The Forest Is... (Session 7, August 4)

By Sandy Schenck

… a wonderful place…. A place to find frogs and snakes… I want to see a salamander’s face!  The forest is a wonderful place! bom bom bom!

That’s one of our favorite camp songs, especially on the bus—in the mornings, some of our trail heads are further out around the Preserve, so we take groups out in our brightly painted school buses, and campers and staff sing and talk until we arrive at their starting point.  Today, we saw lots of wonderful things in the forest, including a snake and a salamander or two!

Our Uncle’s Falls hikers braved the cold in order to “polar bear”—and they also braved the Salamander Cave, a cave that’s to the left behind the waterfall; when you go in, you usually see a bunch of, well, salamanders—hence the name—and today, they saw not just salamanders, but a huge, gigantic salamander!  Another group was excited because they saw lots of salamanders AND crickets AND a turtle on their hike.  One group went on a “walk-out” close to Base Camp; they were looking for the “medicine wheel,” a stone structure like those that were used to explain the philosophies of the Native Americans.  They were not able to find it, but but they saw a lot of cool things along the way, including a black salamander, deer tracks, and a copperhead!  They also visited Bob’s Cabin, a cabin on the Preserve that was built about twenty years ago by Bob, one of our mentors, with the help of campers.  It was built with timber from the Preserve, and it has a front porch, and a bunk or loft bed built into the inside, and you can see the mud chinking between the cracks.  It’s a neat window into a different era, when that’s what your house might have looked like.  Another group visited Long Rock, a “bald” rock-face that faces the west—yet another gorgeous view—and the Labyrinth—a maze of a rock formation that’s at the bottom of Long Rock.   Our Indian Cave spelunkers spent some time in the Cave, exploring it and the depths of the dark.  Then they emerged and played some stalking games.  They tried calling turkeys on their hike back into Base Camp—all we need for a Grand Slam is a turkey and a bear—but no luck!  Maybe tomorrow….

Everyone was ready for lunch and rest hour by the time we got back to camp.  After rest hour, we started our second day of activities; campers went to all-new choices.  Canoers learned strokes and then practiced, paddling around the lake; then they had fun learning how to safely swamp their canoe.  Our dancers were in the Lodge; they warmed up with some slower-tempo music, stretching and moving slowly, without speaking to each other.  Then they sped things up, dancing with abandon around the Lodge;  well, not totally with abandon—they were thinking, actually, about how they are using movement to express their emotions.  They moved through five stages, increasing the tempo each time.  In fly fishing, or “aquatic theology,” as Sandy Schenck (the founder of the Green River Preserve) calls it, they learned parts of the rod and then practiced their casts into the lake.  2 campers caught big rainbow trout!  One period of drawing sat out on the West Field, drawing inspiration from the nature and activity around them.  In “A Bug’s Life,” campers found lots of interesting critters, including a tiny little green frog, smaller than your thumbnail even.  They also found crawfish, dragonfly nymphs, minnows, and water striders.  And you didn’t even have to be in an activity, or in the forest, for that matter, to see a frog—there was a cute one sitting by a little pond right next to the Lodge, watching as all the campers and staff scurried to their next activity!

We’ll finish the day with a camp-wide game of Predator/Prey.  Each cabin group is assigned a category of animal, ranging from insect to hawk.  Most of the “animals” dress in camouflage; the “hawks,” however, are required to wear brightly-colored clothing.  When the game is over, we’ll discuss strategies for evading predators, including hiding and running.

We are having so much fun sharing the wonders of the forest with our campers!  You can check here to see some pictures of our fun today.