A Year for the Record Books
December 31, 2013 by Woody Noland
As 2013 culminates in celebrations of family, friends, and holiday cheer, it is only natural to think back on all the experiences of the previous year while anticipating the new and unknown of the next. Camp High Rocks has such a large, far-flung family that it is easy to lose track of everything everyone has been up to this year. Since those warm summer days seem like a distance memory at the turn of the new year, here are some highlights that we remember well!
There is no getting around it, 2013 was a wet year. In fact, Brevard got more rain this year than any other year since records were begun back in 1902, and any other place in the country for 2013 except for one county in Hawaii! More than 106 inches of rain fell on our area and made for quite an adventurous summer. While this obviously changed parts of the summer program (and perhaps made the cabins a bit more ripe than usual), it was also beneficial in some surprising ways.
For most of early 2013, camp looked drastically different with the lake drained to allow for some dam repairs. The view from the Gray House was similar to a lunarscape with only a tiny body of water preserved at the deepest point. This was the first time the lake had been drained in more than thirty years and the exposed bottom proved to hold all sorts of treasures from years past. Frisbees and glasses galore, watches still ticking, even the tiller off of an old sailboat! When the lake was drained in ’79, it took months to fill back up. This year, the lake was back in a matter of weeks, and that was after lowering it a second time!
With the loss of nearly all their habitat, we had concerns about our fishes’ ability to survive through the lean times. We even tried (and failed) to wrangle a number of them into the Bottomless Pond to provide a starter population once the lake filled back up. Despite careful searching, very few fish could be located and were assumed to have died, been eaten, or been flushed through the back of the dam during the rather forceful draining. Our theories did not hold water, as it turned out, with the summer population noticeably undiminished and several new bass grown to near-“Scarface” proportions.
While rain was a factor, one of the year’s strongest impressions for us was watching counselors and campers both respond to it in such a positive, creative, embracive manner. One day was going to be hard rain? Then the day after, the paddling program would take a group of boaters down a river we had not done with camp before. 4th of July fireworks delayed for better visibility? No worries, all of camp spilled out on the activity field for some crazy games, loud music, and huge slip-n-slides. Again and again, our High Rocks community proved that they were more than a match for inclement weather.
Our hikers did several new trips that proved hugely successful. Two groups went staggering out for overnights on the property, not to push themselves physically, but to gain a little space from the bustle of camp while they learned to cook large varieties of food in a campsite kitchen. Another crew went in the opposite direction by leaving all but the most essential survival tools before tackling a series of challenges like bushwhacking, orienteering, roping packs down steep cliffs, building shelters, and starting fire with flint/steel or a bow drill. Predictably, not everything went according to plan and rain decided to test the camper-made shelters to mixed results; but when the guys returned to camp the next day they radiated pride, excitement, and no small bit of dirt!
Camp also received a huge contribution from staff and CTs this year in the form of a new map with a very accurate trail network overlaid on a topographical view of the property. To augment the map’s usefulness, each trailhead around High Rocks now has handmade wooden signs, allowing even novice visitors to confidently navigate camp.
Mountain Biking completed a brand new trail called Shrimper’s Delight just a short pedal from the center of camp. With banking turns, slickrock sections, rolling jumps, and easy repetitions, it is the perfect addition to practice a bunch of skills on a daily basis.
Our island was born in 2013 and turned a previously avoided part of the lake into a center of instruction, special events, and ridiculous Sunday afternoon activities like seaborne invasions set to epic music. Boaters and stand-up paddle boarders can negotiate around the island and under the bridge while fishermen gained a significant amount of shoreline which is totally tree-free and safe for serious casting.
Along with all of the new, 2013 saw a full summer season of the same friendship, hard work, cool adventures, and tight community that we all know so well. From cinnamon biscuits and mini-corndogs in the dining hall to epic stories on Campfire Hill as a Sunday sunset spread across the lake; our strong traditions combine with new interests to continue camp’s legacy. Alumni, staff, and campers alike enjoy and give back to camp, creating the very place they are so attached to. As this year winds to a close, it is our camp family that we remember most. It is for you that we do this work, and it is because of you that High Rocks is such a beloved and anticipated place for so many people. Cheers to the year past and here’s to the brand new year of camp to come. Happy 2014 from Cedar Mountain!!