Weaving Your Way Through Camp – So Many Opportunities!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Even though it started a little rainy this morning during breakfast, our day was cool and cloudy with the sun peaking through every now and then.  We had some showers about 4:30 but nothing that ran us indoors.  Brookside just finished their evening of Mountain Dancing and about 6 cabins are camping out tonight at various shelters around camp.  For you parents who might be thinking these campers are sleeping on the ground, let me provide more info.  Our camping shelters are three sided with a roof and are up off the ground at least a foot.  There’s a fire ring at each site and plenty of area around the shelter to explore and gather firewood.

Our Mountainside and Riverside groups are into their second night of being out of camp.  We heard from several of them and everyone is doing fine.  It’s been wet but not to the point of impossible by any means.  I will be going out with the paddlers to the Tuck tomorrow.  Paddlers usually get wet and stay wet so it doesn’t matter.  When you’re surrounded by moving water all day a little rain doesn’t faze you.  Given the choice, I’d rather have it falling from the sky than be swimming alongside my boat.  Even on paddling trips we make sure campers are wearing paddling jackets and staying warm.  It’s just part of taking care of oneself in those conditions.

I went to the climbing tower this morning to shoot some drone footage of those little spiders moving up the wall.  I also visited with the mountain bikers as they made their way around camp.  The climbers and bikers were in their first morning of Discovery and doing well, learning knots to knobby tires.  With the slippery weather they stayed close to Main Camp but will venture out of our trails over the next few days.  Climbers will test themselves on our trees tomorrow and scale some our Hemlocks just next to the lake.

Going to the Mill is like stepping back in time, because the Mill was built in 1890.  That’s a long time ago and one of the aspects of the Mill is talking about your life as a child in those times.  While at the Mill there are many implements and artifacts from that era including corn husk dolls and toys made from corn cobs.  That was about the extent of that “Toys R Us” storefront from that time in history.  It was a simple life.  Besides learning about grinding corn from our corn crib, there was also a group outside fishing from the small pond below the waterwheel.  The campers inside the Mill learned about the dried corn they would be grinding, how to take it off the cob and then how to “process” it after it had been ground up.  It is a many stepped system that they go through to reach the final products of corn meal, grits, and chicken feed which goes back to the farm.  We consume all the corn meal and grits here at camp.  We learned about the weevils and the moths that live by eating the dried corn and how to get rid of those.  Of course the Mill puts on a different face when it offers “corn cob creations” which it did today.  It’s a time when you can’t believe what you create from just a corn cob.

While near the Mill this morning I visited the weavers up in Shady Grove.  We have 11 floor looms that campers can create intricate patterns on.  They use a combination of their own designs and also the levers and foot pedals of the loom to design their pieces.  It’s a methodical pace that takes patience and focus and the final product is very nice.  Another craft that harkens back to simpler times is taking a dried gourd that’s grown at camp and clean it up, paint it, cut it out, sew things into its thick skin and create a piece of art or perhaps a vessel to hold life’s treasures.  The gourds dry out in an old barn through the winter and each has a distinct knack for patterns of mold and mildew that once scrubbed off, reveal a nice skin that is easily decorated.  The first phase of cleaning the gourd is the hardest.  You get it down in the creek next to the Mill and scrub with all kinds of brushes and pads to get down to the nice layer.  From there it’s up to you to design it with your own purpose and ways to enhance its natural beauty.

Working with your hands and learning handicrafts is very satisfying.  It might come in the form of building your first fire or creating a piece of tapestry on the loom.  We live in such a mechanical world and technology surrounds us.  It’s nice to involve ourselves in activities that are “human powered” with simpler approaches to an end result.

I teamed up with Gus from Nature today to offer a trip to “The Abyss of No Return”.  We found an old map of camp that had some directions, yet vague, but exciting and very curious.  One has to be lowered by rope into the Abyss and it a muddy and slick way down.  Once there it’s hard to get back up so we follow a creek and hopefully find our way back to camp.  It’s a pretty cool part of the property and it was a two hour activity this afternoon for 12 campers.  We even had Dr. Ben go with us because he too, was curious.  We got very dirty and wet and everyone had a blast.  We passed, what we thought was, the Tajar’s cave.  That got lots of airplay time.  Imagination is a wonderful aspect of camp and it breeds creativity and a chance to think outside the box.

Camp helps children feel in control of their lives. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten. The goal here is to encourage a child’s sense of self, their perception that they have some say over daily activities at a camp. They learn to fix problems when they happen.  They learn to self-advocate.  They learn that their world is manageable with some help.  Camp is simply a great place for children to take a good bite out of growing up, but not too fast.  Stay tuned!