water. Special sightings on the way to the falls included a heaping pile of bear scat and an impressive mushroom the size of a beach ball! Two groups practiced their stalking skills and tried to sneak up on and evade each other, a game called “Counting Coo”. Other groups continued at the climbing wall and pioneer cabin, activities that all campers get to try their hand at.

When everyone regrouped at lunch to chow down and share tales of their mornings, the dining hall erupted in applause at the announcement of tonight’s evening program…PREDATOR PREY!!! This is a long standing tradition here at GRP and a night that return campers look forward to even more than cobbler night. Predator Prey is a camp-wide survival game that teaches campers about the food chain and the complications of life as a wild animal. Each cabin group is designated as an insect, frog, snake, or hawk and must meet the basic requirements for each tropic level. To gain these points, the group must follow their map of base camp to find the painted wood cookies that signify food, water, and shelter. Sounds pretty easy, right? Wrong! Animals lower down on the food chain like insects and frogs have fewer requirements to meet, but have to watch out for animals higher on the food chain that want to EAT THEM. Hawks, snakes, and frogs must meet several of their food requirements by attacking another group- chasing them for 15 seconds trying to tag at least 2 members for a successful attack. Sometimes, just like in real life, water sources are polluted and become unusable or shelter is destroyed by development. The best way to survive in this game is strategizing, team work, and covering yourself from head to toe in charcoal, mud, sticks, and leaves. Whether the campers survive as their initially assigned animal or not, they get to play the whole length of the game and see how complicated and exhilarating just trying to survive can be. Stayed tuned for some impressive photos of our game!!!