What’s Riverside?

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This is a question I get asked by our Wildwood and Laurelwood campers each summer, parents on tours, and new staff trying to grasp what this unique program is. It’s a hard question, but I always arrive at a pretty simple answer: Riverside was the best nine weeks of my life.

In the summer of 2019 (and the last three weeks of 2018), I had the opportunity to serve as a Riverside Cabin Counselor. I spent my summer leading groups of 14-15-year-olds on climbing trips, whitewater canoeing trips, and backpacking trips. At the surface level, that’s what the program appears to be: an expeditionary outdoor adventure program for teenagers that builds upon some of the themes of Mountainside and provides a challenge through outdoor adventure, a tight-knit community, and an opportunity to explore and connect with the natural world.

But how do I communicate what the program is underneath the surface? How do I convey the essence of those long car rides where we connect and build relationships while singing Taylor Swift? That sense of child-like wonder that swimming at Foster Falls instills? The way it feels to paddle down a rapid on the Tuckasegee during an afternoon thunderstorm? The smell of the van after said paddling adventure? The nervousness that fills you up at a trailhead with four days of food and a tent in your backpack? And how do I express the magic of a ‘Fancy Dinner’ with pizza and brownies after experiencing all of these—and so many more—challenging things? An endless supply of moments that not only challenged but also provided growth and learning.

One of the greatest joys I’ve had as our Adventure Program Director is seeing the 14-15-year-olds who shared these experiences grow up into incredible camp staff, trip leaders, and- above all else- great humans. Many have worked here over the last few years or come back to visit. Reminiscing over some of these Riverside memories always brings me such joy. It’s difficult to encapsulate how all of those moments combine to create such a magical program, but with this video last summer, I think we gave it a great shot. Check out our new video to learn more about our Riverside Program, and if you are interested in enrolling a camper for this summer, we still have spots available in RS1 for Summer 2024!